Thinking Out Loud

May 9, 2017

Making Deuteronomy 24 Personal

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:41 am

I’ve been really enjoying catching sermons from Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Often when a new pastor comes to a church — especially one founded by a larger-than-life personality such as Rob Bell — their gut instinct is to put their own personal stamp on everything. I’ve seen purpose statements rewritten. I’ve seen new staff hired. I’ve seen offices moved relocated. I’ve even seen the church logo recommissioned.

But A.J. Sherrill seems to consider it an honor to fill the church founder’s shoes; even with there having been two pastors in-between. He’s kept a significantly large amount of things intact, not so much out of admiration for Bell as for what he sees as the essential, unique part of the church’s DNA.

Everything You Have is Graced…

…Remember from Where You Came

Listening to an April 30th sermon, he launched into a targum of Deuteronomy 24, verse 18 and following. This is a Hebrew re-contextualization of a passage. Imagine if Eugene Peterson redid the Pentateuch (which, I fully realize, he did.) Many of the online definitions refer to targum as paraphrase but this one is personal.

The text which follows can be found at the sermon Isn’t She (Still) Beautiful – Part Two; a sermon on the capital-C Church and the local church, and runs from 17:50 (he reads the original first) to 18:40 (where he introduces his own version) to  21:30. I simply did screen captures of the graphics and pasted them all together. (Gotta get me a phone app that will take dictation from my desktop speakers.) That way I got to hear this a few times.

April 21, 2017

God is on the Move

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:59 am

Is that cliché? I know it’s a title for a popular Christian song by 7eventh Time Down. Nearly 10 million people have watched the official version.

I guess I’m thinking about this phrase more in the context that I see God showing up in certain sectors where I think most of us would not expect him to find him there.

As someone who has been published in a number of periodicals, I’ve been surprised lately to pick up a general market magazine or newspaper (yes, I read newspapers, and I’ve heard the jokes on The Great Indoors) to find a writer expressing a strong Christian sentiment. Or I’ll be out shopping and suddenly the shopkeeper, who I’m fairly certain doesn’t affiliate with a particular church, will quote one of the more obscure portions of the Bible. Or I’ll be relaxing watching a sitcom when suddenly, I’m like, “Where did that come from?”

And every time this happens I keep coming back to the same image. It’s the one in 1 Kings 19 where Elijah suggests he’s the last — for a more second covenant word — the last believer left. In The Voice Bible it reads:

Eternal One: Why are you here, Elijah? What is it that you desire?

Elijah: 14 As you know, all my passion has been devoted to the Eternal God of heavenly armies. The Israelites have abandoned Your covenant with them, they have torn down every one of Your altars, and they have executed all who prophesy in Your name by the sword. I am the last remaining prophet, and they now seek to execute me as well. They won’t stop.

Eternal One: 15 Travel back the same way you traveled here, but continue north to the desert of Damascus. There, I want you to anoint Hazael as Aram’s king, 16 Jehu (Nimshi’s son) as Israel’s king, and Elisha (Shaphat’s son from Abel-meholah) to replace you as prophet. 17 Jehu will execute anyone who escapes from Hazael, and Elisha will execute all who escape from Jehu. 18 I will keep for Myself the 7,000 Israelites who have not bowed down to Baal or offered him kisses.

The story continues and is retold by Paul in Romans 11:

How does God answer his pleas for help? He says, “I have held back 7,000 men who are faithful to Me; none have bowed a knee to worship Baal.”  The same thing is happening now. God has preserved a remnant, elected by grace. Grace is central in God’s action here, and it has nothing to do with deeds prescribed by the law. If it did, grace would not be grace.

As I study the account of this, I realize it’s not exactly the same, but it’s a similar story insofar as we don’t expect — at least I don’t — to see God working in certain places and yet that may actually be where he does his best work.  (Did anyone else reading this grow up on Romans 5:20? Where sin abounds…)

Grace is alive and well.

Perhaps at some point in the future I can be more specific about some of the things I’m seeing. Otherwise, that will have to suffice for today. 

Have you seen God at work in some places you considered God-forsaken?

 

April 24, 2016

A Movie for All the Ragamuffins

Ragamuffin Rich Mullins Movie

Last night we finally got to watch the DVD of Ragamuffin, the story of Christian singer Rich Mullins. For two-hours and 15-minutes, we sat through the ups and downs of his life. The movie was, from beginning to end, saturated in the unique Rich Mullins sound. I said to my wife, “I’ve probably never listened to the sound of the hammered dulcimer this much ever.”

Her reaction to the music was to be totally impressed that the actor playing Rich did his own vocals for the movie, which added some authenticity.

Rather than replay the story line, let me say this instead: This is a movie for

  • Anyone who has ever felt like a misfit; that their history or their calling is simply different from everyone else; that there’s nobody to talk to about what they do because nobody does it, or talk to about how they see the world because nobody else sees the world the same way.
  • Someone who has struggled with their relationship, or lack of relationship with their father; with or without perhaps the added burden of thereby trying to comprehend a loving heavenly Father.
  • A person who is constantly wrestling their own inner demons; be it some particular pain, or addictive behavior.
  • Those who have been let down, disappointed, abandoned, or somehow severed from relationships due to circumstances or even death; whose history seems to be one of people constantly leaving.
  • People who feel the core essence of Christ’s teachings isn’t so much about outward conformity to religious standards, but rather a security in the knowledge that God loves us.
  • Fans of Christian music who want to see the realities of the industry, warts and all, and how God uses people in spite of their brokenness. 
  • Thinkers who want to press further into the idea of grace and how sinners can and do experience the grace of God.

And that is just to name a few things this movie touches.

Rich Mullins’ life intersected with other people you know, from Amy Grant to author Brennan Manning. His music, from “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” to “Awesome God” impacted a generation of Christians.

This is a tough movie to watch. Rich’s life is not an ideal; not really a role model we can hold up to today’s Christian youth. It’s a very dark story; not your typical Christian movie. There were also some continuity issues — the conflicting hair length of the actor has confused many reviewers — which interrupted the flow of what was otherwise a beautifully crafted piece of cinema.

But for us, last night, it was must-watching. Knowing a little about Rich Mullins’ life ahead of time, the movie did not disappoint.

You can read more about the movie, and watch a trailer, at an article I wrote in 2014 when Rich was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

December 20, 2014

An Appropriate Illustration

Filed under: grace — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

Preaching has changed over the last two decades and there is a certain style of sermons that is disappearing and may even seem quaint to younger readers. The way illustrations are weaved into messages is one example, but we need to remember that Jesus ministry consisted of using parables to make his point. There is no record of him having four points that start with the letter “P” (or Aramaic equivalent).

pardonStephen Weber shared the story of picking up some coal for his wood stove from two identical twin brothers.

…I also enjoy visiting with Richard and Robert, bachelors who never married and continue to live in the same home they grew up in. I observed some evidence of Christian faith on the wall of the small office but last week Richard (or it might have been Robert) began to tell me a story and I realized he was witnessing to me!

He told me about George Wilson who was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging for robbing the US mail on a route between Philadelphia and Reading Pennsylvania in 1829. But just before the time set for his execution President Andrew Jackson pardoned him. However Wilson refused the pardon and the Supreme Court ruled that a pardon was not in effect until accepted. Wilson was executed even though he had been pardoned, since he refused to accept it.

He went on to relate this to God’s offered pardon and the necessity that we accept it. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). An old hymn ends with this inviting line, “Will you this moment His grace receive?”

Because God is just, He must punish our sins. But because God is merciful, He Himself suffered the awful penalty when Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby with the mission to redeem and offer pardon. He suffered the wrath of God when He died on the cross of Calvary. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Isaiah has a powerful, timeless call to the human race, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (55:7).

Just consider the wonderful words. “He will abundantly pardon.” You can easily memorize them,  And He will! Don’t be like George Wilson. Accept God’s freely offered pardon. “Will you this moment His grace receive?”

 

 

December 16, 2014

A Good Question

This published a month ago at Just a Thought, the blog of author and church planter Rick Apperson in British Columbia, Canada. I thought readers here might appreciate this; click the title below to read at source.

A Good Question

“What does that teach you about God, Daddy?”

This is the question my son has been asking lately. He likes to sing praise and worship songs. He also likes to make up new songs about God. Invariably he will end the song and ask what that song has taught me about God. It is a good question and will often cause me to think, what is the meaning of the song and what does it teach me about God? It is a great exercise.

I also realized, it is something I never used to ask. I love to sing and will belt out a song anywhere and at any time. Yes, I am that guy walking down the street singing to himself. I will sing at work, in the car and yes, in the shower. Until my son started asking his question, I never put much thought into what the song was teaching me about God. Now I can’t stop.

I have also begun applying the question to my reading as well. When I dig into God’s Word, I have asked myself, “What does this passage of Scripture teach me about God?”   According to God’s Word, the Scriptures are a light for my path (Psalm 119:105) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. (2 Timothy 3:16)

It is all that and so much more. As I read the Old Testament, I see a God who is long-suffering and filled with patience and loving kindness. Moving into the New Testament, we see a God who loved us enough to send His Son to earth, to die on a cross for you and me!

God’s love, mercy and grace are all things that I have been taught through the reading of His Word.

My son has challenged me to go deeper in worship and in reading the Bible. Hopefully you will be asking yourself this same question he asked me. “What does that teach you about God?”

September 18, 2014

Evangelism Styles in Conflict

Filed under: evangelism, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:00 am

There’s an audio term, presence, which reflects the degree to which the listener is made to feel that they are right there, experiencing the sound in an intimacy and proximity that makes them part of what they are hearing.

There’s a similar presence to moments like the one in this video. You can feel the tension as the young pastor happens upon the fire-and-brimstone street preacher. So what’s the difference? Some of it is certainly theological, some of it is generational, and some of it seems to be simply the difference between a positive and a negative approach. Six minutes, but a great exercise for those who wish to do the analysis.

April 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Irresistible Grace

After falling for an April Fool’s Day prank yesterday — hope you enjoyed yesterday’s here — you may be overly cautious today, but as far as we know, everything below is legit.

Despite a submission guide at PARSE that allows writers to post additionally at their own sites, our Leadership Today overlords want you clicking from their site, thereby depriving me of stats. So if you see something you liked, leave a comment here or there; it’s the only way I know. Clicking anything below will take you first to PARSE.

While leaving no Christian internet news stone unturned, Paul Wilkinson also writes at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Twitter.

Devouring God's Word

March 16, 2014

When Did Jesus Experience Grace?

coffee time

A conversation joined in progress…

“…she never brings anything to a potluck dinner, they just show up. He never comes to a church work day. They don’t attend Bible studies or prayer meetings.”

“But what’s that to you?”

“I think we’d all like to know if they’re all in.”

“Why do you need to know that?”

“Because it would be nice to have a conversation with them that wasn’t superficial; that wasn’t just all about the weather and the school their kids go to. It would be nice to know where they stand.”

“Why don’t you just ask them? Say, ‘So what’s God been doing in your life lately?’ Or, ‘What’s God been teaching you lately?”

“You can’t just start a conversation cold like that.”

“Maybe not at the grocery store, or with a relative stranger, but this is church, you sit in the row behind them every single week.”

“It would be awkward.”

“So here’s a question for you: Was Jesus ever the recipient of grace?”

“Wait. What?”

“Was Jesus ever the recipient of grace?”

“That’s just wrong.”

“Did Jesus ever experience grace?”

“Grace is for sinners. Jesus was without sin.”

“Are you a sinner?”

“I was a sinner; but now I’ve passed from death into life.”

“Have you ever sinned since? Maybe even this week?”

“Yes. Absolutely. So have you.”

“Does the grace of God meet you in that place?”

“Yes. But that’s different; second Corinthians 5:21 says, ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ He had no sin, or some translations say he knew no sin.”

“You just happen to know that verse?”

“It was on a Christian radio on Friday while I was driving to work.”

“And you memorized the reference?”

“My sister’s birthday is 5/21 so that helped. So when did Jesus experience the grace of God?”

“What is grace?”

“Grace is unmerited favor with God.”

“So the answer is, ‘At his baptism.’ A voice from heaven, the voice of God, says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'”1

“And…”

“He experienced the favor of God even though he hadn’t done anything yet. This was the outset2 of his public ministry. He hadn’t taught anything, he hadn’t called disciples, he hadn’t healed anyone. It was unmerited in the sense that he hadn’t commenced his spiritual work.”

“But he had been alive for 30 years at that point. He always had the favor of God. Luke 2:52 says, ‘Jesus grew…in favor with God and man,’ so this was something he had earned over time.”

“But the people at the Jordan River didn’t know all that. To them, he was simply one of many being baptized for the forgiveness of sin and then God says he is ‘well pleased’ with him. We tend to think of that as more of an end-of-life pronouncement from God, as in ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ 3 In other words, he has already been made a recipient of the favor of God.”

“But that has nothing to do with works, he was well-pleasing to God because of who he was, not according to anything he did. It’s the same with us, like that verse that says, ‘Not by works of righteousness that we have done…but because of his mercy.’4 There’s nothing that we do that ultimately earns us the grace of God. It’s who we are not what we do.”

“Exactly. So maybe it wasn’t grace in the sense of being freed from punishment because Jesus was, as you said, without sin. But it was a favor with God that preceded everything he was about to do over the next three years.”

“Okay. You could think of that way I suppose, but how did we get on this topic again?”

“The family that sits the row in front of you at church…”

“…Oh…yeah…”

“Could it be the grace of God is working and operative in their lives in ways you just don’t realize?”

“…Hmm…Maybe we need to get to know them a little better…”


1 Matthew 3:17

2Harmonization of the Life of Jesus

3Matthew 25:23

4 Titus 3:5

May 31, 2013

Friday Link List

Yesterday we celebrated my birthday, though thankfully not one of those of ‘0’ or ‘5’ birthdays that make you feel old, today I simply feel older. Summer is much shorter here in the frozen north, but I was able to take a brief swim in two different lakes, though it would be tough to call those short dips swimming. I also spent about six hours of my birthday in the car, though thankfully I didn’t have to drive a single mile of it.  Helps having three licensed drivers in the family, even if two of them are only semi-licensed.

So nothing original today, you’ll have to settle for a few links:

That will have to satisfy for today, and I hope you don’t mind some repeat cartoons.  Incidentally, you may note that some of the blogspot links here are blogspot.ca not blogspot.com; if your blog is one of them, yes you have a different address in Canada, though we’re not sure why; nobody else does this. But then, can anyone fathom anything Google does?  Let me know if ever any of those links don’t work. Also don’t forget, there’s always more happening on my Twitter page.

October 7, 2012

Max Lucado on Grace

“No other religion or philosophy makes such a claim. No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers. Muhammad does not indwell Muslims. Buddha does not inhabit Buddhists. Hugh Hefner does not inhabit the pleasure-seeking hedonist. Influence? Instruct? Entice? Yes. But occupy? No.”

Max Lucado is certainly one of the best loved and most prolific Evangelical authors and storytellers. He moves freely from children’s fiction to adult non-fiction; and from the pages of a book to behind the microphone for his daily 5-minute radio program. Like a perfect photograph with not a hair out of place, he leaves not a word out of place, providing just the right amount of emphasis so you cannot possibly miss the point.

His new book, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Thomas Nelson) will cover territory familiar to more seasoned Christ-followers, but with Christmas rapidly approaching, it also makes the perfect gift for that member of your extended family, that guy at your workplace, or that neighbor who has been so helpful throughout the year.

This is not a treatise on the doctrine of grace, nor does it probe as deeply as Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace.  Rather, Lucado’s Grace is a celebration of the grace we’ve received; all that Jesus Christ has done for us. It also implicitly challenges us to be agents of grace, to be agents of generosity.  There are no Greek words, no textual criticism, no instances of doctrinal tension, and no complicated charts or diagrams. This is a simple, straight forward panorama of the Christian life which always paint Jesus Christ right into the center of the landscape.

All that said, this is a book that is very light on actual content. Each chapter begins with a full-page title page, followed by a blank page, followed by a page containing three or four short quotations, followed by another page that is mostly blank except for a one paragraph excerpt of the chapter. On top of that, once you reach just past the tw0-thirds mark, you discover that the book has ended, and the balance is a group discussion guide penned by a different author. I’m not a speed-reader, but I finished this book in record time.

One surprise however was Lucado’s transparency in a couple of places. He confesses a love of drinking beer that ended at age 21, only to resurface years later; but because of his rather high profile, he found himself enjoying a nightly cold one in a convenience store parking lot for about a week. So it was the hypocrisy, not the drinking itself, to which he quickly called a halt. In a later chapter though, he admits to attempting to bribe an airline clerk so he can get on to a sold out flight. Sorry if he was your idol; I guess we’re all human, and that’s why we need grace. You can decide if such transparency is an asset or a liability.

So the book is a bit of a conundrum.

Read an excerpt here at Christianity 201.

A copy of  Grace was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin. Available at your local Christian bookstore from Thomas Nelson.

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