Thinking Out Loud

December 1, 2017

Short Takes (5): As It Is In Heaven

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:34 am

We’ve prayed it many times:

Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven

But how is God’s will done in heaven?

I see two things, but perhaps you can think of others:

(1) There is constant worship. The KJV of Rev. 4:8 says “they rest not.”  The NLT reads:

Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty — the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

So if you want to see a bit of the will of God done here on earth, while it may not be non-stop, there’s going to be an element of worship.

(2) There is instant compliance. God simply speaks the word and it happens.   “And God said…” is the constant theme of the creation narrative, giving new meaning to the old phrase “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

Except the missing middle part wouldn’t be “I believe it;” but something closer to “I’m obeying it.”

Unlike at creation, God cannot always simply make things happen unless we’re willing to be used as partners with him; he has chosen in this time and place to work through willing people.


Go deeper with this topic at Christianity 201

October 27, 2017

God’s Power? Yes, As Long as We Are in Full Control

If you grew up in Africa, the West Indies or even in the North American Black church, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about in today’s column.

Lord, send the old time power;
The Pentecostal Power

Although we sang that gospel hymn at many of our church’s evening service, indications of God’s power were looked on with extreme suspicion. While the Charismatic Movement had contributed to explosive church growth in many locations, the megachurch where I grew up was having behind-the-scenes meetings to discuss how far they were willing to let that movement invade our fellowship…

…I noticed her across the auditorium from the corner of my eye. Middle aged woman positioned ideally on the aisle for what she was about to do. We were singing a very lively hymn, possibly even the one above and the music at the church was quite loud as she started moving to the music, then stepping out into the aisle putting one foot ahead and back, and then one foot behind and then back. The aisle sloped slightly so she was moving forward and backward, up and down the aisle, though never far from her seat.

The ushers serving that aisle watched each other from the back for confirmation and then wasted no time. Swiftly she was confronted but apparently lost in the music continued the dance.

Then the unthinkable happened. They attempted to pick her up. She went rather rigid at that point — to avoid injury to them one would think — and they carted her out of the service like she was a large piece of lumber. She was perpendicular to the floor and one carried her head and shoulders while the other carried her feet.

I kid you not. Down the aisle and out the door. Never to return…

…Maybe your church has stories of people shutting down Charismatic expression. (The man who ran up on the stage at John MacArthur’s church to give a word of prophecy comes to mind. That was dramatic!) …

…One of the songs in that church’s youth group was “The Holy Ghost Will Set Your Feet A-Dancing.” This was a noble goal for those seeking the fullness of God’s Spirit, as long as things didn’t get out of hand. I don’t remember us doing much more than clapping to that piece. But then a discussion would follow about wanting what the Pentcostals and Charismatics had; wanting to see more of God’s power displayed and active in our church and in our lives…

…Today’s there’s the bridge in “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” which goes,

O, I feel like dancing.
It’s foolishness I know.
But when the world has seen the light
They will dance with joy like we’re dancing now.

My wife and I haven’t used that song much when leading worship, but when we did, we always skipped that bridge. The purpose of leading worship is to give voice to the congregation to express the worth-ship of God and their aspirations of response. Most of the people in our congregations did not feel like dancing in those moments, and if you’re not dancing, the song really makes no sense.

They would concur the second the line however, “It’s foolishness I know.” David danced before the Lord. Thank goodness we’re in the New Testament now…

…I’m sure the woman in my story recognized that our church wasn’t the best fit for her and eventually found a home in the many Pentecostal and Charismatic church springing up all over the city where you could take a few steps back and forth without being a distraction.

I wonder how many that Sunday night secretly admired her freedom?


It would be interesting to know what insurance providers and court judges would think of the physical confrontation I watched. Do not try this at home…

…And yes, YouTube would be several generations down the road, but this one would have been great to have captured. Today camera-phones would have been tracking her from the first few steps of her jig.

 

September 18, 2017

Heroes

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:43 am

by Aaron Wilkinson

to read this at Aaron’s blog, Voice of One Whispering, click this link.

I had never been one to have heroes, or “idols/role models/etc.” My classmates in school would admire celebrities or athletes but I never really got that. I recognized good traits in the grownups around me and I would feel appreciation and respect but never anything like awe.

Such remained the case until last summer. I had just graduated university and I stumbled into the world of apologetics and I quickly discovered Nabeel Qureshi.

Nabeel’s powerful testimony was a bestseller and his personality and academic prowess strongly impressed upon me. I watched his debates and lectures, always admiring how he could be so firm and passionate in the truth and yet respectful and irenic at the same time (and the world of Christian apologetics can be rather deprived of irenic personalities.)

There’s a scene in The Hobbit where Balin, upon seeing the heroism of Thorin, says “There is one who I could follow. There is one I could call king.” My impression wasn’t quite that strong but I think I now know where Balin was coming from.

I felt rather insecure for a while. Perhaps I had put the man on a pedestal. Basically I felt as though I could never be content with myself until I had reached his level. There was a jealous corner of my heart that thought “I just have to be like him.” Specifically, just as smart as him.

Then, after only a few months of getting to know his work, he was diagnosed with advanced stage stomach cancer and given a grim prognosis. He vlogged his experience over the next year and his physical conditioned worsened. Then on the 16th of September, 2017 he passed away. Obviously this is to be taken seriously and his and his family’s experience of all this is what matters most, but I hope the reader won’t mind if I share my own experience of this.

In a year, Nabeel went from being someone I new nothing about, to being the person I admired the most ever, to being dead. So what happens to a man of such reserved admiration as myself when his hero suffers like this?

In my case, he only admires him more but that admiration changes. The hevel (the word in Ecclesiastes that is translated ‘vanity’ or ‘meaninglessness’) of health and academic achievement blow away and we see what really matters – a soul that loves God. Doctorates are hard but loving God is accessible enough a concept, I think. We also see a spirit that hopes and trusts in the midst of suffering which is a far more important (and more practical) lesson than anything taught in the halls of academia.

I wonder how Jesus’ followers must have felt the day after his crucifixion, having seen the great man they had followed and in whom they’d hope die.

As for my own experience, I now get how how unabashed childlike admiration for a person can transform you. I was drawn to Nabeel for his knowledge of books and histories and theologies, but he taught me (and I hope all of us) a greater lesson: He showed us what it looks like to love and hope in Our Father.

As for my envy over academic accolades, I now feel that disquietness lifted. While his mind was impressive, it is for his heart that I will remember him as being great. Perhaps that is the more effective apologetic. As the church does, remembering great writings from her history such as the letters of Clement or the 95 Theses of Luther, I hope we also remember Nabeel’s Vlog 43, his last public words to the world, as a pattern of conduct for how we are to share our faith.

If you allow yourself to admire a person you might just get hurt. You might just agonize over their suffering. But the strength of God is made perfect in the weakness of man and I cannot at all reflect on the life of Nabeel Qureshi without seeing the love and the power of God behind it all. The Spirit of God has not left us. And He just as might shine through us as well.

Choose your heroes well. I know I did.


March 15, 2016

100,000,000 Sensory Receptors

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:08 am

This is a 2009 article from Mark Batterson, Washington DC pastor of National Community Church and author of numerous books including the most recent If, and one of my favorites, The Grave Robber.

 

5-senses-22One Quadrillion Synapses

I came across an interesting factoid today as I was researching for my next book.

The human body has approximately 100,000,000 (one hundred million) sensory receptors that enable us to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. And that is a testament to our Divine Designer. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. By the way, when was the last time you thanked God for each of your senses? We have seven million cones that enable us to perceive about ten million different colors. Doesn’t it seem like we owe God seven million thank yous?

Now here is what I found fascinating: neurologists estimate that the average three-year old has 1,000,000,000,000,000 (one quadrillion) synaptic connections.

Honestly, those numbers numb us. But I think they reveal something significant. Our ability to imagine things in our mind is far greater than our ability to interpret physical reality. Mathematically speaking, imagination is ten million times more powerful than our five senses put together!

Naturalism is living down to the limit of our one hundred million sensory receptions. It is the inability or unwillingness to perceive reality that is beyond our five senses. The end result? Our universes shrinks to the size of our senses.

Faith is living beyond our five senses. It is being certain of what we do not see. One dimension of faith is imagining what our five senses can’t perceive or confirm. It is extra-sensory perception. And that is why faith often seems like it is out of touch with reality. But that is because it is ten million times more powerful than our senses!

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20. It is actually our most-used benediction at National Community Church.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and throughout all generations for ever and ever, Amen.

Translation? God is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine with our one quadrillion synapses. Amazing isn’t it? Our imagination is ten million times more powerful than our five senses. But God is still able to do infinitely more than anything any of us can imagine with our one quadrillion synaptic connections. And to top it off, no mind has conceived of what God has prepared for us!

August 27, 2011

Need a Rescue?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:53 am

When Jesus’ teaching began to go a little deeper, and his many followers realized that staying with him wasn’t going to be a constant free potluck dinner, the scriptures record that some of them decided to go rabbi-shopping elsewhere.  Jesus turned to his core group and asked them, “Are you going to leave as well?” and Peter says, “Where else can we go?”

60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

   67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

It’s easy to think Peter was just choosing among several lousy options and saying, ‘Oh well… this will have to do… nothing better is going to come along….;’ and in so doing we miss the power of verse 69:

69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Last night we spent some time with some people for whom the summer has brought their person version of what Paul Young would call “a great sadness.”  Maybe you’re dealing with something similar. For them, and for you, I want to share a song that has been on my heart all week.


You are the source of life
And I can’t be left behind
No one else will do
And I will take hold of You

‘Cause I need You Jesus
To come to my rescue
Where else can I go
There’s no other name
By which I am saved
Capture me with grace
I will follow You

My heart is Yours for life
I need Your hand in mine
No one else will do
I put my trust in You

I will follow You
This world has nothing for me
I will follow You
This world has nothing for me

I need You Jesus
To come to my rescue…

© 2003 Vertical Worship Songs (Admin. by Integrity Music, Inc.)
Jared Anderson

November 20, 2010

Getting Plugged In

Since starting Christianity 201 in April, I find myself on a daily quest to see what devotional material other bloggers are posting online.   Part of this was the discovery of the Australian blogger known simply as Cloudwatcher, who posts “Daily Bread” styled illustrative stories accompanied by bold graphics.    Meeting in the Clouds is a devotional blog that your teens and perhaps even younger children might enjoy; but it offers good truths that the rest of us need, too.

Earlier this week she posted a story that involved a major school fire that took several hundred lives.   The value of the illustration was somewhat striking, but I was surprised I’d not heard the story before, so I did some research, and the report is quite true, though her “a few years ago,” was actually prior to World War II.   Hey, time is all relative, right?

Have you ever thought of writing something devotional?   Christianity 201 is always looking for guest posts.   In the meantime, here’s Cloudwatcher’s post, complete with stolen borrowed graphics!

by Cloudwatcher

Several years ago there was a school fire in Itasca, Texas, which claimed the lives of 263 children.  What a horrifying tragedy!

When a new school was built, it boasted the finest sprinkler system in the world. The citizens of Itasca would never again face another tragedy like that!

Tours were conducted through the new school, showcasing the acclaimed sprinkler system. It brought comfort to parents.

Seven years later, as the school grew, it became necessary to add more rooms to the buildings.  As construction workers made alterations they discovered that the state-of-the-art water sprinklers had never been connected.

That school had the absolute best at their disposal but it was never “hooked up” to the supply.

I must admit that sometimes I am like that.
As a Christian, I have the TOTAL RESOURCES of GOD Himself at my disposal.

  • I have the absolute solution to any problem.
  • I have His power to resist temptation.
  • I have His power to overcome bad habits.
  • I have grace added to abundant grace to enable me to cope with any situation.

But do I “hook up”? Or do I first try to handle things in my own way, in my own strength?  (which will always fail)

I wonder how much would change if we Christians constantly and continually hooked into God‘s available power – if we truly lived as we should, to His glory?

  • Dear God, I have a problem:  it is ME.
  • The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find Him to be.
  • Life’s greatest privilege is to be a co-laborer with God.

Link:  Here’s another recent article from Meeting in the Clouds.

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