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

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September 7, 2012

Redefining “The Written Word”

The picture above is of a scripture selection my eldest son chose to write out by hand almost a year ago and post on his bedroom wall. It’s remarkable for two reasons, the first being that a few years earlier his efforts at cursive writing would never have produced anything so legible, the second being the love that he has for the Word of God, evidenced by the time he spends in scripture each day.

Writing out Bible passages by hand has become somewhat archaic in a world of word processing. But it’s just one of a number of subtle changes taking place within Western society in terms of our relationship with the printed word:

  • Many of us leave our Bibles at home on Sundays, finding it more convenient to use Bibles provided at weekend services
  • Many choose to use Bible apps on their smart phones instead of following from a print text
  • Many have their devotional and Bible study time driving to work using a devotional on CD or listening to a preacher on the car radio
  • Scripture memorization has become less commonplace in our children’s and youth ministry programs
  • People like myself often ‘absorb’ scripture throughout the day through online articles and blogs but don’t directly read anything at source
  • Our worship music is ‘vertical’ which can derive from psalms and similar passages, but is therefore less reliant on the ‘Scripture in Song’ type of choruses that were based more directly on a wider spectrum of scripture passages
  • The giving out of tracts has died as a practice; many of these began with scripture and contained several Bible passages
  • The reading of Christian books has diminished in a screen-saturated world
  • Scripture plaques, often seen in the living rooms and kitchens of homes have been deemed inadequate in a world of interior decorating and replaced by “inspirational” wall art with single word admonitions like “dream,” “believe,” “hope,” etc.
  • Where once people would add a scripture verse by hand to a greeting card, today we purchase Christian cards with a verse already included

Combine all these, and the handwriting my son did might seem rather quaint. But I’ll bet that taking the time to do this means he knows this passage well.

Of course, more than writing scripture on the doorframes and gates of our houses, God desires for us to write his words on our heart. But how we do this if we don’t know the passages and precepts in the first place? God is revealed to us first and foremost in scripture; this is the primary revelation of God in our times.

So here’s the challenge. Take a passage and write it out by hand today. I did this a few weeks ago with Titus 3: 3-8 or you might consider Colossians 1: 9-14 or the Galatians passage above, or a passage of your choosing. (Those are just two that I’ve done myself, so I’m not asking you to do anything I haven’t done.)

And then allow the words to be written on your heart.

March 18, 2012

The Thing That Means The Most: Our Cell Phone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am

Admittedly, this came as an email forward; but I’ll guarantee it hits a home run with a few of you. Feel free to copy/paste and generate your own email. UK readers change “cell” to “mobile.”


Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to our kids as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing…

Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.

October 15, 2011

Craving More of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Last weekend we were on a retreat at a Christian camp, and I suddenly had this strong desire to take off my clothes.

We’ll get to that in a minute, but first something completely different…

“Some of you have had to have a medical procedure where you’re told that 24 hours beforehand you’re to stop eating solid food.  You may be a light eater generally, but once you’re told that can’t eat something, you find yourself really craving it.

“Then, they might tell you that for the last three hours prior to the procedure, you’re not to drink anything, either.  You’ve probably gone longer without quenching your thirst, but once you reach that no drink  stage, you suddenly find yourself aching for something in the beverage category.

“But the real kicker is when, five minutes before the procedure, they ask you stop breathing…”

And with that, several years ago, I introduced the song “Breathe” by the group Passion, reminding our church that while the first two situations — being denied food and drink — are achievable in the short term, we all need to breathe.  (Actually, Need to Breathe would be a great name for a band.)  We simply can’t live without oxygen, and so also we should be hungry and thirsty for God.

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence
Living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word
Spoken to me

And I, I’m desperate for You
And I, I’m lost without You

I relate this because this week we were at a Christian camp, and if you’ve ever been on the grounds of a Christian retreat or conference facility, you know there’s an unwritten rule that if you’re a guy, unless you’re swimming, skiing, windsurfing or water skiing, you’re supposed to keep your shirt on.

But Ontario experienced record high temperatures on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, with temperatures hovering close to 30 ° Celsius all three days, which for our metricly challenged American friends is around 78 ° Fahrenheit.  Beautiful sunshine.  No black flies, mosquitoes or bees.  No humidity. Reduced risk of sunburn in October.

I was craving maximum sunlight.  So I climbed up a hill to what the kids call “the mountain” and doffed my t-shirt and stretched out on a rock in nothing but shorts and let the sunshine vitamin soak in; in the process becoming a human solar panel, absorbing the rays at just the right angle.

And I started thinking about the warmth of God’s Spirit that we’re supposed to experience as part of what the Bible considers normal Christian living.

the warmth = the comfort of God’s spirit
the sunshine = the spiritual ‘nutritional benefit’ of God’s presence 

In a previous century, the songwriter talked about “Heavenly sunshine, flooding my soul with glory divine.” We express things differently today, but the principle is the same; food, drink, oxygen, the light of the sun; all these analogies in nature exist to remind us of our need for God.  A craving that is intended to be natural.

Just like a deer that craves
streams of water,
my whole being craves you, God.

Common English Bible Psalm 42:1

But none of this would have struck me, and my Vitamin D fix would not have been fulfilling had I not first climbed the mountain… but we wouldn’t want to add another metaphor, would we? 

In our culture, we really don’t know what it is to be physically hungry or thirsty.  There’s always a snack bar just around the corner.  Do we know what it means to truly be spiritually hungry? Have you ever experienced true spiritual hunger or thirst?

January 2, 2011

Gutenberg’s Motivation

Filed under: bible, internet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:43 pm

Though the internet was hardly on the radar in its early days, during the last few years, we’ve watched the explosion of a medium that gives us an insight into what it must have been like to live in those days when the printing press burst on the scene.

Some will know that Gutenberg’s first project was the edition of the Bible that bears his name, but few realize that it was this project that really drove the invention itself:

“Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men!  Through it, God will spread His Word.  A spring of truth shall flow from it: Like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.”

Johannes Gutenberg

Wikipedia fills in the story of that early Bible:

The Bible sold for 30 florins each, which was roughly three years’ wages for an average clerk.  Nonetheless, it was significantly cheaper than a handwritten Bible that could take a single scribe over a year to prepare.  After printing the text portions, each book was hand illustrated in the same elegant way as manuscript Bibles from the same period written by scribes.

Our world has seen an equally paradigm-smashing development with the internet.    If you haven’t seen it already, take a moment to visit Gary’s Social Media Count.

December 31, 2010

Whatever Happened to the Memory Verse?

My mom turned her head to the back seat, “…You’ve got your offering, right?”

“One dime, same as always.”

“And you know your memory verse?”

“Oh, oh!”

A quick leaf through the student manual and I found the verse, which I committed to memory in about 30 seconds.  Most of them, I still remember today…

…Fast forward to 2011…

…What happened to scripture memory?   My kids went through the Sunday School system and have emerged with a fairly accurate God-picture and understanding of basic theology — probably more than I at their age — but very little actual memorization accomplished.

Meanwhile, we have some friends whose kids are part of a national “quizzing” program that has involved memorization of entire chapters of Paul’s epistles; even the entirety of some shorter ones.    So perhaps it’s us;  we failed as parents in this respect.

Either way, I think the Christian book market is going to be very, very ready for Gary Smalley’s new book Guarding Your Child’s Heart:  Establish Your Child’s Faith Through Scripture Memory and Meditation.

I’m not on any kind of review list for NavPress — I don’t even think they do that sort of thing — but I thought this book deserves some highlighting anyway.  Here’s what they say about it…

Most people have 20,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. And for Americans, more than half of those thoughts are negative. So how do you teach your children to guard their minds and hearts in today’s society? The last thing you need is more parenting advice that proves futile.

Your beliefs strongly influence your thoughts, words, and actions, which in turn form your emotions. So the key to a high-quality life is to create powerful beliefs within your heart that control your behavior. You can think whatever thoughts you want, but what would happen if you mainly thought about the words Jesus told you to think about more than two thousand years ago?

Seasoned marriage and family relationship expert Dr. Gary Smalley clearly understands the frustrations of trying to defend your children from destructive cultural influences. In this interactive twelve-week companion workbook that accompanies the Guarding Your Child’s Heart DVD series, Dr. Smalley presents how-to steps, engaging questions, practical exercises, and fun activities to help the whole family memorize and meditate on key Scriptures and lead an enriching life of humility, love, and gratitude.

I can so easily picture grandparents buying this for parents.   For whatever reasons.   I think scripture memory has become a lost art.   So maybe, just maybe, it’s a lost art we need to recover.

There’s also a DVD for this to be used in a small group situation.

“A spiritual community that does not transmit its sacred writings to its children is one generation away from extinction.”


December 4, 2010

Baxter Kruger’s Christmas Song

Most of us think of Baxter Kruger in terms of books (see below) and a the occasional video clip, but apparently he’s also a lyricist.   I don’t know if the melody for this exists anywhere online, but I’ve had this in my file since before last Christmas, and then neglected to post it then…

Christmas Song

O Hear the Word Declared to You
©C. Baxter Kruger 1994

O hear the Word declared to you as He became a man
the Father’s passion ceases not for His eternal plan
Wake up and see the time is full the great exchange has come
the Son of God stands in our place the Father’s will is done

O look and see the ancient Son though rich became so poor
with our own poverty He fought and blow by blow endured
Wake up and see His painful wealth for this He came to be
the treasure of the Triune life in our humanity

O see our awful flesh embraced by Him who dwells on high
he plunged into our darkness to bring the light of life
Wake up and see amazing grace in flesh the Father known
to share with us within our reach the life that is His own

O Spirit grant with unveiled face that we this Man would see
and know His heart and soul and mind and share His victory
Inspire our empty hearts to run to this vicarious One
and give us fellowship with Him the Father’s one true Son

 

My Photo

About Baxter…
C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D.
Dr. C. Baxter Kruger, theologian, writer and fishing lure designer is the Director of Perichoresis Ministries. Baxter is a native of Prentiss, Mississippi. He and his wife Beth have been married for 27 years and have 4 children. Baxter has degrees in political science, psychology and earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Kings College, Aberdeen University in Aberdeen, Scotland under Professor James B. Torrance. He is the author of 7 books, including The Great Dance, Jesus and the Undoing of Adam and Across All Worlds. He teaches around the world. He is an avid outdoorsman and holds two United States patents for his fishing lure designs. He is the founder and President of Mediator Lures.

October 8, 2010

Checking Primary Sources

Are you easily intimidated spiritually?  It’s easy to do.  The other person seems more passionate about his or her faith.  (“A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do!”)  Or they are more versed on the nuances of Greek or church history or some finer point of doctrine.  (The present Evangelical culture places a premium on education.)   Or they have lived through some life experience which gives them church cred.  (This is essentially a modern incarnation of what in the previous generation called “testimony oneupsmanship.”)

Despite working in vocational Christian service for a couple of decades, I still know the feeling of spiritual intimidation.   Furthermore, because I try to render my own comments in an offhand or less threatening manner, I am probably more often intimidated than intimidating.

But this week something happened which made me wonder if I haven’t been underestimating myself.

I was in a discussion with an older man who was reiterating some party-line doctrine about a particular topic, and I was mentioning to him a couple of authors who are refuting that position.    I haven’t actually read their books, but I’ve been in discussions both in-person and online with people who suggest an alternative reading of the texts.    I think their view is at least worthy of serious consideration.

And he shared with me what he has always believed, which is what his church believes.   And then he had to leave.

About 30 seconds later, it hit me that while I had quoted or alluded to several scripture verses and mentioned a few chapters, he hadn’t mentioned a single one.     While I’m not strong on chapter and verse numbers — another way to be spiritually intimidated (or intimidating)  — I did toss in a few, while he provided none.

There are two takeaways from this.

The first recalls the line, “Of all the major faith groups in the world, Christians are least acquainted with their own scriptures.”   Quoting verse numbers is intimidating sometimes, and often needlessly so; but we will speak most authoritatively when we speak with the backing of God’s word, especially when we can reference books and chapters.   The force of our arguments is not the force of our own words, but the force of scripture.

The second is, we need to be able to say, “This is what the Bible says;” instead of “This is what I’ve always believed;” or “This is what our church teaches.” We need to check primary sources, in this case the one primary source as the source for what we have come to understand on any given issue.    (“Study to show yourself…rightly dividing the Word…;” “…sharper than a double-edged sword…;” “All scripture is inspired…and powerful for…rebuking…correcting…;” etc.) Too many people are living a second-hand faith quoting second-hand doctrines.

Let me take it further and suggest that any discussion that person most likely to appear victorious in any theological discussion will be the one who, proof-texting aside, has an argument backed by scripture.

We need to, as did the Bereans, search the scriptures.   And if we’re deficient in the area of remembering numeric references — despite being able to recite credit card, PIN, or computer passwords effortlessly — we need to work harder at developing this area of Biblical knowledge; chapters at the very least.

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