Thinking Out Loud

September 25, 2016

The Devil of a Thrift Shop

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:54 am


In Canada we have a chain of used clothing stores with many locations as large as the biggest grocery store you’ve ever shopped in. They’re a “high end” thrift shop, where things aren’t as cheap as they might be at St. Vincent de Paul, or Goodwill or The Salvation Army.

While the primary market for these stores is people on a budget, having worked at camp I know that when we needed costumes for skits or special theme days, we would always head into town and find the nearest charity shop for things we could either use as-is, or alter.

Another costume occasion is Halloween, and years ago these stores decided that if they’re in the costume business anyway, why not exploit that to the hilt? And so they started carrying new merchandise such as masks, hats, props, make-up, black light bulbs and of course costumes.

But this year I realized they are taking this to the extreme. Some type of zombie greeted us audibly as we entered; as demonic a voice as you can imagine. The staff were all attired in costume. The theme from Ghostbusters played on the speakers. A door sign reminded us that there were only 37 days left to get ready.

I read this to my wife and said, “I need some help with the final paragraph.”

“What do you want to say?” she asked.

“It’s a blog post, and I need to be offended about all this;” was my answer.

She wasted no time, “Then I think you need to decide why you are offended.”

…And there it was. I’m a Christian. I know I’m supposed to angry that so much of this store is presently devoted to things supernatural, grotesque, ghoulish, and outright demonic.

But part of me figures it will all be over in another 37 days…

…On the other hand, Christmas is 3 months today.


October 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster

Our graphic image theme this week is parody. The upper one is a supplement to the Orange Curriculum, a weekend service Christian education experience for children. You can click on the image and then surf the rest of the web page to learn more.

A bumper harvest this week; get coffee first.

The rest of the week Paul Wilkinson offers you a daily choice between trick at Thinking Out Loud, or treat at Christianity 201.

What a Mug I Have of Coffee

October 20, 2014

The Fright Industry

Filed under: Church, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am


They appeared just after Labor Day.  Pop-up retail stores in strip malls and indoor centers dedicated wholly to the evening of October 31st.

Pop-up retail is not for the faint of heart. It involves a certain amount of portability in terms of inventory and fixtures, but you’re still installing cash registers and point of sale terminals, hiring staff and presumably obtaining liability insurance; all with a less than 60-day sales window.

In the U.S. and Canada, there is now big money in Halloween. It doubled between 2005 and 2011 in a way that other holidays did not. But numbers vary with each survey. A Forbes survey had it fourth, but had Thanksgiving second — food, no doubt being factored in — while a National Retail Federation survey for the same time period didn’t mention Thanksgiving at all, but listed “Winter Holidays” followed by Mother’s Day, Valentines Day and Easter.  A more recent NRF study had October 31st dead last, by a large margin, and trailing — any guesses? — the Super Bowl.

It eclipses Christmas for many families and neighborhoods in terms of decoration and the participation of children.  This year, having the holiday on a Friday night means some people may buy two costumes for two weekend parties.

Even within the broader Church, there are people who are totally unaware of All Saints Day, the feast day that follows on November 1st.  But in some conservative quarters, and also some not-so-conservative Evangelicals, an anti-Halloween movement started perhaps 20 years ago.  On this topic, I wrote:

…Of all the things that we could NOT do when I was younger — card playing, Sunday shopping, dancing, etc. that we now CAN DO; it’s interesting that there is this one unique area where we COULD do something years ago that now Evangelicals feel we can NOT do…

Taking my kids out trick-or-treating when they were younger was something that I sometimes I had to do rather low-key, as the winds of change among my church community were already blowing.

But this year, for the second time, we’re probably skipping participation in terms of handing out goodies as well. Our neighborhood has grown up somewhat; or perhaps we’re reacting to the mega-industry Oct. 31st has become and are simply trying to maintain a distinct identity.  


Redeeming the holiday: A preaching series tied to Halloween.




October 29, 2011

Living Creatures: A Halloween Post

While surfing the blogosphere for material appropriate to Christianity 201, I came across the rather lively blog of Carole McDonnell and a particular post she wrote just in time for Halloween.   The line that convinced me we needed to borrow steal feature it here was,

…I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.)

Is that cool or what? Now then, internet etiquette dictates that you actually click over and view this at her blog, but statistically, most of you won’t which means you would miss out on something truly different…

My Halloween Post: Those Awesome Cherubim
Yep, it’s that time of the year again when folks celebrate dead creatures and stuff that terrify. But since hubby and I finished Revelations last week, I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.) And no I’m not gonna talk about demons either. True, they’re living creatures in their own way because they have immortal life. But they are evil. What I want to right about is Terrifying holiness.

With God is terrible majesty! With God is terrifying majesty!

God made many type of creatures, creatures who can live in the three-dimensional world and in other dimensionalities. And he also made the Cherubim. The Cherubim live in heaven…in fact they live in God’s throne room and are never out of the presence of God. God rides on the Cherubim, He is seated above the Cherubim. (Satan himself was the cherubim that covered the throne while the other cherubs surrounded it or were under it. But I digress.)

The weird thing is that as heavenly as Cherubim are, they are weirdly intertwined in human affairs. What their purpose is God alone (and great Bible students) know. They are carved over the mercy seat…which represents their place in heaven. They represent life forms on earth: tame animals, wild animals, humans, and birds. (No fish or creeping thing, but again, I digress.)

So this is what I want to talk about the Cherubim. Now, on earth we have one way of being: we are spirit, body, mind, but we are all in one visible package. Because God is above and beyond the third dimension, God can see our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.  But we humans can only see each other’s bodies. (Okay, if we have a gift we can see into spirits but I digress.)  Back to the Cherubim.

As we see them in the Book of Ezekiel, (the first time I believe in the Bible) we are told they all have one likeness:

The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness.  The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. “ (Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5,15-16, NKJV)

That is: they all look alike.

Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. 9The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.

10Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. 11Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. 12They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.  Ezekiel 1: 8-12

Okay, so we accept this. One being has four faces, feet straight down so they don’t ever turn their face from God, and eyes everywhere just in case…so they don’t miss anything. And then there’s that pesky wheel-within-the-wheel which hints at all kinds of things.

The other thing we have to note is that these Cherubim move about in groups of four. Each four is one entity: a singular entity made up of four sub-entities who all look alike. This is something we can’t even begin to figure out. I mean, on earth a marriage is an entity but the hubby and the woman are not really alike to such an extreme.

Anyway, we accept this…and ponder and ponder. But then what happens when we arrive in Revelation?

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. 7The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight.8Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,  Rev  4: 6-8

There are two changes here:

The first: the number of wings: two pairs each in Ezekiel’s vision, and 6 wings (not said if they come in pairs) in Revelations.
The second: The cherubim are now separate, kinda. . .and fully themselves but still a unity of four.

They’re still unified but one is fully human with six wings, one is fully a bird (with six wings), one is fully a lion (with six wings) and one is fully an ox (with six wings.

Again, they have all the eyes.  Now if there is any confusion here about these creatures: Ezekiel calls these living creatures “Cherubim” and John calls them “living creatures.”

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.

Revelation 4:6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

But, what’s interesting here is how these cherubim are part of each other and a unity. Not a trinity but a Quatrinity (I just invented that word, I think.) On earth we can’t begin to understand beings who are part of each other and who can dismantle and reassemble themselves in different patterns….but wow! this is heaven! A spiritual sphere! A world of dimensionalities we cannot begin to understand. Question: do they really “look” like this? Or is the way they look the only way our human minds with its limited understanding of what a “person” is can understand?

And may I say, these are terrifying. I have never seen a cherubim — especially when it/they is in their one from column a, one from column b, one from column c, one from column d — and yet one-single-entity mode  And know what? I do not want to see them.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel is often called “The man Gabriel.” He stands before God, in the presence of God. Just like the cherubim are always before God. And honestly, if God wants to send anyone to talk to humans, I think he knows enough of human fear to send someone who looks like one of us: Gabriel.

How terrifying and majestic holiness is! I imagine the eyes of the cherubim, always seeing God and yet possibly seeing all on the earth, seeing through the eyes of all on the earth, seeing the evil being done on the earth.

Yeah, no ghost or demon matches the terrifying majesty of God.

~Carole McDonnell

I hope you agreed that was worth it. Even though you didn’t click over to her blog, why not give Carole a courtesy click now and check out other stuff she’s got there.

Next, you need to see some of the other videos over at John8ThirtyTwo’s YouTube channel.

Carole: I think the word Quadrinity has been used elsewhere, changing the ‘t’ to a ‘d’.

November 1, 2010

A Post-Halloween Consideration of Demons, Spirits, et al

I’m finding that I am starting to look forward more to my daily post at Christianity 201.   Many of the posts there are re-posts from other blogs, but it helps me keep a more Christ-centered focus.     I wasn’t sure yesterday which one should go where, so I thought today we’d just reverse them with a few minor changes…

So...Are your kids experiencing a Halloween Hangover?

For the message I prepared for a church in Toronto on Sunday, rather than running away from Halloween, I chose to confront it.

We looked at some supernatural encounters in scripture, including

  1. Simon the Sorcerer (aka ‘Great Power’) in Acts 8:9ff. He was a baptized follower of the Apostle Phillip, and yet parts of his old life — the love of the spotlight, for example — still lingered.
  2. The Seven Sons of Sceva in Acts 19: 11-16. The demons they tried to confront knew of the Apostle Paul and they knew Jesus, but they basically taunted the seven sons with “Who are you?” The world isn’t interested in what we have to do or say on our own strength, but rather, on whether or not Christ is flowing through us.
  3. Demetrius in Acts 19: 23-27. Christianity was turning out to be bad for the whole idol-making business. There are entire industries with a vested interest in retaining followers. If people really do turn to God, that will change. (But we have to be careful that we don’t create similar industries in the Christian world. Hmmm.)
  4. The Demon-Possessed Man in Mark and Luke and Men in Matthew 8:24-34. This wasn’t just a healing. There was a third party — demons — involved in this story. Jesus affirms their reality.

For a good spiritual showdown, we also looked at I Kings 18: 16ff, the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah just knew that God was going to come through. The buckets of water were a nice touch!

We contrasted Jesus’ words to the imprisoned John the Baptist (“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor…”) with his words to Thomas after the resurrection (“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”)

We also were reminded of Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…”

We finished up with John’s admonition in 1 John 4: 1-6 to test the spirits.

1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Some credit for this message concept must go to my favorite Reformed pastor and friend, Jack Vanderveer.

October 31, 2009

Thoughts on That Most UnChristian of all Days

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:17 pm

I’m almost afraid to mention Halloween here.

First, I’m fearful of what all the extra publicity is going to do to the pastor at Amazing Grace Baptist Church when he lights the first match, no doubt surrounded by the tabloid media.   Of course,  this letter writer to their local newspaper notes some interesting complexities.


Yes, it's a pumpkin!

This will mark 20 years that we’ve lived in our present house.   The first year, Mrs. W. decorated in style.   Yes, we celebrated the pagan holiday.   I think we gave out fortune cookies; not the ones with Bible verses which we can’t afford.

But the second year, we gave out Christian cassette tapes.   I contacted one of the distributors and asked if they had something for pre-teens, and something for little kids that they wanted to unload.   I bought about 90 tapes for 50 cents each.

A couple of years ago, a girl came up to me in the bookstore and said, “I once lived in your neighborhood and got one of the tapes you gave out for Halloween.   I really enjoyed it.”

So hey, you never know.

But I realize as I write this that this subject is very much unwelcome among many Evangelicals.   As I wrote last year,

…Of all the things that we could NOT do when I was younger — card playing, Sunday shopping, dancing, etc. that we now CAN DO; it’s interesting that there is this one unique area where we COULD do something years ago that now Evangelicals feel we can NOT do…

So I guess we’re going to turn off the lights — hard to do when Halloween falls within Daylight Savings Time* — and hope the kids don’t throw eggs over the freshly painted aluminum siding.

If you missed last year’s more informative post about tomorrow’s special day, All Saints Day, you can read it here.   This year All Saints Sunday coincides with the day itself.

time change*Daylight Saving Time 2009 actually ends tonight, or more correctly, tomorrow morning, November 1st at 2 AM.   Maybe one of my UK readers can tell me when “Summer Time” ends over the pond.  If you’re reading this on Sunday morning, it may be earlier than you think, so you can still make it to church!

October 17, 2009

King James Only Advocates Set to Burn Bibles October 31st

The following story should — if you are, well, normal — make you shudder with horror.

nazi book burningBook Burning - Farenheit 451

CANTON, N.C. (October 13, 2009)—The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C. will celebrate Halloween by burning Bibles that aren’t the King James Version, as well as music and books and anything else Pastor Marc Grizzard says is a satanic influence.

Among the authors whose books Grizzard plans to burn are well known ministers Rick Warren and Billy Graham because he says they have occasionally used Bibles other than the King James Version, which is the sole biblical source he considers infallible.

According to the church’s Web site, members will also burn “Satan’s music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul (and) oldies.

“We will also be burning Satan’s popular books written by heretics like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning (and) William Young.

During the book burning, according to the Web site, barbecued chicken, fried chicken and “all the sides” will be served.
~Source: KWTX Television

That Billy Graham should have to suffer this humiliation is one thing, but who ever heard of a conservative group that didn’t respect John MacArthur?

I really think that if and when these people get to heaven, God is going to look at them and say, “What were you thinking?” Or, “When did I appoint you as a judge?”  (See yesterday’s post.)

And if you’ve ever given money — or known someone who has — to The Gideons, or the American Bible Society, or any other such group; the thought of one small, fringe group actually burning those Bibles is beyond the pale.

Their book burning list is quite comprehensive. If you ever get the chance, ask people like this what authors they unconditionally support. 99 times out of 100 it will be a list of authors nobody else has ever heard of.  You know the kind; where every third sentence is printed in CAPITAL LETTERS, because if you can shout it loud enough, it must be truth.

I can’t help but think of people who really pioneered the whole book burning thing, the Nazis. (Pictured, upper left)   It’s the same mentality.   The same spirit.   Or the controlling, totalitarian regime depicted in the movie Fahrenheit 451. (Pictured, upper right.)

I also wonder how a holy God in heaven — who does indeed still intervene occasionally in the affairs of we humans — can restrain Himself while this burning of what every other Christian on the planet agrees is His word is taking place.   How can He sit there and not say, “Hey guys, so you like fire, do you?  Well, take this –“

What others are saying:

Rick Apperson  says, “I am sure Satan and his demons will be squealing with delight as Christians light God’s Word on fire.”   Actually Rick, given the media coverage, I think they’re laughing now.

The website Stuff Fundies Like reports the church getting all this media attention only has 14 members.

WLOS TV also gets the pastor on television — albeit in is denim overalls — where he manages to state his case without breaking up.   I mean, how can he keep a straight face?

Eugene Cho wonders why they can’t symbolically burn blogs so he can get some publicity.  He’s also annoyed that no Asian authors made the list.  “Why isn’t this church burning Francis Chan?”

The blog Exegeek — which also has the WLOS video —  notes that Harry Potter didn’t make the list.

Ron Edmondson wonders where the love of Christ is to be seen in all of this.   Where indeed?

Tim Stevens is shocked that churches like this still exist, but slightly ticked off that his books didn’t make the list.

Andrew Cromwell is less concerned.   He thinks that if a 14-member church can get this much publicity, maybe we all should start burning a book or two.

One of the 100+ comments on the religion page at USAToday suggests the church is competing for attention with the “shock jocks” on morning radio.

Yours truly reviews James White’s The King James Only Controversy; a key resource if this whole KJV-only mentality is new to you.

October 31, 2008

But Will Google Have a Graphic for All Saints Day?

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:43 am

Probably not.  Christian special days usually don’t rate the same attention.   But I’ll be happy to be proved wrong tomorrow morning.    All Saints Day is November 1st; the day after Halloween.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The Western Christian holiday of All Saints Day falls on November 1, followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church.

The origin of the festival of All Saints as celebrated in the West dates to May 13, 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Medieval liturgiologists based the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of “all the dead”.[citation needed]

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to November 1.[5]

This usually fell within a few weeks of the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to that of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival. The Irish, whose holiday Samhain had been, did not celebrate All Hallows Day on this November 1 date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: “…the Felire of Oengus and the ‘Martyrology of Tallaght’ prove that the early medieval churches [in Ireland] celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20.”[6]

A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued “at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops”, which confirmed its celebration on November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471—1484).[3]

The festival was retained after the reformation in the calendar of the Church of England and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada and the Wesleyan Church. [1]

In the United Methodist Church, All Saint’s Day is on the first Sunday in November. It is held to remember all those that have passed away from the local church congregation. A candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person’s name is called out. Then, a liturgical prayer is offered for each soul in Heaven

Read the full Wikipedia article here.

>>>UPDATE:  The blog, Slice of Laodacia also had an All Saints Day post which contains ALL ELEVEN VERSES to the song, “For All The Saints.”   This paragraph was its link, but then that blog died, so in 2010, I posted them myself, as you can read here.

October 24, 2008

Christians and Halloween — Is it “Yes” or “No” at Your House?

Filed under: Christianity, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:36 pm

Michael Spencer, a.k.a. the Internet Monk, sort of sums up what I feel about Halloween in this post here.   Of all the things that we could NOT do when I was younger — card playing, Sunday shopping, dancing, etc. that we now CAN DO; it’s interesting that there is this one area where we COULD do something years ago that now Evangelicals feel we can NOT do.   Check out the article and feel free to cut and paste your comment THERE to our blog HERE.

<<<Look twice; it’s a pumpkin!

October 21, 2008

Weekly Church Laughs

Filed under: Christianity, Humor — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm

We’ve posted a number of cartoons on this page over the past ten months, but mid July we did something different which we’re repeating here with a different cartoon. Christianity Today has a very large number of free newsletters you can subscribe to, and one of them is called Your Weekly Church Laugh.  You can add or delete different ones anytime. I’m still getting their main news feed, which I think comes every day. Also Books and Cultures, Building Church Leaders and this one.

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