Thinking Out Loud

February 11, 2019

Recipe for a Joyless Christianity

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:35 am

One of the best ways to experience a completely joyless salvation is to believe you were never ultimately lost in the first place.

One of the best ways to remain smug about your standing with God in Christ is to feel you were entitled to it all along.

One of the best ways to not be gracious is to remain firm that any grace you have received — amazing or otherwise — is something you deserved. 

One of the best ways to be unloving is to never fully consider the love that has been poured out on you.

All four gospels record the story of the woman with the alabaster jar. But Luke adds this detail:

7.41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

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December 2, 2017

Short Takes (6): Forgiveness

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:00 am

Forgiveness.

Over the years there have been some great resources on the subject of forgiveness. It’s a popular theme in Christian books:

  • Total Forgiveness by R. T. Kendall
  • Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman
  • The Gift of Forgiveness by Charles Stanley
  • Choosing Forgiveness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
  • Choosing Forgiveness by John and Paul Sandford
  • The Revolutionary Guide to Forgiveness by Eric Wright
  • The Power of Forgiveness by Joyce Meyer
  • The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness by John McArthur
  • Forgiveness: Breaking the Power of The Past by Kay Arthur et al
  • How to Forgive When You Don’t Feel Like It by June Hunt

If you are of a certain age you remember this song lyric:

Love means you never have to say you’re sorry

which is taken from the 1970s movie Love Story and a hit song of that era. You can read more about that here. The song went:

Love means you never have to say you`re sorry
Love means without a word you understand
Hold me and let the pressures disappear
Kiss me I only need to know you`re here

Love means you never have to say you`re sorry
Touch me the love I felt is everywhere
I know I`ll never be alone again
Love means we`ll never really say goodbye

Love means you never have to say you`re sorry
Touch me the love I felt is everywhere
I know I`ll never be alone again
Love means we`ll never really say goodbye

Ahh… Isn’t that just sooooooooo romantic? (Bonus points if you can name the artist without help.)

But life isn’t like that. Sometimes you want to hear that apology. You want to hear the words. You want to sense that the other person has a sense of regret, of contrition.

And sometimes all of us have a way of dancing around actually having to say those words, “I’m sorry. I’m so very, very sorry.”

Christ followers are forgiven people. Freely we have received; now freely we need to give.

Here’s Matthew 6:12 —

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. (Message)

and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
(NLT)

Pardon our offenses as we also ourselves pardon such that offend us. (rough translation from the French Louis Segond version)

Forgiveness: Easy to discuss. Hard to do.

August 20, 2015

Andy Stanley: Love, Sex and Dating

Eschewing the standard Christian Television approach, Andy Stanley and the staff at North Point in Atlanta have been buying time on local NBC stations after Saturday Night Live. The repackaged sermon video is called Your Move, and the website is YourMove.Is

Today, if you have 28.5 minutes; we’re going to watch one of Andy’s most popular messages, which is also a book and a curriculum, The New Rules for Love Sex and Dating. This is the first of several episodes and deals with The “Right Person” Myth.

October 16, 2014

The Love Chapter Remixed

Filed under: character — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

Love Chapter UpdateThis appeared on The Blazing Center, the blog of Stephen Altrogge, who you can also listen to regularly on The Happy Rant Podcast.

If I status update with such insight, hilarity, godliness, or profundity, that I get a thousand retweets and likes, yet have not love, I’m a cellphone that won’t stop ringing, or a car alarm at 2 AM.

If I understand every nuance of every complicated doctrine, including eschatology and predestination, and am a constant defender of orthodoxy, and if I am renowned for my ability to communicate truth with passion, but have not love, I’m nothing more than a first grader in the kingdom of God.

If I am a fantastic worship leader, able to lead hundreds of people in passionate worship of God, yet have not love, my skills are worth jack.

If I am a blog warrior, constantly on the attack against those who would distort the faith, yet have not love, I’m that yippy dog next door who won’t stop barking…even at 3 AM.

If I live a life of radical sacrifice, crazy love, and wartime mentality, and sponsor lots of kids through Compassion International, and go on mission trips in “closed countries”, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I am a great artist, able to capture a snapshot of the glory of God on canvas, or in song, or in prose, or on film, and yet have not love, my creative “genius” is utterly useless to God.

If I preach like Piper or Chandler or Chan or Platt, and yet have not love, I’m nothing more than a squawking parrot who likes to imitate others.

If I read all the books by all the smart theologians, and can quote them off the top of my head, yet have not love, WHO REALLY CARES!!!!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

August 20, 2013

Guest Post: Why We Love Our Hollywood Heroes

My guest blogger today writes anonymously under the name Flagrant Regard. There are some reasons for this, which may or may not involve the Witness Protection Program. Or maybe it’s another one of those deals where somebody famous like J. K. Rowling pens some material under an alternative byline. Or perhaps it’s a lot less interesting than either of those possibilities…  You can catch his writing at — wait for it — Flagrant Regard.

Why We Love our Hollywood HeroesHow many times have you seen this in a Hollywood flick:

Man falls in love with woman, woman appears to have her sights on or a commitment to someone else.

The smitten man – always the story’s protagonist – does his best to win the woman’s affections and to become her ‘one and only’.  But, as the plot goes, the woman’s potential suitor finds himself in a losing battle with the other man in her life, or so it appears. And then of course, there comes this powerful moment in the story where he relinquishes his pursuit of the woman he’s in love with and, burying his hurt, stoically tells her something like, “I love you so much, I can’t afford to see you unhappy.  I want you to be with the man you truly love, and if it ain’t me babe, then at least I know you’re content.”

In some movies the protagonist gets another kick at love’s can as the woman in the story realizes what a truly unselfish man she’s throwing away and, forsaking the safe and familiar, falls hard and passionately for the new guy.  At other times (but is less rarely seen in modern American films) the pursuing male wanders off dejected and alone as he sadly accepts his destiny –  not being with the woman he’s in love with.

In either outcome, we value the protagonist as a true, unwavering and selfless hero who wants the best for the one he loves even at the cost of his own happiness.  Now that’s a Hollywood hero!

We cherish our silver screen heroic archetypes, especially in stories like the above, because of the selflessness involved; the sacrifice that springs from genuine love.  As we watch the drama unfold, we find ourselves wanting to believe in that noble kind of love because we know it’s the right kind to fully embrace and which also ‘sets the bar’ for ourselves.

But what of our heroism with respect to our following Jesus?  How much more should we be ready to sacrifice our selfish wants and desires – no matter how painful it is – in order to make sure the God we claim to love is pleased?  Are we willing to give up all or, like the rich young ruler that Jesus encountered who was not willing to give up that which he held most dear to him, we too walk away without God’s blessing or true fulfillment in our lives?

My wife and I heard these wonderful words of Martin Luther from a preacher just the other day:

“A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

In order to gain Christ, we are told it will mean us losing our very lives and sometimes walking away from the things we value most.  Will we walk away from a relationship that God’s word states is not right or will we blithely dismiss the clear instructions of the Scriptures in order to suit our desires or ideals?  Will we say in our prayers, “I want You to be pleased with everything I think, say and do, even if it means my sacrificing the things and/or beliefs I hold on to (which I think matter most).”?

Loving God often means struggle and persecution, but it is ALWAYS about forsaking all in order to gain Christ’s blessing, once we’ve been saved by His grace.  If you view the Gospel in any other light, you are not yet a beneficiary of the truth.  Yes, God is all about love, but he’s also about holy living, exemplary behaviour as befitting His people and He expects TRUE REPENTANCE:  an about face in our hearts toward God and a resetting of our minds that enables us to seek out what God’s will is for every aspect of  our life.

Do you want to be a hero?  Do you want to have the audience of angels and saints in heaven – and your heavenly Father himself – cheering for you?  Then be holy (sacred, morally upright, set apart), be seeking God’s will and be ready at all times to give your all no matter what the cost is to yourself.  This is how we win in this life and in the next.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“On His journey vast crowds attended Him, towards whom He turned and said, “If any one is coming to me who does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be a disciple of mine. No one who does not carry his own cross and come after me can be a disciple of mine. “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not sit down first and calculate the cost, asking if he has the means to finish it? — lest perhaps, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to finish, all who see it shall begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This man began to build, but could not finish.’ Or what king, marching to encounter another king in war, does not first sit down and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand men to meet the one who is advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers and sues for peace. Just as no one of you who does not detach himself from all that belongs to him can be a disciple of mine.”
(Luk 14:25-33)

“Therefore, surrounded as we are by such a vast cloud of witnesses, let us fling aside every encumbrance and the sin that so readily entangles our feet. And let us run with patient endurance the race that lies before us, simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus, our Prince Leader in the faith, who will also award us the prize. He, for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, patiently endured the cross, looking with contempt upon its shame, and afterwards seated Himself– where He still sits–at the right hand of the throne of God. Therefore, if you would escape becoming weary and faint-hearted, compare your own sufferings with those of Him who endured such hostility directed against Him by sinners.”
(Heb 12:1-3)

August 19, 2012

“Heather Has Two Mommies” is So Last Century

Filed under: family, marriage, media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:47 am

Wikipedia family tree for the television show Modern Family

Forget it, Heather. Your family is now so commonplace that it’s time to push the envelope once again. And Lily in TV’s Modern Family, this applies to you, too. Melinda at Stand to Reason wrote this piece (also below) in response to this news story.

Heather Has How Many Mommies?

A California bill could allow judges to recognize more than two parents. 

Stories like this about continuing to change the family gets me to thinking about the roots of the idea.  And the fundamental idea we need to keep defending. The reason people can propose such a bill – and all sorts of other things these days – is because the fundamental idea of family has changed.  And we’ve accepted the idea that sex is not intrinsically related to marriage and children.

I’m sure there are further antecedents, but it seems to me one of the fundamental disjunctions between sex and reproduction was birth control in the 60s, hailed by feminists because women no long risked the “burden” of children when having sex.  Birth control allowed people to think of sex without the consequence of reproduction.  With that risk managed, sex and marriage became detached. Also in the 60s, no-fault divorce became common.  Legally, marriage was no longer a lifelong contract that required sufficient reason to void.  If you didn’t love someone anymore, divorce.  So marriage became about love, not commitment.

Of course, we end up with children born out of wedlock and the idea became accepted that two parents weren’t necessary.  Feminism touted the idea that there were no differences between men and women, so why would a child need two parents – or parents of each sex?  They’re interchangeable. 

When we’ve walked this far, marrying whomever we love and mix-and-match parents don’t seem very outlandish. 

Ideas have consequences.  I think very often we’re fighting skirmishes over ideas that fit in a bigger picture.  And we have to go back to the roots and talk about family and how sex, marriage, and children are best served in that natural and God-given unit.

December 20, 2011

The Five Dislike Languages

Filed under: family, marriage — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:51 am

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a bestselling Christian book which invites readers to understand which type of expression of love their spouse or partner best responds to, and to learn a bit about their own expectations in the process.  Briefly, the five love languages are kind words, spending quality time, thoughtful gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. You can even take a free assessment online to learn where you fit.

But let’s face it, some of us guys are far better at finding out what pushes our spouse’s buttons in the opposite direction.  It’s not so extreme as looking for “five hate languages,” but we’re really good at not expressing love or even like in certain situations:

  1. Ignoring or not hearing — Probably a good one-third of all the things my wife says to me in any given day at best have to be repeated a second time and at worst don’t register with me at all.  It’s not that her concerns are not important to me, it’s just that whatever I’m doing at the time is more important.
  2. Questionable motives — This is when you do something really nice, but it turns out you’re doing it for some deeper reason. Once this mixed motivation surfaces, while transparency can be a good thing, it completely undoes any ‘points’ you think you’re scoring.
  3. Not sharing the experience — My wife has invested herself over the years in a number of hobbies and interests that she has invited me to participate in, but for various reasons the subjects or activities have never grabbed me. Later, I will wish I had done together what she did apart.
  4. Being helpless — Often we get into patterns where we feign ineptness or defer to the other person’s expertise, when in fact, we could have pushed the load halfway ourselves. Or something like that. Don’t make me explain this one, okay?
  5. Telling the other person what they like — A sort of opposite to #3, this one involves imposing your personal tastes and interests on someone who hasn’t demonstrated the least affection for that subject. “But honey, you’ll love the Indy 500! Powerful cars going around and around and around all day long!”

With help from Mrs. W., we came up with these fairly quickly on Sunday night.  What did we leave out?

May 19, 2011

“You’ll Never Know How Much I Love You”

Today’s item is probably a bit non-characteristic, although if you look at the early posts on this blog, it’s actually a little closer to where I began.  We’re going through a rather stressful time right now, and yesterday it caused me to be a little emotional. I can’t promise tomorrow will be back to normal.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase, “You’ll never know how much I love you.”  My parents said it to me.  And last night I said it to my youngest son.  Until you’ve had children, you don’t know the degree to which you were loved by your own parents, if you were fortunate enough to grow up in a stereotypical family, or if you were blessed to be raised by a single parent who loved you dearly.  And even as your kids begin to go out into the world and stake their own territory, their own independence, instead of “letting go” you want to just grab them and hold them close.  Just one more time.

You never stop being a parent.

Roughly translated, the phrase means, “Because of limited experience, you do not presently have the capacity to understand the nature and depth of the love that I have for you; but when your own life circumstances allow you to begin to understand it, my love for you will only have increased even more.”

March 30, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here we link again…

  • Topping the link list this week is my other blog, Christianity 201, which celebrates its first anniversary on Friday.
  • As the above picture indicates, The Book of Mormon, the book, is now The Book of Mormon the broadway play.  Even LDS leaders admit that the founding of their religion is a somewhat colorful story. (I think the guy in the forefront was working my street last week…)
  • The book Radical by David Platt was a big seller this summer, with some themes in common with Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. Here’s a link to the free download of the preview chapter for the forthcoming sequel, Radical Together.
  • Only six percent of Christian couples pray together?  Pete Wilson lays that statistic out as the basis for a seven day challenge to his congregation.
  • A related item:  Canadian Dave Carrol — a confirmed ‘scrapper’ —  talks about learning the art of ridiculous love.
  • Another Canadian, former Cambridge Vineyard pastor Robert Hall died suddenly in a construction accident on the mission field in Zambia.  He leaves behind three young children and his wife Kate who is the daughter of Canadian broadcaster Jim Cantelon and his wife Kathy.
  • A final Canadian story: Linda Bond was elected — on the first ballot — as head of the Salvation Army International; the fourth time in 150 years that a Canadian has held the post, and the third time the denomination has elected a woman.
  • In light of the latest teapot tempest over ‘that’ book, Rachel Held Evans considers The Future of Evangelicalism.
  • Dean Lusk finds some of those really old Bible translations, like the NLT, in need of an update in this more contemporary paraphrase of Romans 2.
  • The Maccabeats are back.  This time the theme is the Feast of Purim, aka the story of Esther, like you’ve never heard it before.  (Actually we’re about ten days late, Purim was March 20th this year.)
  • And while we’re YouTube linking, Darrell from Stuff Fundies Like explains the fundamentalist aversion to playing cards.
  • At the blog Biblical Preaching, a look at the problem of preaching moralism.
  • With Good Friday and Easter Sunday inching closer, I want to share a site with you that is very useful if you lead worship or prepare the quotations that often appear on-screen during weekend services.  Here’s what Daily Christian Quote offers for Good Friday.
  • Dave at a new blog, Armchair Theology is running a series of Bible misunderstandings under the title, Calling God Fool.  Click to link to the blog and then scroll into the middle of March posts.

May 10, 2010

Idiots!

Filed under: character, Faith, ministry — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:41 pm

(Quick age/culture test:  Did the title of this post remind you of the movie Napoleon Dynamite?  That’s the inflection I was going for…)

Matthew 5: 22

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (ESV)

But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. (NLT)

I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. (The Message)

But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire. (Amplified Bible)

Four translations. Four clear messages. Varying interpretations. Why am I thinking about this verse today?

We live on a corner property that is only attached to two other houses. One is a bit of a distance away. Nice family: Husband, wife, two daughters. The other is much closer. What passes for a backyard is practically touching their kitchen window.  Many other stresses.

The bigger problem is, I have no respect for these people. For twenty years I’ve wrestled with different aspects of what it means to be salt and light in this community, as well as the particular aspect of the question that bears on why God would have us live next door to these people.

So far, as hard as I’ve tried to listen to His voice and His promptings, I’ve been unsuccessful, or to put it more spiritually, I haven’t seen anything fruitful take place.

For the past few years I have found it rather sad that they have removed all the mature trees from their backyard. (My dream would be to have a house with a ravine lot. Maybe in the “new earth” I’ll get that opportunity.)

To review, trees are good because:

  • They provide shade on a summer’s day
  • They protect the house from wind
  • They create a noise barrier
  • They provide an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere
  • They attract migratory birds
  • They help oxygenate the planet
  • They provide privacy
  • Each mature tree adds a minimum of $1,000 to your house’s value at resale; perhaps much more.

So I was equally distressed a few weeks ago when they cut down a nice silver birch tree on their front lawn for no apparent reason.

Then yesterday, after enjoying an exceptionally relaxed Mother’s Day with my wife and sons, the chain saw came out around 5:30 PM and within half an hour, a beautiful, 24-foot spruce tree that was about 30 years old was felled.   Again, no reason.   It wasn’t diseased.   It wasn’t threatening the house or the road or overhead wires.   Its roots weren’t close enough to the house to be a problem.   It required no maintenance.   The track record shows no other tree will replace it.

My neighbor is an idiot. (According to some interpretations, I can say this to you here, as long as I don’t say it directly to him.)

That was the only conclusion I could come up with.

Our longtime acquaintance Lorne, who programs the Christian music channel on Canada’s national satellite service, once said to me, “You don’t suffer fools.”   Maybe.   But doesn’t Matthew 5:22 tell me that I must?

The man next door works for the nuclear power company.   Ironically, so does the man across the street who has also cut down a number of mature trees– but nothing so grand as the one yesterday — over the past few years.   Maybe it’s an environmental perspective one gains with years of handling nuclear raw materials.

I just can’t imagine waking this morning and looking out at that big empty lawn and thinking I accomplished something vital and good the day before.

All I could think of this morning was this story:

A man made an appointment for marriage counseling with his pastor.

“I just don’t love her anymore;” was all he could say.

The pastor said, “We’re commanded to love our wives.   In Ephesians 5:25 it says, ‘Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the Church…’   Do you think you can love your wife on that basis?”

The man said; “No, I can’t love her like that.”

The pastor smiled and said; “That’s okay.  There’s a second level of love available to you.  In Matthew 22:39 scripture says to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Do you think at least you can love your wife as a person would love their neighbor?”

“No;” the man replied; “I can’t even love her like a neighbor.”

“Don’t worry;” the pastor continued, “There’s a third level of love.   In Luke 6:27 the Bible says, ‘Love your enemies.'”

Insert rim shot here.  Believe it or not, that’s the punchline.   Told well orally, it’s one of those preacher stories that gets a good laugh.   In the context of a marriage sermon however, I’m not sure how useful a story it is.

But nonetheless, I am commanded to love my enemies as well as my neighbor.    Even when the words I want to say are; “You moron; you stupid, stupid idiot.”   Even when I want to say those words with great passion, a la Napoleon Dynamite.

[Old Testament readers can interject here that as with Jonah, it wasn’t my tree to weep over; better to weep over the spiritual — unsaved — state of my neighbor’s soul.   You’re right.   Interjection taken.   We included him in last night’s prayer time.  It’s done now, anyway.]

So what about you? Got neighbors, relatives, co-workers, fellow-students, or even people at your church who are hard to love?    Do you ever find your command to love at odds with the reality of being in proximity who seem to define the term ‘unlovable?’

Tell ya what:  You pray for me and I’ll pray for you.   And I’ll pray for myself, also.  As George Washington (quoting Thomas Paine) might have said if he lived in suburbia:  These are the neighbors that try men’s souls.


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