Thinking Out Loud

July 23, 2014

Wednesday Link List

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October 24, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Insert your own introduction here.

  • Another Christian leader is brought down by a sex scandal. Not to be flippant, but we could probably do a weekly link list just on stories like this one.
  • Or this one.
  • Rob Bell is doing a January conference in LA for 50 pastors to spend two 12-hour days learning to improve their writing craft. (With a break for surfing.) (No, not internet surfing.) If that’s you, find out more about CraftLab.
  • I like this piece about making a faith-identification with people in the broader community, and then deciding if you and they want to get into a faith discussion.
  • In England they count as deaths, and more than a quarter of all deaths there are due to abortions.
  • In another link to The Christian post, a megachurch pastor questions the hype when his fellow megachurch pastors describe every Sunday as “super” or “biggest” or “best.”  Actually the one he used was “megamonster.” He thinks the hype is unsustainable.
  • The New Zealand Herald thinks Christianity is losing its world dominance, but one blogger doesn’t think we should accept that conclusion.
  • A reporter for the LA Times — who is looking to gauge success solely from the Billboard charts —  seems to think that Christian rock music is making a comeback.
  • An American currently living in Canada finds her present location gives here a fresh perspective on U.S. election issues.
  • So author Janette Oke wrote eight “Love Comes Softly” books, but when they got made into DVDs they added two prequels. 8 + 2 = 10, right? So when you buy the 10-disc box set why is there an 11th empty slot in the packaging? Answer: It’s for this one.
  • Here’s a new church video clip on the subject of insecurity. (Reminder, you have to buy these; they aren’t expensive; don’t stream them live during your service.)
  • Earlier in the summer,  James MacDonald & Co. boarded a bus for the 40-city Vertical Church tour. Here’s a video recap.
  • Memorized any Bible verses lately? A Canadian author once put this list together of 50 verses you should know by heart.
  • Drew Marshall had Bob Smietana as a guest this week. The Tennessee writer is an expert on snake-handling churches, but because newspapers are now denying access to their files, we can’t read his landmark article. Here’s a summary. as well as a version written originally for USAToday.
  • You’re trying to participate in an outdoor mass in Poland, but it’s so crowded the only place to stand is at the door of a sex shop.  Personally, I hate when that happens.
  • And while we’re on that subject, a hotel in Europe has replaced the Gideon Bibles with copies of 50 Shades of Gray. Author Shannon Ethridge takes a look at sexual fantasies in The Fantasy Fallacy. reviewed here.

February 13, 2011

When Scripture Is Like a Comfortable Chair

Unless you have public speaking experience, or work in radio and television, or are an actor; chances are that when you’re called upon to read something you haven’t seen before out loud, you stumble over the occasional sentence.  Miss the syntax of a sentence and you can get really bogged down. Start to read the sentence as if it’s a declarative statement when in fact it’s a question, and things can get quite messed up.

Despite having some experience in both broadcasting and public speaking, I can mess up entire paragraphs, especially if I’m not fully concentrating.

Every night at 9:00 PM, my boys — who are now 16 and 19 — join me for Bible study time.  We sometimes read from different translations, but most often read from a wide assortment of devotional books, current Christian bestsellers, or Christian classics.   So we could go from Mere Christianity or With Christ in the School of Prayer all the way to Francis Chan’s Forgotten God or Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew in the course of a single week.  In other words, this ain’t The Beginner Bible story time.

As I’m reading — especially with the older classics — it’s not unusual for me to have to start a sentence over.  Sometimes I take two or three runs at a sentence to try to find the ‘voice’ of the author.

But lately I’ve noticed something. I’m not trying to blow my own horn by saying this, but I hope it challenges you or resonates with you or both. I’ve noticed that when I hit a sentence that contains a quotation from scripture, it literally rolls off the tongue; even if the translation is somewhat different.

I’ve found that the scripture passages an author chooses to cite are like second nature; they fit like a cozy chair or a comfortable pair of shoes. I may not have internalized their message fully, and I may not be living out every aspect of their teachings, but at the very least, I can’t claim unfamiliarity with the words.

Although I stumble over the sentences that come before and the phrases that follow, once I am reading Bible quotations, I’m on familiar ground, almost as though the words are the words of an old friend.

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.”


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.

May 26, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Another Wednesday rolls around… where did you go this week online?

  • Ruth Tucker at Christianity Today marks  the passing of Moishe Rosen, the sometimes controversial founder of Jews for Jesus, as does an article in the New York Times.
  • Readers of The Internet Monk blog can catch a free download of the first chapter of the late Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity.
  • A candid Leadership Magazine interview with Francis Chan — is he ever not candid? — about how things work at Cornerstone Church.
  • While I usually laugh at the blog, Stuff Fundies Like, here’s a piece that makes a very, very solid point about Outcome Based Justification.  If just one person clicks on this…
  • Yikes!  A 13-year-old student in New York State can’t wear a rosary to school because of a statute prohibiting “gang related dress.”  Who ya gonna call?  Jay Sekulow.   But wait a minute, could the school board be justified?  The police think so.
  • Blogger Jeff Leake has reason to be proud of his talented 16-year old son, Josh Leake who has released a new album.   Right now they’re selling actual CDs, but they might want to also consider downloads.   Check out his MySpace page.
  • Trevin Wax thinks that, “Traditional evangelistic strategies are not necessarily deficient in what they say, but in what they assume.”  Read more at Kingdom People.
  • I know a number of bloggers have already mentioned this, but if you’re a parent, you need to watch this Vimeo clip from Randy Alcorn about Pornography from 12 days ago, and also this more recent one — despite the audio problems — from 7 days ago for parents who have daughters.
  • What is God’s relationship to time.   Not an easy question.   Start your thinking process at this article at Prodigal Magazine.
  • Unequally yoked?  Russell D. Moore got a letter in April about a conservative, dispensational Calvinist marrying a tongues-speaking Pentecostal.  Two weeks later, he’s still getting mail.
  • Blog discovery of the week (but it’s been around since 2007) — E-Royal by Royal Farris.   Lots of good video embeds recently.  Which is where I first saw
  • “The Gospel According To Krispy Kreme” a ten-minute YouTube video of Louie Giglio from 2009.
  • Whatever happened to scripture memory.   Here’s a top ten list of some Bible passages everyone should know by heart.
  • It would be great if God spoke to us by sending little written notes to us throughout the day.   That’s the theme of this 2-minute free sermon video download at Floodgate Productions.
  • Currently reading:  I actually don’t limit my reading to Christian books; I’m currently enjoying The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee.  (Love that middle initial!)  The book is a fascinating history of Chinese food.   I discovered Jennifer at TED Talks.
  • Currently fundraising: Chris, our oldest is going to be working in the kitchen at a Christian camp for ten weeks this summer.   Based on a 48-hour (i.e. six day) week, they’re giving him $3.00 per hour; he has to come up with sponsors for the rest.   Contact us if you want to help.
  • Currently listening to:  A Ton of Worship.  A  collection of church worship from the UK, but check out the stats:  5-CDs.  20 songs per CD.   That’s 100 songs for only $12.99 US/$15.99 CDN.  Also a kids version for $9.99 US/$12.99 CDN.   From Kingsway Music.
  • Message to certain bloggers:  Your Twitter updates are really slowing down your page loads.   Is it worth it?
  • Question to video uploaders:  Why Vimeo and not YouTube?   I have a fairly high speed connection, but the Vimeo server — especially when embedded in blogs — doesn’t even come close to the speed of the YouTube servers.
  • Our cartoon panel this week is from Calvinist Cartoons by Eddie Eddings (c/o John Scaddington).

June 15, 2009

Surfing Blogland: Psalms, Prayer and Tough Questions

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, God — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:37 pm

These Are A Few of My Favorite Psalms

You’ve got a Psalm or two that you know by heart or like to read, but could you put together a list of twelve key Psalms and why they mean something to you?   And getting the references right?  Blogger Bill Williams at A Spiritual Oasis does just that here.

When God Said, “No”

John Somerville is a blogger from South Africa, who reminds us that the phrase, God Answers Prayer can become trite if we think he always answers (a) right away, and (b) in the affirmative.   You can link to the original here. I’ve seen some of the last few lines before, but not this full-length version; someone sent it to John in an e-mail.   Check out the rest of John’s blog, too.

I asked God to take away my habit.

God said, No.

It is not for me to take away,
but for you to give it up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.

God said, No.

His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience.

God said, No.

Patience is a byproduct of tribulations;
it isn’t granted, it is learned.

I asked God to give me happiness.

God said, No.

I give you blessings;
Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.

God said, No.

Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.

God said, No.

You must grow on your own,
but I will prune you to make you fruitful.

I asked God for all things
that I might enjoy life.

God said, No.

I will give you life,
so that you may enjoy all things.

I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said…Ahhhh,

finally you have the idea.

Dealing with The Tough Questions

Pete Wilson at Cross Point in Nashville asked his congregation to throw him some tough questions, and they did.  Over 200.   Unfortunately, Pete’s only doing a five week series on this.   For now.   You can stream audio or video at this page.   (Do the audio, it streams faster and Pete’s fashion sense is… well let’s say he’s a better pastor than he is a…)  BTW, if Pete’s name is new to you, his style is similar to Andy Stanley and his blog, Without Wax, is always linked on my blogroll.   Note: At this writing, only two of the three completed sermons are available; the others will follow.

Why More Is Less

The broadcast airwaves are now cluttered with commercials coming at us every 15 seconds.   Some networks are selling 10-second and 5-second spots.   It all reminds us of the “blipverts” from the Max Headroom TV series.   But if you want to go back to the old days, when sponsors took 60-seconds to tell their story, this clip may change your mind.  The commercial that never ends. [Note: This diversion is completely off-blog-topic.]

…Didn’t click on that Psalm link did you?   Well here it is…

Psalms

May 25, 2009

Confessions of a Psalm 23 Fan

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:05 pm

I devoted an entire blog post to Psalm 23 back in January, which was actually an encore of a post from the July previous.   I guess I’m a fan.

Truth is, I have major sleep deprivation issues.   I fall asleep okay, but then I wake up after only three or four hours and simply can’t get back.    So I try various techniques — except for just taking a few deep breaths, which always works,  which I forget to do until about an hour has passed — including reciting memorized scriptures in my head such as The Lord’s Prayer, various Psalms and the chorus Paul quotes in Philippians which talks about Christ humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant.  (And last night, a new one, the five points of James MacDonald’s Downpour book and CDs.)

This of course raises the issue of the lost art of scripture memorization.   But we’ve dealt with that before here, also:

You’ve heard the saying, “A generation that does not impart its sacred texts to its children is one generation away from extinction.”  People are seeing this truth playing out in some communities and recognizing the need for some fine tuning.  Keep the media.  Keep the interactives.   Keep the cool music.   But we’ve got to bring back the memory verse, the memory chapter, and the memory Psalm.

The last few days however, I’ve been struck by the incredible complexity of the best known among the Psalms, the one we call number 23.    At three or four in the morning, there are little phrases of this psalm that seem to be nested in such a way that it’s hard to believe that so few verses can contain so many golden nuggets.

If I were not a Christian, I would still have to marvel at these short lines of lyric poetry for their intricacy and beauty.    How can they possibly be ignored?

It’s also the only passage in the Bible — longer than a single verse — that I have memorized two completely different ways.   I once thought that the music piece I knew as “The New 23rd” was taken from the Living Bible, but I now know it was actually written in 1969 by Ralph Carmichael.

Consider the original if you were fortunate enough to memorize it, and then enjoy “The New 23rd” variation.   And try to get some sleep tonight, okay?

Because the Lord is my Shepherd
I have everything that I need.
He lets me rest in meadows green
And leads me beside the quiet stream.
He keeps on giving life to me
And helps me to do what honours Him the most.
Even when walking through the dark valley of death
I will never be afraid
For He is close beside me.
Guarding, guiding all the way
He spreads a feast before me.
In the presence of my enemies
He welcomes me as His special guest.
With blessing overflowing
His goodness and unfailing kindness
Shall be with me all my life
And afterwards I will live with Him
Forever and ever
In His house.

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