Thinking Out Loud

July 3, 2010

When Scripture Becomes Conversation

Filed under: apologetics, cults — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:13 am

About ten days ago I walked in a conversation one of my staff members was having with a member of the LDS or Mormon church.   We were quite busy and so I started dealing with her, leaving my staff member to deal with other customers.

She was hoping to find some LDS material from their in-house printing company, Deseret Publishing, and I gently explained why it is that you don’t see those materials in a Christian bookstore.

But once I’d drawn a few lines in the sand, she was comfortable staying as I was comfortable continuing the conversation.

The thing that impressed me was how — without citing chapter or verse — the scriptures of her faith flowed out of her conversationally.   I could tell when she quoting something versus when it was just her talking, though she didn’t make a big deal out of it.   Of course, I don’t know if she was quoting Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price, or The Book of Mormon; while conversely, she was impressed that I could name those books off the top of my head.

I don’t know how many quotations our conversation contained.   I was able to spot two or three but there may have been more.    It was natural, effortless.   Biblical quotations flow from me just as easily — either quoted or instantly paraphrased — though I wasn’t trying to match her line for line, as it wasn’t that type of discussion.  But maybe that’s why I recognized what was going on at her end.

She remained convinced that I would be won over if I would simply sit down and read The Book of Mormon, though she failed several times to truly hear me when I said that I do, in fact, actually own one and have read large sections of it.

I’m reminded again of two quotations:

Of all the major religions in the world, Christians are least acquainted with their own scriptures.

And this one:

A faith community that does not impart its sacred writings to its young people is one generation away from extinction.

Sorry, I don’t have the sources on those at hand.  But obviously, either my LDS friend, or whoever has been mentoring her, gets it.

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July 2, 2010

Why I Haven’t Been To Israel and Why You Should Go

If I were to meet you in Toronto, I could show you the hospital I was born in, the houses that I lived in, the church I was dedicated in, and the school I attended.    They’re all still standing, though I’m a bit fuzzy on the second house I lived in, because I know it as number 21, but the municipality switched to four-digit house numbers on that street for reasons I can’t begin to fathom.

My kids situation is quite different, despite their obviously younger age.   They were born in different cities; one hospital was completely razed to make room for a new one, while the other was renovated into a seniors’ complex.  The school my oldest attended for kindergarten was torn down last summer and a new school, with a new name, was built at the other end of the property.

Sometimes you can go back, and sometimes you can’t.

There was a time many years back when it seemed like everyone I knew was taking a trip to the Holy Land.   There is no end of ministry organizations willing to take you there — including some whose ministry would seem to have little interest in Biblical history — and if you miss one trip, there’s usually another one leaving a few weeks later.

At the time, I came to the conclusion that it was becoming the Evangelical equivalent of taking a pilgrimage to Mecca; something that you must do before you die.

Don’t get me wrong:  I want to learn the backstory to those Biblical passages.   I’m a huge fan of Ray VanderLaan and his “Faith Lessons” series, and in fact have taken many of his “virtual” trips to Israel via DVD.    I just don’t want to see it “added” to the things that as a Christian you “must” do.

On the other hand, thinking out loud about my kids and their birthplaces, there is a value in these five little words:

“This is the spot where…”

Now I know they may not have it exact.   It may not be the precise piece of geography where Jesus turned water into wine, or preached the Sermon on the Mount.   But it’s the idea; the concept that our scriptures are not just a book of stories, but that all these things actually happened.   You can go back and look and say, “It happened here.”

Maybe you don’t look at the maps in the back of your Bible, and maybe — like me several years ago — you suppress a yawn as people share their Holy Land tour pictures.  Maybe — also like me — history, political science and current events weren’t your longsuit growing up.   Perhaps you still struggle with news stories — or even shut them out — when you hear words like Palestine, Jerusalem, West Bank, or even Middle East. Your frame of reference may be that’s all just heat and sand and men wearing tunics.

But it’s good to know your roots.   It’s good to know you have roots.

As the book of Acts reminds us (26:26), all these things didn’t take place “in a corner,” or “a long time ago in a galaxy far away.”

Compared to eternity, it all happened yesterday. Shalom.

November 19, 2009

The Word on the Street

I originally blogged this back in April of 2008, when this blog was hosted at e4God.com, but after speaking with someone today about Rob Lacey’s Street Bible and The Liberator, I thought I’d take one more run at this topic while you can still buy copies of both in remainder bins at Christian bookstores.

Ever since my parents gave me a copy of Get Smart, a youth edition of Living Proverbs (forerunner to The Living Bible) and the related Reach Out New Testament, I’ve been a huge fan of Bible paraphrases that arrest you in your tracks, bring the story to life, and say old things in new ways. (Note: Technically The Message is not a paraphrase, but a loose translation, since Peterson worked from original languages.  Not to mention that linguists don’t really buy in on the paraphrase terminology at all.)

My current favorites are the two works by Rob Lacey: The Liberator (synoptic gospels) and The Street Bible (highlights from all 66 books, published in the U.S. as The Word on the Street.)  Rob once said that if a regular Bible is “the movie,” his Street Bible is the “coming attractions trailer.”  Sadly, the world lost Rob to cancer several years ago.  He was only 43.

Books like these don’t pretend to be all things to all people. They usually are written for a specific culture living in a specific place at a specific time. I’m told that Rob had in mind inner city youth in major UK cities like London and Manchester. (Fortunately, living in Canada we get a lot of British Television, so many of the figures of speech were known to us. The U.S. edition — which someone at Zondervan actually consulted me about before publishing — has explanations printed sideways in the margins.)

More recently, a friend from New Zealand introduced us to Chris Grantham writer of The Kiwi Bible (gospel story) and the newer The Kiwi Bible: Some of the Early Stuff (brief sections from the Old Testament). While I’m not part of the NZ audience this is intended for, I’ve found things in these versions that I missed in the more traditional ones. I’ve also seen the Australian Bible Society’s The Aussie Bible. (If you’re one of our Canadian readers, you can get both Kiwi books at our book store. Elsewhere in the world check out www.kiwibible.co.nz )

Here’s a Kiwi rendering of Psalm 23. Enjoy.

My Best Mate
(by Dave)

God’s my best mate, I’ll do all right for sure.
He gives me a breather when I need it,
He knows just the best place for a cool, refreshing quiet one.
When I’m feeling really knackered, he picks me up.
He’s got me heading down the right track, he knows what’s best.
Even when life totally sucks, no worries — you’re right there with me. I reckon that’s real cool. You know just what it takes to keep me going.
You put on a fantastic feed for me, right in front of my enemies, complete with an awesome relax-making massage. I’m stoked!
I reckon all your love and good stuff will be my lot from now till when I cark it. I’ll sure be living in your outfit forever — and then some.

October 29, 2009

Link Here to Another World

Link Day2It’s the internet; a place where you just have to think of it and it exists.  Here — in no particular order —  are some places I’ve been since our last linkfest ten days ago:

  • Jonathan at ReThink Mission gets his friend Aaron — a non believer — talking about how Christians could better share their faith.   Insight number one:  “Don’t come with an agenda.”   Hear more here.
  • At the blog, Solar Crash, Lon points out that, “Sponsoring a Child is Not Loving a Child.”  Good thoughts.   But then — and whatever you do, don’t miss this — he includes a video of a sponsored child who is now an adult who is speaking to the Catalyst conference on behalf of Compassion.  Then, something amazing happens!
  • Fasten your seat belts for this one.   What if the message of creation was packaged in scientific-sounding language and the message of evolution was phrased in religious-sounding words?   How might this change your appreciation of both messages?   Especially when both of them are talking at once?  Check out the 3 1/2 minute animation Duelity on Vimeo.
  • The evening news bring images of suffering and disaster into vivid focus, but increasingly, people spend more time at the small (computer) screen than the large (broadcast) screen, thereby avoiding media discomfort.  So here, courtesy of The Big Picture, are some rather striking images of Typhoon Ketsana which struck The Phillipines during the last week of September.
  • As a one-time philosophy major at university — the same year Time magazine said, “Philosophy is the prerequisite to unemployment” — I’ve been very much drawn to the rather engaging Justice series airing on the PBS Think Bright digital network.   At least 24 Harvard University lectures by Michael Sandel have been condensed into twelve 55-minute portions; the first time Harvard has posted courses online.    Grab your notebook and join the class here.
  • The blog Higher Ground reposts a series of statements by Charles Finney under the title, “How To Preach Without Converting Anyone.”   Warning:  Finney pulls no punches.  For example: “Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, so that no one should say to you, as they did of Christ, ‘This is a hard saying, who can hear it?’”  Check it out here.
  • You’ll notice the previous link is actually lifted from something called Dead Guy Blog.  (Tag line: ” Learning from the giants of the faith that have gone before us to strengthen our faith and stir our affections toward God.”)  I wanted to include this blog as a separate link highlight and I want to encourage you to check out the entire blog, not just the permalink to one entry.
  • David Fitch’s “A Warning List for Those Who Would Join a Missional Church Gathering” at his blog, Reclaiming The Mission, has a lot more substance to be limited to just the missional conversation.   What do you look for in a church?   Maybe it’s all the wrong things!    I like number ten.  The last sentence.   Read all ten warnings here.
  • My favorite Nashville pastor, Pete Wilson, quotes John Ortberg: “It has never been easier to obtain the scriptures and never harder to absorb.”  Profound stuff, eh?   Sendin’ Pete some link love here.
  • Kathy at the blog, The Well has a gripping item from David Yonggi Cho telling the story of a pastor who prepares his family for the martyrdom they are about to experience.   That very night.   Read it here.
  • Jesus Christ preached the good news of The Kingdom.   He didn’t just offer “Get out of Hell” cards.   Sometimes that message gets lost on even seasoned churchgoers.   Christian musician Shaun Groves gets caught in the middle of such a situation at one of his recent concerts.
  • Finally, to make it an even dozen, here’s a link from this blog just a few days ago that I thought would generate more comments.   Hidden between the lines is the answer to the question, Why Evangelicals Don’t Have Crucifixes.   Or maybe not so hidden.

Thanks to Steve McCoy at Reformissionary for the link to Re Think Mission.

Here’s a link to our last link list,  and also the one before that.

If you got this far and still haven’t linked to anything, consider just the first three items on today’s list.

December 6, 2008

Tribute to The Text, The Book, The Word, The Bible

Filed under: bible, Christian, Christianity, Faith, theology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:10 pm

While looking for a familiar quotation that is part of the second half of what follows, I came across this much larger version that the author, somewhat unfamiliar with the concept of paragraphing,  had no doubt created himself.    Personally, I wouldn’t have begun with “The Bible is not an amulet…,” but hey, that’s just me.

I broke it up into paragraphs, and deleted his closing sentence which is his personal tribute to his Drake’s (sic) Bible including the mention that it is a King James.  (Sigh!)  Mind you, KJV issues aside, the Dake’s Bible was quite the labor of love, with more annotation than any study Bible ever produced.   If you ever get the chance to see one, take a few minutes to look over the notes.

A Tribute To The Bible

The Bible is not an amulet, a charm, a fetish, or a book that will work wonders    by its very presence.  It is a book that will work wonders in every life, here and hereafter, if acted upon and obeyed in faith and sincerity.  It is God’s inspired revelation of the origin and destiny of all things, written in the simplest human language possible so that most unlearned can understand and obey its teachings.  It is self-interpreting and covers every subject of human knowledge and needed now and forever.  As a literary composition, the Bible is the most remarkable book ever made.  It is a divine library of 66 books, some of considerable size and others no larger than a tract.

These books include various forms of literature-history, biography, poetry, proverbial saying, hymns, letters, direction for elaborate ritualistic worship, laws, parables, riddles, allegories, prophecy, drama, and others.  They embrace all manner of literary styles in human expression.

It is the book that reveals the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.  Its doctrines are holy, its precepts binding, its histories true, and its decisions immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe it to safe, and practice it to be holy.  The Bible contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.  It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter.  Here heaven is opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.  Christ is its grand subject; our good is its design, and the glory of God its end.  It should fill your memory, rule your heart, and guide your feet in righteousness and true holiness.  Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully, meditatively, searchingly, devotionally and industriously.

Read it through and through until it becomes part of your being and generates faith that will move mountains.  The Bible is a mine of wealth, the source of health, and a world of pleasure.  It is given to you in this life, will be opened at the judgment, and will stand forever.  It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the least to the greatest of labor, and will condemn all who trifle with it sacred contents.

November 28, 2008

Three Reasons to Read The Apocrypha

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Faith, theology — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:31 pm

For a guy who says he’s just a student, Johnathan Bowers had done well to get linked here twice in one week.* Check out this article to consider the value of the Bible’s “annex” that many Evangelicals and some Protestants are quick to dismiss.

*Okay, so it’s a summary of another article, but hey, in blogging it’s all about presentation, right?

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