Thinking Out Loud

September 4, 2010

Rob Bell Affirms The Bible Promotes Renewal, Not What’s New

Not sure what your opinion is of Mars Hill (Grand Rapids, MI) pastor Rob Bell, but today we listened to a most unusual sermon from a pastor for whom “unusual” is de rigeur.

Actually, as Bell’s preaching goes, this one was somewhat conservative. The message had as its aim the affirmation of aging. He claims that the motivation for this was that it was the day before his 40th birthday; hardly senior status by any measure.

(NIV) II Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

He began with stories of people whose major life accomplishments began at what some would call the later stages of life. The stories highlighted people who were, with each example, progressively older. (Sadly, the slides that go with this sermon weren’t posted online.)

The message functions well on a number of levels. Besides affirming respect for the wisdom and experience of age, it’s also an encouragement to those who are older to reconsider retirement. But most important, it’s a challenge to all of us to rethink the concept that “new is best.”

Bell ends the message with a question that was asked of him — Bell being a guy who knows what it’s like to be the new hot trend — as to how a person can avoid “peaking” after sudden popularity.

(NIV) Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

13 planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green…

You can find the 50+ minute sermon here. Click on the message for 8/22 — appropriately titled: The Village Elder.   I’m considering creating some slides myself and then touring the audio message around to some senior’s groups.   I think they’d enjoy what the young guy has to say.

Postscript: The message ends with a story about a guy who was dismissed from his church for attending a Rob Bell conference on his own time with his own money. Not sure how it directly connects, but it shows that the Michigan pastor still has detractors. Not sure what they would find wrong in this message though.

August 20, 2009

The Potential To Make A Difference

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:39 pm

forwardr buttonI have a handful of friends who send me e-mail forwards.   They usually contain funny pictures or touching stories, and just about always end with much encouragement for me to immediately forward them to ten other people, as a great blessing is in store for me if I do.

I have to assume, after several years, that the people who do this have a certain fondness for this type of writing, and I often send one or two on, being careful to clean up a myriad of forwarding history and deleting the superstitious exhortation to further forwarding.

The problem I have with these stories is that many of them seem completely contrived.   I picture a team of people sitting a large room filled with computers in New York City composing e-mail forwards, Steeple Hill novels, and Dayspring cards.  (“Hey Bob, look!  A friend of mine just sent me that one we made up last week about the kitten that saved an entire town.)

And yet, I recognize that while “fairy tales don’t always come true,” there are a number of ways that God can work through individuals, some of which skeptics would dismiss as coincidence.   There are enough sincerely true and previously-verified stories out there that show how one life can touch another.   There is a great potential to make a difference that we lose sight of if we consign everything to the waste basket of time-eating, kleenex requiring, e-mail forwarding, emotionally engaging cute stories.

Like this one. What do you think?  True?  Possible?  Helpful?  Inspiring?  Check it out:

Jesus Loves You (Story)

Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning Service at the church, the Pastor and his eleven year old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel Tracts.

This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside, as well as pouring down rain.

The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, “OK, dad,I’m ready.”

His Pastor dad asked, “Ready for what?”

“Dad, it’s time we gather our tracts together and go out.”

Dad responds, “Son, it’s very cold outside and it’s pouring down rain.”

The boy gives his dad a surprised look, asking, “But Dad, aren’t people still going to Hell, even though it’s raining?”

Dad answers, “Son, I am not going out in this weather.”

Despondently, the boy asks, ? Dad, can I go? Please?”

His father hesitated for a moment then said, “Son, you can go.Here are the tracts, be careful son.”

“Thanks Dad!”

And with that, he was off and out into the rain. This eleven year old boy walked the streets of the town going door to door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel Tract .

After two hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking, bone-chilled wet and down to his VERY LAST TRACT. He stopped on a corner and looked for some one to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted.Then he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the door bell. He rang the bell, but nobody answered. He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited but still no answer. Finally, this eleven year old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him. Again, he turned to the door and rang the bell and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch. He rang again and this time the door slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was a very sad-looking elderly lady. She softly asked, “What can I do for you, son?” With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that *JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU* and I came to give you my very last Gospel Tract which will tell you all about JESUS and His great LOVE.”

With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave. She called to him as he departed. “Thank you, son! And God Bless You!”

Well, the following Sunday morning in church Pastor Dad was in the pulpit. As the service began, he asked, “Does anybody have testimony or want to say anything?” Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face, “No one in this church knows me. I’ve never been here before. You see, before last Sunday I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart that I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live. So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof, then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck.

Standing on that chair, so lonely and brokenhearted I was about to leap off, when suddenly the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, “I’ll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.” I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get louder and more insistent, and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly. I thought to myself again, “Who on earth could this be? Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me.”

I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door, all the while the bell rang louder and louder.

When I opened the door and looked I could hardly believe my eyes, for there on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life. His SMILE, oh, I could never describe it to you! The words that came from his mouth caused my heart that had long been dead, TO LEAP TO LIFE as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice , “Ma’am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU.” Then he gave me this Gospel Tract that I now hold in my hand.

As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel Tract. Then I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn’t be needing them any more. You see—I am now a Happy Child of the KING. Since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel Tract, I have come here to personally say THANK YOU to God’s little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in hell.”

There was not a dry eye in the church. And as shouts of praise and honor to THE KING resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated. He took his son in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably. Probably no church has had a more glorious moment, and probably this universe has never seen a Papa that was more filled with love & honor for his son…

Except for One……….

This Father also allowed His Son to go out into a cold and dark world. He received His Son back with joy unspeakable, and as all of heaven shouted praises and honor to The King, the Father sat His beloved Son on a throne far above all principality and power and every name that is named.

August 9, 2009

Don’t Blame Seniors

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:48 pm

This was part of a long e-mail FWD I got today…

it was NOT the senior citizens who took:

The melody out of music,
The pride out of appearance,
The courtesy out of driving,
The romance out of love,
The commitment out of marriage,
The responsibility out of parenthood,
The togetherness out of the family,
The learning out of education,
The service out of patriotism,
The Golden Rule from rulers,
The nativity scene out of cities,
The civility out of behavior,
The refinement out of language,
The dedication out of employment,
The prudence out of spending,
The ambition out of achievement, or,
God out of government and school.

And we certainly are NOT the ones

who eliminated

patience and tolerance

from personal relationships and interactions with others!!

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