Thinking Out Loud

April 6, 2020

You in Your Small Corner, and I in Mine

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:07 am

Many years ago Cliff Richard recorded a gospel album titled Small Corners. The name was evocative of a children’s hymn originating in a era before I was born, the first verse of which was,

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, so we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

As I started to write this, I was also reminded of another children’s hymn that is probably just as ancient, the chorus of which is,

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

For many of us, the last few weeks have brought our focus down to our little corner of the world. Yes, we’re tracking the global trends, but we also want to know what’s happening in our county or our municipality. It reminds me of a saying that journalism students are taught — which I’m not saying I agree with — that “all news is local news.”

But we also have an opportunity to reach out beyond our own four walls and “brighten the corner” of the world where we find ourselves, thanks to the devices on which you are reading this right now.

Basically, we need to say to ourselves, ‘If I can’t do ________; then I will do ________.’

“In this world of darkness, so we must shine.”

If you’re curious about Sir Cliff’s album, there’s a YT playlist of all 12 songs at this link.



November 2, 2019

Unpacking the Meaning of Brokenness

Later today, Christianity 201 will publish its 3,500th post. It’s based on a scripture medley I found on Twitter on the subject of humility, and as we often do when a post comes in under 500 words, I often link to previous articles we’ve done on the same subject.

I came across this from 2010. It was posted by Daniel Jepsen, who many of you know from Internet Monk. It’s a summary of previous work by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I’ll let him introduce this:

A year or two ago my friend Gina loaned me a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss titled, Brokenness. I found the whole book helpful, but especially the description of what brokenness is. I printed this out last week to distribute to the class I am teaching on the holiness of God, and thought I would reprint it here. Warning: it is very convicting.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people
are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people
are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people
esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people
have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people
are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people
yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people
are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people
are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people
are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people
desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people
have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people
are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people
’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people
are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people
are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people
are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people
receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people
are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people
are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people
, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people
are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people
are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people
are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people
are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people
take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people
compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people
walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people
realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people
continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

~Nancy Leigh Demoss via Daniel Jepsen



August 21, 2014

Sidebar to the Kent Brantly Story

Filed under: current events, missions — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:25 am

A part of the story you may not have heard…

Kent Brantley

Breaking Christian News adapted this story from Assist News Service, but made the headline something that Assist had buried in the final two paragraphs:

The website stated that The JPS Foundation is now accepting donations for Brantly and his family, who lost all of their earthly possessions when he contracted the Ebola virus and was returned to the United States for treatment. After his symptoms appeared, Brantly was isolated and was never able to return to their home. According to JPS, everything is considered contaminated by Ebola and will be destroyed.

“No date has been announced for his release from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, but when he is well enough to join his family, they will face the challenge of replacing everything from household items and clothing to computers and children’s toys,” said JPS in a statement Friday. “All funds will be held in a separate account within the JPS Foundation for the financial support of Dr. Brantly and his family during his recovery.

After all they’ve been through, they face the same loss as would a family whose home was destroyed by fire. But better to have Kent alive, right? 


“I’m sorry I’ve got to take this call, it’s Kent Brantly.”

This article is a must-read. It puts Kent Brantly in perspective in a way that will challenge you to the core.  Click to read Scot McKnight’s article:
Kent Brantly: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Out

April 26, 2010

Pastor Appreciation Minute

Filed under: Church, ministry — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:47 pm

I’m exhausted.

I don’t know why it is, but serving in any capacity in a church on Sunday morning is always draining.   And I don’t do it that often.   And this wasn’t anything close to a large crowd.  This was the third time in six months, so I’m tracking a pattern close to “once every eight weeks.”   Hardly full-time ministry.

What if I had to do this every Sunday?    Plus board meetings?   Plus counseling?    Plus visitation?

I started an outline on the subject of worship, but it just didn’t take root.   So Thursday I was back to square one.  Although I don’t believe in recycling notes, this time around I redeveloped a sermon from the files.   About ninety minutes to recopy it and update some of the scripture readings from NIV to NLT and Message.   (A daring move considering this is an older congregation.)   Then thirty minutes later on Saturday to go over it all.

And it went well, based on their comments.

I think it simply went different. Congregations need to hear a different voice now and then.

Anyway… once again I have a great respect for pastors.   Is there something you can do to drop a note of encouragement to your pastor this week?   Do it!   Don’t wait for some card company version of “Pastor Appreciation Week.”

December 27, 2008

When Service Isn’t What’s Called For

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, theology — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 pm

Several decades ago, I was hired by Muskoka Woods Sports Resort, a prestigious residential facility two hours north of Toronto, Canada offering one-week programs to the children of the well-heeled.   Not coming from a ‘camping’ background, I suppose that I brought a different skill set in my toolbox, and was told that I was a helpful person to have around.

Later, I learned that this meant I was able to bring strong leadership skills, especially the ‘upfront’ abilities needed to chair a meeting or an event, or facilitate a discussion group.   In later years, I learned that having ‘profile’ really feeds the ego (and prevents others from having a turn) and that a better place of service might be at the back of the room instead of the front, or perhaps behind the scenes altogether.   I am now comfortable serving in either capacity.

However, more recently, I’ve been aware of situations where neither gift of service — profile, or behind-the-scenes — is called for.   Case in point:  A few days ago a team of people in our town presented the third annual Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.   This event is put on for the sake of people who can’t afford a fancy Christmas dinner, or simply don’t want to be alone on the 25th.   At this event, no one is ’serving’ anyone else.   True, there is a core team of volunteers; but they sit together with everyone else; there’s no ‘us’ and ‘them.’    The plates are on the table as they would be at a family Christmas dinner, and everyone at the table is equal.

Because of family commitments, my wife and I have been unable to attend these, but clearly, a different mentality is needed if a thing like this is going to be effective.   The problem is that so many — okay, I’ll say it: so many of us – have been ‘bred’ for either upfront profile service or behind the scenes service, that it can be difficult to fit into a new ministry pardigm.

Or is it?  I think that anyone, if they take about thirty seconds to think about it, can buy into a different way of thinking.*   The problem is, being behind the scenes or being up on a platform or stage is really, really safe. Especially if it’s a ministry to the poor.   You don’t have to share serving utensils; you don’t have to breathe the air if someone has a bad cough.   Sadly, it’s those safe ministry roles that people are still being trained for and still being ‘bred’ for.

*And a couple of years ago I did actually buy-in.   The ministry my wife pioneered to people living in a dilapidated motel centers around a weekly dinner.   For the first 2-3 weeks, I would eat at home first, and then show up to help serving.   But my wife didn’t need people to ‘help serving’ and the people there didn’t need ‘help’ to scoop up a slice of roast beef and mashed potatoes.   They needed people who wanted to be their friends.

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