Thinking Out Loud

October 3, 2019

It’s How You Finish Which Matters Most

Say what you will about the original The Living Bible translation, but it has helped and inspired many people, and the spirit of it lives on today in The New Living Translation or NLT.

When Ken Taylor was wrapping up II Kings, he did something that translation experts might consider the worst thing he could have done, but I would argue that the worst thing he could have done was also the best thing he could have done.

Wearied perhaps by the kings who simply didn’t learn the lessons of history, or chose to wander from God, Taylor lapsed into point form in some of the final chapters, simply listing the kings and the characteristics of their reign.

Taking it one step further, and using bullet points, there emerges four possibilities:

  • Started badly, ended badly
  • Started well, ended badly
  • Started badly, ended well
  • Started well, ended well

I already looked at this at the beginning of the year when we considered our resolve for a new year, or if you prefer, new year’s resolutions.

I repeat mention of it today simply to remind us all that I believe how you end is of utmost importance. It’s often the legacy you leave more than anything you did previously. And the Bible is filled with scriptures that speak of continuing, abiding and enduring to the end. Of faithfulness, and not giving up.

In the past two years or so we’ve seen pastors and leaders who, when they die, their account before God may be cleaned by the remembered-no-more grace of God (provided they sought his forgiveness), but their Wikipedia article is going to reflect times of controversy, scandal or failure.

I hope that you and I are thinking in terms of our legacy.

 

March 22, 2019

Of Miry Clay and Wretchedness

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:10 am

Brain flashback…

I remember it being sung in a children’s meeting:

He lifted me up, yes up
Up from the miry clay

We were kids, we played in the dirt and we played with the hose. We knew a thing or two about miry clay. Well, we did and we didn’t. We didn’t use the word miry in everyday speech.

For the adults it was:

From sinking sands he lifted me

Quicksand is something with which most of us do not have direct experience. Sometimes a person who was caught in the throes of addiction will talk about reaching bottom where there was nothing else to do but look up. But for the most part, the analogy of quagmire gets lost on us.

A more contemporary lyric would be

That saved a wretch like me

I remember in youth group we when we were coming up to “me” we would turn and point to the person next to us and sing “him” or “her” instead of “me.” None of us wanted to be the wretch.

The point is, in Western Europe and North America we have it pretty good. We’re comfortable. We enjoy our materialism. We celebrate our excesses on social media. Sin is become as archaic a word as miry clay; we’re comfortable redefining it — “that’s not sex” — as needed.

Nobody is covered in clay anymore, no one is sinking, no one is wretched.

What would anyone need to be saved from?

June 24, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part Two)

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

It’s a quiet day around here. I probably lost a few subscribers with what I posted yesterday. But it happened. It’s part of my past. I spoke in tongues. Or, if you’re not sure about all this, ‘He thinks he did.’

By calling myself a post-Charismatic — I still use Evangelical as a primary descriptive despite its liabilities — I’m saying that my Evangelicalism is product of a particular movement but one with which I no longer identified.

Why not?

I guess my issue is the excesses of that movement. When John and Elizabeth Sherril wrote They Speak With Other Tongues, they were describing something new and wonderful that was taking place in unexpected places. God used the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans to teach us about the limitless work of His Spirit. Miracles and prophecy and words of knowledge weren’t new to the Assemblies of God folks. Their movement started in the first decade of the 1900s. What took place in the 1970s was new to us.

So where did my journey take me next? The logical place would have been to hang out with the like-minded. A Pentecostal Church. A Charismatic Church. But after staying in my church about a year later, my longing-for-something-more took me to a… wait for it…

…Baptist Church.

This one was known for the excellence of its pastor’s preaching ministry. Well researched. Well delivered. Very applicable. And for a year I holed up there, not going to any social functions or midweek events or youth meetings or potluck dinners. Just Sunday mornings with my Bible and notebook open, drinking it all in.

Forgive this over-simplification, but at that point I had spirit and now I needed word. Despite spending my spiritually formative years in what was at the time Canada’s only megachurch, and being exposed to North America’s top speakers, I think for the first time I understood what would be come a passion for great preaching. And you don’t have to have a nationally renown pastor to get that. It can take place — and definitely does take place — in any church in any size city, town or village.

I did continue to connect with the growing Charismatic movement, but usually at other times and places. I am grateful for both. Someone put it this way:

Too much of the word and not enough of the spirit, you dry up.
Too much of the Spirit and not enough of the word you blow up.
A balance of both and you grow up.

My one need met simply exposed another need not met.

Of course the story continues, but we’ll catch up with that another time under a different headline.

June 23, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 am

Myself and a friend had traveled all through the night in his bright red AMC Pacer after visiting with some newfound friends in Pittsburgh following a large outdoor Christian festival north of the city. Our destination was CBN, home of The 700 Club, back at a time when Pat Robertson’s name was held in higher regard than at present.

There was something there that was not present in our church, and we were determined to find out what it was, bottle it up, and take it home with us.

CBN of that day was not the present facility, but a less imposing Channel 27 studio on Spratley Street in Portsmouth. We were met at 5:30 PM at the door by an off-duty policewoman in uniform, who showed us around every inch of the offices and studio and introduced us to “Pops” who functioned as a security guard. “Pops” proceeded to play some hymns for us by inducing variable pitch feedback on his hearing aid. This would be deafening for most of us, but if your hearing’s shot, it’s shot; so he had nothing to lose.

Our tour guard, who also volunteered as a counselor asked us if we came from a “Full Gospel” church. My friend quickly informed her that our church preached the gospel.

I tried to gently amend our answer, saying “I don’t think that’s what she means.”

She tried again, “Does your church teach the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

I informed her that it did not and that we’d seen some things on the program that were somewhat foreign to our typical church experience.

Then she asked, “Would you like to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

To which I replied, “I think that’s why we’re here.”

In fairness, there may have been a qualifying question as to basic salvation, but it’s the above conversation that I remember.

Let me say at this point that while my answer may have sounded confident, I did approach all this with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. I wasn’t sure what we were getting into, even though I’d done some reading.

My biggest fear was the whole slain-in-the-Spirit thing. This was around the time Benny Hinn had started his original meetings back home in Toronto, so this type of thing was not unheard of. I had always pictured my head splitting open on hitting the floor and figured it best not to do that voluntarily. But she had another plan.

She told us to begin to focus on God and who He is and to worship him audibly. I did as I was told. She said to then begin to let syllables form on the tongue and just let them come out. ‘Surely I’m just making this up’ I thought. But my pre-Pentecostal mind had already begun to formulate the idea of tongues as a bypassing of the intellect so I figured I was on safe ground. I can still remember some of the phonetic nature of what I was saying and I could attempt to reproduce that here in writing, but we’ll simply skip that part. To you it might sound like gibberish.

“Now,” she said, “I’m going to lay you out.”

I’ll never forget that wording. I’m not sure if I had been standing or kneeling to that point but very gently and without injury I found myself lying on the floor. I felt like I was being obedient to something that God wanted. But it didn’t seem especially supernatural.

This was back in a time before BankAmericard (now known as VISA) or MasterCharge (now known as MasterCard) so we were traveling paying for things with American Express Traveler’s Checks. I remember at one point placing my hand over my front pocket to verify that they were still there, the way men often reach over a pocket to verify they have their wallet. In other words, I wasn’t off in some distant astral plane. I was calm, awake, aware, rational, and trying to tell God I loved Him while seemingly nonsense syllables were pouring out of my mouth. In other words, maybe this wasn’t such a big deal. Perhaps I was making the whole thing up.

We thanked our uniformed counselor and proceeded to find a motel for the night, returning the next day to watch a broadcast of the show. Because of my interest in television production, I got to watch from the control room, while my friend arranged for an audience seat next to ‘Moose Smith and The 700 Club Band.”

We drove back talking about all types of things, making notes, looking up scriptures, and determined to bring the things we had bottled up back to our friends at our home church in Canada.

Three days later, we would share our story at a large Tuesday night interdenominational Bible study that met in a home. As I was getting ready to leave, the phone rang. It was my friend. He wasn’t going to be there. He had to pack and make travel arrangements as he was leaving in 48 hours for South Africa to do a six-month tour with an international music group that had its roots in Oral Roberts University. He had a call waiting when he got home, and despite being very young, on learning another musician friend was going to do the trip, he had said yes.

So much for bringing change to our home church. Didn’t Jesus send the disciples two-by-two? I thought we were a two but now he was leaving for Africa with another friend, creating a different two. I started to tear up, but remembering all we had learned at the music festival, decided it was better in the long run to rejoice with those who were rejoicing, so I thanked God for this new circumstances and opened my mouth, and some strange syllables came out.

The same syllables.

Up to that point, I would have challenged the validity of my experience in Virginia. This time, the circumstances were different and for me, that three-days-later experience was a confirmation that what I had experienced was not entirely of my own manufacture. I know there are people who read my blog who will want to analyze this and tell me that it was all borne of emotion — there’s a reason it’s taken me nine years to share this story on the blog — but I know the viability of what took place.

…It’s been a long time since I last spoke in tongues, but while I consider myself a post-Charismatic today, I do so recognizing the things I gained from being part of that movement. I am not a cessationist. I believe God is working in the lives of people in unusual and supernatural ways. Aren’t they all just making it up? Some are. But you can’t have a counterfeit $20 bill unless there’s a real $20 bill in existence. There is a genuine experience of worship, obedience and the Holy Spirit that is tied up in this thing called speaking in tongues. I don’t believe it’s the only possible evidence that God is at work in someone’s life, but it’s definitely one of a number of possibilities.

 

 

June 8, 2017

Testimony: Sharing Your Salvation Story

As the counselors added new logs to the fire the sparks would rise high into the night sky. It was Friday night, the last night, and it was testimony night, and camp staff and campers took turns sharing their testimony.

Knowing what I now know about liturgical churches, I’m not sure where the equivalent forum is to share a testimony in those denominations, but if you’re Evangelical, such opportunities are everywhere. Here are some things to consider when they pass the microphone to you.

1. What happened way back then?

Most people have a before and after story. There is your story what Andy Stanley would call a pivotal circumstance, what David Jeremiah would call a turning point. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see. That sorta thing. Be sure to mention Jesus.

2. Was this a gradual thing or did it happen all at once?

In my denomination, the former is called process conversion and the latter is crisis conversion. Choose your answer carefully because some critics on the sideline will question the nuances of either. God works in mysterious ways.

3. What other significant events have marked your life in Christ?

Most people will think in terms of crossing the line of faith as a one time thing, but hopefully there have been other markers in your story. Baptized? Volunteered to work with kids? Started a blog?

4. Were they part of a gradual climb, or was it more incremental; more step-by-step?

If you want to be honest this is a good time to say that some times it’s one step forward and two steps backward. Some periods in our lives will find us more responsive.

5. What scripture verse(s) or passage(s) has been helpful in explaining, confirming, affirming your relationship to Jesus?

People aren’t looking for a particular life verse, perhaps it’s more a matter of some common ground you’ve found with a Biblical character, or a promise that has been particular helpful.

6. If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything different?

There may be something in your story that will help someone in the audience who is facing a tough situation or difficult decision.

7. What about more recently? What happened this week, yesterday or this morning?

A testimony that is solely about something that happened 35 years ago isn’t a testimony to the power of God active in your life today.

8. Why should someone want to experience what has happened to you?

You want to remind your hearers that the response to your story is to look at their own lives and see if there’s a next step in their future.


One of my all-time favorite testimonies: Nancyjo Mann from the Christian band Barnabas. Copied from a VHS tape.


The image at the top is a composite of baptism videos from North Point Community Church. Before being baptized, each candidate is required to make a 2-4 minute video sharing their salvation story.

October 23, 2016

Measuring Your Spiritual Impact

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:21 pm

Over the past few days I have found myself telling so many people about this audio clip on YouTube, I decided it made more sense just to post it here. (It was part of Wednesday’s link collection.)

This runs 9 minutes. It’s worth your time. It may seem to get repetitive about two-thirds of the way in, but hang in there until the end.

November 5, 2015

Answers to Tuesday’s Challenge

If you haven’t already, you need to read what was posted here 2 days ago: Here’s the link.

So let’s begin.

The Bible says Jesus is coming back.

There are a couple of problematic things here. First, Jesus said he’s coming back. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Andy Stanley, but I have to agree with him that it’s much better to say, “The author of Proverbs says…” or “The gospel writers believed…” or “The Apostle Paul taught…” so that we’re focusing on real flesh-and-blood people and not a generic “This is what the Bible says.”

But what does it mean that Jesus is coming back. Has he been down in the polls and he’s making a comeback? The language so familiar to those of us inside the church may be meaningless to those outside. Perhaps this is a good news return like the time Uncle Raymond returned from his year in India. He’ll toss the kids on his knees and tell stories and everything will be like it was before.

Is that what it means? We believe that the second coming of Christ means that this time He is returning in judgment. If your life is yield to Him, then I suppose you approach this with joy, and it really isn’t unlike Uncle Ray’s return after all. But if you’re not sure, or definitely not ready, then I suppose you approach this with apprehension or even dread.

I believe he’s coming very soon.

I think we can present the imperative of responding to Christ without quantifying it in terms of the calendar. Personally, I think there are number of prophetic markers in place that have to happen first before the return of Christ. However, I believe some of these are stacked like dominoes, and that many of these markers could fall in quick succession.

Of greater concern however is that our days are numbered. We don’t know what tomorrow might bring, hence the reminder to “choose this day who you will serve,” and that “now is the appropriate time to respond, today is the day for salvation.”

However, by reminding us of our mortality, we can introduce fear into the equation, and the experts say that guilt and fear are great motivators for making short-term decisions, but not long-term disciples.

I think that simply saying, “We need to be ready,” places the onus of responsibility back into the hands of the person listening. It’s a call to action, “If Christ is returning, what do you need to do about it?”

I don’t think I will ever die.

It was the memory of this part of the presentation that got the ball rolling for what was posted on Tuesday. It occurred to me that years later, this person is now aware of the possibility that the second coming of Christ may not happen in his lifetime, especially as the clock keeps ticking and more years pass.

Of course, the overtones of pre-tribulation rapture theology are also implicit in this, and that viewpoint is, in my perception, losing supporters even among Evangelicals. I’m not saying there will not come a day when “some will never die,” but I’m not sure that a presentation of this nature is the right place to introduce that.

I think what is more important to signal is that the return of Christ will signal a dramatic paradigm shift. In the incarnation, Christ came as one of us, and while the world changed — recognized every time you write the date — I think it was nothing compared to what it means when he returns as king.

In the first coming, Jesus rode a donkey, and while his followers went on to found a kingdom without end, in many respects the world went on as it did. In the second coming, Jesus rides a white horse, and whether supernaturally, or through already present technology, “every eye will see him.”

That said, I believe a closing statement — if one were limited by this three-point format — is to say something instead about responding to God’s love, God’s grace or some basic statement of the implications of the atonement. I suppose how deep a person wants to get at this stage depends largely on the type of people who constitute their audience, but whether or not the speaker will ever die is at best immaterial to the responsibility of the hearer to respond to the offer God is putting forward in sending Christ.


So what’s the point?

Keep in mind, the speaker in this case — again click back to Tuesday for the backstory — was in his early 20s when he made the original presentation. But often our words are tossed out without preparation, and perhaps this type of music group or youth group approach needs to be written out, and even crafted with the help of someone with greater spiritual wisdom.

I know that I had similar days I wish I could live over. I wasn’t the speaker in this example, but I probably used similar words and phrases when I did itinerant youth ministry.

If nothing else, I hope this gives you something to think about.

October 9, 2014

Lacey Sturm Story

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:39 am

“I became addicted to sadness”

~ Lacey Sturm

Sometimes you don’t have to be paying attention to a TV or computer screen to know something special is taking place. That’s how I felt while watching the live feed from the Franklin Graham Festival of Hope in Toronto as a musician was speaking between songs, only to get interrupted by a phone call. So I determined to watch the same concert again two weeks later from Erie, Pennsylvania’s Rock The Lakes event, but returning home after a busy day I got distracted and forgot to catch that feed. (A request to the Billy Graham Association in Canada, which sponsored the Toronto live feed, was never answered.)

So I was pleased to find this 19-minute clip of an interview that singer Lacey Sturm did with Kirk Cameron on the Praise the Lord program.

(Okay, we need to stop there for a minute. For those of you who have been out of the Christian television loop for awhile, yes that is the same Praise the Lord program that Paul Crouch founded, and yes, that is the same Kirk Cameron. See what happens when you miss a few memos?)

The Reason - Lacey SturmLacey was a founding member of the group Flyleaf, but she’s out promoting not an album but her book, The Reason: Revelations of a Rock Princess (Baker Books) an autobiography of conversion.

The day Lacey Sturm planned to kill herself was the day her old life ended. As an atheist who hated Christians, she thought church was a place for hypocrites, fakers, and simpletons. After a screaming match with her grandmother, she ended up in the back of a sanctuary, hating everyone in the room. But what happened in that room is The Reason she is alive today.

(Click the book image at right to learn more.)

If you like your music really, really loud, here’s the complete concert at Rock the Lakes. (Testimony starts at 9:53, and continues at 22:10.) Otherwise, here’s Lacey, her husband Josh, with Kirk Cameron:

December 18, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Church Stage Design Ideas - Harvest Chapel Christian Fellowship

One week to the big day, here is a mix of both seasonal and regular links. It’s exciting to think how many people get saved each week just reading these story teasers.Click anything below to read the list at Out of Ur, a blog of Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal

Upper Photo: From the blog Church Stage Design Ideas, a picture of Harvest Chapel Christian Fellowship in Bradenton, Florida. Click here for more.

Lower Photo: Unnamed church at a related website, VisualWorshiper.com uses a technique called Environmental Projection. Click here for more.

Environmental Projection from VisualWorshiper dot com

March 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Forgivenall

Our opening image this week apparently dates back to the mid ’90s and was sourced on a Dutch website whose name translates approximately as End Time Space. Click the image to link.

Several possible links for this week were important enough to become their own posts here. Be sure to check back at topics covered since Thursday.

  • First, please consider following my Twitter feed; not because of my great wisdom, but because I’m following some other really cool people. 
  • The radio host of “Canada’s most listened-to spiritual talkback show,” Drew Marshall takes to television this weekend. 
  • Is the Pope Catholic?  This blogger dares to ask: Is the Pope born again
  • Here’s a good breakdown of pastor blogs fitting into ten (or eleven!) categories. Actually, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Just in time for Passover, the Maccabeats are back.
  • If you or someone you know has been involved in a marital affair, here’s a reminder to skip the what questions and look at the why questions.
  • This week the Dictionary of Christianese defines Godincidences. (They’re like God Winks.)
  • This has been around for awhile, but if you haven’t watched this timely 3-minute video, check out Peter Rollins’ I Deny The Resurrection
  • A Canadian Mennonite pastor is dealing with a couple of strange baptism requests: “They don’t know much about Jesus, but they want to come to him, to sign up to follow, even though they don’t have much of an idea what they are getting into.”
  • One hundred and eleven podcasts later, and you can still listen to episodes of A Christian and An Atheist.
  • Here’s a good analysis on how the church should multiply (real growth) instead of simply poaching (transfer growth) from other churches.
  • And on that same blog we found a link to a piece on how tradition(s) can trump what Jesus explicitly taught
  • Know a single who is saving their first kiss? You might identify with this video trailer, but trailer for what? (Found at TWW.)
  • Russell Moore is asked whether or not reading fiction is a waste of time. He answers that fiction can  “awaken parts of us that we have calloused over.”
  • And congrats to Russell on his new title with the SBC.
  • Pete Wilson and Cross Point Church have invaded downtown Nashville. Their new church building opened this past Sunday.
  • For gay Christians, the F-word is fear.  Read this two part post starting with the article and then, especially the author’s story.
  • Pastors’ Corner: Five sources of ministry distractions, including Platform Jacking and Funny Money.
  • If you’re thinking of being in Vancouver, British Columbia from July 29 to August 2, 2013, you could sign up for this business ethics course.
  • When you are trying to make it as a writer, a rejection letter can be crushing, and create a need to reaffirm your calling.

preaching-to-choir_from fritzcartoons-dot-com

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.