Thinking Out Loud

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, uses a technique called Environmental Projection. Click here for more.

Environmental Projection from VisualWorshiper dot com

March 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List


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

March 1, 2013

March Madness, Blog Style

I don’t do repeats here until the piece is a year old.  So a new month always offers new items from the previous year that you may have missed… (Apologies to email subscribers…this is long!)

A Letter to the Nominating Committee

Dear Nominating Committee;

Visiting your church for the first time last Sunday, I noticed an announcement in the bulletin concerning the need for board members and elders for the 2012-2013 year. I am herewith offering my services.

While I realize that the fact I don’t actually attend your church may seem like a drawback at first, I believe that it actually lends itself to something that would be of great benefit to you right now: A fresh perspective.

Think about it — I don’t know any one of you by name, don’t know the history of the church and have no idea what previous issues you’ve wrestled with as a congregation. Furthermore, because I won’t be there on Sundays, I won’t have the bias of being directly impacted by anything I decide to vote for or against. I offer you pure objectivity.

Plus, as I will only be one of ten people voting on major issues, there’s no way I can do anything drastic single-handedly. But at the discussion phase of each agenda item, I can offer my wisdom and experience based on a lifetime of church attendance in a variety of denominations.

Churches need to periodically have some new voices at the table. I am sure that when your people see a completely unrecognizable name on the ballot, they will agree that introducing new faces at the leadership level can’t hurt.

I promise never to miss a board or committee meeting, even if I’m not always around for anything else.

I hope you will give this as much prayerful consideration as I have.

Most sincerely,

This Song Should Be the Anthem of Churches Everywhere

I was scrolling through the CCLI top 200 worship songs, and it occurred to me there is a song that really needs to be there; in fact it really needs to be part of the repertoire of every church using modern worship.

Eddie Kirkland is a worship leader at Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, where, just to warn ya, the worship set may seem to some of you more like a rock concert than a Sunday service. But I hope you’ll see past that and enjoy the song.

We want to be a church where freedom reigns
We want to be a people full of grace
We want to be a shelter where the broken find their place
We want to be refuge for the weak
We want to be a light for the world to see
We want to be a love the breaks the walls and fill the streets…

All are welcome here
As we are, as we are
For our God is near every heart

If those sentiments are not the goal of where you attend on Sundays, frankly, I think you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s another version of the song that was used as part of North Point’s Be Rich campaign, where each year, instead of reinventing the charity wheel, NPCC members flood secular social service organizations with money and volunteer hours.

Watch the song a few times, and then forward the link to today’s blog post — — to the worship leader at your church.

If a church of any size desires to live up to what this song expresses, there’s nothing stopping that church from changing the world.

Qualifying “It Gets Better”

One of the Church’s biggest failures of the past decade has been our reaction, and over-reaction to the LGBT community, especially to those who — absent the treatment they see their peers receiving — hold on to a faith in the Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, there are the usual conservative voices who insist that any gay sympathies constitute an automatic ticket to hell. Frankly, I am curious to see who shows up to picket at their funerals.

On the other hand, there are among the more progressive progressives, certain Christian bloggers who in their compassion have thrown out a lot of the core of the Bible’s ideal for family, procreation and partnership.

And now, to add to our confusion, we discover that Psalm 139, the scripture used as a major element in the argument against abortion, is used as a rallying cry for gay and lesbian Christians. Regardless of which translation is employed.

Anyway, I’ve already blogged my personal place of balance on this issue, but in thinking about it this week, I’ve realized that my particular choice of words has a bearing on another commonly heard phrase particularly among teenagers who either come out of the closet by choice or who are outed by their classmates.

The phrase is, “It gets better.”

For the bullied, the confused and the lonely, I certainly hope it does. Soon.

But I have to say this, and maybe this can be your response as well, “It gets better, but it doesn’t necessarily get best.”

In other words; I’m there for you.

I understand.

I’m not someone looking at this from the detachment of an outsider; I’ve read your blogs, I’ve looked in to your online discussions. I do get it.

But with all the love in my heart, I just think that ultimately, God has something else in mind which, because He made it, is perfect.

So yes, it gets better, thought it doesn’t necessarily get best.

A Powerful Story Echoes Three Decades Later

This was recorded nearly 30 years ago at a Christian music festival somewhere in Canada. Nancyjo Mann was lead singer in the band Barnabas. I always knew that I had this in my possession — on VHS, no less — and have always felt that more people need to see it. For those of you who knew me back in the days of the Searchlight Video Roadshow, you’ll remember that I often closed each night with this particular testimony.

February 6, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Praise Him In The Hallway

  • Napkin Thelogy: If you can communicate it better with a quick drawing, why not?
  • Just like universities agree to honor some of each others credit courses, four Reformed denominations and the Roman Catholic Church have agreed to honor each others infant baptisms. (For some this confirms that the CRC denomination is not evangelical.)
  • Here’s how some churches look at the issue of copyrights involving music or materials. This example is not a good example, though. 
  • Church planters sometimes are often guilty of reacting to existing trends or conversely, copying existing trends. There are three other factors that can motivate planters, and certain risks and dangers in all five types.
  • When you release a dove ceremonially, it’s not supposed to be attacked by seagulls.
  • Should communion (Eucharist, Lord’s Supper) be done with a common cup or several cups? Actually, that’s not the issue; the real reason I posted this is because it’s a great example of taking Bible study notes.
  • Or this question: Should Churches shift weekend service times to accommodate the Super Bowl game? Perry Noble’s church did.
  • Last week Rachel Held Evans linked to a trio of articles with the common theme, Do Christians idolize virginity? One of the recommended articles is being recommended here as well; the story of a girl who believed that, in her words, I am Damaged Goods.
  • For my local readers who enjoy Robin Mark’s annual visits here each summer, here’s the best version of the John Wesley song I can find. (YouTube audio.) Watched it three times on Saturday.
  • Michael Belote has a very lengthy, heartfelt article on dieting that he then uses as springboard for looking at our spiritual diet. There are some great principles here including this question: Am I using the right fuel in the right amounts? This is a five-star blog post!
  • We’re a bit late arriving at this one, but this February list transcends time. Here are 28 ways to show gratitude that are good anytime. 
  • Wanna start a church in Orange County, California? You’d be in good company, and there are currently 17 churches for sale.
  • A New Jersey pilot credits her faith in God for her and her passenger surviving a crash in the Hudson River.
  • When Michael Hyatt spoke to real estate professionals about social media, he discovered they didn’t know what to post to Twitter or Facebook. Here are his ten suggestions
  • Canadian hockey player Mike Fisher, now with the Nashville Predators, made Brad Lomenick‘s young influencers list for January. Here’s his testimony and a link to his Zondervan-published biography.
  • The Calvinists gotta hate this song; but probably the Arminians are glad they have enough free will to turn off bad church music. Click for The Free Will Song.
  • For something more contemporary… I’ve never been to the blimeycow YouTube channel before, but this take on five-minute instant worship songs, is far too cynical.
  • …Click the images for sourcing from Clark Bunch’s blog (top) and Close to Home (below)…Feel free to add your favorite recent Christian blog links this week in the comments…

Close to Home  02 05 13

October 10, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada, and we were away, so the list is slightly smaller. Remember to have your submissions in by 8 PM EST Monday night.

If you blog on blogspot, you should know that your blog address here in Canada automatically redirects to a .ca ending instead of .com and manually changing links to your blog is somewhat time consuming! We’re just assuming it flips back for our U.S. readers.

March 20, 2012

Powerful Testimony: Nancyjo Mann from Barnabas

This was recorded nearly 30 years ago at a Christian music festival somewhere in Canada. Nancyjo Mann was lead singer in the band Barnabas. I always knew that I had this in my possession, but for the last few days I’ve had this very strong leading that more people need to see this. For those of you who knew me back in the days of the Searchlight Video Roadshow, you’ll remember that I often closed each night with this particular testimony.


January 1, 2012

When the News Media Supresses The News

As with other years, over the holidays Queen Elizabeth II recorded an annual Christmas message for airplay on radio and television on December 25th throughout countries associated in varying degrees with the British realm.  We all see the world differently, but there is no denying that this year the Queen was outspoken in expressing her personal faith in Jesus Christ.

While it’s true that the this comes out later in the text, there is no doubt that if you were a journalist looking for the real story, you’d find it in the part of her address that was, for lack of a better word, the ‘religious’ part of her message.  Perhaps she is guilty herself of what journalists term ‘burying the lede’ (pronounced leed) or sometimes spelled ‘burying the lead.’  It would seem her prime intent was to communicate a spiritual message, but possibly the political constraints of her role prevented leading with, or entirely focusing on her hope and faith in God.

Nonetheless, on the queen’s home turf, the BBC chose to ignore those parts of her remarks altogether.  Apparently feeling the political constraints of their jobs, the outcome was that if you missed the actual speech and could only read about it, then you were given a hopelessly skewed report as to what really happened.

Here is the content that comprised at least a third of her text:

Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

‘For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.

God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today.

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

I was alerted to this contrast by George Conger who writes at Get Religion, a blog focused on how faith-related news is handled by the general media.  On December 29th, he wrote what I leave as the last word in this:

I cannot fault the BBC for omitting anything from their account of the Christmas message. But I do believe  it is a mistake to lead with the friends and family motif over against the power of her statement that Jesus Christ is not merely a wise man or moral exemplar, but God.  And it is through this God that we the families, communities and nations that are suffering can be reconciled and find peace.

In the ears of a Christian, the queen offers a meditation of God’s purpose in having his son become incarnate. In the ears of the BBC the Queen offers a Rodney King-speech — “Why can’t we just get along” – with a touch of Bill Cosby-like family sentiment.

Now is this fair on my part? Could it not be argued that in addressing a post-Christian audience, the BBC must use tropes that its listeners will understand? Would leading with platitudes and cliches familiar to its audience opens the door for mention of faith?

Or, as I have argued, leading with the principle statement of the message — faith in Christ is the way towards establishing peace on earth — is the better way to report this story. Even if such a message will seem foreign to many of its listeners.

There was no ambiguity in the queen’s speech. No half statements or hedged bets. These faults are found in the coverage.

April 14, 2011

Evangelism, Old Testament Style

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

I posted this last night at C201, but thought it was worthy of reposting here:

On Sunday the pastor spoke about the do’s and dont’s of evangelism.  (I have no idea why those words need an apostrophe, but we’ll press on, okay?)  Then he quoted this verse in Zechariah chapter 8, a verse I’ve no doubt glossed over before but never really zoomed in on:

23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Okay, let’s back up for some context:

20 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.”

23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

I love the picture this paints; one of an international cast coming together; people out of various language families and ethnicities converging in Jerusalem and asking questions of and being attracted to those who are visibly walking with God. Not because of methodologies or presentations or programs, but because it is evident that God is at work.  (Reminds me of the verse in Acts that says the crowd marveled that the disciples were ordinary and not advanced in education, but noted they had spent time with Jesus.)

About eight years earlier, in the same church, another pastor delivered his final sermon.   His closing line, I will never, ever forget.  This may not be verbatim, but here it is:

“Don’t be satisfied to hear people say, ‘You have a great church,’ but rather, you want them to say, ‘You have a great God.’

When is the last time someone grabbed you by the sleeve or the collar and said, “We need to talk, because it’s obvious God is with you.” ??

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