Thinking Out Loud

October 28, 2016

The Four Gospels; Not the Four You Think

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:38 am

king-jesus-gospelFor years I’ve enjoyed reading Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog online, but only recently did I consider the possibility that I’ve been depriving myself by not reading more of his works in print, at least the less academic ones. The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited is a book that recently underwent what the industry terms a “trade paper conversion” as did another title we’ll consider later in the season, A Fellowship of Differents. (Both titles Zondervan.)

McKnight begins with the thesis that when ask, “Have you heard the gospel?” we could be basically referencing up to four things:

  1. The Method of Persuasion
  2. The Plan of Salvation
  3. The Story of Jesus
  4. The Story of Israel / Story Arc of the Bible

He would say that the first two tend to overshadow the second two. He then launches into an extended consideration of the gospel

  1. as preached by Paul (there are reasons he begins there)
  2. as recorded or emphasized by the gospel writers (the synoptics plus John)
  3. as taught by Jesus
  4. as preached by Peter (representing the book of Acts, overlapping with Paul)

Throughout the book, McKnight uses the verb gospeling to describe the process of proclamation as well as the idea of gospeling the gospel.  You also encounter the word soterians, people who equate the gospel to a means of salvation. (Not the aliens in a Star Trek episode, as some of you were thinking.) 

With so many different emphases reflecting so many different doctrinal patterns, the book leaves some unanswered questions — this is, after all, a condensation of much longer scholarly writing — but Chapter 9 – Gospeling Today, is particularly helpful in our present context and builds toward the conclusion in Chapter 10 – Creating a Gospel Culture, where in five pages, McKnight presents his own summary statement of the gospel. The whole book is really a stacking of premise upon premise leading to this encapsulation.

For him, the gospel as the account of Israel’s redemption is paramount to any other consideration. Several appendices record the Bible’s summary statements of its gospel and analysis of the sermons in the Book of Acts.

I am richer for having read this book as it helps me to clarify what it is I need to be saying — and not saying — when opportunity arises to share the good news.


Thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Canada for an opportunity to read this title, now in paperback from Zondervan.


Related: 2009 review of The Blue Parakeet by the same author.

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.

May 22, 2016

A Non-Christian Looks at My Faith

We had lost contact over the last decade, but I had been thinking about her just a few days ago. And then, in the grocery store parking lot, there she was.

The Christian bookstore was next door to a store where she worked part time. I would drop in periodically. My own context for being there created instant discussion.

Oh, did I mention that she is Wiccan?

I didn’t have a lot of experience with that particular religion, but I decided to just be myself and we got along well. See… Christians can have non-Christian friends.

So after catching up — sadly, I’d forgotten her first name — we started right back where we left off all those years ago; talking about faith. She has a lot of objections to Christianity of course, and I’ve never been afraid to tell her that I think she’s just looking for an out.

But the one she sprang on me Friday was a new one. Are you sitting down?

blank calendarThe changing date of Easter.

So of course the first thing I did was take the objection at face value. The date of Easter isn’t a theological problem. We remember Christ’s death and resurrection every time we have a Communion service. Catholics do this every time they attend Mass.

I then seized the opportunity to reminder her that Christianity is rooted in an historical fact, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

And she was willing to admit that Christmas was not the day that Jesus was born; at least probably not.

I also was willing to meet her half way when I mentioned there is a movement in Europe to standardize the dates of Good Friday and Easter.

Even then she kept coming at this date thing from different angles. “Usually it’s in April, but sometimes it’s in March;” she reminded me. Followed by, “How many times did this guy die and come back to life?” (Not sure I saw that one coming, either; nor do I get the logic.)

I simply used it as an opportunity to continue rhyming off why we can trust the Gospels’ record of Christ’s life and ministry.

And she agreed to track me down at some future date.

I hope it’s not ten years…


People will invent all types of excuses to dismiss the core tenets of the Christian faith. The problem of evil. Noah’s ark. The global flood. Talking donkeys. I have to admit that if I were writing the script, I would have left Balaam’s donkey out of the final draft.

But as excuses go, I thought the whole changing date of Easter thing was rather lame; but I think it’s an example of how people will use anything to avoid admitting the obvious: One man claimed to be equal with God, lived and taught in such a way that changed the world then and now, and kicked off a movement that shows no signs of slowing down. (Just to mention a few things.)

“…a person who denies spiritual realities will not accept the things that come through the Spirit of God; they all sound like foolishness to him. He is incapable of grasping them because they are disseminated, discerned, and valued by the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (The Voice)

 

January 19, 2016

The Good News and Bad News of Ministry Life

I posted this at C201 a few days ago, but felt I ought to share it here as well.

If you knew me many years ago, there was a period when I would sign letters

I Corinthians 16-9

In my mind, the verse played out in the KJV text that I first learned it from;

For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

whereas today, I would probably refer you to a more recent translation, such as the NLT:

There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.

If you think about, this is the format of every missionary, church, or parachurch organization fundraising letter or ministry report you’ve ever received.

→ The good news is: God is working in the lives of people, we are seeing results.
→ The bad news is: We face [financial/staffing/logistical/spiritual-warfare/etc.] challenges.

There’s always a challenge. This weekend at church, the guest speaker shared this:

The greatest challenge in life is not having a burden to carry.

That’s right, without some mountain to climb or river to cross, our lives would actually be rather boring. Certainly there would be no growth. I discussed that quotation with a friend after the service was over, and he said, “Yes, but that’s we all want. We want it to be easy.”

Matthew Henry writes:

Great success in the work of the gospel commonly creates many enemies. The devil opposes those most, and makes them most trouble, who most heartily and successfully set themselves to destroy his kingdom. There were many adversaries; and therefore the apostle determined to stay.

Some think he alludes in this passage to the custom of the Roman Circus, and the doors of it, at which the charioteers were to enter, as their antagonists did at the opposite doors. True courage is whetted by opposition; and it is no wonder that the Christian courage of the apostle should be animated by the zeal of his adversaries. They were bent to ruin him, and prevent the effect of his ministry at Ephesus; and should he at this time desert his station, and disgrace his character and doctrine?

No, the opposition of adversaries only animated his zeal. He was in nothing daunted by his adversaries; but the more they raged and opposed the more he exerted himself. Should such a man as he flee?

Note, Adversaries and opposition do not break the spirits of faithful and successful ministers, but only kindle their zeal, and inspire them with fresh courage.

I checked out a number of commentaries online for this verse, and ended up pulling out several of my print commentaries. One of the greatest insights came at the bottom of the page of the NIV Study Bible:

many who oppose me. Probably a reference to the pagan craftsman who made the silver shrines of Artemis and to the general populace whom they had stirred up (Acts 19:23-34).

Interesting that what appeared to be spiritual opposition was actually rooted in commerce; people who had a vested financial interest in maintaining commercial interests in a pagan form of worship. Think about Jesus and the money-changers in the temple:

NIV Matt. 21:12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.

I’ll let Eugene Peterson re-phrase the Acts reference above:

23-26 …a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as “the Way.” A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, “Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here—and you’ve seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we’re doing by telling people that there’s no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province.

27 “Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter—the whole world worships our Artemis!”

28-31 That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!” They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul’s associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: “By no means go near that mob!”

32-34 Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down: “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!”—on and on and on, for over two hours.

Some people believe that finding the heart of many world and regional conflicts is simply a matter of “follow the money.” The point is that we don’t always know and we don’t always see why people are so very bent on opposing us in ministry. Not to minimize Matthew Henry’s interpretation, it’s simply too easy to say, ‘It’s the Devil;’ or put things into some general spiritual warfare category. Maybe your devout faith and witness are simply “bad for business” for someone nearby.

…My opinion would be that where ministry is taking place many challenges and overt opposition will occur. If it’s not, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

Greater opportunities = Greater opposition.

But the good news is that most of the time the opposite is also true.

Greater opposition = Greater opportunities.

Romans 5:20b (CJB) says,

…but where sin proliferated, grace proliferated even more.

Ministry life involves both: Great opportunities for harvest and life change, and many who would rather keep the status quo.

 

 

 

 

September 29, 2015

When Methodologies Were Different, Motivation Was The Same

So let’s pretend that you go to a megachurch in a large urban area. Oh wait, that’s not a ‘pretend’ for many of you. Now let’s pretend that your church is one of the really “hot” churches in town; you’ve got a great children’s, youth and college and career program, and nobody would consider missing a Sunday service if at all possible.

But let’s pretend that if you were to take a drive and head about an hour — at least an hour — out of town, where there were people in a small town or village who simply didn’t have the same exposure to an urban church like yours. And let’s pretend that you took some other people with you, and also took some of the passion and excitement you had about your faith.

Maybe your end product would look different than the kind of “road show” that the man pictured at left was part of. Russell Wilkinson lived in a different era to be sure, but his weekly trips to the little town of Mount Albert were no small adventure. It was a long, long drive northeast from the city of Toronto; especially on the rare occasions where they picked up children and teens there, drove them to a special service in Toronto, drove them home to Mount Albert and then drove back again. In a post-war time before freeways or even good roads.

I like that they (a) identified a group of people who were unable to connect with the church ministry programs going on in the city, and (b) did something about it. The term “missional” may not have existed back then, but this was classic “missional” thinking. I am sure that their willingness to do this also had some measurable impact on the parents of the youth they got to know.

They didn’t just absorb all the great music and teaching that went on at their big-city church, but they shared the gospel of Jesus Christ out of the overflow of all they had received.

I still have the trumpet in the picture. Until today, I’ve always thought of it as a musical instrument, but it was an instrument of ministry, too.

What are you doing this fall to connect people with Jesus?

January 6, 2013

Faithisms

Filed under: Faith — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:35 pm

All from the writer who calls herself Free Spirit and blogs at With Unveiled Face. The first line of each section is also the link.


If I have to be encouraged to “share Christ’s love…”

 … I don’t have it to begin with.

Put Up or Shut Up

 If you don’t SHOW them Father’s love,

then don’t be surprised when they don’t believe a word you say.

There is really only one way to touch another life.

Manipulation: Akin To Witchcraft

 If manipulation is a viable option for getting good behavior from another individual, then you’ve got the wrong God.

How Then Shall We Live?

 Heard this today:

We weren’t called to teach the scriptures, we were called to preach Christ.

Also:

Teaching scriptures with the desire to obligate people to a certain set of (“Godly”) expectations is the polar opposite of preaching Christ.
~~~~~~~

I want everything about my person to preach Christ…  with or without the scriptures.

Christ’s Life Multiplied

 The best way to teach your kids not to live a life consumed with self is to not live a life consumed with self.

Letting Truth Rest

 Contrary to religious public opinion, you are under no obligation to beat anyone over the head with truth. If they are not interested in hearing it, feel free to let it rest, and wait to feed it to the hungry ones.

“Man Can Never Fully Efface the Image of God in Him”

 Came across this interesting quote today:

“Because man was made in the very image of God, man is not ultimately a liar.  He may pervert the things of God for his own ends, but he can never fully efface the image of God in him.  He can never really be satisfied with lies.  He can never escape who he really is.”

                                                                                                     J.R.R. Tolkien

Wrath: An Important Definition

 Wrath = Love’s extreme passion coming against that which seeks to destroy the object of its affection.

Gonna keep chewin’ on that for awhile.  It’s worthy of my understanding.

Wrath IS an expression of Love.  Period.


The author/collector of all these appeared previously at Thinking Out Loud exactly one year ago here.

November 6, 2011

The Mark of Effective Witness

Story # 1

While tossing things in the laundry last week, I came across a black t-shirt marked “Campus Church” I hadn’t seen before.  A half hour later, I noticed the back of the shirt says, “Ask me about Jesus.”

I was later told that the idea behind the church is that in a multi-cultural melting pot like the greater Toronto area, where my oldest attends university, there are a number of things which serve as visible identifiers of someone who is part of a different faith — such as the headgear a Muslim girl or a Jewish boy might be wearing — but nothing to specifically indicate that someone is a Christian.  The shirt is an attempt to change all that.

So I asked my son, “Are you prepared if someone asks you about Jesus?”

To which he replied, “I usually wear a sweater over that shirt.”

…In balance, I should add that my son probably would be prepared — more than he realizes — and that he has expressed his desire to share his faith on campus.  I think, too that he would indeed find it genuinely easier if  they came to him with a question.  On the other hand, the weather has turned quite cool here, and I can’t picture myself walking around the campus without something warmer. 

Maybe they should have manufactured sweaters instead.

Story # 2

A couple we know invited their daughter to join them at a thing going on at another church.  While there, she spotted someone she was a little unprepared to see, and quickly got out her phone and texted a friend from work.

You won’t believe where I just saw our boss–
In church.

(She probably used some appropriate txt abbreviations.)

Her mom told this story to my wife who said the friend texted back that she was equally incredulous.  Apparently, there’s nothing at work to indicate that this guy — who is highly respected among the people at the church — would be there.  Quite the opposite, actually.  

Unfortunately, this kind of story replays all too often. The challenge to those of us who’ve crossed the line of faith, is not to be the guy in the story.

October 18, 2011

We Have Identified The Source of the Problem, And It’s…

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

I found today’s item at the blog, Jamie The Very Worst Missionary, which is, I suppose, a story all by itself, but we’ll save that for another day.  The guest writer was Alise Wright who blogs at the similarly sounding Alise…Write (took me a while).

The Reverse Missionary

When I start thinking about missionaries, I think about people are sharing Jesus with people. A missionary is someone who knows the gospel message and whose life goal it is to tell that life-giving message to anyone who will listen. I’ve been in the Church long enough to know that you don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary (though it totally helps your missionary cred), but missionaries have a group they’re out to make sure to tell the story to. The unsaved.

I’m a Christian and my husband is an atheist.

So we all know who MY mission field is, right?

Yeah, not so much.

I’ve met a lot of atheists in the past two years and one thing I’ve found about almost all of them is that they know the story. They know who Jesus is, they know what Christianity teaches, they know what we believe. They’ve visited our churches, listened to our songs, read our holy book. The message is not the problem.

We are.

We, the Church. We who talk about grace, but are quick to cheer when the bad guy gets his. We who talk about talk about forgiveness, but would rather hold a grudge. We who talk about desiring persecution for His name’s sake, but make sure that we do our fair share of persecuting of “the other”. We who talk about God’s acceptance, but are loathe to share our filth with one another.

And I can look at this and point to all of the reasons why we suck, but I think it boils down to one thing. We don’t believe that God really and truly loves us the way he says he does. And when we don’t believe it, we can’t live it, not really. We serve a God can do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” and yet we place limits on how much he can love. We place them on ourselves and as a result, on others.

So my mission? To show love. God’s wide, long, high, deep, immeasurable love. Love that is wild and free. Love that reaches further than we can think, further than we dare to hope. Because when we get that, deep in our bones, we don’t have to worry about making sure people know the gospel.

We will BE the gospel.

~Alise

click graphic for image source

October 16, 2011

Not Of the World, But In The World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:44 pm

John Fischer posted this a few days ago at his blog, The Catch.  (Note: His individual blog posts are called ‘catches.’)  He called it, Their Place in the World.

So I’m back in the Student Union building at Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. I say “back” because it was two years ago when I last wrote a couple of Catches from here. I spoke in chapel yesterday morning for the allotted 17 minutes, and something must have struck a chord because over 800 students came back to hear me in a 45 minute session last night.

I had numerous individual comments that what I was saying was just what was needed right now on this campus. And what I am saying is that the Christian subculture in America has gone off its track (if, indeed, it was ever on), and it was now up to them to enter the world as Christians in culture, not as cultural Christians. The use of the word “Christian” as an adjective is now a liability in a culture that thinks Christians are judgmental, pushy, anti-homosexual, and hypocritical.

I pointed out to them that as Christian musicians [in the ’70s and early ’80s], we never proved ourselves on the world’s stage. We only excelled in our own separate Christian market where it was easy to be somebody with limited competition, like playing in our own sandbox.

I am amazed that they are receiving this and accepting the challenge to prove themselves in the world and bring the gospel along with them. The world never needed Christian anything. It needs Christians taking up their place in it. We can only pray that some of these students will do just that.

~John Fischer

August 9, 2011

What Saltiness Looks Like

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:04 am

Several years ago, the little Christian bookstore where I work took out an advertisement in what can only be called a “fringe” publication.  Recently, I felt it was time to go back another time. Our ad appears on a page with three psychics.  It simply states:

In a world that offers many spiritual options…Consider a classic

Then the name of the store appears underneath.  It probably will not pay for itself in terms of bringing in customers.  It’s there more to stand in contrast to the psychics, the Reiki healers, the yoga classes, the course in Shamanism and the person who does ear coning, whatever that is.

There isn’t a little fish symbol in the bottom right corner, or a cross in the background gradient that makes up this small simple black-and-white advertisement.  It’s designed not to offend, but to simply be a Christian presence in a place where a Christian voice would be rather unexpected.

Of course, I realize that when I pay the bill, I am directly funding a publication which has much content with which I would disagree.  But I feel this is essentially what it means to be salt and light. 

This fall we want to — if we can get the funding — do an advertisement in a local newspaper promoting the idea of a “Spiritual Homecoming.”  Not in the sense of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s Homecoming DVDs (shudder!), but in the sense of returning to the spiritual roots of one’s childhood.  For a few people, those roots may not resonate with my own Evangelical roots, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

…We’re also consider adapting our Sudoku flyer as a newspaper advertisement.  You can read some sample copy of that in this February, 2009 story.

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