February 2007

25 Feb 2007

And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. … And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time in the high place at Gibeon, but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord. -1 Chron 21:15-16, 26-30

I have a historic interest in MTV. I watched a lot of it in the 1980s. There was always — always — the sense back then that they were pushing the envelope. It was a point of pride. MTVs slogan, then and now, is “whatever things are impure and vile, think on these things.” Back in the 80s it focused as much on puerile leftism as sex. The sex would certainly seem tame today. Boy George was an obvious homosexual when he hit back in the early 80s, but his image was more asexual.

From a cursory overview of MTV today, the sex is even more stressed. It now has several dating shows along the lines of the old “Dating Game.” With a twist: Same-sex couples are often featured on them– kissing, hugging, etc., with parents looking on approvingly. The progressive pretense is as obvious as it is repulsive.

I mention all this for two reasons. First, MTV (and its sister channel, VH1) remains a bellwether. Its “advances” soon find their way to other networks. Today it’s the reality craze, tomorrow it will be bleeping instead of removing the F-word, the mainstreaming of porn stars (!), and watching sodomites make out. These things are part of the cultural conditioning process. There’s a reason why younger folks don’t have the same fire to oppose this wickedness. Second, the sheer increase in brazenness is shocking to this observer. The legitimization of sodomy has long been on the march. Home & Garden Network shows are now featuring homosexual couples. Why, the late 1990s outrage over Ellen Degeneres seems downright quaint; tonight she hosts the Academy Awards. Even Sportscenter hosts have felt the need to voice their pro-homosexual opinions in the wake of the Tim Hardaway’s comments. There’s no room for dissent. After all, it’s just another choice, kids.

The image of God the consuming fire, standing between heaven and earth with sword drawn, has been lost. But the reality remains, much as the unrepentant desire to wish it away. Matthew Henry’s exhortation holds for the believer, because God will not stay His hand forever:

Those that are duly sensible of the terrors of the Lord will do all they can, in their places, to promote religion, and encourage all the methods of reconciliation for the turning away of God’s wrath.

22 Feb 2007

But, you object, a heart like mine can offer Christ so little — at best, so poor and pinched and stingey a hospitality and such meagre fare; for I have nothing worthy of Him to set before Him, only a kind of affection, real enough at times, but which, at others, can and does so easily forget; only a will, quite unreliable, deplorably unstable; only a faith that is the merest shadow of what His real friends mean when they speak about faith, I know. But, there was once a garret up under the roof, a poor, bare place enough. There was a table in it, and there were some benches, and a water-pot; a towel, and a basin in behind the door, but not much else — a bare, unhomelike room. But the Lord Christ entered into it. And, from that moment, it became the holiest of all, where souls innumerable ever since have met the Lord God, in High glory, face to face. And, if you give Him entrance to that very ordinary heart of yours, it too He will transform and sanctify and touch with a splendour of glory. -AJ Gossip

19 Feb 2007

If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach `whosoever will’ and when `whosoever’ believes I know he is one of the elect. -Charles Spurgeon

Oldtruth has a good J.M. Boice excerpt on why election should not be ignored. Boice was the late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. This doctrine is perhaps best handled by pastors, because when people go wrong considering it, it tends to become a theoretical pursuit. Even worse is when the discussion launches anxious speculation into the hidden counsels of God (i.e. Who has the yellow stripe?). We shouldn’t ignore election due to its difficulties or come up with lame interpretations reducing it to mere foreknowledge, because Scripture teaches otherwise and does so consistently. However, the doctrine is not raised in Scripture to encourage ivory tower speculation, but instead for the reasons mentioned in Boice’s article (I’d add that election also encourages us in our sanctification– God’s trees bear fruit).

15 Feb 2007

Note: Lately a few former professional ballplayers have “come out” to the cheers of the sports media. One of the last bastions of maleness — the sports world — is under assault. And now former NBA player Tim Hardaway has declared that he doesn’t really like “gay people.” He wouldn’t want to be on the same team where he’d end up showering with a homosexual. Homosexuality shouldn’t exist, he says.

Dear Tim:

You’ve stepped in it now, buddy. ESPN is already giving this big play. We both know where things are headed. You know, in a poor way, Tim, you struck a chord for the natural, the normal. If you react to the predictable firestorm in the predictable way, you’ll squirm and prostrate yourself before Baal, claiming that you have seen the darkness and it is good. But really, why bother, Tim? You’ll always have that stain. You were a “homophobe” once, and that’s that. You aren’t important to the grievance police anyway. You’re just bound to be a skeleton hanging in rusty chains on a wall to warn other passers-by. As the Old Testament furnishes lessons for the redeemed, so you are just another story in the Spirit of the Age lesson book for the culture. The moral of your little incident, as with all the incidents in this ongoing book, is this: Criticism of sodomy as filthy or wicked is bigotry and hatred. Bend the knee, culture. Bend the knee, church.

Oh, one more thing, Tim: You may not care, but there will be many bleeding heart posts written by evangelicals — those who should be proclaiming against sodomy precisely because the church is under assault to give it a pass — who will instead focus on your lack of tact and how we just need to love homosexuals and stop calling them to repentance, as if the Gospel can be presented without the Law. That’s where the really important battle is, but it’s probably the least of your concerns right now.

Jack’s Pipe

14 Feb 2007

Concordia has published a new reader’s edition of the Lutheran Confessions, edited by Paul McCain. Gene Edward Veith from World magazine is one of the associate editors.

Every denomination should have confessions in a written format that is geared toward people actually reading and understanding them. That means they should be in modern English, they should be written in a readable font, and they should explain difficult passages. The editors should be folks who actually believe and cherish their confessions. This reader’s edition seems to have succeeded in that endeavor.

It reminds me of when I sought fruitlessly for the Three Forms of Unity last year. I ended up printing them off the internet. Despite its undeniable beauties, orthodox Anglicans need an updated prayer book too. Archaic language need not be a test of orthodoxy.

10 Feb 2007

I attended a birthday party today for my little nephew. Little goodie bags were given to each child. Some had a mini soccer ball, some a little basketball, some a little football. The kids snapped up the footballs and the basketballs; the last kids were stuck with the soccer balls.

There’s hope for America yet!

08 Feb 2007

I’ve flipped by and seen this Johnny Cash video running on CMT and VH1. As many in pulpits have decided that Hell is just too divisive to discuss, we see God’s pending judgement proclaimed on pagan TV channels. “Hurt” is easily the best music video ever made, really one of the few worth watching, and “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” is nearly as strong in its own way. We see the hynotic spectacle of a famous assortment of partiers — Justin Timberlake, Keith Richards, Kid Rock, Kate Moss, guys from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so forth — posing and preening while Cash proclaims God’s judgment against “ramblers” and “midnight riders.” The song doesn’t broach how none seek God, or our treacherous state without the righteousness of Christ applied to our account, but it is still a curious sight to see. It has a Delta blues feel with a strong downbeat, and is proof again of the raw power generated by the long collaboration between Rick Rubin and Cash. Check it out.

05 Feb 2007

In the worship service it has long been during the music where I’ve struggled hardest to worship.

I would much rather hear a professional musician play the organ than hear five praise band amateurs try to keep time and play three chords correctly. However, even in what is now called the traditional service, something is missing.

I once saw Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme live (no, not at church). Now, Steve and Eydie aren’t our favorites, but when that full orchestra kicked in during “Fly Me to the Moon”… Wow! Every hair on my head stood at attention. I was as giddy as a schoolboy. On my Ipod, I listen to the trumpet and organ version of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” or the “Hymn of the Cherubim,” or “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star,” or “Praise to the Lord the Almighty,” and ah… pure joy. I think back to that Orthodox choir we saw in Vladimir, Russia. It may have been the loveliest thing I’ve ever heard on earth. It was an agape moment. That is, I stood agape, stunned.

The organ in a small church tries to mimic an orchestra, but cannot, nor can our puny voices the choir. As an old rock group once put it: “Music, music, I hear music over my head.” On earth, glimpses of heaven will have to do.

Further, for every good hymn in a hymnal, there are two bad ones. Some have dreadful melodies; others, theological weaknesses. The Baptists and Revivalists (especially the former) have given us good things, but music is not one of them. In the Trinity Hymnal, there is a fine modern rewrite of Rock of Ages. I prefer it to the original.

Ok, so hymns and hymn-playing have deficiencies, so why not bring in the contemporary stuff? Well, mainly because it offers no real alternative. For every theologically sound song churned out of the Nashville factories, there are a hundred poor ones. Most are so bad they are barely appropriate for a nursery.

Some find praise music lively and exciting; I find it stale, vapid, and dull. I don’t get tired of “This Is My Father’s World;” I’ve been tired of Michael W. Smith’s music for years. Is anyone still playing 70s and 80s contemporary music in their churches? Other than a song or two here and there (e.g. “Thy Word,” “There is a Redeemer”), probably not much. Ever wonder why? Pop music is like fashion as Tolstoy (or perhaps it was Wilde) described it: everyone laughs at the old and follows religiously the new. It’s not good enough to last. (I can’t read music. If I appreciated it more I probably would’ve graduated to classical years ago, listening to those inexplicably public stations where an erudite host talks in measured tones.)

Worse, I doubt anyone has lately discussed the theological merits of “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” It seems to me that devaluation and desecration of worship, the scrapping of the elements of worship in favor of more, more, more “praise music,” is as big a problem as the inroads of feminism. It’s not a popular topic among people my age to decry the rottenness of contemporary worship. But folks, most of it is rotten. There’s no time to read the Bible during a service, but plenty of time to sing the same praise chorus 14 times.

If you think hymns are irrelevant, there’s another option that doesn’t involve buying an expensive organ: chanting the Psalms. Who can possibly object to that?

02 Feb 2007

Ron Gleason asks some good questions:

How long should it take before a Presbyterian Church in America church or church plant actually ends up looking Presbyterian?

If it is true that both the mega-church and Emergent conversations are bankrupt, why are some church plants and church planters still chasing after what has long since proven to be ineffective and unproductive in terms of imparting a real spiritual legacy?

Pastor Gleason’s latest article is well worth a read.

01 Feb 2007

Some of us need a break from reading all the time. I may be the last person of my generation to own an Ipod, but I bought one along with the ESV Listener’s Bible in MP3 format so I can hear the word. Though not initially a fan of Max McLean’s style, I’m used to it now, and forty bucks for the entire Bible on audio is a pret-ty good deal. The whole thing fits in a little under 3 gig of space.

The publisher recommends setting up a “Bible” playlist entry in Itunes and moving all the files there. I thought it’d be a bit annoying to have to spin through 1000+ chapters to find something in the New Testament, but it’s not bad. If you want a shortcut, in Itunes you can select every chapter in the Bible and rename the artist tag from “Max McLean” to “+The Listener’s Bible.” The + symbol will put the entry at the top of the alphabetically organized Artist list. Then, rename every “Album” tag to the name of the Book (e.g. “songs” Genesis01 – Genesis50 would all have an Album name of “Genesis”). Since you can select an entire book and change it all at once in ITunes, it only takes 66 actions. Once all this is done, you can now do this: Artist -> +Listener’s Bible -> Book Name -> Chapter. Ah, just as it should be. Except for one catch: the Ipod forces the album (book name) sort order to be alphabetical. So 1Chronicles and 1Thessalonians show up before Genesis, for example. Has anyone found a workaround?