Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shout On

Coming into the sanctuary on Sunday morning for worship, I believe that I should take time to reflect and acknowledge one or more of the following concerning God:
“That He is an eternal, immutable God without beginning of days, or end of life, or change of time.
That He is present in all places, and there is no place in which He is confined, or from which He is excluded.
That He has a perfect knowledge of all persons and things, and sees them all, even that which is most secret, with one clear, certain, and unerring view.
That His wisdom is unsearchable, and the counsels and designs of it cannot be fathomed.
That His sovereignty is incontestable and He is the Owner and absolute Lord of all.
That His power is irresistible, and the operations of it cannot be controlled.
That He is a God of unspotted purity and perfect rectitude.
That He is just in the administration of His government, and never did, nor ever will, do wrong to any of His creatures.
That His truth is inviolable, and the treasures of His goodness are inexhaustible.
That when we have said all we can of the glorious perfections of the divine nature, we fall infinitely short of the merit of the subject.”
J. Ligon Duncan III, A Pocket Outline for Scriptural Prayer

I believe I should take time. Take time! No interruptions please!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Grumbling and Complaining

9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction. . .
[1 Cor. 10:9-11]

Paul says we must not grumble. Why is grumbling so bad? Is it really a sin to complain a little when things don’t go my way or if I simply am having a bad day? Besides, aren’t some of us just wired to be “glass-half-empty” types of folks?

A friend and I were discussing this after church last Sunday, when our pastor had just preached through First Corinthians 10. Her comment was that our grumbling is a sign that we are not trusting God.

My response was that it’s really much more serious than that. It’s not that we don’t trust God, but that in our minds, God is not trustworthy. Our grumbling is evidence of our defective theology. Oh sure, we say that we trust God, and that God is trustworthy, but our actions are much more reliable indicators. And what we say when we’re not proclaiming our trust in God is more instructive about our real attitude, our real worldview, our real theology. By grumbling and complaining, we are proclaiming loudly what our God is really like.

Maybe we see him as deceitful; maybe we feel that he’s let us down too many times, maybe we see a weak and impotent god. Chances are, we see a god who’s far more human than divine. We have re-made God in our own image.

In these early verses of First Corinthians 10, Paul gives examples from the Israelites’ time in the wilderness. In Numbers 14, the Israelites grumbled and complained:

2And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" 4And they said to one another, "Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt."
[Numbers 14]

And why were they complaining and grumbling? They had chosen to listen to the spies who were "glass-half-empty” types, who said “the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. . .We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are" (see Number 13:25-32).
  • How quickly they had forgotten what God is like. God had already dealt with their enemies the Egyptians in a little thing called the Red Sea incident. “God can not conquer this land for us; it’s up to us and our own limited resources.” What were the spies really saying? God is not here with us; it’s up to us. We’re on our own, and we can’t win this battle. And even if God were here, He’s not strong enough to help us.
    What is God like? Is one of His attributes OMNIPRESENCE? One of His names is Immanuel, God with us.
    Is one of His attributes OMNIPOTENCE? The all-powerful God surely could conquer the Promised Land on their behalf.
  • How quickly they had forgotten the promises of God. He had promised to give them the land. “God, You said that you’d give us the land, but you lied to us! What were the Israelites really saying? God is not trustworthy; he is a liar. What is God like? Is one of His attributes FALSEHOOD or TRUTH? Christ said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.”

But Joshua remembered what God is really like:

6And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, "The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them” (Numbers 14:6-9).

Joshua also understood that grumbling is a form of rebellion; he warned the people “do not rebel against the Lord.” The Lord agrees: "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me” (Numbers 14:11). God saw their heart attitude was one of disbelief in His true character.

Joshua and Caleb’s theology was better; they understood Who God was, what He is really like. “Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it." “He will bring us into this land . . . and the LORD is with us.”

God is able. God is trustworthy. He’s our provider and sustainer. He is sovereign. That’s why grumbling is so much worse than simply “having a bad day.” Grumbling is saying that the God that I claim to believe in, the God that I worship, isn’t really much of a God after all.

Grumbling is an offense to God’s true character.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Christians and the Arts

In his 1986 classic, Culture in Christian Perspective: A Door to Understading & Enjoying the Arts, Leland Ryken wrote

If Christians are to be a force in shaping the contours of their society and evangelizing people in it, they will have to come to grips with the culture in which they inevitably live and move and have their being. They will have to know where to draw the line between becoming assimilated into a secular culture, lest they lose the quality of being separate that the Bible attributes to true believers (Ryken, Leland 21).
One place we have to "come to grips" is the arts and entertainment arena. Far too much "Christian art" (most of which is sold in the local Christian bookstore – I mean kitsch and knickknack store ["kitsch: sentimentality or vulgar, often pretentious bad taste, especially in the arts” and "knickknack: curio, peculiarity, oddity"] is far from artistic.

Far too much "Christian art" is heavy-handed, literal, and syrupy-sweet. . . unlike real life, which is ofen subtle, figurative, and harsh (at least at times).

What the church needs is a reformation of its understanding of the arts - the purpose of the arts, their place in the Christian's life (and the life of the church), and a better understanding of what makes art good art.

One place where the arts and entertainment industries are being restored/redeemed is in Los Angeles. (Hard to believe! Isn't that home to the Hollywood elite and all those evil secular humanists ;~)?)

Arts & Entertainment Ministries (AEM) is a ministry based in L.A. which exists to equip and educate artists, creative professionals, churches, and educators to embrace the gospel and become agents of redemption for the arts, the culture, and the world.

AEM ministers directly to artists in the mainstream culture, and provides solid teaching about the relationship between the Bible and the arts so Christ might be glorified through men and women working with integrity in the mainstream art world, media, and entertainment industries. They hold to the Biblical view that Christians are "to be in the world, but not of it" and that we are called to engage the culture in which God has placed us . . . instead of

1) retreating into a Christian ghetto or
2) living in the mainstream culture without discernment or

Join us Oct. 2-3 as we see the work of AEM first-hand at their fifth-annual Evening of Arts and Entertainment, a juried art exhibition showing some of the best artists working today from a Christian worldview.

Refering to 1 Corinthians 10: 31, Leland Ryken also wrote:

". . . every dimension of the artistic enterprise -- creativity, excellence of technique, artistic content, the enjoyment of works of art -- can become a way of glorifying God" (Ryken, Leland 21).

Our road trip to L.A. is a chance to do just that: glorify God through the enjoyment of the arts.
May that be our focus and purpose of ALL we do!

And feel free to join the discussion of the church and the arts on our Facebook discussion page:

Ryken Leland. Culture in Christian Perspective: A Door to Understading & Enjoying the Arts. Portland: Multnomah Press, 1986.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Holy Manna

“Do we ask for 'holy manna' from above when we preach? Michael Ross says that asking for holy manna from above seems foreign to a generation of preachers reared in an age of church growth methodology and pragmatic church programming. [Related to this] William Moore put George Atkins words to music in 1825:

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.”

“This is one of America's revival hymns. For it was authored during the middle years of America's Second Great Awakening ... God will work through a human agency to bring man to salvation in Christ and to renew a slumbering sin-sick Church...God works through His ordinary means of grace with extraordinary power when these normal means of grace are baptized with the unction of the Holy Spirit. Worship, preaching, prayer and fellowship can be empowered by God the Spirit so that sinners are converted, the lethargic are enlivened in soul and the Church is revived.”

One of my goals as a musician (the mountain dulcimer) has been to play the old folk hymns during the worship service. These hymns are rich in there music, some having the pentatonic scale and some were written in the beautiful shape note form. Brethren We Have Come to Worship is one such hymn.

Enjoy and praise God.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Creepy or Liar

Recently I commented on other comments made on Facebook by a former political contender. The contender had referred to Vice President Biden as “creepy”. My response:
“Contending does not necessarily involve being contentious; but it involves avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe without welching at any particular moment. Now Mr. Biden may not be my favorite VP but calling him “creepy”. Higher ground man, higher ground.”

Interesting at this very same time frame the national media was also referring to a sex offender as “creepy Phil”.

During this Facebook episode another commenter went on to defend “creepy” and minimize “civility”.

Last evening during the President’s speech a Legislator broke decorum or civility with an outburst that in essence called the President a liar. No excuse for this and no excuse for any name calling particularly by those of us who call Jesus Christ our Lord,

Name calling appears to be very fashionable; it must be unfashionable for Christians. I believe we must contend on issues, whether it is our faith or politics, but not be insulting.

“We are called upon by the Lord to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). That does not necessarily involve being contentious; but it involves avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe, stand­ing forth for the truth of God—without welching at any particular moment.”
Roger Nicole

Forgive me Father where I sin!

Milt Carpenter

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Let me write the songs of a nation.

“For a long time now, I’ve been convinced that what happens in New York (finances), Hollywood (entertainment), Silicon Valley (technology), and Miami (fashion) has a far greater impact on how our culture thinks about reality than what happens in Washington D.C. (politics). It’s super important for us to understand that politics are reflective, not directive. That is, the political arena is the place where policies are made that reflect the values of our culture--the habits of heart and mind--that are being shaped by these other, more strategic arenas. As the Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher said, “Let me write the songs of a nation: I don’t care who writes its laws.” Tullian Tchividjian, Unfashionable, p. 95.

Think on the above.

I agree with the above and say, Christians have made a mess of the individual worldviews by being stuck on politics and obtuse on all that makes a worldview. A war is not won by attacking one gate in a fortress and fortresses are monuments to the idiots who think that they can keep the enemy out. We must attack the entire fortress and burn each gate.