Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Communion Hymn

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.

So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you: drink and remember
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.

And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond: and to remember.
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.

As we share in His suffering,
We proclaim: Christ will come again!
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.

Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn), Stuart Townend, Keith and Kristyn Getty (copyright 2007 Thankyou Music)

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, July 26, 2010

At the Crossroads (Reasons for moving on to another church)

As the pastor of a church both populated by people who have left other churches, and depopulated by people who have left to attend other churches, I really appreciate the wisdom of this article by Jason Helopoulos which you can read here.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: What Is Worship Music?

What Is Worship Music?: Basics of the Faith SeriesWhat Is Worship Music?: Basics of the Faith Series by Paul S. Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this excellent and pithy little booklet, Paul Jones begins by outlining the twin problems underlying and provoking the “worship wars” of our time: A failure to study and apply the biblical principles regarding worship music, and consumerism:

“Worship music is at the center of controversy, being one of the most divisive issues in the church, as it has been for decades. Somehow we have come to define worship services almost exclusively on the basis of musical style. "Contemporary," "traditional," "blended," or "classical" worship services receive their labels from the type of music included and that music's accoutrements, which can run the gamut from liturgical robes and pipe organs to flip-flops and digital drum sets. While legitimate differences exist in the music of various people groups, the postmodern church has tended toward "pop" culture as its pragmatic answer for music, and toward youth pop culture in particular. I fear that this is an enormous mistake. We need to be following biblical principles for worship music, not the world, youth culture, or ideas based on mistaken notions of success.
In some places, biblical worship principles are entirely ignored; in many others, they have not been thoroughly explored...”

“Consumerism tells us that if we are "paying" we should get what we want. So congregational factions and individuals wrestle for equal representation or dominance, to ensure that their musical desires are satisfied in the church where they are "customers," whether or not they are members. Trained church musicians are frequently forced to take liberal church posts to survive because conservative churches, by and large, do not value, hire, or support them. Amateurs end up leading worship music when and where they should not, sometimes by default, sometimes by design.
The result: church music is adrift in a sea of trends, being blown about by the wind of every opinion, regardless of how modestly informed these may be.” (pp. 5-7)

Jones then introduces the threefold structure of the booklet with yet another call to base our conclusions about worship music on what the Bible says regarding such:

“Based on biblical evidence, music properly fulfills three roles in the context of worship: praise, prayer, and proclamation. Praise is the lauding of God for his acts sand attributes, acknowledging his supremacy in all things. Prayer is communication addressed to God. Proclamation encompasses any activity that proclaims the Word of God - quotation, explanation, teaching, and preaching. Praise, prayer, and proclamation are the roles of psalmody and hymnody, of vocal music and instrumental music. They extend to congregation and choir, to layperson and minister; to organist and guitarist. And when worship music is properly fulfilling these roles according to biblical principles, discord dissipates, unity increases, and the Spirit utilizes music for its highest purpose, for man's chief purpose - to glorify the triune God.
For our worship music to be biblical, it must find its themes, principles, and qualities in Scripture. Careful consideration and implementation of what God has revealed will correct aberrations in practice. This short volume seeks to interact with biblical evidence concerning music in order to arrive at biblical principles for the local church.” (pg. 7)

If Jones is right, and “church music is adrift in a sea of trends, being blown about by the wind of every opinion, regardless of how modestly informed these may be” then this little booklet is a good start towards getting church music anchored once more in the truth of God’s Word.

View all my reviews >>

Book Review: Last Call

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of ProhibitionLast Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do the rise of feminism, pietism, socialism, The Klan, xenophobia (the irrational fear of people from other places), Henry Ford, nativism, income tax, organized crime, "big-brother" and big government have in common? As Daniel Okrent cogently and very entertainingly explains: The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting the manufacture and sale of "intoxicating beverages" in the USA, or "Prohibition" for short.

Okrent's insights regarding the rise and fall of prohibition are lucid and informative, and his prose is colorful and eminently readable. Would that all history books were this enjoyable to read!

The chapters on Wayne Wheeler were worth the price of the book alone. Wayne Wheeler who once wielded more influence upon both houses of Congress than any individual or PAC before or since his "reign" as the director of the "Anti Saloon League."

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Andy McKee

As they say, "Scratch a guitarist, and you'll find a frustrated drummer." Enjoy.

HT: Russell Woods

Twenty-nine and Counting...

Twenty-nine years ago on July 11th, Ellen and I pledged our love and commitment to one another. And for twenty-nine years God has granted us the grace to make good on our vows. Soli deo gloria!

To celebrate our first 29 years together we got away for a night at Desert Canyon, a brunch at Blueberry Hill and a day on Lake Chelan with our buddies Tom and Karen. Truly our cups runneth over! Here are a few pics if you're interested.

Summer Fun...

Bekah grabbin' some big air...

David grindin' the wake...

Scraggly old dude pretending to wakeboard...

Danielle staying dry and looking good...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

C. S. Lewis on "Ordinate Love"

"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Jesus)

“[Sensual love] ceases to be a devil when it ceases to be a god. So many things—nay every real thing—is good if only it will be humble and ordinate.” (C.S. Lewis from a 1940 letter)

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” (C.S. Lewis from a 1952 letter)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marks of the Messenger

Mack Stiles ends his excellent book with this, "Evangelism is not a duty to perform. It's a privilege we're granted. The privilege is ours. The greatest thing about evangelism is that we get to do it - you and me. Somehow the great Creator God allows us - protoplasmic specks in the universe - to partner with Him in His grand design. It's a wonder and a mystery. To be healthy - really healthy - not just in evangelism, but in all our spiritual life, is to have a glimpse of what it means to take hold of that privilege in faith, with truth, through love, and in boldness and faithfulness to the praise of His glorious grace."

Most books on evangelism focus on the content of the message and practical helps in sharing the Gospel. Stiles touches on both of these aspects, but emphasizes the need to live out the Gospel in Gospel-esqe community before attempting to share the Gospel.

The subtitle says it all: "Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel."

For those already eager to share their faith with others, and for those who are lacking motivation to do so, I would heartily recommend this pithy little book.

Counseling 101

"Most people's problems are just a failure to be oriented to the Gospel - a failure to grasp and believe it through and through." (Richard Lovelace)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Acts 30 Network

(L to R: Terry Tollefson, me, Ben Alexander, Doug Wilson, Toby Sumpter, Jay Barfield and Alan Burrow )

The Knox Presbytery of the CREC (of which I am currently the presiding minister) recently gathered in Moscow, Idaho for a couple of days of worship, feasting and roundtable discussions. Although we missed our brethren who could not join us, we still had a thoroughly enjoyable and edifying time. I count it a great privilege to call these men my co-laborers in this small corner of Christ's vineyard.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I'm Late, I'm late, for a very important date...

First a quote from Christian Mathematician/Philosopher Blaise Pascal: "I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room."


Now, here is Peter Kreeft’s restatements and commentary on Pascal's observation (more ouch):

"We ought to have much more time, more leisure, than our ancestors did, because technology, which is the most obvious and radical difference between their lives and ours, is essentially a series of time-saving devices.

In ancient societies, if you were rich you had slaves to do the menial work so that you could be freed to enjoy your leisure time. Life was like a vacation for the rich because the poor slaves were their machines. . . .

[But] now that everyone has slave-substitutes (machines), why doesn’t everyone enjoy the leisurely, vacationy lifestyle of the ancient rich? Why have we killed time instead of saving it? . . .

We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We wanted to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hold in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.

So we run around like conscientious little bugs, scared rabbits, dancing attendance on our machines, our slaves, and making them our masters. We think we want peace and silence and freedom and leisure, but deep down we know that this would be unendurable to us, like a dark and empty room without distractions where we would be forced to confront ourselves. . .

If you are typically modern, your life is like a mansion with a terrifying hole right in the middle of the living-room floor. So you paper over the hole with a very busy wallpaper pattern to distract yourself. You find a rhinoceros in the middle of your house. The rhinoceros is wretchedness and death. How in the world can you hide a rhinoceros? Easy: cover it with a million mice. Multiple diversions." (Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained)

HT: Justin Taylor

Men, Men, Men, Men...

HT: Russell Woods

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Narnian Cosomology

As a lifelong fan of Narnia, the first time I heard Michael Ward's theories about Lewis' children's tales I thought to myself, "He's on something." However, the more I read and consider Ward's thesis, the more I find myself thinking, "He's onto something." Enjoy.

HT: Andrew Peterson


Death is not, as we so often hear these days, "a part of life." Death is an enemy. But it is, praise God, a defeated enemy as the hymn below reminds us. I strongly encourage you to listen to Matthew Smith's hauntingly beautiful arrangement of this old German hymnn here as you (yes, you) prepare for the inevitable "glorious defeat" that all of us will one day experience for a time. Enjoy.

I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears,
To heavenly joy and freedom,
From earthly bonds and fears;
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

Why thus so sadly weeping,
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious,
Though now He bids us part.
Oft have we met in gladness.
And we shall meet again,
All sorrow left behind us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I go to see His glory,
Whom we have loved below:
I go, the blessed angels,
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed,
I go to find again,
And wait for you to join us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I hear the Saviour calling,
The joyful hour has come:
The angel guards are ready
To guide me to our home,
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

HT: Justin Taylor

Happy Independence Day!

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Merritt Lake

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Here are some pictures from a recent hike in to Merritt Lake, just east of Stevens Pass. The picture of Josiah is from our two-night stay at Merritt Lake some eighteen years ago.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

"Father, have I done something wrong?"

(1 Corinthians 11:28-29) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Some time ago, one of our church families with young children was out of town for the weekend and wound up worshipping at a church in the town where they were visiting friends. The church with whom they worshipped do not practice paedo-communion, and therefore were the small children not served the bread and wine of the Lord’s Table. The littlest saint in this family was very disturbed to see the elements pass by him and he began to cry plaintively. And after both bread and wine had passed by these dear ones who have grown wonderfully accustomed to weekly communion, one of them turned to her parents and queried pitifully, “Father, have I done something wrong?”

This little one’s question demonstrated that she understood the meaning and import of the Lord’s Table even better than the elders who had excluded her from the Table. She correctly knew herself to be a genuine member of Christ’s body with all of its attendant duties and privileges. And she also rightly understood that the only biblical ground for being excluded; in other words, ex-communionated; (i.e. excommun-icated); would be serious sin in a hardened state of impenitence. And so her question, “Father, have I done something wrong?”

This little saint’s query evidenced that she was in perfect accord with Paul’s command to rightly “discern the Lord’s body.” She was recognizing the body of Christ seated all around her, and herself as a bona-fide member in good standing of that body. And hence her legitimate distress regarding her apparent severing from the body of her Savior. And hence her eagerness to know and repent of any misdeeds in order to be restored to her people, her Lord and the glad fellowship of his Table.

This covenant meal, this feast of feasts was intended to strengthen, not sap faith; to encourage belief, not erode it. So come young and old, come male and female; come red, yellow, black and white (all precious in the Savior’s sight) come healthy and come infirm; come sound of mind and struggling; come strong and come weak, so long as you…"Come and welcome to the Table of Our Lord."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Seeker Sensitive? You Bet!

(Romans 3:10-12) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

I am occasionally asked if Trinity Church is a “seeker sensitive church”, and I always respond enthusiastically that we are indeed such, but then immediately add that I would like the opportunity to define the term “seeker” from God’s Word.

According to Paul’s letter to the Romans there is not a single son-of-Adam or daughter-of-Eve that could legitimately be called a seeker of God. Note Paul’s use of the superlative, “There is none that seeketh after God.” Although we would very much like to flatter our race, and more specifically ourselves with the notion that we are all to some degree seeking after God and ultimate truth, God’s Word is painfully and contrarily clear on this score, “There is none that seeketh after God.”

But if that is the case (and it is) then how can Trinity Church be a seeker sensitive church? How can we truly we be mindful of, sensitive to, and catering to the tastes and desires of seekers if there are none? Well, although there are no seekers in the line of Adam, the Scriptures do identify One who truly seeks: the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what he says about himself and his mission in Luke’s Gospel: “This day is salvation come to this house… For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus is the seeker, as are all who have been united to him by faith. But our seeking is the fruit of our union with Christ, not the cause of it. And so, regenerated by his Holy Spirit, we evidence our new life, not by kowtowing to the whims and fancies of men who hate God, but rather, by ordering ourselves, our worship and indeed our very lives according to the desires and dictates of him who saved us by his blood. For he sought us and bought us while we were yet sinners, and yet without the strength to pursue him (Romans 5:6ff).

"And me, and me!" (A Communion Meditation)

(Matthew 18:2-3) And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Some time ago, in The LORD’s Service of one of our sister-churches, a wee-toddler; a small girl barely over a year old, saw the bread being distributed during this Supper, and began cheerfully saying, "And me. And me."

This is something we all need to learn how to say, because it is right at the heart of biblical faith. This is the child-like approach that Jesus required of us. It is relatively easy to believe propositions in the third person. Jesus died for sinners, and there are certainly sinners out there. They do this and that. God has elected certain sinners for salvation, and they certainly are blessed. They have come to Christ in truth, and have responded to the Word in faith. They are true believers, and we are glad for them.

This is all true enough, and quite proper to say. But we need to grow in the kind of faith that knows how to intrude itself. Christ died for sinners, the preacher says. "And me", you say. This is my body which is broken for you, the minister declares. "And me", you say to yourself, anchoring the point. This is the cup of the new testament, which is for the remission of the sins for many. And me.

But we do not stop there. Once we are assured that, yes, this includes the referent of “and me”, we learn to rest in this, growing in faith, and we learn to look around. I am not the only one. God has been kind to us, and I am only here as one of His people. It is not just me, but and me. This is for all the saints, not one solitary person. This is for all the saints gathered in this room. And… me.