My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

31 January 2006

Theology & Real Life

So often my problem is faith. Reformed theology is Biblical and thus true, and I'm sold on it, hook, line & sinker. The problem comes, then, when I don't really or fully believe what I say I believe. This came to the forefront in my study of Proverbs 21 last week. You can't swing a dead cat around a reformed church without hitting someone who's talking about God's sovereignty (this is a good thing; not that the cat is dead, but that we talk about God's sovereignty). But Proverbs takes that wonderful tidbit of theology and very uncomfortably presses it into areas of life where I'd rather keep my own sovereignty, thank you very much. The beginning & end of Proverbs 21 are powerful, poetic pictures of the sovereignty of God; everything in the middle of those bookends tells us what it would look like if we fully believed that God is sovereign.

Here, in its essence, is my sermon outline from Sunday night.

If we really & fully believe that God is sovereign...
  • Instead of mocking God's sovereignty through pretended independence (21:4, 24), we would joyfully submit to it;
  • Wives will resist the temptation to be quarrelsome and usurp their husband's authority (21:9,19);
  • We will reject laziness and greed and give ourselves to diligence and charity (21:5, 25-26);
  • We will stop loving the world's pleasures as an end in themsevles (21:17) and give ourselves to things of eternal importance (21:21);
  • We will reject social injustice and rejoice in Christ's justice (21:11,13,15);
  • We will reject interpersonal injustice (21:10) and love our neighbor selflessly (21:23);
  • We will find temporary defeats swallowed up in eternal victory (21:18,22);
  • We will give up religiosity - the form of religion without the heart (21:27) - and practice true religion (21:3)
See - good theology does make a difference!

29 January 2006

Book Review - expensive boxes

It was a happy thing to find this book at a going out of business sale a few weeks ago. I had heard about it on NPR and was hoping to read it someday.

Guitar: An American Life, by Tim Brookes, is really two books in one. As he goes on the great American walkabout, the baby-boomer search for the perfect guitar, he decides to have one built for him by Rick Davis, a one-man shop who builds Running Dog Guitars. About every other chapter in the book chronicles the story of his guitar's birth. It is an indeed lovely guitar made from cherry sides and back with a maple top. As if you cared. But for me, a yet-recovering aspiring luthier, these chapters were absolutely fascinating and beautifully written. From chainsawing the cherry blanks to choosing inlays for the fingerboard, to voicing the top and finally setting up the guitar - it was all very good. And it's written in such a way that those who know little or nothing about guitars could understand him perfeclty. Hmmm, maybe I should have my wife read the book, just to plant the idea of a handmade guitar...

The other half of the book is a record of the guitar's life, especially as it relates to our fair country. It's quite the dramatic story. The guitar has fallen and risen in popularity so many times, it's like the musical equivalent of bellbottoms. These chapters helped me realize how strongly my perspective on music is shaped by the times and radio songs I grew up with; I grew up in a world where eighty percent of the most popular songs heavily feature guitar, where a band without a guitar is unthinkable, and so on. But this wasn't always the case. The guitar was pushed out of popularity for a while by the banjo - simply because it wasn't as loud. Then it came back into popularity as the favorite instrument of folksingers and bluesmen. Perhaps Elvis and the Beatles could be credited with finally cementing the guitar's place in America's psyche. For better or worse. These chapters were informative and generally interesting, but didn't quite hold me as much as the passages about guitar building.

So if you're into the guitar or into music history, I recommend this fun book. As a caveat, it is fascinating how often Brookes can find ways to insert his liberal politics into a book about guitars (more than several references to blacklisting & McCarthyism); also, the author was crass in one or two spots.

27 January 2006

Wow. Great comments on that last post. I was glad that you caught the problems with the Francis Bacon quote (and Bacon himself). If you haven't read the comments, check them out and get going with your artistic, argumentative-self.

Here's another question/thought - do artists have more of a responsibility than others to make their work "Christian"? This leads to the question, What exactly is Christian art? Do we ever talk about Christian plumbing? Or Christian carpentry? Maybe we should...but what makes something "Christian" as opposed to...well, as opposed to what? I don't buy into the secular/sacred distinction because nothing lawful is beyond Christ's reign or beyond the possibility of glorifying God. This is partly why I like Steve Turner's idea so much: let's be Christians, men and women who love Christ, are passionate about righteousness and holiness and Bible reading and worship and all that good stuff. Then, let's be artists, or doctors, or mothers, or whatever is lawful and good. Tacking on a Christian veneer to art - say, putting Bible verses on all our pictures - makes art as much "Christian" as putting a fish emblem on your car makes your driving Christian.

On the other hand, it still seems that artists (and pastors, I think) have much more opportunity to lead people into sin than, say, plumbers do. A plumber may do some plumbing with a bad attitude, or without believing in the Kingship of Christ, but that doesn't make me stumble in sin. But if an artist uses all the tools at his/her disposal to either convince me of something that isn't true or lead me into sin, does that artist share some culpability for that? So, while the possibility of glorifying Christ exists in all professions, I believe we ought to be honest and tell the artists among us that they bear a special responsibility in Christ's Kingdom.

Always more questions, but these things are so important for us to talk about and wrestle with.


Last year our youth came back pretty from the high school winter conference pretty jazzed about Pastor York's lectures, which were themed on the life of Athanasius. Several reported on this "list" of how to decide what to do and what not to do. Please read it and think about it. It bears greatly on this topic of our involvement with the arts.

26 January 2006

More on Christ & The Arts

Here are some quotes I've shamelessly stolen, or nobly culled - depending on your view of quotes. Some I like, others I'm more wishy-washy about. Tell me what you think:

The church as a body has never made up her mind about the Arts, and it is hardly too much to say that she has never tried. Dorothy Sayers

Man by the Fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over nature. Both of these losses, however, can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by the arts and sciences. Francis Bacon

The invention of the arts, and other things which serve the common use and convenience of life, is a gift of God by no means to be despised, and a faculty worthy of commendation. John Calvin

A conversation with eternity. That’s what true entertainment is. William Edgar

It’s been a catastrophe for the church that we have abandoned high culture. One generation’s high culture has a way of becoming the next generation’s pop culture. Greg Wolfe

One of the great hindrances to the development of biblically informed mainstream art has been the perception that Christians should make “Christian art” and that “Christian art” is always explicitly religious. Understood in this way, “Christian art” is not distinguished by a regenerated outlook on the whole of life but by a narrow focus on Bible stories, saints, martyrs and the individual’s relationship with God. Steve Turner

Christianity has a major and a minor theme. The minor is that men are lost and can never attain perfection in this life. The major dominant theme is that there is a purpose to life because God is there and man is made in his image...Real Christian art should show both the minor and major themes. Francis Schaeffer

There is not a single inch of the whole terrain of our human existence over which Christ does not exclaim, “Mine!” Abraham Kuyper

The function of the arts is to heighten our awareness and perception of life by making us vicariously live it...There can be no doubt that the arts are one of the chief means by which the human race grapples with and interprets reality. Leland Ryken

25 January 2006

New Town: A Fable...Unless You Believe

Harry Blamires has been a strong voice in evangelicalism for the last few decades, calling us to overcome the "scandal of the evangelical mind" with his book The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? He was, as is pointed out in his bio in this book, a protege & friend of C.S. Lewis' - and he shows some of Lewis' insight and wit in this novel.

New Town is about a man named Bernard and his "dream" (I'm trying to not give away too much...). He finds himself in Old Town, where the rage is getting into New Town. Already you might have spotted the allegorical nature of the book - getting into New Town, which is being established and built by Christopher Godfrey, son of Sir Alph Godfrey.

Bernard meets up with his high school sweetheart and her daughter - interesting relationships ensue (especially as age seems to mean much less in this "in-between" world). As Old Town continues to disintegrate and fall apart, the urgency to get into New Town is heightened - so Bernard becomes a "waiter", someone on the waiting list. Those who wait for a home in New Town gather together weekly to wait together and remind each other of their new homes. And so the allegory goes on...

I don't want to give away anymore, because I'm planning on using this book for our book club next summer. There are a myriad of details which could be sorted out allegorically and discussed enjoyably. It is, over all, a good book which succeeds greatly as an allegorical novel. And it can be pretty funny - Blamires being a good Englishman and all. (Isn't it a cool cover?)


I added a few new links to the "fun, good, thoughtful" section. And I fixed the link to George Grant's blog.


Update on church planting - we had a great kick-off party last Saturday night. This evening is the official start to our "core group": we're going to spend about four months together, studying God's Word and what it has to say about the church, planning for evangelism & outreach, praying for the new church and the lost, and other planning and brainstorming. Shouldb be a lot of fun.

23 January 2006

Thank you's

On the lighter side, here are some thank-you notes our son wrote for his second birthday, sort of:

Dear Nona & Papa,

Thanks for the birthday presents! The Nemo lamp is stupendous, even though that adjective is wearing out its welcome around here. What I'm really excited about, though, is the LeapPad. I'm very hopeful it will help my parents greatly. After I got dad to stop jumping up and down on it ("not that kind of Leap Pad, dear Father!"), I got to teach him how to rewire a simple computer into one capable of wreaking enormous havoc on an unsuspecting public! And I have you to thank for my worldwide conquest...but until then, please keep this note in a safe place.

Love, #1
Dear Uncle J & Aunt J,

Thanks for the birthday money! It's weird how shiny my dad's eyes looked when he saw it. Anyway, my piggy bank loves being fed, just like me. I just realized that if you guys show someone where you live on the hand [Michigan - ed.], I'm somewhere south of the wrist. Hmmm.

Love, #1
Dear Aunt C,

Thank you for the Noah's ark. It's been a lot of fun, but something's bothering me: proportions. If the proportions are correct, then Noah's either 15 feet tall or the elephant is a pachydermic midget who wouldn't make for a good beginning to a new elephant race. So I like the idea of a 15 foot Noah. One thing I'm glad of is that the ark doesn't include the "authentic smell." Can you imagine? I hope your Floridian Christmas is grand. Can I come visit sometime?

Love, #1
Dear Aunt B & Uncle G,

Thank you for the birthday gift of monkey slippers and a tool truck; although...I can't seem to shake the notion that there's a theme. Did you expect my slippers to break and need fixing? Or does the driver of the truck really like monkeys? Until I figure the theme out, I'm having fun counting the monkeys (did you know there's two??) and fixing everything in the house. I'm getting so good I'm going to hire myself out. Do you have anything that's broken? Cause I can do that, too.

Love, #1
Dear Aunt B-B,

Thank you for my birthday gift. I know it looks like a cash register, but I've discovered that it's really a powerful 'puter (computer, as my parents call it). I've already taken over my parents' bank account, now I'm moving on to bigger targets: toy store websites. Although the feds are after me for my powerful 'puter skills, I think I can stay ahead of them. Thanks again for the 'puter - when I take over the world, you get the first choice of countries.

Love, #1
Dear Uncle Z & Aunt A,

Theank you for the great birthday books! They're much more fun than barrels of monkeys, plus they don't bite or smell bad. I had a great birthday and don't have enough time for the high calling of playing. Anyway, hope I can see you soon.

Love, #1
Dear Aunt B & Uncle P,

Thank you for the stuffed moose for my birthday. I named him Bob, which is funny because my other horse's name is I call the new one Bobby. Actually, since Bobby has become a denizen of #1-land, my parents haven't stopped fighting about whether he's a reindeer, a moose, or a caribou. They're starting to embarass me. I hope Christmas distracts them. Thanks again!

Love, #1

20 January 2006

Preparing for Worship

For worship this Sunday:


In the morning, Pastor Long will preach on John 8:36, "The Son will Make You Free." In the evening, we'll be having a sending service for the Fishers leaving for Australia; I'll be preaching on Isaiah 11, "A Branch, Four Corners & A Highway."
How to pick pastors, from a site I read frequently, the evangelical outpost. Apparently, I'm not fulfilling my calling when I refuse dessert...who knew? He he he. I'll be over for dinner.

19 January 2006

This is outrageous (outrageously cool, that is): rubik's cube competitions! I don't think I've ever met anyone who's solved it, nevermind in 12 seconds. Well...we all need heroes.

Christ & Art

We had a great conference for the college-aged last weekend. Pastor Selvaggio, from College Hill RPC in Beaver Falls, PA, expounded the Song of Solomon to a very interested group.

For my small part, I did a workshop on Christ being king of the arts. I'm planning on posting some of the pieces of the handout. Sorry if this is reptitious for those of you who were there.

First, some thoughts on Christ's Kingship and its implications:


Christ as King: Ps. 2, 45, 110; Isa. 33:22; 55:4; Mic. 5:2; Luke 1:31-33; Jn. 1:49; 18:33-37; Phil. 2:9,10; 1 Tim. 1:17

Christ as King over all: Ps. 8:6-8; Mt. 11:27: 28:18; Acts 10:36; Eph. 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:6-8; 1 Pet. 3:22

What is the goal of Christ’s kingship? Rom. 8:20-22; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:9,10; Rev. 21:5


A belief in and understanding of the Kingship of Jesus Christ over (1) you and (2) everything else is part of the right beginning. The other half to a proper start is a commitment to Jesus as Savior as well as King. A passion for Jesus as your Savior and your King is the warp and woof of a Christian involvement in the arts. If we begin with art and then attempt to tack on a Christian theme or even a Christian subculture, we will fail (and have). But if we begin with a passion for Christ as Savior and King, an insatiable desire for holiness and beauty and honesty, then we have a sure foundation.


We can abandon nothing but that which is sinful. All else will be redeemed by Christ – and the church is His preferred method of redemption. So, when there are problems and difficulties (as there are in the arts), we must commit to redemption rather than abandonment.

I ought to say that the above references were culled from William Symington's Messiah the Prince, which is worth its weight in gold. Really good gold.

18 January 2006

Music - Jazzy Hands

I got several great albums for are two for us aspiring jazz snobs.

The Thelonious Monk Quarter w/John Coltrane, live at Carnegie Hall

Recorded in 1957 during a the few months when Coltrane played with Monk, this cd was the big news of the jazz world in 2005, when it was unearthed by an engineer working for the Library of Congress. It was big news for good reason. Not only is it somewhat historically important, but it is simply excellent. The recording itself is beautiful and clear (amazing for something recorded almost 50 years ago) and the playing is outstanding.

I haven't listened to too much of Monk, but I'm most impressed by the thoughtfulness of his playing. He's not flashy, but he somehow gets it right every time. And John Coltrane, what can we say? This was a fruitful time in his career, having spent a few months learning how to play with Monk's quartet and then coming to thrive in that quartet. Were my theology different, I would say that his playing on the album is downright inspired. As it is, I will say that it is amazing and beautiful.

The album comes with extensive liner notes - and the coolest album cover I've seen in a while.


The Wynton Kelly Trio with Wes Montgomery - Smokin' at the Half Note

Wes has always been a favorite of mine. Not just because he's Indianapolis' best export, jazz-wise, but because he lived up to that "trailblazer" moniker like few others. Half Note is the live version of many of his best songs, most made popular by his Incredible Guitar album.

Like the above album, this one is excellent. Recorded in 1965, the sound quality is not quite what I'd like it to be, but there's nothing glaringly wrong. Wes is outstanding; having dabbled ever-so-slightly in guitar, I can barely comprehend some of the things he does. He pioneered a style of playing solos with two, three, or four-note chords rather than single notes; so when most guitar players are struggling to sound good playing single-line runs, there's Wes doing four times as much and sounding four times better.

The rest of the band is excellent as well. Listening to it with some good bass is pretty important, because Paul Chambers' upright bass is so solid and smooth it just keeps the whole thing moving along and feeling like jazz should feel.

This album is quite cheap at (only 8$), and is a worthy addition to your collection.

13 January 2006

a challenge

Here's the word of the day from

sesquipedalian \ses-kwuh-puh-DAYL-yuhn\, adjective:
1. Given to or characterized by the use of long words.
2. Long and ponderous; having many syllables.

I hereby promise to give public praise and commendation to anyone who uses this word in conversation and can relate to me said conversation.

12 January 2006

Book Review - Mean Songs

Crying for Justice: What the Psalms teach us about mercy and vengeance in an age of terrorism

John N. Day

If you came into the RPCNA sometime other than childhood, you may well remember the first time you sang an imprecatory psalm, a song calling for curses on your enemies. For many, it’s a rather confusing experience. Aren’t we called to a higher calling (loving our enemies)? Isn’t asking God to smash people’s teeth a little barbaric?

John N. Day (Pastor of Bellewood PCA in Bellevue, Washington) deals Biblically and wisely with these questions. Crying for Justice may be one of the most Biblically grounded and satisfying books I’ve ever read.

He begins by addressing and dismissing several bad answers to the question, “What are we to do with these songs?” C. S. Lewis said they were “devilish” emotions to be distinguished by Christ’s Spirit. Others say that they’re honest emotions which ought to be relinquished after they’re expressed. Some scholars say that old covenant morality, as seen in the Psalms, is radically different than new covenant morality; closely tied to this is the dispensational view which views imprecation as inappropriate for this “church age.” After showing the weakness in each of these answers, Day moves on to a thorough Biblically and historical evaluation.

The curses of the Psalms must be seen in their historical context. In the ancient east, curses were found in treaties, inscriptions on tombs, etc. While many ancient eastern curses contained some hint of the magical incantation, it helps to see that Israel’s hymnwriters were not way off base with their imprecations. Even more so, the curses of Israel’s songs had their foundation in the covenant promises of God. Time and again God promised His people protection (e.g., Gen. 12:2,3) and justice (Dt. 19:16-21); so, rather than the vengeful and petty songs they may seem, the imprecatory psalms are really songs of faith in the covenantal promises of God.

Day goes on to deal thoroughly with the three harshest psalms: 58 (I will make my arrows drunk with blood), 137 (Blessed is he who seizes and shatters your little ones against the cliff), and 109 (May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before Yahwey, and may the sin of his mother never be blotted out). Without going into too much detail, here’s some exegetical help I picked up from these chapters:

· We need to be sure we know who is being cursed and what kind of people they are. Sometimes, these harsh psalms grate against us because we have such a little understanding of the viciousness of Israel’s enemies (or the viciousness of the enemies of today’s persecuted church). In Psalm 58, for instance, “David is condemning those who chronically and violently flaunt their position, contrary to God’s righteousness.” The horrific baby-smashing of Psalm 137 needs to be understood in the context of the Babylonian’s driving Israel from the Promised Land. The Babylonians had done this very thing to Israel babies; so, the helpless people of God are calling out for lex talionis (eye for eye, etc.).

· We need to find the covenantal context, the promises from the Torah which the psalmist is often claiming. In Psalm 58, David is likely referring to the powerful imagery of the Song of Moses (Dt. 32).

· We need to understand these songs as songs of great humility and helplessness. These are not the songs of the spiteful and capricious; these are the songs of the downtrodden who have no retreat, no rock other than the Lord God.

· If we see them as songs of humiliation, we sill see that these songs mean we’re “Leaving the matter with God...the person abandons any personal desire for revenge.”

· Finally, we need to understand these songs as songs that are indeed crying out for justice. Woe to us if we were to pray imprecations upon the innocent or undeserving!

“But,” some others retort, “these songs are still at odds with so much of the New Testament; it was Christ Himself who called us to love our enemies.” Yes, but it was also Christ who said He came to fulfill the law & prophets. So, how do these songs fit into the New Testament? Day again does an excellent job showing how loving our enemies and calling for curses upon them are not opposites, but are both outworkings of a passion for God’s glory and Christ’s body. “Genuine love is a love that, above all, abhors what is evil and adheres to what is good. (Rom. 12:9)” Based upon this fully realized, dual-Testament ethic, Day discusses what is meant by “coals of fire” in Romans 12:17-21 (citing Pro. 25:21-22; he argues that it is an imagery of divine judgment).

Then, dealing the death blow to those who separate “old” and “new” morality, Day runs through the curses which can be found in the New Testament. While they are fewer, they are no less harsh. Jesus and Paul are the chief culprits of such harsh language; in fact, Jesus cursed all of unbelieving Israel when He caused the fig tree to wither (Mk. 11). Perhaps most powerfully, we see the martyred saints in Revelation 6:10 crying out for vengeance: “How long before you will judge and avenge our blood?” Finally, Day closes the book with a short sermon on Psalm 83.

This is, without reservation, an excellent book. Were someone to build upon the work done by Pastor Day, I would love to see more treatment of what it means to sing these songs, not just pray them (especially in light of the New Testament picture of the congregation singing to each other as well as to God). Crying for Justice is not flashy or humorous; it is sometimes technical, containing several references to the original languages and seminary-type language. But if you can get past that, it is well worth your time to understand these amazing songs.

For worship on Sunday:


Pastor Anthony Selvaggio will be preaching on John 12. In the evening, Graeme, the wonder-from-down-under, will be preaching on Psalm 104:27-30.

11 January 2006

Awhile ago, I posted a few comments on the benediction in Numbers 6. It seemed of interest to some, so here's the sermon I preached Sunday night on the same passage:

mp3 (smaller file)


Jon Edwards, a friend I'm glad to hear from, had some great thoughts on "Christian" art in response to my last post. You can read them on his site here. Someone else noted that I was wrong about Christianity Today not dealing at all with "secular" music. They do some reviews of such albums here; I stand corrected. But I would point out that their reviews are geared toward finding "spiritual themes...outside the Christian subculture." Why do this? According to CT, mostly for the work of evangelism, so we can have a point of contact with unbelievers. This is a great reason to examine not-explicitly-Christian music. But is it the only one? Why not review albums just to see which one rocks the best, which new jazz album swings the hardest, etc.?


I had the privilege of hearing a wonderfully illuminating sermon at presbytery yesterday on 1 Chronicles 25:1-7. On the surface, it's a rather boring list of the hymn-writers and musicians working under David for the new temple. But as the preacher dug into it, he showed some very important things about the church's hymnody:

1. The author of Chronicles strives to make clear that the chief writers (Asaph, Heman & Jeduthun) were inspired by the Holy Spirit when they wrote songs for God's worship. This is the import of saying that they "prophesied with lyres, with haprs, and with cymbals."

2. Even more striking, though, may be their other qualification. Not just were these men set apart by Spiritual inspiration, they were always under the authority of David, the King of Israel. The preacher went on to show that the leader of Israel was also their chief songleader. From Moses to Joshua to David to Solomon to Hezekiah - not only were the leaders leading in civil matters, but they were the ones commissioned and allowed (because of their position) to write new songs and lead the people in singing those new songs.

What does this mean for us? First, both of these qualifications for hymn-writers should lead us to much more circumspection regarding the importation of newly-written hymns into worship; songs written by men and women not infallibly inspired by the Holy Spirit and not serving the King of Israel by direct commission. More importantly, though, we need to realize that when we gather to sing as the people of God, we are not just singing to God, but we are singing with Christ. Jesus is our songleader in worship, the perfectly righteous King who leads His people in praise. What a wonderful vision of worship! If we believed this, how much would change in our approach to questions of what songs are allowed in worship? If Christ is really our songleader, clearly we need to sing the songs of Christ, the songs He inspired, the songs He Himself sang.

06 January 2006

an observation

As I'm preparing a workshop for next weekend on Christ being King of the arts, here's something I've noticed fleetingly in the past, but now am taking a closer look at: over at (the website of the evangelical magazine), they have a "media guide" section. As I peruse this section, I see they talk about both music and movies. What I find fascinating is that the section on movies deals with a wide variety of movies, supposedly critiquing them from a Christian worldview. Good. Dandy, even.

Now, if you glance over to the "music" section, you'll see that they deal almost exclusively with "Christian music"; to get included in this section, you either must be blatantly/explicitly Jesus-centered in your music or you must have a well-known tie to Christianity (for the second category, see Johnny Cash, Scott Stapp & Sufjan Stephens). I have poked around and can find no reviews of albums or any interviews with musicians who aren't somehow connected to Christ. Obviously I have no issue with Christ-centered music or Christ-centered anything. But...

Why the disparity between movie-watching and music-listening? Why is Christianity Today willing to explore "wordly" movies from a Christian worldview but unwilling/unable to do the same for music? I believe the answer points to some of the things that are wrong with the way we approach the arts & worship, myself included. Two thoughts, only one original:

1. The evangelical church has radically compromised the worship of God, focusing on entertainment rather than the Word & the means of grace. By including musical instruments in worship and by chasing after the next big fad in worshiptainment, we have been part of the birth of Christian contemporary music (not a good thing - not because it's Christian but because it's generally very poor). By focusing so much more on music in worship, we have fostered an attitude that for music to be honoring to Christ or even worth listening to, it must be worship music. Since movies haven't become as big a part of worship (yet), we haven't consumed them into the worship culture (yet).

2. From Steve Turner's Imagine: a Vision for Christians in the Arts:
One of the great hindrances to the development of biblically informed mainstream art has been the perception that Christians should make "Christian art" and that "Christian art" is always explicitly religious. Understood this way, "Christian art" is not distinguished by a regenerated outlook on the whole of life but by a narrow focus on Bible stories, saints, martyrs and the individual's relationship with God. "Christian art" in this sense is usually either an aid to worship or a means of evangelism.

05 January 2006

Preparing for Worship

If you're worshipping in Lafayette this week, here's the scoop.


Pastor Long will be preaching on John 8:30-47, "Characteristics of Faith." In the evening, we'll be celebrating the Lord's Supper and I'll be preaching on Numbers 6:22-27, "The Lord's Blessing."

By way of helping us prepare for communion, here are some Q&As from the Heidelberg Catechism to chew on.

Q66: What are the sacraments?
A66: The sacraments are visible, holy signs and seals appointed by God for this end, that by their use He may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the Gospel, namely, that of free grace He grants us the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life for the sake of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.[1]

1. Gen. 17:11; Rom. 4:11; Deut. 30:6; Heb. 9:8-9; Ezek. 20:12

Q67: Are both the Word and the sacraments designed to direct our faith to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
A67: Yes, truly, for the Holy Ghost teaches in the Gospel and assures us by the holy sacraments, that our whole salvation stands in the one sacrifice of Christ made for us on the cross.[1]

1. Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; Heb. 9:12; Acts 2:41-42

Q68: How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the New Testament?
A68: Two: Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper.

Q75: How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper that you partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits?
Q75: Thus: that Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of Him, and has joined therewith these promises:[1] first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup communicated to me; and further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, as certainly as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given me as certain tokens of the body and blood of Christ.

1. Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; I Cor. 10:16-17; 11:23-25; 12:13

Q76: What does it mean to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ?
A76: It means not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal;[1] but moreover, also, to be so united more and more to His sacred body by the Holy Spirit,[2] who dwells both in Christ and in us, that, although He is in heaven [3] and we on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone,[4] and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are governed by one soul.[5]

1. John 6:35, 40, 47-48, 50-54
2. John 6:55-56
3. Acts 3:21; I Cor. 11:26
4. Eph. 3:16-19; 5:29-30, 32; I Cor. 6:15, 17, 19; I John 4:13
5. John 6:56-58, 63; 14:23; 15:1-6; Eph. 4:15-16

Q77: Where has Christ promised that He will thus feed and nourish believers with His body and blood as certainly as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?
A77: In the institution of the Supper, which says: The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come. And this promise is also repeated by the apostle Paul, where he says: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.[1]

1. I Cor. 11:23-25; 10:16-17

Q78: Do, then, the bread and the wine become the real body and blood of Christ?
A78: No, but as the water in Baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, nor becomes the washing away of sins itself, being only the divine token and assurance thereof,[1] so also in the Lord's Supper the sacred bread [2] does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.[3]

1. Matt. 26:29
2. I Cor. 11:26-28
3. Exod. 12:26-27, 43, 48; I Cor. 10:1-4

Q79: Why then does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the new testament in His blood; and the apostle Paul, the communion of the body and blood of Christ?
A79: Christ speaks thus with great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby, that like as the bread and wine sustain this temporal life, so also His crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink of our souls unto life eternal;[1] but much more, by this visible sign and pledge to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood by the working of the Holy Ghost, as we receive by the mouth of the body these holy tokens in remembrance of Him;[2] and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly our own, as if we ourselves had suffered and done all in our own person.

1. John 6:51-55
2. I Cor. 10:16-17

04 January 2006

Through another blog, I found an interesting article at WND. It's a sort of review of Brokeback Mountain, the "gay cowboy movie" which is the critics' darling at the moment. It's a story of two male cowboys who fall in love, then spend their life wishing they could be together (nevermind their wives and children, it's the rights of the cowboys we're interested in!) The article struck my interest, though, because of David Kupelian's thoughts on how movies affect us. Here's a pertinent quote:

Film is, by its very nature, highly propagandistic. That is, when you read a book, if you detect you're being lied to or manipulated, you can always stop reading, close the book momentarily and say, "Wait just a minute, there's something wrong here!" You can't do that in a film: You're bombarded with sound and images, all expertly crafted to give you selected information and to stimulate certain feelings, and you can't stop the barrage, not in a theater anyway. The visuals and sound and music – and along with them, the underlying agenda of the filmmakers – pursue you relentlessly, overwhelming your emotions and senses.

And when you leave the theater, unless you're really objective to what you've experienced, you've been changed – even if just a little bit.

I think his point is valid; movies lay claim to far more power than we often admit. If we really understood and believed this, I think two things would happen: first, we would have our guard up when choosing and watching movies. We would watch movies actively, not passively, watch them through a biblical worldview rather than passively adopt an unbiblical worldview.

Second, more Christians would go into moviemaking. If it really has this power to change people's minds, shouldn't we be using it for the glory of Christ? Hopefully, Christians in moviemaking wouldn't be underhanded about the change in view they're trying to effect, as most movies are.

You can read the article here, but please be warned that it contains some fairly graphic language about the movie.

03 January 2006

Short Notes

Hello again. I hope you had a great Christmas!


Here is the Christmas sermon on Christ's geneaology in Matthew 1:1-17

pdf (not working just yet)
mp3 @ (where we have a new site - see link on right)

The idea behind a different place to post audio sermons is twofold. We hope it increases exposure to those looking for a reformed church in Lafayette and the sermonaudio files are usually compressed more and make for a faster download - in case any of you are still in dial-up land.


Please also check out Pastor Long's sermon from Sunday, "Walking by Faith." Of all the challenges I can foresee in church planting, walking by the flesh rather than faith is at the top of the list.



Clued in by a couple staying at the same bed & breakfast, the lovely wife and I took the opportunity to go to the Indianaoplis Museum of Art to see the Arts and Crafts exhibit. I hope to do some more reading and looking into the philosophy behind the movement, but I can wholeheartedly recommend that you go see the exhibit. Although it is pricey for those of us with real jobs, you college students can get in free (!!) - how could you pass it up? It would be a great finish to your break from school.

Here's the museum's short take on the origins of the movement:

The Arts and Crafts Movement originated in Great Britain in the 1880s as a response to the Industrial Revolution and its machine-dominated production. Led by theorists John Ruskin and William Morris, the movement promoted the ideals of craftsmanship and individualism along with the integration of art into everyday life. Arts and Crafts principles changed the way people looked at the things they lived with—from teacups and spoons to tapestries and stained-glass windows—and resulted in a new respect for the work of individual craftsmen.
Interesting stuff, huh?

Short book reports:

Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts, by Steve Turner

As I continue to work through some ideas in this field, Turner's short book seems like a great introduction. While far from comprehensive, I appreciate the general way he thinks about Christian involvement in the arts. Mostly, he sums up this vision by the phrase "being there" - that is, we need men and women who are faithful Christians in every area of life living and working in the field of the arts. Turner wisely doesn't recommend one specific path, realizing that different Christians will be involved differently in the arts; rather, he encourages artists toward faithfulness in their Christian walk and thoughtfulness in how they live as a Christian in the arts.

Another section I appreciated was Turner's excellent critique of contemporary Christian music. As a poet and music critic working in the "secular" industry, he has some rather stinging comments on why most Christian music is really, really lame. The pressure to make every song about Jesus and happy-happy-joy-joy stuff has crippled many good musicians from making any serious music. Turner does present some good examples of men and women who have written, sung, painted, etc., about all of life, from a Christian worldview. Perhaps the most interesting example is U2 - while maybe not your taste theologically or musically, they do present an interesting case study of Christians engaging the world thoughtfully and artistically.

Anyhow, it's a pretty decent book; though not as comprehensive as Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts, it sets a good foundation and may be easily read by folk not in the "industry."

Shelf Life: How Books have Changed the Destinies and Desires of People and Nations

Despite the imposing title, this book is short enough to read in 2 or 3 hours. It is an enjoyable collection of quotes and essays on the importance of reading and good books. Compiled by George Grant and his wife, the book does not hesitate in going over the top rather quickly. That is to say, it's a rather hyperbolic and exuberant trip through the world of reading and the reader.

Grant's essays include finding and rejoicing in good bookstores, creating an environment at home which nourishes reading rather than video-viewing, reading to kids, and essays on the homes of other ridiculous readers like Churchill and Roosevelt. There are also several pages of "lists" (and lists of why lists are important) toward the end, revealing several attempts to create "must-read" lists of modern western literature. I freely admit that I only recognize half the authors and have probably only read one or two books on each list. Much work remains.

Those of you who read occasionally may find a little giggle here and there, but this book is really soul food for the bibliophiles among us, those who smell books when they get them, have stacks of books around the home and believe they make great decorations, buy books we may not ever read and don't lose a minute of sleep over, etc. Perhaps some of you ought to read this book just to find out why other people are the way they are.

Grant will not create a love for reading in you if you have no spark of it already; but if you a reader, even a nominal one, this might well push you over the edge.