Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Son of God Goes Forth to War

This is the congregation of Cornerstone Reformed Church [CREC, Illinois] singing yet another dead, dry, dusty traditional hymn.  Check out the young men in the front row ... poor boys - you can tell they're just dying for something hipper maybe with drums and guitars;  poor folks in the middle, they're yawning or maybe lipsynching;  and the folks in the back, well anyone can see how badly they need a big screen and projector; poor flock - this is such a complex tune and obviously way too difficult and involved to be worth their time to learn; and did you see how limp and lifeless the preacher was as he struggled to muster a prayer after the hymn had ended?  [post-hyper-sarcasm]  If we are going to raise the next generation of Christian martyrs, they will march to the gallows singing songs like this.  Think about the theology of your singing - what you sing and how you sing it!
The Son of God goes forth to war,
a kingly crown to gain;
his blood red banner streams afar:
who follows in his train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
triumphant over pain,
who patient bears his cross below,
he follows in his train.

That martyr first, whose eagle eye
could pierce beyond the grave;
who saw his Master in the sky,
and called on him to save.
Like him, with pardon on his tongue,
in midst of mortal pain,
he prayed for them that did the wrong:
who follows in his train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
on whom the Spirit came;
twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
and mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant's brandished steel,
the lion's gory mane;
they bowed their heads the death to feel:
who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
the matron and the maid,
around the Savior's throne rejoice,
in robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
to follow in their train.

- Reginald Heber, 1827

Friday, November 27, 2009

What is Contemporary Music?

One of the things I’ve found intruiguing in the nomenclature that’s used to describe the appropriation of popular forms in the church is: ‘contemporary worship’.   And the reason I balk at that is because the 20th century is one of the most deadly and tragic centuries in history.  The writer who probably captures the 20th century best is somebody like Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the aforementioned examples of Part and Gorecki - that’s contemporary music!  And yet the idea that contemporary Christian music is only of a particular form, I find it shows a lack of appreciation for what the contemporary really is.  What is the nature of our times?  If we step back and say, ‘What is the nature of our times?  What kinds of music are appropriate for the nature of our times? …not just the nature of show business or the nature of entertainment in the world.  And that’s where I think that the Church has to be honest about the age that we’re living in.  The Church only sees the ‘glitzy’ side of the age that we’re living in and say that’s what we have resonance with rather than recognize the tragedies of the age as well. 

- Ken Myers, discussing his book, All God's Children in Blue Suede Shoes
Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sheep without a shepherd

‘There are tens of thousands of older people in nursing homes today who don’t have a pastor they trust to do their funerals.’… because the pastor has been so eager to look like Seinfeld for the last 10 years that they’re not confident that they can do their funerals.

- Al Mohler quoting Gene Veith

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Education and Entertainment

Is it a surprise, then, that this generation of students -- steeped in consumer culture before going off to school, treated as potent customers by the university well before their date of arrival, then pandered to from day one until the morning of the final kiss-off from Kermit or one of his kin -- are inclined to see the books they read as a string of entertainments to be placidly enjoyed or languidly cast down? Given the way universities are now administered (which is more and more to say, given the way that they are currently marketed), is it a shock that the kids don't come to school hot to learn, unable to beat their own ignorance? For some measure of self-dislike, or self-discontent -- which is much different than simple depression -- seems to me to be a prerequisite for getting an education that matters. My students, alas, usually lack the confidence to acknowledge what would be their most precious asset for learning: their ignorance.

Mark Edmundson

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Santayana had it Right

The Postal Service just announced that the Post Office lost $3.8 billion last year.  I’ve got a good idea:  let’s put the government in charge of healthcare!

- Jay Leno

Monday, November 23, 2009

Daycare Deception

"… Dr. Benjamin Spock, after flatly informing 1950s mothers that day nurseries are "no good for infants," deleted this advice from 1990s editions of his manual because it made working mothers feel guilty (and to no avail, because they were headed to work anyway). Spock himself admitted: 'It's a cowardly thing that I did; I just tossed it in subsequent editions.' "

-          Brian C. RobertsonDay Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Be There, Dad

… you never really know how your words or actions will affect your children.  What will they say about you when you’re gone?  What moment will they remember?  What will they tell their children about you?  … the most precious things a father can provide are time, attention, and love.   For about six months, [in preparation for this book about remembering our fathers] I read hundreds of letters and emails every day but I can’t remember a single one that said ‘My father gave me every material thing I wanted’ or ‘what I remember about my dad is the TV he bought me’.  What we remember about our fathers has nothing little or nothing to do with material objects.  We remember the time they gave us – whether indirectly [through hard work] or in more conventional ways – time spent providing advice, telling a bedtime story, or simply showing up for a recital, spelling bee, or an athletic event.  There’s a reason one of these chapters is called, “Being there”.

-Tim Russert [1950-2008], an excerpt from his book, The Wisdom of our Fathers 
Picture from Getty Images

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lord's Day Meditation

Despite the source [Romans 12.9], I was struck by these lines.  It would do us all good to take in a large dose of this:

Truly, our mighty men are nothing before Thee, and the men of fame as though they had never been; the learned appear void of knowledge and the wise like men without understanding.  For their deeds are vain, and their lives, days of emptiness before Thine eyes; and whatever we are, O God, we are through Thee and Thy Divine Aid.

- excerpt from a Jewish Prayer for the Day of Atonement

Thursday, November 19, 2009

MTV Worldview

Often there’s a kind of official and systematic rebelliousness that’s reflected in media products pitched at kids.  It’s part of the official rock-video worldview.  It’s part of the official advertizing worldview – that your parents are creeps, teachers are nerds and idiots, authority figures are laughable, and nobody can really understand kids, except the corporate sponsor.  That huge authority has, interestingly enough, emerged as the sort of tacit superhero of consumer culture. That's the coolest entity of all, and yet they are very busily selling the illusion that they are there to liberate the youth, to let them be free, to let them be themselves, to let them think different, and so on. But it's really just an enormous sales job.

- Mark Crispin Miller, media critic, NYU professor, and author of Boxed In: The Culture of TV

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Real Difference Between Cats and Dogs

I’ve been told the difference between cats and dogs is that a dog looks at his master and says, ‘Wow, he gives me food, gives me toys, plays with me, he grooms me … he must be a god.’  And a cat looks at his master and says, ‘Wow, he gives me food, he gives me toys, he plays with me, he grooms me … I must be a god.’ 

Surrounded by a super-abundance of choices very few of us feel like dogs.  We don’t feel humble that we live in a world where things have been taken care of us this way, we tend to feel empowered … whether or not we actually are.  We don’t regard the people who provide us with those choices as special and worthy, we feel that we’re special and worthy to be addressed so deliberately, so earnestly, and so creatively. 

-Ken Myers, Electronic Media and Restless Souls

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Fog of Battle

Odd alliances and friendships can form in the course of a church conflict. I have seen a disgruntled person leave the church because of something that someone else in the church was doing. And then, when that someone else also became disgruntled and left, the two immediately sought one another out. Over the years, I have called this kind of thing the Fellowship of the Grievance (FOG). People who are unhappy with a church for various (and sometimes contradictory) reasons will find in the mere fact of their grievance a kinship or a bond with others who are peeved. This is a strange and perverse sort of koinonia—in gripes there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. 

        Douglas Wilson, The Genesis of Church Conflict

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Butterfly Effect

God’s way is to use the butterfly effect…  Chaos theory is much more Christian than what came before [in the study of physics] because it deals with the complexities of existence in time.  The butterfly effect says that a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere in the Amazon and it sets currents in the air that eventually cause a tornado in Texas.  God says He wants the nations of the world to become theocracies and you start by sprinkling a few drops of water on the heads of babies…The idea that God is going to start things with something so infinitesimally small doesn’t compute, but that’s exactly how God does things.  He tells us not to despise the day of small things.  And you have no idea where things will be 50 years from now if a few small-situation people are faithful, if we can get a new Cantus Christi with all the Psalms in it [which of course is the goal], and we get all the Psalms in the Church, and we get people thinking in terms of warfare and shaking spears when they sing the Psalms [which are war dances before you go into battle], things change!  But they don’t change directly in the way you think they do.  God’s usual way of doing things is to give you a vision, then kill it, bury it, then rebuild it somewhere else.  He does things in mysterious ways.  So if we want things to change, the answer is be faithful in small things and it’s amazing what butterfly effects will come.  That is the way the Bible teaches things change.

- James Jordan

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Real Problem with Authority

I would say that authority is - in a way - a bigger crisis than the crisis of truth in postmodern culture.  Because authority constitutes also moral authority, the idea that God is a Judge to Whom we are rightly accountable.  The gospel is unimaginable without the concept of authority. 

-          Ken Meyers, IX Marks interview

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Your Father's Church Methodology ... or is it?

When we talk about adapting the Gospel and Christian message to fit generational niches and habits, that is what Willow Creek inaugurated.  The evangelical church has become significantly 'Willow-Creek-ized'.  It is true that the emergent church is a reaction to that in large measure, but not a total reaction.  Some of those marketing habits have continued, it’s just that instead of marketing to the boomers [which is what Willow Creek got stuck on] Gen-Xer’s are the target niche and generation for the emergent crowd.  But the emergent crowd is also reacting against the emptiness and shallowness and triviality of much of what has resulted from the marketing of the gospel. So there is both continuity and discontinuity.  

– David F Wells
[Photo by Webb Chappelle for the Boston Globe]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Problems have Deep Roots

I have seen it without going a mile from home, that in a Church of between three and four hundred communicants, there are but few more than one hundred men; all the rest are women.

-          Cotton Mather, 1692

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fighting Socialism from your Family Dinner Table

As we talked more and more I began to see this as a personal responsibility issue.  95% of my effort in fighting socialism really is how I educate my children; the kind of relationship I have with my daughters; the kind of relationship I have with my father and mother; my willingness to bring them into my home and take care of them myself.  And I’m sorry, but that’s really a lot more difficult than writing a check to the Heritage Foundation!

- Kevin Swanson
 [photo at Christian Heritage Online]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The God Who is There ... whether you've got the tinglies or not

One of the best books on worship by Don Hustad, Jubilate!: Church Music in the Evangelical Tradition, says that basically, there is a Pentecostal/Charismatic understanding of worship – which I think is more and more true for Evangelical worship at large --  which is that people by having more of an experience in worship, that that is when God becomes present.  In their experience, when they reach a certain threshold, then God is present.  So that is why in so many praise and worship settings you have this half hour of song which is supposed to work everybody up to get them to an emotional pitch where God is present, which is totally different from Reformed worship where at the very beginning we invoke the presence of God and at that point, we’re there-- we’ve been raised up to Glory with the Saints and angels and God is there whether we know it or not.  So there’s this objective element to Reformed worship that something is going on there whether or not you’re experiencing it. 

- D G Hart,  in an interview w/ Mark Dever at IX Marks
[photo: Twin Cities Masters Chorale]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fatherhood 101

The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

-          Theodore M. Hesburgh

Sunday, November 1, 2009