Sunday, March 26, 2006

Church Music

While Tom Ascol was away last week, he had Ken Puls filling in as guest blogger at Founders Ministry Blog. His topic over a four-part series was Finding Our Voices in Worship. In this series Puls guides the reader through three tests to use in selecting music for worship. These tests are made up of scriptural as well as pragmatic considerations. To be sure, these tests are very general, leaving a bit of wiggle room for musical style and taste; but if you are honest in your assessment, and truly desire to please God through your church singing, then you will find this series of posts most helpful.

Pilgrim's Progress: The Enchanted Ground

Our readings take us this Sunday to the final leg of Christian and Hopeful's journey. One of the best things that our Savior has given us for that journey is the support of fellow like-minded travelers and a good testimony of God's grace in us. As is illustrated here, let us make good use of both to shake off the "drowsyness" of this world.

We will probably read on past the listed passage today, as summer is creeping up, and I want to start a study of the Baptist Faith and Message soon. Besides, my wife and her girls have already finished PP, as they are faster readers than my boys.

I saw then in my dream, that they went till they came into a certain country, whose air naturally tended to make one drowsy, if he came a stranger into it. And here HOPEFUL began to be very dull and heavy of sleep; wherefore he said unto CHRISTIAN, "I do now begin to grow so drowsy, that I can scarcely hold up mine eyes; let us lie down here and take one nap."
Chr. "By no means," said the other; "lest sleeping, we never awake more."
Hope. Why, my brother, sleep is sweet to the labouring man; we may be refreshed if we take a nap.
Chr. Do you not remember that one of the shepherds bade us beware of the Enchanted Ground? He meant by that, that we should beware of sleeping; wherefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6 )
Hope. I acknowledge myself in a fault; and had I been here alone, I had, by sleeping, run the danger of death. I see it is true that the wise man saith, "Two are better than one". (Ecclesiastes 4:9) Hitherto hath thy company been my mercy; and thou shalt have a good reward for thy labour.
Chr. "Now," then said CHRISTIAN, "to prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse."
Hope. "With all my heart," said the other.
Chr. Where shall we begin?
Hope. Where God began with us.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What a Week!

What a whirlwind week this has been for Southern Baptists. If you don't know what I mean, then you have some considerable reading to get you up to speed. Follow the links in this post, and follow the links found at those web logs, and after about a week of steady reading you will be up to speed. I am sure that the emotions of countless concerned Christians, Southern Baptist and otherwise, have been on an emotional roller-coaster ride as they waited for news from the International Mission Board meeting this week in Tampa, Florida. One day news was good, then the next it was not so good. Business from one day which looked favorable, on closer scrutiny didn't look so good the next. New policy papers superseding the "Blue Book" were the end one day, only to reveal glimmers of hope on closer scrutiny the next. And then cries of "Where was the apology?", and "With this kind of secrecy descending over the IMB, I don't know if I can give to the Cooperative Program any more." Since this issue surfaced shortly before the first of the year (It has really been below the surface since last summer.) I haven't posted much on it because there were numerous others who, being closer to the situation, have been doing a very fine job of it. As this came to a crisis this week, there were a few things that I feel haven't been said, or haven't been adequately emphasized.
  • "Where was the apology?" I have yet to hear Wade Burleson complaining with this question, so why should anyone else on his behalf? I have read every post Wade Burleson has posted on Grace and Truth to You, and I have yet to find a harsh or unkind word. He doesn't take swipes, is not sarcastic, doesn't gripe. Read his last two posts here and here, and look at how a godly and gracious Christian man responds to great personal upheaval. We all have before us an object lesson of what it means to obey Philippians 2:5. Wade wants Christ to be magnified in his life, as well as in the IMB. He's a part of the IMB, so it starts with him. He has larger motives than just his own personal reputation.
  • "I don't know if I can give to the Cooperative Program any more." Cutting off funds is going to help all of those missionaries - uhhh, how? When they all have to come home, the lost are going to be reached - uhhh, how? Sounds to me like cutting your nose off to spite your face. It is way too early to be saying, or even thinking, things like this. A great post that I did read, which emphasized the missionaries, was by Marty Duren, at the SBC Outpost. A better post you will not find to both inspire and convict concerning those laboring in the mission fields.
  • The Sovereignty of God: Especially for us in the reformed tradition, where is our confidence in the doctrines of grace? Is our God on his throne, or not? I thought about Wade a couple days ago in light of these events. Is it too dramatic to say he may be the Luther, or Edwards, or Whitfield of our day? What is God doing, or about to do through him? I found this same theme of God's sovereignty, much more eloquently than I have put it, at CrossConnect, by David Phillips.
  • Determined and optimistic: Again, I found one - there may be more - post that wasn't doom and gloom. Bowden McElroy at Interregnum, who I had the priveledge to meet a couple of weeks ago, had this to say: "I am neither shocked, outraged, depressed, or angry over the recent changes Wade and Marty have written about. Instead, I am determined." This comes from a man who very likely will see one, if not of his daughters enter the mission field in the not too distant future under the umbrella of the IMB.
Back when I use to blog on a wider range of issues, I always liked to quote something, anything from Douglas Wilson. I try in vain to keep up with what goes on over at Blog and Mablog, since his pen is never idle. When I find the time I can always find something good to read there, even though I don't agree with much of his ecclesiology. Besides, I enjoy his "serrated" wit. Turns out, even Wilson may be watching the comings and goings over at the IMB. In yesterday's post he drops a line that indicates he very well may be: "Keeping track of all the groups that go all the way back is almost as hard as keeping track of all the Presbyterian microbrew continuing church movements that go all the way back to Thomas Chalmers. Oh, and I forgot the Baptists. Their trail of blood goes all the way back." You never know who may be watching. That's something we need to keep in mind too.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Special Guest Speaker

My pastor has been on a well-deserved vacation this week. In his place we were blessed to hear Brother Bowden McElroy both this morning and evening. I became acquainted with Brother McElroy a few weeks ago through his web log, Interregnum, only to find out a few days later that my pastor knew him. The next thing I knew he was slated to speak this week to provide much-needed supply for my pastor. The name of his two messages were The Blame Game, from Psalm 3, and Fear, from Psalm 3. You can also access these two sermons at the podcast site at Bulldogs and Piggies. Thank you, Brother McElroy.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pilgrim's Progress: The Flatterer & Atheist

Well, we finally worked our way through the Delectable Mountains, and the story of Little-Faith. Moving on to the next section, I have selected to post a much shorter passage, one that my class will be able to work through in a single Sunday. The proximity of these two short passages resting side by side is evidence of the fact that pitfalls in the Christian journey can be disguised behind plesantries (flattery), or have no disguises at all (atheist). As followers of Christ we must be prepared for the kisses of the enemy (Proverbs 27:6) as well as his blows.

The Flatterer
So they went on, and IGNORANCE followed. They went then till they came to a place where they saw a way put itself into their way, and seemed withal to lie as straight as the way which they should go; and here they knew not which of the two to take, for both seemed straight before them; therefore here they stood still to consider. And as they were thinking about the way, behold a man, black of flesh, but covered with a very light robe, came to them and asked them, "Why they stood there?" They answered, "They were going to the Celestial City, but knew not which of these ways to take." "Follow me!" said the man; "it is thither that I am going." So they followed him in the way that but now came into the road, which by degrees turned and turned them so from the city that they desired to go to, that in a little time their faces were turned away from it; yet they followed him. But by and by, before they were aware, he led them both within the compass of a net, in which they were both so entangled that they knew not what to do; and with that the white robe fell off the black man's back: then they saw where they were. Wherefore there they lay crying some time; for they could not get themselves out. Chr. Then said CHRISTIAN to his fellow, "Now do I see myself in an error. Did not the shepherds bid us beware of the flatterers? As is the saying of the wise man, so we have found it this day: 'A man that flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet'". Hope. They also gave us a note of directions about the way, for our more sure finding thereof; but therein we have also forgotten to read, and have not kept ourselves from the paths of the destroyer. Here David was wiser than we; for, saith he, "Concerning the works of men, by the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." Thus they lay bewailing themselves in the net. At last they espied a shining one coming towards them, with a whip of small cord in his hand. When he was come to the place where they were, he asked them whence they came? and what they did there? They told him, "That they were poor pilgrims going to Zion; but were led out of their way by a black man clothed in white, who bid us," said they, "follow him; for he was going thither too." Then said he with the whip, "It is FLATTERER, a false apostle, that hath transformed himself into an angel of light". So he rent the net, and let the men out Then said he to them, "Follow me, that I may set you in your way again." So he led them back to the way which they had left to follow the Flatterer. Then he asked them, saying, "Where did you lie the last night?" They said, "with the shepherds upon the Delectable Mountains." He asked them then, "If they had not of those shepherds a note of direction for the way?" They answered, "Yes." "But did you," said he, "when you were at a stand, pluck out and read your note?" They answered, "No." He asked them why? They said they forgot. He asked, moreover, "If the shepherds did not bid them beware of the Flatterer?" They answered, "Yes; but we did not imagine," said they, "that this fine spoken man had been he". Then I saw in my dream that he commanded them to lie down; which when they did, he chastised them sore to teach them the good way wherein they should walk. And as he chastised them, he said "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent". This done, he bade them go on their way, and take good heed to the other directions of the shepherds. So they thanked him for all his kindness; and went softly along the right way, singing: "Come hither, you that walk along the way; See how the pilgrims fare that go astray! They catched are in an entangling net, 'Cause they good counsel lightly did forget. 'Tis true they rescued were; but yet you see They're scourged to boot. Let this your caution be!"
Atheist Now after awhile, they perceived afar off one coming softly and alone, all along the highway, to meet them. Then said CHRISTIAN to his fellow, "Yonder is a man with his back toward Zion; and he is coming to meet us." Hope. I see him; let us take heed to ourselves now, lest he should prove a flatterer also. So he drew nearer and nearer; and at last came up unto them. His name was ATHEIST; and he asked them whither they were going? Chr. We are going to the Mount Zion. Then ATHEIST fell into a very great laughter. Chr. What is the meaning of your laughter? Atheist. I laugh to see what ignorant persons you are, to take upon you so tedious a journey, and yet are like to have nothing but your travel for your pains. Chr. Why, man; do you think we shall not be received? Ath. Received! There is no such place as you dream of in all this world. Chr. But there is in the world to come. Ath. When I was at home in mine own country, I heard as you now affirm, and from that hearing went out to see; and have been seeking this city these twenty years, but find no more of it than I did the first day I set out. Chr. We have both heard and believe that there is such a place to be found. Ath. Had not I, when at home, believed, I had not come thus far to seek; but finding none (and yet I should, had there been such a place to be found, for I have gone to seek it farther than you), I am going back again, and will seek to refresh myself with the things that I then cast away for hopes of that which I now see is not. Chr. Then said CHRISTIAN to HOPEFUL, his fellow, "Is it true which this man hath said ?" Hope. "Take heed, he is one of the flatterers; remember what it hath cost us once already for our hearkening to such kind of fellows. What! no Mount Zion! did we not see from the Delectable Mountains the gate of the city? Also, are we not now to walk by faith? Let us go on," said HOPEFUL; "lest the man with the whip overtake us again. You should have taught me that lesson, which I will round you in the ears withal: 'Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causes to err from the words of knowledge.' I say, my brother, cease to hear him, and let us believe to the saving of the soul". Chr. My brother, I did not put the question to thee, for that I doubted of the truth of our belief myself; but to prove thee, and to fetch from thee a fruit of the honesty of thy heart. As for this man, I know that he is blinded by the god of this world: let thee and I go on, knowing that we have belief of the truth, and "no lie is of the truth". Hope. Now do I rejoice in hope of the glory of God! So they turned away from the man; and he, laughing at them, went his way.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

May the Mind of Christ My Savior: Author's biographies

This beautiful hymn amazes me because it comes, lyrics and tune, out of the 20th century. It reads and sounds like it should come from the Puritan era. Kate Barclay Wilkinson, the author of "May the Mind of Christ My Savior", was born in 1859, in Wooland Bank, Timperley, Cheshire, England. A member of the Church of England, she was involved in a ministry to girls and young women in west London. It was cited in some of the biographies that I read that her husband was an engineer. It should be instructive to us all of how a woman of an obviously high social standing spent her talents for the Kingdom of God. The words to her hymn, as well as the example of her selfless life, should cause us too to seek to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-8). Kate Barclay Wilkinson died on December 28, 1928, in Kensington, London, England. Arthur Cyril Barham-Gould, composed the hymn tune ST. LEONARDS. He was born in England in 1891 and educated at Ridley Hall at Cambridge. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1927. He served from that time at various churches until his death. He died on February 14, 1953, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Both of these figures being servants of God in the Church of England; would that that church were filled with such servants even today.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

May the Mind of Christ My Savior

May the mind of Christ, my Savior, Live in me from day to day, By His love and power controlling All I do and say. May the Word of God dwell richly In my heart from hour to hour, So that all may see I triumph Only through His power. May the peace of God my Father Rule my life in everything, That I may be calm to comfort Sick and sorrowing. May the love of Jesus fill me As the waters fill the sea; Him exalting, self abasing, This is victory. May I run the race before me, Strong and brave to face the foe, Looking only unto Jesus As I onward go. May His beauty rest upon me, As I seek the lost to win, And may they forget the channel, Seeing only Him.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Proper Vision

Many posts over the Christian blogosphere, probably more than any of us realize, have been devoted to this won't-go-away controversy concerning the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board. I have grown weary of all of the logical arguments, all of the rational positions, all of the speculations of intent, good will, bad will, etc., from either perspective. What I want to see is more posts like the samples I have excerpted below. To borrow from the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, in this matter, let's have an eye towards the "great objects" of God's Kingdom (Article XIV: Cooperation) Art Rogers at 12 Witnesses, commenting on the book Eating the Elephant by Thom Rainer and Chuck Lawless.
The main tenet, with which I must agree, is that the structure is not the primary problem of any church. It is the focus of the church that becomes the root of all problems. Have we got God's heart for the lost in the forefront of our minds? When we are able to do that, we can move toward whatever programming we may need. If we truly value the lost, we will give up our own comfort and be willing to risk much to get the job done.
Pastor Wade Burleson at Grace and Truth to You
I hope that we as Southern Baptists can come to the realization that what we are striving for in our mission efforts around the world is the evangelization and discipleship of people in need of a Savior.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Not-So-Traditional Hymnody

For those of you who enjoy the rich, full, Scriptural content of those old hymns, here are a couple of sites dedicated to solid lyrics. This first site uses the old lyrics of days (many) gone by, and either "modernizes" the tune or creates a new one. The other site is thoroughly modern, creating brand new church music. It all depends on what you are use to, but I think most will find the music available at these two sites profitable. This link gets you to Bob Kauflin's Blog. The music resources are found in the right margin. CD's and music books are available for purchase, as well as other resources. Kauflin's blog is very good too if you are involved in leading music in worship, no matter what style of music your church has. Indelible Grace Music has a good many freely downloadable files of sheet music, piano scores, sample audio files, and great articles. CD's of the performed music are also available for sale here. Go to the "Resources" block in the left margin. If you are a Mac user, this site is NOT Safari-frendly. Use Firefox instead.