November 26, 2007

Music Monday #5: Christmas Tunes

In the spirit of using this meme/category/whatever to copy things other people are doing, today I'm ripping off Tim Challies (hey, if I'm going to copy someone, may as well be him, right?)

And it's a topic that's near and dear to my heart -- Christmas music. I like holiday music in general (just wait 'til St. Patrick's Day ...), and there aren't too many holidays with the huge variety of music that Christmas has. And I've got a huge variety. 111 songs all together, just over 5 hours and 15 minutes worth. We'll hear it all twice on the way to my Mom's for Christmas. more...

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November 24, 2007

Televangelists, Ole Anthony, and the Truth

Congress is looking into the finances of televangelists - that's old news. Ole Anthony, the man in charge of watchdog group Trinity Foundation, is The Man of The Hour. He's interviewed everywhere, quoted by everyone, and is the recognized authority on the financial shortcomings of megapastors.

Maybe Ole needs to investigate himself. And maybe the national news should report the entire story. more...

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November 20, 2007

Why I Write In My Books

People always look at me funny when they see me writing in my books. "Taking notes for a class?" they ask. "Nope," I answer, "Just found something interesting." Or "just had a question I wanted to note." Or ... you get the idea.

And they look at me like I'm an alien.

Now I can just point them to this article.

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November 17, 2007

Big South Champs!!

Congratulations to my alma mater, Liberty University, on their first ever football championship, capping off an outstanding season with a 31-0 victory over Gardner-Webb on the road in North Carolina. LU ends the season at 8-3, and undefeated in conference play. The jury's still out on an FCS playoff bid, though LU has been told they were in the running for an at-large spot. Those are still long odds, but maybe this time next year ....

Jerry's tailgating with Peter, guys. Outstanding job.

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Book Review: The Identity Factor by James Houston Turner

I was set to not like this book. I've gotten a lot of small press/self-published books in the past few weeks, and most of them have been terrible. And the PR sheet on this one talked about how it was challenging the traditional evangelical view of the Pentateuch -- that Moses wrote it. So I figured that I'd read it, rip it, and move on. But The Identity Factor is actually quite good, and doesn't say much at all that would offend anyone who holds to the traditional view of Mosaic authorship of the Torah.

Basic plot line goes like this -- there's a tablet that was found in the 1920s that is an almost verbatim copy of major parts of Genesis. BUT it's 500 years older than the Genesis accounts, and it claims to have been written by Ishmael. AND it repeats the claim that Jews have been making for thousands of years -- that Palestine belongs to them, not the Arabs.

So you can see that a modern rediscovery of this tablet would cause some serious commotion -- and that's where the book begins. The tablet's been found, and the Middle East is about to explode in a ball of fire.

That's the simple plot. The book is nowhere near that simple. Tied in with the basic plot is the CIA's search for a terrorist, Abu Nazer. Nobody knows who he is, or where he is. But the CIA's getting close. And he's somehow involved with the tablet and it's re-discovery.

Every time you meet a character in this book, you start to wonder who they really are, and what they're really after. That's how complicated things get in this book. The Identity Factor is one of the best spy/thriller novels I've read in a while, just for that reason. Too often, you know exactly what's going on a quarter of the way through the book, and that makes wading through the rest a real challenge. But in The Identity Factor, you're really not sure until the final chapter what actually is going on, and who is who. And yet Turner does this without it seeming contrived.

The Identity Factor is a fast-paced book that you're going to have a hard time putting down. I highly recommend it.

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The Arbuckle Association, Calvinism, and Christian Attitudes

There's been much said in Reformed circles about the recent resolution condemning Calvinism that was passed by the Arbuckle Baptist Association in Oklahoma. I've held off, simply because so much has been said elsewhere that I figured my comments would get lost in the clamor. But I really think that we need to look at this resolution as an opportunity to learn for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists, because there seems to be more to this issue than just a misunderstanding about what Calvinism is, and the differences between Calvinism and hyperCalvinism.

Wes Kenney has a bit of an insider's view of the issue, and makes some good points in his article about the controversy. One thing that he writes was very telling, to me, anyway.

The pastor who was the driving force behind this move, Dr. Joe Elam of First Baptist Church in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, had until about eighteen months ago a Calvinist staff member who did much, both before and after he separated from the church, to undermine Dr. Elam’s leadership of that church.

Someone seems to have been creating division in that church in the name of Calvinism. And if you read many "cage-stage" Calvinists, you can understand why people might react in just this way. So what's the solution?

Charity. Disagree with people, but don't undermine their authority or ministry because of that disagreement. If you find that you cannot work with someone else because of their theology, then don't work with them. Leave -- don't try to tear apart a church or tear down a ministry because of it. If you've ever wondered why so many Southern Baptists don't seem to want to work with Calvinists, maybe it's because so many Southern Baptists encounter Calvinists that won't work with anyone else.

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November 12, 2007

Music Monday #4: Something Positive

I mentioned when I started this meme that I'd stolen it from someone. Now I'm going to copy even more by posting some links to music I've been enjoying lately.

First up is Three Cord Wonder. First band I ever played on my podcast. The video is black and white, but it is a great indication of the energy this band has.

Next is Willet. This is a group that's from my hometown of Westminster, MD, and these brothers rock.

Breaking the Silence -- Stand. This is an outstanding band that I found on MySpace. And, as with the other bands I've featured on this post, they also rock.

And finally, a little blues. The Reverend Jimmie Bratcher, live in concert.

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Music Mondays #3: The Theology of Lyrics

(and yes, I know I skipped a week. shhh!)

An odd thing happened to me after I started seminary, and it's all Al Mohler's fault. On my first day of Systematic I, he told us that his goal was to make us think theologically about everything. And now, I do.

Especially music. I can deal with musicians who make no faith claims at all who write music that I have philosophical/theological disagreements with, but artists who tag themselves with the name Christian should be much more careful with their lyrics. And I know there are some things that Christians are going to disagree with -- write a song about the Rapture and odds are good that you're going to upset more people than you make happy, for example. But there are basics that we all do agree on, and those basics shouldn't be messed with in the lyrics to Christian songs.

Which brings me to today's rant. Ever since Radio U's transmitter here locally stopped transmitting (the risks of listener-supported radio), I've been listening to KLove. NOT my first choice, but I've gotten used to listening to CCM, especially since my iPod fried on me. There's one song that I absolutely have to change the station for whenever it comes on -- Point of Grace's "How You Live (Turn Up The Music)."

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
You won't regret it
Lookin' back from where you have been
Cuz it's not who you knew
And it's not what you did
It's how you live

Now, I have no problem with turning up the music, and normally I do, in fact, turn it up pretty loud. I do have a problem with the whole "it's not who you know" attitude, because when you come right down to it, that's exactly what it's about. It's all about who you know -- which is a line from another song that, ironically, Klove used to play, and probably still would if someone asked.

How we live has no relevance if we don't know Christ. In fact, the Bible teaches us that how we live cannot please God at all. How we live apart from Christ is irrelevant -- it is, in fact, all about who we know.

Now, I don't expect songwriters to be theologians, though some of the best hymn writers in Christian history were theologians (Luther, Wesley, etc.). I do expect them to realize that their songs are not just fluff pieces for the entertainment of the masses -- that there is some significance in what we sing when we sing to God. So maybe they should have some familiarity with basic Christian doctrine, so that they don't write songs that contradict it.

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November 11, 2007

In Flanders Field

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-191
Canadian Army

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November 05, 2007

Almost Forgot ...

We beat Coastal.

VMI next weekend in the 'Burg, then we head to Gardner-Webb for the game that will probably decide who wins the Big South conference. Go Flames!!

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The Theology of Abortion

Al Mohler quotes Garry Wills today concerning abortion. According to Wills, abortion is not a theological issue, since the Bible doesn't mention it, and the church councils never address it. Mohler reminds us that while the councils don't address the issue, it is addressed by the Didache -- in the very second chapter, in fact. So it would seem that the early church at least thought it was an important issue for the Church to recognize.

But I really think that theology, and theological disagreement, is at the heart of the abortion issue. Christians believe in the imago Dei -- the image of God, and the idea that we are all created in that image. Rejection of the imago Dei leads to a low opinion of human life -- the idea that we're all expendable, especially if there's a possibility that we're unwanted, or will be less than the ideal child. Too many abortions are matters of convenience -- kids will just "cramp our style." And unfortunately, too many of those abortions are insisted upon by the father, who lacks the emotional ability to actually be a Daddy. The child isn't even seen as a choice -- it's an inconvenience, and embarrassment. We see it as getting rid of a bit of tissue. We don't look at this child as a being that is created in the very image of God -- a gift to us.

I've gotten a few bad gifts in my life -- and I've given a few, too. But I would never simply throw the gift away -- I express my appreciation to the giver, and I find a way to make that gift a part of my life. I've worn ugly sweaters, read terrible books, and eaten nasty food, simply because it was a gift, and I don't want to offend or upset the giver.

Unfortunately, we've forgotten the Giver. We think of our unborn as simply biological byproducts, something that's disposable (we can always make another one, right?), rather than a gift given to us by our Creator. A gift that is made in the very image of the One who gave it.

As Christians, our motivation to end abortion is theological. Abortion is a theological issue -- it goes to the very heart of who God is, and what we are.

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