Archive for June, 2009

Hope for the future brings power to the present

Alexis De Tocqueville, French Statesman and author, wrote in 1831: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her power. This explains why religious nations have so often achieved such lasting results: for while they were thinking only of the other world, they had found out the great secret of success in this.”

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Just a personal peeve

This will be short, but it’s prompted by two things:

1. My utter dislike for “performance oriented ” worship (?) an oxymoron if ever there was one.

2. My inability to perceive any real attempt to glorify God in much of CCM

Up front, I confess, I like most “Casting Crowns” songs, most of Chris Tomlin’s songs and a bevy of others that ring true in my heart and make me worshipful in mind and spirit. I also am a proponent of A-Capella singing in corporate worship. For me, it’s more a preference than a doctrine, but it’s avoids so much carnality when the focus is on singing to God instead of singing about to people.

Anyway, my peeve is this: so-called Christian artists who try to sound like someone who is secularly popular and who they aren’t suposed to want to be like…supposedly.

CSN radio plays a lot of edgy and pop style CCM and you hardly ever are told who the artists are (that’s an additional peeve). But what has bothered me lately is the affectation some of these artists take on which, for me, completely nullifies any spiritual benefit.  Over a short period of time I’ve heard artists that sound just like – Sara McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Dave Matthews. I had to really pay attention to the words in order to be sure it wasn’t one of the forgoing.

Please excuse me if I seem intolerant, but really, why should any Christian want to sound like a worldy and un-godly secular artist? I realize that many kids are influenced by what they were raised listening to and what they and their peers like, but must there be so much emphasis on sounding like anyone but yourself?

Time was, and still is with some artists, that you could tell their focus was on singing a song that lifted up Jesus and glorified God. For the most part (and I’m a guy who used to love Pink Floyd, Collective Soul, Jethro Tull, Aimee Mann and many other alternative bands) I see an emphasis on trying to sound cool and be popular in much of CCM today. People singing “I’d do anything for you, Jesus” and “You are the King of my life” but sounding like they’d rather be just like some popular rock band is not convincing. Most of CCM is pure junk and could be (and has been) played on secular radio without anyone getting a clue that the band is “Christian”.  And that is a crying shame.

My fear is that CCM is becoming very much the same kind of accessory that wearing a cross or even wearing free advertisements on clothing seems to be these days. After all, Brittany Spears is comfortable with the idea, in spite of her blatantly ungodly lifestyle, just to mention one sad example. The problem is that the idea of being a Christian in many churches and associations is not so much a lifestyle, but a nod to God. And not much more than that.

Sola Fide? Knot #1

Faith Alone!

Sounds great doesn’t it?

But where is it in the scriptures?

Those who believe the New Covenant is a two way agreement are labeled as Semi-Pelagic or “works-based” heretics. Yet scripture supports that view most assuredly. Are we saved by our works? No. Does our faith depend on works? No. But, does faith have a cause and effect? Absolutely!

A covenant is, by nature, a two party contract. God did not make a covenant with Himself, but with Abraham. Abraham was promised many things, but those promises were based on both his past and future obedience to God. If faith alone saved us, why then would Paul pray for “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” in his letters to Timothy? Faith requires obedience and because our obedience is often less than perfect, we need grace and mercy for continued peace with God.

In fact we see the very reverse stated! James, in his epistle that Luther famously wished would have been excluded from the Canon, says “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. ” (James 2:24 ESV)

In fact, it became very clear to me that even in the great hall of faith in Hebrews 11, every single one of these heroes DID something out of faith. They did not just sit on their hands and believe. They believed God and acted on what He told them!

Please note what the author of Hebrews emphasizes:

Heb 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Heb 11:2  For by it the people of old received their commendation.

Heb 11:3  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Heb 11:4  By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
Heb 11:5  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
Heb 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Heb 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Heb 11:8  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Heb 11:9  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
Heb 11:10  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Heb 11:11  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
Heb 11:12  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
Heb 11:13  These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Heb 11:14  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
Heb 11:15  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
Heb 11:16  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Heb 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,
Heb 11:18  of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
Heb 11:19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Heb 11:20  By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.
Heb 11:21  By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.
Heb 11:22  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
Heb 11:23  By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Heb 11:24  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
Heb 11:25  choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Heb 11:26  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Heb 11:27  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
Heb 11:28  By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
Heb 11:29  By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
Heb 11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
Heb 11:31  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Heb 11:32  And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–
Heb 11:33  who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Heb 11:34  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Heb 11:35  Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
Heb 11:36  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
Heb 11:37  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–
Heb 11:38  of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Heb 11:39  And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
Heb 11:40  since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

And what do we do with this?

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:6-8 ESV)

And these scriptures?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27 ESV)

And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48 ESV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
(2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, (1 Peter 1:17 ESV)

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
(2 Timothy 4:14 ESV)

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 ESV)

Sorry folks, but we do not receive favor or grace from God through “faith alone”, but because we believe and act on that faith. Who would credit a man with having a lot of faith in his employees if he never allowed them to make any decisions on their own? If we are saved by faith alone, then what is the point of  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Love requires “all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” and “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:8-13 ESV)

Faith is the groundwork of our New Covenant with God. But, it must be built upon or it is not a true faith at all. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)