“Alleluia” is better for our worship than “America”

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The Scriptures teach that all corporate singing of the church is to have the “words of Christ,” in them. Also, our songs are to have two audiences only: “one another” (that’s the church) and “God” (see Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; see also the psalms, lamentations, the songs recorded in Exodus 15, David’s songs recorded in Samuel, and John’s songs recorded in Revelation). Meaning, the gathered church is to sing the truth of God’s word to both one another and to our Lord. Our singing is to give a witness of the gospel to those who do not know Christ.

This truth about the corporate singing of the church raises several questions that can keep us on track with what the Scriptures teach. Here are a few questions that help guide us for Sunday morning singing:

  1. Can this song be sung to worship God who sent his son Jesus Christ?
  2. Can this song be sung to worship God by edifying and speaking to the saints as those in Christ?
  3. Can this song be sung in other countries where Christians gather, AND, would edify those saints? Remember, all of scripture teaches that when the saints sing, they sing from the perspective of “out of every, tribe, tongue, people, and nation”, instead of a “tribalism” that focuses on ones national identity with an earthly kingdom. The Local Church is to display the Universal Church  – “sons of Abraham” – so that the song you sing, if translated into another language, that people group could worship Christ, too.
  4. Is this song scriptural – the words, the philosophy, the purpose and aim? or is it sung more out of tradition, sentimentalism, nostalgia?
  5. Does this song cause me to think of either what God has done for me in Christ and/or what I am to do for my Lord and my fellowman (Love)?
  6. Is the gospel expressed in this song either implicitly or explicitly?
  7. Can this song be sung by believers only, truly in heart and conviction, or can this song be sung by unbelievers outside the church?

Now let’s take a look at what is called, Patriotic Songs. A quick overview of these songs provides helpful discernment for why I do not approve of using them in the corporate worship of the saints.

Battle Hymn of the Republic – Julia Ward Howe, 1862. This song is neither sung to saints nor to God in Christ. This song was written during the Civil War as a war-cry for “Our God” who is marching on, to trample the Confederate South into the winepress where ‘the grapes of wrath are stored.” It is impossible for me to rejoice in the fact that over half-million southern men and women and children were brutally killed so that the union could be saved. I’m glad for the union’s solvency under God’s sovereignty but that does not mean it’s something to be worshipful about. Besides, this song has an unbiblical line: “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea.” And, it equates saving souls from hell with saving men from southern slavery – “as he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free”.

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee – Samuel Smith, 1832. This song is neither sung to the saints nor to God in Christ; it is sung to America, the political, geographical land. Only on the last verse does it then turn to God, but only to call on God to keep us politically free. The audience of the song is found in “thy name I love.” Meaning, to sing this song is to set one’s affection on the land of America. It exalts political freedom from tyranny as the purpose: “sweet freedom’s song” – “bright with freedom’s holy light” – “protect us by thy might”.

The irony is that in the year that it was written, America, the land of liberty, was murdering 10’s of thousands of “native Americans” under Andrew Jackson’s presidency – (see “Trail of Tears”) and was buying and enslaving 100’s of thousands of blacks. “Sweet Freedom’s Song” evidently was for white people only. In addition, “our father’s God,” that this song writer is appealing to is not the God who sent Jesus Christ, but the god that the French Enlightenment produced, like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who denied that Jesus was God in the flesh. They believed in the deist god, an impersonal deity who created men as basically good (which the bible denies, “there is no one who does good” – Rom. 3:10ff).

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

The Star-Spangled Banner – Francis Scott Key, 1814. Let’s just keep this in the ball-parks and stadiums. Besides, no one can sing this better than Whitney Houston.

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

America, the Beautiful – Katherine Bates, 1893. This song is neither sung to the saints nor to the God of the Bible; the Audience of the song is America. Its main focus is the exaltation of political freedom: “patriot dream” – “heroes proved in liberating strife” – “for freedom beat”. It also stresses the natural goodness of America and to keep this goodness going: “crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” This is difficult to express since the bible teaches that no one has intrinsic goodness but God alone. However, I do appreciate “God shed his grace on thee” as acknowledgement of common grace. But when this common grace is praised because of a future utopia that is brought upon this land through political and military might – then I cannot abide that. Read carefully the last verse:

“O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years” (a future American Dream)

“Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears” (a time when no sorrows will ever be found upon our soil again, i.e., utopia by the progression of political freedom NOT the Return of Christ!).

This is typical Dominion Theology or Theonomist language that believes in bringing about World Peace by legislation and military might.

Therefore, this song does not meet the biblical standard for the church to worship Christ.

I love it when the church worships our Risen Lord with rich, scriptural, passion-filled singing. I’ve longed for our church to sing to our Risen Lord and to one another as saints of God with a song that calls the citizens of this country to turn to the Lord, and to put a prayer in our mouths for our country, that upon hearing it, sinners who live in America would feel the weight of their sin and turn to Christ and seek a city whose builder and maker is God. Below are the lyrics of a song that I have been working on for many years. It is sung to the tune “America the Beautiful”. Like many of our songs in our hymnal, the tunes were written as ballads for other lyrics, but song-writers along the way wrote biblical lyrics to these old tunes. Likewise, this is my feeble attempt to use a beautiful ballad but worship Christ with biblical truths. This song is based on Psalm 8 and 19, and sections of Revelation. May Christ get all the glory this coming Lord’s Day.

 Alleluia! Alleluia!                                                                                                                                

O beautiful for spacious skies,  for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!                                                     Alleluia! Alleluia! Your grace has set us free
May all confess, Your Righteousness
From sea to shining sea

What glory you have giv’n to man, to care for all you’ve made                                                 You fashioned him with loving hands, Majestic is your Name                                       Alleluia! Alleluia! The earth pours out your word                                                                     The law your fame, with grace proclaim                                                                                       From sea to shining sea

What plague then spreads upon this land, that fills the air with doom?                         Creation groans, the Serpent roams, we do not love our God!                                           Anathema! Anathema! Your judgment now has come                                                           Your Word transgressed, there is no rest                                                                                     Oh God, what have we done?

My guilt and shame, I can’t repair, no sacrifice I bring                                                             Who is this Lamb, upon a tree, The Son of God has won                                                        And now I know, sweet Love bestowed, You gave your only Son                                         The curse you broke, with one pure stroke                                                                              Sin’s victr’y is undone

Your Kingdom come, your will be done, We pray for this dear land,

Send out your church, stretch forth your arm, Awake the heart of man

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ Jesus is Enthroned

May all confess Your Righteousness

From sea to shining sea

 

 

Isn’t She Lovely!?

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“A pretty wife who can find?” – is not praised in the Bible as a virtue. But neither is, “An ugly wife who can find?” True, “An excellent wife who can find?” is found in the Bible (Prov. 31:10). And furthermore, out of all 20+ accolades that you read from verse 10 through 30, not one verse even gets close to describing the outward beauty of a woman as a thing to be praised. In fact, as men, we are to heed the warning: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (vs. 30). So this begs the question:

Is it right for a godly Christian man to notice the physical beauty of a woman and let that outward, temporal appeal be a reason for an introduction? Or should we as godly men pursue a woman that was beaten with an ugly stick and say, “wow, what an ugly-yet-godly woman!”? Does Proverbs condemn outward beauty? I think not. What it does condemn is equating outward beauty with inward beauty. Not every woman who is deliriously gorgeous is a fine catch. And counter-wise, not every hag is a catch-and-release: you just might be a happier man married to a clock-stopper who yet is the most wonderful, dependable, godly, intelligent, wise, hard-working, gentle woman in town.

Proverbs, and all Biblical poetry assumes that physical beauty will be the first attraction for a man – it’s a given. That’s why wisdom goes over-board on seeking the inner qualities rather than the outward. The outward is easy: women are beautiful to men. But! Don’t let that beauty blind you from looking further, lest you find yourself married to a Victoria Secret cat-walk model but dread every nagging day of your miserable life; not one single night with a hottie can compensate for a week of “shut up – it’s all about meeeee.”

“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. . . her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land . . . her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (Prov. 31:11, 23, 28). Cheryl has been my wife for almost 33 years now. I praise her by expressing my thanks to the Lord for giving me such a lovely companion. But there is something deeper going on here: she complements me and I her. It’s a dance of leading and following, of honoring each other for the place that we each have submitted ourselves to. I have submitted to “love her as Christ loves the church,” and she has submitted to “respect me” as the “church does Christ” (Eph. 5:21-33). As we each take our cue from Christ and his bride, we communicate to a culture that Jesus is so loving his bride that he will one day “present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (5:27).

The honey-suckle lilac that is at Cheryl’s side is from her grandma Robinson’s old homestead in southern Indiana. Its fragrance is mesmerizingly delightful, even erotic I might say. This is not gutter talk:

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil . . . Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely . . . your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle that graze among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense . . . you are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you . . . how beautiful is your love my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! Your lips drip nectar, my bride; nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices . . . Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow”      

(various verses in Song of Solomon 4). 

The reason why God created human marriage between a man and woman is so that there would be language and a picture to present to the world: Christ, the husband, is madly in love with his bride, the church. Any re-arrangement of human marriage away from a man and a woman becoming a one flesh union is an insult and a distraction from the original one made in heaven before the world was created.

Therefore, let all husbands say, “isn’t she lovely” – for that is the song of Christ singing to his bride, the church.

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What dad’s last Kennebec Potato teaches us

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It seems impossible that new life can come from death – but it’s true. This is my dad’s last Kennebec potato from last years harvest – and it refuses to die; not everything that goes to seed is a bad thing! Jesus put it this way:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” – (John 12:24-25).

Jesus does not promote self-hatred in the worthlessness sense. But he does promote selflessness, that is, regarding the life of others more than your own – which is what Jesus did. He loved me enough to “hate” his own life and die in my place. Furthermore, it is not disregard for one’s own life that Jesus advises, but hope for another world unlike this one where sin still abides. I’m so thankful that dad saw this distinction. Yes, he loved this life and everything about it because he knew the one who created the potato, and, he did not keep his life to himself – he copied his redeemer’s example.

Strange how such life, vigor, hope, and fruit can come from a decaying starchy, perennial nightshade called the Solaneum Tuberosum. One can do all the research on the potato till your heart is content on the science behind what is going on with this little spud, but I prefer to just sit in wonder. Studying this potato with the eye makes it easier to believe in a future resurrection. It provides hope – even child-like faith that simply takes what is before you as truth. It makes it easier to believe that I’ll see my dad again. It’s reasonable to conclude that if life can come from death, then this little spongy guy is like a wide-eyed hint for our hearts: something very profound and mysterious and unbelievably joyful is at work – “you’ll see!”, says the dying-yet-sprouting potato.

The reason why “life finds a way” is not because there is an impersonal, unknowable, unexplainable force at work, but rather, there is God who not only created the world, but sent his Son to prove that Jesus “finds a way” to overcome death. And what clever paradox?: the way to defeat death is to let it kill you – then come up with all the authority to over-rule that hellish life-snatcher. Gotcha!

 

 

 

 

Salt-cured meat at home – delicious!

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First, get a cheap fridge. Then drill the appropriate holes and install the Auber temp and humidity doohicky thing on the side. Also buy an electrical/usb/coaxe cable thing to plug the whole mess into so that the Auber thing controls everything, turning the fridge and humidifier on and off as needed.

You can buy it here: http://www.auberins.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=37&products_id=642

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Then make the inside of your fridge look like this. Buy a fan and humidifier. The Auber instrument on the outside, with the installed sensor unit mounted on the inside, will control the temp and the humidity of your meat humidor! What’s this hanging for several months, you ask? Beef eye-of-round and Venison strap-back. Below is another recipe that does not require cheese cloth . . .

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yum yum, almost done . . .

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Buy a decent meat slicer. This one is a KWS 320 watt meat slicer with a 10 inch blade. And what do you get?

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Paper-thin, salt-cured venison prosciutto, without the msg’s, harmful sugars, preservatives, ect. – all organic ingredients. Bon Appetit!

And two more things, get your smarter-than-you-son to install the doohicky thing and remodel the fridge to hang the meat – thanks Joshua. And get a wife who loves to make these recipes for salt-curing – thanks Cheryl.

Next up: take a trip to Texas and shoot a feral pig or two!

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I’d Rather be “Left Behind” than “Taken”

 

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Who was taken and who was left behind, choosing between Noah and his family, and everyone else outside the boat? Noah and his family were left behind and everyone else was taken.

Try this one: Between Abraham and his cousin Lot, and the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife? Yes, Abraham was left behind but the two cities along with Lot’s wife was taken.

I’d rather be left behind, that is, not judged for my sins, than to be taken into judgment. Let’s take a look at the two main texts that teach this. First, Matthew 24:36-44:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

 

From this text alone, the one thing that helps us understand that “taken” means judgment and “left” means not judged, is the example that Jesus provides. You have to ask yourself, does the phrase “the flood came and swept them all away” refer to being left behind, or does it refer to be taken away? Was Noah taken or was he left? Was he judged or was he spared, left out of judgment? The very flow of the imagery would lead us to connect “the flood came and swept them all away” with “taken” – not “left.”

But Luke gives us more in 17:26-37.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.
They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot–they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all– so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.
Remember Lot’s wife.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”
And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

In this passage we have two additional items to help us determine that you want to be left out of the judgment and not taken into it.

 

First, we have the event of Lot and the city of Sodom. Did Lot live to see another day because he was “left” or “taken”? He was left.

 

Second, we have the disciples question and the Lord’s reply. Jesus paints the picture that when he returns, one person is taken while one person is left. Fair enough, but not helpful. But then the question comes: “Where, Lord?” Now that’s helpful. Are the disciples asking where the one at the mill is left or the one at mill was taken? It’s silly to think that they’re asking where the one at the mill is left – SHE’S STILL AT THE MILL!!! They’re asking where the one at the mill was taken to. Again, are the disciples asking where the one in bed is taken, or are they asking where the one in bed is left? That’s just nuts to ask where the one in bed is left – obviously – STILL IN BED!! They’re asking where the one that was in bed taken to. Jesus’ answer is judgment. That is, the one that was taken, was taken into judgment. The one that was left, was spared.

 

What happened to Noah and Lot both fit the pattern that they were left and the ones outside the boat and in the city of Sodom were taken away, swept away into judgment. And the disciples question clearly seems to be aimed at where the taken are taken – into judgment. Therefore, when Jesus returns, I want to be left behind, left out of his judgment. I don’t want to be taken into judgment. And furthermore, this leads me to lose my life for Christ, that is, keep a watch on my life so that when Christ returns, I won’t be taken into judgment for valuing my life above his, but rather, will be left out of his judgment for prizing Christ above all things – including my own life.

 

Dear mom, when it feels “too hard”, the grace of Christ is greater still . . .

Abraham and Sarah are too old, but Christ is greater still

Noah is too weird to build a boat in a desert, but Christ is greater still

Joseph’s pit is too deep, but Christ is greater still

Moses’ mouth is too ineloquent, but Christ is greater still

The Red Sea is too deep, but Christ is greater still

Pharaoh’s Army is too close, but Christ is greater still

The desert is too deserted of water and food, but Christ is greater still

The Giant’s are too big, but Christ is greater still

The Armies are too powerful, but Christ is greater still

The walls of Jericho are too high for Joshua, but Christ is greater still

Gideon’s army is too small, but Christ is greater still

The False Prophets are too demonic, but Christ is greater still

The widow and her son are too poor, but Christ is greater still

Samson is too blind and his hair is too short, but Christ is greater still

Goliath is too big, but Christ is greater still

King Saul is too powerful for David, but Christ is greater still

Daniel’s lions are too hungry, but Christ is greater still

The furnace is too hot for three Hebrew children, but Christ is greater still

The walls are too broken down for Nehemiah, but Christ is greater still

Mary, the Mother of Jesus is too chaste, but Christ is greater still

The storm is too great for the fisherman-turned-disciples, but Christ is greater still

Lazarus is too dead, but Christ is greater still

The back-thrashings are too many for Paul, but Christ is greater still

The death of James is too discouraging for the early Church, but Christ is greater stil

The deaf are too deaf, but Christ is greater still

The blind are too blind, but Christ is greater still

The cripple are too crippled, but Christ is greater still

The lost in sin are too lost in sin, but Christ is greater still

The Cross is too Foolish, but Christ is greater still

The Tomb is too Guarded, but Christ is greater still

The Resurrection is too improbable, but Christ is greater still

And also, for you – my dear mother, Christ is greater still!