Saturday, December 23, 2006

Glory to God in the Highest!

Over the next few days I will be posting, over at The Armoury’s Studio, various songs that our family put together on a CD that we called Glory to God in the Highest! Most of the selections are focused on the 1st Advent holiday, while others are just hymns that our family has enjoyed throughout the years. Here is the list:

1. Under His Wings (Family)

2. All Praise to Thee (Sandra, Hannah & Maria)

3. Song for Josiah, by Keith Green (Hannah on Piano)

4. Away in a Manger (Family)

5. Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Sandra & Hannah)

6. Once in Royal David's City (Sandra, Hannah, Maria & Micaiah)

7. Psalm 23, by Keith Green (Hannah on Piano)

8. See, Amid the Winter's Snow (Sandra, Hannah & Maria)

9. Silent Night (Micaiah)

I’ll begin with the first song, Under His Wings by Barney E. Warren (pub. 1911). It is based largely upon Psalm 91:4, but here is the broader context of that verse:

Psalm 91:1-4: 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" 3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

This text and hymn became very important to us as a family, especially when we were going through the darkest trial of our life as a family in the winter of 2001. During that time we learned all the more how it is that the Lord’s encouragement and grace is often most magnified through the dark trials of life - so that we too can learn about the greatness of His refuge and protection for His people. When we first recorded this hymn together (in 2001) it was just Sandra and myself along with Hannah, Maria and Micaiah. Now we have this blessed ensemble to include Ruth (5) and Lydia (2) - you can hear them on the third verse of the hymn...

Friday, December 22, 2006

And We Beheld His Glory

People today are getting an earful about who Jesus Christ is, and very little of it is good. There is, of course, the “Jesus” of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses; as well as the “Jesus” of Islam. Then there is the “Jesus” of popular culture: certainly the T.V. media, Newsweek, Time Magazine and yes, the book & movie, the Da Vinci Code, all have their own twisted tales to tell. In short, what people are often hearing about Christ is utterly blasphemous. But in view of this age-old problem, we Christians should only strengthen our resolve to herald the true message of Christ amidst the clouds of confusion. Especially during the Christmas and Resurrection-Day holidays we as believers ought so see these times as even greater opportunities to reach out to others with the clear message of Christ. With this in mind, I have recently reproduced the Gospel of John, with a brief survey/study of John chapter 1. This simple booklet is designed with the sole purpose of getting a portion of the Scriptures into the hands of people so that we might have the opportunity to query, as did Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch: “do you understand what you are reading?”:

Acts 8:30-35: 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: "He was led as a sheep to slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth. 33 "In humiliation His judgment was taken away; Who will relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth." 34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.

And beginning from this Scripture (Isaiah 53:7-8) Philip “preached Jesus to him. This Gospel example is the root idea behind And We Beheld His Glory - The Complete Text of the Gospel of John. We all have a certain number of neighbors, co-workers and general acquaintances that we have had some opportunity to speak to about the Lord. What we all pray is that they would be drawn to the Savior through the powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). By taking copies of the Gospel of John to others, this can become an opportunity to speak to them, in greater depth, about the true meaning of Christ’s advent:

John 1:14: 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God the Son (John 1:1) became a man (John 1:14) and dwelt among us as the fullest disclosure of the Father’s glory, and as the One who died on the cross for our sin. The introductory study in this booklet offers a simple Gospel presentation that is based upon John 1. It is very brief and is designed to be used in a guided Bible study. I have used the NASB, NKJV and ESV versions in this work in order to honor the copyright laws which govern each translation. Thus, it can be copied and distributed (for free) without any legal conflicts. Below is a Microsoft Word “booklet” format (in pdf) - this format can be taken to any local photocopy center and reproduced into a 8.5 by 5.5 booklet. Feel free to use this and pass it along to other brethren as an evangelistic tool.

Now, go out and tell others about the true Christ of “Christmas.”

MS Word “Book Fold” Format

Amazing Grace - The Movie?

I just hope that the producers of this film don’t end up making it into a man-centered message -

Friday, December 08, 2006

Beware of Moderation

We are often told in the media, and by nearly all government officials, that true Islam is best represented by those who call themselves moderate Muslims. Whenever I hear such pontifications, I can’t help but to think about how odd it would be for a genuine Christian to go around calling himself a moderate Christian. OED defines a moderate as being one who avoids extremes - no surprise there. But when you think about it, the idea of religious moderation is most often associated with a lukewarm liberalism. You know, that warm and gooey substance that lies between sound doctrine and rank heresy. In my lexicon, if a person calls himself a “moderate” anything, what he is really saying is: “I don’t take my ‘religion’ too seriously.” In the case of the “moderate” Muslim, what they are really saying is that they do not fully accept the literal teachings of Mohammed. When you listen to such moderates speak about the Koran, they will quickly redact very clear texts which call for Muslims to slay infidels for the sake of Islam. They will complain that those who disagree with their twisted interpretations are just ignorant of Islam, and that their critics simply do not understand. And yet it is these same “moderates” who are suspiciously silent in the wake of violent acts that are committed in the name of Allah throughout the world. For example the Islamic courts in Somalia ruled on Wednesday that the inhabitants of Mogadishu are required to pray 5 times a day, and those who do not comply will be beheaded in accordance with Islamic law. Ironically, here in America, the so-called moderate group called the Council on American Islamic Relations has heralded the Islamic takeover of Somalia as a positive change.

So much for moderation.

The doublespeak of such organizations should remind us that the “moderate Muslim” is in fact a contradiction to the example and doctrine of Mohammed himself. But honest expressions of Islam are often debunked as being extremist rhetoric. Take for example Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He recently delivered an Islamic call to western nations, to either convert or die. At least the man is honest:

“Rest assured that if you do not respond to the divine call, you will die soon and vanish from the face of the earth.”

And he is consistent with Islamic doctrine:

Surah 2:191. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.

Those who suppress the faith of Islam are those who actively reject Allah. Therefore, any person who opposes Islam is seen as an aggressor who must be rewarded with slaughter. Thus, the “infidels” of this world will always be fair game in the Islamic war of Jihad - until the world is conquered for Allah (as they believe). It is the honest Muslim who calls for such warfare. The disingenuous “Muslim” calls for peace with the infidels, in opposition to the mandate of Mohammed. But many people would rather give their listening ear to the “moderate Muslim” because they prefer the message that they hear. It is probably due to a hopeful naivete - a wishful thinking that makes the world seem nicer than it really is.

Much like the appeal of moderate Islam, we find that many in our day prefer moderate Christianity (Liberalism) - which is a refuge for those who seek a nicer, non-judgmental Jesus; a Jesus who loves everyone and condemns nobody. People like moderate Christianity because it makes their sin seem nicer than it really is. As Christians, may we never be known as insipid, moderate Christians. Let us instead be zealous warriors for Christ - wielding not physical swords in a fleshly battle, but wielding the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in order to advance the Gospel of Peace.

The Religion of Peace®

The irony of this video is not found in the mode of execution employed, but in the fact that Sharia law is the standard for capital punishment. In this generation, I just wonder how many Christian converts have been slain in the name of Allah. Click on picture to see video...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Judas Iscariot: Rome’s First Pope

Just this last week, Pope Benedict XVI was in Turkey in an attempt to curb the hostile anger of muslims around the world for his speech made in Germany back in September. In that speech, the Pope quoted the 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, who’s criticizm of Islam leaves little to the imagination. The Islamic seeth-fest that ensued illustrated for us all, once again, just how peaceful the religion of Islam isn’t. But this particular event almost made the Mohammed-cartoon controversey look like a...cartoon. Instead of standing by his words, the current Pope relented of his comments, indicating that Palaiologos’ views did not represent his own. Worse than this, Benedict called for a brotherhood between Christians and Muslims during his stay in Turkey. On the last day of his trip he attended the prayer services held at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque [the Blue Mosque]. The Pope faced Mecca, folded his hands in the Muslim tradition, and prayed:

The irony of all this could pass us by too easily should we fail to be mindful of Islam’s history. The background behind this modern day fiasco is profound indeed: the Sultan Ahmed Mosque [the Blue Mosque] faces another building called the Hagia Sophia, which is considered to be one of the greatest buildings in the world. Historically, it was an ancient Eastern orthodox cathedral that was converted to a mosque when it was overtaken by the Ottomans in 1453. Now it is a museum and historical monument to the history of violent Islamic conquest. But in addition to this, Benedict’s controversial speech made in Germany contained a citation from the very man who sought to withstand the Ottoman/Islamic onslought that turned the Hagia Sophia into an instrument of Islamic idolatry. It was in 1424 that Manuel II Palaiologos and his son, John VIII Palaiologos, were forced to sign a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turks, thus subjecting the Byzantine Empire to pay tribute to the sultan. It would be 29 years later that Constantine XI would utterly lose the kingdom at the siege of Constantinople. In this context, we see the great profundity of emperor Manuel II Palaiologos’ comments concerning Islam. Not only did he call Mohammed an instrument of things “only evil and inhuman” but he also said the following:

"God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."

Clearly, Manuel II was willing to refute Islam’s dark doctrine of conversion by the sword. Not only did he do this through his words, but he also refuted Islamic violence in his attempt to protect the Byzantine empire. But in striking contrast, the official Vatican recantation has been supplied as follows: “...the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion [Manuel II Palaiologos’] his own in any way. ” Benedict has thus sought to save face in the presence of the disciples of Mohammed. To do this, he entered into an Christ-denying temple of Islam and prayed with idolaters, while protesters stood outside with signs which read “Jesus is not [the] son of God, He is a Prophet of Islam.” Unfortunately, many in the world see the Pope as being the chief representative of the Christian world - but it should be clear, by his actions, that he is just as much an enemy of the cross as Mohammed himself. But there should be no surprise here: like his spiritual forefathers, Benedict would much rather save his skin for 30 pieces of silver, rather than be counted as a disciple of Christ. Judas himself would be proud. The whole thing is a sad affair. May the Lord have mercy on those who may be tempted to follow such conduct and doctrine.

Men do need reconciliation - but what they need is to be reconciled to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way to have true peace.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Part II: Upon These Popes We Will Build Our Business

In a post on September 1st, 2006 called Upon These Popes We Will Build Our Business, I addressed the contradictions that were presented in an article written by Catholic Answers entitled Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth. In this article it was argued that historic Catholicism is the one and only true church, saying, “

"Jesus said his Church would be ‘the light of the world.’ He then noted that ‘a city set on a hill cannot be hid’ (Matt. 5:14). This means his Church is a visible organization...Jesus established only one Church, not a collection of differing churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, and so on).”

This, coupled with some other interesting articles over at Pulpit Live and then this article by Dave Armstrong at Cor ad cor loquitur, prompted me to address this error of thinking which says that the true church will have only one organizational manifestation - i.e. - Papalism. I concluded that article with the following:

It is clear that Rome’s vast religious empire is impressive - visibly speaking. Rome’s monetary vitality, its hierarchy, its legal and constitutional structure, along with its extensive array of traditions and culture, make it an amazing organization by the world’s standards; but not by the standards of God’s Word. As a business, it is indeed impressive, and it’s been around for a long, long time. But when we examine this empire in view of God’s Word we find that Roman Catholic unity is utterly bankrupt, such that those who come to saving faith from within such an organization do so despite the organization itself – as in the case of Martin Luther.

Roman Catholics typically try to prove their authenticity as the true church by pointing to what they believe is a long legacy of organizational and doctrinal stability over the centuries. What the previous post pointed out is that organizational stability cannot prove ecclesiastical authenticity any more than the appearance of the Moon can prove that it is made out of cheese. Appearances can be quite deceiving. In fact, the argument of organizational stability throughout the centuries actually works against the Roman apologist because of this simple fact: the whole world lies in the power of the evil one [1 John 5:19]. Long epochs of organizational stability, within a world that hates the true church, may be an argument that works to the contrary for those who would point to Saint Peter’s Basilica as evidence of ecclesiastical piety. Actually, the true church, throughout history, has been oppressed, persecuted, afflicted and thereby scattered throughout the world. A brief consideration of the first century church would illustrate that point well enough.

But what about this claim of doctrinal stability throughout the centuries? The Roman Catholic apologist will often claim that Rome has held fast to the same unfailing doctrines throughout the centuries, contrary to the vast spread of doctrinal variance found among the various Protestant denominations throughout the world.

Oh yes - those “unfailing Roman Catholic doctrines throughout the centuries.” Anyone who posits an argument like this is simply barking up the wrong polemical tree. Rome’s doctrinal history is nothing less than a lesson on dynamism, and Loraine Boettner’s book, Roman Catholicism, is a classic work and wonderfully summarizes for us the tragic legacy of Rome’s evolutionary doctrine. The following survey unveils a theological monkey in the making:

  • 375 Veneration of angels and dead saints, and use of images.
  • 394 The Mass, as a daily celebration.
  • 500 Priests began to dress differently from laymen.
  • 528 Extreme Unction.
  • 593 The doctrine of Purgatory, established by Gregory I.
  • 600 Latin language, used in prayer and worship, imposed by Gregory I.
  • “ Prayers directed to Mary, dead saints and angels...
  • 607 Title of pope, or universal bishop, given to Boniface III by emperor Phocas.
  • 709 Kissing the pope’s foot, began with pope Constantine.
  • 786 Worship of the cross, images and relics...
  • 850 Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest...
  • 890 Worship of St. Joseph.
  • 927 College of Cardinals established.
  • 995 Canonization of dead saints, first by pope John XV.
  • 998 Fasting on Fridays and during Lent.
  • “ The Mass, developed gradually as a sacrifice, attendance made obligatory in the 11th Century.
  • 1079 Celibacy of the priesthood, decreed by pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand).
  • 1090 The Rosary, mechanical praying with beads, invented by Peter the Hermit.
  • 1184 The Inquisition, instituted by the Council of Verona.
  • 1190 Sale of Indulgences.
  • 1215 Transubstantiation, proclaimed by pope Innocent III.
  • “ Auricular Confession of sins to a priest instead of to God, instituted by pope Innocent III, in Lateran Council.
  • 1220 Adoration of the wafer (Host), decreed by pope Honorius III.
  • 1229 Bible forbidden to laymen, placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Toulouse.
  • 1251 The scapular, invented by Simon Stock, an English monk.
  • 1414 Cup forbidden to the people at communion by Council of Constance.
  • 1439 Purgatory proclaimed as a dogma by the Council of Florence.
  • “ The doctrine of Seven Sacraments affirmed.
  • 1545 Tradition declared of equal authority with the Bible by the Council of Trent.
  • 1546 Apocryphal books added to the Bible by the Council of Trent.
  • 1854 Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, proclaimed by pope Pius IX.
  • 1864 Syllabus of Errors, proclaimed by pope Pius IX, and ratified by the Vatican Council; condemned freedom of religion, conscience, speech, press, and scientific discoveries which are disapproved by the Roman Church; asserted the pope’s temporal authority over all civil rulers.
  • 1870 Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals, proclaimed by the Vatican Council.
  • 1950 Assumption of the Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly after her death), proclaimed by pope Pius XII.
  • 1965 Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church, by pope Paul VI. As can be clearly seen in the above summary, those who wish to argue that Rome has consistently upheld a unified body of doctrine are defending a lost cause. The above table is somewhat Babel-esque in its appearance, such that every brick of Catholic doctrine, that has been laid down in history, unveils the pride of those who have declared - I will build this church [Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, pp. 7-9 ].

Reading through this doctrinal descent is like watching a train wreck in slow motion: Catholic doctrine has been anything but stable or unified; most importantly, it has been anything but Christ-honoring. What has been stable throughout the centuries is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the plain message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone via the Scriptures alone - and all for the glory of God alone - that has been preserved throughout the generations amidst a church that has been variously persecuted, scattered and afflicted - however, Christ’s bride has always persevered by grace in the truth of the Gospel - for without the genuine Gospel, there is no salvation, nor godly perseverance. Thus, wherever the flames of Gospel truth do burn, there you have the Savior’s lampstand and city set upon a hill.

The true church doesn’t have one “Basilica” to which the Christian can point and declare - the Lord Jesus has built His church. Instead, the true church has existed wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed - with our without a building.

Ultimately, the Lord Himself, and His Gospel, is the church’s building; His truth is her firm foundation, of which Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down

Every now and then I come across a familiar chorus that isn’t bad per se, but is somehow just incomplete. And what right do I have to say that some choruses appear to be incomplete? Would the author of such songs agree with me over such an opinion? Well, in this case I think that I can say - “incomplete.” Take for example this familiar Maranatha chorus: Come Let us Worship and Bow Down -

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

For He is our God

And we are the people of His pasture

and the sheep of His hand

just the sheep of His hand

The incomplete nature of this song is made evident when we read Psalm 95:

Psalm 95: 1 O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the Lord is a great God And a great King above all gods, 4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. 5 The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land. 6 Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 9 "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. 10 "For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways. 11 "Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest."

I have highlighted the text upon which the aforementioned chorus is based, in order to reveal the textual contrast. Clearly, there is a vast context of thought that is utterly left behind in the popular Maranatha chorus. This is one of the reasons why I tend to avoid a great deal of modern choruses. It is not that they are always in error; they just tend to truncate too much truth. As in the case of Psalm 95, there is much more going on than the chorus reveals. Overall, the Psalm has a threefold structure, governed by two imperatives and one final warning. By the structure of the text itself, one could easily argue for three verses, rather than just one. The warning at the end is significant, though it is (perhaps) too alarming for the modern mind: it is a warning against unbelief as was evidenced by the ungrateful attitudes of those Israelites who grumbled against the Lord and tested Him. The threefold development is therefore very important:


2. A Call to HUMBLE WORSHIP (6-7a).


The relationship between these sections should be evident - genuine joy will consist of thankfulness (vs. 1-5); as well as humility (vs. 6-7a). Such attitudes as these reveal a heart that is truly seeking the Lord, unlike the selfish and prideful attitudes of those who fell and did not enter into God’s rest. This is more than a positive call to worship - it is also a great warning and call to self examination, contrition, repentance and to trust in the Lord who is the Creator of all things. Consider the following as a modification of the song (some hyphens are inserted for the reader’s understanding of the flow of the song):

Come Let us Worship and Bow Down (Psalm 95)

Verse 1

Come Let us sing for joy to God; For the LORD, He is the rock of our salvation

Come Let us sing for joy to God; Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving

For the Lord is a great God

All the world does rest upon His mighty hand

He's the King above all gods

Let us sing for joy to the Lord!

Verse 2*

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

For He is our God

And we are the people of His pasture

and the sheep of His hand

just the sheep of His hand

Verse 3

If you would hear His voice today; Do not har-den your hearts like those at Meribah

If you would hear His voice today; Do not test the Lord as in the day of Massah

For the Lord is a great God

All the world does rest up-on His mighty hand

Let us always trust in the Lord

Let us rest alone in our God

There are a number of songs that fit into this - “not bad; just suspiciously incomplete” category. In reality, there’s much more theology that can be added to these songs by the simple process of completing the thoughts that they began to express. By this process, many songs like these can be made even more useful in corporate worship contexts - rather than eliminated completely.

* Modified. Words derived from ©1980 Maranatha Praise, Inc. Words and Music by Dave Doherty.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Turning Aside to Myths

Being dubbed as Britain’s fourth largest religion, members of the “Jedi Knights” have filed a petition before the UN for formal recognition as a religion. “Umada” and “Yunyun” (pictured left) have taken their cause to the world council on behalf of some 390,000 Jedis in the United Kingdom. They believe that their cause is in agreement with the UN, and they desire a national Day of Tolerance, or in their own words:

‘Like the UN, the Jedi Knights are peacekeepers and we feel we have the basic right to express our religion through wearing our robes, and to be recognised by the national and international community. We therefore are calling upon the United Nations Association to change November 16 to the UN Interstellar Day of Tolerance, to reflect the religious make-up of our twenty-first century civilisation. Tolerance is about respecting difference where ever it lies, including other galaxies. Please don't exclude us from your important work. May the Force be with you.’

This would be hysterically funny - if it weren’t at all true. But sadly - it’s the real deal, and it serves as a reminder that men will gladly believe anything but the truth. By nature, all men are inclined to believe in myths rather than in the living God:

2 Timothy 4:3-4: 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

As for “Umada” and “Yunyun” - they are John Wilkinson and Charlotte Law. May the Lord bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them both.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Armoury’s Studio

Well, that was a long vacation. It was simple and it included absolutely no posting at The Armoury (and barely any contact with a computer at all). But not only this - our vacation time even meant passing up the opportunity of going to a Brian McLaren conference on October 24th at Wake Forest University. Yes, I passed up the opportunity of being tortured with 7 grueling hours of emergent-babel in order to be with Lydia and the family. It was a really hard choice - requiring a full 2 seconds in order to decide!

Anyway, it was good to get a break and to have extended times together as a family - doing simple things and having some great discussions together.

Now, as for the title of this post. I have decided to develop a series of posts that deal with Christan hymnody, along with the subject of digital recording. And why the two together? Here’s why:

My dealings with digital recording goes back to 7 years ago. We were in Minnesota at the time and I had been investigating ways to teach our members the many new songs that were in our recently purchased hymnals. I say that they were “new” - actually these hymns were quite old, but they are so unknown in our generation that they often appear to be new. Sandra and I began recording these old hymns and would supply them to others in order to speed up the learning process (most of our members could not read music and so an audio product expedited this process a great deal). This then sparked an interest in others to offer their help, and before we knew it we had a few choral groups making these recordings for the sake of the rest of the flock. This wasn’t a fancy “gig” by any means. The music wasn’t something to publish in the open market - we weren’t a polished choir ready to go on tour. Ultimately, it was a very simple ministry tool that was created for the sake of our flock in order to equip them with a sound hymnody. I only had the time to produce about 25 songs before I had to call it quits (for various reasons). Overall, the experience was quite interesting. I invested a good amount of time and energy in order to learn about digital recording because I was driven by this desire to help others to discover and learn many of the forgotten hymns of the past. Ever since then, I have kept up what has become a small home studio, and we continue to use it in a similar way at Pilgrim Bible Church - though on a much lighter scale. At times I had considered posting some of these songs at The Armoury as a kind of series - an audio series; however, I decided that the scope of posts relating to hymns, digital hardware & software would warrant more than just a series - therefore, I’ve decided to establish The Armoury’s Studio with the design of presenting new hymns (text and audio), some audio hardware and software reviews. This latter category will be a rarity, but as it turns out I am presently testing Cakewalk’s newest audio processor Sonar 6 and hope to have a brief review of this before the month is out. I will try this out for a while. I may choose to nest these posts inside of The Armoury someday, but for now I’ll see how things go. For now, I’ll begin with a simple post which includes the audio Gospel presentation, called: The Story of Amazing Grace. This presents the story of John Newton’s conversion and was created by using the full arsenal of our recording gear - including a Godin Steel Synth Acoustic guitar and a GR-33 guitar synthesizer (which I no longer needed and no longer have).

If you don’t see a wma player above, then click on this link.

P.S. Ironically, there is a professional studio called “Armoury Studio” - but this similarity is not intentional. What I have and do is not to be compared to their operation. Armoury Studio is full blown industry recording studio - and I can assure you that their music genres and business associations are worlds apart from our ministry focus. But it’s interesting and ironic anyway!

Friday, October 20, 2006

LUYE & China

A few years ago I modified our astronomy outreach ministry (Logos Astronomical Society), transforming it into Lift Up Your Eyes by name. When I did this I purchased the domain names of and for the accompanying website - formerly under Little did I know at the time that the acronym LUYE is actually a fairly popular name in China, and this has produced some interesting results for the website. Ever since this change, it has been interesting to see the amount of traffic that I receive from China. Before this change I would mostly receive visitors from Creation Science websites that had linked to the previous domain name of; but now, under the current domain names, the majority of my traffic comes from China and these visitors are coming directly to the domain itself, rather than through a link. Additionally, these visitors usually stay for a while - sometimes for a very long time. Because of this, I have been looking for options to have a complete mirror site someday, where the visitor would come to a page that would give them an option to visit the English site or the Chinese site - that would be the long term goal. In the meantime, I have placed a simple header on the index page which says “Greetings to our visitors from China” followed by “sanctify them in thy truth...” (in Chinese) followed by the text of John 3:16-18 (also in Chinese, as pictured above). This graphic is then linked to a Gospel presentation in Chinese. It’s not much at this point, but it is a start. I offer this as FYI and FYP (for your information and for your prayers). It is always comforting to know that the Lord, in His perfect providence, will harvest a great number of souls from every tribe, tongue, people and nation throughout the earth - for His glory alone.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Our Faithful Bridegroom

In 1969 the state of California passed the Family Law Act which became the bedrock of what is now called “no fault divorce.” By this legislation a divorce could be sought by anyone for what is termed as "irreconcilable differences." Thus, like a raging wildfire, this new precedent spread throughout the nation such that, by 1983, every state in the union had adopted no fault divorce as its new legal standard (except for South Dakota, which capitulated in 1985). Thus, through mankind’s ascending wisdom and intellect, America was catapulted back into the same Pharisaical darkness that our Savior faced when He walked upon this earth:

Matthew 19:3: 3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?"

For an “advanced” society, we haven’t gone very far, and this is quite evident when we compare our present day to the early church’s past. Most of the Jewish oral traditions held in Jesus’ day would necessarily supply an answer of yes to the above Pharisaical query. In fact, a Jewish man could divorce his wife if he found a woman who was prettier than she, or if his wife spoiled his dish (burned his meal). In modern terms we would call such menial matters - irreconcilable differences. These licentious attitudes of the past have been hatched once again in the present, and to such an extent that we now have a plethora of services that will help a person expedite a divorce as easily as one might have their taxes prepared; and so we have, and, just to name a few online services. It is ironic to consider that modern man, with all his technology and advancements, has only managed to fall back to his own sinful past.

So much for the ascent of man!

I would submit to you that mankind’s marital unfaithlessness serves as a sharp contrast to the Savior’s faithfulness as the Bridegroom of His church. You see, as Adam’s offspring, we continue to perpetuate his sinful failure as we ourselves transgress in his likeness. Paul expands on this reality in Romans chapter 5 when he calls Adam a type of Christ (by contrast), reminding us that Adam brought forth sin, death, and condemnation; but that Christ brought grace, justification, and life. Thus, humanity’s transgressions serve as an antithesis to Christ’s perfect righteousness. We all sin in the likeness of the offense of Adam and therefore, our natural lives are a living contrast to the Savior’s holiness and perfection. This is also true concerning mankind’s failures in marriage. For the natural man, marriage is merely a contractual agreement founded upon the expectation of one’s own comfort, safety, and pleasure. In this sense, many today are like the pagan Greeks and Romans of yesteryear who saw marriage as an opportunity for self-advancement and self-indulgence. But this is an antithesis to Christ who is our faithful and sacrificial Bridegroom. The Savior’s love is an infinitely gracious and giving love. We had nothing to offer Him whatsoever, therefore He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy (Titus 3:5). Thus, when Christ laid down His life for His elect bride, He did so with a sacrificial love for one who was horribly mangled by indwelling sin. In addition to this we see that the church, in all of her present imperfections and sins, is still beloved and kept for her faithful Husband (Jude 1). The church will someday be transformed into a state of perfection when she is permanently joined with her Bridegroom in heaven. Until then, His bride is faithfully kept for that wedding day upon no other basis than the grace, mercy, and unfailing love of Christ.

Here is the consummate hope of the church: that Christ is a patient, gracious and faithful Bridegroom.

And it is this same principle of marital fidelity that is the true glory of any faithful marriage between a husband and wife:

Ephesians 5:25-27: 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Not only did Christ perform the painful deed that was necessary in order to procure the bride of His Father’s choosing (Ephesians 1:3-5), but He will return again in order to consummate this marriage in that perfect, heavenly union:

Revelation 19:7-9: 7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, "Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ " And he said to me, "These are true words of God."

Our faithful Bridegroom awaits that wedding day with passionate anticipation. His voice is filled with the tones of fidelity the likes of which no human could ever express. When the Lord promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and that He would be with His church always (Matthew 28:20), He gave His elect bride a foundation of hope that is built upon the immutable reality of His unfailing fidelity. And He longs for that heavenly wedding feast with such anticipation that He has promised not to drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when He drinks it anew with His bride in His Father’s Kingdom (Matthew 26:29).

He is a faithful husband - and that is our hope.

With these thoughts in mind, let us remember that when the Lord expresses His dreadful hatred for divorce (Malachi 2:16), He does so as the One who is the faithful Bridegroom of His elect bride. He will never leave nor forsake the people of His choosing - this is the oath of His mercy, grace and unfailing love.

With all of this in mind we are given a very sobering context for Christ’s words to His disciples when He taught them about the value and sanctity of marriage: ”what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). It is important to remember that the Savior teaches us about the beauty of faithful love in marriage, being the perfect example of it in every way.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Come Ye Thankful People Come!

[Written on 10/5/06] From my earliest years as a believer in Christ I will always remember those first moments when I began to learn many rich songs, hymns and spiritual songs of the Christian faith. Every week presented another treasure trove of songs that were new to me, but were ancient by historical standards. As I began to discover the riches of these songs, I realized that their messages had meanings that often went far beyond my primitive knowledge of the Scriptures. In most cases these songs sparked my desire for a deeper understanding of God's Word, especially when they employed theological terms and concepts that I had yet to understand. Amidst these rich experiences, I made a rather somber discovery one Thanksgiving season. I can't remember what year it was, or how old I was in Christ, but I do remember the disturbing feeling that I had when I realized that one of the hymns that I enjoyed greatly actually had a rather dark and difficult message - it was the hymn, Come Ye Thankful People Come by Henry Alford. As a thanksgiving hymn I found that the tune, along with the opening verse, seemed to compliment the theme of the holiday. It had such a positive and joyful sense to it that one could just imagine a whole army of Christians marching joyfully together in honor of our victorious Savior. The opening line triumphantly commands believers to come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of Harvest-Home! Yet, despite this powerfully joyful beginning there is a bitter irony that sets in with the next two verses:

2 All the world is God's own field, fruit onto His praise to yield; Wheat and tares together sown, unto joy or sorrow grown: First the blade, and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear; Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

3 For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home; From His field shall in that day, all offences purge away; Give His angels charge at last, in the fire the tares to cast, But the fruitful ears to store, in His Garner evermore.

These somber words were familiar to me, but I wanted to make sure that I understood their biblical foundation, so I quickly consulted Matthew chapter 13 for their context. When reading this text, from which Alford's hymn is largely based, I realized that my internal feelings of conflict had to do with my own lack of Scriptural knowledge, and not the hymn itself. Alford's hymn is a wonderful expression of thanksgiving to be sure, but it also reveals God's holy judgment upon the impenitent. In a sense, Come Ye Thankful People Come poetically fixes our eyes on the golden wheat of the redeemed against the dark backdrop of this world of tares. A theme such as this reminds us all that in that final day of the Lord’s judgment, the wicked will be excommunicated from God's presence forevermore, while His own people will be free from sorrow, free from sin, there forever purified, in His presence to abide (v. 4).

Overall, Alford's hymn is a joyful hymn, but this joy is not a frivolous or childish one. It is a joy that is contained within the reverence that is due to the Son of God who will in that day, all offenses purge away:

Psalm 2:11-12: 11 Worship the Lord with reverence, And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
What Alford communicated in his hymn is a message that is all but lost in our modern culture, and it is this: there are only two kinds of people in this world - the wheat and the tares; the disciples of Christ and the impenitent. In the day of the Son of God's final judgment, the hearts of men will be fully known. Then and there, the golden wheat of Christian discipleship will strongly contrast the dark deeds of those who practice wickedness; for His wrath will soon be kindled and when it is, it will be the excommunication to end all excommunication. In a culture that has all but eleminated the biblical practice of church discipline, there is a great need to call the church back to the pursuit of purity. Those who advocate a tare-sensitive “ministry” and thus garner those whose appetites are set upon personal pleasure and designer theologies are only doing the work of the enemy. The statistics of their efforts may be very impressive, but the substance of what they are doing is only fuel for the fires of God’s final judgment. Let us therefore be encouraged and warned by Alford’s hymn. Let us be warned against the error of having a tare infested church that cares little for the holiness of God. Let us also be encouraged that despite the church’s present imperfections, the Lord will someday come and take His harvest home:
4. Even so, Lord, quickly come, To Thy final Harvest-Home! Gather Thou Thy people in, Free from sorrow, free from sin; There forever purified, In Thy Presence to abide: Come, with all Thine angels, come, Raise the glorious Harvest-Home!
Come Lord Jesus - Come!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Very Serious Error in Judgment

It is always interesting to listen to people when they speak of sin. Depending on who’s doing the speaking, the assessment of any transgression can range from being wonderfully biblical to that which is satanically repugnant. Take for example the recent Mark Foley scandal. Much attention has been given to his electronic communications with under-aged pages who labored under his leadership. Of course the liberal-mainstream media is using this to their political advantage while most Republicans have expressed their repulsion over the fact that Mr. Foley sought to be a predator towards a handful of minors serving in his office.

But hold on for a second. What is actually sinful here? Is it a problem of pedophilia? Is it a problem of failed communication between the House Speaker and those who had concerns about Mr. Foley years ago? Is it the professional misconduct of a superior trying to have a sexual relationship with a subordinate, or the gross vocabulary of the e-mails themselves? I would submit to you that the problem existed long before the eruption of this scandal itself; long before the feigned righteousness of the Democrat and Republican parties ever arrived on stage. If Mark Foley is guilty of anything, he is guilty of being a sexual pervert. This was the case before he was found cavorting with younger men on the internet. Mr. Foley’s transgression is rooted in his un-natural desire for sex with other men, something the Bible calls an abomination:

Leviticus 18:22: 22 ‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.’

It is amazing to see how people are upset over the fact that these pages were under-aged; does this mean that Mr. Foley’s actions would have been acceptable if they were legal adults? Absolutely not. Homosexuality is an utter abomination in the eyes of God - a clear perversion of what the Lord created. Homosexual pedophilia is an abomination of abominations. In the end, it is all a damnable abomination. Sadly, the task of convincing others that homosexuality is a repugnant sin is like trying to convince a child that gasoline is dangerous. A child can either accept your word that it is dangerous, or they will be fools and choose to play with the lethal substance, against wise counsel. For the children of God, His word is enough on the matter; but for the children of wrath, they would rather play with fire, and right now, many in the Republican party have chosen to toss this burning coal from one hand to the next. Unfortunately, homosexuality is much more prominent within the Republican party than many will suspect (it’s a sad day when I can agree with a liberal on anything, but over this matter I tend to agree). The Republican leadership knew that Mr. Foley was a homosexual. It was a matter that they were willing to ignore until it blew up like a fireball in their face.

That’s what you get when you play games with things that are under God’s judgment.

Now lest you think that my focus is to beat up the Republican party, know this: the Democrats are still outdoing their foes in the area of hypocrisy - and with an Olympic stride. As the Democrats continue to scream for the resignation of the House Speaker, there is this odd shadow of contradiction which looms over them - a shadow that the liberal-mainstream media pretends doesn’t exist. It is the dark shadow of Mr. Gerry Eastman Studds who, in July of 1983, was censured by the House of Representatives for his sexual relationship with a 17 year old male congressional page. His legacy is said to be that he was the “first openly gay national politician.” Translating that into biblical language: he was the first openly perverted national politician. The fact that he committed the sin of pedophilia just added to the heap of his perverted lifestyle. Though Studds was censured for his actions, he was given a standing ovation in his home district and was subsequently re-elected to five more terms in office. While the news media has been happy to beat the Foley drum as loudly as possible, the Studds story has been strangely forgotten. In fact, his story has been well hidden throughout this Foley scandal until this morning, when something happened that not even the liberal media could avoid covering - Mr. Studds passed away. Now in mentioning the man’s death, I have no desire to make light of it. It is a grave moment when a soul passes from this life to eternity - especially when there is no hope that he will enter into the presence of the Lord. But the sad irony of it all is that the media was able to hide the debacle of this man’s sinful life, even amidst the Foley scandal, until his story could be avoided no longer. CNN’s News Alert was so brief, and their official report on him was so short, that if you blinked, you would have missed the entire thing. Despite the problems found in the Republican party’s handling of the Foley scandal, the Studds debacle makes the Democratic party look like a bunch of contented para-pedophiles.

In the end, what strikes me about his story is that when Mr. Studds was censured he said that his relationship with the under-aged congressional page was inappropriate and was a “very serious error in judgement.” A response like this is both amazing and sad. When a man can transform biblical words like perversion and abomination into a “serious error in judgement” - then you have a man who is heavily steeped in his sin and deception.

Calling homosexuality (and pedophilia) a mere error in judgement is, in itself, a scandal. But rest assured that in the final judgment of God, there will be no error in His judgement...none whatsoever.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hypercalvinism & Eternal Justification

Over the years I have advanced the argument that classic Arminianism and Hypercalvinism are guilty of the same root error - human reason. I often think of these contrasting views as being illustrated by a pendulum that hangs at rest, but is then knocked out of balance by human imposition. As the pendulum hangs straight down, it represents sound doctrine from God’s Word. When it is struck on one side, it sways from the biblical middle and strikes the side of error - as in the case of Arminianism: unwilling to accept the absolute sovereignty of God in all things, the Arminian seeks to impose his man-centered arguments in order to establish a system of doctrine that seems to be more reasonable in his view. Believing that he is helping matters, he creates an imbalance in defense of his presumptions about human freedom and the nature of God’s sovereignty. When the pendulum is struck from the other side, it swings to the extreme of the Hypercalvinist whose agenda is to systematize God’s sovereignty in such a way that he resultantly wreaks havoc upon the truths concerning man’s personal responsibility and culpability as a sinner. What he fails to see is that his system of doctrine is also the result of human reason which takes the balance of doctrine to an opposite extreme - an extreme that is no better than that of the Arminian.

It is in this line of discussion that I would like to mention the teaching of Eternal Justification, which is typically found in the camp of Hypercalvinism. Briefly put, Eternal Justification argues that the elect of God receive the actual application of Christ’s righteous merit from before the foundation of the world. In other words, their argument goes beyond the thought of God’s decretive will by advancing the idea that Christ’s merit is actually applied before the sinner is ever born, or ever believes by grace. As a result of such thinking many have slipped into the following errors which often accompany certain strains of Hypercalvinism:

1. The belief that the Chrsitian’s justification makes it unnecessary to confess sin and ask for forgiveness.

2. The belief that it is wrong to ever question the validity of one’s faith in Christ.

3. The advocacy of antinomianism.

Overall, the doctrine of Eternal Justification tends to overemphasize the implications of God’s decree over the reality of His providence in history. This position will often take texts like Romans 8:29-30 beyond the scope of what it is teaching:

Romans 8:29-30: 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

In the system of Eternal Justification, Paul’s use of the aorist verb is thought to support the idea that the believer receives the actual application of Christ’s merit from before the foundation of the world. However, Paul’s repeated use of the Aorist tense throughout these verses should remind us that he is giving instruction about the surety of God’s electing decree, rather than the outworking of His providence. Thus, by the certainty of God’s eternal decree the elect are said to be foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. Now the observant student of Scripture should note that while the Christian is presently foreknown, predestined, called, and justified, he is however not yet glorified. Glorification is a future reality of which the Apostle already spoke in this same chapter:

Romans 8:18: 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Thus, it should be clear that since Paul recognized that in the outworking of God’s providence the Christian is not yet glorified, his use of the Aorist tense in Romans 8:29-30 refers to the infallible surety of God’s eternal decree. Puting it another way, the certainty of God’s decree enables Paul to speak of all aspects of our salvation as a completed reality - even when speaking of the sinner’s future glorification. But there is a great difference between speaking of the certainty of God’s decree versus the reality of His providence. In the case of providence, the language of our justification is quite different:

Romans 5:1: 1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...

In this text Paul clearly helps us to understand that our justification was actually applied by means of faith (which itself was a gift of God’s sovereign grace given to us in time). In other words, there was a time when we, the elect of God, were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2) and were counted as the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3); we were once foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved to various lusts and pleasures (Titus 3:3-5) such that the Lord exercised patience towards us in view of our wickedness (1 Timothy 1:12-16, 2 Peter 3:1-15). And how important are these truths? Well, Paul had a habit of reminding us of our former state for the sake of our compassion on the lost, as he did in Titus 3:

Titus 3:1-2: 1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

Clearly, we need to remember that lost sinners have yet to receive the application of Christ’s righteousness through faith, along with all other aspects of God’s saving and sanctifying grace - just as we did in the outworking of God’s providence. We also need to remember that we cannot know who the elect are. Their behavior, as it is now, is no different from our own before we were saved. We’re fools if we can think for a moment that we can tell who are Christ’s elect sheep before they are saved. Hence, we find a great biblical balance in all of the passages which speak of God’s decree and His providence. We must remember that the texts which teach us about the immutability of His decree are just as necessary as those texts which remind us of God’s providential work in time. All of these texts are necessary, for they keep us from precariously oscillating away from God’s truth!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Well, you’ll just have to read the sordid details here.

Ergun and Emir may have bombed the debate, but at least they have an excuse now...of sorts.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Lift Up Your Eyes

In 2005 I put together an outreach video called “Lift Up Your Eyes” based upon Isaiah 40:26. This presentation is used in our Lift Up Your Eyes astronomical ministry. Essentially, I set up a telescope, provide a Powerpoint presentation (similar to the video below) and then, if the weather is permitting, we go outside in order to do some viewing of the stars, planets, nebulae and galaxies - whatever is viewable that evening. This then provides an opportunity to speak to others about the One who created the heavens and the earth for His own glory.

I decided to post the video on Google since the file size is too large to support on my server. Because of the change of definition concerning planets, established by the International Astronomical Union in August of 2006, Pluto is no longer a planet by definition. I have inserted such a disclaimer in the video until I have the time to redact Pluto out of it altogether. But in its present form it is yet another Gospel tool that is free to pass along to others.

Credit: Classical Guitar by Paul LeClair.

Update: This is the first time that I have used Google Video and so this is somewhat of an experiment. I noticed that the very end of the video is truncated - All that is missing is an invitation to visit, which I’ll correct at some point when I have the time to do so.

A Sad Figurehead for Modern Evangelicalism

This may be familiar to you already, but Amy Grant was recently awarded with a Hollywood Star for her lifetime achievements in the music industry. Take special note of where her current husband (Vince Gill) wants his Hollywood Star to be positioned (6:20-6:25), and how she sees her own place in the journey of life (8:00-8:28). As to her final comment - viewer descretion is advised. How sad it is to have to say that.

Let me encourage prayer for them both.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We Have a Request...

We have been leaking out the news little by little, but we may be meeting a new addition to our quiver of five children...

Please pray for whoever this is...

Libronix Books

I discovered this at the A-Team Blog today - a link for some electronic books. Perhaps many of you are aware of this already, but the folks at have some Libronix books available for free. You’ll have to go there to see their list, but they have the works of Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, John Flavel along with some other individual works. I have already downloaded many of these and I must say that they appear to be very well formatted. What a rich resource - many thanks to stilltruth.


Friday, September 22, 2006

The Business of Death

In 1997, my father passed away while I was living in Minnesota. When this happened, our whole family boarded a plane and returned to California. I had never dealt with death in our immediate family before this. In fact, I had never performed a funeral service up till this time - this would be my first. Unfortunately, my father had made few preparations before his passing - there was no will and no indication about his burial preferences; his finances, taxes and property debt had to be decifered by going through his paperwork. There was a life insurance policy that we eventually found that would help with the funeral expenses - I’m glad that we didn’t throw that box away.

The whole event was heart-wrenching; if I weren’t a Christian, it would have been crushing. Having to perform my father’s funeral without any assurance of his eternal state; having to sort through the maze of paperwork, receipts and files in order to determine his financial liabilities; and having to deal with a mortuary over the handling of his body - all of this was a rather bitter pill to swallow. With this experience I found that the prospect of having to do business with a mortuary can be particularly offensive. To be quite blunt here - when having to deal with the pain of death, the last thing that someone should have to do is do business with mortuary salespeople. What I experienced at the mortuary, I wasn’t at all prepared for. [In describing this event, I am not suggesting that all mortuaries are the same, or that there is no place for these services - however, I came to realize that it is important that people should be made aware of what they will probably face in the event of a death in their family]. I literally felt as though I had been transported into the worst sort of used car dealership imaginable. When I attended their “counseling session” on behalf of my deceased father, I was quickly presented with a list of options and packages for either burial or cremation. The timing of this meeting couldn’t have been better though. I had just come to the end of my research about my father’s financial standing, and realized that I would have to handle most of the out of pocket funeral expenses until the insurance premium could offer assistance. Because of this, I realized that we needed to be very frugal in our dealings with the mortuary. Thus, I was amazed at how easy it would have been to sign some papers, amidst the emotion of the moment, and find ourselves with a debt that would have been overbearing. That I recall, their “options” ranged anywhere from $4000.00 to well over $15,000.00 for a simple casket and burial - of course, the sky’s the limit if you want it to be.

What was also disturbing was the carefully crafted sales pitch that came with our “counselling session”; the eerie “Casket Room” with the special lighting; and the pressure of the salesman who would whisper things like, “Oh, but this would be a wonderful way to remember your father!” (as if to say - “anything less would be a disgrace”).

To make a long story short, I ended up getting some very good help from a friend who performs autopsies. This person warned me about doing business with the mortuary and helped me to understand that mortuaries typically veil your rights and freedoms when it comes to the transport and burial of a body, or even the spreading of cremains. But in order to understand what your individual rights are, you would need to contact your state’s Board of Funeral Service and read the local statutes which govern your area. Here is a website that has compiled such links for the United States: link.

As a note to pastors who may read this - this is an important thing to become aware of, especially when you experience a death of a member in your church (or one of their friends/ family members). If your church facilities includes an on-site burial ground, then you don’t need this counsel. For the rest of us who have to deal with off-site cemetaries etc, this is more needful.

As a pastor, the last thing you would want is to have your sheep being fleeced by a profit-hungry mortuary, especially when they are enduring the loss of a loved one.

Debates, Calvinism & Fauxtography Scandals

I think that some folks have been a little unfair in their criticism about the upcoming debate at Lynchburg concerning “Baptists and Calvinism.” As you can see from the picture above, all seems to be well. There are no subliminal messages here, no distorted images or anything like that. Everything is on the up and up as they say. This is the final edit of another picture that received a good amount of criticism:

The graphic above drew a good amount of attention. Some folks cynically complained about the relative sizes of the men pictured, suggesting that the Calvinists (White and Ascol) are smaller than the Caners’.

More than this, there is the picture of the abandoned and dilapodated church in the background. As you can see, the pews are empty, tattered and falling apart. The bareness of this scene led some to believe (cynically) that this was an implicit dig by some at Calvinism and its supposed destructive effects on the local church.

For those of you who thought such things - how utterly pessemistic of you!

At least they didn’t stick with the original picture below...

Or even this innocent first draft...

The nerve of some people...


Now on a serious note - do pray that this debate would honor the Lord and yield the peaceful fruit of truth, grace and the glory of our sovereign Lord.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Just What We Need: Christian Jihad

While it must be said that the Lord can even use very flawed means to bring about the salvation of His people (Phil. 1:15-17), I must express great concern over what appears to be a growing trend in our nation. Some may call it evangelism - I call it Christian Jihad...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Conspiracy Theory

I’ve seen some rather odd things this week concerning the 5th year memorial of 9/11 - mostly from the conspiracy theorists who are convinced that this was an inside job involving the president, his cabinet, Christians in general and all the disenfranchised former employees of Petsmart. Their callous denials of this real and tragic event is a sad mockery.

But not to take these debunkers too seriously, I thought I’d share with you all a light moment of debunking the debunkers...from Cox & Forkum...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Meaning of the Word - “Is”

As many of you are aware, ABC’s recent program “Path to 9/11” begat quite a furor with our former president - Bill Clinton. Apparently, he and his legal advisers were seriously concerned about the political fallout that might ensue as a result of the storyline presented in this television docudrama. They charged that much of the program pursued a degree of artistic license that corrupted the truth of the historical record, and therefore, the legal letters began flying just on the eve of the program’s scheduled air time. In one interview, Mr. Clinton was quoted as saying:

“We just want people to tell the truth.”

His brief comment put me in a reflective daze. It wasn’t what he said, but who was saying it that put me in this contemplative trance. I couldn’t help but to think of the many national tragedies that have ensued in our land in the wake of this man’s “leadership” as our president: the wholesale legitimization of homosexuality; the increase in license for abortion; the cultural demoralization of sex and marriage, not to mention the fact that he singlehandedly took the grave office of the presidency and turned it into a fiasco through his repeated lies.

This is the man who wants people to tell the truth.

If this were really Mr. Clinton’s standard (i.e., telling the truth) then his record should be reflective of this, but it is not. Our former president, who was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice, is perhaps one of the last people in our nation qualified to speak to us about the matter of truth-telling. Even if ABC has incorporated some embellishment in its miniseries (I can’t say for sure) I must cast my doubts on Mr. Clinton’s desire for truth. Historically, his greater desire has been for popularity rather than truth; and now that his term of office is over, he has evidenced a greater desire to preserve his reputation and “legacy” more than anything else. The fact that he has professed to be a Christian has only increased the popular view which says that Christian discipleship is all about well articulated words, rather than a life of loving devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. If he has a legacy to speak of, it is not one worth repeating.

When the impeachment proceedings were under way, I couldn’t help but to send off some thoughts to the House Judiciary Committee. I did this, not because I was certain that it would go very far - or anywhere at all; rather, I did it as a matter of conscience before God, knowing that as a citizen of God’s kingdom, I needed to offer a warning of some kind - again for conscience sake. I managed to find the letter, the contents of which are below:

To: The members of the House Judiciary Committee -

I believe that the responsibilities of the House Judiciary Committee are deeply profound. I am convinced that the fundamental issue at hand is the battle for truth, not politics. Let's clear away the smoke and rubble of the opinion polls just for a moment and resolve this single matter: That the Judiciary Committee's principal responsibility is that of vindicating the standards of justice. While the nation is clamoring for various conclusions to this matter concerning the president, it must be resolved that the demands of justice must be satiated [absolutely], rather than the felt needs of the people. A classic, historical example of our present crisis comes to us from the annals of Roman history in the Emperor Nero. Nero was one of the most popular Emperors that Rome ever had (possibly next to Julius and Augustus). Nero was loved by the people and in droves they rendered their support to him without wavering. However, Nero, unbeknownst to the greater masses, quietly wreaked havoc upon the nation by depleting the national resources, disregarding the powers of the Senate, abandoning his duties often for the sake of recreation and ultimately by destroying the fabric of justice in his own life and in the lives of those closest to him. The majority of the Senate loathed Nero, and did nothing to him when he (among other infractions) forsook his wife Octavia for the married woman Poppaea. This event was nothing more than an illustration of the many ways in which Nero practiced deceit; but as long as the people hailed him as a competent leader, the Senate kept their hands off of him. It wasn't until Nero's professional abandon came to an extreme that the Senate formally declared Nero to be the Republic's number one enemy. Before he was finally removed from office, he had successfully diminished the power of Rome so severely that the government barley had the ability to recover from his seeds of destruction. While the correlations between 1st century Roman government and the governmental systems of the United States are not one to one, there is a serious parallel: The Roman Senate tolerated injustice until it was too late. They listened to the opinions of the masses rather than to the voice of justice. I believe that the pregnant lessons of history have been so severely forgotten that we are nearly doomed to repeat them. It is sad to think that this matter must be so hotly contested. Apart from the tabloid nature of this crisis, there is the very real crime of deceit and lying. I feel very sorry for Mr. Clinton, and it is my responsibility to honor and pray for the king (i.e., the president in his presidency); but when I talk to my oldest child about the nature of our president's "leadership" I am forced to explain to her that he is a man who is comfortable with his deceit and lies. As he continues to hide behind his diagrammatical analysis of deponent verbs, he is showing all the more his willingness to deceive and lie, knowing that he probably won't face any consequences wrought by means of true justice. I would issue the challenge of the priority of truth and justice, believing that the lack thereof renders any would-be-leader as impotent and useless. As a Christian and a pastor, my greater concern is for Mr. Clinton's eternal soul, not his political career. And, should America decline and fall as did the nation of Rome, my citizenship will not be at all challenged, for my citizenship is a heavenly one and the Monarch that I serve will never waiver in the matter of justice and equity. But I have shared these matters with you in order to present the lawful matters at hand, knowing that even temporal governments are given as a minister of God to accomplish His purposes no matter what happens in this life.

Praying for the leadership of this nation (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and knowing that God's justice will prevail in the end.

Pastor Michael Beasley

Our family often prays for the Clintons, and for many of those in governing authority whose convictions and lives stand in clear opposition to the teachings of Scripture. This we do because we know that the Lord has the power, grace and mercy to save them. For myself, I know this biblically and experientially, after all the Lord saved this wretch by that same power, grace and mercy. His grace is sufficient to save any - and that is a fact.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

POST 1920: C. H. Spurgeon - Jesus Shall Reign

~Gleaning Light from the Luminaries of the Past~

Proverbs 19:20: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (ESV).

After posting the article for the W.S. Journal - “9/11” I came across this interesting portion from C.H. Spurgeon which bears a similar emphasis. When reading it you can nearly imagine him writing it again for our own day. In a sense, he has.

Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Evening, December 24

“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” - Isaiah 40:5

We anticipate the happy day when the whole world shall be converted to Christ; when the gods of the heathen shall be cast to the moles and the bats; when Romanism shall be exploded, and the crescent of Mohammed shall wane, never again to cast its baleful rays upon the nations; when kings shall bow down before the Prince of Peace, and all nations shall call their Redeemer blessed. Some despair of this. They look upon the world as a vessel breaking up and going to pieces, never to float again. We know that the world and all that is therein is one day to be burnt up, and afterwards we look for new heavens and for a new earth; but we cannot read our Bibles without the conviction that—

“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun Does his successive journeys run.”

We are not discouraged by the length of his delays; we are not disheartened by the long period which he allots to the church in which to struggle with little success and much defeat. We believe that God will never suffer this world, which has once seen Christ’s blood shed upon it, to be always the devil’s stronghold. Christ came hither to deliver this world from the detested sway of the powers of darkness. What a shout shall that be when men and angels shall unite to cry “Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrows of the bow, and to have aided in winning the victory for our Lord! Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with him, doing their little in his name and by his strength! How unhappy are those on the side of evil! It is a losing side, and it is a matter wherein to lose is to lose and to be lost for ever. On whose side are you?