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One of the things of creation that astounds me more than anything is music. I find it incredible how different types of sound are so aesthetically pleasing and moving. On a physical level, it is only the air molecules being disturbed by a force moving them in a certain pattern (or wavelength). At the same time, this moving of air influences people to get up and dance, to cry, to laugh, and to sit completely in awed silence. 

I’m an amateur musician. I play several different instruments. Being bent towards theology as well, I’ve wondered what it is about music that makes people gather around a regular guy like me to hear me play one of my instruments or to listen to the band when they play worship music. Heck, why do we have worship music anyway? 

I think C.S. Lewis did a great job in explaining this in his sermon “The Weight of Glory.” He basically argued that such things like music, art, etc. contained a tiny glimpse of heaven itself. The incredible moment in the point of the song that makes the heart leap for joy is the glimpse of what forever will be for those who are of the kingdom of heaven when it finally arrives in full splendor. Music is wonderful because it communicates to our emotions in a way that no other art form can. It also helps us to worship God in a way that reflects His glory while glorifying Him at the same time. 

I also think that because music is so powerful that it can be used for very evil purposes. Quite frankly, it can be used to manipulate people into doing things that are wrong. I’ve also seen music used in manipulative tactics by New Agers in chat rooms that employ sound an microphone. I remember going in and a message was being played where a man was saying all kinds of illogical nonsense about how people are god and that resisting this type of thought was wrong. He said these things in a very friendly voice. What I noticed more than anything was the music being played in the background to his voice. It was the same thing over and over and over. Every thirty seconds it would begin again. I had to mentally fight it and I realized that it was actually a type of brainwashing. What it was doing was trying to bypass rational thought through manipulation with music.

To those of us who are musicians, I think we need to be careful with our own music and how we use it. I think it’s best to remember this verse: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). I think that God is well pleased with music that glorifies Him. I also think this can include music that is deemed “secular.” I have heard that J.S. Bach would always write “to the glory of God” on his musical notation, including his secular works. If that is the case, I think he ultimately had the right idea.

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Today’s kudos! goes to Team Pyro for this really cool post on the Church’s relationship to politics. I’ve had the same types of thoughts and feelings for years. I really noticed something wrong when listening to Focus on the Family (note, I do think FoF does good things and provides excellent resources for people) and their constant political activity. I’ve often thought, “What sort of message does this send to unbelievers here?”  So again, Kudos to Team Pyro!

Ok, it’s apparent that I’m no fan of the Left Behind series. Years ago I read the first book and several of the first books of the Left Behind kids series (I was a teenager then). I didn’t really like the books very much. In my honest opinion, they were not well-written. I have several criticisms of it:

1. Low level vocabulary – There aren’t a lot of higher level words in here. I think your average middle schooler could read this stuff. This is good for people of that age, but not for adults like me. Readers need stimulation from creative use of vocabulary. It’s part of what makes the English language so wonderful: there’s so many possibilities with words.

2. Cliche phrases – Good night, there are so many of these. For anyone who wishes to be a writer, avoid these things like the plague in your writing. They’re ok if said by characters every once in a while. However, if they are constantly brought up, it makes the work look bad.

3. It’s just plain corny – I constantly got the feeling while reading this stuff that it’s, well, corny. The characters are not very deep and I got the feeling that the culture they were in was very surfacy American culture. In order to avoid corniness, read read read! Read all kinds of different books. It really does make writing better as influence from other writings impress the writer. 

So, there you have it. My thanks to Dee Dee Warren for making this podcast on her website (yes, some of my criticisms are the same as hers). Her thoughts on this are quite accurate, in my opinion.

(Note: when I say “Preterism” in this post, I’m talking about what is called either Orthodox Preterism or Partial Preterism. Full preterism is heresy.)

For a long time I had multiple problems with Preterism. My eschatology started as dispensationalist (Left Behind view of the end-times) because of that book and because, quite frankly, everyone that I knew believed it. However, after becoming more and more familiar with the Bible I kept noticing inconsistencies with the dispensationalist view. I read magazines like Midnight Call to see what their answers were for many of these things. Though they offered a lot of good insight on certain things, I believe that many of their defenses for dispensationalism are just wrong. I found the most baseless theory in dispensationalism to be the theory that says the seven churches in the book of Revelation are 7 “church ages.” Where is any hint in the book (specifically the first few chapters) of Revelation of that being the case? Dispensationalists will always say that we are in the last age: the age of Laodicea (the lukewarm church). I agree that a lot of the church in America is lukewarm, but is that the case all over the world? Certainly not. Plus, what if the dispensationalist doctrine came 100 years before the 1830’s? More than likely people in the 1790’s would have said they were in the church age of Laodicea.

After seeing that and several other major problems, I dropped dispensationalism. I became an Amillenial futurist in my first or second year of college (can’t quite remember which). Basically, I was open minded to many views on the end times while holding that position. In a way, I still hold that position.

This summer I started reading N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus. His explanation on things like the Herodian temple, Jesus parables, Old Testament prophecies, etc. began to help me understand preterism and why it makes sense. Later in July I picked up Hank Hanegraaf’s The Apocalypse Code. I read it and a lot of my mistaken thoughts on preterism were corrected. For instance, I thought that preterists believed that Jesus second coming was in 70 A.D. with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple when the reality is that they believe no such thing.

After reading through the various arguments in the book as well as other places on the internet, I cannot refute them. That does not mean that a refutation does not exist, but I have not found it. If I ever do, I’ll post them and my preterist friends and I can have a good debate here or elsewhere.

So, what’s the next step? Counter-research! I’ve heard a good many of the preterist arguments, now I want to hear the counter arguments from scholars who disagree. I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon…yet. However, I am thinking about it.

I have to say, I’ve seen a lot of nonsense in my 23 years of life. This movie is just an addition to the list of it.

This “documentary” is nothing more than a list of baseless assertions with no citations of authoritative sources like scholars of ancient history (and yes, I have checked Zeitgeist’s list of sources that they provide on their website). What’s funny is that even the other two people who speak in the film while the screen is black aren’t even identified during the film! How ridiculous can a person get?

Nice try, but I think my professors in the history department at the secular school I attend would have a great laugh over this film.

In any sort of ministry position, one of the most interesting lessons is that nothing is too hard for God at all. A good friend of mine who is in ministry gave me and some others a lesson from Jeremiah 32. Specifically, the verse he focused on is Jeremiah 32:17. The historical context is that Babylon is casting a siege against Jerusalem and the king has shut Jeremiah up in prison (check the first couple of verses in the beginning of the chapter). I think in that instance the king of Jerusalem was pretty sure that the city was going to fall even though they kept holding off against the Babylonians. Still, he decides to put Jeremiah in prison for saying such things. The fact of the matter was that Jeremiah had been prophesying the downfall for a long time beforehand, yet the people refused to repent because of their unbelief. On a separate note, belief and repentance from sin go hand in hand. One cannot repent of something he does not believe is sinful or wrong.
Let’s go further into the text:

“6And Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

7‘Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle is coming to you, saying, “Buy for yourself my field which is at Anathoth, for you have the right of redemption to buy it.”‘

8“Then Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the guard according to the word of the LORD and said to me, ‘Buy my field, please, that is at Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for you have the right of possession and the redemption is yours; buy it for yourself ‘ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

9“I bought the field which was at Anathoth from Hanamel my uncle’s son, and I weighed out the silver for him, seventeen shekels of silver.

10“I signed and sealed the deed, and called in witnesses, and weighed out the silver on the scales.

11“Then I took the deeds of purchase, both the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions and the open copy;

12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the sight of Hanamel my uncle’s son and in the sight of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, before all the Jews who were sitting in the court of the guard.

13“And I commanded Baruch in their presence, saying,

14‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Take these deeds, this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, that they may last a long time.”

15‘For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.””

Pardon me, but who buys land when it’s about to be conquered? Jeremiah was clearly a true prophet among all of the false prophets of his day. Notice that it is first said by God that Hanamel will come to sell him land (verses 6-7). It goes clearly in line with earlier scripture on how a true prophet is to be recognized from a false one. See Deuteronomy 13:1-3 as well as 18:22.

Let’s keep going….

“16“After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, then I prayed to the LORD, saying, 17‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,

18who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God The LORD of hosts is His name;

19great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds;

20who has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and You have made a name for Yourself, as at this day.”

If you’re a person in ministry, you know how immensely frustrating things can get at times. The fact is that ministry is HARD and requires a good deal of work. However, this passage is quite comforting in those times and especially when a very big task is ahead. For those not in ministry, you also know that the Christian walk is no cake walk. Whatever side you’re on, I hope this passage can give the greater picture of what God is doing. It’s a very encouraging thought that if you are doing the Lord’s work, nothing is too hard for Him and that He will accomplish His will. How blessed it is to be a part of that.

I was listening to the radio the other day when I heard a song that had some really cool lyrics in it. I don’t hear a lot of really awesome lyrics very much on the radio, but this one was one of those rare types that really jump out when you listen in. It’s “When the Saints” by Sarah Groves. Check it out:

“Lord I have a heavy burden of all I’ve seen and know
It’s more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and I cannot let it go

And when I’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord it’s all that I can’t carry and cannot leave behind
it often overwhelms me
but when I think of all who’ve gone before and lived the faithful life
their courage compells me
And when I’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars

I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharohs court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sisters standing by the dying man’s side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down the door

I see the man of sorrows and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
and when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them”

You can also listen to the song on her myspace page. There are several verses that I like in particular. I really like the ones about Moses, Calcutta nights, and the dude kicking down the brothel door. There are very few things that really anger me, but the act of prostituting women for money is one of them. I used to make deliveries late at night and would see it. I never laugh when people make jokes about that stuff. It’s not funny. Anyway, I think that Ms. Groves (or whoever wrote the song) did a great job lyrically. Kudos!

Hopefully I’ll try to get this blog started again with the new year. Here’s some thoughts:

So there’s this atheist propaganda movie called “Zeitgeist” (by the way, when will people EVER let Nietzche die?) that seems to be catching on more and more as it’s promoted. They’re having a “Z-Day” on March 15th where this film will be sent to different college campuses and etc. I’m hoping they come around to my own college so that I and some good friends can use it for a witness to the truth of the gospel. This is particularly important as more and more people (on the internet at least, I’m not too sure about real life) seem to be buying into this “Christ-myth” nonsense. It’d be a good time to challenge the folks who promote this thing. I plan on giving further comment about the movie later.

Football! Yeah! Congrats to the LSU Tigers for the BCS win. This year I was actually OK with Ohio State losing. I may not like LSU for the most part, but I’m ok with that particular SEC team winning the championship.

School starts back as well. I got some good classes on Chinese history as well as the language. It should be interesting this semester.  Spring is always a good time, in my opinion. If anything, there’s more light to go around.

Have fun, everyone.

After going through my history book for this semester to find all of the religious references in it, what I came up with was rather barren. This book has nearly 700 large pages with plenty of text, but with only a few paragraphs in the entire book that actually discuss religion. The paragraphs are dispersed throughout the book and talk about some of the following: social gospel of the 1880’s, Jerry Falwell and the “radical religious right,” and percentage of Muslim-Christian populations in Serbia to name the majority of topics.

It’s extremely ridiculous that there are only a few references in a large American Civilization history book. What bothered me the most were the things that were left out that should have received attention. Billy Graham is not even mentioned in this book. The huge rift between fundamentalist and liberal churches and theologians in the 1930’s was left out as well. The explosive growth of the Pentecostal movement wasn’t there either. The book did use the term “neo-orthodoxy” but did not explain what it exactly meant.

 After writing those two above paragraphs, I saved this post and talked with my History TA. She said that she also had issues with this book in that did not cover much on women’s issues and other things. I’m glad I’m not the only person who sees this problem.

 So, is there a re-writing of history going on in our textbooks? In some circumstances there certainly are. I don’t know if so much important stuff was intentionally left out in this book or not. I hope not. It would truly be a sad state of affairs if these things were left out intentionally (especially in a college class).

“Pharisee!”

Such a word in most places is used in an insulting manner to describe a religious bigot. (Side note: the word “bigot” has even turned into an insulting word, it wasn’t this way for a long time). I have come to believe that many people in Christian circles know very little about the Pharisees. They often know that these were bad, legalistic men who used religion for their own gain. That is true, but there is more depth to it than that.

To begin with, the Pharisees did not believe the Scriptures. Jesus says to them, “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). Later, when the Pharisees condemned the disciples for plucking some grain off of the fields on the sabbath day, Jesus then says, “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7). Did the Pharisees check out what Jesus said? For crying out loud, the scriptures were speaking against them.

An important and humbling fact I’ve come to realize in recent years is that my actions are to be judged through the lens of the Word of God. In my own maturation as a Christian I’ve stopped doing more than a few things on a regular basis because they were sin–repentance, basically. However, once a good set of maturity takes place, there comes that tendency to forget that our actions are still under that lens. The Pharisees clearly forgot this.

And now on further, the Pharisees were clearly immoral men. Jesus also said that they devoured widow’s houses and that they made their proselytes worse than their own selves. As incredibly good and holy as they looked to many common people in their day, behind the scenes, they were clearly bad religious people. If I am not mistaken, C.S. Lewis said that there worst kinds of bad men were the religious bad men. I wholeheartedly agree.

These men were also greedy. They believed it was better to swear by the gold on the temple rather than the temple itself. Not to mention paying tithes right down to mint and cummin (right down to the penny, basically) but leaving out bigger matters. Jesus said that where our treasure is, there our heart is also (Matthew 6:20-21). The big question to ask sometimes is, “Where is my heart?” Is the heart and mind on heavenly things? (Colossians 3:1-2). The Pharisees hearts’ certainly were not on the heavenly things, otherwise they would not have had the Lord of Glory crucified (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).

The picture only gets worse from here. The Pharisees harbored murder in their hearts which they eventually helped to carry out. Take the example of the woman caught in adultery. Look at this passage carefully, does something seem rather fishy about this situation? There are two things which are often missed. 1.) Were the Pharisees going from house to house just LOOKING to catch a woman in adultery(“in the very act”)? How weird is that? 2.) Did the Pharisees have the authority under a Roman government to stone a woman for something written in the Law of Moses? No, they didn’t. If Jesus would have allowed them to stone her, He would have been tried by the Roman government and probably put to death for it. This is why He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (Luke 8:7). They were making an attempt on His life.

There’s far more that I could write, but I think most readers get the point by now. These were the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. These were the men that Jesus contended with the most as the gospels point out. There’s one final point I want to make though. In that day, there were more than a few theologies floating around in the world of Judaism. The Sadducees were not the same as the Pharisees and the Pharisees were not the same as the zealots or the Essenes (though the Essenes are not exclusively mentioned in the Bible, they were a real group). So, which group’s theology was closest to what Jesus taught? It was, in fact, the Pharisees. Just some food for thought on this last point.