Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Can God Use Rock Music?"

A friend recently sent me a link to an article by the late Keith Green (pictured to the right). If you aren't familiar with Mr. Green's work, the link provided (or click on the picture) gives a brief synopsis of his life and ministry. The song of his with which you might be most familiar is "O Lord, You're Beautiful".

The article that my friend forwarded to me is not the best-written article I've read on the subject addressed, but it does offer a fairly unique perspective from an "insider". I was a bit a surprised at some of his criticisms of the movement of which he was such a large part, and I found his observations to be as relevant now as they were when he wrote this article (late 70's). Here's the first statement that hopped out at me:

"It isn't the beat that offends me, nor the volume - It's the spirit. It's the "Look at me!" attitude I have seen in concert after concert, and the "Can't you see we're as good as the world?" syndrome I have heard on record after record. Jesus doesn't want us to be as good as the world, He wants us to he better! And that doesn't mean excelling them in sound, style, or talent - it means surpassing them in value - in our motives for being up there on stage, in our reasons for singing our songs, and especially in who we're singing for! If there's anything wrong or worldly at all about so-called "Christian rock," it's the self-exalting spirit and attitude that comes across so loud and clear in many of the records and concerts today."

Read the full article here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Us" versus "them", or fundamentalism and the pursuit of holiness.

Last night after the church service our pastor said something that I greatly appreciated. He said that the face (and possibly the direction) of Fundamentalism is changing….young guys are asking questions and even “pushing the envelope” to a certain point. He went on to say that this “young fundamentalism” is often asking “why?”, and that, according to him, is a good thing that he welcomes. He said that change is good and often necessary, but sometimes we’re moving just a tad fast. Of course, none of what I’m saying is verbatim, but this is the general gist of what he said. Last night I spent some time pondering these words and I came to a rather startling (at least to me) conclusion…..we’re really not that far apart (“we” being the Old Guard versus the Young Fundamentalist). Let me explain.

A Fundamentalist, regardless of which generation you are a part of, is typified by some distinguishing characteristics:

  • We hold the Bible as our final source of truth.
  • We believe the Bible to be God-breathed.
  • We believe in the Deity of Christ
  • We believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ
  • We believe in the Vicarious Atonement
  • We believe in the Resurrection of Christ.
  • We believe in the eminent return of Christ
  • We believe in Separation from Apostasy
  • We believe in Separation from erring brethren
  • We believe that salvation is by grace through faith
  • We believe in baptism by emersion
  • We believe in pursuing after righteousness
  • We believe in striving to live a holy and separated life…..

There are more, but this is a sufficient sampling of the beliefs of Fundamentalists. That being said, what makes “us” (the younger guys) so different from “them” (the guys from the last 40 years or so)? Before I get into what I believe to be the core issue, let me mention a few minor quibbles that distinguish the two generations from one another. NOTE: For the sake of this article, I will be using the terms “us” and “them” as I defined them at the top of this paragraph. This isn’t to indicate that there is conflict, it’s just a label.

  • The older generation held primarily to the KJV of the Bible; we hold to multiple version, landing on the NKJV, NASB, and most generally (now), the ESV.
  • They always give an invitation; we generally don’t.
  • They preach topically as often as they preach expositionally; we preach almost exclusively in an expository manner.
  • They hold to closed communion – sometimes close; we hold to open communion – sometimes close.
  • They have tended to write off entire genres of music as wicked because of some wickedness within the genre; we tend to evaluate each piece of music as independent from a particular genre.
  • They tend to prefer “pastor-ruled” or “congregational-ruled” churches as the government of choice; we tend to prefer “elder rule”
  • They tend to be “tee-totalers” when it comes to alcohol; we tend to hold to a “moderation” point of view.
  • They tend to be Arminians (at least 4-pointers); we tend to be Calvinists (at least 4-pointers).

This is, of course, a partial list, but I think it suffices. The divide between “us” and “them” comes primarily in matters of preference. Things that we view as issues of liberty are often matters of right and wrong to them. Outside of the small items (Bible versions, church polity, communion, the C/A debate, invitations, etc.), our differences really come down to one thing, I think. That one thing is personal holiness.

There is nothing that grates more abrasively against the old nature than the words “Be ye holy, for I am holy”. Every fiber of our being screams out against holiness and strives instead to fight against the will of a Holy God. Paul describes this eloquently when, in Romans 7, he says (paraphrase), “I don’t do what I do want to do, but I do do what I don’t want to do.” Paul strove for holiness, but found that his old nature was warring against it with such fervor that he just couldn’t quite succeed. The pursuit of holiness is never ending and requires a proper view of God, as well as a proper view of the nature of man.

Now, when it comes down to it I think that both groups have a lofty view of God. Both groups are seeking to emulate Christ as much as they can, yet we are left with this extreme diversity in defining personal holiness. One group places a high priority on the minutia, while the other group takes a more “macro” view of things. Let me explain….

We all agree that modesty in dress and appearance is an important attribute in the life of any follower of Christ. “We” tend to stop there, while “they” go on to address specifics… tattoos, piercings, baggy pants, shorts, pants on women, etc. Outward conformity to a particular standard tends to be a mark of spirituality with them, whereas we tend to leave the outward appearance up to the individual as they begin to grow in the Holy Spirit….that sounds much more sanctimonious than I intend, but please bear with me to the end of this article.

I’ve discussed music quite a bit on this blog, and it is certainly another area in which the two groups differ. We tend to view “worldly music” as being defined much more by lyrical content than musical style, but they classify music as worldly based almost exclusively on its sound. None of us would oppose a variety of instruments in a church service, but we are not opposed to electric guitars, drums, etc., whereas the only electric instrument they allow is an organ….percussion is anathema. There’s much more to say about music, but the subject is beginning to tire me….

The summary of the matter – and the whole point of this article – is that I don’t think that either group is necessarily wrong. One group has a tendency of going too far, and the other group runs the risk of not going far enough. We both have a tendency to cry “foul” at the methodologies of the other group while arrogantly holding up ours as more righteous or “biblical”. I think we can stand to learn from one another, though. Will it ever be perfect? Not as long as I’m around!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The Pack are 3-0 and sit atop the NFC North, Brett Favre has tied Dan Marino for all the all time TD passes record (after setting the all times wins mark for a QB already this season), the Pack just beat a tough squad from the AFC in the San Diego Chargers....and most importantly, Chicago isn't winning the division right now!!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Digging through the trash for a gem.

Normally when I drive home from work the local CCM station is playing some wonderful worship music; however, the last couple of nights I've come home during the time that the programming was "geared toward the teenaged audience" as the DJ repeatedly told me. What that means is that the music is (for the most part) loud and hard...the lyrics are difficult to hear and what I did hear could have plugged in nicely with many of today's current pop stars - nothing more than fluffy, cotton candy, lovey-dovey tripe. Apparently the M.O. is to deliver lyrics to our teens that are devoid of any theology so as to not turn them off. The one glaring exception to this was a song from Todd Agnew (I'm becoming a fan) and Rebecca St. James entitled "Our Great God". While a little hard in places, I very much enjoyed this song. All in all, however, I found (during my back-and-forth flipping on the dial) that my 40 minute drive home from work came at a time when there was just some pretty horrible music on the radio - the more conservative station in the area (BJ, WILDS, NBBC, Majesty, etc.) plays "old" music during that that needs to be listened to while sipping tea on the front porch with Andy and Barney....

By the way, here's another great song by Todd Agnew entitled "My Jesus". Enjoy!


More and more I join up with the masses..... I joined Facebook early yesterday morning and I'm already reaping the benefits! It's been good to reconnect with some old friends from my days at Northland and the Wilds. The internet is absolutely wonderful...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Philippians 1 - Thanking God for Godly Friends.

Note: I touched on this subject in a recent post, and I've been intending to write a more complete article since. Reading Rob McQueary's recent post touching on this subject inspired me to get my article finished, so here goes:

Philippians is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. I’ve often gotten a great deal of encouragement and much needed perspective after spending an hour or so studying it. I’ve frequently heard it said that Philippians is “The Joy Epistle”. I don’t want to denigrate that description, but I do think it’s a tad shallow. Although the themes of joy and thanksgiving are certainly present throughout this Pauline letter, there is so much more to it than that. For instance we find some deep theological truths concerning the Person of Jesus Christ explained throughout this Epistle – such as finding the theological basis for the Christological terms kenosis and hypostatic union. The humiliation of Christ is also discussed in detail in this short letter. Reading this Epistle and studying these great truths is certainly exciting, and one cannot walk away from this book without a deeper appreciation for our Savior and a deeper commitment to living a life of holiness while shrouded in righteous humility. With all that being said, I’m going to write thanksgiving as it relates to our interpersonal relationships.

I think it’s necessary to discuss the background of this book prior to the main point of the article. In Acts 16 Paul receives a vision. He discerns that this vision is a direct call from God to take the Gospel message to the Macedonians. Paul and his companions immediately set sail and come first to the Roman settlement of Philippi – one of the chiefest Macedonian cities. The birth of the first Christian church to be established in Philippi begins to take shape when Paul and company go down to the river to find a place to pray on the Sabbath day. Paul always sought out the Jews first and this meant finding a synagogue on the Sabbath. In the absence of a Jewish synagogue within the city limits, there was generally one near water (for ceremonial purification rituals). Paul and his co-laborers headed down to the river (presumably) to find a Jewish synagogue. What they find instead is a group of women gathered who were apparently worshippers of God, so they began to share the Gospel with them. One of these women – Lydia – after hearing what Paul had to say, becomes a Christian and is baptized along with her entire house. It seems to be in her home that this fledgling church begins to meet.

Through a set of circumstances involving an exorcism performed by Paul (by the way, exorcisms in the Scripture seem to be pretty straightforward and quick affairs), he and Silas end up being arrested. After their mock trial, they are severely beaten. There’s no doubt that the man (or men) who were administering the stripes were very skilled in keeping their victims alive while inflicting as much pain as possible. After the beating, Paul and Silas are tossed into the prison and placed in stocks. Many commentators state that the stocks most commonly used were not mere “ankle bracelets”, but involved the entire body being placed in such an uncomfortable position that sleep would have been difficult even without the added discomfort of a bloody, raw, and beaten body.

Unable to sleep, Paul and Silas begin singing hymns to God. The unfolding scene with the earthquake and the presence of mind of the Apostle to restrain the prisoners from escaping is magnificent, and the entire story builds to this great crescendo when the prison guard cries out in verse 30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The simple answer given is “Believe in the Lord Jesus”.

This series of events leads to the establishment of this little work in the Macedonian city of Philippi. Some years later, Paul writes his friends in Philippi to thank them for their faithfulness to the ministry. This epistle to the Philippians is being written from prison, which makes the central themes throughout the book even more poignant. Paul’s thankfulness for and love to the Philippian Christians is manifest through the entire letter. He seems to have a desperate desire to see them again and even proclaims that his death will be delayed so that he can help them progress in their faith and joy.

There are a number of things that always strike me as remarkable when I read this short epistle…one of those things is the fact that Paul seems to look on his entire experience surrounding his initial contacts with these dear people of God as something for which to be thankful. This, of course, would include the severe beating and imprisonment that he endured during that initial visit.

Paul knew the source of true joy – the kind of joy that remains steadfast in spite of any outside forces and circumstances – was to be found only in Christ Jesus. As he begins to express this in his letter, he can’t help but to thank the Philippians for their friendship and faithfulness. The root of this thankfulness is simple….these people were Christians, which made them family; these people were partners in Paul’s ministry, which made them co-laborers; and these people were striving to grow more in Christ, which would make every interaction with them more and more precious.

I have a handful of people whom I consider to be my dearest friends. Some of them I’ve only known for a couple of years, while some of them have been friends for nearly two decades; some of them I see and speak to on a regular basis, while my visits with others of them are not nearly often enough. Regardless, these dear friends bring me a great deal of joy with every meeting. Every time I think about them or speak to them, I can thank my God for allowing that relationship to be in my life.

It’s a special thing to find a good, likeminded friend, I think. When you’ve found such a friend, you’ve likely found somebody who is as close (or often closer) than family. When reading this first chapter of Philippians and attempting to grasp what the aged Apostle is feeling, I think I understand his thankfulness for these brothers and sisters in Macedonia. When the Lord has blessed us with good friends who are striving to grow in their faith and to know God better, how can we think on them without erupting into thanksgiving to our Lord for the benefits of friendship? I thank the Lord regularly for the few close friends He’s given me. I am thankful that He’s saved them and seen to it that their paths crossed mine. May the Lord help each of us to be the kind of friends for which our friends can be thankful!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

One of my new favorite things....

I am becoming more and more a fan of the band Casting Crowns. Their latest album (The Alter and The Door) has some terrific songs on it. My favorite thus far is "East to West"(that link will take you to a page where you can preview each of the songs on the CD).

To be honest, I've not cared for this genre of music until recently (as I've explained a couple of different times here). As I've gotten over some of my hang-ups regarding CCM, I've been blessed time and again by inspirational (and sometimes emotional) music merged wonderfully with theologically sound and oft-times deep lyrical content. I've taken on a somewhat steady diet of CCM as of late, and I've found myself being confronted with my own depravity as well as the goodness and majesty of a Great God repeatedly. By no means do I like everything I hear. There are some musical styles within the CCM movement that, quite frankly, offend my sensibilities; however, my attitudes towards the genre have changed tremendously over the last 12 months as I've began to truly appreciate what some of these artists have to offer. I'm thankful for groups like Casting Crowns who have put out some truly Christ-honoring music that has had a profound impact on my life.

If you click on the picture above, it will take you to the Casting Crowns website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


What follows are some pictures from our recent trip. This will likely be uninteresting to most of you, but it's my blog so I'm putting them up anyway!

All in all, we had a great reunion while we were there. My wife has only been down to Mississippi one other time, so the culture was pretty new to her (I may write an article about the culture there later this week). The "southern hospitality" that you always hear about is still alive and well. We felt completely at home in my uncle's house from the moment we arrived. At any rate, here's a couple of pictures:

The guy with the ballcap on is my younger brother (Clay). Next to him is my cousin Sam, then me, then my cousin Jerry. Jerry and I are about the same age and we spent nearly every summer together when we were growing up. I had a great time "catching up" with he and his wife during our time down there. In case you're wondering, the answer is "yes".... Jerry and Sam are both pretty tall.... I'm nearly 6'4" and spent the entire weekend looking up to both of them. By the way, I'm not nearly as fat as I look in this picture....I just happen to be related to really skinny people!

You'll recognize my brother, me and our cousins from the previous picture - here we are with our spouses. My sister is the one in the flowered dress. Her boyfriend is the one in the red shirt. Three of their kids are pictured. My sister is holding one of my brother's children and one of his other children is standing in front of my wife and I. Their oldest son isn't in this picture. None of our kids our pictured. Neither of my cousins have children yet. Jerry and his wife Rena (pronounced Renae) have been married for fifteen years and Sam and Holly have been married for 2 years. They are expecting their first child (a son) in a couple of months.

I was also able to spend a little time getting to know my most "famous" living relative, George Drew. I grew up knowing him only as "Uncle Butch". I met him once as teenager and he gave me his most recent book of poetry at that time, "Toads in a Poisoned Tank". He's an interesting man who seems to fall left of me in just about every conceivable discussion, but I had a great time with him in our few conversations.

I'll write more later about the trip and some things we learned while there.

A picture is worth a thousand words...

While looking for a church to attend on Sunday during our recent trip to Mississippi, we elected to drive right past the one pictured to the right. Any guesses as to why.....

My wife actually snapped this one Monday morning as we were driving by on our way to a Starbucks in a small town in Arkansas.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mississippi bound

We'd appreciate your prayers as we are headed to Mississippi (as I type) for my grandmother's funeral. I should be back to blogging next week sometime.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Who am I"

I haven't listened to a great deal of CCM in my life until the last couple of years. Some of these songs I'm hearing now have truly blessed me, and the lyrics that follow (a song from Casting Crowns entitled "Who Am I" {follow link to video clip of a live performance of the song}) are no exception.
I've heard this song several times, but often mindlessly. On my way home from work tonight it was playing on the radio and, as I listened to the lyrics, I soon found myself in tears as I was drawn to reflect on the incredible mercies of an Almighty God. Here are the lyrics:

Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?

Who am I?
That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.

Who am I?
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?

Who am I?
That the voice that calmed the sea,
Would call out through the rain,
And calm the storm in me.

Bridge&Chorus 2x

I am yours.

Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
'Cause I am yours.
I am yours.