Friday, December 24, 2010

Bifrost Arts inspires some reflections on music and worship

I did a Sunday School class this summer on worship using John Frame's book called "Worship in Spirit and in Truth". It was a good class but in the end, I felt like I was just starting. My musical training is that I learned to read music by playing the saxophone in a school band. I later learned to sing music in a church choir. My music is really tied to the notes on the page and I really miss it, but I am not really sure how to reconnect with my music. I do find myself singing more for meaning in church these days, but I am still on a quest for more of God in worship which includes music but also prayer, Scripture reading, preaching and the sacraments. I just want more of God. Tomorrow is a day of worship.

Bifrost Arts from josh franer on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

SMS [Shine] - David Crowder Band

Shine -


I'm working on my paper on preaching sin in a postmodern age. I ran across this article by Tim Keller on the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). His main point seems to be that the PCA is pluralistic. Really. Not pluralistic in the sense of there being no truth but in the sense that the Reformed tradition brings the emphasis from a lot of different perspectives. A paragraph that caught my attention:

The best systematic theologies (here I’m thinking particularly of Herman Bavinck’s) are conscious of how the doctrinalist, pietist, and culturalist impulses all grow out of the same basic Reformed theological soil. The richness of Reformed theology inevitably inspires vigorous evangelism and sound doctrine; subjective spiritual experience and the ‘great objectivities’ of the sacraments; building the church and serving in society; creative cultural engagement and rootedness in historic tradition. In actual practice, however, these emphases are very difficult to combine in a local church and even more difficult to maintain together in a denomination. The proponents of each kind ministry tend to grate on each other and mistrust each other. And yet Presbyterianism continually produces them all.

You need to follow the link to get the whole thing. It is a pretty amazing analysis of not just the PCA but recent Reformed church history in the USA. One of the things that warmed my heart was to find out that the beginning of the PCA there was an organization that funded revival preaching in the PCA congregations. This sort of touches back to my roots of Presbyterianism.

Source of image:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Can You Legislate Morality?

The following is a partial thread on a discussion on the question, "Can you legislate morality?" My original position stated that we can't help but legislate morality. That is explained further in my response to Steve W.

Personally think that the law is, from a pragmatic stance, more effective at encouraging good behavior than prohibiting poor choices. The bad moral choices, I've found, tend to be dissuaded by community opinion, not by law--more people refrained from drunkenness because their neighbors disapprove than because of prohibition, for example. I do agree that the law always has a moral component to it, but on the whole, I'm an advocate of shame (public opinion) rather than punishment as a restraint on human evil. -- Steve W.


As I look at your post, I appreciate your nuanced thoughts, and I do agree with the idea that shame can bring a restraint on individuals in a society. I'm posting my response in my blogspot account since it is so lengthy. Also, I have wanted for some time to write on this issue so my response is as much to my daughter and the issue at large as it is to you.

However, it is a tragedy that our society has taken its queue on the interaction between morality and law from a caricature of the history of alcohol prohibition. The failure of prohibition is sort of told like one of Aesop's Fables, the moral of the story is that "you can't legislate morality." The phrase seems to me to have multiple meanings as people weave it through debates and discussion. It seems to be used because it serves multiple masters and can sort be difficult to rebuttal against.

I think a common way I hear the phrase interpreted is that "one cannot instill a sense of morals by simply passing a law." Of course passing a law without a social context will not educate the public. In that sense, there is a truth, but not one that is complete in the sense that in making laws we do several things. In a free and democratic society, one would hope that a good deal of deliberation is done while pushing for the passing of a law. Though this process at its worst cases is a far cry from this idealization, it is also a hope that through deliberation that our society can learn and grow. The deliberation should identify what is just and what is not just. The deliberation should bring an eventual consensus that one would hope brings a higher appreciation of right and wrong. Positive examples of this type of community growth of conscience happened in England by an extended debate regarding the need to end slavery. William Wilberforce and others presented the issue before parliament and eventually there was a change of opinion as well as the law. These are rare and glorious events in history when consensus is reached for a good and right cause by a society. Today, if anyone mentions that slavery exists somewhere in the world, we are all appalled. Law does not do change public opinion by itself but can be a component of change in the society. Of course mothers and fathers teaching morality is the primary way morals are to be taught with the help of other social institution such as the schools and church. However, in all societies there are evil mindsets, evil cultural practices, and evil institutions. Often a mother and father teaching the child are ill equipped teach against these components of a culture and possibly they are a part of the culture that passes on the evil mindset, cultural practice or support the evil institution. Simply passing a law on an issue may not convince a society as to the moral issues germane to the passing of a law, but the deliberation regarding that law may be a formidable force in swaying the conscience. The deliberation is key. A law professor I was listening to once said, "Law embodies our highest ideals."

The second usage of the phrase "you can't legislate morality" that I hear in conversation is that we should not attempt to make laws on moral issues but simply stick to laws regarding pragmatic issues. Having said that, I would critic this idea that one should leave moral issues out of legislation by saying that this really not a proposal to leave morality out but a certain type of morality. While I disagree with the position, it is a common approach to understand right and wrong from a functional or utilitarian ethic. Some people who seem to profess a utilitarian or functional view of ethics would say "you can't legislate morality" to mean that you can't legislate morality from some source such as divine revelation. This seems to be an attempt to replace morality from divine revelation with a sense of public right and wrong from secular sources. For instance such thinking I have heard proposed, if we regulate prostitution to limit the public health risks, why not allow it? If the law require health checkups for the prostitutes and condoms to be used, could not the risks be minimized for spreading disease? The proposal also said we should legalize prostitution and tax it to provide another source of revenue for the state. (I am not saying all ethicists who follow a utilitarian model wish to legalize prostitution.) The debate in such a proposal is not one of right and wrong but of how do we minimize undesirable results from our actions. Of course a utilitarian ethicist could cite other pragmatic risks to society from prostitution and make a stronger case against prostitution than those who follow a natural law or teleological approach to ethics since the utilitarian model of ethics can make a stronger appeal to statistical studies. So when I say "we can't help but legislate morality," I'm saying that even if we attempt to drop the morals of Christianity or other religions from the public debate, we are still picking up utilitarian or some other model of ethical teaching. Just because we drop the word morality from our vocabulary when discussing a law does not mean we are capable of decision making without a sense of what is right and wrong. Inherently we have a sense of justice and rightness that we desire to be a part of our laws.

I will return to the often cited pseudo-parable of prohibition. Prohibition is a well established national mistake. The solution to the disgrace of the mistake is "don't let religious people get involved in law making." The solution is to allow religious people to practice as they wish, but never again shall they impose a religious view on the rest of society through law. I would say this sort of thinking leads to several unintended consequences. The first being that those who do not hold to secular belief system may find themselves as second class citizens in the democratic process. I do not think any one wishes that to happen, but if the rules of a debate say that only certain people or types of arguments will be heard, it does have a lot effect on the debate. This can lead to a lot of frustration by those who have lost their voice in society. The second unintended outcome is that our society's ability to reach a consensus on complex issues is greatly hampered.

Though I am no expert regarding prohibition, I would say that lessons learned from that failed national experiment are more nuanced than simply, "you can't legislate morality." I would propose that we could begin to write a more comprehensive list of lessons learned from prohibition. Here are a list of lessons learned that I would propose and maybe you can think of others.

1. Be careful as you propose solutions to a problem.

It seems that alcoholism was a serious problem before prohibition. The solution seemed simple to those who did not drink. Just get rid of it. Of course it was wrong to drink all ones pay check so that our dependents went hungry. Of course it was wrong to get drunk and come home and physically abuse one's family members. These injustices cause wives and children to suffer. Understanding the problem may not lead one to a successful solution, wisdom is needed. By the way, not all domestic abuse can be blamed on alcohol. Perhaps domestic abuse would have been a better issue to think about. I could be that society did not allow the issue to be brought up. I understand there is a lot of shame in these sorts of situations and the drink was easier to blame than discuss the issue.

2. Be sure you gain consensus before you ask for big changes.

While certain circles saw alcohol consumption as the problem, it seems that other circles did not agree. I suspect that it was difficult for families where wine or beer was a part of the normal diet to accept prohibition. If everyone in your family drinks a glass of wine with their meal with little problems, why all the effort to completely prohibit it? I suspect that Catholic immigrants to America found the Protestant who insisted on complete abstinence from alcohol to be non-sense.

3. As Christians involved in public debate about law, be sure one has correctly interpreted the Bible.

The Bible never forbids drinking alcohol, but does say Proverbs 20:1 "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise". Even though a good portion of people in the pews would support the church's teaching against consumption of alcohol, I think many would have said that they can't see the prohibition against consuming alcohol in the Scripture.

4. Do not count on having influence or power forever; leave a legacy that will be cherished.

I'm not sure of the attitude of those who pushed for prohibition, but their legacy is not appreciated in this regard. Consensus is an important tool for long term good.

I would be open to hearing other opinions or your own list of lessons learned from the US prohibition era that could replace the "moral of the story" that "you can't legislate morality."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing by Charlies Wesley

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

Terry's Comments: Our capacity to praise God does not equal his glory. I'm not sure if Wesley is saying he desires 1,000 different languages or 1,000 organs of speech to praise God. Either way, the human capacity to praise God is only giving partial glory to the wondrous God.

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy Name.

Terry's Comments: Since God's glory is so great, we actually need divine assistance to do that proclamation justice. It is not just enough to praise God in the USA or England, every nation of the earth just needs to praise God.

Jesus! the Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

Terry's Comments: The name of Jesus brings wholeness to our broken soul.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Terry's Comments: The name of Jesus brings release and cleansing to our sinful soul.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Terry's Comments: The voice of Jesus revives us.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

Terry's Comments: The voice of Jesus heals our infirmities.

Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.

Terry's Comments: God is worthy of glory that transcends our time and our earthly state. If we went to a different dimension, he would still be worthy of our praise.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pursue Love

I was afforded the opportunity to preach this morning. My church was a blessing to me. The sermon was on 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. The sermon can be heard on Sermon Cloud. Follow the link.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Odes Project

I am going through a iTunes university course on Worship from Liberty University. One of the lecturers mention the "The Odes Project". It is an interesting look at ancient Christian hymns.
Below is an embedded video of Ode 13, there are 42 in all. (Disclaimer: I wish the fellow who did this wonderful reading had not said "the word of the Lord.")

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Mentor

Talking to a friend, we were discussing mentorship and training. I'm on my second internship for ministry that is formal. I have been mentored a number of times in less formal settings and in other formal settings. I see a lot of mentorships fail to meet the development goals. Often they get side tracked. Often people are recruited to be a mentor, but they don't know what to do. They know what a teacher does, but what does a mentor do? So they try to teach and often what they teach are procedures to do a job. In that way people mistake On the Job Training (OJT) for mentoring someone. OJT involves doing tasks that are supervised. A good OJT method is "I do, we do, you do." What that means is that first someone watches the trainer do the task. They talk about it. There is healthy discussion about the task. Then the trainer and the trainee do it together. Lastly the trainer watches the trainee do it. This is good OJT. OJT is training. Mentoring on the other hand assumes that the person already has competencies and he needs to think through the issues with someone else. Again a good discussion about issues, but the mentor talks less about a formal set of procedures and more about topics brought up by the one who is being mentored. A good mentor also is able to point out blind spots for the one being mentored. Mentoring is encouraging.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Link to Seminary Scholarship

Going to Seminary is expensive. On top of that, finding a scholarship can be really difficult. That's why I was so excited to find this Seminary Scholarship website today. Not only are they giving away a $1,000.00 scholarship and a digital theological library, all I had to do to apply was watch a short video and answer a few questions! It took less than 15 minutes. What is best of all is that if you're in seminary and apply for the Seminary Scholarship, and put my name as the person who referred you, if you win the scholarship, so do I! We could both get a $1,000.00 scholarship and digital theological library. So, do us both a favor and go apply for the Seminary Scholarship today.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ye Ol' Garden

May 28th and we have been eating from our garden a few weeks. It has not been unusual for me to plant the garden after May. Because one does not harvest before he plants, I have never had May crops before. Spring gardening has been fun and I hope I never go back to planting in June. The blackberry (not BlackBerry) hedge is blooming.

We have been eating the lettuce and trying to give it away. We have made a couple salads for church.

My wife like broccoli but I have never been successful at growing it. Maybe it was the late planting cycles. They seem to like the cool spring.

We have peaches starting to form. Our peaches are usually best in a pie and not great slicing peaches. I'm looking forward to cinnamon peach cobbler.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Only in Saudi Arabia

Disclaimer: Please don't say I encouraged you in any way to try this.

When I was in Saudi by in the early 90's the roads were slick. Months of super hot weather with no rain, combined with cars that did not have the best emissions standards made for slick residue build up. This video shows the normal surface, but watch out if it rains. The oil build up makes for a crazy slick surface, at least for the first few minutes of the rain.

Oh yeah, I advise you turn down the sound so as to not get annoying wind noises.

Hat Tip: Michael Totten

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thoughts on Love Inspired by 1 Cor 13

Love is valuing someone from the heart. It is recognizing what is special in the other person. Philia love is valuing a friend. Eros is valuing someone with whom you have a romantic relationship or desire to have a romantic relationship. Agape love is valuing someone but there is no apparent benefit to loving the other person, you just see why he or she is special, nifty, and cool.

When people talk about unconditional love I think what they mean is love without transactional benefit. Friendship often involves mutual benefit. Romance often assumes mutual benefit. Love that comes from our heavenly Father did not look for a benefit. He sent his One and Only Son into the world when we were his enemies.

Love is not merely being polite to someone. It certainly isn't being mean either, but polite is just shy of love. Love goes beyond just treating someone fairly. Love is not merely not being at war with someone. Apathy does not communicate love, it may communicate hate. Love means that you recognize something in the person that makes you pay attention what is going on with that person. Everyone is a mixed bag of both good and bad; love means you really appreciate the good in that person.

Comments welcome...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Integration of Truth and Emotion

Listening to a speaker this past Thursday at a worship service, I noticed a strange dichotomy articulated. It was the concept that emotions are unreliable and that the Word of God is reliable. The man took the Scripture as factual but saw emotions as unreliable. I would define emotions as responses to one's value judgments. Those value judgments may be misguided or be an accurate assessment of the facts. Certainly one's emotions may be manipulated by others or ourselves. Emotions may also be influenced by one's health and environmental factors. Interactions with others influence one's emotions also. When the Scripture commands one to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might", it includes the emotions. An emotionless response to the Word of God would mean that one would fail to embrace the
value judgments discussed therein. Worship is meant to engage the whole person. That does not mean one should engage the emotions without the mind or will. People make use of emotional energy to improve performance at tasks related to sports, performing arts, and persuasion. It is not unusual for those who desire to harness the emotional energy to do so without regard for truth. Coaches and teachers commonly speak in hyperbole to engage the emotions to bring focus and energy to the student's performance. In certain circles of Christianity there has been an engagement of the emotional nature of believers without a strong connection to mental aspect of Christianity. The reaction to that appears to be the total disengagement of the emotions. A response more in line with the greatest commandment is for one to engage the mind and the emotions along with the will, conscience, and body. Just because a well meaning coach on the football team could engage the emotions with light content about the game does not mean that all emotional appeals are free of substantive contributions to the mental aspects of the person. Football has rules and roles that allow for that sort of emotional appeals, but worship is incomplete without both mental and emotional engagement.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter Olympics 2010

We got our first TV as a family in 1996, that is right Barb and I did not have a TV for the first thirteen years of our marriage. Funny thing, the Olympics has become an almost exclusively iPhone event for me. I have the Olympics App; "yes, they have an app for that". I check on that medals via that app and I get Lindsey Vonn's Tweets and FB. Still, the TV part of the Olympics is not grabbing me. I blame it on the DVR and on demand programming. I'm recording the events, but I am not going back to watch them. A component of the TV programming that is a bit slow is that it is necessary to build a profile of the athlete for the public so that we really know who we are cheering for. I think more of the human interest thing might be added into the web and more events saved for video. Just an idea. By the way, here are the medal counts. Go team USA!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I really liked the Sock Monkey

My favorite Super Bowl commercial was the sock monkey.

I also liked Betty White. Made me ask, why are those guys playing so rough with Betty White?

Then everyone liked this Google commercial including me.

What was your favorite?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Seven Does Follow Six

This morning I was studying Isaiah 7, reading about the prophet asking the unbelieving king to find faith and if he lacked faith that God was willing to give him a miraculous sign. For years I have listened to message that I must pull myself up by my own boot straps, that it all depended upon me for success. If I failed, it would be because I did not try hard enough, I did not work enough, that I was a failure. Indeed, I should work hard. Certainly, I should not give a half effort. Surely, I must try, try again. However, I heard the ancient prophet say to Ahaz, and also whisper to me, "If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’” As someone else paraphrased it, "Trust or bust." Ahaz was thinking that he was a clever politician, that he knew what to do. His solution to threats from his northern neighbors was to seek refuge in one of the superpowers of the day. He did not trust so in the end, he was busted. The kingdom was not ripped from his family, but the family and kingdom were ripped from their land. His heirs would be sojourners to the east. His progeny would serve as appointed governors at a foreign king's pleasure. While there were other contributing factors, a lack of faith on Ahaz' part brought the nation of Judah one step closer to exile.

I often find myself lacking faith. I often find myself seeking to solve my problems through my own human effort. God used the words in Isaiah 6 to call me to his service, "Here am I, send me." I do trust his call, not necessarily in my ability to good enough for his call. I, like the prophet, need cleansing from the Lord. Being cleansed, I am ready to serve at his pleasure, whether great or small. Seeing how Isaiah receives his call, he is told that his message would not be believed. That is exactly what happens in Isaiah 7. Ahaz remains in unbelief. The prophet's message of faith was rejected. Chapter seven follows on the heels of chapter six.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Is the NIV being discontinued?

I'm not sure.

What I mean by that is that the issue is not cut and dry. It depends what you consider the essence of the NIV to be.

Some helpful links come from the NIV Bible Update website and Zondervan's blog.

These sites explain how they are updating the NIV version of the Bible.

I believe the question comes down to whether the updates will cause the same issues to resurface that the TNIV brought. I am in a wait and see attitude.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Westminster Confession on One God.

1. There is but one only1 living and true God,2 who is infinite in being and perfection,3 a most pure spirit,4 invisible,5 without body, parts,6 or passions;7 immutable,8 immense,9 eternal,10 incomprehensible,11 almighty,12 most wise,13 most holy,14 most free,15 most absolute,16 working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will,17 for His own glory;18 most loving,19 gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin,20 the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him;21 and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments;22 hating all sin,23 and who will by no means clear the guilty.24

See also: WLC 7 | WSC 4


1 Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4,6.

2 1 Thess. 1:9; Jer. 10:10.

3 Job 11:7,8,9; Job 26:14.

4 John 4:24.

5 1 Tim. 1:17.

6 Deut. 4:15,16; John 4:24; Luke 24:39.

7 Acts 14:11,15.

8 James 1:17; Mal. 3:6.

9 1 Kings 8:27; Jer. 23:23,24.

10 Ps. 90:2;1 Tim. 1:17.

11 Ps. 145:3.

12 Gen. 17:1; Rev. 4:8.

13 Rom. 16:27.

14 Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8.

15 Ps. 15:3.

16 Exod. 3:14.

17 Eph. 1:11.

18 Prov. 16:4; Rom. 11:36.

19 1 John 4:8,16.

20 Exod. 34:6,7.

21 Heb. 11:6.

22 Neh. 9:32,33.

23 Ps. 5:5,6.

24 Nah. 1:2,3; Exod. 34:7.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Strange Punishment in Genesis 4: Mercy Given to the First Murderer

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?"
He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"
And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth."
Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."
Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold."
And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
(Genesis 4:8-16 ESV)

No, horticulture is not sinful in and of itself. The Word of God does tell us what ever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23) Cain has placed his trust in his own abilities above God's provision. He wanted to call the shots. He was a tiller of the earth and expected that to be his means of coming before God. God did not allow it and rejected his sacrifice. To say how he achieved this would be conjecture but it seemed apparent to Cain. When Cain took vengeance on his brother for having his sacrifice be accepted, God took his source of pride and self-sufficiency from him. This was a mercy towards Cain. Able's sacrifice was not acceptable because his skills were better or because he practiced animal husbandry, but because he offered the sacrifice by faith. Able was faithful to God's command and displayed his faith by obeying. (Hebrews 11:4) If we say we have faith, a component of that faith is that we must not simply do our own will and call it faith. This is essentially what Cain did. He wanted the favor of God. It can be deduced that he expected at least on a certain level that God would accept his sacrifice. The problem is that he did not act in faith. He did not believe God's instructions for an offering. We do not have God's instructions spelled out, but it was given prior to the sacrifice. Cain wanted to do his own thing and have God bless it. This is often the practice of the Christian, including this writer. Obedience does not equate to righteousness, but true faith is followed by obedience.
Later on the punishment for murder is later established to be execution. (Genesis 9:6) Possibly God did not establish capital punishment from the start because the problem had not arisen yet. This line of thinking is plausible, but not proven by any Scripture known to this writer. We do see that Cain is given another punishment without prior warning, so that casts doubt on the theory that God would not give a punishment without a warning. A more likely answer is that God is merciful to Cain which as the Scripture tells us is a call to repentance. (Romans 2:4) Cain did not get what he deserved but he received mercy.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year with the Daily Audio Bible

I make goals for the year, as you may know, I don't really prefer to do resolutions for the New Year. As a part of spiritual growth work out plan, I have made it a goal to listen to the Daily Audio Bible. It is not my intention to listen to it everyday. I think that would be too lofty of a goal since I am going to be reading the Bible for myself too. So if I can get some DAB in two or three times a week, I think that would be great. I encourage you to consider checking out this resource.

Five Reason the DAB is Cool!
1. Brian reads from the heart.
2. You get a new version of the English Bible each week.
3. Hearing it read gives you a different perspective from reading it from the page.
4. It is prayerfully pursued.
5. It really is about being a part of the Christian family.

You can get to DAB via their website, iTunes, and many other ways. Check them out.