All Shall Be Well

Well, I was going to put together a week in review post like I always do, but I just couldn’t get it together. The first reason is I simply ran out of time. The second reason is that the decision on June 28 loomed so large everything else seemed to pale by comparison. So I want to just share a few thoughts that I have had as I try to grasp the significance of this and what it means to me as an American and a Christian.

“I dreamed I was flying/And high up above my eyes could clearly see/The statue of liberty/Sailing away to sea…” That pretty much sums up my feelings about America right now. When we teach our kids civics, we won’t be able to tell them we live in a republic anymore. That’s staggering, and sobering. I realize there are a lot of Republicans/mainstream conservatives trying to pretend the ruling on June 28 really wasn’t so bad as all that, or maybe it was bad but it wasn’t John Roberts’ fault, and anyway this’ll add fuel to Romney’s fire… to all that I say rubbish. What’s being lost sight of here is that not only was the outcome unremittingly disastrous, doing away with the entire notion of enumerated powers in this nation, but the entire procedure was contemptibly unprincipled and dishonorable. There’s no excuse for what Roberts did, and I can only conclude that he made his last-minute switch out of a desire for approval from the left. While Kennedy, Kennedy of all people, who basically defines “unprincipled,” actually sided with the dissent! It boggles the mind.

That is my reaction as somebody who loves what America should be and was created to be, but who can no longer love what America is. It is my reaction as a citizen of this country and this world. And I believe it is a righteous reaction and a justified reaction. At the same time, I believe that I am not JUST a citizen of this country, or this world. At the same time, I understand WHY I am groaning for that patriot dream, that city undimmed by human tears. It is because one day that dream will become a reality, and one day God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. There will be a new heaven, and a new earth. And like the children at the end of The Last Battle, as they realize that they have finally found the true Narnia, the real Narnia, we will some day find the true America.

But it will be after. After the fall. After the wreckage. After the burning. And then… then… the rebirth. And all shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well.


Politics and the Church: Why John Piper Has It Wrong

John Piper is a pastor I greatly respect, and I’ve taken a lot of wisdom from his teachings. But today I want to discuss an area in which he and a great many other Christians, even self-identified conservative Christians, are importantly wrong. More urgently, he is importantly wrong in a way that could provide aid and comfort to Christians farther to the left than he. However, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so let’s take it from the top.

It began with this sermon on the upcoming Minnesota marriage amendment, which would affirm traditional marriage and prohibit the legal sanctioning of same-sex “marriages” in that state. When we evaluate the sermon by itself, in isolation from any later responses or comments, most of it holds up rather well. (Though since the amendment won’t be on the ballot until election season, June seems a bit early to be preaching on it. Hang onto that thought—as you’ll soon see, it’s an important element in this whole situation.) Piper spends the majority of his time clearly laying out the biblical model for marriage, explaining why same-sex “marriage” is literally a metaphysical impossibility, and explaining why it would be a disaster for society if it were to become the universal norm. So far, so solid. Continue reading “Politics and the Church: Why John Piper Has It Wrong”

CD Review: Love Won, by the Talleys

Love Won is the first album for the Talleys as a quartet with the new addition of Lauren’s husband, tenor Brian Alvey. It serves up a generous thirteen cuts, a mix of new and old. The title catches the attention right away—possibly an intentional reference (response?) to Rob Bell’s controversial Love Wins? In any event, most of the songs are lyrically built around God’s plan of salvation, touching on themes of healing, redemption, forgiveness, and re-creation. Some of them are among the Talleys’ best new songs in recent memory.

Track-by-Track Continue reading “CD Review: Love Won, by the Talleys”

AbsolutelyGospel Features Interview with Ernie Haase

I found this an interesting read even though I’ve read and seen a lot of interviews with Ernie. He finds something different to say every time. I’m looking forward to part two, though I’m somewhat curious as to exactly what they mean by “rumors” when they say he’ll address some of the rumors about Signature Sound. I guess we’ll find out [I just fixed this from “found out.” I must be really exhausted.] Meanwhile, here’s a good quote from Part 1:

So do you think it leans more towards trying to get the younger, the teens and the youth? “No, that’s never been, I know that’s what people keep saying but I know what caught my attention at age 15 and it was the harmony and the professionalism of George and Glen. I don’t get on the TV, and there’s not enough time to get on interviews, so I always just kind of concede that yeah we want to reach the youth, because we do, but I don’t set down and record a record saying ‘Okay, how can we reach the youth?’ “

The Week in Review: John Piper Hoopla, New BFA Album Preview, Chris Allman Songwriting Blog Reboot, and More…

On the “who cares?” front:

— Is The Dark Knight Rises really just set to be Rocky 3… 2? A serious analysis.

On the faith and culture front:

— Big hoopla over John Piper’s sermon on same-sex “marriage,” the Star Tribune’s coverage of it, and Piper’s subsequent clarification. In a nutshell, Piper is trying to walk a line between tipping his hand on the moral issues while officially maintaining a church policy of political quietism as a matter of principle. It’s rather confusing and frankly not very logical. I think the comments from his own representative in the Tribune piece are quite revealing. But I’m going to be giving this whole incident its own post soon, because I think it’s a highly important topic that needs to be discussed. So watch for that.

When Dialogue Avoids Truth: Kevin DeYoung shares a wise word from Thomas Oden. “If the central question of Christian unity for classic Christian believers is the truth of the gospel, then the apostolic testimony made known in Jesus Christ is the first step toward unity. All other dialogue, however altruistic it may appear, is truly a diversion, a pretension of searching for truth, a ruse that substitutes narcissistic talk for integrity.”

On the southern gospel front:

–Here’s a taste of the kinds of obstacles our favorite groups have to be prepared for on the road. Legacy Five shares the wild and woolly tale of their recent bus fire, resulting blown alternator, and the heroic lengths to which they had to go in order to make it to their concert.

— Chris Allman has revived what used to be an old songwriting blog of his and begun updating it with fresh material. Here is the most recent entry, a guest post from none other than Jim Brady. I’m very much looking forward to what Chris has to offer!

–Don’t forget that Tribute Quartet will be giving a live concert on ASGM Monday night! Word is ASGM’s streaming capabilities have drastically improved, so excited about that. Register here.

— Here is a studio preview of Brian Free & Assurance’s upcoming album Nothing But Love. For BFA fans, it promises to deliver more of the same. Highlights so far for me are “Guard Your Heart,” (4:40) “Calvary’s Cry,” (7:05) “I Want to Be That Man,” (9:10) and “Revival” (10:38).

–Speaking of BFA, if you always wanted to watch Bryce Free and Jeremy Lile having a completely pointless, random conversation about everything from Batman, to guacamole, to koala bears, to the relative merits of polar bears and black bears, to different kinds of rocks, to what exactly the difference is between Avatar and Dances With Wolvesbehold.

Open thread. Discuss away.

Devotional Thought: Holy Union

Last week I went to a friend’s wedding. She was not my very closest friend, but I knew her, and I was close friends with some of her close friends. I was expecting to enjoy the ceremony. I certainly wasn’t expecting to do an “ugly cry.”

But I did. Because beauty snuck up on me. She has a way of doing that.

First the groomsmen came, walking briskly all in a line, sharp-looking young men all in black suits. Then came the bridesmaids one by one, walking slowly and gracefully in dresses that reached the floor. And I believe it was then that the pint-sized flower girl made her way up the aisle, radiating adorableness in every direction. Upon reaching the front, she promptly dumped the flower petals out of her basket. There were ripples of laughter.

Then came the bride, in a pure white gown that was both modest and stunning. Her father was not present, so she walked half-way up the aisle by herself. That was when the groom came down from the front, met her, and gave her his arm to walk the rest of the way.

And that was when I lost it. It was the first time I’d seen the bride and groom together. The sheer joy that was shining from their faces as their eyes met was indescribable. In that moment, I saw everything I wanted my own future to be. I saw contentment upon contentment, grace upon grace. Holiness upon holiness.

We sat through the rest of the service as the preacher spoke, as they said their vows, and as they took communion while a pianist played special music. Finally, the groom kissed his bride, and we broke our own silence with uproarious applause.

I realized it had been a long time since I’d seen a wedding—six years now. And I’ve spent so much time fighting the corruption of marriage, the corruption of love itself in the form of homosexuality that I think God knew my soul needed to be refreshed. He knew that I needed a flesh-and-blood reminder of what a perfect, holy union looks like: one man and one woman, pure in body, heart and mind, committed to God and each other ’til death should part them.

We live in a fallen world, and still God reveals Himself. Still He gives us foretastes of glory divine. For how much more glorious will that final marriage celebration be? How much more beautiful the moment when Jesus carries His bride over the threshold of His kingdom?

The marriage-feast is waiting,
The gates wide open stand;
Up, up, ye heirs of glory!
The Bridegroom is at hand.

— “Rejoice, Rejoice Believers”

“Ain’t No Homo” Followup: How Would I Preach on Homosexuality?

I’m not a pastor, and as long as I’m living biblically I never will be one. But yesterday’s post sparked some comments from people agreeing that homosexuality is a sin, but wondering how to preach on it. Some people were saying, “But would warnings alone draw homosexuals to God?” One person made an analogy that after all, people read warnings on cigarette packages and still smoke.

This is true. Some people don’t heed warnings. Some homosexuals contemptuously brush the Word aside and continue on in their goal to destroy western civilization.

But at that point my question is this: Just how likely is it that those people would receive the gospel in any way, shape, or form?

This is what I would say if I were a pastor preaching on homosexuality. I would begin with a message to the repentant. Then I would turn to the unrepentant: Continue reading ““Ain’t No Homo” Followup: How Would I Preach on Homosexuality?”

A Few Thoughts on the “Ain’t No Homo Gonna Make it to Heaven” Video

Normally I like to avoid writing about the latest viral sensation or controversy, simply because I like to stand out from the crowd a bit. I dislike having the feeling that I’m obligated to talk about what everyone else is talking about. It’s part of the homogenization of Internet culture.

That being said, it occurred to me that I actually had something to say about this clip[Update: the link has been removed], and since this revolves around an issue I’ve discussed here before, it might not be a bad idea to talk about what I think the appropriate conservative Christian response should be. Continue reading “A Few Thoughts on the “Ain’t No Homo Gonna Make it to Heaven” Video”

The Week in Review: NQC Joins With TBN, Arminians and Calvinists Clash, and Much More…

On the entertainment front:

*For any Beach Boys fans out there who might be reading this blog (I’m looking at you, Wes Burke), here’s a video sure to bring back memories. The now aged but still kicking California surfers recently paid a visit to Central Park and performed a couple oldies, including that immortal, nay Shakespearian classic, “Good Vibrations.” Enjoy.

On the faith and culture front:

*Here is one Christian’s open letter to Sam Harris. This particular Christian also happens to be a cancer patient. The topic: death and resurrection. Well worth reading.

*Some of you have already heard of the massive Calvinist vs. Arminian kerfuffle that’s going on, sparked by this Statement of the Traditional Baptist Understanding of Salvation. The document was designed to make explicit just what it is that the majority of non-Calvinist Southern Baptists believe about salvation. It’s sparked quite the debate. You can read a summing-up of the various responses and counter-responses here. I have nothing deep to contribute, except that it would appear I’m definitely not a Calvinist. Pass the popcorn.

*Tim Challies dared to criticize John Piper. The topic was Piper’s comments about Christianity’s having “a masculine feel.” Challies begs to differ. Of course, here I am looking at Piper’s list of “masculine virtues”  (“tender-hearted strength,” “contrite courage,” “risk-taking decisiveness,” “sacrificial leadership”) and thinking, “So what’s not to love?” But in all seriousness,  I do definitely disagree with Challies’ assertion that God is neither masculine nor feminine. His argument just fails on a number of levels. I don’t think he’s moved to the dark side, he’s just kind of uptight and confused on this point.

*I present… The Playful Puppies Bible. I sincerely wish I were joking. It got me thinking… just where would one of these adorable, full-page color photos be most appropriately placed in Scripture? The story of Jezebel comes to mind. Insert well-fed puppy portrait here. But hey, at least it’s not the Stock Car Racing edition. Lordie, that Gaither Bible is looking classier all the time.

On the Southern Gospel front:

*NQC has made a deal with TBN to let the network broadcast the show in 2012. A lot of people are furrowing their brows over this, and I admit I’m one of them. TBN just has a sleazy reputation. They’ve been involved in various scandals, and they’ve worked with heretical “prosperity gospel” preachers like Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn. I really question the wisdom of making an association like this. It will be interesting to see whether attendance is significantly affected.

*The Ball Brothers have launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new album. Get all the details here. If nothing else, watch the promo video. But you might want to donate at least a little—if the Brothers are correct, the world will end in accordance to the Mayan calendar should they fail to reach their goal. “Tell your friends… and tell your strangers.” As a matter of fact, they already have almost $11,000 of the $15,000 needed, so I have no doubt they will reach their goal. A nice thing about all this is that Daniel Ball was one of the first people to pledge to the new Union Street project, and now in return Ryan Seaton has been publicizing the Brothers’ campaign.

*The drop date for Brian Free & Assurance’s new record has been pushed down yet again to mid-July. Meanwhile, here’s the cover art. I think Shivers needs a shave. Ditch the beard dude. (Oops… accidental alliteration.)

*I got the chance to sing a little duet together with Doug Anderson last Saturday. He’s a master harmonizer, and I picked a key that really showcases his silky upper range. What’s impressive is that I launched into this completely cold—no preliminary “Ooooohs”—and he followed me pitch-perfectly from note one.

Open thread. Now come on. You can’t NOT find something to talk about here.

Hear The Last Ride Soundtrack Streaming Free

Some of you might have heard of a new indie film called The Last Ride. It centers on country music legend Hank Williams—specifically, the last few days of his life. Here’s a brief summary of what we know about the circumstances surrounding his death:

On January 1st 1953, Williams was scheduled to perform in Canton, OH. Because of bad weather, he couldn’t fly as planned, and hired a freshman college student to drive him. Hank suffered from chronic back problems, and had injected himself with morphine during the trip from Knoxville, TN and also was drinking alcohol. Hank Williams died of heart failure sometime that night with varying accounts of exactly where and when, though a gas station in Oak Hill, WV is given credit as Hank’s final destination. Hank was 29.

The exact details are shrouded in mystery and have invited all manner of wild speculation. While this film doesn’t claim to be factual, it attempts to offer a redemptive “what if,” exploring the extremely brief and extremely tense relationship between Hank (Henry Thomas, former child star of ET fame) and his young driver (Jesse James). There are two reasons it should be of interest to Southern Gospel fans. First, one of its producers is none other than Benjy Gaither, son of Bill and Gloria. Second, the soundtrack is a rich, eclectic gold-mine of southern gospel, classic country/western, and new songs composed especially for the film. Several are fresh recordings featuring some of your favorite currently active gospel singers, including Doug Anderson, Michael English and Wes Hampton. Continue reading “Hear The Last Ride Soundtrack Streaming Free”