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.

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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?’ “

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”

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”

Comparing Southern Gospel Pianists

Comparing Southern Gospel pianists is like comparing Cathedrals albums. Or Gaither Vocal Band lineups. (Or British actors, or Paul Simon songs, or… sorry, I’ll stop now. 😉 ) There’s such a wealth of talent, and the amazing thing is it’s so varied. Every pianist has his signature touch.

Last night I saw Kim Collingsworth live for the second time, and I was blown away all over again by her talent. The opening act was a young local pianist/music teacher named Darin Yoder. He was perfectly capable, but he just couldn’t touch Kim. Then I started thinking, “But what if I tried to compare Kim with Gordon Mote, or Tim Parton, or some other top-notch southern gospel pianist? Would that even make sense?” One thing’s for sure, I definitely don’t feel like I can say for certain “Well x top-shelf SG pianist is objectively more talented than y top-shelf SG pianist.” Not only is it often an apples and oranges thing as far as styles are concerned, but all these pianists are so talented that they can switch sounds at the drop of a hat. Gordon Mote is flashy and snappy most of the time, but he can play a good old-fashioned inspirational piano if needed. Kim Collingsworth revels in said old-fashioned inspirational playing, with lavish flourishes and big octave grabs, yet I’ve also heard her cut loose with jazzy improv (see her live work on the family’s encore of “I Know”).

One of the nice things about SG pianists is that they’re so modest they’re constantly giving place to their peers. In the course of dispelling a speculation that he might be the next Homecoming pianist, Stewart Varnado said that he wasn’t even in Gordon Mote’s league. Because I’m not an experienced pianist myself, and all I know is that all these pianists are phenomenal, I can’t tell whether this is just sheer modesty on their part or whether they’re actually totally accurate in their evaluations.

So, since I lack the ability to rank talent at that high a level, I thought it might be interesting to ask… if you’re reading, and you’re an experienced musician, how do you do it? When you’re presented with a whole slew of fantastic musicians, each a master of his instrument in his own way, how do you tell which ones are the best of the best of the best?

Why “Gay Gossip” is Poison

There’s no particular reason for me to be publishing this post today. But it’s been sitting in my “drafts” for a while, and I finally decided to let it loose. It’s a bit of doozy. Moderation may be a little tight on this one, but rest assured that your comments will be published as long as they are constructive. (Though they may not be approved right away since I’ll be at work all morning and half the afternoon.)

Today I’m going to be talking about a kind of person I can’t stand: “know-it-alls” who can’t keep their mouth shut. You know the type. They parade around, sounding smug, dropping hints and spreading rumors. In Southern Gospel, that usually takes the form of people implying that the genre is infested with immorality—specifically, homosexual immorality.

Now, I won’t deny the possibility that some rumors might be true, nor that we should be rightly angered/sorrowful if they were. But that’s not the point I want to make today. The point I want to make today is that these know-it-alls are doing far more harm than good. Here are just a few reasons why:

1. When vagueness abounds, innocent people get hurt. I can’t tell you how many readers have come to my site searching for info on whether or not this or that gospel singer is gay. Sadly, these sorts of views only increased after a certain anonymous artist started a blog (which is thankfully off-line now) and allowed the know-it-alls to drop their hints in the comments. I won’t tell you any of the names readers have typed in, but so far I haven’t seen any for which there’s a shred of public evidence that this particular rumor is true, and for some of them it’s perfectly obvious that it’s false. This is because the know-it-alls are always dancing around specificity in their comments, always saying this is a “huge problem” and there are “more than you know” while stopping just short of naming names. I’m not saying it would be a good thing for them to name names (to the contrary), I’m just saying this alternative isn’t any better, because it arouses curiosity and suspicion in readers who will then go off and engage in the sort of “I wonder if X is…” speculations which are generally reserved for celebrities/tabloid fodder. Do we want this? Do we need this? Answer: No.

2. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people jump to conclusions based on subjective criteria. “So-and-so is soooo gay.” How do you know? “I can just tell. Can’t you?” Actually no, not really. There are plenty of heterosexual men with effeminate features out there, and on the flip side there are plenty of “manly” homosexual/bisexual men (just look at Hollywood—Errol Flynn, Marlon Brando… who’da thought, but there it is). Now this past year I had a classmate who I could tell was obviously gay, but Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction weren’t exactly required to draw that conclusion:  He constantly wore effeminate clothing, used effeminate nail polish, had an ear piercing and wore a rainbow bracelet. But when you don’t have clues like that to go on, you’re guessing, plain and simple. You might guess right. But you might guess wrong too. Either way, it’s not a solid basis for spreading a rumor.

3. You will never see anyone even attempting to make a distinction between “gay” and “actively gay,” even though this is absolutely crucial in determining whether somebody is actually engaging in sin. Instead, the word “gay” is spread like a foggy blanket over everything.

4. This may be the worst effect of all. Imagine for a moment that there’s someone in southern gospel who does struggle with this temptation. But he’s genuinely trying to live biblically and abstain from sin (though the wisdom of traveling in a male group as so many SG singers do could be questioned in that situation, but we’re not going there at the moment). Now, suppose he reads people from the right speculating about him and making false accusations. Suppose further that at the same time, he has people from the left who are telling him things like, “We accept you for who you are,” and essentially encouraging him not to feel any inhibitions about giving in to his temptations. What do you think is going to happen? On the one hand, there are people who aren’t willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and are only making him more discouraged. On the other hand, there’s the allure of being accepted and welcomed by people who, in the name of not being “judgmental,” won’t give him the tough love he needs to continue battling his sin. This is a push-pull phenomenon, and it all points in the same direction. Suppose one day he just decides to give up? I can see it happening. And those know-it-alls would have contributed their share to his fall.

This is why “gay gossip” is poison, and why I’ve never allowed it on my site. I am not calling it out because I’m assuming that every rumor I hear is false. I am not calling it out because I’m in any way “soft” on the homosexual issue. I am calling it out because it’s wrong, and it hurts people. And “know-it-alls” who fancy themselves on the side of the conservatives had better wake up to the fact that even from a political perspective, this is not helping our cause. See point four.

If you are in the business, and you have first-hand, undeniable proof of some specific individual’s orientation, act according to your conscience. If you have only rumors, take them with a grain of salt and pray they are untrue. But whatever you do, don’t go announcing what you know, or think you know, on a public forum. You will harm the Southern Gospel community, you will harm the Church, you will harm the cause of Christ, and you will harm the cause of conservatism.