Friday, February 29, 2008

Larry Norman 1947 - 2008

Christian Music lost its pioneer this week. Not one of its pioneers, but the pioneer. A huge distinction. Larry Norman is widely credited with starting this whole genre before it became a genre. Back in the 70s, it was more an outpouring of the faith of the Jesus Movement through music, as opposed to the crappity crap crap that's being mass produced today.

This brings me to a larger point. What happened to honest music? The stuff that Keith Green, or Rich Mullins, or Steve Camp (Justice) used to sing? Music that sounded good that didn't sound like the Christian version of a "secular" product? Music that caused you to worship, not becaues of the catchy tune, but because of the convicting lyrics?

Caution, this has all the warning signs of a developing rant! Exit now!

It makes me laugh that everything today with even a spiritual undertone in its lyric is classified as "worship" music. Take Leeland, for example--one of the few bands that I think is good in CCM today--they're classified as worship, when the lyrics of most of their songs are not. Petra, and White Heart, the bands of my childhood, was never called a worship band, even though most albums had one or two songs that would be classified as such. Eg. "It is finished" or "Desert Rose" on the same albums as "Beat the System" and "Independence Day".

Incidentally, I blame Petra for the whole rock band praise thing. Their "Petra Praise" was a ground breaking album--the first for a CCM band to do a whole disc devoted to praise. It was a great CD too. Since then Integrity Hosanna, Maranatha, Vineyard, Hillsongs, have made the worship song a factory assembly line. Yes Lord! Yes Lord! Yes Yes Lord! Every band and their dog has a worship album with the same songs rehashed. And we miss the point of worship. Worship is a conscious outpouring of apprecation and love to God. Key word here is conscious. The feeling I get now, is that if we mention God in a song we're worshiping.

Of course there have been some fantastic modern worship songs, but, honestly, a good chunk of it is trite and repetitive. I love a lot of Chris Tomlin and Stuart Townend

Anyway, I'll shut up now. But I'll shut up with an old hymn out of the small "Believers' Hymn Book" hymnbook:

Glory to Thee Thou Son of God Most High

Glory to Thee;
Thou Son of God most High,
all praise to Thee!
Glory to Thee,
enthroned above the sky,
who died for me;
high on Thy throne,
Thine ear, Lord Jesus bend
as grateful hearts now to Thyself ascend.

Deep were Thy sorrows,
Lord, when heaven frowned
Bloodlike Thy sweat,
Lord, falling to the ground
so heavily;
dark was the night, but heaven was darker still,
O Christ my God,
is this the Father’s will?

Thorns wreathed Thy brow
when hanging on the tree,
man’s cruelty!
Why lavish love like this,
O Lord, on me?
Thou lovest me!
Would that my soul could
understand its length,
its breadth, depth, height, and everlasting strength!

Thy precious blood was freely shed for me
on Calvary
to save me from a lost eternity;
glory to Thee!
Nor death, nor hell, nor things below - above
can sever me
from Thy eternal love.

Like shoreless seas,
Thy love can know no bound;
Thou lovest me!
Deep, vast, immense,
unfathomed, Lord, profound,
Lord, I love Thee!
And when above, my crown is at Thy feet,
I’ll praise Thee still for Calvary’s mercy seat.

(Thanks to Leo for the lyrics)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Long Night

If you don't subscribe to "Slice of Infinity" Daily thoughts from RZIM, do so immediately.

Today's thought:

The Long Night
Arun Andrews

My wife and I were returning home on an evening in October. As we drove, we were both concerned about the five year-old son of our dear friends. Over a 24 hour period, Noah had become quite sick. Even as we were praying silently, we received word that the doctor had ordered a brain scan. In that one moment our hearts swung from concern to anxiety. Yes, we have been told by the Lord we cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying. But that evening the Lord Jesus graciously bore with our limitations for he knew in his heart that we were indeed very worried.

What would your prayer be at such a moment? What if you were in the place of these parents? How would you get through this long night?

When Abraham left Haran he was 75 years old. At this point, God had already promised to make him into a great nation. But his son Isaac would not arrive until after a quarter century of waiting! Years later, Genesis 22 depicts the Lord asking Abraham for that very son as a sacrifice. In verse two the Lord makes his asking known. Verse three begins by stating, “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac.” What is it that transpired between verse two and verse three? The answer is short and simple: a night. But the agony was neither short nor simple. If King Darius could neither eat nor sleep on the night when Daniel was put into the lion’s den, how much more was the agony of Abraham? This was arguably Abraham’s longest night ever. The night has its unique way of amplifying fears and anxieties. There in the long night, the shadows seem longer, the lights seem dimmer, and the enemy seems bigger. The psalmist spoke of one such night when he wrote, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:6).

If you are facing your long night it may help to remember that you are not alone. Abraham went through his. Many of the prophets went through theirs. Most importantly, the Lord Jesus went through his at Gethsemane. In such moments we do well to remember that the night may be long, but it cannot be forever and that long nights have a unique way of unraveling treasures from the heart of God. As the psalmist wrote, “At night his song is with me” (42:8). Jeremiah, too, wrote in his Lamentations, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23). By the ordinance of a loving God even the longest night of agony must make way for a new morning of hope. Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (cf. Psalm 30:5).

Sadly, for our friends, their long night had only begun. Noah’s scan would reveal a mass near his brainstem and he would be scheduled for neurosurgery. Like Abraham their burden was both unexpected and unimaginable. As Abraham saddled his donkey that next morning a heavy burden was saddled to his heart. If only he could have snapped the cords that held this burden to him! Yet paradoxically, for him relief would come only after he allowed himself to be bound to this burden, for the cords were tied by the very hands of God.

Interestingly, in Genesis 22:5 Abraham says to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Was he speaking the truth when he turned a singular into a plural? Should he not have said, “We will worship and then I will come back to you.”? Had not God asked him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering on one of those mountains? Had he worked out some other human plan to save his son or was he deliberately creating a false impression in the minds of his servants? Was this only a father’s way of hiding from his beloved son the treacherous intent of his heart? Was Abraham a victim of his own wishful thinking as he found himself without hope on the dead-end road of his commitment? Or was there perhaps something more going on?

On the morning of Noah’s surgery, we played with him before the doctors would attempt to remove the mass. Our friends were given a new courage that morning, reflecting a special peace from God. After eight hours of successful surgery and a biopsy report that read “benign,” little Noah was brought out of the operating theatre. To everyone’s joy, he came out with his “hi-beam smile” and broke the silence when he whispered, “Daddy, let us go back home!” The long night had indeed given way to a new day of promise.

When Abraham said “we will return,” I believe he was not making a grammatical mistake. On the contrary, he was making a statement of faith--faith in the God who had given him Isaac and into whose hands he had placed him back. In the long night, our only legitimate way of escape comes from God who is faithful and who will not let us be tempted with more than we can bear (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). And God is indeed faithful! We never truly lose what we place in God’s hands.

Did you know that the solar system has 11 planets? Me neither.

I have never heard of Ceres and Eris. And didn't they throw Pluto out like yesterday's trash? Eye now dowt my entire edukayshun.


Maryn Smith, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Riverview Elementary School in Great Falls, Mont., knows that there are 11 planets in the solar system. In order of increasing distance from the sun, they are, of course, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris.

The trouble is, you and millions of Americans just like you don't know any of this.

You vaguely remember Venus because that's where ladies come from, and Mars because of the rock that looks like a face. And you've got no idea -- none, nada -- about Ceres and Eris, two of the solar system's dwarf planets, along with Pluto, which word conjures in your mind a picture of Mickey's dog.

So how to school you on space? This was Maryn's quest.

Inspired by a contest put on by the National Geographic Society, her class set about coming up with a mnemonic for the solar system's 11 planets. You know, like "Roy G. Biv" for the colors of the rainbow -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and
violet -- or, for the Great Lakes, "Homes" (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
Maryn won the contest with her thoroughly excellent phrase:

My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants.

Mnemonics work when they're memorable. And Maryn's, which she says was inspired by "Aladdin," sure is. The magic carpet! Those palace elephants! How can you forget?

According to Maryn's local paper, other entries from her class included:

My Very Extraordinary Mother Carrie Just Served Us Nine Pizzas Each.


My Very Extraordinary Mother Can Jog Superly Under Nasty Particular Elves.

It's clear why those don't work: How would you remember that the mom's named Carrie? And "superly"? And what's the deal with elves being "particular"? It makes no sense! Not like the magic carpet and nine palace elephants, which is totally logical and right.

Maryn's mnemonic will be published in a forthcoming National Geographic book, "11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System."

According to the Associated Press -- and this part is totally true -- it will also be recorded into a song by Lisa Loeb. "My Very Exciting Magic Carpet..." could be Loeb's biggest hit -- her only hit! -- since "Stay."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fat Kid Successfully Avoids Ridicule By Swimming With Shirt On

Fat Kid Successfully Avoids Ridicule By Swimming With Shirt On

Thank you very much, Mr. Wrong Reverand

Offered without comment. Link

Episcopal Christians apologise to Hindus for discrimination, proselytisation
Arthur J Pais in New York February 25, 2008 20:28 IST

An unqualified apology from a Christian community to Hindus worldwide, which also denounced proselytisation by Christian missionaries, has triggered a debate among pastors across the United States.

The apology, tendered by Right Reverend J Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, is arguably the first of its kind by a major Christian congregation, and was issued 'for centuries-old acts of religious discrimination by Christians, including attempts to convert them.'

While some Episcopal Christians have protested against the apology, made during an Indian-style Mass complete with aarti and kirtans, on January 19 in the presence of over 100 Hindu spiritual leaders and lay people, organisers of the event insist it was the right step in the right direction.

'I believe that the world cannot afford for us to repeat the errors of our past, in which we sought to dominate rather than to serve,' Bruno, who owing to a personal emergency could not be present, said in a statement that was read out by the Right Reverend Chester Talton.

'In this spirit, and in order to take another step in building trust between our two great religious traditions, I offer a sincere apology to the Hindu religious community.'

The apology was made in a ceremony to mark three years of dialogue between Hindus and Christians, initiated among others by the Reverend Karen MacQueen, better known as Mother Karen. She is deeply influenced by Vedanta philosophy, and fiercely opposes the conversions-for-kindness methodology.

The apology was a small act compared to Pope John Paul II's unprecedented apology for the sins of Christians through the ages, made a few years ago.

'We forgive and we ask forgiveness,' the Pope had said during a historic Lenten liturgy in St Peter's Basilica. He, along with Vatican officials, pronounced a 'request for pardon' for 'sins against Christian unity, the use of violence in serving the truth, hostility toward Jews and other religions, the marginalisation of women, and wrongs - like abortion - against society's weakest members.'

"In our case, the apology is part of the dialogue we initiated with a few Hindu leaders three years ago," Mother Karen said. "The healing process will continue," she said but she wasn't sure certain Christian denomination will change their conversion tactics.

The ceremony started with the Hindu priestess Pravrajika Saradeshaprana blowing into a conch shell three times, in a call to Hindu and Episcopal religious leaders to
join the ceremony.

The rare joint service included chants from the Temple Bhajan Band of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and a moving rendition of Bless the Lord, O My Soul sung by the St John's choir, the LA Times reported.

The newspaper, which gave considerable space to the story, however erroneously, reported that Hindus had received the Holy Eucharist. "They ran a correction," Mother Karen said. But by then many Christians were upset.

"The fact remains that there were many Indian Christians who received the Eucharist," she said. The newspaper mistook them for the Hindus, she said chuckling.

In its correction, the LA Times wrote, 'Hindu-Episcopal service: An article in Sunday's California section about a joint religious service involving Hindus and Episcopalians said that all those attending the service at St John's Cathedral in Los Angeles were invited to Holy Communion.

Although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of those worshippers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress'.

Bishop Bruno's stand against 'proselytising' has meanwhile impressed many Hindus. Swami Sarvadevananda, of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, called Bruno's stance 'a great and courageous step' that binds the two communities.

'By declaring that there will be no more proselytising, the bishop has opened a new door of understanding,' he told the LA Times. 'The modern religious man must expand his understanding and love of religions and their practices.'

Mother Karen, who has visited India many times since her first sojourn at Mother Teresa's hospice in Kolkota, wishes to see Hindu-Christian dialogue in India. "But it cannot be done effectively when some church leaders are going around converting people in the name of charitable work," she said.

"There are enough Christians in the world. What we need to see is more Christians leading an exemplary life and truly loving their fellow man."

In her homily 'A Vision for Inter-Religious Dialogue' at the church event, Mother Karen said in both Hinduism and Christianity, devotees believe that 'the Divine Presence' illuminates the whole world.

Mother Karen, who continues to study Hinduism, also said both faiths revere 'great figures who embody the divine light, who teach the divine truth.'


A couple posts ago, I referred to the new Kevin Max Album, called "The Blood". On it he (reunited with DC Talk) covers a song originally written by Prince. Very intriguing lyrics written by someone who you wouldn't think has any sort of religious inclinations:

Black day, stormy night
No love, no hope in sight
Don't cry, he is coming
Don't die without knowing the cross

Ghettos to the left of us
Flowers to the right
There'll be bread for all of us
If we can just bear the cross

Sweet song of salvation
A pregnant mother sings
She lives in starvation
Her children need all that she brings

We all have our problems
Some big, some are small
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the cross

Black day, stormy night
No love, no hope in sight
Don't cry for he is coming
Don't die without
knowing the cross

Ghettos to the left of us
Flowers to the right
There'll be bread for all, y'all
If we can just, just bear
the cross, yeah

We all have our problems
Some are big, some are small
Soon all of our problems, y'all
Will be taken by the cross

The cross

The cross
As I was looking for a web page to link to for Prince, I stumbled upon his Wikipedia Page. Apparently he's a JW, converting in 2001.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Very thought provoking, huh? Source

I Don't Believe in Prayer
Joel Hoffman

I have decided that I don’t believe in prayer. I don’t believe that God hears us when we speak to Him. I don’t believe that time I devote talking to God makes any difference whatsoever. It is a waste of time and I would rather do just about anything else, than to spend time on something so irrelevant as prayer. This is what I have come to realize.

Before you cry out “heresy!” I would ask, “Do you really believe in prayer?” Of course you do, you would probably say. Well so would I, even though I still don’t believe in prayer. Most of the time I really don’t believe that you do, either.

The fact is, if you and I truly did believe in prayer we would pray a lot. But, since we don’t, the only explanation is that we don’t believe in prayer. Unfortunately, if we follow this logic it would lead us to really wonder if we believe in God at all, but since that is such a frightening suggestion, we will steer clear for now and just address the topic at hand. (That way we can pretend it’s a separate issue so we can at least sleep at night.)

I suppose you are reading this thinking, “Well, I don’t know about this guy, but I know that I believe in prayer.” All I have to say is prove it. I know if someone asked me to prove it I would fail miserably. How many of us would be failing together?

But let’s just think about this for a moment. If we believed in prayer, if we actually believed that God Himself was listening very closely to what we said to Him, and not only that, but that what we said would actually cause God to act on our behalf, what would be stopping us from praying all the time? We wouldn’t be able to work, we wouldn’t be able to go to school, we would barely be able to eat, and most likely we would be unable to spend hours in front of the TV, because the God of the universe was in our living room and He actually wanted to hear what we had to say. And depending on what we said, He would actually do the things that we ask of Him.

Of course we all know that God doesn’t say yes to everything, of course we know our requests have to be for His glory. We all know that, so that’s not the point right now. The point is that if all the things the Bible says about prayer are true, most of us would radically rearrange and reprioritize our lives around prayer. Our lives would be different. Period.

How we approach everything would change. Do we want the war in Iraq to end? We would pray. Do we want to know what kind of job to have? We would pray. Do we want poverty to be eradicated? We would pray. Do we want our family member to be healed? We would pray. Do we want our non-Christian friend to know Jesus? We would pray. We would pray and pray and pray, and we wouldn’t stop because God would be listening and acting on our behalf. The entire world would be different.

It’s too bad we don’t believe in prayer. We will go on saying that we do and every once in while we will be reminded that we don’t, so we will try to pray more. Unfortunately, it won’t last long because deep down we don’t believe it makes a difference. We can’t hide it. Beliefs only mask the absence of action for so long.

I don’t believe in prayer.

You don’t believe in prayer, either.

If you disagree, prove it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To my fellow music afficianados:

I am watching American Idol for the first time in my life, and I'm terrified about how much I'm enjoying it. I can feel my dignity being sucked out some vortex...

Anyway, there is this homeless kid (who incidentally sounds like he had a christian upbringing, what with the name "Josiah", and influences like Kevin Max** DC Talk) who's on the show. One of his songs stank, but then he sang this song "Grace Kelly" last night which I loved. After some research, I discovered it's by some british guy named Freddie mean Mika. This is my new favorite song (and artist) least for the time being.

That is all. I just needed to share. Carry on.

**If you read this far, then you might care also that Kevin Max' latest Album is fantastic. DC talk even reunites for one song--a cover of a Prince song "The Cross".