Thursday, August 10, 2017

MUSIC


Music

During worship tone-deaf church congregants find solace in the words, ‘Make a joyful noise unto the LORD’ Psalm 100:1a. ‘Noise’ here means calling out loud. According to Scripture the angels did something like this when they worshipped God as He was busy forming creation: ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ Job 38:4a;7. One would expect angels to be tuneful at this point in time! But let us note that music began with the beginning of creation and that it was used first to worship God. Among these ‘morning stars’ or ‘sons of God’ who joyfully praised God was the angel who subsequently would fall and become known as Satan (i.e., the Accuser).

Like human beings, angels are not eternal beings. Thus they are creatures of creation. Scripture does not tell us upon which of the six days of creation they were made. Clearly, however, they were created before God made Adam on the sixth day. Though translations of the original Hebrew differ, the following verse is believed to refer to Satan: ‘You were in Eden, the garden of God … the workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers’ Ezekiel 28:13-14a. If ‘timbrels and pipes’ is an accurate translation, then ‘the anointed cherub who covers’ took his ‘timbrels and pipes’ and began using them for something other than praising God! What influence he had on ‘Jubal … the father of all those who play the harp and flute’ (Genesis 4:21) one can only guess.

Paul calls Satan, ‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’ Ephesians 2:2. Does this mean that all songs and music that do not directly praise God are under the influence of the evil one? Well, all musical compositions ought to glorify God. However, this is not to say it all must outwardly mention God. But it does mean that all music ought to be within God’s moral parameters. In other words, music ought never be used to promote evil!


Many years ago the ‘timbrels [or ‘tabrets, i.e. tambourines] and pipes’ passage was utilised by one section of the church to pushback against those who began installing organs in churches to accompany congregational singing. To this day some (i.e. Exclusive Psalmodists) believe that only items from the 150 Psalms of the Bible ought to be used in worship services – accompanied by no musical instruments whatever. Others would counter this view and advocate for inclusion of other appropriate songs with musical accompaniment by using such as the following verse (that refers to those presently in Heaven), ‘And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne’ Revelation 14:2b-3a.

And did the church shift her focus from directing worship to God when it began ‘singing the Gospel’? Are God’s people singing the Gospel vertically to God or are they singing it horizontally to their neighbour?
It has been said that ‘the devil is in the detail.’ We ought to be careful that he’s not in the music too! But know that Jesus, the Mediator between God and man, is able to transform and to make perfect every flat note of praise that comes from the mouths of His people as it rises from earth and filters through Him unto ‘our Father, which art in Heaven’!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jesus & A Donkey


The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” John 12:12-19.
JESUS & A DONKEY
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, a young donkey. They call this “The Triumphal Entry.” This is when the people, not the religious people who wore fancy robes and hung around the Temple at Jerusalem, but the everyday common people, proclaimed Jesus to be their King: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!”
Why were the common people so enamoured with Jesus? Well, why wouldn’t you be? You’d be waving palm fronds as a sign of praise before Him too if you had seen or heard about Him raising Lazarus from the dead! It says, “Now the crowd that was with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that He had performed this sign, went out to meet Him.” 
So here’s a Man, Jesus, who can raise people from the dead, even people who have been dead as long as four days, as was Lazarus. They were calling Jesus the King of Israel. But wait a minute? What’s this? “See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” A king riding on a donkey, not even a full-grown donkey, a donkey’s colt! For it says, “Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it.” 
I like donkeys! P liked donkeys too! She liked Eeyore from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. A.A. Milne was the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories in which Eeyore the donkey featured. He got the idea for Winnie-the-Pooh from his son’s teddy-bear. 
A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, had named his toy bear after Winnie, a bear he used to see at the London Zoo. (Pooh apparently was a swan he met when he was on holiday.) Anyway, Winnie, the bear in the London Zoo, had come from a place in Manitoba, Canada, called Winnipeg – my three children were born there! Winnipeg was shortened to Winnie, Winnie-the-Pooh.
We probably all can each relate to at least one of the characters who make up Winnie-the-Pooh’s friends. Maybe it’s Winnie-the-Pooh himself, where you just bumble along through life but there’s always a golden honey-pot at the end. Or maybe you’re a bit like Piglet, a bit afraid of everything. Or maybe Tigger, all bouncy and bubbly, and there’s Kanga and Roo, Owl and Rabbit and others, including P’s favourite, Eeyore the donkey.
I don’t know what it was about Eeyore that P could identify with. Eeyore the donkey had a detachable tail and he would invariably lose it somewhere and all his friends would have to help him find it again. Then Christopher Robin would pin the tail on the donkey.

And here’s a quote I found that illustrates how Eeyore thought about things: “The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, ‘Why?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Wherefore?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Inasmuch as which?’ and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.” 
So we see that sometimes Eeyore would think sadly to himself, “Why?” We ask questions like that at times like this – Why? We don’t always have a ready answer.  Eeyore would most probably say as he often says, “O well – Thanks for noticin’ me.”
But more importantly, what would Jesus say? Well, as He entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the people were certainly noticing Him! And He’d say what He said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who He raised from the dead, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” 
We’ve already read: “At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.”
Are any of us able to understand all of this, any of it? Are you able, as it were, to pin the tail on the donkey? Here’s a Man who can raise people from the dead! Here’s a Man who raised Himself from the dead! Here’s a Man who is promising to resurrect you from the dead just for believing in Him! No wonder the common people are calling Him “King”! 
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God in the flesh, that God the Son became a human being. Here’s God, the King of kings riding on a lowly donkey! He’s not riding on a white charger or in a golden chariot. He is “seated on a donkey’s colt.” He’s a humble and gentle Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. If you draw near to Him He will comfort you in your grief.

(Eeyore picture from web)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

CORRECTING CALVIN’S CRITICS


CORRECTING CALVIN’S CRITICS

If you have or have ever had any enemies, you will know that they tend to tell lies about you and invariably paint you in a bad light. John Calvin (1509-64) had and still has lots of enemies. No doubt some hate this man merely because they have listened to some of the lies that have been spread about him.

One of the old canards constantly trotted out by Calvin haters involves a man called Michael Servetus a contemporary of Calvin. As do modern day so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses Servetus followed Arius’s (256-336) view of a non-divine Jesus. In other words, Servetus was in denial that Jesus Christ was the middle Person of the Trinity now in human flesh.

Says John Eidsmoe in footnote 9 on page 1044 of his Historical and Theological Foundations of Law, Volume III Reformation and Colonial, (Nordskog Publishing Inc.) – see:


“Calvin’s critics claim he engineered the execution of Servetus, but as J. Steven Wilkins demonstrates, the Geneva city council tried, convicted, and sentenced Servetus without Calvin’s involvement. Servetus had already been sentenced to death in France but had escaped; Calvin had warned Servetus not to come to Geneva, telling him he would not leave the city alive. Several Catholic cities wanted to try Servetus for heresy, and when the Geneva authorities gave him a choice of being tried in Geneva or being sent to Vienna, Servetus chose Geneva. The council found him guilty of denying the Trinity and teaching and printing other false doctrines and sentenced him to be burned at the stake. Calvin tried unsuccessfully to persuade the council to commute the sentence from burning to beheading; failing in that, he visited Servetus in his last hours and prayed with him. Significantly, Servetus was the only heretic to be burned in Geneva during Calvin’s lifetime, while thousands of heretics were executed elsewhere. J. Steven Wilkins, Calvin v. Servetus (1998); William Wileman, Calvin and Servetus.

          Francis Nigel Lee writes of the same Servetus incident,

“Servetus had blasphemously described the most blessed Trinity as a three-headed dog and a monster from hell! Yet even at a time when the Catholic Inquisition was seeking to slay Servetus and every Protestant city in Europe had expelled him or condemned him, Calvin corresponded with him and sent him a copy of his Institutes. For Calvin sought to win Servetus to Christ!

“Knowing full well that Calvin favoured the punishment of exile for heretics and the death penalty for blasphemers, the wretched Servetus arrogantly made his way to Geneva planning to overthrow Calvin and de-christianize the city. Put on trial by the civil magistrates of Geneva (and not by Calvin who was neither a judge nor a citizen of that city) Servetus was found guilty of blasphemy and sedition and sentenced to death by burning. Calvin unsuccessfully tried to get Servetus to recant his errors. When Servetus would not recant, Calvin pleaded for a milder form of punishment. And later still, Calvin also pleaded with Servetus in his death cell to get right with God and accept the Divine Christ as his Lord and Master!

“Rarely in the annals of history has so much evangelical concern ever been shown to such a monstrous miscreant, as Calvin showed to Michael Servetus, enemy of Christ and Christianity and of public law and order! Even during that highly intolerant age, the gentle Calvin tenderly yet firmly presented Christ and His salvation to the very man who had sought to destroy him!” – Francis Nigel Lee, John Calvin True Presbyterian, Jesus Lives Series, pp. 17-18.

          Gerald Christian Nordskog made the very observant connection between Calvin visiting Servetus in jail and Dr Lee (just quoted above) visiting his father’s murderer in jail! Says Gerald,

“As our dear brother Francis Nigel Lee was so compassionate and loving to his dad’s murderer, leading the man to Christ while he was in jail....... he obviously was touched by this Calvin pursuing the evil man even in jail. Dr. Lee had the same characteristics in this regard as the great theologian of Calvin's Institutes.” (In an email to me.)

(See Gerald Christian Nordskog’s Christian Books Website at Nordskog Publishing Inc.: https://www.nordskogpublishing.com/

(See Dr. Lee’s Brothers Because of Bloodshed at: http://www.dr-fnlee.org/brothers-because-of-bloodshed/

And Dr. Lee’s The Sovereignty of God in the Salvation of my Father’s Slayer at: http://www.dr-fnlee.org/the-sovereignty-of-god-in-the-salvation-of-my-fathers-slayer/

          So, far from being the flaming-torch wielding burner of heretics as portrayed by Calvin-haters and the ignorant, Calvin was instead a lover of all God’s image-bearers, including those who vehemently disagreed with him such as Servetus, and evangelically and compassionately sought their humane treatment and, if not more, just as importantly, their salvation.

Allen Guelzo says in a review of Alister E. McGrath’s A Life of John Calvin: A Study of the Shaping of Western Culture,

There is no sense in which McGrath’s Calvin could be mistaken for a Geneva Jim Jones: Calvin had little personal authority with the city council and no legal political standing or following (as a foreigner, he had no vote or voice in Genevan politics), and could rely only on the persuasiveness of his own ideas and preaching to carry his reforms forward. In making these points, McGrath clearly throws the notorious arrest and execution of Michael Servetus into the lap of Geneva’s secular leadership at a time when that leadership was hardly more sympathetic to Calvin than it was to Servetus; and he rightly stresses (as other biographers have not) that Servetus’ execution was due as much to his anarchical Anabaptism as to disagreements with Calvin on the Trinity.” (A Life of John Calvin: A Study of the Shaping of Western Culture by Alister E. McGrath, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990) Reviewed by Allen Guelzo. See: 


Says Professor Roy Clouser,

“Re the execution of Servetus: Since Calvin is often accused of ordering Servetus be burned at the stake, I think it apropos to mention that it is one of the many lies about the Reformers that has been repeated over & over.

“First, it is important to note that Calvin never held a political office in Geneva. Indeed, as a foreign national and not a Swiss citizen, he was not even eligible for office. Geneva was ruled by a town Council, which hired Calvin to perform certain duties. One of these was to interview Servetus after he’d been asked to leave Geneva & refused. I have read (a translation of) the letter that Calvin wrote to the Council following the interview. In it he confirms that Servetus is a heretic, but recommends that ‘the sentence not be carried out’. I also found the letter he wrote to the Council after it condemned Servetus to be burned. In it Calvin said that if they insisted on executing Servetus it should not be by burning ‘which is a cruel and inhumane method of execution’. The council again ignored Calvin.

“BTW, I’ve also read accusations about how Calvin was supposed to have used state power to enforce church attendance. The fact is, however, that he opposed the political party that wanted to make the church of Geneva (in which he was a pastor) the state church. When that party was elected anyway, Calvin left Geneva for 6 years in protest and returned only after it was voted out. He regarded such a law was an intolerable intrusion of the state into matters that belonged properly to the church.

“There is a fine recent book on the Reformation that I’ve found helpful titled ‘The Reformation World’, Ed Pettegree London: Routledge, 2000). (The letters were contained in a multi-volume set titled ‘Calvin’s Correspondence’ which I found in the library of Princeton Theological Seminary.)” Letter (10 Oct 2003) from Prof Roy Clouser on ‘Thinknet’ Dooyeweerdian discussion forum.

          In a day when there is so much “Fake News” being bandied around, it is a good and honourable thing to seek the truth of the matter rather than lazily listening to the haters. Always remember that Satan is the father of lies and that Jesus Christ is the Truth. Honour Him!
(Photo of two unashamed Calvinists)