Sunday, July 25, 2010

"This Momentary Light Affliction..."

What makes a man suffering from heart disease continue to write a book, teach others, and to reach out to the lost; then hear him question why he doesn’t suffer as much as some others around him?

What makes a woman who is a mother of 9 and grandmother of 4, struggling to work and take care of her family give out of her grocery money to make sure another could eat and get to work?

What makes a professor push his students to study and read, only to have some of those same students scoff not only at him but at higher education; yet still continue to teach year after year?

What makes a single grandmother, continue education in the face of no support from family or church leaders in order to be able to teach at the college level knowing she will never be tenured?

Doesn’t that sound utterly ridiculous? Why would people do this? They must be mentally ill, wouldn’t you say?

Change the channel, there must be something more entertaining to watch.

But what if they are serving something besides their own needs? What if they are being lead by something else? Could it be in this pluralistic, postmodern, pass-the-buck society there are people suffering to serve God?

Maybe they actually did hear God’s voice.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but thought our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18

Friday, July 16, 2010

"John Saw Duh Numbuh"

Music has always played a large part of my life, and I have been honored to be a recent member of the Canto Deo Festival Choir. Dr. Keith Wells of Denver Seminary (Bass 1 and choir board member) gave a most memorable devotional before the last pre-concert rehearsal. Revolving around the song “John Saw Duh Numbuh” he graciously gave me permission to post this devotional on “Insights from the Furnace” and I am sharing this with you all. The performance can be viewed here.

JOHN SAW DUH NUMBUH . . . Keith Wells

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Rev. 7:9 (NIV)

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” – Rev. 14:1-3 (NIV)

It has been my privilege to share with the board reflections on the biblical and theological foundation for the ministry of Canto Deo. It is my conviction that what we sing and how we sing it must be grounded solidly in the historic Christian faith. For we sing not just notes in a score of music but we communicate a message, the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The singing of the magnificent Parker / Shaw arrangement of the great spiritual, “John Saw Duh Numbuh”, for example, prompts the question, “Who are these 144,000 who have the name of the Lamb and the Father written on their foreheads and who alone sing the ‘new song’? Various Christian groups throughout the centuries have claimed this identity for themselves to the exclusion of other Christians who differed from them in some way. But a closer look at the text provides some insight as to the true identity of these 144,000.

A careful review of the nature of apocalyptic literature and the symbolic use of numbers in that genre builds a strong case that the number is to be taken as one of completeness or wholeness. That is, those included in the 144,000 (12 X 12 X 1,000), are all those who are redeemed throughout the course of salvation history. These are those who have the mark of allegiance, have committed themselves completely to the Lamb, and who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and that they loved not their lives unto death. These are the overcomers upon whom the risen Christ has written his own new name.

And what of the ‘new song’ that they sing? Notice that these alone can learn the ‘new song’ because it has to do with who they are, not whether or not they can learn new music! I confess I take some comfort in that! That’s one song that I know I can learn!!

It is identity and not ability that John has in mind here. At the very essence of who we are as a sacred choir, Canto Deo, is our identity as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ. That identity enables us to sing in a way that native musical ability can never do. So let us sing the ‘new song’ today, and for all eternity! May that be the ‘mark’ of Canto Deo! Praise be to God!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Insights on Music

I was invited to attend a concert last night; the Colorado Music Festival at Chautauqua in Boulder (for additional information go here). Not knowing the program for the evening, I was delighted to learn that one of the pieces to be performed was a favorite of mine. This was a piece I had heard from my childhood and I was very familiar with it, even owning a CD of this work.

As the orchestra began to play, I was swept away with the depth of the music; the kind of experience you can only get while attending a live performance. There is a sense of your personal emotions—your individual feeling and thought pictures, yet you are a part of a whole; other people listening with you—some enjoying the experience as deeply as you, others seemingly distracted, paging through the program or whispering to one another.

Letting the music wash over me, the people around me seemed to fade and the measures of music so familiar to me filled the concert hall. The orchestra brought to the piece their own subtle style to the music; these musicians so practiced in playing, added an interpretation solely their own. With my familiarity with the music I found the passion and love of music and performing shining through as I listened to this wonderful performance.

While listening I wondered over my enjoyment of this performance; what made it special for me? After all, I have always been a music lover; anytime I get a chance at seeing a live musical performance is a special event. I realized that my very familiarity with the music, knowing the history, the musical “story” that was being told, and understanding the picture I was visualizing may have been similar to the one seen by the composer so many years ago…knowing all that just brought me to a place where I felt I was a true participant in the performance, not a mere spectator.

I can look at any musical score and read the notes, or awkwardly pick them out on a piano and understand the idea of the music.

If it is a vocal arrangement, I can spend time at home and learn the song, memorize it and enjoy singing it and begin to get a bit more depth of enjoyment; but still not have a very deep understanding of the music.

But if I truly take time to study the composer; the time he lived in, what he was trying to share in this composition, the picture he was trying to paint for his listeners, the lesson he was trying to teach; now that is the full, rich, deep, and meaningful enjoyment of music you can experience with care and study.

So…how do you study the Bible?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

For Independance Day: A Must Read

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.