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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Readings around Blogdom, Dec 2011

I haven't been posting as frequently of late. I am often online researching and reading, and have decided to start a regular posting of links to things I've read, called "Readings around Blogdom" (in some cases they may not be from blogs). Please consider the following. The posting of links do not constitute an endorsement of the blogs linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the posts linked. Here's the first installment.

Baptist Identity or Evangelical Anonymity? Part II:
Personal Implications of the Incarnation
Implications of the Incarnation (Part 2)
The Book of Books: What Literature Owes the Bible
The Gospel and Baptist Identity Series
Top 10 Theology Stories of 2011
What Bothers Me About Worship Leaders

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thou shalt call His name Jesus

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

The God name, Matthew 1:25
The saving name, Acts 2:21, 4:12; I John 1:12
The giving name, John 14:14, 15:16
The exalted name, Philippians 2:
The excellent name, Hebrews 1:4
The healing name, Acts 3:6, 4:10
The baptism name, Acts 19:5
The only name, Acts 4:12

Take the name of Jesus with you
There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear
All hail the power of Jesus name, let angels prostate fall
Blessed be the name of the Lord

Jesus! dear Name, how sweet it sounds!
Replete with balm for all our wounds:
His Word declares His grace is free,
Come, needy sinner, "Come and see."

He left the shining courts on high,
Came to our world to bleed and die;
Jesus the Lord hung on a tree,
Come, thoughtless sinner, "Come and see."

Your sins did pierce His bleeding heart,
Till death had done its dreadful part;
His boundless love extends to thee,
Come, trembling sinner, "Come and see."

His blood can cleanse the foulest stain,
Can make the vilest sinner clean;
This fountain open stands for thee,
Come, guilty sinner, "Come and see."


Isaac Watts, (1674-1748).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Interesting Christmas quote

THIS is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There are no probabilities whatever that our Saviour Jesus Christ was born on that day, and the observance of it is purely of Popish origin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistent Protestants can account it in the least sacred. However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt labouring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us; particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. We do not wish to be classed with those

"Who with more care keep holiday
The wrong, than others the right way."

The old Puritans made a parade of work on Christmas-day, just to show that they protested against the observance of it. But we believe they entered that protest so completely, that we are willing, as their descendants, to take the good accidentally conferred by the day, and leave its superstitions to the superstitious.


From "The Incarnation and Birth of Christ" by Charles H. Spurgeon, Dec. 23, 1855

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christ of 40 days

There are many interesting 40 day experiences in the Bible. Moses was on the mount with God for forty days. The spies searched the land of Canaan forty days. Goliath challenged Israel for forty days. Elijah at angels' food that provided him with strength for forty days. Jonah's prophecy of judgement gave Nineveh forty days.

There are two forty day experiences in the life of our Lord.

Mark 1:13 And he (Jesus) was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

The first forty day experience is seen at the beginning of Jesus's ministry, following His baptism. It was a period of temptation and testing that ended in triumph over Satan.

Acts 1:3 To whom also he (Jesus) shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

The second forty day experience is seen at the end of Jesus's earthly ministry -- it followed the greatest triumph of all. Jesus died on the cross for sins, finishing redemption and dismissing His spirit. He lay in the grave three days and three nights, then rose triumphant over death and the grave. After His resurrection Jesus was seen for
forty days before ascending back into heaven. It was a period of confirmation of His triumph, giving notice that He was alive. It was a period that provided historical witnesses to this historical truth, as well as comfort to the disciples and upbuilding of their faith.

The forty days are sorts of bookends at the beginning and end of Jesus's earthly ministry. ¡Like some languages other than English, they provide exclamation marks of triumph on the mighty work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Clarke and Holmes on the decree of God

"The decree of God is that whereby God hath from eternity set down with himself whatsoever shall come to pass in time. Eph. i. 2. All things with their causes, effects, circumstances and manner of being, are determined by God. Acts ii. 23, Acts iv. 28. This decree is most wise; Rom. xi. 33; most just; Rom. ix. 13-14; eternal; Eph. i. 4-5, II Thess. ii. 13; necessary; Psa. xxxiii. 2, Prov. xix. 21; unchangeable; Heb. xi. 17; most free; Rom. ix. 13; and the cause of all good; Jam. i. 17; but not of any sin; I John i. 5. The special decree of God concerning angels and men is called predestination. Rom. viii. 30." -- Introductory to articles of faith evidently written by John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes for the baptized church of Christ in Newport, Rhode Island. I'm not sure when this was written, but sometime before Clarke's death in 1676. Typed as recorded in John Clarke (1609-1676) Pioneer in American Medicine, Democratic Ideals, and Champion of Religious Liberty, by Louis Franklin Asher, p. 117; This is a clear expression of what the English and American Particular Baptist believed regarding predestination.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Praise the Savior

Praise the Savior, all ye nations,
Praise Him, all ye hosts above;
Shout, with joyful acclamation,
His divine, victorious love.
With my substance will I honor
My Redeemer and my Lord;
Were ten thousand worlds my manor,
All were nothing to His Word:
While the heralds of salvation
His abounding grace proclaim,
Let His friends, of every station,
Gladly join to spread His fame.

Benjamin Francis (1734-1799)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving day yesterday. It is by the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. His compassions do not fail.

Abounding Compassion of God; or, Mercy in the Midst of Judgment

My soul, repeat his praise,
Whose mercies are so great,
Whose anger is so slow to rise,
So ready to abate.

God will not always chide;
And when his strokes are felt,
His strokes are fewer than our crimes,
And lighter than our guilt.

High as the heav'ns are raised
Above the ground we tread,
So far the riches of his grace
Our highest thoughts exceed.

His power subdues our sins,
And his forgiving love
Far as the east is from the west
Doth all our guilt remove.

The pity of the Lord,
To those that fear his name,
Is such as tender parents feel;
He knows our feeble frame.

He knows we are but dust,
Scattered with every breath;
His anger, like a rising wind,
Can send us swift to death.

Our days are as the grass,
Or like the morning flower;
If one sharp blast sweep o'er the field
It withers in an hour.

But thy compassions, Lord,
To endless years endure;
And children's children ever find
Thy words of promise sure.

-- Isaac Watts, 1719

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We need Jesus

"We need Jesus; He doesn't need us...By the way people talk about ministry today, you would think that the success of the Kingdom turns on us -- that God is passively waiting for us to get on with things...Ministry is not your gift to Him. It is His gift to you." -- In "The Sanctification of Ministry Failure" by Art Azurdia

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Patriotic" Millionaires

Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength are begging a congressional super-committee to raise their taxes. Ha! I say, have at it. Raise the taxes on every member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength! Leave everybody else alone.

I'm no millionaire; not even a thousand-aire. I'm a just-getting-by-aire. But on a more serious note this sticks in my craw for at least two reasons. One, to call themselves "patriotic" millionaires because they want more taxes has a subtle implication that those who don't want more taxes aren't patriotic. I'd be interested to know how many of these "patriotic" millionaires are taking every deduction and credit that the IRS allows. All of them, I'd bet. This fades into number two. If they want to support the government so much, let them go ahead and start sending in donations. Why wait for a slowing moving government to send a bill. Go ahead. There's nothing stopping you! Even my little weak mind knows there's more to your agenda than patriotism.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Personhood

On Tuesday Nov. the 8th the Personhood Amendment in Mississippi was defeated at the polls by a 58 to 42 percent margin. This amendment would have defined the term 'person' or 'persons' to include 'every human being from the moment of fertilization'. I had not followed this closely, but had expected this would pass in Mississippi. I'm not sure what happened.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

God writes straight with crooked lines

Her life with Him was full of signs
That God writes straight with crooked lines.
Dark clouds can hide the rising sun,
And all seem lost, when all be won!


[From a poem written in 1969 by Jeremiah Denton, while a prisoner of war in Vietnam]

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Lord, save me

When Peter was about to sink beneath the violent waves of old Galilee, he cried out, "Lord, save me." (Matthew 14:30) We could learn a lot from Peter's plea.

Peter's prayer was brief and to the point. "Lord, save me." Only three words. Some people believe they will be heard because of much speaking, and for a pretense make long prayers. Yet, the model prayer can be recited in about thirty seconds. Jesus's prayer in John 17 can be read in about four minutes. Solomon's prayer of dedication of the temple in I Kings 8 can be read in six minutes, and is probably the longest prayer recorded in the Bible. This is not to say long prayer is never desirable. On one occasion Jesus asked his disciples, "Could ye not pray with me one hour?" But the length itself does not tune a prayer to God's ears.

Peter's prayer was directed to The One who could help. "Lord." LORD, save me. He didn't cry out "Lord, save me" in hopes that James and John would throw him a life preserver. Some who don't really believe in God nevertheless speak highly of prayer, whether hypocritically or ignorantly. But prayer for prayer's sake is of no benefit. Prayer is "to God". He that cometh to God must believe that He is.

Peter's prayer was urgent. "He cried." With the hymn writer, we and Peter might agree, "Do not turn away thy face, Mine's an URGENT pressing case!" All formality was left off and Peter got right to what he wanted. When prayers are urgent, we pray right where we are. It's good and right to come to the house of prayer, and to meet God in our prayer "closets". But if we ought to pray without ceasing, pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and so forth, then any place we ought to be ought to be a place of prayer. "Where’er they seek Thee Thou art found, And every place is hallowed ground."

Peter's prayer was personal. "Lord, save ME." We should pray for others. Give US this day OUR daily bread, etc. But sometimes we perhaps think we are pious by asking for others and not ourselves. But our personal prayers for our personal needs actually acknowledge our dependence on God. Lord, save me, I can't save myself! ("Every prayer is an acknowledgement of our weakness and dependence . Who would ask that of another which he thinketh to be in his own power?" -- Thomas Manton)

Peter's prayer was answered. "...immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him." The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. No doubt it was fervent. "Near-death" experiences create fervency. But all our prayers should be fervent. If any man ask anything according to His will God hears. Peter's need was heard. He was saved.

This is not to say that we should apply this all as some kind of cold formula for answered prayer. We Americans like our "12-steps", methods and formulas. But, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (And be thankful the Holy Spirit helps our infirmities in prayer.)

Jesu, my Savior, Brother, Friend,
On Whom I cast my every care,
On Whom for all things I depend,
Inspire, and then accept, my prayer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The scope of biblical commands

Excerpts below originally posted by Scott Ransom on the Baptist Board. I found them interesting.

"...a few guiding hermeneutical principles for determining the scope of biblical commands.

"Interpret imperatives in light of their literary genre. A specific context may contain both timeless and temporary forms... The principle of

"Use of imperatives of the Bible is enduring for us if:
*it is addressed to an enduring audience
*it is based on a permanent relationship
*it is repeated, especially transculturally
*it is supported by prescriptive, and not merely descriptive, passages
*it is supported without abusing its literary genre
*it is taught as principle, not merely a manifestation of a principle"

Thoughts?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cowper & Newton hymns

JERICHO; Or, The waters healed.
2Ki 2:19-22

Though Jericho pleasantly stood,
And looked like a promising soil;
The harvest produced little food,
To answer the husbandman's toil.
The water some property had,
Which poisonous proved to the ground;
The springs were corrupted and bad,
The streams spread a barrenness round.

But soon by the cruse and the salt,
Prepared by Elisha's command,
The water was cured of its fault,
And plenty enriched the land:
An emblem sure this of the grace
On fruitless dead sinners bestowed;
For man is in Jericho's case,
Till cured by the mercy of God.

How noble a creature he seems!
What knowledge, invention and skill!
How large and extensive his schemes!
How much can he do if he will!
His zeal to be learned and wise,
Will yield to no limits or bars;
He measures the earth and the skies,
And numbers and marshals the stars.

Yet still he is barren of good;
In vain are his talents and art;
For sin has infected his blood,
And poisoned the streams of his heart:
Though cockatrice eggs he can hatch,
Is 54:5
Or, spider-like, cobwebs can weave;
'Tis madness to labor and watch
For what will destroy or deceive.

But grace, like the salt in the cruse,
When cast in the spring of the soul;
A wonderful change will produce,
Diffusing new life through the whole:
The wilderness blooms like a rose,
The heart which was vile and abhorred;
Now fruitful and beautiful grows,
The garden and joy of the Lord.


John Newton (1725-1807) Olney Hymns, 1779

The covenant.
Ezek 36:25-28

The Lord proclaims His grace abroad!
"Behold, I change your hearts of stone;
Each shall renounce his idol god,
And serve, henceforth, the Lord alone.

"My grace, a flowing stream, proceeds
To wash your filthiness away;
Ye shall abhor your former deeds,
And learn My statutes to obey.

"My truth the great design ensures,
I give Myself away to you;
You shall be Mine, I will be yours,
Your God unalterably true.

"Yet not unsought or unimplored,
The plenteous grace I shall confer;
No-your whole hearts shall seek the Lord,
I'll put a praying spirit there.

"From the first breath of life divine
Down to the last expiring hour,
The gracious work shall all be Mine,
Begun and ended in My pow'r."


William Cowper (1731-1800) Olney Hymns, 1779

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Contemplation of God

Excerpt from the Shreveport Grace Church bulletin:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1)

God’s love is –

Eternal – it is without beginning and end. (Jer 31:3)

Sovereign – it is without external influence. (Eph 1:4)

Immutable –it is without change. (Rom 8:35)

Gracious – it is without condition. (Jn 3:16)

By T. David Simpson

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Manna

MANNA. Ex 16:18

Manna to Israel well supplied
The want of other bread;
While God is able to provide,
His people shall be fed.

(Thus though the corn and wine should fail,
And creature-streams be dry;
The prayer of faith will still prevail,
For blessings from on high.)

Of his kind care how sweet a proof!
It suited every taste;
Who gathered most, had just enough,
Enough, who gathered least.

'Tis thus our gracious Lord provides
Our comforts and our cares;
His own unerring hand provides,
And gives us each our shares.

He knows how much the weak can bear,
And helps them when they cry;
The strongest have no strength to spare,
For such he'll strongly try.

Daily they saw the Manna come,
And cover all the ground;
But what they tried to keep at home,
Corrupted soon was found.

Vain their attempt to store it up,
This was to tempt the Lord;
Israel must live by faith and hope,
And not upon a hoard.


John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Pulpit Freedom Sunday

I heard on the radio that today is "Pulpit Freedom Sunday". I looked it up, and this is part of the Alliance Defense Fund's Pulpit Initiative started in 2008. Its stated goal is the repeal of the 1954 "Johnson amendment" to the tax code. Johnson was a crafty fellow who snuck this in to keep certain charitable organizations from supporting his opponent. The idea behind the amendment is that organizations granted tax exemption should not intervene in political campaigns: "all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office." This applies to all 501(c)(3) organizations, whether or not they are churches.

The "Johnson amendment" is supported by organizations such as the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who in turn oppose "Pulpit Freedom Sunday".

The ADF hopes that by pastors violating the tax code, it will lead to a lawsuit/lawsuits which we eventually overturn the "Johnson amendment" as unconstitutional. Interestingly, the group supporting preachers not being told by the government what to preach tells preachers what to preach on "Pulpit Freedom Sunday"! This is, of course, necessary for them to get in a proper violation in order to get sued. On the other hand, Americans United for the Separation of Church & State are trolling for violations so they can report to the IRS and get those perpetrators' tax exemptions revoked. Yes, they apparently "think a lot" of each church's religious freedoms!?

The way I see it, there is a lot of misinformation all around. First, some churches and preachers have misunderstood that the discussion of moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality are prohibited. Thus far, the violation of this tax code has only been applied to indorsing candidates and parties, and not to taking sides on moral issues. Herein is the rub. Some churches believe that taking a stand against a certain candidate IS a moral issue.

Two things I see:

1. The legal side. Freedom of speech is clearly constitutional. But is it a constitutional freedom to be exempt from taxes? I'm no constitutional scholar and can't answer that question. Apparently for the first 175 years or so, our country thought it was or had not thought about it at all. In 1954 that changed, largely due to a clever politician. My take is that any preacher and church who feels strongly enough about this should do what they feel is right, and if they lose the tax exemption do what they believe is right regardless.

2. The biblical side. What are we called to do? Are we called to preach the gospel or get into politics? Will politics and government change our world for the better, or will Jesus Christ, the gospel and the Word of God? We are called to preach -- which includes moral issues -- but often we exchange our birthright of preaching for a mess of political porridge.

From the legal/constitutional angle, I favor preachers and churches being free from the tax code and free to preach what they believe, even where it intersects politics and even where I disagree with them.

From the biblical angle, we have plenty to preach and teach from the Word of God to keep us busy for the rest of lives without entering the political arena of parties and candidates. If we faithfully preach this we will have touched on every angle of every issue, for the Word of God throughly furnishes us unto all good works.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A people named "Sue"

Kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard has filed suit against the federal government for failing to properly monitor her captor, Phillip Garrido, who was on parole.

A West Palm Beach, Florida couple was awarded $4.5 million in
a “wrongful birth” law suit. They claimed certina medical professionals were negligent, not finding or telling them that their child had no arms and only one leg. They say if they would have known they would have aborted the baby. They found a 6-person jury who agreed with them.

And the latest,
three people in Bastrop County, TX are suing (s l o w d o w n and read c a r e f u l l y) Bluebonnet Electric because dead tree limbs fell on their power lines and started the raging wildfire in the area.

Our world has gone lawsuit crazy. In the first case, of Jaycee Dugard, I can feel sympathy. If only... But still the suit shifts the blame from where it really lies -- Phillip Garrido and his wife -- to someone who probably has deeper pockets. In the second case, the newly wealthy couple accepts no responsibility for the baby THEY created and shifts the blame to the medical profession. Perhaps folks who gave birth 50 or 60 years can find someone to sue because there weren't any sonograms/ultrasounds/whatever available to them at the time. (And we should not fail to notice that the couple intended to use the information to commit murder). And Bastrop County, in Texas no less, the power company is now responsible for what used to be called "acts of God". I suppose the lawyer couldn't figure out how to sue God!! Why not try -- all the gold and silver is His and the cattle on a thousand hills
.

Monday, September 26, 2011

3 hymns

Months, days and hours shall pass away
Blending in one eternal day.
The Christian's hope shall be his store
When time shall be no more.

R. L. Vaughn, 2011
____________________

Psalm 102:3. 25-28. Third Part
Man's mortality and Christ's eternity; or,
Saints die, but Christ and the church live.

It is the Lord our Saviour's hand
Weakens our strength amidst the race;
Disease and death at his command
Arrest us, and cut short our days.

Spare us, O Lord, aloud we pray,
Nor let our sun go down at noon:
Thy years are one eternal day,
And must thy children die so soon?

Yet in the midst of death and grief
This thought our sorrow shall assuage,
"Our Father and our Saviour live;
"Christ is the same thro' every age."

'Twas he this earth's foundation laid;
Heaven is the building of his hand:
This earth grows old, these heavens shall fade,
And all be chang'd at his command.

The starry curtains of the sky
Like garments shall be laid aside;
But still thy throne stands firm and high;
Thy church for ever must abide.

Before thy face thy church shall live,
And on thy throne thy children reign;
This dying world shall they survive,
And the dead saints be rais'd again.

By Isaac Watts
____________________

How charming is the place
Where my Redeemer God
Unveils the beauties of His face,
And sheds His love abroad.

Not the fair palaces
To which the great resort,
Are once to be compared with this,
Where Jesus holds His court.

Here, on the mercy seat,
With radiant glory crowned,
Our joyful eyes behold Him sit,
And smile on all around.

To Him their prayers and cries
Each humble soul presents:
He listens to their broken sighs,
And grants them all their wants.

To them His sovereign will
He graciously imparts;
And in return accepts, with smiles,
The tribute of their hearts.

Give me, O Lord, a place
Within Thy blest abode,
Among the children of Thy grace,
The servants of my God.

1787 by Samuel Stennett

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The narrow way, by Cowper

The narrow way.

What thousands never knew the road!
What thousands hate it when 'tis known!
None but the chosen tribes of God,
Will seek or choose it for their own.

A thousand ways in ruin end,
One, only, leads to joys on high;
By that my willing steps ascend,
Pleased with a journey to the sky.

No more I ask, or hope to find,
Delight or happiness below;
Sorrow may well possess the mind
That feeds where thorns and thistles grow.

The joy that fades is not for me,
I seek immortal joys above;
There, glory without end, shall be
The bright reward of faith and love.

Cleave to the world ye sordid worms,
Contented lick your native dust;
But God shall fight, with all his storms,
Against the idol of your trust.


William Cowper (1731-1800)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Huh?

We live in a world so intolerant that we can't even have the Ten Commandments on student book-covers, all the while wondering why they lie and cheat and steal and rape and kill.

Go figure.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Daniel Read complains, gets even

I enjoyed and was amused by these honest thoughts of Daniel Read.

"It is not only ungenerous but unjust to publish the works of any author without his consent.---Irritated beyond measure at the unprovoked robbery committed upon the American Singing Book by the Editor of the Worcester Collection and having no redress but by retaliation there being then no law in existance to prevent such abuses I availed myself of that opportunity to publish some peices from the Worcester Collection to which I had no right." -- Excerpt from a 1793 letter from Daniel Read to Jacob French, as printed in Music in the USA: a documentary companion, Judith Tick, editor, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 74)

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Wal-Mart of Lumber

It struck me while hunting for something in Lowe's that they are the "Wal-Mart" of lumber.

(This is not complimentary to Lowe's or Wal-Mart.)

Monday, September 05, 2011

Psalm 27, Watts

PSALM 27 PART 2 v.8,9,13,14
C. M.
Prayer and hope.

Soon as I heard my Father say,
"Ye children, seek my grace,"
My heart replied without delay,
"I'll seek my Father's face."

Let not thy face be hid from me,
Nor frown my soul away;
God of my life, I fly to thee
In a distressing day.

Should friends and kindred near and dear
Leave me to want or die,
My God would make my life his care,
And all my need supply.

My fainting flesh had died with grief
Had not my soul believed,
To see thy grace provide relief;
Nor was my hope deceived.

Wait on the Lord, ye trembling saints,
And keep your courage up;
He'll raise your spirit when it faints,
And far exceed your hope.


Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
The Psalms of David, 1719

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Louisiana singing

North Central Louisiana Sacred Harp Singing meets at Ringgold, south of Minden on Saturday September 3rd, starting at 10 a.m. (d.v.). Singing is from both the “red book” and the “blue book”. The location is at New Providence Primitive Baptist Church. From Interstate 20 at Minden, take US 371 south and travel about 20 miles to Ringgold. Turn left/east on Highway 154 and go about one mile; the New Providence church and cemetery is on the left. More info: (318) 894-9549.

Y'all come.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On what has been sown

On what has now been sown
Thy blessing, Lord, bestow;
The power is Thine alone
To make it spring and grow.
Do Thou in grace the harvest raise,
And Thou alone shalt have the praise.

To Thee our wants are known,
From Thee are all our powers;
Accept what is Thine own
And pardon what is ours.
Our praises, Lord, and prayers receive
And to Thy Word a blessing give.

Oh, grant that each of us
Now met before Thee here
May meet together thus
When Thou and Thine appear
And follow Thee to Heav'n, our home.
E'en so, Amen, Lord Jesus, come!


John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Friday, August 19, 2011

The joy of Sacred Harp

As for me.....when I can no longer sing Sacred Harp, I want to listen. When I can no longer hear, I want to see it. When I can no longer sing, hear, or see, please wheel me in and prop me up against some old singer so I can feel it!

And when all my senses are gone, plant me under a stone engraved with four shapes and the inscription
"Here lies the dust of R.L.V., his spirit sings at home."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ye immortal throng

O ye immortal throng of angels round the throne,
Join with our feeble song, to make the Savior known:
On earth ye knew His wondrous grace;
His glorious face in Heav'n ye view.

Ye saw the Heav'n-born Child in human flesh arrayed,
Benevolent and mild while in the manger laid:
And "Praise to God, and peace on earth,"
For such a birth, proclaimed aloud.

Around the bloody tree ye pressed with strong desire
That wondrous sight to see, the Lord of life expire:
And could your eyes have known a tear,
Had dropped it there in sad surprise.

Around His sacred tomb a willing watch ye keep
Till the blest moment come to rouse Him from His sleep:
Then rolled the stone, and all adored
Your rising Lord with joy unknown.

When, all arrayed in light, the shining Conqueror rode,
Ye hailed His rapturous flight up to the throne of God,
And waved around your golden wings,
And struck your strings of sweetest sound.

The warbling notes pursue, and louder anthems raise,
While mortals sing with you their own Redeemer's praise:
And thou, my heart, with equal flame,
And joy the same, perform thy part.


Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), 1737

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Prophecy and inspiration

HYMN 151, L. M.

Prophecy and inspiration.

'Twas by an order from the Lord
The ancient prophets spoke his word;
His Spirit did their tongues inspire,
And warmed their hearts with heav'nly fire.

The works and wonders which they wrought
Confirmed the messages they brought;
The prophet's pen succeeds his breath,
To save the holy words from death.

Great God, mine eyes with pleasure look
On the dear volume of thy book;
There my Redeemer's face I see,
And read his name who died for me.

Let the false raptures of the mind
Be lost, and vanish in the wind;
Here I can fix my hope secure;
This is thy word, and must endure.


Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II, 1707

Friday, July 29, 2011

The debt ceiling fraud

If you're listening to the news at all, you've read and heard ad nauseum the hand-wringing episodes over the national debt ceiling. Now I'm no economist, and I might be wrong, but it seems to me that the so-called debt ceiling is mostly a fraud perpetrated on the U.S. public.

Why do I say that? Let me put it in simple terms that I can understand. The debt ceiling is basically a credit limit. If I apply and obtain a credit card, the lending institution sets the credit limit. I can borrow up to that amount and no more. In the case of the Congress, they are the ones borrowing and setting the credit limit. A little conflict of interest? What is the purpose of having it if they just bump it up whenever they need to? Sounds like a lot of
hocus pocus to me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sacred Harp Singing School

If you're in Southeast Texas, take advantage of the Sacred Harp Singing School sponsored by the Florida Avenue Baptist Church and Heritage Baptist Institute. It will be at the Florida Avenue Church's fellowship hall this Saturday, July 30.

When: Starts at 10 a.m.
Book: 2006 Sacred Harp, Cooper Edition
Location: 645 W. Florida Ave.
Beaumont, TX 77705

For more information please email: sheilatx-AT-hotmail.com

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A sea of comfort

(Rom. 8:28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

"A self acclaimed minister boldly informed me some years ago that only good things work together for good: bad, evil, and sinful things, said he, could never work together for the good of the redeemed. Does this not drain dry the sea of comfort found in this verse? Where does the child of grace go for comfort when plagued with inner sin and outward trials if God does not work evil for their good?"
-- From 'A Blessed Promise', Wayne Gregory, July 9, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hymn 45 by Watts

Hallelujah Meter 6.6.6.6.8.8.

Hosannah to the King
Of David's ancient blood!
Behold, he comes to bring
Forgiving grace from God:
Let old and young attend his way,
And at his feet their honors lay.

Glory to God on high,
Salvation to the Lamb;
Let earth, and sea, and sky,
His wondrous love proclaim:
Upon his head shall honors rest,
And every age pronounce him blest.


Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book III, 1707

Friday, July 08, 2011

Follow the money

A new Texas law requires doctors performing abortions to show women the results of their sonograms and explain the child and its development. Abortion doctors normally do ultrasounds for their own benefit but don’t usually give women detailed information about it.

A group is bringing suit against this new law. Dr. Alan Braid, an abortion practitioner in San Antonio, objects to the law, saying "My job is not to make the patient feel guilty about her choice or force information on her that she does not want; my job is to care for the patient, act in her best interests, and respect her autonomy. To provide her information that she does not want and that may cause her harm is certainly against my oath as a physician to 'do no harm'."

Unbelievable! A man who is about to snuff out an innocent life invokes the "do no harm" clause!? Might it have more to do with not making a sale than doing no harm? In any other case a doctor would be negligent to not discuss all the details with the patient so she could make informed consent. Why not in this case?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Come, let us join our friends above

Let saints on earth in concert sing
With those whose work is done;
For all the servants of our King
In Heav'n and earth are one.

One family, we dwell in Him,
One Church, above, beneath;
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of death.

One army of the living God,
To His command we bow;
Part of the host have crossed the flood,
And part are crossing now.

E'en now to their eternal home
There pass some spirits blest;
While others to the margin come,
Waiting their call to rest.

Jesu, be Thou our constant Guide;
Then, when the word is given,
Bid Jordan's narrow stream divide,
And bring us safe to Heav'n.


Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Funeral Hymns, 1759.
Derived from Wesley's hymn "Come, let us join our friends above."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

In memory

Susan Delaine Vaughn Milstead, passed away Saturday July 2, 2011. She was the youngest and last surviving child of James Thomas Vaughn and Delanie Jane Whitten.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The book of God's decrees

HYMN 99 C. M.
The book of God's decrees.

Let the whole race of creatures lie
Abased before their God;
Whate'er his sovereign voice has formed
He governs with a nod.

Ten thousand ages ere the skies
Were into motion brought,
All the long years and worlds to come
Stood present to his thought.

There's not a sparrow or a worm
But's found in his decrees;
He raises monarchs to their throne,
And sinks them as he please.

If light attends the course I run,
'Tis he provides those rays;
And 'tis his hand that hides my sun,
If darkness clouds my days.

Yet I would not be much concerned,
Nor vainly long to see
The volume of his deep decrees,
What months are writ for me.

When he reveals the book of life,
O may I read my name
Amongst the chosen of his love,
The followers of the Lamb!


Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II, 1707

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The new morality

Nine new graphic cigarette warning labels were unveiled Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration, part of the agency's sweeping new powers to regulate tobacco and tobacco products.

The government can't "legislate morality" -- unless it wants to. Living in a world that moves further and further from traditional morality, the anti-moralists nevertheless have to get on their high-horses once in awhile to fight evil. I guess that's OK as long as they don't get on the same side of an issue with biblicists -- like no homosexual marriage and such like. Seeing it is not enough to simply warn folks of the dangers of smoking, now they will have pictures. A dead guy with his chest sewn up. A smoker exhaling through a hole in his neck. Despite all the rhetoric of the anti-tobaccoites, a few graphic pictures will not have the desired effect. I particularly like this one: "Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in non-smokers." Now that will frighten the smoker to death!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The sea

The sea.

If for a time the air be calm,
Serene and smooth the sea appears;
And shows no danger to alarm
The inexperienced landsman's fears.

But if the tempest once arise,
The faithless water swells and raves;
Its billows, foaming to the skies,
Disclose a thousand threat'ning graves.

My untried heart thus seemed to me,
(So little of myself I knew)
Smooth as the calm unruffled sea,
But ah! it proved as treach'rous too!

The peace, of which I had a taste,
When Jesus first his love revealed
I fondly hoped would always last,
Because my foes were then concealed.

But when I felt the tempter's pow'r
Rouse my corruptions from their sleep;
I trembled at the stormy hour,
And saw the horrors of the deep.

Now, on presumption's billows borne,
My spirit seemed the LORD to dare;
Now, quick as thought, a sudden turn
Plunged me in gulfs of black despair.

LORD, save me, or I sink, I prayed,
He heard, and bid the tempest cease;
The angry waves his word obeyed,
And all my fears were hushed to peace.

The peace is his, and not my own,
My heart (no better than before)
Is still to dreadful changes prone,
Then let me never trust it more.


John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The time of judges

In a period called the time of the judges, the sad commentary on the people was that "every man did that which was right in his own eyes." In that sad time, when things got bad enough, God raised up judges -- leaders who would deliver the people.

We too live in a sad time. But the tables have turned. Now the world has raised up "judges" who do (and rule) that which is right in their own eyes. A pitiful example comes from a few days back in Corpus Christi, Texas. District Court Judge Jose Longoria (and some prosecutors share blame, and family members), accepted a plea in the case of Rosalina Gonzales for Injury to a Child for spanking her daughter. I am not acquainted with all the details of the case, so this commentary does not deal with all the details. But...the judge, so-called, charged Gonzales, "You don't spank children today." This was clearly his opinion which he tried to pass off as the force of law.

"You don't spank children today," said Longoria, "in the old days, maybe we got spanked, but there was a different quarrel. You don't spank children. You understand?"

In contrast to Longoria, the Texas Attorney General's website says, for example, "Texas law allows the use of force, but not deadly force, against a child by the child's parent, guardian, or other person who is acting in loco parentis. Most parents do, in fact, use corporal punishment..."

Ultimately for the Christian, it does not matter what the judge or the attorney general says. What does God say? We live in a rapidly degenerating time. Soon laws may prohibit spanking. If so, Christians will have to decide whether they will obey God or men.

judge Longoria: You don't spank children today.
The Word of God: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

judge Longoria: You don't spank children today.
The Word of God: Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

judge Longoria: You don't spank children today.
The Word of God: Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

judge Longoria: You don't spank children today.
The Word of God: Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

judge Longoria: You don't spank children today.
The Word of God: hou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

judge Longoria: You don't spank children today.
The Word of God: The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

judge Longoria: You don't spank children today.
The Word of God: And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Who are you going to believe?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Voltaire and the cottager

The path to bliss abounds with many a snare;
Learning is one, and wit, however rare.
The Frenchman, first in literary fame
(Mention him, if you please. Voltaire?—The same),
With spirit, genius, eloquence, supplied,
Lived long, wrote much, laugh’d heartily, and died;
The Scripture was his jest-book, whence he drew
Bon-mots to gall the Christian and the Jew;
An infidel in health, but what when sick?
Oh—then a text would touch him at the quick;
View him at Paris in his last career,
Surrounding throngs the demi-god revere;
Exalted on his pedestal of pride,
And fumed with frankincense on every side,
He begs their flattery with his latest breath,
And, smother’d in’t at last, is praised to death!

Yon cottager, who weaves at her own door,
Pillow and bobbins all her little store;
Content though mean, and cheerful if not gay,
Shuffling her threads about the live-long day,
Just earns a scanty pittance, and at night
Lies down secure, her heart and pocket light;
She, for her humble sphere by nature fit,
Has little understanding, and no wit,
Receives no praise; but though her lot be such
(Toilsome and indigent), she renders much;
Just knows, and knows no more, her Bible true—
A truth the brilliant Frenchman never knew;
And in that charter reads with sparkling eyes,
Her title to a treasure in the skies.
Oh, happy peasant! Oh, unhappy bard!
His the mere tinsel, hers the rich reward;
He praised perhaps for ages yet to come,
She never heard of half a mile from home:
He, lost in errors, his vain heart prefers,
She, safe in the simplicity of hers.


From the poem Truth by William Cowper

Saturday, June 04, 2011

An early appointment

I received the following story via e-mail. I don't know whether or not it is true, but I thought it had a good sentiment.

It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80's arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had to be somewhere by 9:00 am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient,
I would evaluate his wound.

On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's.

As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late.

He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him, "And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?"

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, "She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Truth by William Cowper

Man, on the dubious waves of error toss’d,
His ship half founder’d, and his compass lost,
Sees, far as human optics may command,
A sleeping fog, and fancies it dry land;
Spreads all his canvas, every sinew plies;
Pants for it, aims at it, enters it, and dies!
Then farewell all self-satisfying schemes,
His well-built systems, philosophic dreams;
Deceitful views of future bliss, farewell!
He reads his sentence at the flames of hell.


From the poem Truth by William Cowper

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hope in Despair

Encompassed with clouds of distress,
And tempted all hope to resign,
I pant for the light of Thy face,
That I in Thy beauty may shine.

Disheartened with waiting so long,
I sink at Thy feet with my load;
All plaintive I pour out my song,
And stretch forth my hands unto God.

Shine, Lord, and my terror shall cease;
The blood of atonement apply,
And lead me to Jesus for peace –
The Rock that is higher than I.

Speak, Savior, for sweet is Thy voice,
Thy presence is fair to behold;
I thirst for Thy Spirit, with cries
And groanings that cannot be told.


"Hope in Despair", by Augustus M. Toplady

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wrong again

I'm still here. Either I missed the rapture or Harold Camping got it wrong.

Harold Camping is a religious quack who "discovers" deep mysteries, while missing simple statements of our Lord such as "no man knoweth (or will know) the day or the hour." Some people never learn.

Much of the news media revealed they are journalistic quacks. How many times did you hear yesterday was "the end of the world". A simple click of the mouse would have revealed that wasn't exactly what Camping said. But what did they care; they just found something they could manipulate.

Christians, don't be discouraged. Let us keep looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. False prophets will get it wrong. Scoffers will increase. But He that shall come WILL come, and will not tarry.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Syrup in the buttermilk

On a number of occasions I heard my Dad tell of one of his grandfather's habits. He said at meals (mainly supper, IIRC), Grandpa Vaughn would always have two glasses of buttermilk. The first he drank "as is", but to the second glass he added syrup. This was ribbon-cane or sorghum syrup, raised on his farm and cooked at his syrup mill.

Last night I found myself with a glass of buttermilk in hand and a jar of sorghum syrup on the kitchen counter. This memory raised up and tempted me to try it -- sorghum in the buttermilk. I must say it wasn't bad. Not nearly as bad as I imagined. In fact, I could grow to like it.

This whole thing got me to wondering. Was this concoction just my great-grandfather's peculiar quirk, or was that possibly some old bygone Southern favorite?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

John Jay study on child abuse

Yesterday I heard National Public Radio report on a research study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States. This study, commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S., was designed "to analyze the pattern of clergy sex abuse" of minors.

There seems to be a lot of criticism of the study. One criticism I have, not of the study itself, is that the online information is difficult to navigate -- especially to figure where certain info reported in the news will be found in the study. This may be as much a defect of the news reporting as of the online set-up.

But what caught my attention was NPR saying something about this child sex abuse having nothing to do with homosexuality. I may or may not have heard correctly on the radio. All the online news reports I found say that the study concluded that the sex abuse was not caused by homosexuality. With this second statement I agree. With the first I would not.

We have reached a point in the homosexuality debate in the United States in which both sides, pro & con, tend to define people as either "heterosexual" or "homosexual". This creates a unclear thinking. A person is either male or female. We need to return to this common sense thinking based on simple facts.

Sexual behaviour itself does not define who we are, but what we do. Human sexual behavior is a choice. Whether married couples engaging in heterosexual sex, adulterous heterosexuality, homosexuality, bestiality, or whatever, all of these are chosen behaviour. One's personal identity is not the same as what sexual choices he or she chooses to engage in.

BTW, though clergy child sex abuse may not be caused by homosexuality, the majority of the acts are homosexual. The study found 4 out of 5 alleged victims were male.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Three things about the Bible

II Timothy 3:14-17 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

The Bible is inspired. All scripture, not just parts of it, is given by inspiration of God. God is the eternal source of His word. It existed with Him in eternity. "Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). "Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever" (Psalm 119:152). God used men as the pen through which the "ink" of His word flowed (II Peter 1:21). The fact that God is the inspiration, the source, of the holy scriptures guarantees us that it is truth, faithful and believable in all points. "Every word of God is pure" (Prov. 30:5).

The Bible is preserved. Some folks who defend verbal inspiration, after espousing it, run to a place of retreat that cannot be challenged. They claim that ONLY the autographs -- the original writings of Moses, David, Peter, Paul and all others -- are inspired. Certainly I agree with them that the original writings were inspired! Not only that, I would agree that this is where the immediate inspiration took place!! But I cannot accept that only these autographs are the inspired word of God, for that theology in fact leaves us WITHOUT the inspired word of God. Paul told Timothy that from a child He had known the holy scriptures. But much of it had been written thousands of years before Timothy was born. How could he know them? Because God not only inspired the holy scriptures, He also preserved them! The holy scriptures of Timothy's day existed in copies of the originals and translations of the copies. Yet he KNEW the holy scriptures. Let us not run as frightened children from the doctrine of God preserving His word even to us in this generation! "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever" (Ps. 12:6-7). "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35). "But the word of the Lord endureth for ever." (I Pet. 1:25).

The Bible is sufficient. The scriptures that Timothy knew and Paul espoused were profitable, so profitable as to throughly furnish the children of God with every nourishment needed to grow to complete maturity in Christ. We have His word; we need no other. What shall we believe? It is profitable for doctrine. What are we doing wrong? Is it profitable for reproof. What should we do instead of the wrong? Is it profitable for correction. What is the basis of morality? It is profitable for instruction in righteousness. The Bible, the holy scriptures, is a complete curriculum to school the born again child of God. Add not thou unto His words.

II Peter 3:2 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Moses, Aaron, and Joshua

HYMN 124, C. M.

Moses, Aaron, and Joshua.
*Joshua, the same with Jesus, and signifies a Savior.

'Tis not the law of ten commands
On holy Sinai giv'n,
Or sent to men by Moses' hands,
Can bring us safe to heav'n.

'Tis not the blood which Aaron spilt,
Nor smoke of sweetest smell,
Can buy a pardon for our guilt,
Or save our souls from hell.

Aaron the priest resigns his breath
At God's immediate will;
And in the desert yields to death,
Upon th' appointed hill.

And thus on Jordan's yonder side
The tribes of Isr'el stand,
While Moses bowed his head and died
Short of the promised land.

Isr'el, rejoice, now Joshua* leads,
He'll bring your tribes to rest;
So far the Savior's name exceeds
The ruler and the priest.


Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II, 1707

Monday, May 09, 2011

Meeting, this weekend

Lord willing, I will be preaching at Grace Herald Baptist Church Friday and Saturday nights (13th & 14th) at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday morning the 15th beginning at 10 a.m. Brother Johnny Wright in the pastor. We invite you to come.

Grace Herald's church house is on Hwy 323 just west of the intersection with TX Hwy 42 at Old London/New London, TX. This is roughly 15 miles northwest of Henderson traveling out Hwy 323.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Where is your refuge?

"It is a peculiar happiness to observe, that in matters of spiritual concern, the philosopher and ploughman (if truly regenerate) have the same feelings, speak the same language; they all eat of the same spiritual meat, and drink of the same spiritual rock that follows them, and that rock is Christ. Hence that similitude of experience, or to speak figuratively, that strong and striking family likeness which obtains among the converted people of God, in every period of time, and in every nation under heaven.

"They all, without exception, feel themselves totally ruined by original sin; they, all without exception, take refuge in the righteousness and cross of Christ, and unite in ascribing the whole praise of their salvation to the alone free grace and sovereign mercy of Father, Son, and Spirit."


-- Augustus M. Toplady (author of "Rock of ages, cleft for me")

Monday, May 02, 2011

Never fear...

...your federal government is looking out for your interests, targeting dangerous criminals such as an Amish farmer selling raw milk.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

With the power off

"Contemporary Christian artists almost always use instruments in their recordings and concerts. Their music is instrumentally conceived, and without instruments (in traditional a cappella settings) the music doesn't work effectively. Instrumentally accompanied church music provides the singers/congregation with harmonic and rhythmic backgrounds. In such an environment, there is much less need for singers to employ and appreciate harmony. Praise teams to a great extent exist to provide, promote and perpetuate harmony for the congregation. When churches embrace the contemporary sound, they are led to make accommodations — trained singers, sound systems, instrumental accompaniment, vocal and instrumental percussion, and the like. I find it interesting that among instrumental churches of various descriptions that I have visited, I don't hear much real singing by the congregation going on. I have thought on many occasions that if the electrical power were cut off, there would be very little sound of singing by the congregation. The congregation increasingly is playing the role of observer rather than participant."

Arthur Shearin is a director of concert choir and former music department chairman at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Quoted in article "Take notes: Church music lacks true harmony, singing experts say" by Tamie Ross in The Christian Chronicle.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jehovah our righteousness

JEHOVAH our righteousness.
Jer 23:6

My God, how perfect are Thy ways!
But mine polluted are;
Sin twines itself about my praise,
And slides into my prayer.

When I would speak what Thou hast done
To save me from my sin,
I cannot make Thy mercies known,
But self-applause creeps in.

Divine desire, that holy flame
Thy grace creates in me;
Alas! impatience is its name,
When it returns to Thee.

This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts.
How does it overflow,
While self upon the surface floats,
Still bubbling from below.

Let others in the gaudy dress
Of fancied merit shine;
The Lord shall be my righteousness,
The Lord forever mine.


William Cowper (1731-1800)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Sunday

We approach the day many Christians and the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and various & sundry events that have no connection (e.g. Easter egg hunts) or a contrived connection (e.g. sunrise services). Amidst is all, let us with true hearts glory in His triumphant resurrection, remembering also that in every baptism we preach the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus; that in the memorial Lord's Supper we imply His resurrection through "shew(ing) the Lord's death till he come"; and that EVERY first day of EVERY week should be a poignant reminder of the lesson of the empty tomb -- He is not here, He is risen!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The voice of God regard

Sinners, the voice of God regard;
'Tis mercy speaks today;
He calls you by His sacred Word
From sin's destructive way.

Like the rough sea that cannot rest,
You live devoid of peace;
A thousand stings within your breast
Deprive your souls of ease.

Your way is dark, and leads to hell;
Why will you persevere?
Can you in endless torments dwell,
Shut up in black despair?

Why will you in the crooked ways
Of sin and folly go?
In pain you travel all your days,
To reap eternal woe.

But he that turns to God shall live
Through His abounding grace:
His mercy will the guilt forgive
Of those that seek His face.

Bow to the scepter of His Word,
Renouncing every sin,
Submit to Him, your sovereign Lord,
And learn His will divine.

His love exceeds your highest thoughts,
He pardons like a God;
He will forgive your numerous faults,
Through a Redeemer's blood.


John Fawcett (1740-1817)
Hymns Adapted to the Circumstances of Public Worship and Private Devotion, 1782

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book reviewed

My book, Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing Among the Baptists, is reviewed by Keith Harper in The Journal of Baptist Studies, Volume 4 (2010) (p. 91).

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Announcing numbers at singings

Awhile back on Fasola Discussions there was a brief but intense discussion about announcing and repeating the song numbers at singing conventions. Sounds like something simple enough to have no impassioned supporters or detractors, right? Wrong.


At Sacred Harp singings anyone who wishes is given an opportunity to call a number, stand in the "hollow square" and lead it (or "teach the class a lesson"). Some people come to the square and announce their numbers clearly and distinctly. Others may speak in a way that is less audible. When this happens someone may ask for the number, and someone may repeat the number loudly.


Knowing the page number of the song being sung is a necessary part of the democratic process of joining in sacred song. If you don't know the number then you're left out -- at least to begin with. After a song is started experienced singers will often know where to go. Beginners will still be left out. I believe it is a given that numbers MUST be repeated in such circumstances. Herein in the rub. Who will repeat it, how often and how loudly?


It has been suggested that there are some problems:


1. Loud calling or re-calling of the number disturbs the spiritual moment of preparation to singing.


2. Loud calling or re-calling of the number negatively affects sound recordings that are being made.


3. Loud calling or re-calling of the number should be undertaken by the officers of the singing or someone approved/appointed to that task (front row tenors, for example).


4. Loud calling or re-calling of the number can be more hindrance than help if the person re-calling the numbers is getting the numbers wrong.


To these stated problems I reply:


1. Even if this be true (though I don't understand it), not knowing the number certainly disturbs the spiritual moment and even the SINGING moment. So we either have two competing "spiritual moments" that cancel each other, or we have to decide the lesser of two evils? For comparison, might it be more or less spiritual for a minister to mutter his text so few could understand or state it and clearly so all who wish may read along?


2. I'm sure this can be true. But singings are for SINGING. Listening, recording, et al. are merely by-products. The recording of a singing should not trump the singing itself. Hopefully a happy medium can be achieved, but singing comes first.


3. This is not a universal tradition, but apparently held as appropriate in different areas. I don't think many will object to the convention taking the lead in this area. If this is the practice of a certain region or convention we should abide by it, and the convention officers should see that the service is actually being provided. Under this tradition, the convention officers should be notified if it is not, and they should make certain -- to the best of their ability -- that singers have the opportunity to know the page numbers of the songs being sung. (I say to the best of their ability because there are situations like folks not hearing because they or folks next to them are talking, people who have significant enough hearing loss that they will not understand the number regardless, etc.).


4. This is true when the numbers are called wrong. That is basically the same situation as not knowing the number to start with.


It is incumbent on leaders at Sacred Harp singings to learn to announce their numbers for all to hear (again to the best of their ability). Some folks are capable of being more distinct and articulate than others. For some perhaps the quiet muffled announcement is ignorance, misunderstanding, or just the thought that the front row WILL repeat their numbers. Some may have been taught this. If so, their teachers performed a disservice to the Sacred Harp community. Do not assume someone will or should repeat your song number. I was taught to announce the number loudly and clearly. I hope I accomplish that. To you leaders I say, "Do you just want those standing right in front of you to sing?" Or do you expect help from the larger group? Announce your number to whomever you expect to sing with you. Stand up, announce your number clearly before you come forward, and again when you are in the square. Speak the numbers distinctly by saying each number separately -- four, six, eight (468). Even turn around and say it once to the altos who are behind you! Someone pointed out that 3 digit song numbers can be repeated 4 times in less than 10 seconds. Everyone is entitled to locate the number being sung before the singing of it starts. Proactive leaders announcing numbers distinctly will go a long way toward reducing the need of loud repeating of numbers.


Lastly, let us all be considerate of one another and seek to have the best singing each time we come together.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Early American composers

Early American composers "were the products of a homegrown system of music education that had its own teachers, its own apprenticeships, its own publications, and its own artistic standards. The foundation of this musical system was a body of indigenous music that had been rejected by the nineteenth-century sacred music establishment. For the Sacred Harp tradition, the stone the builders rejected had become the cornerstone." -- Neely Bruce, "The Sacred Harp as Experimental Composition," p. 18

Despite being rejected by musical elitists, these old tunes are still being sung several hundred years later.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Against the Apocrypha as Scripture

As a sort of addendum to posts on the Apocrypha, I notice a few points made against the Apocrypha as inspired scripture:

  • The Apocrypha contains several false teachings. While I agree with this statement, it is lacking as a matter of proof since it is based on the prior assumption that the Apocrypha are not scripture.
  • There are no direct quotations from the Apocrypha in the New Testament, by either Jesus or his disciples. Though some claim there are similarities between the New Testament and some apocryphal writings, point of origin cannot be proven in mere references to common themes.
  • Among the strongest points is that of Jesus’s references to a complete Old Testament canon. For example, Luke 24:44 records, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” This reference covers the three-fold division of the Old Testament, and excludes the so-called Apocrypha. Again in Luke 11:51 Jesus said, “From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.” In his illustration and condemnation, Jesus draws from the entire range of the accepted Jewish Canon of Scripture from one end to the other – “From the blood of Abel” recorded in the first book in order of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 4:8) “unto the blood of Zecharias” recorded in the last book in order of the Hebrew Bible (2 Chronicles 24:18-21). Unlike the order in our English Bibles, in the Hebrew Canon the first book was Genesis and the last book was Chronicles. Jesus effectually rejects the Apocrypha as Scripture by addressing a “list” or order of the books of the Bible that accepts the recognized canon and does not include the secondary additions.

Notes on the Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew contained 24 books – all of the same books as our 39 books, but arranged differently, both in order and by combination. In some cases what appear as two or more books in the English canon are combined in one book in the Hebrew canon. All of the 12 Minor Prophets (Hosea through Malachi) were considered one book. 1 & 2 Samuel are considered one book, as are 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles.

The Hebrew Bible was organized into three main sections – the law (Torah, or Teaching or Pentateuch), the prophets (Nebiʾim), and the psalms (Ketubim, or Writings or Hagiographa). The complete canon is referred to as the Tanakh (a word combining the first letter of the names of the three main sections). The sections or subdivisions are: Law/Torah (5 books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), Prophets/Neviʾim (8 books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets) and Psalms/Ketuvim (11 books: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Scripturalism

"Scripturalism is that system of belief in which the Word of God is foundational in the entirety of one’s philosophical and theological dealings. This system of thought avers that Christians should never try to combine secular and Christian notions. Rather, all thoughts are to be brought into captivity to the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10:5), which is (a part of) the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)." -- "Scripturalism: A Christian Worldview" by W. Gary Crampton in The Trinity Review, March-April 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Elijah's example

ELIJAH fed by ravens.
1Ki 17:6

Elijah's example declares,
Whatever distress may betide;
The saints may commit all their cares
To him who will surely provide:
When rain long withheld from the earth
Occasioned a famine of bread;
The prophet, secure from the dearth,
By ravens was constantly fed.

More likely to rob than to feed,
Were ravens who live upon prey;
But when the Lord's people have need,
His goodness will find out a way:
This instance to those may seem strange,
Who know not how faith can prevail;
But sooner all nature shall change,
Than one of God's promises fail.

Nor is it a singular case,
The wonder is often renewed;
And many can say, to his praise,
He sends them by ravens their food:
Thus worldlings, though ravens indeed,
Though greedy and selfish their mind,
If God has a servant to feed,
Against their own wills can be kind.

Thus Satan, that raven unclean,
Who croaks in the ears of the saints;
Compelled by a power unseen,
Administers oft to their wants:
God teaches them how to find food
From all the temptations they feel;
This raven, who thirsts for my blood,
Has helped me to many a meal.

How safe and how happy are they
Who on the good Shepherd rely!
He gives them out strength for their day,
Their wants he will surely supply:
He ravens and lions can tame,
All creatures obey his command;
Then let me rejoice in his name,
And leave all my cares in his hand.


John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Friday, March 04, 2011

The vanity of man

PSALM 144 PART 2 v.3-6
C. M.

The vanity of man and condescension of God.

Lord, what is man, poor feeble man,
Born of the earth at first?
His life a shadow, light and vain,
Still hasting to the dust.

O what is feeble, dying man,
Or any of his race,
That God should make it his concern
To visit him with grace?

That God who darts his lightnings down,
Who shakes the worlds above,
And mountains tremble at his frown,
How wondrous is his love!


Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
The Psalms of David, 1719

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Christian

The christian.

Honor and happiness unite
To make the christian's name a praise;
How fair the scene, how clear the light,
That fills the remnant of his days!

A kingly character he bears,
No change his priestly office knows;
Unfading is the crown he wears,
His joys can never reach a close.

Adorned with glory from on high,
Salvation shines upon his face;
His robe is of th' ethereal dye,
His steps are dignity and grace.

Inferior honors he disdains,
Nor stoops to take applause from earth,
The King of kings himself, maintains
Th' expenses of his heav'nly birth.

The noblest creature seen below,
Ordained to fill a throne above;
GOD gives him all he can bestow,
His kingdom of eternal love!

My soul is ravished at the thought!
Methinks from earth I see him rise;
Angels congratulate his lot,
And shout him welcome to the skies!


William Cowper (1731-1800)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does God control chiggers?

"And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow (Joshua 24.12)."

"Some of the preacher brethren have been criticized as being 'extreme' on the doctrine of predestination, just because they believe that God predestinated and controls the whereabouts of chiggers, fleas, flies and gnats, and these preachers are neither afraid nor ashamed to say publicly that they believe it...If God cannot or does not control chiggers, then I suppose either devils or angels must, or else chiggers control themselves. We know for certain that man cannot control them. Now, if God doesn’t control a chigger and man can’t, then it is doubtful that angels or devils do."
-- Hornets, by C. C. Morris

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lamp, Wick...no oil

"The devil dresses up countless swarms of goats as preachers, writers, and talkers, with the lamp and wick of correct doctrine. Not a drop of oil." -- John Kay, "Inspiration" in The Gospel Standard, 1838

Friday, February 18, 2011

The passion and exaltation of Christ

HYMN 84 S. M.

The passion and exaltation of Christ.

Come, all harmonious tongues,
Your noblest music bring;
'Tis Christ the everlasting God,
And Christ the man, we sing.

Tell how he took our flesh,
To take away our guilt;
Sing the dear drops of sacred blood
That hellish monsters spilt.

Alas! the cruel spear
Went deep into his side,
And the rich flood of purple gore
Their murd'rous weapons dyed.

The waves of swelling grief
Did o'er his bosom roll,
And mountains of Almighty wrath
Lay heavy on his soul.

Down to the shades of death
He bowed his awful head;
Yet he arose to live and reign
When death itself is dead.

No more the bloody spear,
The cross and nails no more
For hell itself shakes at his name,
And all the heav'ns adore.

There the Redeemer sits
High on the Father's throne;
The Father lays his vengeance by,
And smiles upon his Son.

There his full glories shine
With uncreated rays,
And bless his saints' and angels' eyes
To everlasting days.


Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II, 1707

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What we say

Today I heard an auto glass commercial promoting fixing dings on the windshield before they crack. Good idea. But the commercial suggested that if you have insurance there is "no cost". Hundreds of dollars a year for auto insurance is "no cost"? I don't think so. Yes, if you have insurance there may be no extra cost to you, but there is a cost.

Right now a lot of people are talking about what they're getting back from the Internal Revenue Service. Some people are. But a person who is receiving more from the IRS than he or she paid in income tax is not getting back (some of what they paid in). That is person is getting someone else's money!

How often I hear someone who has purchased a lottery ticket talking about what he was "won". Do the math! If you just told me you purchased a $5 lotto ticket and won $3 -- hey, you actually just lost two dollars!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's

"None can see Him but His friends,
And they were once his foes....
Did He but shine alike on all,
Then all alike would love."


From "Seeking the Beloved" by William Cowper

Friday, February 11, 2011

Prayer for the continuance of the gospel

Once, while we aimed at Zion's songs,
A sudden mourning checked our tongues!
Then we were called to sow in tears,
The seeds of joy for future years.

Oft as that memorable hour
The changing year brings round again;
We meet to praise the love and pow'r
Which heard our cries, and eased our pain.

Come, ye who trembled for the ark,
Unite in praise for answered prayer!
Did not the LORD our sorrows mark?
Did not our sighing reach his ear?

Then smaller griefs were laid aside,
And all our cares summed up in one;
"Let us but have thy word, we cried,
In other things, thy will be done."

Since he has granted our request,
And we still hear the gospel voice;
Although by many trials pressed,
In this we can, and will rejoice.

Though to our lot temptations fall,
Though pain and want, and cares annoy;
The precious gospel sweetens all,
And yields us med'cine, food, and joy.


John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Monday, January 31, 2011

Seen on a billboard

"The Master Weaver knows what looms ahead."

I saw the above quote on a church billboard. I agree with it. But the thought struck me that there are many who agree with the above -- that God knows -- but deny that the Master Weaver not only knows, but also planned the tapestry and is actively weaving it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Words

Christopher Morley once said, "Words are a commodity in which there is never any slump."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mothers and church

(Two tales I received via e-mail)

One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, "I'm not going."

"Why not?" she asked.


I'll give you two good reasons," he said. "They don't like me, and I don't like them."


His mother replied, "I'll give YOU two good reasons why you SHOULD go to church. You're 59 years old, and you're the pastor!


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps, "Where would you like to sit?" he asked politely.

"The front row please," she answered.


"You really don't want to do that," the usher said "The pastor is really boring."


"Do you happen to know who I am?" the woman inquired.


"No." he said.


"I'm the pastor's mother," she replied indignantly.


"Do you know who I am?" he asked.


"No." she said.


"Good," he answered.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interesting...

...since I work in Nacogdoches.

The Marx Brothers came to Nacogdoches, Texas in 1912, performing (mostly singing) at the Opera House. Their performance was interrupted by someone shouting about a runaway mule. Many in the audience went outside to see what was going on. Julius Marx (aka Groucho) was angered by the interruption. When the rest of the audience came back, he began to insult them with "Nacogdoches is full of roaches" and other comments. The audience laughed, thinking he was joking. It is claimed that this incident made the Marx Brothers aware of their comic potential.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Fuging Tune

Just putting together some comments on the "fuging tune" [Example], a song type of British origin and popularized by the "First New England school". The "First New England School" includes American musicians such as William Billings, Supply Belcher, Daniel Read, Oliver Holden, and Justin Morgan (most of whom lived from the mid-1700s to the early-1800s). These writers developed a musical style largely independent of European models. Because of this, the "First New England School" is usually considered the first uniquely American music.

Most scholars agree that the term fuging tune is a shortened form of the English phrase "fuging psalm tune".

"Fuging tune: A tune upon which a fugue is built." -- Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

In The American Fuging Tune: 'Marks of Distinction', Maxine Fawcett-Yeske describes fuging tunes as "three- or four-part polyphonic choral settings of metered sacred texts" and notes that "Imitation, sequence, and the rudimentary spinning-out of musical motives are procedures present in the early British models that find their way to varying degrees into the American repertory."

In American Fuging Tunes in The Sacred Harp, Molly Cronin describes the common form: "The fuging tune as we know it today is a binary form with a homophonic, homorhythmic A section, followed by a repeated polyphonic B section, often using points of imitation. The earliest fuging tunes had these contrapuntal sections simply as optional extensions of the homophonic section."

"fuging tune, a form of hymnody developed by American composers of the so-called First New England school during the period of the American Revolution (1775–83).

"A typical fuging tune places the tune in the tenor voice and harmonizes it with block chords. In the next-to-last phrase, called the fuging section or fuge, each of the four voices enters in turn singing the tune or a slightly varied version of it. The last phrase is again chordal. The fuge, although all four parts follow each other in melodic imitation, is not a classical fugue but merely a passage that uses imitative writing."
"fuging tune." -- Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.

Karl Kroeger’s definition of fuging tune is one which "contains at least one section in which the voices sing different words simultaneously." (American Fuging Tunes, 1770-1820, 1994.)

"A shape-note fuging tune has one or more sections with staggered entrances; the various parts begin the fuge in different measures, rest, enter again, and sing over each other, indeed making the music soar." -- Malinda Snow, Georgia State University in "The Sacred Harp" in The New Georgia Encyclopedia

George Pullen Jackson provides more of a description than a definition the fuging tune in White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands, as follows:

"In the fuging tune all the parts start together and proceed in rhythmic and harmonic unity usually for the space of four measures or one musical sentence. The end of this sentence marks a cessation, a complete melodic close. During the next four measures the four parts set in, one at a time and one measure apart. First the basses take the lead for a phrase a measure long, and as they retire on the second measure to their own proper bass part, the [tenors] take the lead with a sequence that is imitative of, if not identical with, that sung by the basses. The tenors in turn give way to the altos, and they to the trebles, all four parts doing the same passage (though at different pitches) in imitation of the [part in the] preceding measure. ... Following this fuguing passage comes a four-measure phrase, with all the parts rhythmically neck and neck, and this closes the piece; though the last eight measures are often repeated."

Not everybody liked them:
"Instead of those plain and easy Compositions...away they get off, one after another, in a light airy jiggish Tune....The matter of the Psalm has very little Share in their Attention." -- From a 1764 letter to a Boston newspaper, quoted in Church Music in America, 1620 to 2000, by John Ogasapian, p. 34

Friday, January 21, 2011

That Old Ship of Zion

Some songs using the "ship of Zion" metaphor:

1. I was standing on the banks of the river
Looking out over life's troubled sea
When I saw the old ship that was sailing
Is that the old ship of Zion I see.
2. Its hull was bent and battered
From the storms of life I could see
Waves were rough but that old ship kept sailing
Is that the old ship of Zion I see,
3. At the stern of the ship stood the captain
I could hear as he called out my name
Get on board it's the old ship of Zion
It will never pass this way again
4. As I step on board I'll be leaving
All my sorrows and heartaches behind
I'll be safe with Jesus the captain
Sailing out on the old ship of Zion.


M. J. Cartwright, 1889
I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea,
And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be,
When away at my side, there I dimly descried,
A stately old vessel, and loudly I cried:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!”
And loudly I cried: “Ship ahoy!”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Prayer for children

Prayer for children.

Gracious Lord, our children see,
By thy mercy we are free;
But shall these, alas! remain
Subjects still of Satan's reign?
Israel's young ones, when of old
Pharaoh threatened to withhold;
Ex 10:9
Then thy messenger said, "No;
Let the children also go."

When the angel of the Lord
Drawing forth his dreadful sword,
Slew, with an avenging hand,
All the first-born of the land:
Ex 12:13
Then thy peoples' doors he passed,
Where the bloody sign was placed;
Hear us, now, upon our knees,
Plead the blood of CHRIST for these!

LORD we tremble, for we know
How the fierce malicious foe;
Wheeling round his watchful flight,
Keeps them ever in his sight:
Spread thy pinions, King of kings!
Hide them safe beneath thy wings;
Lest the rav'nous bird of prey
Stoop, and bear the brood away.

William Cowper (1731-1800)
Olney Hymns, 1779