Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Iredell County Goes High-Def

I love Google Earth. I have visited places I haven't been in awhile. I've visited places that don't exist anymore. I love to scan places around the world both remote and well populated alike. I wonder about the people there. I pray for them and long to see them. I look at ancient sites and wonder how much they've changed. I pan, rotate and tilt the view to look at mountains, canyons, hills and valleys.

Over the past few years I've seen more and more sites updated to high definition. I saw Easter Island go from a fuzzy blob to a place where you can see tiny little statues dotting the hills. I saw the Arecibo observatory go from a dot to a place where you can see the suspended collector. I saw our places in Venezuela become more than just some lines and dots. now I can see where we visited people, and the places we've laid our weary heads after a long day in the Venezuelan heat.

Until recently, much of North Carolina was low definition save for Charlotte, Winston Salem and parts of the coast. Now it appears as though the whole State has been updated to moderate definition, but Iredell County of note has been updated to high definition. In downtown Statesville, one can see tiny little people on the walks. I have screen captured my places from above so you can see. We have determined that the photography was done early in 2006.

Here is my home in the country:

The mobile home was where Lois and I first lived. We now rent it out and live in the house. We own the wooded area behind the land the buildings are on as well as the garden. My father-in-law owns the trees on the other side of the garden and the field beyond that. The roof of the main house has since been rebuilt. The addition on the south side is where my office is. The extension behind the house is a living area, garage and garden porch that my father-in-law and I built. in this photo you can note that my father-in-law has just done some landscaping next to the garden. We have since landscaped the area between the house and the driveway and put new gravel in the driveway.

This is where I work:

Kewaunee Scientific Corporation. I am the Production Controller of the Resin Materials Division. The Resin Plant makes those heavy black tops you've seen in school laboratories.

Finally, this is the church where I am a member:

Western Avenue Baptist Church. You can find out all about us at the web site.

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Friendship: RIP

Last summer the results of a study was released that observed that friendships are on the decline. This was reported in such media as USA Today and the Washington Post.

Perhaps what has contributed to this trend is what is noted by Anthony Esolen, a senior editor if Touchstone magazine. He wrote a thoughtful article on the death of friendship in our culture written. I’ve considered the impact of the homosexual agenda on relationships within the mainstream western Christian church in the past, but can’t recall if I’ve ever written on it. I urge you to read this article entitled A Requiem for Friendship.

Esolen’s argument is compelling and employs an understanding of language that I’ve touched on before. We are well familiar with the culture today, but many of us have forgotten who we once were as a people. The cultural language has changed significantly and we have sacrificed such things as trust for tolerance, candor for avarice and commitment for convenience. Have we become awkward pursuing the appearance of devotion while allowing deeper needs to remain unattended?

Consider the impact on the Church if our spiritual fellowship is relegated to superficial interaction. We become weak and incapable of impacting this world with the message of the gospel if we fail to exhibit the very real brotherhood that exists between children of God. Yet this brotherhood is inconceivable or unrecognizable by someone who misunderstands the cultural language. Indeed, have we not failed to maintain the good language of the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven if we cannot have deeper relationships in the culture of our world?

Take the time and read the article. Use a dictionary if necessary.

On a personal note, what I appreciate of Anthony Esolen’s writing here is his command of the English language. Most who demand that the United States officially recognize English as the national language do not possess an understanding of English beyond the tenth grade. Among these are people I love dearly, but with whom I cannot express myself fully. My natural speaking tempo is much slower and deliberate than others. I tend to think carefully before I speak. As such, I often find myself on the receiving end of a one-sided conversation or completely lost in a group conversation. At that, the verbiage I’m subjected to is generally repetitive and simplistic. As such, I’ve learned to mimic common speech patterns in an effort to “fit in”. This is not conducive to building deeper relationships, but it’s better than nothing.

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Poor Argumentation in the Origins Debate

A week ago, Biologists from the University of Manchester issued a press release concerning the change in the breed of St. Bernards over time. Specifically, they observed quantifiable changes in the breadth of the skulls of St. Bernards, the angle between the nose and forehead and the acuteness of the ridge above the eyes. My observation scientifically is the same as that of Answers in Genesis. Namely, that their observations were primarily with respects to morphology, not genetic structure.

The interesting part to me, however, is not that the observations were made. I suppose someone could make them for some scientific reason. I don’t know what that reason would be. The thing is, the University biologists billed their find as a challenge to creationism. The study of morphology is no challenge to creationism. The only challenge is in answering the reporting of this press release as though the scientists had actually discovered something that put a nail in the coffin of creationism.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Biologists should know better than to think that slight changes in morphology or any phenotype indicate a change in genotype. What I’m saying is that different types of animals have different genes. For human beings, I have the same genotype as my wife. However, I am tall and have dark features. My wife is short and has light features. My kids have my olive skin, but their hair is closer to my wife’s color. We have produced offspring of the same genotype, but with phenotypical variations allowable within that genotype. No amount of selecting for variations within a genotype will ever change the genotype. Even evolutionary biologists know this. Evolutionary theory holds that changes in genotype occur not by selection, but by accident. It’s only by intentional misinformation given by evolutionary propagandists that have resulted in the false idea that selection for desirable phenotypes changes a population’s genotype.

Creationists believe in selection as being necessary for speciation within a family. That is, the genotypes remain the same, but marked differences in phenotype occur as undesirable variants are removed leaving only the desirable phenotypes within a relatively isolated population of that genotype. Therefore, this study poses no scientific challenge to creation science. Rather, it presents a serious flaw in the less-than-scientific press releases by evolutionary scientists. This is no isolated incident, but is typical of too many pseudo-scientific conclusions made by scientists. It should be alarming that many of these scientists are teaching such poor scientists to the next generation of scientists in our places of higher learning.

If you look in the comment thread of the article in that repeated the UM press release, you will find a discussion where theistic evolution is proposed. It is true that scientists with different philosophical presuppositions often arrive at different conclusions given the same empirical data. Theistic evolution is a result of presuppositional differentiation. However, the presuppositions are often different than those between earnest naturalists and consistent theists. The presuppositions that drive most theistic evolutionists is the desire either for the existence of God (or to allow them some compatibilistic means to be nonconfrontational toward theists) as well as the belief that such press releases as the one from UM in some way indicate proof that evolution is true.

These types of scientists and those who believe them may be earnest in their argumentation. Too often, I suspect that the conclusion was developed prior to the argument and the argument tailored to propagate the desired conclusion. Either way, such argumentation at this is poor and decidedly not scientific.

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The Weird Holiday

Sin makes things weird. If you thought the last post was spooky, this post demonstrates how weird a holiday can get. Arguably, the Reformation was not weird in and of itself. Or was it? Have you ever heard Lutherans try to pronounce Latin? How about a Reformation polka - a little Germanic humor about a serious event in church history:

The next weird thing is one of my own contrivances. I love codes and I lace much of what I do with them as a kind of a personal art form. I like to create significance where none is apparent. I'll break this rule for now and explicitly create a code for the season: a Halloween Lottery. The prize is fitting for Halloween - one that would make Edgar Allen Poe happy: a living human heart, only available upon the death of the current owner. Here's the winning number, only good for October:


There is only one person who has the information necessary to recognize that they possess the winning number. This person is the winner.

Saturday, I may go see my cousins enter the punkin' chunkin' contest here in Statesville.

Chunkin' punkins is weird. Many of the rest of us just carve them.

Whatever weirdness you get into tonight, stay safe and know that God loved you enough to provide the perfect sacrifice for your sin. We really are a weird lot when you look past all our attempts to hide it, but God can see past all this and He knows what we need. Trust Him.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Real Life Ghost Stories

How many kids at camp have sat around the camp fire being regaled by their camp counselors with scary stories? The thought of this great American camp tradition may evoke feelings of nostalgia in the hearts of erstwhile kid campers. However, the darker side of this tradition is that there are true accounts of the occult and demonic activity that should give us pause. Steve Hays at Triablogue spins thoughtful yarns from time to time. He posted a story Saturday about the breaking of an occultic ring. The story is fictional, but it is intended to be a realistic account. You can read in the comments from Steve that the issuance of this short story was coincidental with All Hollows Eve. He also invited me to relay some of the true accounts to which I alluded. I’ll reprint my comments here as you prepare for your celebration of Halloween/All Saints Day/Reformation Day – whatever it is you celebrate at this time – with the understanding that the world we know is not all there is.

I have several accounts. I haven't asked permission to retell these. I'm sure it would not be denied, but I'm not sure that I can reveal all identities. Therefore I'll withhold names just in case.

When my wife was young she played with a Ouija board with her friends. One friend levitated and my wife felt the presence of something try to take control over her. She threw the thing down and gave up anything she knew to be occultic.

After her husband died, my wife's aunt foolishly prayed for God to make her late husband her guardian angel. An apparition in the likeness of her husband appeared and she let the thing stay with her. It took over the house and apparently possessed her for a short time. Objects were reported to have moved about inside the house of no natural means - toys, knick-knacks, etc flying through the air. A minister was called to come and cast the demon(s) out (there's some question as to whether there was more than one).

My grandmother told of her grandmother who was plagued with demons. Her mind apparently wasn't affected by them, but she had enough faith to keep them at bay. Why she didn't just cast them away is beyond me. My grandmother is no longer alive to ask. It was told that men from the circus came by to recruit her to join them. In those days food was often cooked in the fireplace and there were various utensils and vessels hanging about the fireplace. She refused the men their offer because of the danger the demons posed. When they pestered her for a demonstration, the demons took the utensils from the fireplace and chased the men away.

A friend told me of a spare bedroom in his house where a few relatives had died over the years, including his grandmother. One summer day he was on the front porch with his mother, his brother in the house watching television. They arose to enter the house to discover that all the doors and windows were locked. Knocking and calling for his brother was for naught. When his dad came home with a key they entered the house to discover his brother hanging upside down from one of the four posts of the bed in the spare bedroom, tied there with a belt that had apparently been used to lash the boy. When asked what happened, he said that grandma had come out of the television and did this to him.

A couple from church have ministered as foster parents for years. One very young boy (+/-5 years old) who was once in their care was the only child of a woman in prison. They tell of strange occurrences concerning the boy and the manifestation of a demon. I can't remember all the details at this point (something about a voice calling). The boy was also terribly troubled and often acted out with a vengeful intent far beyond his years. One Christian lady from the outside who worked with the kids noted that the boy probably had a demon. One session the lady brought a minister with her and they prayed and cast the demon out. The demeanor of the boy improved immediately and he was grateful that they had gotten rid of the demon. A couple weeks later the boy died mysteriously. The Christian lady worker speculated that God took the boy because he was too weak to resist the demons. When they went to speak to his mother in prison, without the first word of explanation as to why they were there, the mother angrily told them that they were there to tell her that her son died. She also offered that her son had had demons just like her.

A fellow from church on mission to Nepal relays of a shaman of sorts who was following them along the trail who vanished from before them.

An older fellow from church has had regular encounters on missions to the Ukraine, Cuba and Vietnam as well as here in the States. He's told more than I could ever relate. He appears to have been particularly called to a ministry of casting out spirits. The following are some that I can remember his sharing with me.

He relates of a time when he was speaking in a church in Cuba (officially, this was merely "giving his testimony" which has been legal for foreigners to do). He was compelled to share particular knowledge of a struggle someone had that he had been given by the Spirit. A lady came up to him afterward and said that she was the one of whom he spoke. She had a demon that then manifested itself. He cast it out.

He spoke of a meeting he had with the leader of the Church of Satan in our area. It was evident to them that he was not possessed and they began to pray for him. Just then, demons manifested in the room and became quite violent. The Satanist begged them to stop saying that he had never seen them act this way before.

There's a church in town where I suspected a powerful demon to be at work. A group of men and myself prayed for this church for weeks on end. Finally, at a meeting at this church, a man who one would not expect to be harboring a demon became uncharacteristically irate and started yelling at people. He fell dead within minutes, whether of a demon or not I don't know - I only suspect.

I asked this fellow from church if he had ever encountered anything like this in his experience. He gave account after account of people being killed from demonic influence. One such stuck with me. One church he had been called in to minister to had gone from a decent little church to one that was sorely divided and turbulent. There were twelve deacons on the board and all of them had been compromised somehow. Come to find out, a witch had moved into a nearby house and was intentionally working through demons to destroy the church. Within a short period after the discovery all twelve deacons had died, each of mysterious circumstances. This account is the closest to your story of the ones I know.

I have related these accounts here as accurately as my memory will allow. Since I did not experience them except for praying for the church in my community, I offer that I trust the various sources as earnest accounts from my brothers and sisters in Christ. There may be minor factual errors, but I believe these accounts to be essentially true.

I don't know why I didn't remember this when I wrote these accounts, but I do have a personal account to add. The Armed Forces School of Music (SOM) is located in Little Creek Virginia - or was when I was there. It is rumored that the building was an old asylum. Whether this is true or not, I don't know. I do know that one fellow dropped his tuba down the ladderwell (stairwell) and claimed that it happened because he saw the devil. He recieved much scorn for this.

As for myself, one night I was on duty at the SOM building. The building is three decks (stories) tall, over 150 yards long with a center section that has ladderwells fore and aft unified with wings on either end to the extent that one can see nearly from one end of the building to the other by looking down the main passageway (hallway) on each deck. There are also ladderwells at either end of the building. The practice was ofen to use the ladderwells at the ends of the building when walking post and travel from one end of the building to the other on each deck checking the center section areas in passing. One end of the third story had a large office/classroom for advanced course students. There were dividers in the passageway just outside the room to muffle noise from the rest of the building. This only worked to some degree and sound would still carry if things were quiet. The dividers also did not obscure the view of the hatch (door) to the ladderwell.

This evening as I walked post, I arrived on third deck at the end opposite the advanced class. At 150 yards, no noise was evident from the adanced class. As I passed midway, I became aware that of the piano playing in the classroom. I wasn't alarmed because advenced students would often burn the midnight oil. I hadn't seen anyone in there earlier, but I reasoned that they could have come on deck from the ladderwell on that end while I was patrolling the second deck. The dividers and the glare from the EXIT sign on the well-waxed deck prohibited me from discerning whether the light was on in the room. As I approached, the fact that the piano was being played was unmistakable. The glare gradually changed with my position such that it also became clear that the light was not on in the room. As I neared the dividers, the playing stopped. With the hatch to the ladderwell in full view and no other exit possible from the room without a daring dive from the old louvered windows, I cautiously rounded the dividers and peered into the room. It was devoid of any other human presence. I turned on the lights and inspected the room in the event that we had an intruder who was hiding, but there was no one.

Leaving the area, I reported the incident to my counterpart who was on the first deck and was keeping the duty log. Whether he actually logged it, I don't know. I resumed my patrol and experienced no further incidents.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Real Men Know How to Commit

The LA Times ran an article on October 19th that discussed the recent divorce of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Their argument is that it is strange that this is news because a little French 15-minute divorce has no bearing on the capacity of President Sarkozy to lead France. (The fact that they reported on it indicates that they indeed think it’s newsworthy, but that’s beside the point.) This is the old Bill Clinton argument – “what he does in private doesn’t affect how he leads the country.” Al Mohler offered a thoughtful view on this and ended with this:

“If a candidate cannot keep and honor marital vows, why should voters believe that he or she would show greater fealty to an oath of office?”

It’s not that marital fidelity itself has any bearing on the activities that enable a president to run the affairs of the nation, but that infidelity is indicative of a deeper problem that does have significant bearing on the capacity to govern publicly. What many reasonable people see when they see a president who can’t keep his personal commitments is a man who may not be faithfully keeping his public commitments.

Up for debate right now is what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage. David Instone-Brewer wrote an article in Christianity Today arguing for greater latitude in what should be allowed for in terms of divorce and remarriage. John Piper responded on his blog with a strong view against remarriage after divorce. Now, Andreas Köstenberger has added a third, more temperate view.

Now, I’m surrounded by all kinds of people who have divorced and remarried while their earlier spouse(s) are still alive. Many of these are Christian. Some of them are now rather godly people. Here’s the trick: I can’t allow this to affect my judgment as I analyze scripture. So far, I’m leaning toward Piper’s reading. I won’t go into the particulars, but I’ll sum up that I think Jesus and Paul both teach that divorce is not ideal. Despite the allowances made in the Law of Moses, God’s plan is that we not divorce. I believe that there are practical circumstances which may necessitate separation (abuse, abandonment, infidelity), but that there can be no remarriage when God does not regard legal divorce as spiritually legitimate.

Now that may not seem fair, but look at our sin. We have not learned or taught what we should look for in a mate. More importantly, we have not learned or taught what it means to keep commitments. Willow Creek Church led by Bill Hybels recently confessed an repented that they have sunk millions of dollars into programs that have failed to disciple their membership. When it is easy to get by without spiritual growth, few will grow. When it is easy to divorce, few will be fully committed. When divorce is sociologically difficult, people will invest more in learning how to discern the best spouse and how to care for their spouse.

I’m a man and I’ll direct this to men. This was said by my pastor recently: “Men think about two things all the time: food and sex. …all men struggle with their sex lives.” The context of his comment was loosely with regard to marital fidelity. Real men know or will learn how to focus this struggle toward keeping their marital commitment to their wives.

For me, my wife and I decided before we were married that the D – word was out. Since that time twelve years ago we have spent all of five seconds with our voices raised at each other. I’m not joking. She thinks that if we express a difference of opinion at all, we’re having an argument. Most of the time we “argue” about who’s going to make a decision:

“Honey, what do you want me to fix for supper? Spaghetti or meatloaf”
“They both sound good to me. You’re pickier than I am. What are you in the mood for?”
“I’ll eat either one. You decide.”
At this point, I go for a coin and she gives me a funny look.

That’s a typical “argument” at my house. Men, how you can make your home like this:

  1. Be willing to sacrifice your wants and desires for your wife. Offer to help your wife often in doing whatever she’s into and be willing to do whatever she says. Your kids will see this and respond positively. The best gift you can give your kids is a healthy marriage with your wife.
  2. Be willing to sacrifice you want and desires for your children. Play with them and show them careful attention. Your wife will see this and respond positively. Third, look for ways to positively influence your wife without making her feel belittled by it.
  3. Consider whether she has a delicate ego and will not take criticism very well. Don’t preach, guide gently. Turn the word “husband” into a verb and husband your wife. If you’ve ever surfed, it’s like balancing delicately on a board and having the ride of your life. If you’ve ever quarterbacked, it’s like a perfect pass into the end zone. You just can’t toss the ball any old way – you have to pay attention and aim carefully. If you’re off by just a little or hesitate either you are or the receiver could get creamed. Complete the pass and you’ve scored big.
  4. If you expect her to change for you, you must be willing to change for her. Allow her sensibilities to inform your relationship.
  5. Take the initiative and treat your wife to her favorite whatever without expecting anything in return.
  6. If she yells at you, recognize that there is a deeper problem. Do not return her ire, but be attentive to what she says so you can treat the immediate issue. However, understand that she is responding to a rift between you. Find out what the rift is and do whatever it takes to repair it in all kindness. She will recognize your earnest desire for her and respond.
  7. Grow together spiritually. Go to church together, study the Bible together, pray together, train up your children together, minister together. I realize that there may be people who read this who have no faith. If so, you have no hope of accomplishing this. That’s the bottom line.

This list is not comprehensive, I’m sure. I just typed it off the top of my head. It’s what I do every day in my marriage. I sacrifice for my wife. I consider that when we married, I no longer had any right to “Jim” because I was now inextricably part of “Jim and Lois” and am committed to do everything in my power to make the best “Jim and Lois” possible.

There are certainly practical situations I have not addressed here. This will be material for some future post, I’m sure. Nevertheless, the principles I have offered here should help most difficulties you encounter. Whether you are President of a nation or the shoveller of manure, I encourage you to keep your marital commitment.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Random Thoughts on Kinism

I’m a mutt of mostly European descent. I am part Cherokee and have some strong physical characteristics that have not been fully explained by genealogical research. With olive skin and wavy/curly black hair that come from a mysterious lineage, I probably have some Mediterranean roots of some sort. Back up to my European roots. I know I have forefathers that are English, German, Dutch and Irish. These groups include at least four ethnicities: Anglo, Saxon, Celtic and Norman. If I were a kinist, who should I have married? My wife is primarily of German descent on both sides. The Caskaddons, Sigmons and the Sigmans all trace their roots back to Germany. Her Grandmother, however, had some English heritage. Hmmm…

What is a kinist? Loosely, a kinist is someone who believes in ethnic homogeneity. That means that they believe that you should only marry someone of your own race.

Scientifically, what is a “race”? It would seem to be something in the hierarchy of biological taxonomy: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum or Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Nope, not in there. As far as I can tell, all human beings are the same species. Biologists do recognize varieties within the same species. They call these such as Subspecies, Morphs, Cultivars or Strains. While biology or genetics has not generated interest in “race”, there have been genetic and biological studies of the differences between races that have been initiated from anthropological interest instead.

The Bible certainly recognizes different tribes or ethnicities. It also says that they all come from the same man – Adam, in one case, or Noah in another. The different tribes came about because inbreeding within families brought out certain traits that allowed increased survivability in certain areas of the world. Even the naturalists look for the source group of homo sapiens and believe that all ethnicities today derived from the same group of people and migrated from that location. They do tests on mitochondrial DNA to trace similarities in the apparent mutations.

Of course, many naturalists have the view that speciation creates new genetic material that lends itself to evolution. Speciation is the breeding of significantly different traits within a genetic family. For example, a horse is one species and a donkey is another. They are in the same family and can interbreed. However they have become different enough that their offspring are typically sterile. Such naturalists may come to the conclusion that different ethnical groups of people are evolving differently and should not intermarry. This has been in the news recently. Leading geneticist James D. Watson has said as much.

This view of speciation is erroneous, however, and the genetic testing of different species bears this out. Speciation occurs as populations of a Family lose genetic material that allows variation that is not useful to the population in a given environment. No material is gained. In fact material is lost. The more material is lost, the weaker a species becomes because the less capable a species is of producing genetic variety and adapting to changing environments. Also, there is a demonstrable genetic degradation that has been occurring. For Families that have a diploid genetic structure, genetic defects in individuals can be compensated for by the other set of genes. When these errors are duplicated in both sets of genes, the defects create problems in the morphogeneses of various structures in embryos. This is why it is no longer wise as some did in ancient times not to marry your sister. In fact, it is illegal in many states to marry your first cousin. (See the map. I thought it was illegal for third cousins to marry anywhere in the US. I guess I was wrong.)

My mother-in-law’s parents had siblings that married (Her dad's brother married her mom's sister). This produced a set of what they call “double first cousins”, which was not uncommon in North Carolina a generation ago. In my estimation, sharing the same four grandparents, double first cousins would be genetically little different than siblings although having different parents. Depending on the size and speciological specialization of the original population, after a certain number of generations, it would seem that all people in an isolated population would be little different than siblings. History shows that there has been enough external genetic material introduced into most human populations by travelers, conquerors and population movements to keep this from happening.

All this to ask this question: How many generations does it take for a population once divided and separated to define two new races? Can one say that Africans are one race and Europeans are another? If so, by what precise standard? At what point in history did they become different races? Were Anglos and Saxons different races before they converged on the British Isle with the Celts? Were Etruscans, Latins and Greeks different races before they became Romans? Can anyone tell me what is the precise line of demarcation?

The arguments for Christian Kinism that I have heard are specious at best. They rely on a rather poor hermeneutic. There is a part of the Law of Moses that forbade the Hebrews to marry non-Hebrews. This was because of the fact that others would bring in their worship of other gods and destroy the unity of the children of Israel in their devotion to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The spirit of the law is what’s important. Otherwise, Rahab and Ruth would not have been held up as women to be lauded for their faith and included in the human lineage of Christ.

The other proof text I’ve hear Christian Kinists use is Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus on Mars Hill recorded by Luke in Acts. This is important because he was actually preaching against the notion that the people of Athens didn’t need the God of Paul because he was from a different place. In other words, people of ALL ethnicities are created to be children of God - including Athenians. Kinists here confuse God’s decretive will with His prescriptive will thinking that when God “determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” He “determined that they ought to have boundaries in their habitation where they don’t marry people outside their own race”. That’s adding a lot that isn’t there.

Other than this, the Kinist arguments I’ve heard are merely pleas to practicality or some innate sense about how things ought to be. For example, they may say that people of different races ought not marry because they will have a difficult time in society. If that’s a legitimate argument, then people ought not become Christian for the same reason. True Christians are promised by Christ, Paul and Peter to have a difficult time. It’s true that in the United States it has been an issue where couples of differing ethnic origins and their children have suffered discrimination. No more than ethnic minorities have. That's no argument for people not to marry.

I can also hear this argument: “Jim, would you want your daughter to marry a black man?” Well, frankly I don’t care if he’s purple as long as he’s a godly Christian man. If he’s a white atheist, she needs to refrain from allowing him to court her – when she’s old enough. We are exhorted not to be unequally yoked. That’s not ethnic or economic, that’s spiritual. If he’s a mature Christian, then he’s a child of God and a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the correct criteria.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

What I Covet

It rained for a short bit yesterday. During this drought in the southeast United States, we sure have been coveting rain. That’s a big covet, but it’s only for a season. Speaking of seasons, my oldest son’s soccer team is going on to the championship games. They’ve played very well and I’m certainly pleased with this accomplishment. However, this isn’t a matter of covetousness for me – I’m not a big sports fan.

I touched on the definition of covet in my last post. For those who detest labels arguing they have no substance, I offer the following (if you already understand the first few lines of this then just scroll down to the meat of my article):

cov·et·ed , cov·et·ing , cov·ets

  1. To feel blameworthy desire for (that which is another's).
  2. To wish for longingly.


To feel immoderate desire for that which is another's.

Middle English coveiten, from Old French coveitier, from covitie, desire, from Latin cupidits, from cupidus, desirous, from cupere, to desire

Source: Houton Mifflin’s American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

As you can see, the English “covet” is the etymological synonym for “desire” and is related to the name of the god of love in Roman mythology, Cupid. The counterpart in Greek mythology is Eros, which is also the Greek word for sexual desire and the root of the modern English word, erotic.

The scripture is found at the end of the Judeo-Christian Decalogue (all scripture quotations from the NASB):

Exodus 20:17
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Exodus 20:16-18 (in Context) Exodus 20 (Whole Chapter)

Deuteronomy 5:21
"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Deuteronomy 5:20-22 (in Context) Deuteronomy 5 (Whole Chapter)

The Hebrew word translated “covet” here is transliterated “Chamad”.

Strong's Number: 02530 Browse Lexicon

Original Word

Word Origin


a primitive root

Transliterated Word

TDNT Entry


TWOT - 673

Phonetic Spelling

Parts of Speech


Definition v

  1. to desire, covet, take pleasure in, delight in
    1. (Qal) to desire
    2. (Niphal) to be desirable
    3. (Piel) to delight greatly, desire greatly n f
  2. desirableness, preciousness

“Covet” is also translated into Greek by Paul in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 7:8
But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
Romans 7:7-9 (in Context) Romans 7 (Whole Chapter)

The Greek word Paul uses is transliterated “Epithumeo”.

Strong's Number: 1937 Browse Lexicon

Original Word

Word Origin


from (1909) and (2372)

Transliterated Word

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Phonetic Spelling

Parts of Speech




  1. to turn upon a thing
  2. to have a desire for, long for, to desire
  3. to lust after, covet
    1. of those who seek things forbidden

That’s the basic substance behind the label lest any disagree. Since many people often treat me as though I’m an idiot, I would normally assume the average person already knows the difference between fixed etymological foundations and the fluidity of current usage and would analyze the context of any comment I make with respect to intended meaning assuming that I likewise understand these things.

That said, what I covet is intensely and necessarily personal.

There are many things that I once enjoyed such as certain television programs, movies, games and a plethora of intellectual pursuits. What I have noticed is that people who enjoy certain of these enjoy sharing them with others of similar pursuits. Such creates community where people can interact on a deeper personal level.

My capacity for pursuing things tends to exceed that of others. For example, if I involve myself with physicists discussing new trends, discoveries or cosmologies, these same may not likely share my understanding of music. If I involve myself with musicians discussing performance experiences, composition techniques, harmonic differences between styles, the use of certain instruments, etc. the same may not likely share my understanding of theological nuances. If I hang out with seminarians discussing finer soteriological differences between Luther and Calvin, the merits of complimentarianism versus egalitarianism, etc., the same are likely not to share my understanding of industrial cost analyses. I may hang out with the corporate leadership of my company and discuss the application of lean manufacturing in a job shop, cost accounting justifications of process methodologies and the implication of international market forces on raw materials prices, but it’s not likely that they will have a working knowledge of the anthropological foundations that drive those international market forces. I can get together with missionaries who are well conversant on things of ethnical and anthropological importance with respects to particular people groups, but they probably won’t have any information beyond elementary physics on the properties that God has created to hold this universe together.

I would that I could share all of these with someone. But this does not seem possible. I possess a uniquely integrated philosophy that is incomprehensible to nearly everyone else. It is also contingent on the possession of myself by my Creator who gives me life and to whom I offer all I am. Nearly all of the others who might possess the capacity for developing an understanding of these are not yet so quickened.

I worship my Lord almost constantly. I mentioned the Regulative Principle recently. The Regulative Principle refers exclusively to corporate worship because all of our individual thoughts and activities should be offered as worship – except – that all of our corporate activities should be offered as worship in the larger sense that worship is obedience. All of our utterances should be psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. All of our daily activities should be in service to one another. All of our special activities should be in communion with the Body of Christ. This is likewise corporate worship.

When I come to church on Sunday morning, I bring with me the worship that I have offered all week and display it before and with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When I rehearse music to offer to the congregation either with the choir or alone, I worship to the music. When it is time to offer it in worship before the congregation, I merely worship as I have been. I need to exhibit no pretensions. I am as I am when no one sees me. If anything, I exhibit my worship less in a church service so as not to cause any to stumble.

When asked by my sister in Christ what I might buy a lot of for my own satisfaction, this is what went through my head in a single moment. What I covet beyond all things I could not adequately express with a few words. For what I covet is ever increasing depth in my relationships with others in the name of my Lord – this includes especially the fulfillment of the Great Comission. All else, while temporally useful or even permissibly given by God for our enjoyment, will pass away.

Romans 13:9
For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
Romans 13:8-10 (in Context) Romans 13 (Whole Chapter)

The uber-positive of the command not to covet is the command to love. Now go back and look at the etymological relationship of covet with the Greek “eros” that I told you scroll past. The Greek word translated “love” in Rom 13:9 is decidedly not “eros” – it is “agapao”. Paul’s usage of agapao means “to love sacrificially”, i.e. after the pattern of Christ. This is the context of the teaching of the law.

I sat down with my wife last night and watched “Spanglish”. My eyes moistened as I allowed myself to be moved by a conviction illustrated by the characters that there was something called “right” and “wrong” as they pursued the “right” thing. As such, the ending was both sad and something to be lauded as that which brings joy over and against happiness. In a world of the illicit relationships normally promoted by Hollywood, this was an excellent movie.

Therefore, not all relationships can have the same intimacy. Nevertheless, when my wife and I pass from this world and see each other in the next, we will not be married as we are now. Instead, we will have a greater intimacy that we will share with all throughout eternity.

I delight in nurturing and watching my children grow. It is my intent to instill in them this same understanding of sacrifice in relationships. It is my goal to give them this same desire for relationship that will drive them to offer the light of truth to the intellectually blind and lift others up in sacrifice in the name of Christ so that they may know our Lord. Herein is the depth we should have in our relationships, that our Creator is honored and glorified in all that we do.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Do You Covet?

I was in a conversation last night where a woman I know confessed to buying a lot of white shirts and blouses. "You never know when you'll need a white shirt," she said. She asked me if I had a type of something I bought frequently and I couldn't think of anything.

As I ponder this yet, I think of the commandment(s) not to covet. We are commanded not to covet that which has been given to others. There are things that we can covet that are okay to covet. I have heard the phrase "I covet your prayers" more than once. I think the positive of the commandment is that we should be satisfied with what we have been given and should not envy what others have been given. That said, I think I know what I covet most. I'll give my answer in my next post. For now, I'll ask the few who frequent my page:

What do you covet?

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Do You Think of the Regulative Principle?

Timmy Brister asked this question of Mark Driscoll:

"Do you believe that the Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?"

As I type this, his question is in first place. Many are adding some good comments. I'll go ahead and give my answer here:

What I see of Paul is not that he taught methodology, but that he taught theology and applied it to the circumstances of each church, group of people, or person in order to derive proper methodology. This is why it's important to understand Paul's audience at any given time. The theology must remain firm, but the methodology must provide the appropriate conduit for instructing different people in different places. I think Christ backed this up through John in His particular messages to the seven churches.

The key term here is "appropriate conduit". Churches cross the line when they cease to be appropriate and they cease to be a conduit. "Appropriate" doesn't cause people to stumble. "Conduit" refers to a reliance on God's provision for the message. Every element of corporate worship and ecclesiological conduct should serve to open communication between our Lord and His people. Neither "appropriate" nor "conduit" should occlude any part of the message of Christ.

Mark will probably have a more thoughtful answer. What are your thoughts?

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Days of Elijah - Kid Humor and Redemption

We sang "The Days of Elijah" a couple of weeks ago in church. The choir and orchestra has offered it in worship as special music (sans congregation) once or twice before. This time, as we do with some special music, we brought it out and sang it again as congregational worship.

My 8-year-old daughter has heard it numerous times on the radio or on a recording that I have had, or as I have sung it around the house. With it being sung in church recently, it was certainly fresh on her mind. Somewhere along the way she has either learned or invented hand motions to go along with it and she wanted to show them to me.

There is a line in the music as such: "Lift your voice, it's the year of Jubilee, and out of Zion's hill salvation comes." As is the source of so many children's humorous errors, she mis-heard it. Her version was, "Lift your voice, hear it to believe..."

That's not bad. We certainly often hear to believe. It also gave me an opportunity to teach her what it means for us today.

The year of Jubilee was part of the Law of Moses. You can find it in Leviticus 25 with some additional information in chapter 27 (and a blurb in Numbers 36). The term "Jubilee" was not used outside of the Law to refer to the year. It was often descriptive (ex. "year of liberty" in Eze 46:17) or merely alluded to (Neh 5:1-19; 2 Chr 36:21) and the context would indicate that a writer was referring to Jubilee. As such, Isaiah mentioned it in 61:1-2 which was quoted in Luke 4:17-21 by Christ. The term "year of our Lord" refers to Jubilee and is evident when you see the context. Here we see the prophetic purpose of Jubilee in the Law that was fulfilled in Christ.

Every seventh year was to be a sabbath. and the year after every seventh sabbath year (every 50 years) was to be the year of jubilee. This year, the inheritance of the Hebrews was to be restored. For 49 years they would buy and sell land. Some would prosper and others would not. Some would sell themselves into slavery for a time to survive if they had come on hard financial times. At the year of Jubilee, they were to be set free and their historic inheritance restored to them. The fiscal playing field was to be leveled.

I'm a capitalist and I don't apologize for it. The free market is the best system in the world because it provides incentive to create wealth. When the wealthy prosper, so do the rest of us. And in a free market, I have the same opportunity to create wealth as anyone else. However I believe, because of the year of Jubilee, that the utter redistribution of wealth is a divinely ordered principle - and there is no call for it to be wasted on the government. The principle is to illustrate that our redemption is of the Lord and there is no mediator in whom we are to be indebted. When we are freed from our bondage to sin, we have none but our Lord to praise.

...and out of Zion's hill salvation comes.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

More Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

We're singing I'm Amazed at church Sunday. I won't repost it, but you can look at it on my earlier post. I found these other videos from the same concert. I can't seem to worship God enough. Oh to be at the throne now.

We've sung this one at church:

The Light Of That City

This is the first I've heard this one. I have really grown to love the salsa genre and this is a great worship piece in that style:


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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Origin of Sin and the Determination of the Elect

Reformed theologians are hardly settled on the precise origin of sin. There are two or three general camps that help to frame the debate. Primarily, there is supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. (There is also “sublapsarianism”, but its precise definitive position has been confused with other positions.)

Supralapsarianism is the position that God determined the elect logically prior to creation. In this position, He created with the plan of allowing the Fall to occur.

Infralapsarianism, by contrast, holds that God did not determine the elect until logically after allowing the Fall, which He could determine logically after creation.

Both positions provide for God to allow the Fall, but the difference is in the order of His decrees. Many Reformed theologians do not hold strictly to one or the other, but rather develop an understanding using these as reference points. (As it is, all hyper-Calvinists are supralapsarians, but not all supralapsarians are hyper-Calvinists.)

I had planned on going into the whole eternity-temporality thing. However, I’m convinced I’m the only one who understands it. Therefore, I offer this quote from Gene Bridges on Triablogue. He stated the essence of my reasoning in rather simpler terms and may be better fit for public consumption. I offer it here for your consideration:

"What God decrees for His glory, men do with their own motives. For example, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to judge Egypt’s gods. Pharaoh’s will was not violated, in that God allowed Pharaoh’s love of evil, which was his natural state, to increase, keeping Israel from leaving. Pharaoh did not keep them from leaving in order to glorify God and worship Him. He did it because he hated God, Moses, Aaron, and the slaves. What God did for a righteous motive, Pharaoh did out of hatred for God. The motive behind an act, therefore, determines whether or not it is truly sinful. In theory, if Pharaoh had done what he did to glorify and worship God, he would not have been condemned, however, a man that does such a thing is, in reality acting in faith and love for God and would have to be regenerate. Such a man would not hold Israel back; he would have released Israel and taken down Egypt’s gods. That was not God’s purpose for Pharaoh. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

God is the author of evil, in the sense that He is first cause of all things. This simply goes with pay grade. His decrees, through either action or inaction render events necessary, but, evil is the result of permission, not His direct causation, or a result of His judicial hardening of sinners, an act of justice Scripture supports repeatedly, as in the above text and in Romans 1. Nothing happens that compels a man or demon to act in a way it does not wish to act or against its nature. He may withhold constraining grace, as in the fall, in order to render a thing certain, but the agent of the evil, in this case Adam simply acts in accordance with his nature as a second cause, for reasons and motives sufficient for himself and arising from his own nature. Men thus do what God decrees, but for motives all their own. In so doing, they may incur judgment. In this way men act as infallibly as if they had no liberty, yet as freely as if there was no decree rendering their acts certain. See, for example, the predestination of Judas betrayal and Jesus crucifixion. These men did, with evil desires, what God desired and planned to happen since before creation, for Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world itself.

Another Scholastic distinction I alluded to above even though we admit is has been discussed to death and fraught with difficulties since the Middle Ages, is the distinction between God's absolute power (Potentia Absoluta) and ordinary power (Potentia Ordinata). Whatever the difficulties of those distinctions in the older theologies (See Richard Muller's discussions in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics - it's too long to enter for my purposes here), I think they are useful, at their root, insofar as they help accurately describe the way God uses means. With respect to things like creation ex nihilio, miracles, the Incarnation, regeneration, etc. God's absolute and direct control is very involved. In all other things, the decrees fall out according to the nature of second causes "either necessarily, freely, or contingently."

Notice that even in the creation narrative, we have an implication of second causes. There are commands that say, "Let there be..." and others that say ,"Let the earth bring forth..." In the Incarnation, we have a direct miracle @ conception, but it isn't as if Jesus just appears full formed as a 30 year old man like some sort of animus springing from Mary's womb. Rather, there is a normal pregnancy; He grows through childhood into adulthood, etc. We speak of regeneration in two senses: the wider and the narrower. In the narrower, we mean the direct act of God raising the soul dead in sin to life, but we are comfortable pointing out that "means" are the ordinary mode of that occurrence. As Dr. Sproul has said, the Spirit and the Word of God (preaching, studying, reading, etc) are working together."

I would consider that the logical order of the decrees is immaterial. They each derive directly from God's eternal nature. Here, it is more fruitful to understand that God, as the first cause, allows second order causes according to His created order.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Star Trek vs. Star Wars - Just for Fun

Geek dreams. As a geek, I enjoyed this. My wife (who is not a geek) actually got a kick out of this, so it must be entertaining.

As a musician, I thought I'd add this bonus as well:

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Festival of Tables

It's been a few days since I've posted. We've been getting ready for Festival of Tables. Also, I've updated the "I Will Go - Yo Iré" video with a live recording of yours truly. I'm no Steve Green, but it personalizes it.

Ok - Festival of Tables is a time to have fun and create an environment where women can relax at a nice table, have some good conversation, be waited on hand and foot by a team of men and be presented life-changing information. I wish I could get a picture of all the people, but it's not conducive for photo-bugging once the evening gets started. One does the best one can prior to the evening and theres only a limited time once the candles are lit.

Now, it must be said, that the tables are typically decorated by women who in turn invite friends to sit with them. There are often enough places left for women who want to come and dine to have a place. The women who decorate a table will typically serve as hostess to the table. There have been a few creative husbands who have greatly desired to gotten roped into decorating their wives' tables over the years. Some have suggested that we start a men's Festival of Tables. Masculine themes like yardwork, engineering, home improvement and great theologians sound like fun. I would say sports, but a few of the women are doing sports themes.

My table My wife's table this year was a Venezuela theme. I created a Venezuelan Flag using three pieces of material three yards each - yellow, blue and red. I cut the 8 stars out of felt. I used a cake riser with a small flag on the bottom tier and yellow tissue paper to cover the top two. The top tier had a mixed array of three candles to emulate the eclectic nature often found in Venezuela out of necessity. On the other two tiers and on the table around the cake riser I arranged various pieces of pottery and clay craft trinkets we have received as gifts from our brothers and sisters there. The place settings were chosen to emulate the traditional thatch huts that still dot the water's edge of the rivers. These huts were the reason Spanish explorers named the area "Venezuela" or "Little Venice".

My wife's table Heather Canon's table, was a theme based on a women's ministry that grew out of Girlfriend Connection. This new ministry is called "Silver Boxes". That was the theme at the table:

This was the lobby:

These were the rest of the tables. Click on any to see them closeup:

One notable table was by Katie Hatchet. She had some sort of decorated structure with a tree from the table growing up through the top. Her theme was "Thanksgiving":

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Communication Through Music

I sang this at church the Sunday before last. This is sung by Steve Green. He's a tenor and I'm more of a baritone. I tell you this to give you an idea of how I might sound singing this. We have a state of the art digital sound system at church, but it's designed and tuned for amplification in our unique area. It doesn't produce studio quality recordings. Therefore, I have no usable recording of myself. Steve sings it just fine.

Edit: Dr. Jeff Spry, the Minister of Education at my church, read this and provided me with a recording from Sunday morning. It's still equalized for amplification, but it's not a bad live recording. I updated the video with the live audio.

Transposer just posted a thoughtful tribute to a friend of his who taught piano. Since I seem to be on a communication theme, I’ll take the occasion to discuss the non-verbal aspects of music. Songs have lyrics and therein may lay a message. However, music can convey much more than is in lyrics. What kind of communication happens with music?

First, I’ve considered being a musical ethnologist – a missionary who goes to remote people who are only now being presented the gospel. As some exhibit faith in Christ and gather to worship God, they may need help developing meaningful corporate worship. A musical ethnologist comes in and works with the permanent missionary and the new believers. He studies their music and its meaning to them as well as how they communicate together as a people and what the various affectations of their culture promote. He then advises leaders how to use these affectations to unify the expression of a body of believers in worship. So, while music plays a big role, there are other means for worshipping corporately.

For example, dance among Southern Baptists in the United States is associated with promoting lust between people. This is because of the culture we live in. Therefore, many Southern Baptist churches don’t allow dancing, especially in worship. However, some Hispanic cultures associate dance with familial bonding. These churches may use dance to encourage healthy relationships within their church family. The Jewish tradition is rich with dance as a form of worship. Therefore, Messianic congregations often find it appropriate to dance in worship.

Music is more than mere sound waves. Music is communication. The production of sound vibration involves the production of harmonics. These harmonics are the basis for much of the patterns of real, implied and tonal harmonic patterns (implied harmonics are usually called melodies and harmonic patterns that give each instrument a distinctive sound are often called tonal colors) used in musical cultures around the world. Cultural conditioning causes people within a culture to react emotionally to different harmonic patterns and rhythms differently. You can teach proper emotional response to theological propositions through music by combining meaningful lyrics with the appropriate harmonic patterns and rhythms for that culture. Worshippers conditioned in a similar cultural context will respond similarly. This gives meaning beyond mere words and unifies people within a corporate worship context. This is one type of communication.

Certainly I’ve missed the most obvious form of communication – that between musicians and their audience. Musicians love the music they make as though each piece were a child they raised. From the beginning where they heard the first tones in their mind’s ear through the process of developing and rehearsing every part, they raise this piece from infancy. When the piece has matured, they are pleased to offer it as a product of their hours of labor. A professional musician may be privileged to share a piece over and over again. Someone like me may spend hours upon hours perfecting a piece only to spend a few minutes sharing it. Those few minutes of communication are priceless.

I’ve been listening to Yo Iré for 1 ½ years. I started by translating the Spanish so I knew what it was. This past spring, I decided I wanted to sing it in Venezuela, but I needed the accompaniment track. I ordered the version from Steve Green ministries that came with the demo in English in case I wanted to sing it in English. After hours of practicing singing the Spanish pronunciations and conveying the message through my delivery, I was ready to go to Venezuela and sing it. When I got back, I started working on the English and decided to do part of it in English and part of it in Spanish. I then spent several hours over the course of a few weeks pulling together the images from a few of the missions our church has undertook recently on in order to create the video. The whole time, I have prayed through the words and prepared myself in worship so God can use my efforts to His glory. I pray that God was able to use the few minutes of presentation to encourage the hearts of my brothers and sisters toward missions. That’s communication.

Another venue of communication in music is between musicians. I have sung or played a variety of genres with a variety of musical groups. For choirs, orchestras, wind ensembles and jazz orchestras, you follow the director. You must also listen to those around you for blend and balance. With smaller groups there is usually a leader of sorts, but often arrangements are such that leadership may temporarily change throughout pieces. Each member must be followed by the rest of the members of the group at some point or another. A pianist must listen to the drummer for tempo and rhythm and to the bassist for improvised licks so that he doesn’t play atop the bassist. The bassist and drummer must coordinate bass rhythms. The fact is there is generally more communication between musicians than there is between the musicians and the audience/congregation. It may be technical, but music is a practice in communicating technical information by hearing and sight and using it to communicate the deeper meaning of the music between musicians. Without this, a group lacks cohesiveness and cannot communicate outwardly.

In high school, I knew a saxophone player named Tim Murdock who was an outstanding improvisational jazz artist. I could (and still can) compose music on the fly. I would sit at the piano and start playing. Tim would grab his axe and start adding melody to my changes. I could hear the implied harmonies in his melodies and adjust the direction of the changes to compensate. I could lead changes with internal moving licks that told Tim where I was going. We could fill an hour with nonstop original jazz music.

I’ve alluded to it already, but perhaps the greatest communication with music is between the musician and his Creator. The process of conceiving, composing, rehearsing and producing music is creative at every level. I’m convinced that there is a certain grace whereby we have been given the capacity by our Creator to create such as music. When I was in Bible college I sang in the choir. One concept stressed to us is that a Christian musician performs for an audience of One. Everything we do and every bit of music we create is to be offered up as praise to God and for His glory. While a Christian musician takes into consideration those he expects will listen, all these others before whom he stands and offers the music he creates are merely bystanders as he worships his Creator.

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