Wednesday, July 31, 2013

PCUSA Abandons "In Christ Alone"

I've sung through a few hymnals in my travels and noticed minor changes in the lyrics. Most of them had to do with helping to better communicate the song's message and/or etymology-connotation issues. But here we have a story where a suggested change in the lyrics declaws the previously-explicit message of the Gospel, in Keith Getty and Stuart Townend's most popular song, "In Christ Alone."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rick Warren Preaches for First Time Since Son's Suicide

A blog that I follow posted this story from TIME.

Thousands of parishioners packed the auditorium and three overflow tents on Saturday for the first of Saddleback’s five-weekend worship services. A dozen local pastors all sat in the front row in a show of support for the Warrens, along with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, producers of the hit television series, The Bible. When Rick and Kay walked hand in hand onstage, the crowd stood to their feet in appreciation and applause. Kay began to cry, and Rick kissed her on the forehead as he too grew teary. “Love you too,” he told the audience. He paused for just a few moments, and then he began to preach.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Not Only God's Glory?

I feel this article is well-written, but long overdue.

Has the glory of God become a cliché among the young, restless, Reformed crowd? The vocabulary of glory is on the rise, but certain misunderstandings and imbalances linger. Will "the glory of God" become a cliché, much like "the love of God" to the previous generation, which too often reduced love to sentimentality?

You can read the rest here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Fun: Meanwhile, Other Babies are Born

Congrats to Prince William and Duchess Catherine on their newborn son. And congrats to Jimmy Fallon and his wife on their newborn daughter.

I knew I was missing something in the announcement of each of my childrens' births . . .

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Conference: Engaging the South

As a frequent visitor to the South with many relatives therein, I really appreciate the vision and passion behind this conference. Anyone wanting to minister in the unique anomaly that is the American South ought to consider this conference and its sources.

You can read more about it here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Introducing a New Worship Blog

I'm a bit late in notifying you all about this. Recently, The Gospel Coalition started a blog on worship (music).

You can access it here.

Myself, I'm an occasional reader of various TGC blogs, so I appreciate the time and passion that they're donating to this topic. They have some good insight for theology and church practice, but they're operating on a few cultural and artistic assumptions. Nonetheless, I'm happy that a rising influence for the future of the American Church such as TGC is making an investment in worship music, something I take very seriously.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Loving Detroit

In light of Detroit's recent declaration of bankruptcy, I thought I'd post a link to this nice article about Detroit from Christianity Today's series This is Our City. There are some good thoughts here that speak against insensitive prejudice and stereotypes, and a call to humble, gracious compassion. The type that everyone in ministry needs. As someone that has many relatives in Detroit's metropolitan area, this article was a very good read.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Best Places to Live Based on 7 Deadly Sins

A real estate blog creatively used social data on the "seven deadly sins" to construct lists of the top 10 "saintly" and top 10 "sinful" cities in America. It's a different method than surveying Biblical reading and self-dubbed affiliation, and it involves biblical application to lifestyle. 

This list also returned different results than the other two similar city lists recently released, and its contents may surprise you.

Top 10 saintly cities:
1. New York, NY
2. Gilbert, AZ
3. Fremont, CA
4. Glendale, CA
5. Chula Vista, CA
6. Chandler, AZ
7. Colorado Springs, CO
8. Long Beach, CA
9. San Jose, CA
10. Irvine, CA
Top 10 sinful cities:
1. St. Louis, MO
2. Orlando, FL
3. Minneapolis, MN
4. Pittsburgh, PA
5. Milwaukee, WI
6. Cincinnati, OH
7. Miami, FL
8. Buffalo, NY
9. Detroit, MI
10. Las Vegas, NV
Christianity Today reports further on all of the lists (links included) here

I wonder if there's other methods to measure biblical living. Maybe cities with more charitable and socially active churches? Cities with churches that positively contribute to local institutions of education, the arts and sciences? 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Four Acapella Hymns

Noticed an aspiring artist on YouTube whose arranged and performed 9-part vocal arrangements of four hymns. He has quite the vocal range. The musical arrangements tend to start off with a New Age ambience and end with a more Southern Gospel big finish. Enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Notable Links Regarding Zimmerman's Trial

I have been following various news articles and blogs regarding the verdict in George Zimmerman's trial and its aftermath, but I've refrained from posting about it or engaging in any type of related discussion (particularly in the brutal coliseum of emotion and kitsch that is social media, where it's hard to have productive conversations, much less any type of healing). Because I'm speechless. Regardless of where one stands regarding the verdict of the trial, this whole event is tragic and unjust. I strive to reflect the values of the Triune God I worship as found in the Bible. God takes pleasure in the death of no one (Ez. 18:32).

So while I'm speechless, I really shouldn't be silent.

I thought I'd post some links (in addition to the one above) for my readers (Christians and otherwise) that I've found helpful in processing the event and how to properly respond. These two articles are balanced and informed, and they (rightfully) never simplify or show partiality.  

Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates does good work here in reviewing the complexities of the trial and modern issues of race and injustice. I came to appreciate Coates's work when I recently stumbled over his compassionate interview with Harold Pollack, college professor and Crime Lab co-director, working for the public health betterment of my home metropolis, Chicago, who had over 500 murders last year. In Coates's article on Zimmerman's trial, inadvertently reminding us that the cultural affects the political (and not vice versa), he boldly writes: 

I have seen nothing within the actual case presented by the prosecution that would allow for a stable and unvacillating belief that George Zimmerman was guilty. That conclusion should not offer you security or comfort. It should not leave you secure in the wisdom of our laws. On the contrary, it should greatly trouble you. But if you are simply focusing on what happened in the court-room, then you have been head-faked by history and bought into a idea of fairness which can not possibly exist.

To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for [racial issues and injustice], is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn't come back from twenty-four down.

Ed Stetzer edited a blog with contributions from a social psychologist and two Sanford-area clerics, entitled Privilege, Blame and Injustice. He opens by saying:

Since that fateful night in February 2012, we have watched and waited for a determination of what exactly happened between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. While we may never know the details, a jury has found Zimmerman not guilty of murder or manslaughter. However no matter what the jury decided, the fact remains that a 17-year young man old is dead, his family is hurt, and a man's life has been turned upside down.
The focal points of the trial were certainly Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. But, in such trials, we learn about ourselves, our culture, and brokeness of our society. We learned that this society remains divided.
I'll post more helpful links as they come up.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Fun: Sharknado

Social media has been a flurry the past 24 hours about a new action-packed, gory SyFy-original movie called Sharknado, which premiered last night. Apparently, a literal perfect storm gathers a world variety of sharks into a cyclone that moves into Los Angeles, hurling hungry shark projectiles (which aren't as much of a threat after they've landed and lost their wind support) in addition to the typical damage and terror that a tornado brings. If you watch the trailer, you hear one of the protagonist's plans to stop the "sharknado": a bomb. 

Again, this is one of those pitch meetings I would have loved to witness, and one would think that this was from, for example, the entertainment section of The Onion. But this movie is real.

I've always been a fan of plotless, poor-dialogue, action-packed, summer popcorn flick (e.g. Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow), but sometimes even sci-fi movies can be horribly unbelievable. Sharknado may not have the most laughable storyline to make it onto the screen, even in the past decade, but is it getting a lot of otherwise undue attention because the rise of cable channels and social media? I think just watching the trailer is good enough for me. (Warning: As I mentioned, the movie, trailer and clips will include some gore, but mostly on CGI sharks). 


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ramshackle Orchestra, Bringing Northern Ireland to Seattle

Ramshackle Orchestra is a new and rising Irish folk band that's currently operating in and around Mars Hill in Seattle, WA. Their info and music can be found on Facebook, YouTube, and iTunes.

I like their hymn arrangements, and hope to see some original music in the future! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Everyone Wants a Revolution. No One Wants to Do the Dishes.

Well-written call for balance from InterVarsity's blog. 

"I’ve read a lot of really good discussions lately about the recent emphasis on "radical" Christianity. This Radical Christian movement is responsible for a lot of good, and I’m grateful that I’ve been irrevocably shaped by it for some fifteen years. When we fearfully cling to the status quo and the comfortable, we must be challenged by the call of a life-altering, comfort-afflicting Jesus. But for those of us — and there are a lot of us — who are drawn to an edgy, sizzling spirituality, we need to embrace radical ordinariness and to be grounded in the challenge of the stable mundaneness of the well-lived Christian life."

You can read the rest here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Marriage Between a Woman and a Bridge?

This is one of those articles you'd think was from The Onion or some form of fictional parody journalism, but it's not. A woman married a bridge last week.

Aside from the plethora of possible puns that could be made (this is a big temptation for me), I'll just let this news article be interpreted as it may.

You can read the full article here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Don't Waste This Holiday

Some good words here about things to remember as we celebrate on the 4th of July.

Have a happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Contemporary Art and the Church? Some Sources

I've had the privilege of visiting and even working at contemporary art museums in Chicago and D.C. Twentieth century music theory and history were easily the classes met with the least excitement by me and my fellow tonal music lovers in the conservatory, but, as a music composition major, I wrote about how I needed to to expand my horizons. Why not apply the same principles when I experience contemporary visual art?

And as I walk around contemporary art museums, I can hear the cliches in my head. "My kid could make that." "That's so simple. They made money off of that?" "Looks like they made that accidentally." On an on, but God-given creativity can be shown in other ways than complexity, function, and what naturally pleases the eyes and ears. I (and other Christians invested in the arts) would love to have discussions in philosophy of the arts. I'm no matchmaker, but I think the Church and the artistic community (particularly the contemporary arts) ought to spend more time together, because they have a lot more in common than they think.

Thankfully, here's some sources for that conversation, from a pastor's wife and art historian. Thoughts?    

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

NBC to Broadcast Burnett's Sequel to "The Bible"

History Channel's The Bible may not have driven home all the theological points some of us pastors may have hoped, but it can't be ignored that it inspired a lot (and I mean a lot) of curious reading of the holy book, worldwide. And now Mark Burnett's going to be making a sequel to that mini-series. On network television.

The details are still pending, but it looks like it's going to be centered around the events after Jesus's death and resurrection, namely and potentially, the life of the New Testament Church.

The true story of Church's launch from the slums of the Roman Empire was inspiring to me, and could be for others.  The truthful historicity of the fastest-growing and unique group of non-territorial cultural conservatives, mocked and martyred, whose heroism of love and apolitical, social, non-violent activism on behalf of women, slaves, infants/unborn, the impoverished, the victims of the gladiatorial games, etc. still fascinates the unbelieving sociologist. They were what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called a true "thermostat," not merely a thermometer, to the morality of society.

So, yeah, if Mark Burnett's A.D.: Beyond the Bible taps into that history, it could be a very good thing.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Future of Worship Music?

I once made a prediction that the most popular genres of corporate musical worship (classical music traditional and folk/pop rock) aren't going away for a very, very long time (maybe ever). This was based on the following assumptions:

1) Classical music traditional (e.g. Bach, Handel, Mozart, etc. with hymnody) has established itself in timelessness, already having survived the diverse explosion of musical genre in the 20th century.

2) Folk/pop rock music, while not necessarily the highest on the Billboard, functions better than most other popular contemporary genres (e.g. hip hop, rap, techno, dance) for teachable corporate singing.

3) With little to no exceptions, no major instruments and/or genres of music have recently been created or can be created in the near future that can have the same level of impact on corporate musical worship and the musical community in general as did the creations of the organ and the electric guitar.

But, after skimming this article on CNN, I'm starting to wonder if I'm wrong. Thoughts?