Monday, November 29, 2010

1 2 3 breathe

Our Christmas concerts are right around the corner and I'm currently in cram mode trying to memorize all the songs that need to be memorized by this Saturday.  I must be getting old, though, because memorizing seems to be getting more and more difficult with each passing year.  But I think I have most of the concert songs tucked away in my mind now, except, that is, the song I'm singing in a ladies' trio — O Holy Night

These small group pieces are a lot of fun to do, but challenging to do well.  The trick to singing in a trio (or duet or quartet) is to strive to blend perfectly and to stay together exactly throughout the entire piece.  So not only must the words of the song and your own particular part be memorized, but the timing, rests, and breath marks must be memorized and meticulously observed as well.  If any one of the three singers messes up — even a little — it will show! 

In many ways preparing for a solo is much easier, even though singing one terrifies me, because as a soloist you have much greater freedom regarding timing, breathing, and cut offs.  In fact, a soloist can often get away with even forgetting or messing up the words; I mean, who's going to notice anyway?

I'm not too terribly nervous about singing in this trio.  I may well mess up — I've certainly done so before — but I'll just go on.  My greatest fear is that I might come down with a cold between now and the final concert, because once one of those sets in, it usually hangs on for weeks.  So colds please stay away.  I'll be more than happy to deal with you over Christmas, but please not now!

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining ('ng' breathe);
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth (23223323423 'th' 23223). 
Long lay the world in sin and error pining ('ng' breathe) 
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth (23223323 'th' breathe). 
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices ('s' breathe),
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn (2322 'n' breathe);
Fall on your knees (23223323 's' breathe);
Oh, hear the angel voices (23223323 's' breathe)!
Oh night ('t' breathe) divine, O night (232233 't' breathe) when Christ was born (23223 'n' rest 3)!
O night (2322332 't' breathe),
O holy night (23 't' rest 3 breathe),
O night divine (23223323 'n' rest 3)!

There are more verses, but I think I'll quit and go and practice instead.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 5 (1 Corinthians 7:14)

I keep coming across interesting questions and answers.  This particular question has two possible answers.  In light of the context, which one makes the most sense?  (Perhaps neither?) 

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy (1 Cor 7:14).

Question: "Sanctified means 'made holy,' 'set aside,' and 'saved,' right? So is 1 Corinthians 7:14 saying an unbeliever married to a believer is saved because they are 'one flesh' in God's eyes?"

First Answer:  "The word 'sanctified' often refers to salvation (Acts 20:32; 1 Cor 6:11), but sometimes it just means to be set apart to God (Ex 13:2; 19:14; 1 Sam 16:5; 2 Tim 2:21, etc.), and it has this meaning in 1 Cor 7:14 as well.  Paul is saying that an unbelieving spouse, and their children, are much more likely to come to Christ than those with less exposure to the gospel and a consistent Christian testimony. 

Most of the time when we quote Acts 16:31, we don't quote the end:

...Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.

This too sounds like salvation by proxy, but as we read on we see the Philippian jailer 'rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household' (Acts 16:34).  Here we see that the salvation of the man's family was predicated on them believing the gospel as well.  Paul was simply saying, 'Believe and be saved, and this goes for your household as well!'  As the Lord told Paul elsewhere, when it comes to salvation, only those 'who have been sanctified by faith in Me'...'may receive forgiveness of sins...' (Acts 26:18)."

Second Answer:  "Under the Law (Ezra 10:3) the heathen wife and her children were ceremonially 'unclean,' and, therefore, ejected from the earthly family of God.  But Paul is saying that under grace this is not so.  Had Israel's repentance permitted the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom on earth, the believing husband could have brought in his heathen wife and their children.  They would not have been treated as 'unclean.'"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin Roll

My mom makes the most amazing pumpkin roll.  Because it's always so moist and tasty, everyone loves it.  Last week I finally decided to try my hand at making it and I think it turned out pretty well.  It wasn't quite as good as mom makes it, though; it was just a tad dry.  The directions call for baking it 13 to 15 minutes.  I took it out of the oven at 15 minutes.  Next time I think I'll take it out at 14.

3 large eggs
1 c sugar
2/3 c pumpkin
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 c unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Cake Filling:
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp butter, softened
1 c sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 15" x 10" jellyroll pan or cookie sheet; line with wax paper.  Grease and flour paper.  Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.  Combine flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a small bowl.  Beat eggs and sugar in a large mixer bowl until thick.  Beat in pumpkin and add lemon juice.  Stir in flour mixture.  Spread evenly into prepared pan.  Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched.  Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel.  Carefully peel off paper.  Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end.  Cool on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.   Carefully unroll cake, remove towel.  Spread cream cheese mixture over cake.  Re-roll cake.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Acts 2 Church today? The Account.

Acts has so long been called the account of the "birth and growth of the Church" that the statement has come to be accepted almost without question.  Yet the Church, "which is His body", does not even appear in the first large portion of the book.  And even though it does occupy an important place in the latter part of the book, it isn't called by its distinctive name even there.  It's only in Paul's epistles that we learn that the Body had begun during the latter part of the Book of Acts.

Peter, who obviously dominates the scene in the first part of Acts, doesn't present Christianity at all, either in the popular or the Biblical sense of the word.  What he presents is Judaism.  The only difference between the apostles' position in the four Gospels and in early Acts was that which prophesied events had brought about.  In early Acts the resurrection of the crucified King had become the burden of their message and the Holy Spirit had come in power to confirm their testimony.  In fact, the kingdom which these apostles had proclaimed "at hand" during the Lord's earthly ministry, could now be offered (Acts 3:19-21).  But even in Paul's ministry in the latter part of Acts (which was mainly to the Gentiles), the apostle went consistently to "the Jew first," so that throughout the book Israel is being dealt with.

I think Sir Robert Anderson sums it up rather well in his book The Silence of God:

In a word, if 'To the Jew first' is characteristic of the Acts of the Apostles as a whole, "To the Jew only' is plainly stamped upon every part of these early chapters, described by theologians as the 'Hebraic section' of the book.  The fact is clear as light.  And if any are prepared to account for it by Jewish prejudice and ignorance, they may at once throw down this volume, for it is here assumed that the apostles of the Lord, speaking and acting in the memorable days of Pentecostal power, were Divinely guided in their work and testimony.

It seems clear to me that the Book of Acts, far from being "the story of early-day Christianity," is from beginning to end the account of the fall of Israel. It explains, step by step, the transition from the prophetic program, in which salvation was to go to the Gentiles through Israel, to the new program, under which salvation was to go to the Gentiles apart from them.

(to be continued)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interesting tidbit - 4

Here's another interesting question answered.

Q:  How could Jews and Gentiles have been reconciled at the cross if "their rejection is the reconciliation of the world" (Rom 11:15)?

A:  When, exactly, did Israel as a nation reject Jesus Christ, their Messiah?  Many think it was when they put Him to death on the cross.  Yes, that is true, but God gave them more chances after that to accept His Son, as seen in the Book of Acts.  So with that in mind, what is the answer to the question above?

The work of the cross is how Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to God, but the cross is not when they were reconciled.  This is similar to how the Law was abolished "by" the cross (Eph 2:15-16) but not at the Cross.  The cross-work of Christ made it possible for God to later reveal that the Law had been "abolished," but the Law remained in effect after the cross until it was revealed through Paul that God "has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col 2:14).

It might help to compare how even as individuals we were "reconciled [you] in His fleshly body through death" (Col 1:21-22), even though historically at the cross, we had not yet been born and so were not yet alienated from God.  But the work performed by Christ at Calvary enabled God to later reconcile both Jews and Gentiles corporately, as well as believers individually.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cherished Friends

God must have known there would be times
We'd need a word of cheer,
Someone to praise a triumph
Or brush away a tear.

He must have known we'd need to share
The joy of "little things"
In order to appreciate
The happiness life brings.

I think He knew our troubled hearts
Would sometimes throb with pain,
At trials and misfortunes,
Or goals we can't attain.

He knew we'd need the comfort
Of an understanding heart
To give us strength and courage
To make a fresh, new start.

He knew we'd need companionship,
Unselfish... lasting... true,
And so God answered the heart's great need
With cherished friends... like you!

- Author Unknown -

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thes 5:11).

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Hallelujah Chorus sung at Macy's last Saturday

I just got this from a friend who was visiting her daughter in Philly last week.  Unfortunately my friend missed this, but had she known about it in advance, she would have been there in an instant. 

Apparently, while shoppers were shopping and Christmas decorations were already being hung at Macy's in Philadelphia last Saturday, an organ began to play and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, along with over 650 area choristers, began to sing the Hallelujah Chorus.  It was called a "random act of culture." 

Why don't things like this ever happen while I'm shopping?!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sermon on the Mount

Winston Churchill is reported to have said on one occasion: "What a happy world this would be if we all lived according to the Sermon on the Mount!" And it certainly would be, but it has been historically demonstrated that, due to the depravity of human nature, man can no more practice the Sermon on the Mount consistently than he can consistently obey the Ten Commandments. Nor will he be able to until the Holy Spirit takes control and causes him to do so.

God promised His people Israel:

I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will be careful to obey My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be my people, and I will be your God (Ezek 36:27-28).

Though these verses do speak of the Holy Spirit Who indwells us as believers today, He is not causing us to walk in His statues now. We can choose to "walk by the Spirit" and thereby "not carry out the desire of the flesh," but it is a choice we make — put off the old and put on the new. Nor are we dwelling in a bountiful land that God promised to us. A land was promised to Israel, not to us. This passage is written to Israel and is referring to the future Millennial kingdom. We must always remember that all Scripture is for us, but not all Scripture was written directly to us or about us. So be careful when reading other people's mail!

What about the Sermon on the Mount? Of course it is for us (2 Tim 3:16)!  For one thing, it shows us what it looks like when we are walking in our new natures. But was the Sermon on the Mount written about us or addressed directly to us? Is it meant specifically for us, "the one new man" which Paul designates as "the body of Christ" (Eph 2:15-16; 4:12)? When we look at progressive revelation, we must conclude that the answer is "no." Because Christ, while on the earth, was born under, and taught law with establishing the kingdom in view, then it too, refers to the Millennial kingdom that is yet to come.  It will be during this time that God will cause men to walk in His statues, to obey the precepts and principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

God did not give revelation all at once. It was always "order on order, line upon line, a little here, a little there" (Is 28:9-10). Comparing Exodus or Matthew with Ephesians, for example, it is evident that God has dealt differently with men of different ages, according to their knowledge of Himself. There has been development and progress, historically, in the knowledge of God and His purposes. Therefore, when we look at the progression of Scripture, we see that there is no contradiction between the Sermon on the Mount and Paul's epistles. There are contradictions, however, if we directly apply both of them to ourselves today. But when we come across seeming contradictions, we may rest assured that God never contradicts Himself; we just aren't observing the principle of progressive revelation.

To give you an idea of where I'm coming from, let's first consider the subject of the Messianic kingdom itself: (1) The kingdom was promised in the OT times (Jer 23:5). (2) It was proclaimed to be at hand during our Lord's earthly ministry (Matt 4:17). (3) It was offered at Pentecost, after the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 3:19-21). (4) It was rejected as the book of Acts shows (Acts 7:54-8:3; 28:2-28). (5) It was postponed and is being held in abeyance until a future time (Matt 23:39; Rom 11:25). (6) And finally, when Jesus Christ returns to judge and reign, the kingdom will be established on earth and Israel will live in the land promised to them (Rom 11:26). Then, for the first time since the fall of man, this world will become a place of true peace, prosperity and blessing.

The establishment of the kingdom of Christ on earth is the very goal of OT prophecy, but the epistles of Paul explain how the prophetic program was interrupted by grace. Therefore, the true condition of this world today can be understood only as we recognize progressive revelation in Scripture.

Moreover, those who recognize Scripture's progression do not need to "spiritualize" plain predictions of prophecy and thereby much of the OT. Instead, they see how prophecy was steadily fulfilled literally, right through the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost, but then its fulfillment evidently stops. The Tribulation and the signs of Christ's return did not appear, nor did He return to reign. Many explain that the early persecutions of Christianity were the prophesied Tribulation and that Christ is reigning today over "spiritual" Israel, the Body of Christ. But I don't see that Scripture teaches that the Church has replaced Israel; unless, that is, you "spiritualize" certain passages.  To me that is not just "spiritualizing" Scripture, however, but arbitrarily altering it, and thereby compounding the confusion which already exists in the Church today.

So where do we, the Church, fit into all this? We fit in right between Israel's final rejection of Christ and His kingdom and the coming Tribulation and His return to earth to judge and reign.