Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The unknown hymn

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matt 26:30).


This verse intrigues me. It's often said that "music soothes the soul," and I have certainly found this to be true in my own life. When all is chaos around me, music (and singing in particular) makes me feel much better. Somehow it makes whatever trying situation I'm dealing with seem not quite so overwhelming. Interestingly, I read not too long ago that hospitals all over the US are trying out music therapy on patients suffering from such things as brain disorders, heart problems, and cancer, and are discovering it's helping speed up recovery time.

And here in Matthew we find Jesus and His eleven apostles singing a hymn before going out to the Mount of Olives.

This is especially interesting because Matthew 26 is full of crises. The chief priests and elders are plotting to kill Jesus in the first few verses.  Jesus is "anointed for burial" in verses 6-13.  Judas betrays Him in verses 14-16.  And Jesus foretells that His time is near in verses 17-29.  It is after all this that they sing a hymn.

Sometimes I wonder what the words to that hymn might have been, but God has seen fit to keep them from us for now.  Scripture has many great poetic expressions — the Song of Moses, the beautiful Magnificat, all the Psalms and many other poems.  Perhaps the words were from one of these?  But whatever the case, the hymn they sang that night was evidently a well-known song, one in which they could all join. I can almost imagine our Lord saying, "Before we leave, let's sing...", can't you?

One thing for sure, our Lord and His apostles did not leave the Upper Room weeping and mourning. Though His soul had been deeply troubled as He approached the dreadful hour of His suffering and death, He could say: "What shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'"? But for this purpose I came to this hour (Jn 12:27). And though deeply saddened by Judas' base betrayal, His words of comfort and cheer during these last hours were crowned with the singing of a hymn — a song of praise.  Amazing!

So even though the words of that hymn are yet unknown to us, the lesson of its singing should not be lost.  Music, in and of itself, can lessen our anxieties.  But as believers we can make even greater use of its soothing effects by choosing music that praises Him for who He is and all He's done for us, and that reminds us that our "momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Cor 4:17).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Joy To The World!

http://listeninglab.stantons.com/title/joy-to-the-world/354820/

From heaven's glory Christ came down to sinful men on earth.
We've reached another Christmas day to celebrate His birth;
Eternal God in human form, the virgin's holy Child:
The One of Whom the prophets wrote, the seed of woman undefiled.

Gabriel came to Mary’ home God’s message to proclaim,
To tell her of the Saviour’s birth; to give to her His name
“Call Him Jesus,” God’s command; on David’s throne he’ll reign;
He’ll save His people from their sin and Israel’s right regain.

In Bethlehem’s manger He came forth — Israel’s glorious King.
The shepherds kept their flock by night and heard the angels sing:
“Peace on earth! Good will to men! Christ is born today.”
The wise men came to see the King; God’s star had led the way.

And there was born the Son of God Who lived in Israel’s land,
Who came to earth to do God’s will — all that God had planned.
Christ came to set the captive free, give Satan’s slaves release,
He spake the Word of God to men, brought comfort, health and peace.

By word and work Christ proved His claim; His right to David’s throne.
But Israel said, “He shall not reign” — rejected they the Stone.
In the garden Christ was found, and by Judas there betrayed.
Before the rulers He was led, in purple robe arrayed.

Crowned with thorns they hailed Him king, in derision and disgrace;
They hated Him without a cause; they spat upon His face.
Pilate found no fault in Him, desired to set Him free:
His rulers cried, “We’ll take the blame! Nail Him to the tree.”

So the Lord of glory died; but He suffered not in vain.
Not only was His death foretold; but He must rise again.
No other way could God be just and sinful men forgive;
The penalty by Christ was paid! By faith the just shall live.

Eternal life is God’s free gift through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And when we’re saved, God gives us work with promise of reward.
And as we worship, serve and wait until we hear the call
We know our labor’s not in vain; for God remembers all.
(John O'Hair)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas pageant

“…work on the 1962 pageant commenced in August of that year with the formation of a Christmas committee and the scheduling of auditions for early September.  Mr. Shelton wanted to provide himself with a half dozen wise men, three or four Josephs and angels, and a couple of Virgin Marys so as to protect against any unforeseen occurrences.  In the latter part of October the reverend organized a building committee which saw to the construction of the stable and baby Jesus’ manger, both of which were made from shipping crates supplied by an appliance store in a shopping center near Draper.  By the middle of November Miss Fay Dull had begun rehearsing the choir, and just after Thanksgiving the ladies from the Tuesday Biblettes set in to making costumes for the wise men out of old chair covers.  The reverend’s schedule provided for two practice runs in December before the actual production on the evening of Sunday the twenty-third, and when Reverend Shelton addressed his congregation on the morning of the sixteenth he told them how the Christmas pageant would be an unforgettable affair.  Momma said it surely was.

The animals normally used in the pageant were kept from year to year in the basement of the fellowship hall.  They were made out of painted plywood and seemed very lifelike if you didn’t look at them anywhere but head-on.  But the reverend didn’t think his pageant was suited for wooden animals; he thought it called for something a little more grand and spectacular.  The Reverend Shelton had actual livestock in mind, livestock which he borrowed from local farmers who agreed to keep quiet about it until after the performance.  He got hold of a half-dozen piglets, a pair of goats, three or four chickens, one goose, and Mr. Jip French’s old blind pony that his boys chased around the pasture and ran into fences.  But when he tried the animals out at a full-dress rehearsal the reverend discovered that he couldn’t use the pony because it was given to breaking wind, not very loudly, Momma said, but in near lethal concentrations.  So the reverend tried to get another pony but couldn’t and had to settle for Mr. Earl Jemison’s steely-grey hound, Mayhew, which was probably one of the biggest dogs in the county and which the reverend decided to transform into a camel by means of a couple of pillows and a brown rug.

Mayhew did not come easy, however.  Mr. Jemison accounted himself a respectable actor and he bargained relentlessly for the part of the voice of God, a part Mr. Jemison said he had always wanted to play.  Mr. Shelton had saved the voice of God for himself and he gave it up to Mr. Jemison with severe misgivings since he did not think God talked at all like Mr. Jemison, whose voice Daddy said could pass for an articulate doorhinge.  But the reverend had somehow convinced himself he was desperate for a camel and he wasn’t about to lose the services of Mr. Jemison’s dog.

Momma said she and Miss Mattie Gunn did not know just what to think when they entered a sanctuary entirely darkened except for three railroad lanterns hung here and there on a fairly legitimate-looking stable up by the altar.  And she said neither Miss Mattie nor herself noticed that the reverend had imported actual animals until the both of them caught a whiff of the chickens at about the same time.  Unfortunately Miss Mattie suffered from an allergy to feathers and her eyes immediately teared up so that she couldn’t see past the pew in front of her and Momma had to tell her just how everything looked.  Momma said the reverend and his committees had created a most impressive effect with just a few oven crates, some paint, a couple of bales of hay, a handful of livestock, and the accompanying barnyard aroma.  Momma said the reverend had strewn hay across the altar, set the stablefront on top of it, hung a few lanterns, tethered the goats, caught up the piglets and the chickens and the goose together in a wire corral, and left the ammonia to drift where it would.  Momma said she could have been out of doors for all she knew and every now and then she wished she was.

Momma did not know exactly when Miss Pettigrew made her entry into the sanctuary since the usher seated her a full two aisles over from Momma, who could hardly make out Miss Mattie as it was.  But she suspected Miss Pettigrew arrived just after the reverend had presented himself from a niche beneath the choir loft and come forward onto the altar to greet the congregation.  Along about then Momma heard a distinct buzzing off to her left that carried the length of the aisle and she said it was probably the sound of people asking each other if that was indeed Miss Pettigrew or telling each other it was indeed Aunt Willa, not because they could make out her features, not even because they could tell she was colored, but because even in the lanternlight they could detect the radical limp Aunt Willa got from being dropped onto a stone hearth as a baby.  And Momma said the usher and Miss Pettigrew and Aunt Willa advanced to the front pew with the noise of their passing advancing just behind them.  She said anybody knew whoever was with Aunt Willa had to be Miss Pettigrew.

She said the Virgin Mary, as played by Miss Alice Covens, seemed somewhat frightened of the goats and swung excessively wide of them on her way into the stable while Joseph, as played by Mr. Jeffrey Elwood Crawford Jr., lingered outside and delivered a little speech on starlight and poverty and the kindness of men.  He concluded to a very short burst of applause that lasted only as long as it took for Mrs. Crawford to get hold of her husband’s hands.  Then Joseph joined the Virgin Mary in the stable and the choir took over with Miss Dull’s arrangement of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  Mr. Jemison’s big scene followed the music and began with Reverend Shelton playing a flashlight beam onto the angel of the Lord, who was perched a little recklessly on the choir-loft banister.  But nothing happened right away, and Momma said the angel clung onto the railing and waited and the congregation waited and the Reverend Shelton coughed and cleared his throat until finally the voice of God exploded out of the darkness like a train whistle and nearly scared everybody to death.  Momma said Mr. Jemison told his angel where to go and what to do when he got there, and then the angel sort of saluted, she said, and threw himself off the banister, which caused the entire congregation to suck air.  But he was harnessed into  a system of ropes and pulleys, and after he swooped back into the railing once, he descended more or less without incident to a point just over the stable roof where he could hover and wait for the wise men.

The Reverend Shelton threw a switch that activated a bulb in a Moravian star suspended somewhere above the angel of the Lord and somewhere below the choir loft, and almost simultaneously the three kings from the orient came forward out of the narthex wearing everybody’s old upholstery and beards made from cotton swabs and crowns wrapped in aluminum foil.  One of them bore frankincense and another one bore both myrrh and gold since the one who was supposed to bear the gold had his hands full with the camel, who did not seem especially interested in witnessing the birth of the Christchild but showed a preference for sniffing shoetops along the aisle.  Miss Fay Dull led the choir in four verses of “We Three Kings,” which served to carry the gift-bearing wise men on up to the stable but broke off a minute or two before the one with camel had a chance to make the altar.  Only the angel of the Lord seemed at all perturbed by the delay, but then he had just grown somewhat harness-weary and thrashed around in an effort to relieve himself.

The baby Jesus had gotten born in the meantime and as the wise men closed in to adore him, the camel, who was supposed to be tethered up away from the goose and the piglets and the chickens and the goats, got loose into the back of the stable and sprawled on the hay where he licked himself through the better part of Miss Dull’s solo performance of “Away in a Manger.”  Then came time for reverend Shelton to read a passage from the Book of Matthew, and Momma said that’s when the trouble started.  When the reverend turned on his pulpit lamp so as to see the Bible, considerable light was thrown onto the front edge of the congregation, and best as Momma could figure it the Virgin Mary, who had the Christchild in her arms and was flanked all around by Joseph and the wise men, looked up long enough to get an eyeful of a colored woman in the front pew, which would have been a rarity in any pew, and then she looked again and saw it was Aunt Willa and since she knew wherever Aunt Willa went Miss Pettigrew might be, she looked off beside Aunt Willa and found Miss Pettigrew herself, who had already become a kind of local spook.

Momma said the sight of Miss Pettigrew must have simply shocked the Virgin Mary and in her agitation she lost her grip on the baby Jesus and dropped him onto the edge of the manger, where his porcelain head got jarred loose from the rest of him and fell onto the hay next to one of the goats, and Momma said the sound of the baby Jesus’ head hitting the floor startled the one goat, who bucked into the other one who lunged the length of his tether and jolted one of the lanterns off its peg, and Momma said when it hit the floor the glass chimney broke and the hay caught fire.  The wise men bolted off in one direction, Joseph cleared out in the other, and the Virgin Mary crept backwards into the stable with her hands over her mouth until she stepped on the camel’s hindquarters, which caused him to jump to his feet and start barking.  By this time the angel of the Lord figured things had pretty much fallen to pieces and he set up a fuss to be hauled in right away; he said the harness was making his legs blue.  But Momma said he was left to dangle over the stable while two baritones came down out of the choir loft and smothered the flames with their robes before going to the assistance of the Virgin Mary, who had momentarily lost her wits.  In a matter of minutes everything was back to order except for the camel who continued to bark and make threatening noises, but he cowed immediately when the voice of God shouted down from the rafters, “Mayhew, shut up!”

Momma said some one of the ushers finally showed the great good sense to turn the sanctuary lights up and everybody along the left aisle leapt bolt upright to see if that was indeed Miss Pettigrew in the company of Aunt Willa in the front row, and when they found out that yes, it was, they told the people beside them who told the people beside them who told the people beside them and the news shot through the sanctuary like electricity.  Momma said nobody seemed to care that the reverend’s Christmas pageant had nearly burned the church down or that the reverend himself had fallen into a faint behind the pulpit or that the angel of the Lord had commenced to wail and sob and say how doctors would have to cut his legs off with a handsaw if somebody didn’t draw him into the choir loft straightaway.  She said all people wanted to do was look at Miss Pettigrew since they’d been without the chance to in nearly a decade and didn’t know when the opportunity might present itself again.  So everybody stood up, she said, and looked.  Aunt Willa helped Miss Pettigrew off the pew, and Momma said she tried to lead her on out of the sanctuary but Miss Pettigrew held up and faced the congregation, not seeming at all mysterious or tainted or stern, but just a little wilted and sheepish and fairly human.

Momma said Aunt Willa’s cheeks were all puffy and swollen and her gums obviously gave her some pain when she snatched at Miss Pettigrew’s elbow and said, “Come on h’yer,” but Miss Pettigrew just stood where she was and worked her lips as if she might say something, as if she might say hello.  Momma said folks looked at each other and looked at Miss Pettigrew and looked at each other again until Miss Pettigrew finally opened her mouth and said nothing whatsoever.

Then Aunt Willa took her by the elbow.  “Come on h’yer Miss Pettigrew,” she said.  “Come on h’yer to home.”  And Momma said this time Miss Pettigrew let Aunt Willa have her way and everybody watched them down the aisle, watched them into the narthex, watched them even after the angel of the Lord unhooked himself from the rope and fell through the stable roof."

***An excerpt from an absolutely hilarious book by:  Pearson, T. R. A Short History of a Small Place. New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 1985.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolate Filled Snowballs


Okay, one last Christmas cookie for you to try.  I got this recipe from a co-worker some 30-odd years ago.  When I was growing up, mom used to make the traditional snowball cookies, which I absolutely loved.  In fact, once while we were visiting my grandparents one Christmas back in the 60's, I ate so many of them, I got sick.  For several years afterwards, I couldn't stand to even look at them.  But, that was then and this is now — and now I love them again! 

Anyway, these cookies are just like the cookies mom used to make, except they also have a chocolate surprise in the middle, which makes them even better yet!

1 c butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1/2 c finely chopped pecans
1 5-oz pkg chocolate Kisses candy
powered sugar

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add flour and nuts.  Blend well.  Remove foil from Kisses.  Shape dough around kisses, usually 1 tbsp dough for each.  Roll to make a ball.  Be sure to cover Kiss completely.  Place on greased cookie sheet and bake in 375 degrees oven for 12 minutes until set — not brown!  Cool slightly and remove carefully to wire racks.  While still warm, sprinkle tops with powered sugar.  Store in tightly covered container.  Roll in sugar again before serving.  Makes about 40 cookies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hymns versus praise songs

Not long ago a farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. "Well," said the farmer, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses," said his wife, "What are those?"

"Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.

""Well, what's the difference?" asked his wife.

The farmer said, "Well it's like this - If I were to say to you:

`Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:

`Martha Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA,
the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows,
the white cows, the black and white cows,
the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn,
are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,
the CORN, CORN, CORN,'


Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus."

**********************************************************************************

A young, new Christian from the big city attended the small town church one weekend. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs."

"Hymns," said his wife, "What are those?"

"Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked his wife.

The young man said, "Well it's like this - If I were to say to you, `Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:

Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God's sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn.
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.


Then, if I were to do only verses one, three, and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."

(author unknown - from an email circulated a few years ago)

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Gaelic Blessing

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ
The light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqyU7SKyklY

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Cornflake Cookies


I was already in the car with my coat on before I noticed anything was wrong.  Preparing to back out of the garage to head off to church for our Saturday afternoon Christmas concert, I turned on the radio, adjusted the rear view mirror, and then attempted to straighten my skirt so that it wouldn't wrinkle on the way in.  But I couldn't find it.  I only found my slip.  That's when I realized I had forgotten to put on my skirt!  Good grief, I can just imagine driving to church, taking off my coat, and walking up to the choir loft before one of my friends whispered to me, "Ummm Sally, did you forget something?"

That's the sort of thing this time of year does to me.  It's so hectic, I'm always positive I'll forget to do something important or royally mess something up.  But so far this year I'm managing to keep it all together pretty well.  There was the "skirt incident" last Saturday, of course, but that's hardly worth mentioning.  Besides, all our Christmas gifts are now wrapped.  I've even managed to write out some of our Christmas cards.  So see?  I'm keeping it together just fine. :)

Pressing on to make all the traditional Christmas cookies, here's another of our favorites.  These cookies are a great addition to any platterful of sweets this time of year.  Not only are they tasty (I especially like the cinnamon candy bits:), they're also festive-looking!


1/3 c butter
10 oz marshmallows (about 40 regular size)
1 tsp green food coloring
6 c cornflakes
red cinnamon candies

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat.  Add marshmallow and stir until melted.  Remove from heat and stir in food coloring.  Add cornflakes, stirring until well coated.  Drop 3-inch spoonfuls of mixture onto wax paper.  Dot each cookie with 3 red cinnamon candies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Interesting tidbit - 13

Q:  The word "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14 is the Hebrew word "almah" meaning, "a young woman" — in other words, a "young woman" who may or may not be a virgin.  Does this mean that Mary may or may not have been a virgin when she gave birth to Christ Jesus?


A:  It's true the Hebrew word almah simply means a "damsel" or a "maiden," who may or may not be a virgin.  However, almah can refer to a young woman who is a virgin, like in the case of Rebekah (Gen 24:43-45).  Interestingly, the Holy Spirit does not leave the matter open for debate regarding Mary.  Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Matthew directly quotes Isaiah and, in doing so, uses the Greek word parthenos.  This term is solely used of a woman who has never known a man.

BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN [Gr. parthenos] SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US” (Matt 1:23).

The purpose of the miraculous conception and virgin birth of Christ was to show that He was not stained with Adam's sin.  As Paul says, "He knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21).  Christ was an empty vessel when it came to sin.  This allowed the Father to pour our sins into His dear Son at Calvary, where He was made "sin for us."  It is essentially a matter of faith!  If Christ wasn't born of a virgin, then we are still in our sins.  (Sadler) 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pentecostalism - part 2

One of the biggest errors Pentecostals make is the way they view the Book of Acts.  Traditionally, they see it as the record of the birth and growth of the Church, the body of Christ, that in it is found the doctrine and practice of the Church in its earliest and purest form, and that it is a spiritual storybook containing inspiring examples of what the Church might do if it but possessed the faith of the first century believers.  For example, here's what one author says:

"The book of Acts is the story of early-day Christianity ... God has given us in the book of Acts a pattern of Christian testimony, missionary effort, world evangelism and building of Christian churches — a pattern which we would do well to follow.  Certainly we can be assured of this: the closer we come to ordering all things according to this holy pattern, the greater blessing will attend our efforts."

There is a big problem with this, though.  The Book of Acts presents a changing program, so how can the Church follow a pattern that keeps changing?  Clearly progressive revelation must be taken into account!

Acts has appropriately been called "the book between", and regarding the structure of Scripture itself, fits perfectly between the four records of our Lord's earthly ministry and Paul's epistles.  Far from being "the story of early-day Christianity," it is from beginning to end the account of the fall of the nation Israel.  Acts explains, step by step, how and why the chosen nation had to be set aside and salvation sent to the Gentiles apart from them. For this reason, it is a record of successive crises: Pentecost, the stoning of Stephen, the conversion of Paul, the council at Jerusalem, etc...

I think Dean Howson explains this rather well:

"Perhaps the best way to see at a glance the value and significance of this book of the New Testament, would be to imagine the New Testament without the Acts of the Apostles. What a gulf would then be opened between the Gospels and the Epistles! ... What discrepancies, what oppositions would be found between the earlier books and the later!"

Or, to quote Sir Robert Anderson:

"Suppose again the Epistles were there, but the Acts of the Apostles left out, how startling would appear the heading 'To the Romans,' which would confront us on turning from the study of the Evangelists! How could we account for the transition involved? How could we explain the great thesis of the Epistles, that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile ...? The earlier Scriptures will be searched in vain for teaching such as this. Not the Old Testament merely but even the Gospels themselves are seemingly separated from the Epistles by a gulf. To bridge over the that gulf is the Divine purpose for which the Acts of the Apostles has been given to the Church. The earlier portion of the book is the completion of and sequel to the Gospels; its concluding narrative is introductory to the great revelation of Christianity."

The first large portion of Acts doesn't present Christianity at all. It presents Judaism. Too often it is forgotten that only Jews are dealt with in the first nine chapters of the book. The only difference between the apostles' position in the four Gospels and in early Acts was that that which was prophesied had been brought about. In fact, the kingdom which these apostles had proclaimed "at hand" during our Lord's earthly ministry, was then offered (Acts 3:19-21).

I believe Sir Robert Anderson was correct when he called the Book of Acts "a book which is primarily the record, not as commonly supposed, of the founding of the Christian Church, but of the apostasy of the favored nation" and that "the popular belief that the Jerusalem Church was Christian" is "fallacious," adding: "In fact it was thoroughly and altogether Jewish." Summing it all up, he says:

"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."

Therefore, if there is anything the Book of Acts makes perfectly clear, it's the fact that a big change has taken place since Pentecost.  And rather than presenting a pattern for us to follow, explains why the program at that time has passed away and confirms what Paul says in his epistles — that the fulfillment of prophecy has, for the time being anyway, given way to the unfolding of the mystery of "His own purpose and grace" (Acts 28:17-31; Rom 11:1-36; 2 Tim 1:8-11).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Bon Bons


Now that our Christmas concerts are over, I need to catch up on my other Christmas preparations.  I've bought most of my presents already (thankfully!), but I still need to wrap them.  I also need to start writing out our Christmas cards ... and making our favorite Christmas cookies.  At the top of our favorite's list is Raspberry Shortbread cookies.  You can find that recipe here.  Another is Peanut Butter Bon Bons.  I've had this recipe for so long I can't quite remember where I got it.  I think it may have been from a co-worker shortly after I was married.


1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
16 oz powered sugar
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

Mix first 4 ingredients together well.  Roll into 1 inch balls and put in refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Then melt chocolate chips over low heat.  Using a toothpick, dip balls into melted chocolate.  Place on waxpaper and refrigerate 30 minutes or until set.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Good Christians, Now Rejoice

We perform this song toward the end our concerts.  It's a variation of the old 14th century German melody, In Dulci Jubilo.  Nobody knows who composed this melody, but we do know that the lyrics to Good Christian Men Rejoice were written by Heinrich Suso (ca. 1295-1366), and that John Mason Neale freely translated them from Latin to English in Carols for Christmastide (London, 1853).  The piece we sing/play was arranged by Joseph M. Martin in 2004.

http://listeninglab.stantons.com/title/good-christians-now-rejoice/366741/

Good Christians, now rejoice
With heart and soul and voice.
Give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ is born today.
Ox and ass before Him bow,
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

Good Christians, now rejoice
With heart and soul and voice.
Now we hear of endless bliss;
Jesus Christ was born for this!
He hath opened heaven's door,
And we shall live forevermore.
Christ was born for this!
Christ was born for this!

Good Christians, now rejoice
With heart and soul and voice.
Now ye need not fear the grave
For Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save!

Christ was born to save!
Alleluia!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Outdoor illuminations

Some 15 or more years ago my husband decided (for the first time ever!) to decorate the outside of our home for Christmas.....right before we hosted our Sunday School Christmas party.  But that was a long time ago.  He regrets it now, right Hon?  What?  No, not that we hosted the Christmas party, your lights display!


(Actually, everybody loved it.:)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

He Is Born!

Here's another of our concert pieces: http://listeninglab.stantons.com/title/he-is-born/455083/

(Though most people know what bagpipes are, many probably don't know what a musette is. It's most likely one of two things; either a woodwind instrument similar to but smaller than a shawm, or a French bagpipe of the 17th and early 18th centuries.)

He is born, the divine Christ Child;
Play the musette and the bagpipe merrily!
He is born, the divine Christ Child;
Sing we all of the Savior mild.

Through long ages of the past,
Prophets long have foretold His coming;
Through long ages of the past,
Now the time has come at last!

He is born, the divine Christ Child;
Play the musette and the bagpipe merrily!
He is born, the divine Christ Child;
Sing we all of the Savior mild.

O, how lovely, O how pure
Is this perfect  Child of heaven;
Oh how lovely, O how pure,
Gracious gift to humankind!

He is born, the divine Christ Child,
Play the musette and the bagpipe merrily!
He is born, the divine Christ Child;
Sing we all of the Savior mild.

Jesus, Lord of all the world,
Coming as a Child among us,
Jesus, Lord of all the world,
Grant to us Thy heav'nly peace.

He is born, He is born, sing merrily!
He is born, He is born, the Savior mild.

Sing we now, the divine Christ Child!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Et In Terra Pax (And on Earth, Peace)

Last Sunday evening we had a second combined rehearsal of our church choir and orchestra; the first was only a week ago.  We had been practicing separately since October, but now that our Christmas concerts are this weekend, we're putting it all together.  It's a lot of fun practicing with the orchestra.  For one thing, we're finally getting to hear the end product.  But I also love just listening to the orchestra tuning up.  The sound is so full of excitement and anticipation, don't you think?

But these concerts aren't merely performances.  One of their main purposes is to present the gospel to the community.  Every year our congregation is encouraged to bring their neighbors and friends because halfway through each concert our pastor presents a clear gospel message.  I hope and pray that many decide to place their faith in Him this Christmas season.

Here's one of the songs we'll be singing/playing:  http://listeninglab.stantons.com/title/et-in-terra-pax-and-on-earth-peace/454326/

("Et in terra pax" means "and on earth, peace." It's a quote from the Latin version of Luke 2:13-14 in which an angel announces the birth of Jesus. After he has told some shepherds of the birth of Jesus and its meaning, a multitude of angels appear praising God saying: "gloria in altissimis deo, et in terra pax." This translates to "glory among the highest things to God and on earth peace.")

Et in terra pax, and on earth, peace.
Et in terra pax, and on earth, peace.
Gloria in excelsis!
Glory to God in the highest!
Et in terra pax, and on earth, peace.

Gloria in excelsis deo!
Gloria in excelsis deo!

And suddenly with the angel there was
A multitude of the heavenly host praising God
And saying "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth, peace."

Et in terra pax, and on earth, peace.
Et in terra pax, and on earth peace.

Peace.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Christmas season is again at hand,
With thoughts of Christ in every land;
The Christmas message again we’ll hear,
The songs of Christ Who brought good cheer;
The Lord of glory, God’s gift of love,
Who left His home in heaven above.
We’ll sing and tell the Saviour’s birth,
How He dwelt with men on earth.

Redemption’s story, God’s own plan,
The Lord Himself in form of man;
Yes, lower than the angels made,
In Bethlehem’s manger Christ was laid;
The virgin’s Son, the King Divine,
In David’s house the royal line;
Conceived as was no other child;
The Seed of woman, undefiled.

God’s ancient prophets, holy men,
Foretold Christ’s work by mouth and pen.
Christ came these Scriptures to fulfill,
He came to do His Father’s will.
He left His heavenly home on high;
He came on earth to serve and die.
His mission was to seek and save:
He suffered much; Himself He gave.

On Calvary’s cross the Saviour died,
By wicked men was crucified,
But God foreknew this awful crime:
It was His own appointed time.
The death of Christ was by God’s grace
That He might save the human race;
Save lost sinners, every one
Who will believe on Christ the Son.

The God raised Him from the dead
To make His Son the living Head;
The living Christ on heaven’s throne
Is interceding for His own.
Because Christ lives and intercedes
God supplies the Christian’s needs.
Because Christ’s there within the vail,
The Christian’s anchor cannot fail.

When you know what God has done
Why do you reject His Son,
Despise His grace and spurn His love,
And miss a home in heaven above?
Believe God’s Word, accept God’s way;
‘Tis worse than folly to delay.
Christ will save you from your sin
And give you joy and peace within.

And then from condemnation free
A Merry Christmas yours will be.
When you yourself have thus been freed
You will believe man’s greatest need,
In this world so filled with strife,
Is God’s free gift-eternal life.
And all who take what God will give
Shall with Christ forever live. 
(John O'Hair)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pentecostalism

Several years ago a friend of mine decided to move to Argentina.  She had grown up in Mar del Plata, but she and her husband had settled in the United States.  When her husband died unexpectedly, she decided to move back home and raise her daughter there.  She used to write to me quite often when she first moved back, frequently bemoaning the lack of evangelical churches.  "The only churches near me," she would say, "are Pentecostal."  Things had changed quite a bit since she'd left. 

Another friend of mine grew up in Russia.  She and her husband, an OT professor at Moody Bible Institute, and their two children live here in the Chicagoland area.  Because of her background, she has managed to pick up free-lance Russian/English translation and interpretation work to help support their family.  She too laments that so many of the Russian churches and organizations she deals with are Pentecostal.

But Pentecostalism is alive and well in the States, too.  Several years ago I wrote a post and quoted Harriet A. Harris in Fundamentalism and Evangelicals to point out the influence Pentecostalism is increasingly having on Evangelicalism here:

“Charismatics challenge traditional fundamentalist thinking about God’s supernatural activity. Traditionally fundamentalists confine miracles to the Bible and regard them as violent divine interventions (Barr 1984: 86). In John Wimber’s words: ‘Christians unconsciously consign the supernatural to an impenetrable upper tier (except for the resurrection, early church miracles, and transcendent moral standards), excluding God’s power from their theology and practice’ (1985: 88). However, increasingly in fundamentalist circles God is regarded as ever-present and active, providing such mundane services as finding parking spaces in the centre of town on a Saturday morning. As Nancy Ammerman (1987: 48-9) found, having spent a year studying a fundamentalist church in New England,

‘Almost anything good or bad can be explained as God’s doing. God keeps the dishes from breaking, locates things that are lost. He supplies friends and offspring. He makes sure cars get fixed at affordable prices. He arranges convenient overtime work schedules and makes hiring and firing more pleasant. He provides clothes and food when they are needed, as well as less essential items like tickets for a rodeo or a pet dog for the children.’”


I bring up these three examples to show that "the winds they are a changin."  In fact, according to World Christian Encyclopedia there are now an estimated 500 million followers of Pentecostalism. As recently as 1970, Pentecostals and Charismatics represented only 6% of the world’s so-called Christian population. By 1997 the figure jumped to 27%, or 497 million people, which is more than Protestants and Anglicans combined.  Because Pentecostalism has only been around since the early 1900's, this runaway growth is especially phenomenal. Some even wonder if Pentecostalism is Christianity's next reformation. 

The Pentecostal movement is not simply a new denomination, though.  According to Margaret M. Poloma of the department of sociology of the University of Akron, “The rise of Pentecostalism is more analogous to the rise of Protestantism in Christianity than the birth of a new denomination. It’s an example of the restructuring of Christianity.”  Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life concurs: “Pentecostal beliefs and practices are literally reshaping the face of Christianity throughout the developing world.”

A good example of this growth is the Assemblies of God (AG), the largest Pentecostal denomination, which has 2.5 million adherents in the U.S. and 35 million worldwide. From 1987 to 1999, the number of AG churches in the United States increased about 16%; however, much of that growth came from immigrants, particularly Hispanics. Worldwide, the number of AG churches almost doubled within the same time period to more than 212,000.

Indeed, most of Pentecostalism’s growth is occurring in developing countries.  One reason for this is its extensive missionary efforts.  Because Pentecostals link the outpouring of gifts of the Holy Spirit to the “end times,” there is a real sense of urgency to their missionary activity.  One might question why the people in these "foreign lands" are so receptive to the Pentecostal message.  One reason may be that since mysticism has long been a way of life in third world countries, Pentecostalism isn't a big leap to them.  Add to this what The Pew Forum found in 2006 when they conducted a survey of Pentecostals in 10 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas.  Not only did majorities of Pentecostals in nine of the countries agree that God would grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith, but most Pentecostals in all 10 countries said that God would grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith.  Who wouldn't want that?

So what's the big deal?!  There isn't that much difference between what the average Evangelical and Pentecostal believes, is there? 

Well, yes and no.   Evangelicals believe the essential beliefs of the Christian faith. That would be things like the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, the deity and virgin birth of Jesus Christ along with His death, burial and resurrection, ascension to heaven, and His return. They believe in salvation by faith, eternal security, the resurrection of the body, and the reality of Satan, angels, heaven and hell.

What about Pentecostals, then? They believe the same things that I mentioned above, except that most Pentecostals believe in conditional security instead of eternal security.  (This is huge in my book because either Christ's death and resurrection was sufficient or it wasn't!)  Pentecostals also place a large emphasis and focus on some things that most Evangelicals would either reject, or downplay. This includes speaking in tongues, seeing visions, miracle healings, prophesying, and things like this. Sometimes pentecostal refers to a specific denomination or church with the word pentecostal in the name. Other times it is an umbrella term that refers to all that hold to the distinctives I mentioned.

There is also an umbrella term called Charismatic. These people may or may not be evangelical. The term generally refers to a movement within the more mainline churches – and even the Roman Catholic Church. They emphasize the “gifts of the Spirit” that Pentecostals do, but many may or may not believe the essential beliefs of the Christian faith.  The terms Pentecostal and Charismatic are often used interchangeably.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Paul's ministry

"But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and THE MINISTRY WHICH I RECEIVED FROM THE LORD JESUS, TO TESTIFY SOLEMNLY OF THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD."  — The Apostle Paul in Acts 20:24.

"GRACE to you, and peace" (Rom 1:7);
"being justified as a gift by His GRACE" (Rom 3:24);
"through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this GRACE in which we stand" (Rom 5:2);
"the GRACE of God and the gift by the GRACE of the one Man, Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:15);
"the abundance of GRACE and of the gift of righteousness" (Rom 5:17);
"where sin increased, GRACE abounded all the more...so GRACE would reign" (Rom 5:20-21);
"for you are not under law but under GRACE" (Rom 6:14);
"Shall we sin because we are not under law but under GRACE? May it never be!" (Rom.6:15);
"But if it is by GRACE, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise GRACE is no longer GRACE" (Rom 11:6);
"by the GRACE of God I am what I am, and His GRACE toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the GRACE of God with me" (1 Cor 15:10);
"For all things are for your sakes, so that the GRACE which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God" (2 Cor 4:15);
"we also urge you not to receive the GRACE of God in vain" (2 Cor 6:1);
"For you know the GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 8:9);
"God is able to make all GRACE abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (2 Cor 9:8);
"the surpassing GRACE of God " (2 Cor 9:14);
"My GRACE is sufficient for you" (2 Cor 12:9);
"I do not nullify the GRACE of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly" (Gal 2:21);
"to the praise of the glory of His GRACE, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6);
"the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His GRACE" (Eph 1:7);
"the surpassing riches of His GRACE in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:7);
"For by GRACE you have been saved through faith" (Eph 2:8);
"the stewardship of God’s GRACE which was given to me for you" (Eph 3:2);
"the GRACE of our Lord was more than abundant" (1 Tim 1:14);
"who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and GRACE which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Tim 1:9);
"therefore...be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:1);
"GRACE be with you all" (Titus 3:15).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

French Silk Pie


The day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  This year we will be celebrating it at the home of my niece's husband's sister (hereafter referred to as NHS).  There will be 18 of us in all: my MIL, SIL, niece and her husband and 3 kids, my NHS and her husband and 3 kids, the parents of my niece's husband and NHS, and my husband, our 2 daughters and me.  It may seem a little strange that we're gathering at my NHS's house.  After all, Thanksgiving is when one usually gathers with one's immediate family, and we're not even technically related to my niece's husband, let alone his sister. But then I freely admit our family is a little strange.  We actually celebrate many holidays with my niece's husband's family.  There's an explanation for this, though.  My SIL has known my niece's husband's father for years.  They met when they both worked at Moody radio (WMBI) back in the 60's. 

Anyway, all that to say this:  One of the things I'm contributing to the Thanksgiving meal this year is a pie (well, actually pies).  And since my niece's husband's favorite pie is French silk pie, I must be sure to make that kind, right? 

I got this recipe from a friend from church some 20+ years ago.  It produces a very rich, but oh so delicious, pie!  For those who are aware of the Baker's Square chain of restaurants, this recipe duplicates their French silk pie almost to a tee.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
Whipped cream or Cool Whip

First make and bake your favorite pastry pie crust.  If you don't currently have a favorite, here's one you can try. 

Next, beat sugar and butter until sugar is not grainy. Add chocolate and vanilla. Add eggs, two at a time, beating 5 minutes after each addition. Pour into cooled pie crust. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Before serving, top with whipped cream and a little grated chocolate.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Secure in Christ

If we are indeed secure in Christ, then what is 2 Cor 6:1-3 all about? "And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain (for He says, 'at the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.' Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation') giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited.'"


If we remove Paul’s parenthetical thought for a moment, it becomes clear that the apostle had the ministry in mind, not salvation, when he used the phrase "urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain."  As representatives of Christ in His absence, the Corinthians should have been living exemplary lives.  However, their conduct was far from godly, placing their ministry which they had received by the grace of God in jeopardy of being ineffectual. With the re-insertion of Paul’s parenthetical phrase, we see that he was trying to show the Corinthians the seriousness of the situation. While they were busy fighting among themselves, people were perishing.

We see the same thought in 1 Timothy 4:16:

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.


***Salvation in 1 Tim 4:16 does not refer to the spiritual and eternal deliverance granted immediately by God to those who place their faith in the Lord Jesus; rather, it refers to the deliverance from the bondage of sin; it is this present experience on the part of believers virtually equivalent to sanctification; they were not to neglect it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Old Gospel

They tell us things are moving at such a rapid pace,
That the world's outgrown the Gospel of Christ's redeeming grace;
That anyone's old fashioned who believes the Bible true,
That the world has made such progress it needs a gospel new.

If we happen to be sinners, we're really not to blame,
In fact we just think we are sinning is what some people claim.
Most folks don't understand you when you say "be born again,"
For they're working for salvation, imitating Cain.

Control our lives with noble thoughts, be gentle, sweet and pure,
And because we do the best we can, God's mercy will be sure.
Speak of God's great love for us but of His wrath say naught,
Preach heaven all you care to, but hell must not be taught.

Of Jesus some speak kindly as the Man of Galilee,
But nothing of the Lamb of God, who died on Calvary's tree.
Say naught of His pierced hands and feet, naught of His wounded side,
Out of which the Father is forming the Saviour's precious bride.

And so they twist and try to change the word which Christ did say
Shall long endure the dying world and never pass away.
O, sinner, come and see thyself a lost and ruined soul,
And hear the words of Jesus Christ, "Thy faith hath made thee whole."

Away with the world's new theories and back to the blessed Book,
Let's go to the cross of Jesus and get a saving look.
And know as we see Him hanging in agony and pain,
It was for our transgressions the Son of God was slain.

We need no other gospel for none other will avail,
But against the Church of Jesus Christ, hell's gates shall not prevail.
Be safe in the Ark like Noah, and escape the judgment flood,
Anchor your faith to Jesus, get under His precious blood.

And we'll keep our gaze on heaven and watching unto prayer,
We'll wait for the Lord of glory and meet Him in the air.
And down through the endless ages when heaven and earth are new
We'll sing of the cross of Jesus and know that His words were true.


by John O'Hair