Addinsell and Wynette?

All my life I’ve loved the hauntingly beautiful theme from Richard Addinsell’s “Warsaw Concerto.”  It may be a bit hackneyed for some, but it is one of my favorite pieces of music in all the world.

But recently, a rather horrible thing happened.  It occurred to me that this wonderful theme has the same first four notes as Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.”

[Sighhhhhhhhhhhh…]

Well, I’m determined not to let that ruin it!

The theme is repeated several times throughout the piece, but the most robust occurrences start right after 6:30 in this version.

It’s a great piece for a rainy October afternoon.

Enjoy!

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A Timely Reminder to my Brothers and Sisters

The following is a list of people and organizations who do NOT speak for God:

President Donald Trump
Colin Kaepernick
Rush Limbaugh
Hilary Clinton
The United States government
The NFL
The Republican party
The Democrat party
The NRA
Black Lives Matter
Fox News
CNN
NPR

 

Here is a list of people who have, in fact, spoken for God:

The prophet Moses:
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  Love the alien, therefore, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”  (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

The prophet Isaiah:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the straps of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free,
And to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into your house;
When you see the naked, to cover him,
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
And your healing shall spring up speedily;
Your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger,
And speaking wickedness,
If you pour yourself out for the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then shall your light rise in the darkness
And your gloom be as the noonday.”  (Isaiah  58:6-10)

The apostle Peter:
“Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”  (Acts 10:34-35)

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.  Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”  (I Peter 2:13-17)

The apostle Paul:
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:27-28)

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with its practices and have put on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  (Colossians 3:8-11)

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”  (Acts 17:30-31)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” (Romans 13:1-5  )

The apostle John:
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  (I John 3:15-18)

“And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’”  (Revelation 5:8-10)

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”  (Revelation 7:9-10)

The Lord Jesus Christ:
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  (Luke 22:25-26)

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Spending the Equinox with Piper

Happy Autumn Equinox!

About seven weeks ago, I wrote in a question to the “Ask Pastor John” podcast at Desiring God.

Today, it’s the featured question:  http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-does-it-mean-to-abide-in-christ

What’s funny is that in the transcription that they include on the page, they misspelled my name two different ways.
First, it says, “Kasey,” which is actually how I spelled my name from kindergarten through 8th grade.  (There’s a boring little story behind that.)
Then they have it as “Casey,” which has never been my name.  The first one is right at the beginning; the second is at the start of the section titled “Can We lose Our Salvation?”
Here’s my guess as to how it happened:
There is some transcriptionist at DG who did not have a copy of my actual full email message (where I signed my name clearly as “KC”).  They asked, “How is that name spelled?  With a K, or with a C?”  And somehow, after getting the answer “both,” was still confused and decided to spell it each of these two ways.  They must have figured that they would get it right at least once that way.  But as it turns out…   🙂

Anyway, I am thrilled to think through the various aspects of John Piper’s response.
If you have a chance to listen or read, may the Lord bless you with it!

Sh’lom!

Don’t Be an Idiot!

Ever been called an idiot?  Ever called someone else an idiot?
Do you actually know what that means?  If not, your use of the term may be rather ironic.

Check out these Greek words:

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The first of these two descriptive terms is the adjective agrammatos, literally, “unlettered.”  The second is the noun idiōtēs (pronounced id-ee-OH-tace), the fourth of the five terms listed in the box above.  Yes, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem saw Peter and John as idiots, unlearned men.  But they had been with Jesus and, therefore, had a biblical and theological education far beyond anyone in the history of the Sanhedrin.  Whatever else they may have been, they were emphatically not idiots.

The basic idea in the idio— root is that of “one’s own.”  This comes out clearly when we speak of someone’s idiosyncrasies, that is, the peculiar characteristics, habits, or manners that are their own.

The idiot, it turns out, is someone who has not benefited from the wisdom and knowledge of others and has only his own with which to work.  In antiquity it was a word to describe someone who was uneducated in general or untrained in a given area.  This is its use in Acts 4:13, which is shaded from the author Luke’s perspective in a basic way and from the perspective of the Jewish leaders in a more pejorative way.

Clearly, an idiot is not something one would aspire to be.  Yet many people manage to achieve it.

“How I have hated instruction,
And my heart spurned correction!
I have not listened to the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!”  (Prov. 5:11-12)

Like this fool, many people are going through life armed only with whatever intellectual and sapiential powers they can muster from within themselves.  Rather than learn from others, they must do all their thinking and learning and opinion-forming on their own.  In other words, they are idiots.

In fact, we have now become a society of idiots.  One can easily picture here a jokey meme of the Osment character from “The Sixth Sense” saying, “I see idiotic people walking around like normal people.  They don’t know they’re idiots.”

It is an everyday phenomenon to see man-on-the-street interviews in which a TV news reporter sticks a microphone in the face of some idiot to ask him or her what he or she thinks on practically any issue under the sun.  Often it is clear that the person has never before put a moment’s thought into the idea under consideration.  But that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is he or she has a voice.

This is why we must pay careful attention to the “I think” language of ourselves and others.  Sometimes it is appropriate to begin a sentence with “I think.”  Many times, however, the need to begin that way may betray the fact that we probably do not know enough to comment intelligently and should perhaps refrain from the attempt.

Nowadays, it is common to hear people thinking out loud for the first time about something but doing so with utter boldness and a shocking lack of embarrassment.  They have a brain and a mouth and a whole bunch of “rights” to free thought and speech, et cetera; and this, it seems, qualifies them to weigh in on practically anything.  “I think…”  And off they go.

Yet there is a semi-conscious awareness of many people under, say, the age of thirty that neither they nor their peers are generally qualified to opine about most things.  This awareness does not deter them from doing so, but it is there nonetheless.  You can hear it in the new popular formula for introducing one’s idiotic thoughts: “I feel like…” or “I mean, I feel like…”  Many sentences are now begun with these words, sentences which are not meant to convey feelings at all, but rather opinions:  “I feel like the press has pushed this Trump-Russia thing for long enough.  I mean, I feel like it’s time to move on.”

Sometimes people even use this rhetorical formula to introduce statements of ostensible fact.  “I feel like Oslo is the capital of Norway.”  This always freaks me out a little.

And, of course, what troubles me is that we are now getting to hear from idiot theologians in the church.  “I think my relationship with God is between Him and me.”
“I mean, I feel like it’s all about relationships.”  And so on.

How often do you find yourself responding to questions and concepts of theological significance with the language of “I think”?  If I’m honest, I must admit I do it too much.  At the very least, there are numerous times when my contribution should be either a sentence that begins “Scripture says…” or just silence; but instead, I say, “Well, I think…”  And off I go.

[Sighhhhhhhhhhhhh…]
Lord, save me from the wisdom of idiots!…  Including the one I too often am.

For My Wife on Mother’s Day: a Husband’s Confession

20170505_143600Well, I took out the garbage today
And expected a “Hip-hip-hooray!”
So it did get my goat,
When my wife took no note,
Let alone had a “thank you” to say.

When I pointed out what I had done,
She just paused and said, “Oh, thank you, Hon…”
Then went on scrubbing floors
And with other such chores
On her list of a hundred and one.

How she gets so much done, I don’t know,
But it’s clear that it’s never for show.
Yet I would be remiss,
If I didn’t say this:
That her setting is always on “Go!”

And all of it’s done with the touch
Of a gentle, sweet Mom who gets such
Little rest for her lids,
Taking care of her kids
And the husband who loves her so much.

Some Thoughts on Christian(?) Divorce

I have been asked to answer the question, ‘How does the church deal with marriages moving to divorce?’

A Ton of Preventionhosea-and-gomer
The first thing to say is that marriage should be handled more biblically and less Americanly from the start.  This would vastly reduce the phenomenon of “marriages moving to divorce.”  But it implies a more biblical and less American understanding and practice of the church itself, one in which Christians are committed to the local church more deeply than they are to any other social group in their lives, including their blood relatives.  And this is difficult to foster in modernity in the West.  Yet it must be done.

Romantic/sexual/marital love has been privatized and secularized—which is to say it has been dis-ecclesialized.  Where it is understood that a Christian marriage is the not the private property of the couple and that the elders and others of their church have a proper claim to involvement in it, there is early detection of the things that bring death to marriages.  In such a context, mistreatment between spouses will be under the discipline and loving correction of the church while the marriage is merely sick so that it will not as easily end up in the throes of death.

As a vital part of this ministry to marriages, it must be taught and rehearsed often in the church that marriage is not a means of personal happiness or fulfillment, but rather a school of sanctification into which some believers have been called.  It is not a place where we go to find ourselves, but to lose ourselves and to receive ourselves anew.  It is full of pain and death of the kind to which followers of Jesus are called (Phil. 2:1-11).  But no one—no couple—is called to walk this road alone.  Instead, we are called to walk it together in the church in the power and grace of the Spirit of Christ.

Dealing with Reality
Nevertheless, it remains true that we live in a world where evil sometimes is able to take up an entrenched existence in the human heart to such a degree that the realities of marital dissolution, even if reduced to great extent, will probably always be something with which we must deal in the church.  Thus, it is worthwhile for the church to consider its way of dealing with marital disintegration.  For two reasons, it is probably not the best idea to set forth a specific policy.  First, policies have a way of inviting test cases, or at least a view of legitimacy of that which they address.  Second, each marital situation is unique, and the complexity of a policy which would adequately address all the various minutiae would make it unmanageable.

Thus, the church should take as a single rule that all considerations of divorce should be addressed to phenomena of abuse.  Abuse here is broadly defined as the harmful, objectifying treatment of one human being by another such that free forgiveness cannot be the only response.  As such, we can see that abuse is a property of many different kinds of relationships, not just marriage.  But most non-marital relationships may be dissolved without the level or kind of scandal before heaven and earth that is divorce.  So the understanding and handling of abuse in the context of marriage is on a much higher plane of importance.

Every day, human beings fail to love each other in Christ.  Thus, harmful, objectifying treatment occurs all the time.  In terms of our discussion here, it is abusive when it is simply impossible (not just difficult) merely to forgive the sin and leave it at that.  Factors such as a refusal to repent or ongoing danger of serious harm may be present.  In such cases, it may be necessary to bring to bear on the relationship measures which protect a victim or which force a perpetrator from his or her settled position.

With this understanding, then, we can see that the presence of abuse does not necessarily entail the dissolution of the relationship, whether marital or whatever kind.  In dealing with endangered marriages, the elders and pastoral counselors of the couple can examine the nature, level and degree of the abuse present in the relationship.  And they can do so with a constant application of the brakes so as to keep divorce out of the picture until it absolutely must be allowed a place in it.  In this way, there are numerous other steps which may be taken before divorce is even allowed in view.  For example, in a case of physical abuse, physical separation may be necessary for an indefinite period, but it is possible that divorce may be kept out of the picture.  And God may bring full restoration through the ministry of the church.  In many cases, less drastic levels of church discipline may be sufficient.

It is more likely that the need to allow divorce into the picture will arise in the context of spiritual and emotional abuse where the spiritual toxicity threatens the very life of the spouse and/or children (usually in the form of depression or other kinds of spiritual ruin).  This is precisely because of the ability of such abusers to deceive themselves and thereby resist the need to change.

In some cases, it may only be the reality of divorce that is able to shake such people from their self-deceptions.  And this might happen at different points: when divorce is decided upon by the spouse they have abused, when the papers have been filed, when the divorce is final, or maybe a few years down the road when the realization of all that he or she has lost and the realities of the horrors he or she put the spouse through finally dawns on the abuser.  And of course, it is possible that the abuser may finish life on earth stubbornly hanging on to his or her delusions like most of the characters in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.

Whether divorce is or is not to be allowed into the picture should be the decision of the elders; the abused spouse must follow their lead as they serve under the Lord.  Whatever the actual outcome, it is important that both the church leadership and the abused spouse only make movements toward divorce with the goal of restoration always in view.  In the most extreme of cases, a spouse may need to leave and, because it is necessary for their sanity, do so with a finality of mind.

Perhaps all this sounds rather like a policy, which we said above should be avoided.  In the sense that it provides a basis for approaching endangered marriage and the possibility of divorce, it might be called a policy, but it intentionally eschews the clear categorizations and flow-charts of contingencies that usually characterize policies.

How Biblical is All of This?
In Matthew 5:32, the Lord Jesus seems to allow for divorce on the one ground of sexual immorality (porneia).  Upon close inspection, however, it appears that what He actually says is that any man who divorces his wife on any ground other than this forces her to commit adultery.  The truth is, while the Bible is keenly aware of the reality of divorce, it never gives any clear permission for it.

Anyone who reads the Prophets knows that God certainly understands how divorce can seem to be the only viable option when dealing with recalcitrant sinners.  Debate continues as to whether YHWH actually divorced Israel or merely filed for separation for a while to wake her up.  But there can be no doubt that He understands that it is sometimes necessary to let the possibility of divorce enter the picture.

Can we use the example of YHWH’s dealings with Israel as a guide to allowing divorce into the picture of endangered marriages?  Before answering in the affirmative, we must take note of two differences between God and ourselves.  First, there is the goodness gap.  The most innocent human spouse of the most horrible human abuser is much closer to that abuser in goodness than any of us is to God.  Israel was unfaithful to an infinitely good Husband.  We must keep this clearly in mind.  The second difference, however, is the power gap.  God is also infinitely stronger than any of us.  So it is that, while he was genuinely injured by Israel’s sin, He was not in danger of being destroyed by it.  The human spouse of a human abuser simply may not have the strength to withstand the onslaught of abuse.  It may actually lead to his or her destruction.  And this may occasion a broken-hearted movement toward separation.

But lest anyone be tempted rashly to take comfort in the thought that he or she is following God’s example in approaching or enacting divorce, we must hasten to remind ourselves—again—that we are not God.  We do not have His wisdom.  We do not know very well how to use the power of righteous anger and righteous battle to love a stubbornly sinful heart.  We do not have the divine strength needed to bring the awfulness of divorce to bear on a relationship while never wavering in a perfect commitment always to desire full reconciliation.  So an abused spouse, following the lead of a praying and trembling eldership, may attempt to trace the steps of the divine Husband of Israel toward the tragedy of divorce, but not with anything less than the utmost of caution and humility.