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Tim Challies

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General News

May 06, 2004

I stumbled across a site that provided information about the proper way of addressing the pope and thought I would share that.

Direct address: Your Holiness, or Holy Father.
Written address: His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, or better, The Sovereign Pontiff, His Holiness John Paul II.
Formal closing: Kissing the Sacred Foot.
Formal introduction: His Holiness, the Pope.

I did a bit of research and found out the following titles the pope holds:

Roman Pontiff
Bishop of Rome
Summus Pontifex
Pontifex Maximus
Servus servorum Dei
Holy Father
Vicar of Jesus Christ
Successor of the Chief of the Apostles
Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church
Patriarch of the West Primate of Italy
Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province
Sovereign of the State of Vatican City
Vicar of the Son of God (*)
The Sovereign Pontiff

Just by way of comparison, the head of my church prefers to be addressed as follows:

Direct address: Jeff.
Written address: Pastor Jeff.
Formal closing: A nod or a wave or “cheerio!”
Formal introduction: Pastor Jeff.

His titles would include:

Teaching pastor
Dad (to his children)
Honey (to his wife)
Coach (to the kids on the baseball team he coaches)

May 05, 2004

I usually shy from posting politically-charged topics, but in this case I am willing to make an exception. Now I don’t necessarily believe Pat Tillman is the superhero that some are making him out to be (hundreds of other lesser-known Americans have also paid the ultimate price), but regardless of what you think of the conflict in Iraq you have to admire a man who would leave behind a lucrative career in the NFL to pursue a career in the military. I find it hard to believe that a newspaper would actually publish this hateful garbage.

May 04, 2004

This week the Dalai Lama is in Toronto to “speak on the subject of world peace,” to pray for and encourage his followers, and to initiate new adherents into the faith known as a Kalachakra ceremony.” Now I know almost nothing of this man, but was pretty surprised to see him referred to on the news as “His Holiness.” I don’t know how many people claim that title, though I think the pope would be a competitor.

I wonder what kind of rigorous application and evaluation process one has to go through to claim the title of “His Holiness.” If I one day decide that I would like to hold that title, can I then insist that people refer to me that way?

I received an email that explains a bit of what he is doing this week:

The Kalachakra Tantra ritual is the key initiation rite into Tantric or Tibetan Buddhism. In the first phase of the ceremony, the Dalai Lama asks the local spirits for permission to use their home. Because the spirits typically do not want to cooperate initially, the assisting monks use shamanistic prayers, music and dance to subdue them. After this, the Dalai Lama receives permission to proceed with the ceremony from Tenma, the earth spirit, on behalf of all the local spirits. These spirits are invited to take up residence in the Mandala, or spiritual house, which has been built for them. This is an intricate two-dimensional sand drawing that through meditation appears as a 3-D dwelling - a door into the spirit world.

The goal of Mandala visualization is to enter into and become one with the spirit at the centre of the Mandala. The initiate thus yields control of himself to a demonic spirit. The Mandala contains a central ruling spirit (Kalachakra) which is surrounded by 4 or 8 more spirits, which are in turn surrounded by others totaling 722. After the ritual destruction of the Mandala at the end of the initiation rite, these spirits, with their prince, Kalachakra, are released over the surrounding territory. The initiation event is completed when the Dalai Lama ritually destroys the Mandala after all meditation and initiatory rites have been completed. The spirits are thereby released over the land while the initiates retain the spiritual connection to Kalachakra and his world, having internalized them through meditation. The sand from the Mandala is poured into a nearby body of water and the demons dispersed into the adjacent lands.

Wonderful stuff, isn’t it?

May 03, 2004

“Make sure you keep the receipts!”

Those were the last words I heard from my wife as I left the house on Saturday to go shopping for her birthday. Now isn’t that just a vote of confidence!

Still, I think I did quite well. She refuses to open her gifts until this evening, so I will know more then…

Anyways, have a happy birthday, Aileen. You are a year older than I am now, but I will catch up again in just a few months! In the meantime, I’ll enjoy rubbing it in. Of course it used to be the other way around - you would laugh at me that you were 21 and I was only 20, but my how the tables have turned. I now look forward to paying back your laughter every year for the rest of my life! :)

May 03, 2004

There is a popular quote which is attributed to Francis of Assisi that reads �Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.� These words have inspired many Christians to live lives that glorify God, remembering at all times that our actions are a powerful testimony to the One we claim to serve. The book of James tells us that �faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.� (James 2:17) The next verse reads �Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.� Truly our actions speak volumes about the state of our hearts and serve to validate our faith.

However, I wonder at the Biblical justification for placing the primacy on actions rather than words. Where does the Bible tell us that our primary means of spreading the gospel message is through our lives rather than through speech? Where is the Biblical justification for this verse?

As I read through the book of Acts I see example after example of the apostles preaching the gospel. They do so not by their actions, but by their words. They speak words that are offensive to their audience, preaching about sin, wrath and judgment. They are continually punished for the words they speak, often being beaten and imprisoned. In the end most of them are martyred for faithfully preaching the good news.

Reading through the gospels presents a similar picture of Jesus. Though his miraculous actions caused crowds to be drawn to Him, it was His words that brought people to repentance. Christ performed miracles to testify to His divinity. He did not do them to draw crowds or to make the Pharisees angry. He performed miracles to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that He was God. Anyone who saw Him transform water into wine or raise Lazarus from the dead was without excuse, for that person would have known in his heart that He had seen God in human form. But when Christ preached, He did so with powerful and insightful words that cut people to the very core of their being.

The verses from James that were quoted earlier speak of the value of doing good works. Do these verses tell us that works are to be used to preach the gospel? No! They tell us that works are to be used to prove what we believe. I may say that I have become a Christian and that God is changing my character, but it is my life, my actions, that will prove it. My actions are incapable of preaching the gospel. They can provide proof of what I claim to believe, but in and of themselves cannot speak of sin, repentance or forgiveness.

To emphasize actions in preaching the gospel is to de-emphasize words. God has ordained that the good news of Jesus Christ should go out to the world through �the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.� (1 Corinthians 21) Paul speaks here of not only the message, but the means. God chooses to use a foolish means to preach a foolish message. The foolish means is preaching � carefully and logically expositing God�s Word to the world. Every Christian is responsible for doing this; we are all called to share the Good News with those around us. Though people may be drawn to us by our actions or by our lives, we must ensure that we are able to give an account of our faith.

May 02, 2004

Forefront Records, home of Christian artist Tait, has announced that Michael Tait will be joining forces with legendary guitarist and vocalist Carlos Santana. Tait will be performing vocally for Santana’s upcoming European tour. You can ready the full press release here.

Does anyone else find this troubling? Santana is currently touring in support of his most recent album which is entitled Shaman. That alone should be a warning. In case you are unfamiliar with that word, Webster’s defines it as follows: “A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events.” Furthermore, Santana has several songs whose lyrics are obviously inappropriate for Christians to sing.

I wonder why this is being heralded as a great honor for Tait and why people are excited that he has accepted Santana’s invitation. I do not wish to pass judgment on Michael Tait, but I wonder how he can, in good conscience and with the industry’s blessing, accept this opportunity.

May 01, 2004

If you have been reading this site for any length of time you will know that I enjoy Christian music. I have listened to Christian music since the early 90’s and have been collecting almost exclusively Christian music since that time. I have had the privilege of meeting many Christian musicians and have been able to see that so many of them are passionate about sharing their faith with other people through their musical talent. I thought it would be fitting to examine some of the most popular Christian music, so I decided that each weekend I will look at the song that is at the top of the charts. With several charts to choose from I have elected to use the one compiled by CMCentral as I find it accurately reflects the songs that Christian music fans really like (and not just the songs the industry would like us to buy).

This week’s number one song is Dare You To Move by Switchfoot.

It is perhaps a bit ironic that the song that is now at the top of the charts was released four years ago as part of Switchfoot’s previous album, Learning to Breathe. The band decided to re-record the song and include it as part of their fourth album, The Beautiful Letdown. It seems that was a good decision. Only slightly altered from the original release, the song has suddenly garnered attention in mainstream radio and has brought Switchfoot to the verge of breaking out into the mainstream market.

Welcome to the planet,welcome to existence
Everyone’s here, Everyone’s here.
Everybody’s watching you now.
Everybody waits for you now.

I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before…

Welcome to the fall out, welcome to resistance
The tension is here, the tension is here
Between who you are, and who you could be
Between how it is, and how it should be.

I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened…

Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself
Where’re you gonna go, where’re you gonna go…
Salvation is here

I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened
Today never happened before

Dare You To Move speaks about the tension between saying we are Christians and actually living out what we say we believe. Every day the world is watching to see if we will walk the talk. We all fight with the tension between being who we are and being who we know we should be; between how life is and how we know God wants our lives to be. This song challenges us to get up, to lift ourselves out of our complacency and be the men and women He intends us to be. Though at times we may look elsewhere to find our way, deep inside we know that redemption and salvation rest with God. Were we to run we would find that our search would take us back to the place we started.

This song never uses the words God or Jesus, yet still speaks about spiritual truths. Sure it’s not quite up to the lyrical force of I Can Only Imagine, but it is still carries a solid message, speaking of redemption, forgiveness and salvation. With such brazenly Christian words it is a wonder that it has succeeded so well in the mainstream market.

A song with a good sound and good lyrical content, I am happy to see this song dominating the Christian charts while also having an impact on the mainstream. I hope this is only the first of many Switchfoot songs to make an impact in both markets.

April 30, 2004

A great little quote from David Crowder when asked in an interview on CNN if he considers himself a rock star. “I’ve got a really good pal that says ‘you guys are more like a moon than a star,’ because the moon, if it wasn’t for the sunshine, is just a ball of dirt. For us, the light of Christ, when it shines on us, it’s just a beautiful collision. We are more interested in attracting attention to God than ourselves.”