Thursday, November 13, 2008
Perhaps the first question on your mind is this: Why call it Theology at the Forge? This is a common question. (The Forge part is simple - we meet at the local restaurant, The Forge and Vine.) At Karis, we operate from an assumption, which we believe to be biblical, that we all operate out of some sort of functional theology - some view of who God is. Even the most stauch atheist or the most apathetic agnostic has a view of how the world works and who God is, or who he is not, that drives how they function in the world. We don't make our decisions in a vacuum, nor do we react to the diffiuclties of life without reference, conscious or unconscious, to our own experience, beliefs, assumptions, etc. So our use of the word "theology" here is in the broadest sense possible, reflecting the basic belief that everyone is a theologian. It's really more a matter of whether we're good or bad theologians. I could elaborate much more on this point, but for now I think I'll keep it there.
A second question relates to our choice of topics. For example, this next Monday, Nov. 17, out topic is: "Go Big or Bail Our: The economic collapse and what's next." So, you may ask, if we're supposed to be talking about theology, why are we talking about economics? And here I must address another common misconception about theology. Not only do we all have some sort of theology, but that theology in the end must relate to our real, daily life, or it ceases to function and fades away for some other, more functional theology. If I discover that my view of the world is inaccurate, then I must scrap it for one I find to be more accurate, or else live a divided life where I hold certain things to be true even though I find no evidence at all for them or see no possible connection between them and the real world I face. So, for example, when looking at the current economic decline, huge questions come into play. Whom do you trust? The government? The market? God? Your own ability to pull through? That's just one example of a huge question with major theological weight. How you answer it, and thus how you then make decisions about what do do with your money, will have drastic ripple effects on your entire life. So, as we learn theology, may we never fail to draw the lines of connection to the most practical and even seemingly mundane aspects of our lives.
A third question you may have: Is this just a church event or something for broader interaction with the community? Well, as I said, this is a missional event. It's designed to be something where both Christians and others of different beliefs and faiths are present, dialoging over the issue at hand. This serves many purposes. For the Christians present, it forces them to think through their own beliefs and assumptions about God and his world, and to see whether their picture is accurate and if it has a real impact on how you live, as it should. For non-Christians present, it does the same thing for their own worldview. We should each be challenged to see how our assumptions stack up to reality, and thus to change them if they don't. On one hand, the Christian should not be afraid of the possibility that someone outside Christian faith might at some point in the discussion articulate one piece of a more biblical picture of the world better then they do. As Christians, we should be humble enough to see God's truth wherever it comes to us (as it lines up with his word, of course). On the other hand, a non-Christian should likewise be humble enough to admit that Christians aren't the only ones bringing their "faith" into this. Everyone is bringing assumptions - it's just a matter of which ones actually explain reality and offer us the best possible way to live in this world. Lastly, on this point, I would say these discussions offer a benefit to the community at large, which is another aspect of what we believe it means to be missional. It is our hope that through these discussions, we'd be able to participate in serious discussions about major issues. The economy affects all of us dramatically. How can we strive together with our community to respond well to this? There will be some fundamentally different opinions between a Christan and a non-Christian, but there is some common ground to be sought, to be sure, and some common goals to work toward. Good Christians seek the common good of their communities.
So, that's a little insight into why we do Theology at the Forge. Would love to see comments and questions! If you're here in Columbia, you are welcome to join us on Monday, Nov. 17, at 7pm at the Forge and Vine downtown on 7th street. Hope to see you there!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Song Title: We Are Listening
Author: Jeremy Quillo (of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY)
Why did I choose it? This is a great prayer to sing in preparation to hear and receive God's word together when we gather. It sort of combines the attitude of the psalmist in Ps. 119 (Lord, how I love your law!) and the reality that Christ has come as the living Word to live and die for us (John 1) into one rich prayer for God to speak to us and give us the faith to receive and respond appropriately to his word. There's so much here, really. It's an expression of our desire to hear his word and savor it, a pronouncement that we come to listen to his Word rather than to sit in judgment on it, a statement of faith that Christ has come as the living word, and an acknowledgment that we are weak in our ability to understand or really even receive God's word, so we pray for the "eyes to see" and the "faith to hear that the Word has come...that the Word is here." Lastly, it's an affirmation with so many of the psalmists that we are to seek God's word "morning and evening" - not only on Sundays when we gather, but throughout the week in our homes, personally and with our families. I hope this song will conform us more to God's will by revealing our weak desire for his word and turning us to the only one who can change our hearts and deepen that desire - Christ.
My favorite line: "Father I/ long to see Christ/ the truth in new life/ The Word that made the universe/ Father, speak/ Now I believe/ I have been set free/ by that the Word that lived and died for me."
I love this verse because I think it does exactly what I said I hoped above - points to Christ. He is the theme and center of Scripture, so all proper longing for God's word is not merely a longing for moral gudiance (though that is part of it) or skill in apologetic argument. Rather, we long for the Word because it shows us Christ - and he is the living Word who truly guides us into truth and shapes our lives according to God's will. When we come to the Word and the Holy Spirit illuminates it for us, we see Christ as more glorious than we saw him yesterday. It's awesome to be able to sing a prayer for this together when we meet.
Why teach it right now? This is one of those themes I have been hoping to inject into our life of "songs, hymns and spiritual songs" a bit more. We need to come prepared to hear from God, and what better way to move toward that place in our hearts than to sing it and let the Spirit move as we pray. Last week, the sermon was on the transfiguration, where God the Father speaks from heaven about his Son, who has suddenly shown a bit of his glory for his disciples, "This is my Son - listen to him!" Much of the rest of Luke's gospel (which we're currently studying at Karis) is an unfolding of that command. Jesus will say and do many things that will confuse and even upset the disciples, but they must put aside their pride and objections and listen to God's beloved Son. It is the same for us today, so I thought it appropriate to start singing this song together now.
Can you hear it? Yes, here. For that matter, listen to any stuff Sojourn has available here. Great stuff!
Much to update on the Daugherty front....coming soon I hope.
Friday, September 5, 2008
As for this week's music at Karis I am excited to introduce another great new song. Really, I'm kind of introducing a song and a half this week. I;ll explain the half part later. As for the main new song:
Song Title: At Your Feet
Author: Tim Smith (Worship Pastor, Mars Hill Church, Seattle)
Why Did I Choose It? This song is really grooving with me right now. It's a powerful song of adoration, and I think we are somewhat lacking in those at Karis. We strive so much to be a gospel-centered church, weaving the gospel of Christ and his sacrifice for us into so much of our music, that sometimes I think it can be easy to forget that we're called to adore God not only for what he has done but also for who he is. In fact, the gospel becomes more and more beautiful to us, and Christ becomes more and more our treasure, when we see more fully the holiness of God and how far from his perfections we really are. So historically, the church has tended to open with some form of adoration in response to a Scriptural or other liturgical call to worship. Holy, Holy, Holy would be a prime example of a hymn of adoration that would be perfect for use early in a worship gathering - a song that draws our attention to some aspect of God's glory and perfections.
So this week at Karis, we'll be using "At Your Feet" as a response of adoration to our opening call, which will be a combination of the Jeremy Quillo (of Sojourn Community Church) song "Come and Sing" and Psalm 8 ("O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name..."). The lyrics draw attention to the fact that God's creation declares his glory (Psalm 19) - as we look around, we see God's power in all he has made. But further, it takes Jesus' declaration that God is able to bring praise from the "very stones" if we keep silent (Luke 19:40), and turns it into a call to respond to God's glory with the appropriate response: falling at his feet. The basic idea of the first few verses is, if I see your beauty and don't open my mouth, don't change to conform to you, you will raise up rocks to praise you. So, instead, we cry out with the rocks as the only creatures who have a choice in all of creation. Fall at his feet and declare his glory!
Musically the song evokes a bit of a classic U2 feel, with open spacious verses and a driving rock chorus. The mix between those two elements creates at once a feeling of awe as we sing the verses and bursting energy as we cast ourselves down before the Lord. This tune is as good as any classic and I think it will spread wide within the church as it already has in the Acts 29 network.
My favorite line:
Skies rain and if I stay
The trees will raise their arms and
Cry out to the Lord Most High."
I love the tie-in there between worship and holiness. With that line, we're singing that if we don't respond to God with our whole being, not only singing and declaring his glory, but also actually changing in response to him (and only by his grace), then the trees will declare his glroy more loudly than we will. We are the only creatures that he has made that can consciously repond with our whole being. The trees simply declare his glory. We, on the other hand declare it with our lips, our hands, our changed lives. I hope we will soak in that truth as we sing this song.
Why teach it right now? On one hand, as I said, I simply think we need more good songs of adoration to sing at Karis, and this one is tops on my list right now. But also, in light of what we're looking at this week, "A City of Light," I wanted to have a chance to dwell together on the truth that looking at God leads to that whole response of praise and ultimately of becoming a light that declares his glory in everything we do as changed people and a transformed community. We're looking at Luke 8:16-18 this Sunday, about being a city on a hill. It's a great time to meditate on what a true response of worship looks like - what it looks like for our church to truly join with the rocks in declaring his glory in the way we were made to, in his image.
Can you hear it? Yes. Go here and scroll almost to the bottom to the list of songs under the band The Parsons. It's in that list. Enjoy!
Now, you're still wondering what the half-song is. Every now and then you come across a little bit from a song that was not intended to be written for corporate Christian worship, but that contains such a nugget of beauty and truth that you can't help but grab onto it. The song "This Low" by The Swell Season is just one of those songs. If you have seen the film Once, you're familiar with this band, even if you didn't realize it. That's the main two folks from the band in that movie, and all of the music is theirs. My wife, parents and I had the chance to see them live back in May, and it was one of the most moving experiences of beauty I have ever had. This paricular song was a highlight of the night, one in which I think I really did have an experience of transcendant worship as they song the long, outro chorus. So it's that chorus that we're using this Sunday to finish our corporate worship with a note of sending. Basically, the lyrics just vamp over various themes in regard to praising "the Light" and sharing it. I think it will be a powerful thing for us to close after taking the supper together, singing together to "raise the Light, Praise the Light, thread the Light (as in weaving the Light into our world like artists), crave the Light, spread the Light..." and so on. It's incredible how, because we are made in the image of God, we all have a sense of the trandscendant God and a right response to him, even if we can't nail it down. There is a certain vagueness in the song as it was written, but it captures a truth about how we should respond to the Light of God, by craving it and thus becoming light ourselves. Good stuff. Check this band out. Many of their songs contain these kinds of nuggets.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Song Title: Help My Unbelief
Author(s): Lyrics by John Newton; Music and Chorus lyrics by Clint Wells
Why did I choose it? It is all too easy too neglect an essential aspect of our worship: the expression of doubt and confusion, the mourning over our own hardness of heart. The psalmists did not fear such barren plains, and nor should we. We need songs that give expression to our unbelief and put melody to our pleading with God to increase our faith and open our eyes. Rather than pretending that our faith is flawless and perfect, we can humbly express our doubt as a body and in doing so, proclaim our trust in our Sovereign Lord to overcome our unbelief and deepen our faith. I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with brothers and sisters who say "I can't feel God's presence. I want to repent but I don't even feel that I can!" This is common Christian experience as we wait for the Lord to reveal himself to us and overcome our sin and blindness. Let's not ignore it, but pray with each other as we sing, proclaiming with the father in Mark 9:24 - "I believe; help my unbelief!"
My favorite line:
The second verse -
"I would but can’t repent,
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can ne’er relent
Till Jesus makes it soft.
Till Jesus make it soft."
As we sing this, those whose hearts are hardened will come alongside those whose are softened, having their burdens borne by brothers and sisters and praying together that Jesus would break through and melt the ice. Is that not a beautiful picture?
Why teach it right now: We're going through the Gospel of Luke at Karis, in which we are seeing the stark contrast between the response of faith and the response of unbelief in Jesus' various encouranter. This Sunday we land on the story of John the Baptist and his disciples questioning whether Jesus is truly the Messiah (Luke 7:18-35). Jesus response is clear: look at what he has done. "Blessed is the one who is not offended by me," he say. Much of our unbelief comes as we in our sin take offense at Jesus. He doesn't fit our expectations exactly...he calls us to turn from some tightly held sin...he shows love to someone we'd rather he didn't. What a great opportunity to, in repentance, pray that he would overcome our doubt, overcome our offense and increase our faith and love for him.
Can you hear it? There is a clip here - just scroll downward to the title. and click on the mp3 clip.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I'd like to start a new series on my blog today featuring the various songs we teach at our church here in
In any case, at Karis we value a good balance of rich, historic hymns that span the history of the church along with great new songs that are written from the modern context and give voice to our praises, prayers and longings in our own vernacular. So at Karis, you'll sing your share of "thees" and "thous" but you'll also sing a wonderfully singable chorus such as "How Great is Our God." This is of great value for many reasons, but I'll just mention two. First, singing old hymns that have stood the test of time gives us a way of connecting with the saints who went before. The language may be different at times, but they still give expression to the very same struggles we face today and give us hope as we join old warriors of the faith in writing God's truth on our hearts through song. And that leads to my second point. Many of the older hymns give a richer and broader expression to the truths of Scripture and Christian experience we so need to meditate on. Our modern vernacular simply does not contain as many of the tools for a beautiful, diverse vocabulary of prayer and praise. The language itself hasn't failed, we just aren't as adept at using it. Given this fact, I find that a healthy mixture of rich, old hymns (often set to modern music) mixed with the better modern praise choruses provides a great way for us to deepen our capacity for reveling in God's truth and to express the full range of Christian experience (hymns offer more opportunity for voicing our pains an trials than most modern choruses), while still embracing the strengths of simpler modern language and choruses. Both offer great vessels for our praises - especially when used together.
But don't get me wrong. There is much being written today that I think will stand the test of time. Great songwriters are more and more using their gifts to serve their local congregations, but then they are also being noticed by the broader church as well. This is exciting to me because it goes against the grain of the "praise and worship" industry. Many of these songs we use are written by songwriters who will likely never "make it big" in the industry, but that's ok - great, even! These songwriters are faithfully serving local bodies, yet their songs are also being used by God as a blessing to the church universal. For instance, at Karis, we use several songs written by Joe Day and Tim Smith, pastors at
Song Title: Come and Sing
Author(s): Jeremy Quillo
Why did I choose it? Again, this song has a psalm-like quality. This is one of those prayers written in the midst of joy - an eager expression of praise to God. Yet it looks with wisdom toward the troubles that will inevitably come and says "I will walk through the valley but I still hear his voice..." It echoes a life lived "before the throne of God" as the record from whence it came is titled. As the folks from Sojourn say, "This life is a rich and varied experience of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, prayer for guidance, prayers of repentance and communal sharing of God’s peace, blessing and love." In other words, as we live before the throne, we know that everything we do is in God's sight and is brought as an offering through Christ alone. Given this reality, the song, though in a sense a "call to worship," serves more as a call to gathered worship. It implies that we have been worshiping and enjoying God's work throughout the week, and so as we come together for our meeting, we are literally overflowing with melody toward God. This song is a joyful encouragement to let that song loose! "Come and bring him your song," it invites. Further, continuing in the vein of the psalms, there is present here an understanding that this exuberant singing gives the watching world a witness ("We must sing if or hearts have been changed by God. Let the whole world know that he has come.") As such, the invitation to sing becomes one both for the moment of gathered worship - a potentially powerful, eye-openeing moment for those who do not yet know Christ - and also for a life of metaphorical song, bursting in God's praises as our friends and neighbors watch and wonder.
My favorite line:
The second verse -
"I will walk through the valley but I still hear his voice
For the words of the Lord are in my heart
I will rise in the morn' with the joy that is my strength
Remembering the sound of his voice."
There is the full perspective of the Psalms. "I have joy now, but I will again walk through the valley. Yet I have God's very word on my heart and know his voice. He will sustain me through life's trials. I will sing." The psalms are replete with exhortations to sing to God - we do well to obey, and it's a joy!
Why teach it right now: Our community is in need of more avenues for expressing the joy of singing to our God, and of more calls to an overflowing gathered worship. This song fit the bill the minute I heard it, and I can't wait to hear our congregation take hold and sing.
Can you hear it? I don't know of anywhere online that you can hear it right now. But if you search for the album Before the Throne by Sojourn on iTunes, you can listen to a clip or download the song. Check it out!
I hope that before long our community here at Karis will begin to write some songs for our own use in gathered worship. We certainly have been blessed with talented artists, so I think it's only a matter of time.
Monday, June 23, 2008
The first half of the book focuses on seven major objections that are common in our culture For example, Keller devotes chapters to questions such as "How can a good God allow suffering?" and "Hasn't science disproved Christianity?" He deals with these questions on all fronts, offering not only scientific or historical evidence where appropriate, but also sound philosophical, logical and moral arguments, appealing to the deeper presuppositions that often underly our more superficial objections. His main assertion is that the objection to the "blind faith" of the Christian is ironic because we actually all put our faith in something. Many of our beliefs about the nature of reality are actually based upon blind belief in other fundamentals. So, Keller would argue that the Christian faith is actually the most reasonable and consistent explanation for the way the world works. It is not a "blind leap," even as many of its claims can not be proved beyond all doubt. Rather, as he argues in the second half of the book, God has given us an abundant number of clues that point to him and his overarching story. His explanation of the biblical perspective on ultimate reality is clear and compelling. You just may find many of your stereotypes against Christianity disarmed as you sort through his humble yet bold arguments.
I would commend this book to anyone, whether a mature Christian or an unsure skeptic. Keller's is one of the best voices of our day to speak for the Christian faith, as he embodies the paradox of a truly humble, gospel-changed heart that can hold forth biblical truth with love and conviction, not sacrificing an ounce of either.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
1) Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. We spend exorbitant amounts of money simply trying to impress people we don't even know (and maybe don't like!). Being somewhat utilitarian in our approach to purchases doesn't mean we have to entirely neglect aesthetics, expression, etc. But it certainly wouldn't hurt to cut our spending drastically on passing fads and fashions simply to impress people.
2) Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. The search for simplicity is a quest for freedom. This is most fundamentally an inward freedom (hence my previous 3 posts). But we are addictive creatures because we are worshipers. So this can happen with small things (coffee perhaps?) or bigger things (sex, drugs) or even deeper things (approval, power). True freedom means being a slave to none of these things and only to Christ. Look around our culture, or even at your own life, and you'll see addictions everywhere. I see them in my own every day! As Foster says, "watch for undisciplined compulsions."
3) Develop a habit of giving things away. I'm especially terrible at this one. I am a pack rat through and through. And of course, I'm selfish. I keep things I don't need "just in case" I may want to use it again some day. This is a compulsion worth fighting! On one hand, this is good because it simplifies our life - more stuff means more complexity! But even moreso, it will help us cultivate a sacrificial life - giving up in order to give to others.
4) Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry. In other words, be skeptical of advertising and marketing and its many promises (if you read this, Jason, don't hit me!) So much stuff is being made and ad firms being created to try to sell that stuff to people who don't need it, while the creation wastes away and people go hungry. Most of the needs that advertisers press on inside us cannot be met by material things. (See the "Gospel of Consumption" article I linked to last month.) I actually feel like my well-being will increase when I imagine myself at a helm of a brand new iBook, but really....really?
5) Learn to enjoy things without owning them. As Foster puts it, "If we own it, we feel we can control it; and if we can control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure." Oh the glory of the library I never use! The beauty of the public parks that I ignore! The enjoyment of trading a good book or album with a friend....on and on.
6) Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. Indeed, we have much more in common with the dust and the birds than with the gadgets we tend to worship. God made us from the dust. Could we not connect with him more deeply if we cultivate a deeper love for his handiwork in all its magnificence?
7) Be skeptical of "buy now, pay later" schemes. American is learning this the hard way now with all of the mortage foreclosures. Debt truly is a deep bondage. We should be very, very careful to take on only what is necessary.
8) Obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech. This seems like a bit of a tangent off the main topic of simplicity, but is it really? This is about a holistic simplicity, and simple speech is but one aspect of that. As Foster says, we would do well to "make honesty and integrity the distinguishing characteristics of [our] speech." True simplicity means letting your yes be your yes and your no be your no.
9) Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. This requires passionate discernment and a tenacious fight against our own tendency toward apathy. Foster asks great questions: "Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas as the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? In a world of limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean poverty for others? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly-line jobs? Do we enjoy hierarchical relationships in the company or factory that keep others under us? Do we oppress out children or spouse because we feel certain tasks are beneath us?" No simple answers here - but a willingness to search out these answers and respond rightly is what's important.
10) Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God. Here I would perhaps change his wording slightly. Because we are worshipers and sinners by nature, we often are distracted from true worship by having a love for good things that is disproportionate to our love for God. Some times we must shun even good things to reorient ourselves rightly and wholly toward God. But often we must simply put those things back in their rightful place. For example, I love music. At times, this love becomes idolatrous and I can make it something that draws me to God, when really Christ is the only mediator of God's presence. At these times, I usually need to repent and put music back in its rightful place in God's creation - good, but not essential. At times, I have had to abstain from music entirely, but this is not usually the case.
There is much more that could be said on this topic. John Piper's thoughts on living a "wartime lifestyle" (see his great book, Don't Waste Your Life) add another important dimension to the table. But here I will stop. I hope this has been a helpful exploration for you. May we all find our needs abundantly met in Christ, who gives us rest from our endless strivings and the frantic pace of our modern world.