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The Piano Guys

I lived in Idaho for my formative years of Jr. High School and college, though college was a bit vague since I either skipped classes or slept through them.  What stood out for me though was the huge presence of the Mormons in our area (near Boise).  When my father was looking for a solid church it was not an easy task, essentially you could choose between the Mormons or a Nazarene church.  Being Christians we obviously went with the Nazarenes.

That last sentence could be seen as jarring for some due to the tremendous job the Mormons have done in marketing themselves as a Christian church.  They are not.  Sadly in the current state of the Church in America this is not so clear as you can read from one man who accepts the title of an Evangelical “beg[s] to differ” on that cult thingy.  The man is wrong in every way that matters but, of course, this post is not about Mouw and his horrid, dangerous words.

This is about the Piano Guys, who are somewhat of an internet sensation and are fun to watch and listen to.  I like their music but I have noticed lately many people posting videos of them and at times posting them in the context of being Christians.  They are not. They are Mormons.

Some will say, “So?” and it is a legitimate question.  The music they do is good stuff and as a Christian can’t we enjoy their music?  As is typical of me I think it is not such an easy thing to decide but I have made my personal decision and I write it out here for others to consider.  Is there a qualitative difference between the Piano Guys doing Christmas music and Mannheim Steamroller, who don’t connect their music with a claim to being Christian? I think that there is even though I know others would disagree.

When I grew up in Idaho the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would always do a huge TV special of Christmas carols.  We would not watch it.  The reason was that they were a cult who did not even truly believe the words they were singing and in fact actively proclaimed a different gospel.  I didn’t appreciate that distinction then, but I do now.

When the Piano Guys do a Christmas carol they are doing it with the belief that they are both Christian and that they believe  those words, at least in some way.  They will posture themselves as Christians.  And unsuspecting, poorly taught Christians will hear them, click on their website and see nice things about their belief. Go ahead and click that link to at the bottom of their page.

BAM! John 3:16 right off the bat (assuming you are clicking near around the time I post this).  You don’t get more Christian than that do you? Click on that link and the next page you can see at the top that you can read about the Christmas Story. There you will see a nice, vanilla description of the birth of Jesus with closing words being, ” As we embrace His teachings and follow the example of His perfect life, we can become more like Him, and experience true peace and joy.”  Imbedded in that sentence is the basic lie of the Mormons, salvation is not in Jesus alone, it is through following His teachings and living in a proper manner.  But if you are a weak Christian like so many are, then this sounds good.

What is missing?  Well little things like that God the Father is only one of millions of gods who exist.  That our “salvation” is not apart from our works but because if them.  Jesus’ death is not one that secured anyone’s salvation or forgiveness of sin.  There is a lot more but this post is not merely about the beliefs of the Mormon cult.  If you want to read a bit more on their false view of salvation this page is replete with them, though you have to read with care.  My “favorite” quote on that page is how the fall of Adam “wasn’t all bad because they could now feel great joy. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)”  Thank goodness that now we can feel great joy because we are dead in our sins!

So, a little post became a long one.  Here is my point.  If you listen to the Piano Guys as a Christan just be aware of who they represent.  Be wise as to how to speak of their music and to whom you recommend them.  They are not neutral regarding your Lord, they advocate a different gospel of which Paul would say that they are “accursed.”  For me, they just are not on my play list.  If you lean toward my thoughts then I recommend folks like Page CXVI, Cardiphonia, or Sojourn Music to name a few.

Edited to fix some egregious errors, more to be found late I am sure.

The Mystery that Is Not A Mystery

The incarnation of Jesus our Lord is a mystery.  Such a mystery that we cannot comprehend it and yet sadly it is often not regarded as such.  Why?  I don’t really know for certain but I have a suspicion that it has to do with how we tend to look at ourselves.  There is a thought in our hearts that often views all things as centered around us.  Or to be more specific, all things centered around ME.  We can see this in how so often our songs are in the first person rather than the second person.  Songs of how I love the Lord or how He died for me.  Nothing overtly wrong with these but they can often turn our minds toward how our Creator and Sustainer, the Lord of Heaven and Earth exists for our blessing and our purposes.

So when we then think about the incarnation we lose sight of the vastness between us and God.  We have a greater connection backwards with a dog or an ant then we do with God.  Not because of some evolutionary basis but because we are creatures and God is not.  We are part of a vast creation and God is “outside” that creation (however that works).  We are connected to Him through the imago dei but we still are creatures.  The terms in the OT and NT that are often translated as “flesh” speak to that creaturely weakness that is part of the human experience.

Add sin to the mix, where we now stand as rebels against our Sovereign.  Fools who believe that they do not need their Creator and decide that He does not even exist, all the while we breathe His air and we eat because of His goodness.  The sun that we enjoy and the rain that refreshes us are enjoyed by all even though most shall not give thanks nor honor Him as God.

Then we come to the mystery.  God in human flesh.  The incarnation where Jesus enters into our weakness and our deadness and walks among us.  Not as some demi-god nor as some shining being, but as the Son of Man.  The scripture says that He sympathizes with us for He was tempted in every way but without sin.  He is aware that we are but dust.  He becomes our sin-bearer and He takes on our death and destroys them both.  God in human flesh bringing us life that is beyond the here and now and moves us into a whole new sphere, the life that is His alone—eternal, full, complete life.

The puritan Thomas Goodwin says this of the incarnation:

What a wonder is it, that two natures infinitely distant , should be more intimately united than anything in the world; and yet without any confusion! That the same person should have both a  glory and a grief; an infinite joy in the Deity, and an inexpressible sorrow in the humanity! That a God upon a throne should be an infant in a cradle; the thundering Creator be a weeping babe and a suffering man, are such expressions of mighty power, as well as condescending love, that they astonish men upon earth, and angels in heaven.

We sang a song Sunday that made me think of this whole thing.  One of the lines goes like this, “Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King.  He the theme of Heaven’s praises, clothed in frail humanity.  In our longing, in our darkness now the light of life has come. Look to Christ who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.”

Pastoral Prayer from Colossians 3:1-17

high and holy, pure and majestic;
We come to you because Jesus your Son is seated at your right hand.
We come because He has given Himself to be our one, perfect sacrifice for sin.
We come because He has opened up the very throne room to us.
We come because He constantly makes intercession on our behalf.
 So we come,
and filled with hope
to make our requests known to you.
Our first request is to open our eyes up to see the glory of Jesus Christ,
That we would be able to fix our eyes upon Him
and turn our eyes off of this world and its many distractions and temptation.
Quiet our hearts today to hear the Word of God
and to sing praises from overflowing hearts.
Second, Father we ask that you confront us those sins we are holding onto.
Cause your Spirit to search us and see if there is any hurtful thing in us.
Bring to our mind something that must be repented of and rejected in our lives
so that we might worship you with holy hearts and lips.
Third, Father help us consider the fulness of your wrath to come.
Let us realize the greatness of our salvation,
the fulness of your holiness and justice
and the terror of your holy wrath.
So that we tremble in fear and in joy,
knowing that Jesus has fully drained that cup of wrath that was prepared for us.
So that we desire to speak to others of the gospel that saves.
Fourth, Father bind our hearts in the unity of the Spirit,
seeing no distinction between one another,
allowing no heart of racism or pride.
Empower us to express true love toward one another
so that those watching will see Christ and know we are following Him.
And lastly Father, let us be filled with love toward one another,
Keeping the love of Christ close to our hearts.
Let us forgive as Jesus forgave us.
Let us serve as Jesus served us.
Let us pray as Jesus prayed for us.
Let us give as Jesus first gave himself for us.
And now, as we sing, let us sing as people who are
and Free.

The Beauty of Weakness

I just finished a wonderful time of discussion with some others and the dominant theme was the reality of how we struggle and stumble in sin. The hard reality is that we are not as strong as we would like to admit and admitting it is very difficult for us. The reason is pride, we hate to look like we really are. But there is another aspect that came to my mind that factors into this whole thing, it is a failure to recognize that there is a reason we are weak.  Allow me to explain.

2 Corinthians 4:6-9   “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Above is a fascinating passage that speaks much to the need of our day in America.  We are a people who have embraced victimhood and made it an art form.  One only needs to sit in the average prayer meeting to hear the pettiness of the prayers and the earthly nature of our concerns.  This passage challenges the very deadening thought that God must heal us, fix our problems, make our marriage happy, bring in a good income, and the such before we can effectively serve Him.

This passage tells us many things that need to be heard and heeded.  May this short message give the reader pause and perhaps may prayers of confession rise to our Father in heaven as we confess our love of health, comfort, and personal ability rather than the glory of being weak.

Verse 7 tells us we posses a treasure.  This is a fact for a believer, not a command.  What treasure do we possess right now?  Verse 6 tells us that it is the knowledge of God.  How is it seen?  It is found in His Son, who dwells in us.  And it is the Father who has placed this saving, justifying, sanctifying, soul-satisfying knowledge within us.  And if we were to stop right there and go no further, we could easily believe this is all really cool and have a nice praise gathering where we get excited about our Lord and then go on about our lives.  But this passage tells us much more.  And what it tells us can be quite uncomfortable for us to consider.

This treasure is in us, but we are earthen vessels.  Note that description, clay pots.  Not golden chalices, not silver vats, not massive oak chests—just specialized dirt. The imagery is one of weakness.  In that time, the clay pot was not a thing artsy people made to sit on a mantel to show off.  The clay pot was used for the day to day business of cooking, washing, holding flour, and yes, it was even  their night-time toilet.  It was, in other words, a very common tool.  And when one was broken, it was tossed aside and another one made or purchased.

Now, notice in verse 7 that there is a reason for this decision by God.  The word “that” speaks of the purpose of having us be simple clay pots.  It is so that the glory of God great power might be seen clearly.  Note that very carefully.  Paul makes is very clear that the reason this is done is so that we are not the focus.  Though we speak much about this idea of decreasing and God increasing; our prayers and actions often show the very opposite.

This is not saying that God makes us strong by pouring His strength into us, making us strong.  Instead, God keeps us weak and through that continued weakness He manifests His power through our continuing weakness.  This requires the preacher to embrace his weakness and by faith believe that God shall manifest his power as I remain weak.  If I am desiring the manifestation of God’s glory and power rather than my own, then I shall delight in this.  But if I really desire my own glory, then I shall always be resisting the weakness that is inherent in my life.

May we learn to rejoice in our weakness rather than rebel against it.  May we begin to serve in our weaknesses rather than waiting until we are strong.  May we long to have the power of God shine forth by being clay pots.

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