There's a Trick of the Light I'm Learning to Do

This is a collection of songs I wrote and recorded in January - March, 2020 while on sabbatical from ministry. They each deal with a different aspect or expression of the Gospel. Click on the image above to listen.

Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

random reads

Readings, 2020

Readings, 2020
Paradise Lost, John Milton

Adorning the Dark, Andrew Peterson

The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson

Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado

Halos and Avatars, Craig Detweiller, ed.

Fool's Talk, Os Guinness

Brendan, Frederick Buechner

The Screwtape Letters

Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

The Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis

Becoming Whole, Brian Finkert and Kelly Kapic

Real Sex, Lauren Winner

Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis

Voyage to Venus, C. S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

Screwtape Proposes a Toast, C. S. Lewis

Paul in Philippi

Acts 16:25-34  Jailhouse Rock

A Priestly Inheritance, A City of Refuge

I've been thinking a lot these days about the levitcal cities of refuge described at the end of the Book of Numbers (chpt 35).

In case it's been a while since you waded through the Book of Numbers, let me refresh your memory. It's right at the end of the desert wanderings, and the new generation of Israel is about to enter the Promised Land, Israel's ancient inheritance. So the Lord gives Moses instructions about the boundaries of Canaan, and some general directives on divvying up the land to the 12 tribes. Namely: they are to assign the land by lot to the nine and a half tribes of Israel entering Canaan (keeping in mind that two and a half tribes have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan).

But then Numbers 35 reminds us that the tribe of Levi isn't going to be getting an allotment in Canaan because, as 18:20 has already indicated, Aaron (and by extension, the whole tribe of Levi with him) will have no inheritance in the land. Instead, the Lord himself is going to be the priestly tribe's inheritance among the Israelites. Rather than receiving a portion of the land, Levi is to receive simply "towns to live in from the inheritance of the [other] Israelites." These towns are scattered evenly throughout the Promised Land, seeding (in effect) a priestly presence in-and-among the whole people of God.

You can read in Joshua 20:1-9 how this command is carried out, but what strikes me here is that the Lord specifically identifies six of the Levitical towns as "cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone may flee." The idea is quite simple: in the case of murder, tribal codes of the sort especially prevalent among a nomadic society like Moses' Israel would require a blood relative to maintain tribal honour by avenging a murdered family member (see Genesis 34 for dark evidence that such codes were well known among nomadic Israelite society).

But such tribal customs and the violent blood feuds they inevitably perpetuate are deeply at odds with a civil society like the one Israel will become, as she stands at the threshold of the Promised Land and looks ahead to her future. In civil society, justice must be carried out by an impartial assembly according to a standard code of law; retaliation and vigilantianism has no place in a society governed by God's Shalom.

So God sets aside six of the Levitical towns as cities of refuge-- cities of asylum to which an accused killer can flee until he has stood trial and his case has been heard; and cities of shalom, where the innocent can escape the tribal custom of honour killings.

Now, I don't want to read too much into this, but here's what I can't get off my mind today: the priestly tribe had no inheritance in the land other than a special place in the Lord's plan to mediate his Shalom to the people. And with this inheritance came the cities of refuge; and with them came a calling to be a people among whom the accused found shelter, where the guilty found asylum and the harried found refuge until God's Shalom had obtained in their lives (in this case in the form of a fair and imparital trial).

And you can't reflect on all this very long before you remember that 1 Peter 2:5-9 specifically identifies followers of Jesus Christ as the priesthood of believers that the tribe of Levi prefigured and foreshadowed in the Old Testament. And if it's true, what Peter says about Christians there, and it's true what Numbers says about the inheritance of the preistly tribe here, then it would mean that in Christ we have inherited a calling to be "cities of refuge."  Our communities are to be places where the accused, the guilty and the harried can find shelter so that the Shalom of God can obtain in their lives (in this case in the form of the unmerited, all-gracious justification of God through faith in Christ); what's more, this calling specifically and directly precludes any material inheritance "in the land" (i.e. the comfort, wealth, privlege and security that such an inheritance would have meant for an ancient Israelite).

And the obvious questions are staring me in the face:  am I part of a community of faith that has traded in the wealth and security of its "inheritance in the land" for the privlege of being a "city of refuge" like this?  And harder still:  Am I willing to belong to such a community of faith?  And hardest of all:  what's my role in helping my church be the city of refuge that God in Numbers 35 is calling it to be?

A Stumper of a Sign

Last night I was reading from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, and I finally stopped to try and figure out something that has stumped me for many years. In 14:22, after a long discourse on the role and meaning of "speaking in tongues," Paul goes on to say: "Tongues, then are a sign not for believers, but for unbelievers."

For the record, I am not a "charismatic" nor a "cessationist" per se, but the stump for me is just this: in what way is speaking in tongues a sign for unbelievers?  A sign of what?  And how, exactly does speaking in unintelligible languages function as said sign?  And the stump gets stumpier, because in verse 23-25, Paul goes on to describe a scenario (ostensibly as evidence that tongues are indeed a sign for unbelievers) where the "sign" of tongues actually draws the scorn of unbelievers, and it's the sign of prophesy (which according to v. 22 is meant as a sign for believers) that convicts unbelievers and elicits from them a response of faith.

I've been stumped over this for a long time:  Paul says tongues are a sign for unbelievers, and then (it seems) he goes on to say that tongues do not bring unbelievers to faith at all, rather prophesy does.

But yesterday, I noticed that the "therefore" clause of v. 22 actually connects Paul's argument to the prophesy from Isaiah he quotes in v. 21:  "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me."  And when you look up Isaiah 28 in context, you see that it records God's indictment against Israel for its religious apostasy and corruption, and his announcement of pending judgement in the form of Assyrian invasion (the "men of strange tongues" in question are the Assyrians, and the "strange tongues" in question is a reference to the language of the Assyrian invaders).

In Isaiah, then, Assyrians speaking in "incomprehensible languages" as they invade is a sign to unbelieving Israel that they are indeed guilty of corruption and apostasy (as charged) and that God's verdict against them is just.  And, of course, Isaiah's Israel failed to feel the portent of this ominous sign, and, in verse 14 are accused of being blind scoffers who, in their unbelief, are unable to heed God's Word.

In this context the Assyrian invasion (and by metonymy, Assyria's "strange tongues") is an incomprehensible sign to unbelieving Israel of God's judgment on their disobedience.

Flash forward now some 750 years, after the death and resurrection of Jesus has recapitulated and fulfilled the story of judgment, exile and return for the people of God that Isaiah is telling here, after the gift of the Holy Spirit that Isaiah promised has been poured out lavishly on the reconstituted "Israel of God" (i.e. any and all who confess the crucified and resurrected Christ as Lord).  Now Paul's claim that "tongues" are a sign to unbelievers makes perfect sense.

Obviously the charismata of tongues is a sign to unbelievers that God has punished and forgiven Israel's sin once and for all in the cross of Christ, because the promised "sign of tongues" (prefigured by the Assyrian invasion) now obtains in the Community of Faith that confesses this crucified Christ as Lord; and, further, it's a sign to unbelievers that such communities of Faith actually now comprise the reconstituted people of God, because the "sign" of Assyrian invasion that Assyria's "strange tongues" once announced to apostate Israel is now being announced (through the charismata of tongues) in the Spirit-filled Christian community; and further still, just like the Assyrian invasion once showed the world that Israel's sin has indeed been judged, so too the gift of tongues is a sign (albeit an incomprehensible one) to us that our sins have been judged through the cross of Christ.

And for those who disbelieve this inexpressibly good news, the sign of tongues not only remains inpenetrable, but actually points them out as unbelievers by their inability to understand or accept the phenomenon of tongues for what it is.

So no wonder that unbelievers in 1 Corinthians 14:23 scoff at what is, to them, an incomprehensible sign.  The unbelievers in Isaiah 28:14 before them scoffed at the signs of judgment Isaiah promised, too.  And I can't help but think of Babel's architects before them all as Paul's point slowly sinks in on me:  the confusion of incomprehensible tongues is a sign to unbelievers that their unbelief stands judged by almighty God.

A Sermon for a Baptism

Acts 8:26-40.  Here's Water

On the Road with Paul

I am preparing for a series on the Book of Philippians in the fall, and thought that to set the stage for it, I'd spend a bit of time in the Book of Acts, looking at Paul's story, his ministry and mission (hence the last two sermons posted here at terra incognita).  This Sunday's sermon was a look at the famous Damascus Road Experience.

Acts 9:1-19.  Called