Praise Militias?

I remember back in the days of the worship wars when the result were still uncertain — maybe 20 years ago. Back then I would hear the people who promoted contemporary worship, complete with praise bands, cites Psalms like 149 for support (which the missus and I read today in family worship — tmi):

Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! (Psalm 149:1-3 ESV)

What was downright jaw dropping to see as we read to the psalm’s conclusion, was the call for weapons in worship in addition to instruments:

Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 149:5-9 ESV)

Funny how the P&W advocates didn’t promote militarized along with contemporary worship.

This may also have some bearing on those who oppose Christians singing the imprecatory psalms. Is it really possible to separate praise from jihad so readily in the Psalms. Think of Psalm 136 (which if read aloud in its entirety almost takes on the cadence of rap):

to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:17-26 ESV)

I’ve heard that cafeteria Roman Catholicism is a liability. How about cafeteria psalm-singing?

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95 thoughts on “Praise Militias?

  1. “Funny how the P&W advocates didn’t promote militarized along with contemporary worship.”
    Well there is the machine gun preacher, so there is that.

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  2. some cherry-picking in reverse….looking for law

    Prayerbook of the Bible, Bonhoeffer p 157—”It does not matter whether the Psalms express exactly what we feel in our heart at the moment we pray. We must pray against our own heart in order to pray rightly in and with Jesus Christ.”

    Psalm 2: 9
    You will break them with a rod of iron;
    You will shatter them like pottery.”
    10 So now, kings, be wise;
    receive instruction, you judges of the earth.
    11 Serve the Lord with reverential awe
    and rejoice with trembling.
    12 Pay homage to the Son or He will be angry
    and you will perish in your rebellion,
    for His anger may ignite at any moment.
    All those who take refuge in Him are happy

    Psalm 34: 21 Evil brings death to the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
    22 The Lord redeems the life of His servants,
    and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished.

    Psalm 58:6 knock the teeth out of their mouths

    Psalm 109: 4
    In return for my love they accuse me,
    but I continue to pray.
    5 They repay me evil for good,
    and hatred for my love.
    6 Set a wicked person over him;
    let an accuser stand at his right hand.
    7 When he is judged, let him be found guilty,
    and let his prayer be counted as sin.
    8 Let his days be few;
    let another take over his position

    Romans 12: 19— do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.

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  3. DGH,

    Forgive me – It’s been a while since I visited the exclusive psalmody discussion. Do you advocate singing the imprecatory Psalms? If so, how does that work?

    Chris

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  4. let them sing for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:5

    See – and there’s your justification not to even attend worship services, just to watch it live streamed in the comfort of your own bed. It’s all there in the Bible if you just know where to look. #HipPastor

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  5. Liturgical reforms by the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council led to the removal of some of the imprecatory psalms from the Divine Office, or the more problematic passages edited for liturgical use, “The Catholic Answer Book”, Peter M. J. Stravinskas, p90,

    Richard Gaffin—“I’m only able to raise one concern about its commitment to total psalmody. The imprecations in Psalm 137, among others, have in view the Old Testament situation, when God’s covenant people were one nation, a single geopolitical entity (Israel), and their enemies were likewise ethnically and geopolitically defined (Babylon and Edom here). But now, after Christ’s finished work, that spiritual enmity, inseparably national, has ceased. Now the realization of God’s eternal saving purpose, anticipated throughout the Old Testament, is universal. His elect are no longer found only within Israel, but within every nation. Under the new covenant, the church is “in Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13) in a way it was not under the old: no longer are Jews in holy hostility towards non-Jews; now, in Christ, they are reconciled to each other (Ephesians. 2:11–22).

    Gaffin–I recognize that the ethnic references like those in Psalm 137 are not only literal but also typological. Akin to the symbolic references to Babylon in Revelation, they point forward to the final destruction of the enemies of God’s people. Still, singing explicitly genocidal curses in public worship, without a whole lot of preparatory explanation (and perhaps even with that), risks leaving the impression that the congregation is calling on God for the large-scale destruction of people with Gentile ethnicity like most of us in the New Testament church.”
    http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH2014/NH2014Jun.pdf

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  6. The Psalms are the Word of God, right? We might not be comfortable singing the imprecatory Psalms but perhaps with some explanation of the typology before hand, singing of the judgment to come would sober up some of the P&W ditties. Or we could just stick with Dare to be a Daniel.

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  7. Chris, I advocate singing the psalter. If we can figure out how to see Christ in David, OT history, sacrifices, etc. I’m not sure how hard it would be to do the same for the psalms in question. What a great way to make a 2k point. That was then. Spirituality of the church is now. How do you get there? Jesus (with lots of help from Paul — not the pope Peter — who explained it).

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  8. Dr. Hart, Interesting. I had not thought of that as a way to demonstrate 2K. Would love to hear that explained by an RPCNA elder that leans 2K. They (RPCNA elders) give some of the most devotional, Christ exalting, explanations of a Psalm just before congregational singing.

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  9. Look at (and sing) Psalm 68, for instance. It has it all: imprecation, judgment, praise, words of comfort and encouragement. The range is not to be equaled by any hymn ancient or modern, nor by St. So-and-So, Isaac Newton, Fanny Crosby, or even (gasp) the Gettys.

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  10. Your not a real Psalm singer until you’ve crooned: “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”

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  11. Always amusing when Psalter verses are cut out for time/reality functions, so you can leave people dangling in the pit of despair or chased by a bear to finish and not get to the conclusion of comfort and safety in Him.

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  12. As a faithful quasi Reformed Evangelical syncretizer I like to mix my Shine Jesus Shine with a bridge of Psalm 137’s imprecations. What you call schizophrenic worship I call Sunday morning, or when I can’t make it Sunday, to the Saturday night service.

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  13. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand…. (v6)

    “In this Israel was not an example, but a type: we will not copy the chosen people in making literal war, but we will fulfil the emblem by carrying on spiritual war. We praise God and contend with our corruptions; we sing joyfully and war earnestly with evil of every kind. Our weapons are not carnal, but they are mighty, and wound with both back and edge. The word of God is all edge; whichever way we turn it, it strikes deadly blows at falsehood and wickedness”.
    “If we do not praise we shall grow sad in our conflict; and if we do not fight we shall become presumptuous in our song. The verse indicates a happy blending of the chorister and the crusader. Note how each thing in the believer is emphatic: if he sings, it is high praises, and praises deep down in his throat, as the original hath it; and if he fights, it is with the sword, and the sword is two edged. The living God imparts vigorous life to those who trust him. They are not of a neutral tint: men both hear them and feel them. Quiet is their spirit, but in that very quietude abides the thunder of an irresistible force. When godly men give battle to the powers of evil each conflict is high praise unto the God of goodness. Even the tumult of our holy war is a part of the music of our lives.”
    C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David

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  14. McMark,

    Still, singing explicitly genocidal curses in public worship, without a whole lot of preparatory explanation (and perhaps even with that), risks leaving the impression that the congregation is calling on God for the large-scale destruction of people with Gentile ethnicity like most of us in the New Testament church.

    I really don’t get Gaffin’s objections here. The Church somehow managed to sing Psalm 137 for the better part of her history and not be scandalized by its imprecations. And isn’t this why we have pastors? A pastor who cannot faithfully expound difficult passages like Ps. 137:8-9 either needs to do some serious studying to brush up on the theology of the Psalms and the OT (e.g. intrusion ethics), or find a new line of work.

    Are we going to deprive ourselves of this because imprecations offend our modern sensibilities:

    How can we sing the Lord’s song
    In a foreign land?
    If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    May my right hand forget her skill.
    May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    If I do not remember you,
    If I do not exalt Jerusalem
    Above my chief joy. Psalm 137:4-6 NASB

    I don’t suspect that Gaffin is intentional in demeaning the laity here, but he does exactly this by insisting that certain parts of Scripture just aren’t appropriate for the church. If it is in the canon it is for the church, and pastors don’t get to be choosy over the things they think the church can or cannot handle. Maybe God intends to offend our modern sensibilities every once in a while, and the Psalms are quite efficient at accomplishing this.

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  15. Jed! Hi Jed! Look, it’s Jed! Jed, how the heck are ya! Jed.
    Jed’s just alright with me,
    Jed’s just alright, oh yeah.
    I don’t care what they may say
    I don’t care what they may do
    I don’t care what they may say
    Jed is just alright oh yeah,

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  16. Are there any missionaries on here who could explain how converts from modern Babil, Iraq, feel about singing Ps 137? Put another way, did the Jews invite their Babylonian neighbours to sing Ps 137 with them?

    Can Christians pray that God will not take his Spirit from them (Ps 51) when he makes clear promises about this?

    Ps 37:25 is true for David, at the high point of blessing in response to covenant faithfulness, but certainly not true for many Jews at other times in the nation’s life, or for many Christians throughout church history.

    I see all the NT exhortations to sing psalms but I struggle to know how the experiences and expectations of true believers under the Mosaic covenant can be related to the often totally different experiences and expectations of believers under the new.

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  17. Cg, your last paragraph is a very valid question. I have totally packed in any belief that there is any answer that extends past what one already thinks the answer is. We still go on and try to communicate with those in our denomination and hopefully have patience in differences that aren’t even worthy of the name of adiaphora.

    But keep us updated on what you find.

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  18. Cg-

    Are there any missionaries on here who could explain how converts from modern Babil, Iraq, feel about singing Ps 137? Put another way, did the Jews invite their Babylonian neighbours to sing Ps 137 with them?

    Not sure whether this speaks directly to your question, but I had a Syriac Catholic Bishop from Baghdad tell me once (over tea and pastries and with Aramaic conversation in the background) that his people were the ones so wicked Jonah refused to preach to them.

    Reminds me of a Filipino friend in college who told me once “Yes, we ate Magellan.”

    Christians ought to be used to conforming all else to God’s word, with the histories of our own culture being a hugely important instance of this. There is a human tendency to over-value both the histories of our culture (less a problem in 21st c USA) and current norms.

    The psalms are a great aid here- all of them.

    Mark –
    Liturgical reforms by the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council led to the removal of some of the imprecatory psalms from the Divine Office, or the more problematic passages edited for liturgical use

    Fortunately, they remain untouched in the 100% approved “Extraordinary Form” of the Office.

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  19. cg,

    The problem with shying away from certain Scriptures when/if it causes offense to some particular group or even for a majority of people is that you eventually will rule out very important parts of Scriptures.

    Psalm 137 is one of the more obvious problem passages, due to the seeming barbarism of the imprecation. But it’s not as if Scripture comes to us with no context – and it is the job of pastors and teachers in the church to make this context clear to local congregations. Yes we live in a dispensation where we pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us, but this dispensation will pass and the Day will come when God will vindicate himself and his people against all enemies, and to have this Psalm on our lips is an acknowledgement and anticipation of that coming Day. How might we take up these imprecations against the seed of the Serpent who even now prosecutes vicious and unrelenting war upon us? I would contend that refusing to take this Psalm up on our lips is to refuse the Word of God for us – the Spirit certainly didn’t guide this into the canon because He needed it, rather it was given to us because we need it.

    More importantly, while we may be under the administration of a different covenant, there is one people of God and as a worshiping community their prayers are our prayers and ours theirs, neither one of us are complete without the other. We have never felt the bitterness of persecution that Israel did in the siege of Jerusalem, but certain Christians have – how might Psalm 137 sound on the lips of parents who have lost their children to the persecutors sword? What do we make of the petition of the martyrs in Revelation who ask ““O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10

    I see all the NT exhortations to sing psalms but I struggle to know how the experiences and expectations of true believers under the Mosaic covenant can be related to the often totally different experiences and expectations of believers under the new.

    This is the real rub isn’t it? Like I said it is all about context – but all of Scripture is for the Israel of God – varying passages will have different application and use for the church, but it is there for our benefit, especially to give language to our prayer and praise.

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  20. “I had a Syriac Catholic Bishop from Baghdad tell me once (over tea and pastries and with Aramaic conversation in the background)…”

    Kevin, you’re killn’ me. Softly. With your song.

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  21. Jed –

    How might we take up these imprecations against the seed of the Serpent who even now prosecutes vicious and unrelenting war upon us?

    I would contend that refusing to take this Psalm up on our lips is to refuse the Word of God for us – the Spirit certainly didn’t guide this into the canon because He needed it, rather it was given to us because we need it.

    Very well put, Jed.

    cw – What Kevin said. (Felt weird to type that)
    Grazie, Signore- might it not become easier if you made a habit of it -?

    MG – I expect we’ll all get a chance to spend more time with middle eastern Christians soon. Unfortunately, I expect we’ll Americanize their cultural traditions out of them rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to enrich our own culture.

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  22. cg,
    I imagine the sentiment would be similar to Israel’s feelings about singing the Song of Moses in Deut 32. Most of it is about how God killed most of the Israelites.

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  23. Walton :singing the Song of Moses in Deut 32

    and in Rev 15: Revelation 15 3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!4 “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

    especially today for cw, muddy, kent, sean,
    love, crazy

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  24. aww cw,… are you sitting at the dinner table, sure your Father is agreeing, siding with you about your siblings, but not realizing those siblings you are speaking against are equally adored by their Father.

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  25. forgot today’s verse: You sit and speak against your brother; “These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. Ps 50:20-21

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  26. Sister Ali, adopting the pop music look-at-me-perform-and-wear-cool-clothes-while-lip-syncing-to-cheesy-vapid-music thing is bad. Knowing that this garbage is brought into and/or influences public worship services is even worse. Who’s worldly here?

    And praise militias? Yes, I’d praise any militia which would take up arms to smite your video dudes. For their own good. In love.

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  27. So much for loving urrbody. But, at least at the Calvary Chapel in San Diego, I got recording artists who had already made it and were making a living as recording artists. I even got to hear the guy who led Blood Sweat and Tears, something about Bullfrogs and Butterfles. Still no bueno for worship. But really effective at drawing a crowd and engaging people in a psychological crisis in their chair which got them to walk an aisle……..every……….week. Cuz, maybe it didn’t take, and this time they really meant it.

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  28. Muddy –
    [kc:] “I expect we’ll all get a chance to spend more time with middle eastern Christians soon.”

    [mg:] Explain?

    Refugees. We’re taking in something like 50k-100k from Syria this year. Germany is admitting 800k immigrants total (not sure % syrian, but its high).

    Pity we don’t give preferential treatment to Aramaic/Syriac speakers (rather than, to speak frankly, sunni muslims who have one millionth the cultural affinities with the best of US culture) and offer the language classes in our schools.

    It’s a historically unprecedented opportunity for Western countries to gain widespread knowledge of Aramaic from native speakers – a treasure beyond value, an opportunity beyond belief. Similar to what Rome had in the 8th-9th centuries when Greek was spoken on the streets and most of the popes were Greek or Syriac.

    Instead, we’ll more likely turn out a second-generation obsessed with pop music and making money, but deprived of a work ethic and with a false view of the faith.

    But those of us with a sense of what I can only see as a privilege in being able to host these unfortunate people have the chance to learn from them and pass the lessons on to posterity in some little way.

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  29. Ali,

    And the red rocks of Sedona, AZ cried out….

    In agony…

    while two of the whitest dudes in recent history, clad in silk shirts made a Pat Boone ballad-a-thon seem like a better musical choice.

    The road to musical perdition is paved with the good intentions of P&W duets. Besides wasnt that dude atop the rocky outcropping with the staggered stance and one cupped hand outstreached displaying a little too much pelvic action? The Psalms are better sung either unaccompanied or with simple acoustic instrumentation in a congregation than by a couple of Hall & Oates wannabes dubbed over badly produced pop music.

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  30. A delirious woman too far from Whitefield to hear his words nevertheless wept. “Why are you weeping, woman?” some Old School hater axed. “Can you not see the godly wag of his head?” she replied. Her type is still with us.

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  31. cw :adopting the pop music look-at-me-perform-and-wear-cool-clothes-while-lip-syncing-to-cheesy-vapid-music thing is bad.

    ok, ok, I admit I probably already knew you wouldn’t like that one, cw, but did you see that spectacular scenery outside of Jerusalem and the Kidron Valley (I think) and isn’t Psalm 30 a great psalm.

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  32. Ali, it looked like they were either filming in the Red Rocks area outside of Sedona AZ, or somewhere near Lake Powell. I don’t think that video had the trip out to the Negev in the budget.

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  33. Jed,
    The video is not from Sedona or any surrounding area. The wife thinks maybe Utah. We have both lived in the Sedona area all our lives and can say without any doubt, that aint Sedona.

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  34. Josh,

    If I say Sedona, it’s Sedona got it? I should know, I spent one marginally sober weekend of golf out there 15 years ago. My expertise is unquestionable.

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  35. It’s not loving. If you can’t do good don’t do harm. And why do I choose now to click on YouTube links? There’s evil in the world and you people have unleashed it. Even Todd. So there is a time when Tori Amos seems soothing? Something new under the sun.

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  36. That’s right, go high-brow and pious on me. I thought you were the Minister of Suck Embracement, Monsieur Gravel. I didn’t even post the link to James Canupp’s “Lookin’ For a Cit-ehhh” with goat accompaniment. And by the way, dude wore Brian Free OUT.

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  37. “Everything in moderation,” including suck. Mom said that. Or maybe it was Aristotle – sometimes I confuse the two.

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  38. Mud’s right.

    You guys have unleashed a super-massive black hole of suck. I thought sean’s was bad until I was slowly spaghettified into a quantum singularity of regret and horror over what I can never unhear.

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  39. “Mud’s right.”

    Perfect clarity, like a diamond bullet right in the forehead. Everyone take two steps back while he’s curing diseases and the water shortage.

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  40. And Yed, I don’t want to say that SEAN’S RIGHT but you seem a little fragile.And maybe dehydrated.

    Let’s see you jokers go months without a decent sip of potable water and see how fragile you are! I am convinced that Elijah has come back and shut the skies over California – thank God we have a strong El Nino brewing this winter, otherwise Arizona might creep all the way to the Pacific.

    Can anyone spare some Evian, heck even some clean toilet water for a West Coast brother?

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  41. Mudsworth,

    I still remember watching that flood on the news the summer before my freshman year of HS – back when I was a real ladies man, and was in no way awkward.

    We are getting close to the Mellow Yellow rule being enforced out here, they are arresting and fining water wasters. It is beyond me why we are only water conscious in a drought. SoCal is a semi-arid/desert climate, so even when we aren’t in a drought it isn’t like water’s abundant. The thing that would probably help us most in terms of long term water management besides desalinization would be to incentivize as opposed to penalize the creation of farm-ponds in rural and semi-rural areas. They retain rainfall and improve the hydrological cycle if there is enough of them.

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  42. “Funny how the P&W advocates didn’t promote militarized along with contemporary worship.”

    They do make electric guitars in the shape of axes. Picture one of these being used by the guitarist of a P & W band in the context of a church service:

    http://www.amazon.com/Glen-Burton-GE2011-Electric-Guitar/dp/B00COMQ722?SubscriptionId=AKIAIKBZ7IH7LXTW3ARA&&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B00COMQ722&tag=wwwbookcompar-20&ascsubtag=5605b60a48308f0d38704128

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  43. FYI, this brief thread has got to be the most satanic in the history of OL. At least that I’ve seen. Renewed Mind has poisoned my memory. People use that in a church service? With or without choreography?

    And I thought “everybody sing allelu / for the lord is risen, it is true” was as bad as it could get:

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  44. Jed, I’m one of those guys who would have made $1 million on inventions in my head. Here’s one for you: some kind of product that needs only two drops into the toilet bowl so the yellow doesn’t stink.

    Apologies to any squeamish readers, though surely they’ve been weeded out by now.

    Like

  45. Kevin,

    But where else in one performance can all not only all Christians be embarrassed, but all white people?
    I would suggest washing out that Renewed Mind with some Allman Brothers.

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  46. Kevin – not to support that video of Todd’s too much!, but since DG brings up Zen (Audacious post), I’ll say – the renewed mind IS the key according to the Lord, not of course, one’s own mind or Buddha’s, etc, though, but Christ’s.

    be renewed in the spirit of your mind; we have the mind of Christ Eph 4:23;1 Cor 2:16

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  47. Fragile Jed (redundant, I know). Book of Genuine Water Vouchers on the way. Just need your bank deets. Kool, klear water. Texas is here for you, where the water tables are full and the shale oil flows.

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  48. Forget the water guys, just send in the male nurses with the srtaight jacket, I think I just need to get away for a little while. Don’t worry it’ll be good.

    Like

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