Posts Tagged books

“And Then There Were None” – sinners in the hands of an angry conscience

And_Then_There_Were_None_US_First_Edition_Cover_1940I’m currently reading the classic Agatha Christie novel, “And Then There Were None”.* In the story, 10 people are lured to a large estate on an island by a mysterious host. On their first evening there, they are shocked by the sound of a strange voice coming from the walls. The voice accuses each one of them of a different murder and gives them each a death sentence. Later, they find that the sound of the voice came from a gramophone player in the next room. The novel progresses with each guest dying in strange and cryptic circumstances. (The novel and others like it are the source material for so much parody that as a post modern guy reading it through the filter of “Clue,” I sometimes forget that it’s not a comedy.)

gramophone 1918The picture of a gramophone player behind the wall has stuck with me. It’s a great picture of what goes on in my head sometimes: an accusatory voice-recording that plays over and over, recounting my sins and pronouncing judgement. The voice recalls things that I did today, yesterday and far in the past. Sometimes it even accuses me of things that I might do in the future, things that I have the capacity to do. Then the voice passes judgments like, “You are going to fail, you are going to mess up your kids, you are going to destroy your ministry, you are going to derail God’s mission, you are going to die alone and disgraced.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that you probably have a similar voice in your head.

In the Bible, there’s a great story about a voice of accusation. The prophet Zechariah has a vision of Satan accusing one of the High Priests named Joshua.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” – Zechariah 3:1-3

The LORD uses HIS more powerful voice to rebuke Satan and to undo these accusations. Then He removes the filthy clothes which represent his guilt and his failures and then the LORD replaces them with clean clothes which represent a restored record of conduct and new identity. Then the LORD commands Joshua to listen.

“‘Listen, High Priest Joshua…I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. – Zechariah 3:8b-9

He is going to speak a new word that will not only remove the sins of Joshua but also pronounce the death sentence of all the sin in the whole land. The death sentence will be carried out by the LORD’s servant, the Branch, the stone with seven eyes (representing wisdom and insight). Today we know the servant/branch/stone by the name Jesus. He has removed the guilt and the accusations and has silenced the voice of accusation.

Through Jesus my guilt has been removed, but I still sometimes listen to the gramophone in the wall. In response to that voice, I have to make a daily practice of “preaching the gospel to myself” over and over again. It’s a major part of my ministry of worship music leading, too. Our songs are weapons against the voice of accusations. We sing them over and over to assure our hearts that the voice of the LORD has spoken his judgment with greater power and efficacy. HIS judgment is:




*Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the original British versions of this novel used an old racist poem, “Ten Little N******s” as the title of this novel. Yuck! Later publications scrubbed the racist elements of the poem to be “Ten Little Soldiers” which is the edition that I’m reading. Since the racist content had no bearing on the actual story, I think they made a wise choice in changing it – not to mention the fact that racism sucks. If you think about it, the changes to the novel represent a similar removal of “filthy garments,” that was described in Zechariah.

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Resources for cross-cultural worship

New City Fellowship Music

  • New City Music [] – free pdf lyrics, lead sheets, and streaming demos
  • James Ward [] – purchase recordings and choral anthems
  • Kirk Ward [] – my blog and store

Modern Worship

  • Songselect [] – one stop shopping from CCLI’s music subscription service
  • Praise Charts [] – purchase individual songs with detailed transcriptions of the recording
  • Worship Together [] – good place to get ideas or find resource links (popular tunes often include Spanish lyrics!)
  • Sovereign Grace Music [] – less mainstream, but extremely gospel-focused songs

Hymnals and “The Hymn Movement”

Gospel Worship

International Resources

Recommended Reading:

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Give a Hoot, Read a Book!

I’m reading some books these days. So should you! Don’t be impressed that I am reading more than one  book at a time. I get a little impatient and often start books before I finish the other book I’m reading.

This one just came in the mail, and it will be difficult to not dive in…

“Give a hoot, read a book!” is the slogan from Krusty The Clown’s literacy campaign.

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A Quick Book Review: “A Hole In Our Gospel”

Why did Jesus come to the world? Why did he have to die? What was the point of his ministry here on earth? The answer to these questions is what we call “the gospel”, the good news. Most people in the church today would respond to these questions with “Jesus came to save us from our sins” or something to that effect. Jesus inaugurated his ministry by reading from Isaiah 61.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4:14-20

The “hole in our gospel” that the author,  Richard Sterns, refers to in to  is that the church has presented a gospel that leaves out the call to defend the cause of the oppressed. The book presents the problem in most church’s understanding of the gospel (mostly through recounting his own story of how the course of his life was altered by the gospel which led him to become the president of World Vision). Then he describes the enormity of the problem of poverty in the world. In the end, he gives some practical ideas for how to get the American church back into the battle. I give the book a thumbs up (if you can do that with books).

My colleague, Steve St Pierre, gave me the book. He has a box of them in his office that he dispenses like the balloons at Trader Joe’s.

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