Tuesday, December 6, 2022



At Cool Creek Park, Westfield, IN

My hunch is the best known "family squabble" in Christianity is the Calvinist (Predestination)/Arminian (Free Will) debate. Of course, there are some in both camps who disown the other camp. 😭

If you asked me when I started Bible College my thoughts about Calvin, I'd reply that I'm not familiar with his presidency, but I knew he had a wry sense of humor. Yes, I had heard of Calvin Coolidge, but had no knowledge of John Calvin, or of Calvin Klein jeans or Calvin and Hobbes (the latter for good reason, since this was seven years before that comic started).

Two events that occurred in a day or two which introduced me to the subject. First, one of my professors teaching Old Testament Survey commented about a book and said it was a little too Calvinistic for the students. Shortly afterwards, one of my fellow students  said the teacher had no right to say that, and he handed me a booklet with the five points of Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism. (A little history - the Arminians came up with their points first, and the Calvinists' points were in response.) This friend, Tom Cousins, mentioned most of the college teachers were four point Calvinists, disagreeing with the concept of Limited Atonement. I'll tell you about my reaction in the next installment.

At this point, I'll ask you to fasten your seat belts, because this paragraph will travel from talking with my fellow student on a fall 1978 afternoon in Phoenix to mornings in Indianapolis in the late '90's. Here are the few developments in that theological tussle:

  • In spring/summer '79, I learned Evie's song "Say I Do" contained some Calvinistic theology in it ("I guess Jesus didn't die for you.")
  • In fall '79, I read the chapter on Calvin in Fox's Book Of Martyrs, which didn't deal much with the theology.
  • During Christmas break, '80/'81, I spent part of the holiday with some friends whose father was a pastor who did not agree with Calvinism, saying Jesus didn't pick some to rescue while letting others drown.
  • In Church History I in the fall of '85, I learned what Pelagianism was and thought it was similar to Arminianism. I also learned about Gnostic theology, and had the opinion that the "sparks of divinity" and dual pre-destination resembled Calvinism. Okay, please drop the stones - just my opinion back then.
  • Same semester, another professor told us that he considered himself a four-and-a-half point Calvinist. I forgot what word he used to imply what was limited rather than atonement.
  • In '95, I read a pamphlet about Calvinism from Calvary Chapel (I'm guessing it's written by Chuck Smith, but I'm not sure). One thing is the author thought the "u" in the TULIP acronym stood for "Unmerited Favor" instead of "Unconditional Election." (At that time, I would have made the same mistake without having read that pamphlet.)

I'll deal with the last 27 years in Indianapolis and how my views developed in the next two installments, but I'll give you a quick summary of my knowledge of this issue at that time:

  1. I had no idea how Calvinistic most of my pastors at this point were - none dealt with the subject (or if they did, it went over my head). I did attend a couple of churches in predominately Arminian denominations, but even there it wasn't a major issue.
  2. Due to a three year break from college and the revamping of the curriculum, I managed to escape college without taking either Romans or Soteriology (under the title "Doctrine of Salvation and the Church before I left and "Theology III" which also dealt with man, sin, and angels after I returned). As mentioned above, I took Church History I, which was pre-Reformation, but I didn't take the second semester.
  3. Yes, this was the age before the internet, but I never heard anybody imply this was more than a family squabble. My belief was then (and still is) that both camps were true Christians.
It's at this point where I got introduced to this Civil Holy War.

Sunday, December 4, 2022


Cincinnati Zoo Nativity Scene

O little town of Bethlehem,
    How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
    The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
    Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
    And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
    Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together,
    Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
    And peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
    Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
    The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel!



  • This song is being posted on the 2nd Sunday of Advent - Advent of Peace. I mentioned last week about the differences between Advent songs (expecting Christ's coming) and Christmas songs (about Christ's birth). This is definitely a Christmas song, but I thought it would be appropriate looking at God's peace.
  • Did you notice anything not completely typical about this nativity scene photo? It was a mild December day, and the person who kept the rabbit decided to let him out while she was cleaning up that area. I thought that the rabbit added to the peaceful look.
  • You may have noticed, but "sin" is rarely mentioned at Christmas time (and not much if any more the rest of the year). What I like about this carol is it doesn't keep up with that (should I say sinful) tendency. It mentions in the third verse that we're "in this world of sin," and in the last verse it exhorts us to "Cast out our sin." 
  • Speaking of verses, I consulted Cyber-hymnal to see if there were any besides the four I'm familiar with. The answer is "yes." The fourth verse is not included in my post, as it isn't in the hymnals I'm familiar with. You can click here to see the missing verse.
  • One other bit of info on the Cyber-hymnal page (besides a picture at the bottom of the Church of the Nativity) is this about Phillips Brooks (who wrote the words to this hymn): "Brooks wrote about his horse­back jour­ney from Je­ru­sa­lem to Beth­le­hem, where he as­sist­ed with the mid­night ser­vice on Christ­mas Eve, 1865:
    'I re­mem­ber stand­ing in the old church in Beth­le­hem, close to the spot where Je­sus was born, when the whole church was ring­ing hour af­ter hour with splen­did hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voic­es I knew well, tell­ing each oth­er of the Won­der­ful Night of the Sav­ior’s birth.'

Thursday, December 1, 2022


Soundless Whisper: clockwise from left: Nathanael, Fredrik, Mikael, and Zharlie (in front).

Okay, maybe there are countries that I like their music a little better. My favorite mainstream band is the Aussie Little River Band. One of my favorite Christian bands is Canadian quartet known as The Daniel Band. I've also been fond of Swedish bands like Europe, Abba, and Roxette. This year I've added two Swedish Christian bands to the list: Dark Valentine, who I interviewed earlier this year, and Soundless Whisper. 

Would you be surprised if I discovered them in the group Female Christian Rock & Metal? I didn't think so. Today, I have the privilege to interview band members Zharlie Sambeko (singer, guitarist, and songwriter) and Fredrik Bergman (keyboards, song arrangement).  

JR: Welcome to my blog. I would like to ask about how the band started and who's all in it. 

ZS: In 2010 we got a new pastor in our church and I wrote a ”rock-song” to play at his first service as our pastor. We had talked to him before and I included some thoughts on his vision for our church in the song. During this time Fredrik and I were in another band called Shadows of Paragon who play Christian extreme metal (we still are by the way). After doing this song in church we thought it was fun to play this style of music also, and decided to form a band.

We got a drummer and a lead singer, and I did back-up vocals, but after some time they both left the band. So we spent quite some time trying to find new members, and we ended up having Fredrik's brother Mikael as our new drummer. He is a very talented and experimental drummer, and taking him in, also meant that our sound changed quite a bit. 

Later we asked a friend who also is a great bass player, Nathanael, to join us. And Fredrik switched from bass to keyboard which also had an impact on our sound. We struggled to find a singer, and one day we went to a Petra concert in Sweden, and got the chance to greet the band, and we took the chance to speak with John, and gave him a CD with our demo songs and asked if he would do a guest performance. We said we would keep in touch, and later we found out that he really liked our songs and decided to do some guest vocals for us. I ended up taking the lead vocals on the rest of the parts/songs.

JR: How did you become a Christian? 

ZS: People may think I am crazy for remembering this, but I had a vivid memory and I must have been no more than 3 years old (because it was before my knee surgery I had when I was 4), and I remember it was Easter and my parents who were Christian talked about a Man who lived in Israel and He was a wonderful man who healed sick people and was really nice to people. I must have missed the part that it all happened 2000 years ago, because I thought He was living on earth today. On Long Friday they talked about Jesus dying…and everyone was sad…and for me it happened in real time. And that Sunday He rose from the dead! I the whole time I thought it was happening today, in Israel. And I remember my mom having a conversation with my older brother, about receiving Jesus into your heart  and I remember that I secretly joined in that prayer.

FB: I was raised in a Christian family. When I was 14 years old, I had a special encounter with God, and was immediately healed from my asthma/allergies. From that day, I became a believer independent of my family’s faith. 

JR: Would you like to tell us about your latest single "Dark Cage"?

FB: "Dark Cage" is one of the songs John sings on. It’s also the song we chose to make a music video for. It’s a catchy song with influences from both rock and metal. The lyrics are about a person who is going through depression, and John is the encouraging voice from God to that person. We think John did a fantastic job and we are thankful that he also chose to be part of our music video.

ZS: After hearing John’s testimony of how deep in drugs he was and how God sent people in a very specific time to save him from all that, we understand that he can relate to our lyrics and we think that also gives a deeper meaning to his presence in our songs.

JR: Who would you say have been mentors/influences/heroes (for a lack of a better term) both in your faith and in music?

FB: Both Zharlie and I have a background in a performance-oriented Christianity where God was righteous, but strict and demanding. Some years ago we found a deeper understanding of grace and freedom in Christ. There are many pastors preaching grace but it mostly comes from the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the balance of grace and faith. Musically, Petra have been a great influence and also a lot of metal bands.

ZS: When I was younger I listened to a lot of Christian rock and metal bands, anything I could get my hands on. Petra was one of them, and I always thought John Schlitt was an amazing singer. I remember I used to think ”it probably doesn’t matter what words he sing, it will still sound good”. I also really like Amy Lee and Evanescence - they have definitely inspired our sound. 

JR: Were there any memorable experiences in recording and/or performing? And have you had a chance to come to this side of the pond yet?

FB: We have played very few times live so far. We have focused on writing and producing the music. We have recorded and produced everything ourselves in our own studio. Years back, our teacher in music production used to say ”you never finish a mix, you just have to choose when to abandon it”. We have worked for so many years with this album that we actually feel that we DID finish it.

I didn’t plan to master this album myself because I felt that other people could do it better than me. One summer I sat and experimented a little bit with mastering, and during a couple of days I felt like God revealed knowledge about mastering in a supernatural way. Suddenly I realized that we don’t have to hire someone else to do this, but we can do it ourselves. For me this is one thing that leads me to believe that God really has a purpose for this album.

ZS: Studio memory: It was only a couple years ago we came to the conclusion that I was gonna do the lead vocals. I don’t really have a strong, powerful voice, so I spent hours in the studio trying different methods and trying to sing with attack and edge. It was also a challenge to find the right vocal style for the different songs. In "Anything is Possible" I felt that I didn’t want to follow the beat very exactly because it takes away some of the sensitivity and passion of the song, so in the beginning I am purposely a little off beat.  So I did a lot of experimenting between singing very softly - like in the beginning of "Love Will Heal", or in "Escape Those Dreams" - and trying to sing very ”angrily” like in "Dismayed", "Dark Cage" and "Stop Running".

I lived in California when I was younger, but I have never played in the U.S. Of course we would want to come there some day, if a door opens up.

JR: What's it like being a Christian band in Sweden? What challenges are there that may not be here in the U.S.? How have you dealt with COVID? And what are sources of encouragement you've had during these trials? 

FB: I imagine there is a bigger scene for Christian bands in the U.S. because you have more people and more Christian people who will listen. The Christian rock/metal scene was a a lot bigger in Sweden about twenty years ago than it is now. It’s impossible to only depend on local listeners, but through internet we have a chance to reach people worldwide and that’s what we try to do. COVID did not affect us so much, partly because Sweden probably had the lightest restrictions in Europe, but also because we mostly worked in our studio and we never needed to have more people than allowed. 

JR: Thank you for your time. What project(s) are you working on? How can we keep up with your ministry?

FB: We work on a lot of different projects from pop to extreme metal, but we try to prioritize to get more time for Soundless Whisper. Follow us on social media (like our webpage and our Facebook page) to keep up! 

ZS: I am working on a solo album that is sing/song-writer style. Hope to finish it 23/24 sometime. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2022


WVIU Music Awards

  As I was going through the list of nominees for the '22 WVIU Music Awards, I found the list for female fronted bands. Included were Divine Martyr, Reclaim The Day, Saving Jackie, and Undefeated. Do those names sound familiar? And why is each one underlined and in blue? That means they're links to interviews I've done with these four bands. So which one do I vote for? Not an easy decision. Same thing with Rock Song for the year where two of the nominees were my two favorite songs from the past year - "Fear" by Divine Martyr and "Sentenced To Life" by Reclaim The Day. 

I smiled when I saw these four bands and Samuel Day on the list of nominees. I also saw several artists I was unfamiliar with. Some of them I have since interviewed (Brave Worship, Crystoria, Toni Lashaun, and Yung Priest Da Preacher), and others I have contacted and hope to have their interviews soon.

So allow me to start with congratulating the past and hopefully future interviewees.

SONGWRITER ON THE RISE: CRYSTORIA!  I had the honor of interviewing her last month.

VOTING MEMBER'S CHOICE - WORSHIP PROJECT OF THE YEAR: BRAVE WRSHIP (NICOLE DRENNAN). Her interview was just a couple of weeks ago, plus I had the opportunity to hear her at Get To The Point Festival with Reclaim The Day, Divine Martyr, Tempus Unum, Hush Harbor, and Inarticulate Bones.

LISTENER'S CHOICE - SONGS THAT REMIND US OF OUR PURPOSE: "YOU CHOSE ME" BY TONI LASHAUN. Well deserved! That song has been a blessing to me.







Left to right: Logan Morehouse, Becca Sugg, Marcus Sugg.

Congratulations to both all the above and those listed below, as well as to the well deserved nominees.

  • Gospel Singer of the Year- Carrie Davis
  • Contemporary Artist on the Rise- Appointed
  • Worship Song of the Year- "REFINER" by Jesseca Toovey
  • Industrious Women in Music- Tiffany Coleman aka: MIZ TIFFANY
  • Best New Artist- TORI TELLEM
  • Inspirational Song of the Year- "HOPE FOR THE WORLD" by Daniel Evans
  • Favorite Christian Rap Duo- Bro. Glenn & C.O.G. (WayyMakker)
  • Gospel Singer on the Rise- Lisa Johnson
  • Drummer of the Year- MASON BEARD
  • Inspirational Artist on the Rise- MATTHEW ELIAS MCQUEEN
  • Pop Artist on the Rise- KATELYN DOYLE
  • Solo Acoustic Artist of the Year- BRIAN HOFFPAUER
  • Poetic Lyricist of the Year- "QUESTIONS" by B/CHRISS
  • Americana Artist of the Year- GREG ALLSUP aka: FryKatz
  • Male Rap/Hip Hop Artist on the Rise- JOSHUA SCALES
  • Contemporary Song of the Year- "CALL OUT HIS NAME" by Brooklynn Nicole
  • Male Rock Vocalist of the Year- JARON COX
  • Country Artist of the Year- MELISSA LEIGH
  • Favorite Female Rap/Hip Hop Artist- MS. LAVISH
  • Listeners Choice~ Christian Rap Song of the Year- "BRIGHTER" by SKY feat. 1kPhew
  • Song of the Year- "THERE SHE GO" by Tori Tellem
  • Favorite Male Rap/Hip-Hop Artist- SKY
  • Album of the Year- "HEART ON MY SLEEVE" by Tom Taylor
  • Favorite Christian Pop Song- "CHILD OF GOD" by Katelyn Doyle
  • Songwriter of the Year- MATTHEW ELIAS MCQUEEN
  • Worship Vocalist on the Rise- ANGEL VEGA
  • Songs on Repeat- "SIDE STEP THE DEVIL" by Bro. Glenn & C.O.G.
  • The Future Generation of Music- GULLY MARK

Sunday, November 27, 2022


Angels, live nativity scene, Castleton United Methodist Church, Indianapolis

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


  • Raise your hands if you realize we're in Advent season? The last 16 weeks I've shared songs in, with one exception, alphabetic order. For the next four weeks, I'll be dealing with the four weeks of Advent, which will be followed by Christmas and New Year's Day.
  • What is the difference between an Advent Hymn like this and a Christmas Hymn like "Silent Night?" The former anticipates the coming of the Promised Messiah, the latter focuses on the event of Christ's birth.
  • There are different ways of looking at Advent. Some break it up into various actors in the Christmas story (e.g. Prophets, Angels). Others look at various things Christ has brought into our lives. This week, I chose "O Come O Come Emmanuel" for the Sunday that's the Advent of Hope.
  • How many hymnals have eight verses to any hymn? Not many. Most hymns are trimmed to four or at the most five, and what gets trimmed is fairly uniform. But not always. This hymn, as well as "Crown Him With Many Crowns," "Anywhere With Jesus," and to a lesser extent "Take My Life And Let It Be" often have varying verses, with different hymnals having a different list of verses. So I went to Cyberhymnal and posted all eight verses (which was more than I thought - for some reason, I thought it was seven!) By the way, there are other hymns that have that many verses - "Soldiers of Christ Arise" have 16 long verses.
  • This song is what's called plainsong. In those days, a lot of music was sung in unison aca pella without large jumps in the melody.
  • Anybody start trying to figure out the meters after I talked about them? If you have, you'd notice the verses are long meter (8,8,8,8). You can take another long meter song (e.g. "All Creatures of Our God and King", "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross", or the Doxology), and sing it to this tune, adding the chorus.

Thursday, November 24, 2022


From Vision Beyond Borders 2022 calendar, Nov. 24 

 You can celebrate Christmas all year round if you like, but I'd prefer celebrating Thanksgiving all year round. (I'd also celebrate Resurrection Day, Pentecost, Reformation Day, All Saints Day and maybe Groundhog Day all year round, too, but that's for a different blog!) So allow me to start by wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

So allow me to mention some things I've been thankful for this year:

  • Of course, top of the list is the Triune God: Our gracious Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Because without God, there wouldn't be anything else to put on the list, or a meaning for what's on the list.
  • My wife, Rebecca (aka Becky). We celebrated our 39th anniversary this year.
  • My church, Northside Baptist Church: for senior pastor Jeremy Couture; for Joel Johnston and Eric Billin, who have filled in while we were looking for a new worship leader, and for Alex Darnall who will be joining us in that role; for my Sunday School class (taught by Jim Myers, Glen Christie, and Tim Schlotterbeck), my men's Bible study, my D-group, and the men's prayer breakfast, and missionary friends Bob Henninger and Rowland Mondal.
  • For other friends that have been part of my life, either in-person or on-line (and sometimes off-the-wall?): Richard and Trish Walton and Arlington Avenue Baptist Church, Bill Scott, Mel Brown, Joshua Jacobs, Gary and Amy Wixtrom, James Lawson, Mark Mirza, Kerry Jackson, Kerry Nietz, Donna Fletcher Crow, Steve Sering, Mike Cassady, Dan Schafer, Andrew Horning, Russell Brooksbank, Grady Loy, Lonnie Atkeson, David Patton, David Huddleston, Dave Hope, Tod Moses, Robert Roberg, Dwight Liles, and Monte Baker. (Of course, I'll probably miss someone.)
  • For other fellowships: a three-time-a-week phone-line men's prayer time; involvement with mission groups Voice of the Martyrs, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Spirit of Martyrdom, Vision Beyond Borders, Medical Ambassadors International/Community Health Evangelism, Ethnos 360 (I'm wearing their T-shirt as I'm typing), World Venture, International Mission Board, and North American Mission Board; Facebook groups Discussion Board for Jesus Music 1969-1989, Female Christian Rock & Metal, Calvinistic Dispensationalists Unite!, and The Daniel Band, and Libertarian Christian Institute and Mere Liberty.
  • For my employer, where I've been for 22+ years now.
  • For getting familiar with some Christian musicians (always a joy), especially members of Divine Martyr, Reclaim The Day, Undefeated, Hush Harbor, Brave WRSHP, and True Revival.
  • For the interviewees on this blog I've dealt with this past year. I have had 51 interviews since starting this blog July '20, and 35 have been since last Thanksgiving. I enjoyed all of them, but some stand out by how much the interviewee blessed me during the process and some by how much the interviewee was blessed by being interviewed. One story about the latter: Usually, I ask for an interview, tell them I'll send questions in a week, send them questions in a week or two or so, in some cases getting the answers without a reminder (though not all). When I contacted Divine Martyr and told Woody Hughes about interviewing them, it was 3-4 days before Woody was checking up on getting the questions! That made my day.
  • Last but not least, thank you to anyone who reads this blog. 
Again, happy Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022


What is the purpose of missions? What should the relationship between the missionary and the supporting local church be? Should the local church have missionaries they support all over the world to show their commitment? Are short-term missions trips a blessing or a trial for the long term missionaries?

Andy Johnson, author of "Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global"  (Part of the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches series) starts out with the various views Christians have about missions. He does an excellent job looking at how missions was done in the New Testament, and how to apply those principles.

I'm in a Southern Baptist, where technically through their Cooperative Program every SB church supports every SB missionary. Johnson suggests it may be better for churches to have a smaller number of missionaries to support and then give substantial support to the few.

On the subject of short term missions, Johnson questions if those trips are more for the benefit of the short-termer than the field missionary or the mission field. He suggests a long-term relationship between the local church and the missionary so that the short-termers are doing what helps the missionary. He gives an example of a short-termer from his church in D.C. taking care of baby sitting (including diaper changing) while the missionaries go through training. The missionaries were in tears when they learned the regular job of that short-termer was being on the White House staff.

As is typical for the 9Marks books, I highly recommend this short book.