Skip to content

“What Bach Teaches Us” by Hugh Whelchel

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” is derived from the Cantata “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” (“Heart and Mind and Deed and Life”) by JS Bach.

“[The famous composer Johann Sebastian] Bach lived in Germany in the first half of the eighteenth century…[Bach] was an accomplished organist, yet the genius of his work as a composer would not be discovered until 80 years after his death.  This humble man, who [was later admired by Mozart and Beethoven and] would become the Baroque Era’s greatest organist and composer, wrote most of his music never knowing if it would ever be played by anyone other than himself.

Bach was not only a musician but also a theologian whose medium was music.  [Influenced by his Lutheran upbringing, Bach] clearly understood that one of his callings was to write music to the glory of God.  In fact, at the end of every one of his musical scores, he would write Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone).

An article in Christianity Today about Bach ends with the following quote:

‘But music was never just music to Bach.  Nearly three-fourths of his 1,000 compositions were written for use in worship.  Between his musical genius, his devotion to Christ, and the effect of his music, he has come to be known in many circles as “the Fifth Evangelist.” ‘

The Link Between Work, Worship, and Service

Bach understood the essential connection between work, worship, and service that many in the church today have forgotten. The Hebrew word avodah used in the Old Testament can be translated three ways―as work, worship, or service.

  • The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (avodah) it and take care of it’ (Gen 2.15).
  • Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, This is what the Lord says:  Let my people go, so that they may worship (avodah) me” ‘(Ex. 8:1).
  • ‘…But as for me and my household, we will serve (avodah) the Lord’  (Josh 24:15).

Read more…

The Founding Fathers

“Signing of the Constitution of the United States” by Howard Chandler Christy (1940), US Capitol (PD-Art, Old-100)

It has become popular to blame religion for the ills of the world, and deny that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

But the concept of “separation of church and state” was devised to protect religion from subservience to the state – not eliminate all reference to religion and morality from public discourse.

With this in mind, we would be wise to recall what our Founding Fathers had to say about morality and government.  Here are just a few examples.

“[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God’s, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar’s.”

-William Penn, Founder of the Colony of Pennsylvania (1682)

“To grant that there is a Supreme Intelligence who rules the world and has established laws to regulate the actions of His creatures, and still to assert that man, in a state of nature, may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law and government, appears, to a common understanding, altogether irreconcilable.

Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory.  They have supposed that the Deity, from the relations we stand in to Himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.”

-Alexander Hamilton, principal author of the Federalist Papers advocating ratification of the Constitution, and first Secretary of the Treasury (1775)

“[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.  The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”

-John Adams, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Second President of the United States (1776)

“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? …I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business…”

-Benjamin Franklin, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution (1787)

Read more…

Upon the Waters

“Moses in the Bulrushes” by Elizabeth Jane Gardner (1878), (PD-Art, Old-95)

But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank.  And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him” (Exodus 2: 3-4).

When Moses’ mother, Jochebed, could no longer hide him from the Egyptian authorities bent on murdering Israelite male children, she placed him tenderly in a basket and delivered him to the Nile.

Trusting God

But Jochebed had not consigned her child to fate or the whims of Hapi, the pagan god Egyptians thought controlled the river.  Unwilling to see Moses murdered before her eyes, Jochebed had entrusted her beloved son to the care of God Almighty.

In doing so, Jochebed placed Moses’ welfare before her own.  She was undoubtedly aware that saving his life could mean her death.  The Egyptians were determined to keep the Israelite population down, which is why their ruthless policy was instituted.

A Woman of Compassion

Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah (who had the child drawn from the Nile) knew instantly that Moses was Hebrew.  In fact, she sent for a Hebrew wet nurse.  It does not, however, seem that Bithiah was aware the nurse summoned was Moses’ mother, Jochebed.  We know this because she paid Jochebed wages for her services.

The Bible praises Bithiah for her compassion.  Moses was raised in the royal household with all the advantages of a prince.

Silence and Distance

It is unlikely Moses realized that Jochebed was his birth mother, until he was again reunited with her as an adult.  We can surmise that Jochebed kept silent about their true relationship – and kept her distance from Moses, during the intervening years – in order to protect him.

Modern Day Parental Sacrifice

Despite the passage of time, any parent can understand Jochebed’s actions and intentions.  With few choices at her disposal, she quite literally cast her bread upon the waters, risking everything to give her child the chance for life.  Then she gave him up for his own good, sacrificing her happiness for his.

Not surprisingly, refugees at America’s border are doing the same today.  The ACLU (which has assumed responsibility for reuniting refugee children with the families from which the Trump Administration policy of “zero tolerance” separated them) reports that repatriated families are refusing reunification [1].

Parents who emigrated to the United States because of the violence and death in their countries of origin view the fact their children are now safe as consolation for the pain of separation from them.  This does not, of course, justify the policy.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is considering a new plan for families attempting entry at the border [2].   Under this approach – known as “binary choice” – migrants will be permitted to choose between remaining in family detention for an indefinite period that may last years as their legal case proceeds, or allowing their children to be removed to a government shelter where relatives or other guardians can pursue custody [3].

It is difficult to imagine a more heartbreaking choice.

Read more…


Lost Maples Natural Area, Texas, Author Wing-Chi Poon (CC BY-SA 2.5 Generic)

Another Autumn is upon us.  The leaves are turning brilliant shades of red and gold, their beauty a simultaneous warning of the inevitable approach of Winter and a piercing reminder of our own mortality.

Once we could bravely face the future.  But our journey and the battles fought along the way have wearied us.  We are laden with sorrows and scars.

As we grow older, many of us feel our anxieties mount.  We dread the loss of loved ones.  We fear for our finances.  We envision ourselves being overtaken by illness – our faculties dimming, our strength gone.

There is some truth to this view.  We must all eventually let go of this life.

Christians though know that Spring follows Winter, that this life is only a precursor to the next.  The poignancy of Autumn heralds the glories of a new season and a new dawn with Christ.


Love Thy Neighbor



Photo of Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner taken 11 days before Gettysburg Address, Mead Art Museum, Source (PD-Art, Old-100)

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure…

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced…that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

-Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863)

Earlier this month, we buried a great American, a military hero, an advocate of bipartisanship, and a model of political courage.  This week we were treated to a travesty by his peers.

John McCain must be turning over in his grave.

Whatever else we may have hoped for during the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings, what we witnessed was an ugly display of partisanship and the raw exercise of power.

Democrats and Republicans alike betrayed their high calling and the American electorate – alternately fawning over a woman whose credibility was in dispute, and engaging in the blood sport of political attack.  Critical evidence was not pursued until public pressure was finally brought to bear.

The search for truth be damned.

When did we become so certain that our personal views are absolutes and our political allies are saints above reproach?  When did we decide it was appropriate to win at all costs? Read more…

Fair Treatment on the Farm, Part 2

“The Harvest” by Ivan Kolesnikov (1922), National Museum in Warsaw (Accession No. M. Ob. 1188), Source Digital Museum (PD)

Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4: 1).

Across the globe, refugees, displaced persons, illegal immigrants, children under the age of legal employment, and others work as day laborers [1A]. Such people often find work in landscaping, agri­culture, and piecework manufacturing.

Both undocumented migrants and those employing them are operating outside the law.  Motives for this may vary.  But, in the long run, employers benefit more than employees.

Employers can rationalize paying less than minimum wage, providing poor living conditions, and even denying such basic necessities as rest, shade, and water.  This is not, however, Christian conduct. Read more…

Fair Treatment on the Farm, Part 1

“A Harvest Scene” by James Ward (c 1800), Yale Center for British Art, Author Google Arts and Culture (PD)

Apples, oranges, cherries, blueberries, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, garlic, spinach, asparagus, and almonds are among the foods still planted, nurtured, and/or harvested by hand [1].  But American agricultural businessmen are confronting a growing labor shortage [2A].

Some are making difficult choices about abandoning key fruits and vegetables; importing workers under special visa; replacing workers with machinery, where available; or moving their operations overseas [2B].  A few have already begun raising wages well beyond minimum, to no avail.

Despite all this, the myth remains that illegal immigrants are depriving Americans of jobs which should be legitimately theirs.  And the treatment undocumented migrants receive is frequently below par.

Illusory Wages

“Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey [2C].”

One major reason Americans disdain seemingly high wage farm jobs is that such wages are illusory [3A].  Farm work is seasonal.  Farm workers alternate between months of 60-hour weeks and long stretches of unemployment [2D].

California in 2015 had 705,000 farm workers who earned an average $17,400 (58% percent of what a full-time worker would have earned) [3B].  The largest category of farm workers – those 293,900 employed by labor contractors – earned an average $9,900 (no more than 44% of what a full-time worker would have earned).

Physically Demanding Jobs

“ ‘[T]he impact of immigrant labor on the wages of native-born workers is low… However, undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that native-born workers are not willing to do.’ ”

-Brookings Institution, Senior Fellow, Vanda Felbab-Brown [4]

More often than not, immigrant workers do the disagreeable and physically demanding jobs that native-born Americans prefer to avoid [5].  Gutting fish and picking fruit at an unrelenting pace in 95 degree heat are among these.

Read more…


Star Wars logo, Author User:KAMiKAZOW

There is today a religious movement by the name of Jediism.  Over 390,000 people in England and Wales stated their religion as Jedi in the 2001 census, exceeding Buddhism and Judaism there [1]. Another 70,000 did so in Australia.

Based on principles derived from the Star Wars movies, Jediism reflects the desperation of people searching for meaning in their lives…searching for God [2].

The Force, the energy from which everything is said to derive, does not require prayer or worship.  Belief in the Force is, of course, futile. 

God – the real God, the only God, the God of the Bible – has never been lost.  Any other god is false.

“…[There has] been a legal religion in the United States since 2007 and tax exempt since 2015…

They follow the Jedi code, consisting of 21 maxims, as the starting point for the Jedi belief system.

The Jedi Code:

…There is no Emotion, there is Peace…There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge…There is no Passion, there is Serenity…There is no Chaos, there is Harmony…

The 21 Maxims:

Prowess:  To seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a Jedi.
Justice:  To always seek the path of ‘right’.
Loyalty:  To have faith in your Jedi brothers and sisters.
Defense:  To defend the way of Jediism.
Courage:  To have the will.
Faith:  To trust in the ways of the Force…[Continued at”

[1]  Wikipedia, “Jedi census phenomenon”,

[2]  Fandom, Religion Wiki, Constructed Religions, “Jediism”,


A Burden Lifted

This is an update from Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia (CLCP), a faith-based non-profit whose predecessor I helped found years ago.

CLCP is a legal ministry serving the poor of Philadelphia.  (Additional information on Christian legal aid can be found above.)  Please, pray for this worthy cause and consider donating, if you can.

“Matt and Deborah have been embedded in North Philly this summer through the InterVarsity Gateway program working for CLCP as our summer interns.  Deborah is from New Orleans and will be a junior this fall at Villanova…Matt is from Scranton and will also be a junior this fall…[He] is studying actuarial science at Temple…

Matt and Deborah got to experience our clinics where Deborah who is also fluent in Spanish helped as a translator.  Deborah shared how she has learned that ‘God can use [her] identity as a First Generation Latina in the U.S. to participate in His mission of justice by working as an interpreter and breaking language barriers alongside incredible people seeking justice with the love of God.’

Matt was surprised to discover that not all consultations have a happy solution.  He has seen how messy situations can be and how the lawyers seek to make the best of a bad situation,..[H]e has learned…how many things there are to consider involving the client.  He was encouraged ‘watching clients come into clinics with desperation and hopelessness, and then watching them walk out with a burden lifted from their shoulders.’ Read more…