Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not Much Brain Left

IMG_0529  Ordinarily, I like to put something here that reflects what I'm feeling or mentally processing, but you may have noticed that for a little while I've mainly been commenting on some aspect of the mixing process for "Dark Ritual".

That's not been intentional, since every Friday we make a point of giving you a recap on our progress. I just haven't had room in my brain for much else. I also post over at "Paeter's Brain" every Wednesday and sometimes find it a struggle to think about what's going on in my non-Spirit Blade life (since I try to keep work out of that blog) for that post, so there's usually not much left that I'm thinking about to put here.

This is especially true now, since I've given myself a goal for finishing my first complete mix of "Dark Ritual". I've been putting in a lot of extra hours to make it happen and I'm just chomping at the bit to hear the finished product. So Dark Ritual is about all I'm thinking about these days, apart from a few other daily essentials.

All that to say that I'm sorry for not having very interesting material in this slot each Wednesday. I'll try to do a little better between now and finishing up "Dark Ritual".

Catcha later!

-Paeter Frandsen

Monday, July 28, 2008

In Search Of Truth


1 Thessalonians Chapter 1

As we read in Acts 17, Paul had just started a church in Thessalonica, but had to leave because of some antagonistic Jews that didn't like what he was teaching. In the first three verses of Acts 18, Paul finds himself in Corinth, living and working with a husband and wife who had been expelled from Italy for being Jews. During this time, Paul writes two letters to encourage and inform the young and struggling group of Christians he had been forced to leave behind in Thessalonica.

In his greeting, Paul uses a phrase common to his letters: "Grace and peace to you."

You may remember that we've defined Grace here before. In a nutshell, it means "undeserved favor". In the Bible it can be used as broadly as it sounds, but often refers specifically to the undeserved favor given to us by Christ's death and payment for our sins.

"Peace" refers to undisturbed and untroubled well-being. Having peace with God, through trusting in Jesus, instead of the natural conflict with him we create with our sin, is the real key to having peace regarding the other details of life.

Paul highlights several positive traits in the Christians he's writing to that we can look at and try to imitate.

1. Their "work of faith". The Thessalonians had genuine faith that motivated them to take action.

2. Their "labor of love". Their genuine love propelled their strong efforts.

3. Their "endurance of hope in Christ". They continually chose to trust in Jesus.

Paul also says that God "chose" them. This might seem like an odd "blip" on the radar, considering that so much of the Bible seems to ask us to "choose" or "believe in" God, right? But although we are responsible for our decision regarding Jesus, in some way we can't quite grasp, God also chooses those that he will save. Everyone that genuinely chooses to believe and trust in Christ, has also been chosen by God.

The text doesn't allow us to go any deeper into this topic right now, but we'll very likely be returning to it at some point in the future.

Let's take a look at the "indicators" Paul mentions that convinced him the Thessalonians had been chosen and saved by God. (Verses 5-7)

They accepted the words of Paul's "gospel"(which means "good news" and usually refers to the basic truth of who Jesus is, what he did for us, and what it means for us now and forever). There was some unspecified display of God's power and the Holy Spirit. There was also a sense of conviction. This last one is a point worth pausing for.

If we're really allowing the Holy Spirit to do some work inside of us, then our own sins will bother us enough that we take action against them. We'll also have priorities in life that are reorganized in light of the truth. If neither of these things are happening, there's a good chance that we are ignoring the Holy Spirit. If these things are happening, then like the Thessalonians, we'll be used by God to transform the lives of those around us!

Even while suffering pain and mistreatment by others, these new Christians became "imitators of the Lord" and received the truth with a sense of joy despite their circumstances. (v.6) This ended up being a striking example to those around them. (v.7-8)

The Thessalonian Christians were all people that had broken from their traditional culture to trust in Jesus. They had some Jews in their ranks, who would have been familiar with God, but most of them were non-Jews from polytheistic backgrounds, who were strong enough to break from the norm and follow the genuine, legitimate, God of all existence. They waited for "His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come."

It had only been about 20 years since Jesus had been raised from the dead, so the Thessalonians had the benefit of eye-witnesses and other forms of fresh evidence. It takes a little more digging for us today, but like the Thessalonians, we have to decide if we're willing to break from popular opinion and begin the search for truth.

Next Week- Searching For Truth In "Spirit Blade, Chapter 5"!

Coffee House Question-

Who has been the biggest "influencer by example" in your spiritual life?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Finishing The Score


Today, Paeter is putting the finishing touches on the score for "Dark Ritual" and moving forward with the prelude for the mastering process. This means that Paeter will now be going through each scene and adjusting the mix for both audio quality and storytelling purposes: raising and lowering EQs when they are hard on the ears or not loud enough to be effective, fading out certain sounds or scoring to give attention to other details, etc.

Paeter is also writing the "script" for the opening and closing credits and will soon be scheduling Randy Hesson to record one or both sets of credits.

Although we're feeling the crunch for time, we're still aiming for the mastering process to begin on August 12th. Ths gives Paeter under three weeks to finish 1 and 1/2 songs and make the adjustments to the mix that he would like to before putting everything under the microscope. 

That's all the latest for now! Have a great weekend and don't forget to tell a friend about "Spirit Blade: Chapter 4" playing on our podcast this weekend!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting Epic

IMG_0528 I feel just a little behind in scoring. I'm close to the end but still haven't finalized my scoring decisions and purchases. There's some great material to choose from, but in one or two cases I still have to look pretty hard to find that perfect cue to underscore a scene.

The end of "Dark Ritual" is shaping up to sound pretty epic in scale, so I'm also going to be going back and adding a few layers to one of the last songs so that it fits better with the surrounding score.

All things considered, I'm not too far behind, but I'll have to really work hard if I want to have the first mix completed by my goal date of August 12th.

As always, your prayer and encouragement is greatly appreciated. Hope you're having a great week!

- Paeter Frandsen

Monday, July 21, 2008

In Search Of Truth


Looking At Truth In "Spirit Blade: Chapter 4"

During his intense battle with the Nephilim, Vincent says something unusual. "The battle belongs to Yeisou."

Even though Vincent is in the thick of things, he makes every effort to remember that ultimately he is not the one who will determine the outcome of his conflict. This line in the script was motivated by a theme that can be found in the Bible:

Psalm 3:8- Victory comes from you, O Lord. May your blessings rest on your people.

Psalm 62:11- God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you;

1 Samuel 17:47- And everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours. The Lord will give you to us!

2 Chronicles 20:15- He said, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat! Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's.

The Dark One uses a combination of lies and truth to appeal to Merikk. He truthfully states that, in Merikk's current condition, the Dark One is his father. (Jesus says something similar in John 8:39-47) He also tells Merikk that he wants him to be comfortable. If it's true that Satan wants us to feel comfortable with his agenda and way of living, we might ask ourselves if we can trust the mottos: "if it feels right, do it", or "do what your heart tells you".

Proverbs 9: 13-18- The woman named Folly is loud and brash. She is ignorant and doesn't even know it. She sits in her doorway on the heights overlooking the city. She calls out to men going by who are minding their own business. "Come home with me," she urges the simple. To those without good judgment, she says, "Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best!" But the men don't realize that her former guests are now in the grave.

Jeremiah 17:9- The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

The Dark One says that humanity has the power to move beyond our weaknesses, but Merikk has his doubts. The Bible expresses some thoughts about that, too.

Romans 3:10,12- As the Scriptures say, "No one is good- not even one." "All have turned away from God; all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one.

Romans 3:23- For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.

James 2:10- And a person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God's laws.

The situation for humanity doesn't look optimistic, does it? Although when comparing ourselves to other humans we might look pretty good, when comparing ourselves to God's standard, perfection, even the best of us falls far short. But as Merikk suggest, despite the Bible's grim diagnosis for humanity, the Bible also lists the cure:

Romans 6:23-For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8-But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 3:22-28 We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

Coffee House Questions

Do you think humans lean more toward doing good, or more toward doing evil?

Do you find it easier and more natural to serve yourself, or to sacrifice your interests and serve others?

Do you think that those who have hurt you should be punished or face some form of consequences for their actions? Do you think you should face consequences for things you've done that have hurt someone else? Why or why not?

Next Week

Our first look at 1st Thessalonians!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight (Review)

The much anticipated sequel to Batman Begins delivers a ton of story for your dollar, clocking in at 2 hours and 30 minutes and not wasting any time. A combination of great performances, realistic special effects and solid writing bring another Batman experience grounded in realism, but still able to deliver some exciting thrills.

Director Chris Nolan brings his gritty sensibility to the film again, although a little inconsistently this time. While the Joker has to wear make-up in order to assume his iconic look, there are some technological gadgets that stretch the suspension of disbelief further than the first film did. For my taste, I prefer a joker whose skin is stained white across his entire body, and stays that way. In "The Dark Knight", the Joker's make-up and hair-dye would fade from wear and tear on the character, resulting in a few moments where he didn't quite look like the Joker as much as a weird guy who just got home at 6am from a really crazy party.

Add to that Ledger's performance. Although I was sad to hear about his death, I'm removed enough from it that I feel l can judge his performance without being too easy or too hard on him. Ledger brought a dark and creepy sensibility appropriate to the famous maniac, but lacked the outlandish, larger than life aspects of the Clown Prince Of Crime. Jack Nicholson carried this part of the character, but on the flip side, Nicholson lacked the creepiness the Joker needs that Ledger brought so effectively. Overall, I felt the "Nolanized" version of the Joker in this movie was just getting started, never quite reaching the grand, insanely operatic potential of the character. With luck, we'll see a more evolved Joker in the next film. But don't be dismayed. Ledger's Joker still has some wonderful moments. Darkly funny and sometimes just weird. I'm not crazy about the strange chewing and lip-smacking he does so much of in the film, but Ledger's performance is still one that takes risks, tries new things and results in an interpretation of the character that definitely has appeal.

Another bright spot in the movie include Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. To my mind, any change of casting in that role would be an improvement, so welcome Maggie! Aaron Eckhart does a wonderful job as D.A. Harvey Dent, and though the film doesn't delve as deeply into Dent's psychology as I would have liked, Eckhart also handles the progression of the character well.

There's a surprising amount of daylight in this movie, considering that Batman is a character associated with night and darkness. Gotham City is an even more realistic looking place than it was in Batman Begins. In fact, much of the movie feels so realistic that when there are no heroes or villains on screen, you forget that you're watching a "superhero movie". For my personal taste, I'd like a more stylized approach to this kind of film, a good example being Spider-man, where they showcased some of the more interesting buildings you might find in the Big Apple and the colors were just a little less dry than in "Dark Knight". Certainly nothing like Batman Forever or even the first two Batman movies, but something just a little more eye-catching would have been nice.

As I said before, you get a lot of movie for the price of admission. There are some cool action bits from early in the film that feel like they were from a different movie by the time the credits roll. I was never bored, but you recognize the length of the thing when you finally get up to leave.

The action in this movie is similar to the first. It's not stylized with lots of slow-mo. The combat is quick, brutal and lacking any fanfare. This has its pros and cons. The best action moments of the film result not from breath-taking special effects, but from the clever concepts that bring these moments about. Both the heroes and villains are smart in this movie, and victory comes not because of a bigger gun in each battle, but because of a better plan.

There are a ton of subplots to digest, but none of them seem rushed through. Again, there's just a LOT of story going on here.

As for Relevance, there's a great theme running through the movie about what a hero truly is, and a valuable reminder that doing the right thing is often not easy and doesn't come with any appreciation or credit from those around you. You may even be hated for it.

The movie ends not with massive explosions, but dramatic intensity, reminding you that you care a great deal about these characters. For that, my hat goes off to the writers, directors and performers.

Not the coolest or flashiest superhero flick, but one that pulls you into Gotham City and makes you care about the people who live there.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace

Quality: 9.0/10.0

Relevance: 7.0/10.0

Final Score Purchases


Today, Paeter is making the final selections for the score of "Dark Ritual" and will be finalizing purchases today and Monday.

It's been a great week of mixing and editing, experimenting with various musical themes and styles. Dark Ritual's score will be a blend of electronic music and epic orchestral/choral sounds that will heighten the experience for our listeners and draw them into the mysterious and sometimes frightening world of "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual". The adventures of Merikk, Vincent and Raan have never sounded more cinematic and we can't wait for you to hear it!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In Search Of Truth


 Acts, Chapter 17

Once again in a new city, Paul heads straight for the synagogue, where he knew he would find an audience of Jews familiar with Scripture. Using Old Testament prophecy, he convinced some Jews and even more Greeks that Jesus is the Messiah.

Some Jews felt threatened by what Paul was teaching, and so stirred up a controversy that resulted in Paul and Silas leaving the city by night. Next, at Berea, Paul went to the synagogue again and found an audience receptive to what he had to say.

The author, Luke, compliments the Bereans for being both receptive (or we might say "open-minded") to Paul's words, while also using Scripture to verify what he taught. In the same way, we should be open to hearing and processing new ideas, even if they conflict with our own. Isolating ourselves from new ideas will stunt our growth in both character and knowledge. However, like the Bereans, we need to compare any concepts or philosophies we learn to Scripture. Any idea that conflicts with something in the Bible is not an idea from God and should not be applied to our lives or become part of our personal philosphy.

Soon, the Jews from Thessalonica heard that Paul and his companions were in Berea. They couldn't resist following him and causing more trouble, and so Paul soon found himself in Athens.

Like our world today, Athens had a wide variety of religious beliefs. But this concerned Paul because he knew that none of them would lead to the restored relationship we need with God that only Jesus can provide. Paul began to reason with people in both religious and non-religious environments. The philosophers and thinkers of Athens found Paul interesting and so brought him before the Areopagus, a council considered to have authority in the realm of morality and consideration of new religions or gods.

In Athens, there were at least two major philosophies. The first mentioned is Epicurean philosophy. They believed that God was uninvolved in the universe and irrelevant. Their life goal was pleasure and the avoidance of pain or emotional disturbance. The second philosophical group mentioned is the Stoics. They opposed pleasure and believed that God is contained in nature, rather than being truly omni-present.

With this in mind, take another look at verses 22-23. In Athens, we see a reflection of modern day America in several respects. Or at least an America that people seem to hope for. There is a common desire to be "open to all religions", without recognition of their irreconcilable differences. In response, Paul first compliments their spirituality, and then highlights the aspects of Christ's character that differ from the religions and philosophies the Athenians currently followed.

One of these characteristics is God's absolute independence from humans.(Verse 25) God doesn't need us to worship him in order to exist or thrive. Our belief in him does not make him, our lack of belief does not unmake him.

In verse 28, Paul uses an interesting tactic. He quotes poetry from Greek and Cretan poets that his audience would have been familiar with. These poets undoubtedly had spiritual views that contradicted Biblical truth, but Paul isolated ideas from their work that lined up with the truth and used them to make a connection with his listeners.

While we shouldn't use this as an excuse to watch or do whatever we want, we can follow Paul's example and be aware of truth when it appears, however briefly, in movies, music, video games, comics, books and other forms of entertainmant. You never know when a conversation about something you and a buddy love might turn into something more meaningful.

Likewise, using pop-culture comparisons to describe Biblical truth can be a great way to help someone visualize a concept. It's important to know when the comparison has to end, but popular media can be a great tool for discussing the real issues of life and the nature of God.

Lastly, take a look at verses 29-31. God is not willing to share credit with fictional gods and dreamed-up philosophies. God is not willing to be one god among many, so "openness to all religions" is not something he values. Regardless of upbringing or culture, God wants everyone everywhere to drop everything that pulls them away from him. And the time will come when God will hold everyone accountable for their actions and their relationship (or lack of one) with Jesus.

"But how can I know that the Bible is telling the truth?" God actually presents his case by raising Jesus from the dead. A radical claim unmatched by any other religious founder. In verse 31, God says, through Paul, that this is the proof for everyone that Jesus is the real deal. Christianity hangs on whether or not Jesus really did come back from death. For a stimulating look at this issue, we'd recommend:

The Case For Christ, by Lee Strobel

Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Vol.1, by Josh McDowell

Both of these books take a hard, logical look at the historical evidence for Christ's resurrection, extensively citing their sources along the way. Either one is a great place to start an examination of this controversial event.

Next Week: Searching For Truth In "Spirit Blade: Chapter 4"!

Coffee House Question

What movie, comic, tv show, game, or book can you think of that has elements of Biblical truth or contains ideas or events that are paralleled in the Bible? What are they?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Out Of Town

IMG_0528 Hey Everybody!

Just FYI, I'll be out of town and our office will be closed tomorrow (the 9th) through next Monday (the 14th). Download purchases are automated and will still work instantly. CD purchases will be processed first thing Tuesday morning.

My wife and I are going to the Frandsen family reunion up in Yellowstone Park, Montana, where I come from. (Well, I don't come specifically from Yellowstone National Park. Although that would be cool if I was born in the wild!)

It's pretty rare for me to see so many of my extended family members, so we're really looking forward to it!

On the "Dark Ritual" front, I'll be working on the "post-credits" epilogue scene today. When that's done I'll start to finalize scoring, finish the two remaining songs and then dive into mastering. OH! And here's a bit of news that might interest you. "Dark Ritual" will actually run LONGER than "Spirit Blade"! So much longer that instead of cutting it down to fit on two discs, we're going to release it as a THREE CD set! It will probably clock in at just under three hours! And with three discs of space, I'll be able to fit a blooper reel onto the CD set again! Woohoo!

Okay, that's all for now. See you next week!

- Paeter Frandsen

Monday, July 7, 2008

In Search Of Truth


Looking At Truth In "Spirit Blade- Chapter 3"

In this chapter, Raan expresses his understanding of God in the song, "All And Everything". We've included the words for this song here:

What you are is what I need. Where I go, you must lead. When I hunger, you will feed. So I will turn to you. I will turn to you.

What you saved is what I give. Why you died is why I live. When I fail, you always forgive. So I will turn to you. I will turn to you.

Chorus: You are all I've ever wanted. You are all I'll ever need. You are all I'll ever dream of. You are all and everything to me.

When you speak, I will hear, and with your words, banish fear. For when I'm weak, it's then that you're near. So I will turn to you. I will turn to you.

Who you are I want to know, and in your shadow yearn to grow. And though there's pain, it's present so that I will turn to you. So I will turn to you.


Merikk: Could it be that you are all I've ever wanted? Could it be that you are all I'll ever dream of?

Raan: You're everything to me.

(copyright 2006 paeter frandsen)

Because God has given us the ability to reject his instruction, people are able to do things that bring evil and pain into the world. But God can even use bad circumstances to express his love for us. Although our freedom of choice means that God will not instantly fix the problems in the world whenever they arise, God cares about those who are in pain and suffering.

Exodus 3:7- Then the Lord told them, "You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering."

Psalm 22:24- For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.

God can also use painful experiences to bring us closer to him, or to enable us to give others comfort when they are in pain.

Romans 5:3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us-- they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.

2 Corinthians 1:4-5 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

After Raan's song, we might ask ourselves, How can God possibly be 'all I've ever wanted'? What is God like?

For some answers, we'll have to delve into Theology a bit. This might sound like an intimidating word, or one for stuffy, closed-minded religious people. But "theology" just means, the study of God. Learning more about who God is can be exciting and inspiring! We'll just touch a little of theology right now to give you a taste.

Romans 11:33-36 (New Living Translation) O what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.

From this section of Romans, we can deduce that God is someone we'd want to be with("wonderful"), he's more intelligent and wise than any human, and his resources are beyond any human's. He is the originator of everything, the sustainer of all physical and non-physical reality and the purpose of everything.

James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights.

Although we can twist enjoyable things into evil, everything good we are able to experience ultimately comes from God. Raan recognizes this when he says-

You are all I've ever wanted. You are all I'll ever need. You are all I'll ever dream of. You are all and everything to me.

Are people basically good? If left to our own devices, will we naturally tend toward good, or evil? Raan seems to think that we tend toward evil and selfishness. Not a very popular idea. But we might ask ourselves a couple of questions as we process this.

1. If our natural tendency is to do good, why is it easier to be selfish than it is to be selfless?

2. If it is everyone's natural tendency to do good, why do we see self-sacrifice (in the everyday sense) as such a rare and noble attribute instead of commonplace and ordinary?

Raan probably developed his view of this issue by looking at what the Bible has to say about it, so let's do the same thing here:

Genesis 1:27- So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 I discovered that God created people to be upright, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.

Psalm 14:2-3 The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if there is even one with real understanding, one who seeks for God. But no, all have turned away from God; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not even one!

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.

It would seem that because God desired to create us, and desired to create us in his image, that we would have value to God. Having a tendency toward evil doesn't remove our worth to God. But it does disrupt our relationship with him. We may do good based on our own standards. We might be good compared to other humans. But the standard is not Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, Britney Spears, Mother Teresa or any other human. The standard we fall short of is God's. To even BEGIN to understand God's goodness, we need to imagine the possibility of genuine perfection. Goodness beyond anything we've seen and even beyond what we can conceptualize. We have to redefine words like "good" and "evil" the way God sees them, because he's the one who understands them the best!

Before we become too depressed, sulking in our failure to meet God's impossible standards, we should remember that God KNOWS we can't do it, no matter how hard we try, no matter how sincere we are in our efforts. If he lowers the bar, he'll have to deny what is right and abandon justice. But that's contrary to his perfect character. So instead, he gives us the solution through Jesus.

Jesus, whose worth is infinite, was able to pay the penalty for all of our mistakes, past present and future. We'll get into the details of this another time, but for now, know that God loves you, values you and wants a restored relationship with you, no matter what you've done in the past. And he's willing to pay the price to see that happen!

Have a great week and enjoy Chapter 3 of "Spirit Blade"!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Live Cello/ Final Scenes


The first recording session with our Cello player went great and we'll be finishing up her recording early next week.

Paeter is mixing the final scene before the credits and will likely solidify scoring decisions and make purchases for the music next week.

Once this is done, we'll be able to finish scripting the end credits to appropriately include composers, after which Randy Hesson (Vincent) will be coming in to record the end credits for us.

Our office will be closed from July 9th-14th while Paeter and his family are out of town for a family reunion.

The last few days have gone extremely well and we are even feeling ahead of schedule by a day or two. We appreciate your continued prayers and word of mouth support!

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Should Pastors Be Paid Full-Time? (A Continuing Discussion)


A podcast listener recently sent me a great e-mail (responding to something I said on the podcast) with some thoughts regarding pastors who are employed full-time. His e-mail resulted in my critical analysis of my own thoughts on the matter and a great time of study as I looked for answers in the Bible.

I'll try to summarize the points he made first:

1. Having full-time clergy undermines the basic premise that we are all ministers of the Gospel and should all be doing God's work here on earth. This results in congregations where the staff are the only people involved in furthering God's kingdom while the congregation, at best, gives some money out of unwilling obligation.

2. When the sole source of income for a pastor is his church's membership, he is at their mercy in terms of his financial well being. This can leave the pastor in a difficult position.

3. Pastors with other employment are more in-touch with what is going on in the world and can be more relevant and just as effective teachers and preachers. Although there might be seasons for both working in a church and outside of it for most pastors. Even Paul made tents at times.

He suggested that we not throw the whole system out, but that we re-evaluate it. So that's what I set out to do and would love for you to join the discussion while we use scripture as the judge for this issue. Here's what I've found so far:

(Scripture quoted from the NASB translation of the Bible.)

1 Timothy 5:17-18

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the Ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

The Greek word used for "honor" is "time" (pronounced tee-may'). It can be used to imply wages/payment or reverence. It could mean simply reverence here, but I wouldn't rule out financial compensation. The metaphors used in verse 18 deal with practical needs being met. The Ox should be allowed to eat while he's working. And the Greek word for "reward" here, "misthos", is also translate to "wages", though not always. Because of these verses alone, I don't think we can call financial compensation for Pastors and church workers wrong by nature. But I still wanted to dig deeper.

1 Corinthians chapter 9 has some compelling material to examine. Paul is communicating to the Corinthians that he has been more kind and giving than they should expect. He lists a number of rights that he has that he has given up for their sake. One of these rights seems to be the right to be otherwise unemployed while he teaches. (Verse 6) According to Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, editor of the New American Standard Bible, the Greek word for "working" in verse 6, "Ergazomai", refers to being employed in this context. To me, this appears to support the idea of full-time Bible teachers.

Verse 7- Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

Paul again quotes Deuteronomy 25:4, and gives some God-inspired commentary on it.

Verses 8-10

I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle the Ox while he is threshing." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher {to thresh} in hope of sharing {the crops.}

He points out that this law isn't just about oxen. It's for humans, too. And although words of thanks and appreciation are important for our church leaders, Paul makes it clear that our leaders should be able to expect material compensation.

Verse 11- If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

The Greek word for "material", sarkikos, is used only 11 times in the New Testament. It means, "things pertaining to the flesh". It can have a negative connotation, but Thayer's Greek Lexicon indicates that in this instance it's referring to "things needed for the sustenance of the body".

In Paul's case, he believed that his ministry would be more effective if he didn't demand these things of those he taught.

Verse 12- If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

Paul also validates the Old Testament material compensation of church workers, treating it as though it is still in effect.

Verse 13- Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the {food} of the temple, {and} those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?

He then makes a comparison and says that God designed things for teachers of the Gospel to earn a living from it.

Verse 14- So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines this word here as referring to "getting a living from a thing", in this case, from proclaiming the Gospel.

Although Paul does not demand payment, he does still refer to payment as a "right in the Gospel". (Verse 19)

So from this passage, I come to a few conclusions. Payment for those who regularly teach the Gospel is not only okay, it's honoring to God and in line with his expressed will. Payment for Gospel teachers is meant to meet their physical needs, but there is no indication that it should make them financially wealthy. In some situations, it may be advantageous for teachers to refuse payment, but this decision seems to be up to the teacher. (Unless, of course, no one is willing to give payment. In this case the teacher obviously has no choice. Some new churches today start out like this, with the church staff working other jobs to meet their needs.)

This system may result in abuse by the teachers of the Gospel. We could all probably list examples of this happening. I also agree that we are all meant to share the Gospel. However, each one of us, though responsible for making disciples, will serve in different ways with different gifts. 1st Corinthians 12 discusses the importance of our differences, while emphasizing unity and equality. We associate financial success and fame with self-worth, so the fact that a teaching pastor is paid and seen by many, can prey upon this distorted value system and can make us think that the pastor is somehow more important to the Kingdom of God than the person sitting in the 11th row, 4 seats in. 1st Corinthians 12 smashes this idea to bits and validates diversity, unity and equality in the Kingdom, all at once.

Many churches have ignored issues of corruption and congregational responsibility, resulting in a church that has lost all effectiveness. But I don't believe paying the pastors full-time is to blame. The leadership of the church should be promoting accountability both ways. The leaders holding members accountable for involvement, service and purposeful, biblical living, and the congregation holding the leaders accountable to passages like 1 Timothy 3. (Money is among the issues mentioned in this passage. If a pastor seems to be hording his money, he may love it too much to continue being a pastor!) This can be done in a variety of ways. Our church uses an Elder Board system, composed of non-staff , non-paid Elders approved and held accountable by the congregation. Our board actually has a leadership role over our head pastor, and he is accountable to them.

So if the leadership isn't effective in motivating the congregation to serve, I'd say that payment isn't the problem, but WHO they are paying may be. (In other words, ineffective leadership should be replaced with effective leadership.)

As for the pastor being financially at the mercy of the congregation, this is unfortunate, but "part of the job". I think God is concerned for the teacher's financial well-being too, and so included passages like 1 Corinthians 9 in the Bible.

At some point in a podcast or web post, I think I may have said: "A pastor who works outside of the church is
less effective than one who is employed by it."

I apologize for that wording. What I SHOULD have said is that "I believe a pastor who has to work a regular job in addition to his role as pastor, will be less effective than he would be if he were employed by the church full-time." I'll also say that this is my personal belief. I find no direct support in scripture. I would definately agree that there are plenty of pastors who are not paid that teach the Bible much more effectively than other pastors who are paid. But if a full-time pastor is hard-working, he'll have more time to accurately and deeply study scripture(teaching more accurately and deeply as a result), more time to mentor people one-on-one, more time to visit the sick, more time to dedicate himself to prayer (and the list goes on) than he would with an additional part-time job.

There may be seasons where pastors work outside the church. This can be an advantage in connecting with "normal" folks. Then again, it may make little or no difference. I guess I'd have to look at some data to decide one way or the other. Our pastor was a farmer in Nevada for a number of years both before and during his leadership of a church there. He's literally been "in the trenches" and it shows. So it may be that in his case, working the farm made the difference. I can't know for sure.

My unverified estimate is that we live in a world where there are a lot of corrupt, or at best "dead" leaders and leadership structures in American churches. There's no accountability and as a result all the concerns expressed in the summarized points 1 and 2 become real. Finding a church that is even attempting to break out of that mold can be hard or impossible, depending on where you live.

I agree that we can't just tear down all churches and start over. But we can be used by God to make a difference in the churches we attend. If you suspect corruption, laziness, or any unchecked failures to the 1 Timothy 3 standards in the leaders of your church, I'd recommend opening dialogue with them on it. While I don't think there's a case to be made from the Bible for cancelling payment of teachers, a case can clearly be made for accountability. Eventually(and I stress eventually), it may be the right move to find another church, but hopefully God would use you to bring positive change that will trickle down and effect your entire church community without you leaving.

So that's where I'm at in the absence of more scriptural application. If you've got something to add to the conversation, don't hesitate to leave a comment. All of your thoughts and questions motivate me to study and find answers, which is really important to my growth. Hopefully we can all grow together!

See ya!

-Paeter Frandsen