Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How to Create More Atheists

There's a short video making the rounds that purports to explain religion in two minutes. It's a clip of Ricky Gervais basically claiming the only reason anyone believes in anything spiritual is because they were taught to believe that way when they were young and impressionable. The take-away instruction is that he thinks no one should be taught anything (beyond "don't touch that fire" or "don't go near the wolf") until they're twenty and that there would be a lot more atheists if we did that.

Let me say a couple things about that.

1. Yes, of course, what we are taught when we are young greatly influences what we believe and how we live when we get older. I freely admit that I WANT to believe in Jesus because of my old-school, follow-the-rules upbringing. But the Truth of early teaching equaling indoctrination applies to everything from language to toiletry habits. It's the way we learn anything worth learning.

2. Not teaching young people about spirituality is, in fact, teaching them something about spirituality. It's teaching them it's not important or it's up for grabs. It's assuming the existence of God is a matter of opinion and somehow less real than being burned by a fire or eaten by a wolf.

Reminds me of a sadness I had more than once in my Youth Ministry Daze. Parents would come to me saying, "My 15-year-old is giving me fits. He's disrespectful. He doesn't want to attend church. Can you help?"

What I always WANTED to say is, "Yes. I can help. Go back in time to when he was 2 and don't let him whine his way out of being in Sunday School. Go back in time to when he was 5 and make sure YOU were always involved in church. Go back in time to when he was 12 and keep him out of the sports team that practiced or competed on Sunday mornings. IT'S TOO LATE NOW, MOM! YOU'VE ALREADY SHOWN HIM WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU."

Truth is...I realize those things I wanted to say only prove the depth of truth about how early instruction is influential to a person's eventual belief system. But since Truth is not a matter of opinion, and rejecting God's love is just as dangerous as jumping into a fire, I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Deja Vu

Apparently in order to keep the song count for the first side of In Another Land at seven, Larry Norman cross-faded two songs, "If God Is My Father" and "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus", and gave the result the single title of "Deja Vu". And it kind of makes sense, because this appearance of "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus" is not its first (It was on the 1972 album, Only Visiting This Planet). It also makes sense to arrange them like this because the content of the first song really does directly lead to the second.

If God is my Father and you are my brother
Then why can't we bother to really reach out and love one another?

Why do we keep on acting the way we do?
The way we treat each other, it just breaks my heart in two

Once we were happy, oh, yes, once in the garden
And then a lie broke the stillness
And our hearts began to harden

And hoping to be wiser, man has reached too far
Sometimes I think that we've advanced
But then I look at where we are
©1976 Beechwood Music Corp.
J. C. Love Publishing Co.

Sippin' whiskey from a paper cup
You drown your sorrows till you can't stand up
Take a look at what you've done to yourself
Why don't you put the bottle back on the shelf?
Yellow fingers from your cigarettes
Your hands are shakin' while your body sweats
Why don't you look into Jesus? He's got the answer.

Now think back to when you were a child,
Your soul was free, your heart ran wild,
Each day was different, and life was a thrill
You knew tomorrow would be better still
But things have changed you're much older now,
If you're unhappy and you don't know how
Why don't you look into Jesus? He's got the answer.

Work all night, sleep all day
You take your money, throw it all away
You say you're gonna be a superstar
But you never hung around enough to find out who you really are

Why don't you look into Jesus? He's got the answer.
©1973 Glenwood Music Corp.
Strawbed Music


Truth is...most of our world's advancements have been technological. What has been the same throughout all history, and should make us feel like "I've been here before", is our need for redemption, restoration, and resurrection. We are worthless, ruined, and dead until we accept the answer God provides in His son, Jesus of Nazareth.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

He is Risen! So What?

This is not your average blog-post-closest-to-Easter kind of post.

While I've been known to talk about the solid evidence for believing that Jesus of Nazareth was killed on a Roman cross about 1,988 years ago but didn't stay dead, this post is not about that.

It's not about that, because there's something more important  -  maybe even something more surprising and earth-shaking  -  that I want to bring to our attention.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying the Resurrection didn't happen, and I'm not saying the Resurrection isn't important. I absolutely agree with Paul when he says "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (I Corinthians 15:17-19)

The point I want to make ... the "so what?" of this post's title ... is that Jesus' resurrection needs to have an effect on our lives in the here and now. It wasn't just for Jesus' benefit, and it wasn't just for our eventual existence in heaven for eternity.

We should be living with confidence, power, victory, and the reckless, raging fury called the demonstrated love of God.

Right here.

Right now.

Why? Because "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation — but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God." (Romans 8:9-14)

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Truth is...While the historicity of the Resurrection is absolutely vital to Christianity's existence, you and me walking and talking and loving people in the power that was demonstrated by that empty tomb is absolutely vital to Christianity's continuance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Much Too High A Price

I recently was reminded of a song I'd sung publicly a few times many years ago and it strikes me that many who regularly visit this space may have never heard it...and that's a shame.

Not a shame that they've never heard ME sing it, but a shame that they've never heard it at all. It speaks clearly of the lengths to which God went to show His love for us...the price He paid in order to pave our path to life eternal with Him. (And with Good Friday just a few days away, now is a perfect time to introduce the song to the those unfamiliar with it.)

This is the most popular recording of Much Too High A Price, sung by Larnelle Harris.

Your love endured the cross
Despising all the shame
That afternoon when midnight fell
Your suffering cleared my name
And that sin-swept hill became
The open door to paradise
Because You paid so high a price

You paid much too high a price for me
Your tears, Your blood, the pain
To have my soul just stirred at times
Yet never truly change
You deserve a fiery love
That won't ignore your sacrifice
Because you paid much too high a price

Your grace inspires my heart
To rise above the sin
And all the earthly vanity
That seeks to draw me in
I want to tell this jaded world of love
That truly saved a life
A love that paid
So high a price

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...the first time I heard this song, I cried. I rarely sang it all the way through without shedding tears. And today, when I just read the words to my son so he would know what I was talking about...you guessed it. How can I not be overwhelmed by being loved so completely?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

So Will I

We sang this song as part of our worship at my church. I was supposed to lead the congregation in prayer right after it. It took me a bit to get the catch out of my throat and the tears out of my eyes.

God of creation
There at the start, before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark and fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapour of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship, so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You've made
Every burning star, a signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises, so will I

God of Your promise
You don't speak in vain, no syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science, follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature, so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky, a canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You, so will I
So will I, so will I

If the stars were made to worship, so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence, so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness, so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high, so will I
And if the wind goes where You send it, so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence, so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we'll sing again a hundred billion times!

God of salvation
You chased down my heart through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You, so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You've done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender, so will I
I can see in Your heart, eight billion different ways
Every precious one, a child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them, so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire?

You're the One who never leaves the one behind
"So Will I"
Benjamin Hastings, Michael Fatkin, Joel Houston

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Truth is...Just as the good shepherd leaves the 99 sheep grazing on the hillside and risks everything to go find the one little lamb who wandered away (Matthew 18:12), so Jesus left the glories of Heaven to scoop me up from whatever metaphorical briar-filled ditch I'd gotten myself stuck in. I must...I simply must join in with all of creation in praising Him and expending all my life's energies for the glory of His name and the spreading of His love.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Righteous Rocker #3

Larry Norman recorded several different versions of "Righteous Rocker" throughout his career, but since this blog has taken it upon itself to educate the masses about the album In Another Land, you get to listen to the shortest (48 seconds) and least rocky rendition available.

You can be a righteous rocker or a holy roller
You can be most anything
You can be a child of the slum or a skid row bum
Or you can be an earthly king
But without love you ain't nothing without love
Without love you ain't nothing without love...

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Truth is...no matter how fast, slow, long, short, rocking, or contemplative the arrangement, this particular song is an able restating of Paul's words in First Corinthians 13:1-3.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (NLT)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Chris Rock On Marriage

If you know ANYthing about Chris Rock's standup comedy, you know I can't post a clip for you to see him in action and maintain the purity standards I've set for this blog. That's right, he allows words to flow from his mouth that are not suitable for the audience that has been established here.

What you may NOT know is that he's got a few excellent words of advice on relationships tucked away inside his current comedy special streaming on Netflix, Tambourine.

Allow me to clean things up a bit and pass on some truth:

You got somebody you love? Hold tight. Commit. And don't be the one always threatening to leave. If you're gonna leave, leave now. That's right, now. During the show. But before you leave, you better make sure you got some options. Some of y'all been in relationships so long, you don't know how ugly you are! [Okay, don't include the "leave now" stuff as part of the truth I'm wanting to pass on to you. I just thought it was funny.]

People say, "Oh, relationships are tough." No they not. They only tough when one person's workin' on it. That's right. Two people can move a couch real easy. One person can't move it at all.

If you're in a relationship, let me try to help you right now.

Rule One: Stop competing. It's not a competition. Her success is your success, and your success is her success.

Number Two: There is no equality in a relationship. You're like, "We equals." No, you're not. You're both there to serve. You are in the service industry.

When you're in a relationship, you're in a band. And when you're in a band, you have roles that you play in the band. Sometimes you sing lead, and sometimes you're on tambourine. And if you're on tambourine, play it right! Play it with a smile, 'cause nobody wants to see a mad tambourine player.

It's like Hall and Oates. I don't know WHAT Oates does, but Hall never had a hit record without him.

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Truth is...I cannot recommend much of the rest of this particular piece of comedy, but I can meditate on the truth of these particular thoughts.