Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Acts 2:1-13 With Footnotes

In this blog's ongoing effort to expose the masses to some of the seminal works of Jesus Music pioneers, we come to the first album by siblings Annie Herring, Nelly Greisen, and Matthew Ward...collectively known as 2nd Chapter of Acts.

Their tight, intricate harmonies and Annie's unique song-writing made 2nd Chapter stand out as originals in a sea of "if you like this secular artist, you might like this Christian artist."

Their debut album, With Footnotes, was released in 1974 and had a back cover that featured the text of the actual second chapter of Acts (from Today's English Version ©American Bible Society 1966, 70, 71) with footnotes referencing the different songs on the album.

I always wanted to (but never did) read the text and play the songs where they show up as footnotes (a different order for the songs than just putting the needle in the groove), so that's how we're going to experience the album here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

When the day of Pentecost arrived, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire spreading out, and each person there was touched by a tongue. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious men who had come from every country in the world. When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited because each one of them heard the believers talking in his own language. In amazement and wonder, they exclaimed, "These men who are talking like this  -  they are all Galileans! How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native language? We are from Parthia, Media, and Elam; from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; from Pontus and Asia, from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene; some of us are from Rome, both Jews and Gentiles converted to Judaism; and some of us are from Crete and Arabia  -  yet all of us hear them speaking in our own languages of the great things that God has done!" Amazed and confused they all kept asking each other, "What does this mean?"

But others made fun of the believers, saying, "These men are drunk!" (Acts 2:1-13)

Feel a feeling
Say a saying
But you'll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment

Do a doing
Mourn a mourning
Still won't get you off your sorrow
So go ahead and cry, but you
Can't pry a look at tomorrow

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Run a running
Hide a hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And when you ask for the proof
You won't listen

Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace into your life
And you don't even know wrong from right
Oh, where's your wisdom?

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Die a dying
By believing and receiving
Forgiveness from Jesus
Who took the sin from sinning

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Jesus knows which way the wind blows
So give Him your tomorrow

Believe and receive

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

"Which Way the Wind Blows"
©1974 Latter Rain Music and Word Music, Inc.

Truth is...we all come from our own separate backgrounds and, without Yahweh's help, are just as clueless as the crowds who heard the sound of the wind but didn't grasp that it came from God and was ushering in His Kingdom in a new, fresh way.

I believe. Help me receive.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

You Have Heard That It Was Said...

This may be the riskiest piece I've ever written for this blog. It is sure to meet with widespread disagreement, perhaps even anger.

And for that, I apologize.

But, with National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday approaching this coming weekend, it's time for me to point out an inconsistency I see among many folks who purport to be "pro-life."

No, I'm not talking about the well-earned stereotype of folks being on picket lines against abortion and for capital punishment. That's a cognitive dissonance that is easily seen (and has been mentioned here before). Today's topic is a little more subtle, but just as life-and-death. It's a view held on to firmly, which is what will get me in hot water for coming out as being in disagreement with it.

Here's what I'm getting at.

You have heard that it was said, "I'm opposed to abortion except in cases of rape or incest," but I say to you, "Murder is murder, no matter who the victim's father is."

I know, I know...

...that sounds so harsh and uncaring toward women who have had to suffer the trauma of sexual violation. Please know that my intention is not to impose any privileged-white-male dominance over anyone. My intention is to be consistent in my stance on the serious nature of ending a human life (which you can review by clicking here).

Truth is...if I found out that your father had raped someone, that would not give me the right to kill you. In the same way, if it came to light that your mother is also your half-sister, it would not negate your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Abortion is the ending of a human life, no matter the origin of that life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Faith That Makes a Difference: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #19

It's practically become a cliche'.

Not that I've done the research, but I'm pretty sure if someone took a poll asking non-believers why they don't believe or non-church-goers why they don't "go to church," the overwhelming majority of responses would hang the blame on that sizable swarm of scapegoats called "hypocrites".

Two things about that:

     1.  If there's a hypocrite standing between you and God, guess who's closer to God?
     2.  From Rich Mullins: "I hear people say, 'Why do you want to go to church? They are all just hypocrites.' I never understood why going to church made you a hypocrite because nobody goes to church because they’re perfect. If you’ve got it all together, you don’t need to go. You can go jogging with all the other perfect people on Sunday morning."

But having said those two things, I don't mean to let believers and church-goers off the hook. Playacting at faith (the original meaning of hypocrisy) poses a real challenge for people on the outside looking in.

Which leads us to Number 19 on our countdown of the top 25 quotes about Jesus from azquotes.com. It is attributed to the Syrian saint, Ignatius of Antioch, and gives us a clue to what causes hypocrisy:
"Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart."

Another quote from Ignatius really brings it home:
"We recognize a tree by its fruit, and we ought to be able to recognize a Christian by his action.  The fruit of faith should be evident in our lives, for being a Christian is more than making sound professions of faith.  It should reveal itself in practical and visible ways.  Indeed it is better to keep quiet about our beliefs, and live them out, than to talk eloquently about what we believe, but fail to live by it."

Truth is...In the words of Brennan Manning, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Easter Song for All Year Around

Here we are, ending the year by ending our review of the album "For Him Who Has Ears to Hear" by Keith Green.

The final song is Annie Herring's "Easter Song", to which Keith added an extra verse.

It's bright, upbeat, and celebratory...and considering its subject matter, that's exactly what it should be.

Hear the bells ringing
They're singing, that you can be born again
Hear the bells ringing
They're singing, "Christ is risen from the dead!"

The angel upon the tombstone
Said "He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell His disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead!"

Joy to the world, He has risen, Hallelujah
He's risen, Hallelujah
He's risen, Hallelujah

Hear the bells ringing
They're singing, that you can be healed right now
Hear the bells ringing
They're singing, "Christ, He will reveal it now."

The angels, they all surround us
And they are ministering Jesus's power
Quickly now, reach out and receive it
For this could be your glorious hour

Joy to the world, He has risen, Hallelujah
He's risen, Hallelujah
He's risen, Hallelujah
©1973 Latter Rain Music

Truth is...this is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. "If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life." (I Corinthians 15:17-22 NLT)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Steve

Not everyone greets Christmas with a sparkling smile and open arms.

I have no reason to believe the character Randy Stonehill created in his song, "Christmas at Denny's," is named Steve, but it makes for a semi-clever title for this post.

And the song makes for an empathetic look at a certain demographic not having a holly, jolly Christmas this year.

They got Christmas Muzak
Piped in through the ceiling
And the refills of coffee
Are always for free
And the waitress on graveyard
And the surly night manager
They're wishing that all of us losers would leave
There's a star on the sign
At the Texaco Station
Like the star long ago
On that midnight clear
As I look all around
At these cold, empty faces
I doubt that you'd find many wise men here

And I'm dreaming about
A silent night
Holy night
When things were all right
And I'm dreaming about
How my life could have been
If only, if only, if only...
But somewhere down the road
I gave up that fight
Merry Christmas
It's Christmas at Denny's tonight

Once I had a home
And a wife and a daughter
Had a company job
Earning middle-class pay
Then Lisa got killed
By a car near the schoolyard
And my wife started drinking
Just to get through each day
I will never forget that little red wagon
Turning to rust all alone in the rain
One morning I flagged down
A truck on the highway
I just couldn't bear to go back there again

And I'm dreaming about
A silent night
Holy night
When things were all right
And I'm dreaming about
How my life could have been
If only, if only, if only...
Well, it's not just the blind man
Who loses his sight
Merry Christmas
It's Christmas at Denny's tonight

And they say
Life's made of cruel circumstance
Fate plays the tune and we dance
Dance till we drop
In the dust and we're gone
And the world just goes on

The cop at the counter
He's the guardian angel
He watches these orphans
Through dark, mirrored shades
And the register rings
Like a bell sadly tolling
For the fools we've become
And the price that we paid
Oh when I was a boy
I believed in Christmas
Miracle season to make a new start
I don't need no miracle, sweet baby Jesus
Just help me find
Some kind of hope in my heart

And I'm dreaming about
A silent night
Holy night
When things were all right
And I'm dreaming about
How my life could have been
If only, if only, if only...
But I'll still be here
At the morning's first light
Merry Christmas
It's Christmas at Denny's tonight
©1982 King of Hearts Music

Truth is...if you're feeling like Steve this year, maybe all you really need right now is the knowledge that you are not alone in your pain. There are people who understand. Maybe that's a good enough first step toward finding some kind of hope in your heart.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Calvin & Hobbes & Santa & God

This Calvin & Hobbes strip should help us cultivate some empathy and understanding for those among us who have trouble believing.

It begins with Calvin wanting some physical proof to back up all he's been told about Santa Claus.

Calvin then reveals why it's important to him.

And then, with the help of Hobbes, we realize that the desire for proof goes even deeper.

Truth is...I recognize the struggle is real. I know a few atheists who truly wish they could believe, but just can't wrap their heads around the mystery of it all. They want everything to be crystal clear and unquestionable...they worship at the altar of human intelligence, which is a faulty, feeble god.

I know these things about them, and I wish them a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Fork in the Road: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #20

You wouldn't expect a Jewish novelist, essayist, and dramatist from Poland to have a lot of positive things to say about Jesus, and yet, here's the 20th-most-popular quote about Jesus from azquotes.com...attributed to just such a person, Sholem Asch.

Sholem Asch

"Jesus Christ is to me the outstanding personality of all time, all history, both as Son of God and as Son of Man. Everything he ever said or did has value for us today and that is something you can say of no other man, dead or alive. There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon. You either accept Jesus or reject him."

I am particularly fond of the phrase, "There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon."

That's exactly where most folks want to wander around: "Well, I really respect the teachings of Jesus. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' and all that kind of stuff. His love and acceptance of everyone is really inspiring, as long as I still get to indulge in my favorite vices."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Jesus also said "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)