Posts Tagged ‘Christianity

27
Aug
09

Finding Christian Ethics in WWII

End Is Not EndSome time back I wrote an article about a band I had discovered called A Rotterdam November. The reason the album was so interesting to me is because the backdrop against which the stories of the songs were written was the Second World War. I am intrigued by history and this war particularly stands out as a hinge, a turning point in the society of the world. It was a war of ideologies. It was a war in which sides were chosen, not for allegiance or commonality per se, but because one’s chosen allies were less hated than one’s enemies. A case in point would be the Soviet Union joining the Allied powers (though Stalin’s politics and means of rule differed greatly from, say, Great Britain) simply because Nazi Germany was a greater enemy. The only potential exception might be the alliance of the United States and Great Britain.

 Now another band, a favorite of mine, has put out an album that uses this unbelievable war as the vehicle for its themes and lyrical stories. The band is House of Heroes and the album is “The End Is Not the End.” Let me say that I have not yet purchased this album (though I intend to) but I have listened to all of the tracks online and I am very eager to get my hands on it.

 The music of House of Heroes on previous albums has been strong, loud, riff-oriented alternative rock with some Beatles-esque pop sensibilities worked in at times. But for the most part wall-of-sound is the order of the day. The songs recorded for “The End” are no different however there is a common theme due to the WWII references. Themes include loving one’s enemies, courage, living and dying for something greater than oneself, finding God through adversity, and finding redemption. 

 The cast of characters for these lyrical tales include a man who wrestles with God in Jacobean fashion (“In the Valley of the Dying Sun”), two brothers called up to fight a war in which one does not survive (“By Your Side”), a man who’s homeland is overrun by the enemy but he stays to fight for his way of life (“Codename: Raven”), a person who finds himself a political prisoner in his own country (“Leave You Now”), and, in one of the stranger, more cryptic songs, a man and a woman who love one another yet the woman is the citizen of a Communist country, however the man’s nationality is not given (“Baby’s a Red”).

Musically, the overall sound on this album is similar to what is found on previous HOH records with loud guitars and plenty of cool riffs.  But the dynamics within each song on “The End” are more varied. A song may go from a driving rock chorus to a shuffling, clean, falsetto-laden verse at any moment. Vocally, this album uses a lot of layering and multi-part harmonies to deliver a very Queen-like vocal mix (think Bohemian Rhapsody but less operatic). Lyrically, the timeless themes of faith, hope, and love are delivered in a unique way with the WWII imagery.

 If you like modern alternative rock, at least listen to a few clips of this album on iTunes, Amazon Mp3 or YouTube and check out “The End Is Not the End” by House of Heroes.

20
Aug
09

Theological Problems (If Any) With “Come Thou Fount”

Not too long ago I was discussing hymns with some friends and how we miss them sometimes and we were discussing our favorites. During the conversation someone brought up “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and the person said something to the effect of “I can’t stand that one” and acted quite disgusted at the thought of the song. But I responded “Oh, that’s my favorite hymn!” And that’s true, it is.

What rubbed my friend the wrong way about this great worship song of old is a stanza which comes in the latter half of the song:

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

More specifically it is the line “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love” that was the major point of contention. My friend declared that she had never felt that way as a Christian. Furthermore she believed that such a sentiment would indicate that a person may not be saved. How could you be securely and soundly saved through Jesus’ shed blood yet be prone to leave the God you love? A just question, I think.

So how about it? If you are ever or have ever sensed an inner wont to wander from the fold of God, does that mean there is something wrong with your spiritual life? I would say no.

Who among us is prepared to testify that “from the moment of my conversion right up until the present time I have never faltered or departed from the ways of God in thought, word or deed, nor have I ever been tempted to do so?” I have never gossiped, I have never criticized unjustly, I have never entertained an impure thought.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

We who are saved have been converted into the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We have been reckoned sinless and without blame for He has washed our garments white as snow with His own blood (it is because of Jesus blood and righteousness and NOTHING that we have done or could have ever done). We have been declared righteous, sinless, blameless by grace through faith. But to say we never sin? I believe that we who are Christians are being conformed to the image of God’s Son and so as we proceed and grow in our Christian life we are to become less and less prone to sinfulness. We will indeed become more like Jesus. But this occurs by dying to ourselves, by taking up our cross daily and following Him. Everyday we must cry out “Lord! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Take my heart, seal it up for yourself in your courts above; bind my heart to thee this day so that in thought, word and deed I might live a Christ-like life!”

I see nothing wrong with such a prayer, therefore I see nothing wrong with this great hymn’s third stanza. What say you?

18
Apr
09

The Cure for Writer’s Block Is You

You may have noticed the slight drop in the frequency of my writings.  I have been having major writer’s block.  Twitter is partly to blame since it is great for putting out thoughts, impressions, ideas in a quick sort of way so as a result my blog has suffered.  Furthermore I have spent more time on Twitter lately finding folks to follow and reading what they have to say that I have not bothered to write.

I can not say that I have really suffered from writer’s block in the past since usually I have had blog ideas saved up and so when I run out of ideas I put my saved ones out there. That is how the last two-parter about The Music That Made Me came about. I had been sitting on that one for a while.

I am at a point now where I feel I have said all I could say about most of the subjects that interest me. By now everyone knows that I am a Trekkie, love Macs, distrust the federal government, hate taxes, bought a new car, have 4 cats, listen to Christian artists only, consider Back to the Future my favorite movie, and have a particular disdain for MySpace.

So I want you, my readers (if there are still any of you left), to help break my writer’s block curse. What’s something you have always wanted to know about me? Leave a comment letting me know what it is and I will write a blog post about it. It can be something simple like “why don’t you own a dog?” or something grandiose such as “Do you believe God has placed a specific call on your life and if so what is it?” It can even be about a habit of mine that annoys you; I promise not to be offended. Now to keep things fair, you can not use either of the two questions I mentioned above. They have to be original. But if you really want to know the answer to either then let me know I suppose I can try and answer them.

So help a brother out. Leave a comment and get me out of the writer’s block funk (that sounds like a song title).

11
Apr
09

The Music That Made Me, Part II

In 2000, I was 21 years old. 2000 was an eventful year. First of all Y2K turned out to be a bust (as I knew it would). 2000 is also the year I married Lyndsay. Finally 2000 was the year I stopped listening to secular music. By the way, would 2000 be considered the first year of the 21st century or the last year of the 20th century?

About two months before Lyndsay and I were to be wed (June 25) I had a God moment. In my vocabulary a God moment is one of those times when, regardless of how certain or uncertain you have been in the past about God speaking to you, you know without a shadow of a doubt He is telling you something and you simply can not ignore the fact. I will not run down all of the details but at this point in my life I was extremely down. I was living in Milledgeville (a town I hated) attending a university (that I also grew to hate). Furthermore Lyndsay was an hour and a half away in Warner Robins.

Since being converted in 1999 or so (no, I do not know the exact date) I had discovered Christian music (besides DC Talk) and had begun to listen to it in conjunction with secular music. I would jam out to some Smashing Pumpkins, follow it up with a little Smalltown Poets and finish it all off with Our Lady Peace. But during spring semester 2000 at Georgia College & State University I was hearing God say something that I never wanted to hear but I knew needed to happen.

At the time I had been playing with a Christian band called Mordecai’s Courage and I had already dedicated my music ability to the Lord vowing that I would never play for any reason but Him. But there in my dorm room in 2000 I knew He was taking it to another level: “Turn away from listening to secular music.” As I prayed I began to imagine never listening to the Pumpkins, or Zepplin, or Metallica, or Aerosmith, or Radiohead, or the Beatles ever again. It seemed crazy. How could I turn my back on the music and art that I loved? As I said before, the fact that God was speaking to me was undeniable. I knew right then that if I decided against doing so that I would be walking in disobediance.

Let me pause to say that God does not call every Christian to this. There is a reason for it. Since I was a child music has always played a large part of my life. I form memories as well as moods around music. Certain songs can create deep emotional responses for me. The music I had so loved was important to me because I drew a large part of my identity from it. I still categorize phases and times in my life by the music I listened to at the time. And at that time the music I listened to was quite melancholy at best and nihilistic at worst and I believe that it affected my behavior negatively. However to turn away from the music I had listened to (some of it from my youth) would, in my mind, mean throwing away memories and experiences.

But I did it.

I called Lyndsay to tell her what I was doing. Though music was not as much a part of her as it was for me, she decided to do the same. From that day forward we have not listened to secular music (well, unless you want to count 40’s big band instrumentals which we have on record).

Christian Music Only: The Beginning of Birth Pangs

After the first two weeks I realized that I was not going to be able to get by on Skillet alone. Eventually I embraced more and more Christian groups like Newsboys, PFR, the Supertones, etc. But inevitably I would grow tired of them and long for something different. Something more off the beaten path.

My first exposure to a band that was more than a little out of sync with CCM was when my friend Lance turned me on to Denison Marrs. Their offbeat melancholy shoegazer style and interesting writing caught my attention. In a way they reminded me of the Smashing Pumpkins, though this guy was a much better singer than Billy Corgan, who does the best imitation of a buzzsaw I’ve ever heard. Soon thereafter God gave me a new source of music discovery in the Christian music video channel TVU. Through TVU I discovered a lot of mediocre bands. But I also discovered some real gems, some diamonds in the rough. The first band I saw on TVU that really made an impact was Spoken. I saw the video for their song “Promise” which at first I did not like. When their next album “Last Chance to Breathe” was released I checked it out and ended up purchasing it. The Elms are another favorite that I discovered around this time. Their stripped-down blue collar rock was simple and raw.

During this time I began to scour the internet for new groups. I was able to discover new artists by checking out the bands that were on the same label as or toured with some of the artists I had already discovered. My love for Dead Poetic, The Afters, Spoken, Andy Osenga,Forever Changed,Edison Glass, and the like came about through this type of research. And no, these artists do not always right songs that could double as praise and worship songs but there is an obvious worldview that is like mine expressed in their music and lyrics. And I have come to the place where any time I hear modern rock music I can not help but notice how much more creative “my bands” are. In my opinion, if I went back to listening to secular music there would be few bands who would sound like what I would want to hear.

Finding good bands that have a Christian outlook can be difficult but rest assured there are some artists out there doing some very creative things. In the last year or so I have discovered (or in some cases re-discovered) Ever Stays Red, Starflyer 59, Andrew Peterson, Turn Off the Stars, Future of Forestry, Seabird,and probably a few others I’m forgetting. So if you are yearning for some new music, head to iTunes or Google and begin looking up some of these great artists and pretty soon you will begin to find all kinds of artists you might not have otherwise found.

10
Apr
09

Good Friday

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

For David speaketh concerning him, ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.’

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.”

Acts 2:22-30 (King James Version)

04
Mar
09

Considering the Rapture and Millennium Through Catholic Eyes

I am always on the look out for materials that express how the early church (the first 3 centuries particularly) viewed certain doctrines that are the topic of debate in the modern church.  I found an article on the doctrines of the Rapture and the Millennium recently that I enjoyed.

Now this article is from a Catholic website.  I am not Catholic nor do I necessarily agree with all Catholic doctrines. I found the site when I performed a Google search to learn more about St. Augustine’s view of the Millennium The reason this site caught my attention is I think it is profitable at times to view some of our teachings (e.g. the Millennium and the Rapture) through non-Protestant Evangelical eyes.

I know that the attitude of many of my Protestant brethren toward Catholicism is a negative one and there may be a tendency to dismiss this article out-of-hand but, let’s face it, some of the greatest men of the faith have been Catholic. I have already mentioned St. Augustine. Surely you recognize the names of Thomas Aquinas, St. Athanasius, Brother Lawrence, Eusebius the Catholic historian, Jerome, and Justin Martyr, to name a few. So we can not reject wholesale any and all doctrines of the Catholic simply because they are held by Catholics. Catholics agree with Protestants on the nature of sin, original sin, salvation through Christ alone, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the sacrificial death of Christ, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, Heaven, and Hell among others. They are not wrong about everything any more than Baptists are wrong about everything—though both are wrong about some things, in my humble opinion. 🙂

I respect the Catholic church’s view on various topics because of the age of the Catholic church and studying the teachings of ancient Catholics like Augustine can teach us the views of some of the earliest saints.  Of course I admit that just because a doctrine is old does not make it right, for gnosticism is old but is most assuredly false and unscriptural.  However I do look with suspicion upon movements and doctrines that are very recent and I believe this is prudent. Enjoy.

01
Mar
09

Are You Emerging, Emergent or Neither?

In the comments for my recent post “Who Influences You?”, Steve and I had a brief exchange about the meaning of the “emerging” or “emergent” church.  At the time I used the terms synonomously however I have come to learn differently. Furthermore I have found that I myself may be emerging…a little anyway. I am still very, very evangelical in every other area.

I discovered this through a wonderful study done by C. Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen.  He wrote a very helpful five part series entitled “Will the Real Emerger Please Stand Up?”  In it he defines terms (as best as can be done considering the topic at hand–read it and you will see what I mean), busts up stereotypes and helps folks better understand our emergent brothers in Christ.   He explains that a person may be emerging/emergent ecclesiologically, sociologically, theologically, epistemologically, or politically.  You may be emerging in only one area or two.  You may be emergent in four or all of the areas.

I have never received a straight answer on what being emergent means and that is simply because there is not an easy straightforward answer.  It is a movement or a philosophy or a way of viewing the Christian life.  Calvinism is the same way. You may believe in some tenants of Calvinist doctrine but not others.  I have jokingly said I am a “2.5 Point Calvinist.”  There are some who are all the way Calvinist like there are some (like Doug Pagitt) who are all the way emergent and that determines their worldview and the way they view God, the scriptures, evangelism, sin, faith and a host of other issues.

If you are confused about the emergent church or if you want to better understand “the conversation”, then you should really take time to read Patton’s series. The version I have linked to above has all of the parts on one page so you can read right through the whole thing.  You will find that there are some things about emergents that you were right about and probably some things about them you were wrong about. Either way the article will help you better evaluate this movement.




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