Saturday, January 21, 2017

Big Picture


Song-writers can be keen social commentators that help us see the bigger picture of issues in our world. They may comment in cryptic and sometimes crude ways, but it is worthwhile hearing what they say. The Eagles wrote and performed a song for the 2007 album, Long Road Out of Eden. The lyrics of "Frail Grasp on the Big Picture" speak of reacting in the moment, being driven by emotions and desires, but failing to grasp the “big picture” of what is happening in the world. The bridge of the song is particularly telling as it speaks of how we may be tempted to treat God. Do we only pray to him with our own provincial interests in mind? Do we ask him to help us and then turn away from his will for our lives?

Nearly ten years after these words were released, they still ask us to consider important questions. They still speak to the small views we have of current events.

“And we pray to our Lord
Who we know is American
He reigns from on high
He speaks to us through middlemen

And He shepherds His flock
We sing out and we praise His name
He supports us in war
He presides over football games

And the right will prevail
All our troubles shall be resolved
We have faith in the Lord
Unless there's money or sex involved

Frail grasp on the big picture”

Written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey

Published by © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Don Henly/Glenn Frey/Eagles

Friday, January 20, 2017

Pearls of Great Price


(Click on this image to enlarge.)

Beautiful white “pearls,” some the size of Earth, are visible in the clouds of Jupiter. The pearls are storms but appear as a string of pearls in the clouds.  Juno, a project of NASA, is currently orbiting the planet and sent back the accompanying colour photos. An article with further explanation is available here. The mysteries of our universe continue to astound both scientists and the general public and we live in an amazing time of curiosity and exploration. Let's enjoy every moment of this amazing era in which we live.

(Click on this image to enlarge.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Celebrate This Heartbeat



I have previously sung the praises of Randy Stonehill and in particular the Welcome to Paradise album of 1976. A recently performed Living Room Concert streamed live on Facebook reminded me of his 1984 album Celebrate This Heartbeat. The title song reminds us that every day is a gift from the Lord. I encourage you to enjoy the entire, two hour, Living Room Concert and to “look toward tomorrow cause the past is gone.” The lyrics of “Celebrate This Heartbeat” follow and you can listen to the song here.

I recently preached on 1Timothy 6:17-19 and was reminded of verse 19 that encourages us to “experience true life.” Stonehill says something similar when he says that he only wants “live the real thing.” I encourage us all to experience true life and live the real thing.

Celebrate This Heartbeat

I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
Cause it just might be my last
Every day is a gift from the Lord on high
And they all go by so fast

I'm not shy, I won't hide
The happy way I feel inside
There's a love light shining down on me
And it's true, I can't lie
There is more to life than meets the eye
So I want to live each moment faithfully, yeah

I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
Cause it just might be my last
Every day is a gift from the Lord on high
And they all go by so fast
So many people drifting in a dream
I only want to live the real thing
I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
And keep movin' on
Look toward tomorrow cause the past is gone

If I laugh, it's no crime
I've got great news on my mind
It's a hope that never fades way
Now I don't understand
All the mysteries of the master plan
But I'm sure the Master does
So that's okay, yeah

I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
Cause it just might be my last
Every day is a gift from the Lord on high
And they all go by so fast
So many people drifting in the night
(Lonely people in the night)
I'm gonna keep the Morning Star in sight,
Alright
Celebrate this heartbeat and keep movin' on
Look toward tomorrow cause the past is gone

This world is in so much trouble
All of the sadness can break you down
But if you're ever going to change it
You must show them the love you've found

Hey now, every day is a gift from the Lord on high
And they all go by so fast
So many people drifting in a dream
(Find the life that love can bring)
I only want to live the real thing
I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
And keep movin' on
Look toward tomorrow cause
The past is gone
I said the past is gone
Yeah, you know the past is gone
Oh yeah, oh, the past is gone
Movin' on

Written By Randy Stonehill
© Copyright 1984 by Stonehillian Music &
Word Music (a division of Word, Inc.)
(ASCAP)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Substitution



“For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.” 

- John Stott, The Cross of Christ, IVP Books, 20 Anniversary Edition, 2012.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Where to Now St. Peter?


“Where to Now St. Peter?” is a song that I have been listening to for about 4 decades. There is much I like about the song and its meaning continues to intrigue me. It is a song about death and what comes after death, written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John. Taupin provided the evocative lyrics while John wrote the music and contributed to the overall mood of the song with his arrangement. It was first published on Elton John’s album, “Tumbleweed Connection.”

This is Elton John at his best and Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are filled with American Civil War allusions. In “Where to Now St. Peter?” Taupin was likely thinking of the fate of a soldier who died on the battlefield. Of course, any song about what comes after death will be filled with imagination; and Taupin draws on Christian and non-Christian influences as he seems to be wrestling with his own mortality and destination beyond this life.

I wonder who Taupin had to speak to as he pondered such ultimate questions. Certainly, his study of American Civil war history would have informed his consciousness regarding the religious beliefs held by both Confederate and Union soldiers. Many of those men would have been Christians or would have understood the basic teachings of the church in their day. Does he have a friend who could explain this route at a deeper level?

Listening to the words of a song like this and trying to understand their meaning can be beneficial for anyone. The lyrics bring us to terms with our own understanding about the themes the author is addressing. The lyrics of “Where to Now St. Peter?” follow with a few of my own thoughts afterward.

Where to Now St. Peter?
(Words and music by Bernie Taupin and Elton John; copyright 1970)

I took myself a blue canoe
And I floated like a leaf
Dazzling, dancing
Half enchanted
In my Merlin sleep

Crazy was the feeling
Restless were my eyes
Insane they took the paddles
My arms they paralysed

So where to now St. Peter
If it's true I'm in your hands
I may not be a Christian
But I've done all one man can
I understand I'm on the road
Where all that was is gone
So where to now St. Peter
Show me which road I'm on
Which road I'm on

It took a sweet young foreign gun
This lazy life is short
Something for nothing always ending
With a bad report

Dirty was the daybreak
Sudden was the change
In such a silent place as this
Beyond the rifle range

So where to now St. Peter
If it's true I'm in your hands
I may not be a Christian
But I've done all one man can
I understand I'm on the road
Where all that was is gone
So where to now St. Peter
Show me which road I'm on
Which road I'm on

I took myself a blue canoe

With such an epic song as this I do want to be careful with my interpretations, and so I will offer a few minimal insights. The reader may certainly listen and make their own interpretations as it interacts with ideas already in the mind of the listener.

Death is represented by taking a “blue canoe” on a slow-moving river. This could be a reference to the River Styx or just a metaphor for the moments between life and death? Does “blue” indicate an emotion or death at the hands of a Union Soldier wearing the blue coat? Most of the songs on the album represent the perspective of the Confederate Soldiers and so this latter explanation is certainly a possibility.

The singer asks St. Peter to tell him which road he is on. Is he on the road to heaven or to hell? The soldier knows that he has not lived his life as a Christian but rather as a man who tried to do the right thing. He did what was humanly possible. He is now asking where that will lead him and where his blue canoe will land. For the listener and for Taupin, the answer lies in the words of St. Peter himself found in the third chapter of Second Peter in the Bible: an answer for all who have ears to hear.

The soldier understands that he is on the road “where all else is gone.” There is no turning back at this point; there are no mulligans. In this silent space, things move slow, but flow only in the direction of the final decision for this man’s life. “Where to now St. Peter?” will be answered. The soldier will discover which road he is on.

(You may also enjoy the Ann Wilson and Elton John recording posted here.)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Religious Nones and a Spiritual Remnant


Our world is becoming more secular; a disputable, but defendable statement. We are told that more people than ever have become religious nones. That is, there is an increase in the number of people who reject a belief in God, creation, spirituality, and purpose. They insist that the universe happened by chance, has no purpose, and will come to an end by chance. They reject a Christian faith, a Muslim faith, a Jewish faith, a Hindu faith, a Buddhist faith, and any other type of faith in something higher than the physical properties of a temporary - or eternal - universe. This is the truest form of secularism. These religious nones find meaning, if they find meaning at all, solely in living life passionately, sincerely, and authentically, according to their feelings.[1] Whether they know it or not, they are disciples of Existential Thought of one form or another. They assert that morality does not fundamentally exist, and that any established moral values are theoretically contrived. Some may even claim to be religious and ascribe to a faith, while functioning as if their own existential world was all that mattered.

When we say that these religious nones live passionately, sincerely, and authentically, we are saying that they live sincerely according to the authentic passions they feel at any given moment. Those feelings tend to change from moment to moment and, as such, are extremely relative to the situation.

So, could it be that more people are finding it acceptable to use immoral means to get what they desire out of life? Do more people today see others succeeding by operating by violent or immoral means? Do some grab all they can get from this world by any means possible believing that others will do so if they don’t?

Perhaps it is too soon to tell. But as our world turns away from the foundations of faith and the moral principles within the religions of the world, we can expect to see more amoral people, and more immorality, and even violence as people live out their unfettered passions.

I believe that we are at a turning point in which there will be another increase. Many of us will live to see a return to faith. The values and morals of another age are deeply rooted in the faith of our fathers and mothers. I believe that we will see many return to a belief in God and a trust in his authority and power. Let us not despair but instead choose to be at the forefront of a movement back to the Creator; a spiritual remnant.




[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism