Monday, November 24, 2014

Follow-Up To Itching Ears

Yesterday I included the lyrics to a song that addressed the concept of itching ears, as described in 2 Timothy 3:4. This idea of people being told what they want to hear and being attracted to churches by fine words is not limited to churches that have been converted to discos. Those of us who preach and teach must be alert and constantly test what we say. We need to watch for the influence of Satan in every context. Keith Green creatively quoted the devil in one of his songs when he said, "I put some truth in every lie to tickle itching ears; you know I'm drawing people just like flies 'cause they like what they hear."1

The message of the Gospel is vital and must not be compromised by our methods or by our words. There are plenty of high profile, celebrity preachers who preach prosperity and health to those who follow their words. Would it not be better to simply speak the words of the Bible and let those words transform the lives of the people? Isaiah 55:8-11 reads,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
God's word will not return empty. Even when we do not fully understand His word, we can speak it and trust that it will achieve the purposes for which He sent it. If we are honest with ourselves and others, we will recognize that there is still great mystery in the words of the Bible. For example, how do we reconcile these two statements:
"He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) and
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)
Who does God reward; the evil and the good; or those who earnestly seek Him? The truth is, my itching ears want to hear that it is only those who earnestly seek God that will be rewarded. I want to hear that if I go to church, read my Bible, and pray, I will be rewarded with health and wealth. I want to believe that. I don't want to believe that God will send His excellent rain upon the evil as well as the good. My ears are just as itchy as the next person; but, here is my commitment to myself and to others. I will seek to truly hear the word of God. I will trust that it is good and true and beneficial. Even as I struggle to understand the Bible, I will listen to the hard words as well as those that sound good to my ever itching ears.

Let us speak both of these words and trust that God will reconcile them in our lives and in this world. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. His thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways. They operate on a higher plane than our own. In the higher plane, there is no apparent contradiction between Matthew 5 and Hebrews 11. Therefore, let us speak these words of truth and trust that they will accomplish the purposes of God.



1 See http://hungerandthirst4.blogspot.ca/2010/10/no-one-believes-in-me-anymore.html for all of the words to this song. You can even listen to the song while you read along: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt42MXX2CXg

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why Are My Ears Itchy?

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. - 2 Timothy 4:3



This Disco (Used To Be A Cute Cathedral)
(Words and Music by Steve Taylor; from the album, "On The Fritz")
(Listen while you read)

Sunday needs a pick-me-up?
Here's your chance
Do you get tired of the same old square dance?
Allemande right now
All join hands
Do-si-do to the promised boogieland
Got no need for altar calls
Sold the altar for the mirror balls
Do you shuffle? Do you twist?
'Cause with a hot hits playlist, now we say

This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the year
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where we only play the stuff you're wanting to hear

Mickey does the two-step
One, Two, Swing
All the little church mice doing their thing
Boppin' in the belltower
Rumba to the right
Knock knock, who's there? Get me out of this limelight
So, you want to defect?
Officer, what did you expect?
Got no rhythm, got no dough
He said, "Listen, Bozo, don't you know"

This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the week
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
But we got no room if you ain't gonna be chic
Sell your holy habitats
This ship's been deserted by sinking rats
The exclusive place to go
It's where the pious pogo, don't you know

This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the year
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where we only play the stuff you're wanting to hear
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the week
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
But we got no room if you ain't gonna be chic

I'm down in New York city, and there's this disco that used to be a church, called "The Limelight." So I did my little on-the-scene investigation and went down with some friends one night, had to pay fifteen dollars just to get in--I had to walk home (no, not quite.) We go up and it was really bizarre. We come in, and first we walk by these sarcophagi on the walls and stuff like that. I think the person that was taking the tickets was dressed like a nun or something like that. They were showing Ten Commandments on the video screens and stuff. 
We walk into the main sanctuary part, go up the stairs to the balcony--there's like two balconies--and the floor of this big church--I mean, it must have been able to seat like a thousand people--is literally jammed with probably 1,500 people dancing, and there's a video screen showing the latest Madonna sleaze on the video and stuff like that. So I'm looking down at this--scratch the Madonna sleaze--my mind starts drifting, I imagine that this is Sunday evening and the deacons have devised this as a way of getting new membership, right? [laughter] 
So it's a very satirical song, but the point is--especially like in California where I'm from you've got this country-club Christianity springing up, where Christianity is supposed to appeal to the beautiful people, and we try to get the right elements in our churches--the elements that are going to give money and everything like that. That's not the church's mission. Jesus talked about coming to heal the sick, not those who are well, and so it's essentially a song against this idea of country-club Christianity.  - Steve Taylor interview1

Have we learned anything in the last 30 years?

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. - 2 Timothy 1:1-5



1 As reported at http://www.sockheaven.net/discography/taylor/fritz/this_disco_used_to_be_a_cute_cathedral/#about

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil



For those of you who loved Steve Taylor in the 80's, he's back; and back in style. The creator of such music as "Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)" (1984), "On The Fritz" (1985), "Lifeboat" (1985), and "This Disco (Used To Be A Cute Cathedral)" (1985) has released a new album. He used a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to record a studio album and plan a tour (the video for the Kickstarter is very funny). His new band, The Perfect Foil, includes Peter Furler, the former drummer and lead singer of Newsboys. Taylor and Furler have worked together for years and Taylor was behind many of the quirky lyrics of Newsboys songs. Remember these lyrics from the Newsboys song "Shine":
And try as you may, there isn't a way
To explain the kind of change
That would make an Eskimo renounce fur
That would make a vegetarian barbecue hamster
Pure Steve Taylor lyrics.

The new album is called "Goliath" and was released on November 18. Although Taylor is known for his satirical songs, he is equally adept at serious poetry. "A Life Preserved" is one example on the new album.

A Life Preserved
(Music and Lyrics by Steve Taylor on the album Goliath by Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil)
(Listen while you read)

Bobbing for air, I'm back again
A perfect ten of a dive without a pool
A perfect fool too slow to know
His wind has been knocked out till I'm gasping

Bobbing for air, been up and down
The once renown, angling for another act
Another tactical advance to who knows where
You found me there, I heard you there

Calling me out of the shallows of my world
Called to something graceful, something true
Gratitude's too cheap a word for all you've reassembled
From a spirit broken and unnerved
A life preserved
A life preserved

Bobbing for air, I've been atoned
Creation groaned to lift me as I drowned
And set my feet up on the mound of rock you crushed for me
A place to stand, whisper a command

Calling me out of the shallows of my world
Called to something graceful, something true
Gratitude's too cheap a word for all you've reassembled
From a spirit broken and unnerved
A life preserved

Bobbing for air, I have been served
A life preserved after all I'd cast away
You tipped the grayscale till the scales fell back to earth
And I saw colors, I heard a shout
Bobbing for air

Calling me out of the shallows of my world
Called to something graceful, something true
Gratitude's too cheap a word for all you've reassembled
From a spirit broken and unnerved
A life preserved

Calling me out of the shallows of my world
Called to something graceful, something true
Gratitude's too cheap a word for all you've reassembled
From a spirit broken and unnerved
A life preserved

I am very glad Steve Taylor is producing new music and getting out on the road to do some touring. The need is so great that I was about to start my own Steve Taylor Tribute Band. "Hey . . . I can do tall skinny white guy pogo-ing on the stage. Get me an "On The Fritz" suit and I am ready to go!"









Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

"Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by."

Earlier this week, the Rosetta spacecraft reached the end of a ten year journey and delivered the Philae lander to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After a bouncy landing in the open planes, the lander came to rest too close to a cliff to recharge its batteries with solar panels. This caused the computers on the washing-machine sized vehicle to power down into hibernation mode. Mission scientists are hopeful that it may yet achieve a better position relative to our sun and charge its batteries enough to wake up. But, for now, it must slumber in deep heavenly, frigid, peace.

Meanwhile, the comet, barely perturbed by the added weight and jostlings to its orbital path, continues on in a slow arc around the sun. This trajectory will sling it close to the sun and then hurl it back out beyond the orbit of Jupiter. The Rosetta spacecraft, like a dog whose master has died, will remain close beside, looking for some sign of life. The little lander that could is now one more piece of interplanetary material circling the sun and waving to earth as it flies by each 6.5 years. As it sails past we salute the spirit of those who served her so long and so well. We greet with honour this marvel of engineering that has once more excited dreams of far off worlds and places unexplored.

"Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. . . . sleep in heavenly peace."

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Prayer for Today

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
My one desire is to live a thankful life.
You have rescued me, blessed me, healed me, redeemed me.

Selah

I desire to live this life in gratitude to you.
I desire to find my place in Your will.
I desire to fulfill the role to which you are calling me.
There is a place into which I uniquely and perfectly fit.

I aspire to get as close as possible to that spot.
Forgive me when I fall.
Forgive me when I fail.
Forgive me when I stray from that perfect place.

Selah

I will trust You and allow you to guide my path into that way.
I will trust You.
Lead me into Your perfect will.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

(a contemporary prayer by Keith Shields modeled after ancient Celtic prayers)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

This Journey




Together we traveled on paths of beauty. The stars were purest white, the leaves greener than we had ever known, and the rivers brimmed with life. The hills spoke of old battles fought and new battles to come; we traveled through old forests inhabited by creatures both fair and foul. Sometimes the road was straight and true; other times it was obscured by fog, by dust, or by our own sense of loathing. At times, the trees echoed with laughter, fair languages, and song; at other times we heard guttural phrases, taunting laughter, and scratches in the recesses of the woods. Yet, the weapons of the King never failed us. Oh yes there were times when I was deceived by wicked creatures in angel robes. I should have taken up arms against these deceivers. But it was then that I was most glad for the King's regiment which always prevailed.

Now, the road behind is longer than the road in front; we have entered into the territory of the enemy. Soon we must storm the gates of the great stronghold. Now, is the time when we must be most diligent, most alert, most nimble, and most prepared to use the weapons entrusted to us. The stakes are high. We must not let down our guard or risk losing all. For the joy set before us, we press on!






Sunday, November 2, 2014

Follow-Up to Big Smoke

The Del Barber deer story and my own Blackbird story from yesterday's post led me to think of this powerful song.

I Hung My Head
(Words and Music by Sting)
(Performed by Sting – listen here and Johnny Cash – listen here)

Early one mornin' with time to kill
I borrowed Jeb's rifle and sat on the hill
I saw a lone rider, crossin' the plain
I drew a bead on him to practice my aim
My brother's rifle went off in my hand
The shot rang out, across the land
The horse he kept runnin', the rider was dead
I hung my head, I hung my head

I set off runnin' to wake from the dream
But my brother's rifle went into the stream
I kept on runnin' into the salt lands
And that's where they found me, my head in my hands
The Sheriff he asked me, why had I run?
Then it came to me just what I had done
And all for no reason, just one piece of lead
I hung my head, I hung my head

Here in the courthouse, the whole town is there
I see the judge, high up in his chair
Explain to the courtroom, what went through your mind
And we'll ask the jury, what verdict they find
I said, "I felt the power of death over life
I orphaned his children, I widowed his wife
I beg their forgiveness, I wish I was dead"
I hung my head, I hung my head
I hung my head, I hung my head

Early one mornin' with time to kill
I see the gallows, up on the hill
And out in the distance, a trick of the brain
I see a lone rider, crossin' the plain
He come to fetch me to see what they done
And we'll ride together 'til kingdom come
I pray for God's mercy, for soon I'll be dead
I hung my head, I hung my head
I hung my head, I hung my head
I hung my head, I hung my head


Songwriter: STING; Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing