Friday, June 27, 2008

Review, sort of...

I recently purchased the new Coldplay cd. My initial reaction? Ehh…There really are no low lights, each song is listenable and somewhat enjoyable, but there really are no strong highlights I don’t think either. The songs I like the most are the ones they’ve released to public (Viva la Vida and Violet Hill). Other than that, there just aren’t any real memorable songs. There is no “Shiver”, “Yellow”, “Clocks”, “God Put a Smile upon Your Face”, “Square One” or “Talk”. Of their four albums, this is my fourth favorite and they rank in my mind in the order of their release. I don’t know where they are going next. I have a friend who can’t wait for the eventual Martin/Paltrow breakup so that he can get back to writing songs of depth and meaning. I don’t know about that, but I’m not down on the cd just not really up about it either.

I have noticed a lot of religious imagery on the cd. Here are a few samples:

Viva La Vida – mention of missionaries in a foreign field, as well as a mention of St. Peter, who will not call his name.

42 – you didn’t get to heaven but you made it close

Cemeteries of London - Through the dark streets they go searching to see God in their own way…God is in the houses and God is in my head… and all the cemeteries in London…I see God come in my garden, but I don’t know what he said,
For my heart it wasn’t open…

Violet Hill – Priest clutched onto Bibles, hollowed out to fit their rifles and the cross, was held aloft.

Reign of Love - By the church, we’re waiting, Reign of love My knees go praying

Yes - when we were dying of frustration/Saying Lord lead me not into temptation
But it’s not easy when she turns you on/Sin, stay gone
If you’d only, if you’d only say yes/Whether you will's anybody’s guess
God only God knows I'm trying my best/But I’m just so tired of this loneliness

Not saying these are remotely Christian statements or if they reveal anything of the spiritual life of Chris Martin, but they are there and I wonder what they mean. (I know he had a somewhat religious upbringing but I don’t think that it had much of a hold on him. Maybe this is some of that seeping through his subconscious).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

All Roads Lead to the Same Place, but Which Place?

Recently, the Pew Research center presented some statistics on religion in America. One of the interesting findings to me was that a great number of evangelicals believe that there is more than one to heaven (or the after life). Here is the data (copied from Although many Americans are highly religious, they are not dogmatic in their faith. Seventy percent of Americans with a religious affiliation say that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life. Most also think there is more than one correct way to interpret the teachings of their own faith.
This puzzles me, because of the major world religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam), there are differing views of the afterlife. So many of us believe that there is more than one way to heaven, but there are different views on what heaven is. So, either all of us are wrong, one of us is correct, or we all are going to get to the same place, but we really don’t have any idea what it is going to be when we get there.

Hinduism: Heaven (and hell) are illusions. They are temporary stopping points for the soul in between reincarnations. They believe that when a person dies, their sould escapes through a hole in the head and will either be reborn in to higher life form (or lesser if their karma during life was bad). The goal is liberation from the body (or material) forever.

Buddhism is somewhat similar to Hinduism in that after death the soul is either reincarnated into a body or release into Nirvana. Only those who have attained enlightenment (buddhas) will attain Nirvana. We are not really sure what Nirvana is, but the term literally means “to extinguish” that is to be release from the cycle of suffering.

In Islam, persons are resurrected and their good deeds are weighed against their bad deeds on a scale held by the angel Gabriel. There are seven levels of hell. In Hell the damned will be broiled, beaten with red-hot iron maces, suspended by their tongues, forced to drink boiling water and molten copper, and will have their brains boiled and their flesh cut with scissors of fire. True believers, lying on couches in Paradise, will see the damned suffer and laugh at them scornfully. All male inhabitants of heaven will become fair, beardless, curly-haired, 90 ft. tall, and 33 years old. Black-eyed houris, or nymphs, of perfect beauty, free from excretions of any kind, await them in pavilions of green cushions. Other beautiful damsels will refrain from beholding any but their own spouses. Every man in Paradise will marry 500 houris, 4,000 virgins, and 8,000 nonvirgins.

Judaism – the Hebrew Bible (the OT) is not as clear on the afterlife as the NT is. In Judaism, there is, for the most part, a belief in a resurrection (although there are sects of Judaism that reject the resurrection of the dead). There is a place for the righteous dead as well as a place for the wicked.

Since these world view all have differing views of what comes next as well as differing views as to how one gets to the afterlife, then like I said, either we are all wrong, one is right or there is an afterlife but none of us really know what it is.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Good George Carlin Bit

George Carlin died today. I am posting one of my favorite bits of his, the difference between football and baseball. It is classic.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Great Quote

"It has long struck me that the same mainline church members who pass resolutions on gay marriage and propose solutions to conflict in the Middle East suddenly shrink in silence on the subject of their faith, and they do this--here's the irony--so they won't offend anyone. For too long, our noble impulses toward tolerance and inclusivity have turned us into spiritual illiterates who, being out of practice, have forgotten how to speak the words of our faith."
- Lillian Daniel, senior minister of First Congregatonal Church of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, from an essay in The Christian Century

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Part of a message on Isaiah 6

Isaiah 6.1-9a

Verse 1 – The passage begins with a portrait of Isaiah’s encounter with God. Isaiah was a prophet for the people of Judah who lived about 700 years before Jesus. He also had access to the kings of the nation and it has been suggested that his family may have been related to the royal family. He spoke to kings, ambassadors from foreign nations and to the religious leaders of the day.

He was allowed, on this particular instance, to stand in the presence of God. God the Father allowed Isaiah to receive a glimpse of him on his throne. Isaiah received a picture of God’s majesty, his power and his authority. The train of a robe was a symbol of a king’s authority and power, and it says his train filled the temple.

  • We begin to see what it is like in the presence of God and to observe him on his throne with his majesty.

Verses 2-4 – Flying above God were these heavenly creatures called seraphs. They had three sets of wings and they were crying out “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

The word holy means “set apart”, “different”; it means “pure”; “clean”; perfect. God is different; he is just better than us. There are no mistakes or errors in God ever.

You get the sense that the seraphs were calling out “Holy!” because they had no choice. When they saw God, they could do nothing but comment on his perfection. They had to praise him because they saw that he was worthy of their praise.

It says that their voices shook the door posts. This was not some wimpy boys’ choir…
This was a powerful, deep, wonderful, terrifying sound that threatened the foundation of the temple.

  • This is a picture of worship. God’s creation ascribing greatness to him. When you encounter the holy and awesome God, you can do nothing else.

Verse 5 – Isaiah’s reaction

Why is this his reaction? Have you ever been in the presence of greatness in a field that you excel or are pursuing? Maybe you have met a world class athlete or an accomplished musician or a recognized artist?

What is the temptation? Is it to measure yourself against him or her? I imagine it can be quite humbling. Think of Isaiah. He was standing in the presence of TRUE greatness. He looked into himself and he looked at the people around him and he knew he did not measure up. Even if he had only one imperfection or made one mistake, he would not have been able to compare himself to true perfection. Look again at his reaction.


He is just too great, I am unclean. I can’t survive!

  • When we stand in the presence of God, when we think on his holiness, we are convicted of our sin. We are showed how imperfect we are. We confess that we are sinful and that we don’t measure up.
Verses6-7 – One of the heavenly creatures took a coal from the altar. The altar in the temple is where the priest would offer sacrifice to cleanse the people of their sin for a year at a time. The seraph touched Isaiah’s mouth (which was the symbol of his uncleanness) and took his guilt away.

What did Isaiah do to get his guilt removed? What work did he perform? There was no good deed or deeds that he performed, he just confessed his sin and acknowledged that God was holy, different, and pure and he was not.

It was God who initiated the cleansing of Isaiah, because he knew he needed it or he would not survive this encounter.

  • When we come face to face with God in his holiness and we confess our sinfulness, he forgives our sins and removes our guilt.

Verse 8 – Isaiah has been cleansed and is now worthy of standing in God’s presence, he receives an invitation:

"Whom shall I send? Who will go?”

What other response is there for Isaiah? He is in the presence of the Holy, perfect and ruling God. God has a mission. Isaiah could only respond by saying: “Here am I! Send Me!”

  • When we encounter God in worship, when we confess our sins then God cleanses us and is able to use us. We are invited on to his mission and the only appropriate response is: “Send me!”
Verse 9 – “Go!”

This is the commission, go and speak this difficult and convicting message to the people I have called you to speak to.

  • The end result of our worship encounter with God is obedience, join him on this mission.

Isaiah 6 is the portrait of a man who stood in the presence of the creator of the universe. A holy, different, special, perfect being. He participated in offering praise to God. He was convicted of his sinfulness and his imperfections. God cleansed him of his guilt and invited him to participate in God’s mission on earth. Isaiah said “Send me” and God said “Go!”

We are stand in God’s presence.

Jeremiah 23.24 – Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth?”

If he fills heaven and earth, then he fills this room and he is here.

Not only that, but if you have accepted Jesus as your savior, you have received his spirit and he is hear within you.

We are offering him praise. Hopefully we will be allowed a glimpse of his presence. Perhaps it will cause us to bow down and cry out a confession of our sin before him. Perhaps tonight we will hear him invite us on mission with him. When we have seen him in his glory and holiness, there can be only one response: “Here am I! Send me!”

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Chuckle for a Dollar

I was walking down High St. in Jefferson City, MO and I walked by a street musician. He was playing guitar and singing what seemed like an original gospel song. I kept walking, not really knowing how much to acknowledge him. I gave him a weak smile and kept on moving. I saw the hat with a few coins in it, wondered if I should give a buck or something. I finished my business up the street and had to return. I didn't want to walk by the guy again, but I did. I got up to him and I thought, I'll give him a buck. I got a dollar out of my wallet (he sees it) and I feel committed to hang around for a bit to hear him sing and give a buck. After I got my dollar out, I realized he was probably drunk and singing for change to buy some booze. Augh! I didn't want to give him a dollar to collect his change and buy some hooch, but I felt committed. I put the buck in and he wants to talk. He tells me he is going to play his favorite song. It was "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello. He sang it with such passion. I know the song, so at one point I began to sing along. Just me and a drunk guy with a guitar singing a song about anti-immigration sentiment in London from the 80s. I wonder how that would look if somebody I knew had driven or walked past at that time while we were singing "Oliver's Army is here to stay/ Oliver's Army are on their way/ And I would rather be anywhere else but here today..."
Good times...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stark on the Rise of Christianity

Nothing ground breaking, but some great stuff by Rodney Stark in Cities of God. Stark is discussing the growth of the early church and countering the idea that Christianity offered potential converts relief in the afterlife from their suffering in this world:

The power of Christianity lay not in its promise of otherworldly compensations for suffering in this life, as has so often been proposed. No, the crucial change that took place in the third century was the rapidly spreading awareness of a faith that delivered potent antidotes to life’s miseries here and now! The truly revolutionary aspect of Christianity lay in moral imperative such as “Love one’s neighbor as oneself,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”…”When you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it unto me.” These were not just slogans. Members did nurse the sick, even during epidemics; they did support orphans, widows, the elderly, and the poor; they did concern themselves with the lot of slaves. In short, Christians created “a miniature welfare state in an empire which for the most part lacked social services.” Support for this view comes from the continuing inability of pagan groups to meet this challenge.

Emperor Julian tried to revive paganism in the Empire after the rise of Christianity. He wrote to a prominent pagan priest: “I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans (Christians) observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence…[They] support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

ESPN still makes me crazy

Will Leitch thinks ESPN is ruining sports. I agree. The (hated by me) Chicago Cubs have won 9 games in a row, have the best record in the majors and you are hard pressed to find much coverage of it. However, when a former set up man for the NYYs starts a game, throws 67 pitches, gets no decision, it gets almost as much coverage as the upcoming Celtics-Lakers series. God save the fan, indeed.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

We All Are Hypocrites

One of the biggest charges against Christianity today (and for decades) is that we say we believe one thing but our lifestyles do not portray what we believe. The church is full of hypocrites. That familiar mantra. I learned last night, that I guess hypocrites are not limited to Christianity.
I was at a downtown concert in Columbia last night when a couple of young ladies sat next to me and my wife. We were seated on big brick flower boxes on the corner of Ninth and Broadway in Columbia. These girls lit some incense and then spread them throughout the flower box. I asked one of the young ladies what the deal was with the incense. (I thought they were just being polite and counteracting the smell of their cigarettes). She told me the name of the scent and that it was a spiritual thing and that it released positive energy and then encouraged good spirits to visit. O.K...As the night went on, I wondered how much good energy was encouraged by them releasing dangerous carbon monoxide into the atmosphere with their cigarette smoke. I wondered how the good spirits would react to their littering by throwing their cigarette butts on the ground when they were done (the world is my ashtray) or by leaving a plastic cup and beer bottle behind. I wondered how "spiritual" it was to light pungent incense and put it around people without asking them if they minded. I guess Christians aren't the only hypocrites.