It’s no secret that people have a tendency to overuse words. Even cliche has become a cliche. No matter the word or phrase, they face the danger of becoming trite and losing any impact to our ears.
Christian writers have talked about how words like grace and love have lost a lot of power and weight to our ears. Not surprising. In our attempts to get people to appreciate how powerful God has made these ideas to us, the repetition of these same words has sacrificed some of that power (especially when factoring in how we overuse the words outside of those contexts). One word in particular that I think has lost some of it’s power for us is rejoice.
It’s been a long while since I’ve posted a new blog, so I thought it would be nice to post an update on existing projects for you all!
First, I need to tell you about my band. I haven’t mentioned this particular project in a blog since my first post, but I have been working hard at making this project a reality—with some invaluable help from my band mates. Our name is Out of the Invisible and you can follow us on facebook. We’re working on recording some music for your listening pleasure—we are talking with someone about recording right now—so, while there may not be any music, our facebook is the best way to keep updated about shows and other fun things. But we’re well on our way to recording; we’re even getting some new gear to toy around with to put our own special mark on the songs.
I feel the vision for this band is the driving force. While we want to make music that will have some hand in changing lives, we also want to do what we can off stage to make a difference. This is not just because we want to spur people on to get involved in charitable outreaches. We want to make our faith real in the places that lyrics and melodies cannot. If you want to be a part of that or have some ideas for projects to get involved in around the community, let us know!
Second, the novella that I promised to have done by year’s end is going very slowly. I’ve been busy with work and ministry stuff, but I also have not been pushing my free time toward getting it done. So, for those of you who are anxious to see it, I make this promise: I will start working on it every day during my free time. It may only amount to a couple of minutes a day on some days, but I will not let a day go by without getting some work done on it.
This also applies to my blog. I love posting here, but I haven’t been thinking hard enough lately to come up with frequent posts. It may not be writing everyday, but at least working on and forming ideas. I suppose this leads me to a few significant thoughts to help wrap this post up: Anything worth doing requires sacrifice on your part. Don’t get distracted from the thing that makes you come alive. Chances are, those distractions are keeping you from doing what God wants you to do help change someone’s life.
Until next time,
Recently, I started going through the classic television series, “The Twilight Zone,” on Netflix—one of my new favorite services. This show was pretty much ahead of its time and still has some very powerful moments that hit close to home for a lot of people. I was watching the first episode, “Where Is Everybody?”, when I experienced one of these moments.
I’ve noticed that it’s very tempting for people to get wrapped up in their own problems. It doesn’t really matter what concerns them; if there’s some obstacle that needs to be overcome, the knee-jerk reaction of just about anybody is to focus on that problem and how they would go about solving it. Very rarely do they ever step back, breathe and look at what caused the problem or at other problems orbiting around the problem where their focus is.
And here’s some startling news: Christians are just as bad at this. Shocked? It’s not too surprising—we’re not perfect, remember? But the problem isn’t in making the mistake, rather in continuing to make the mistake and how it shows in our relationship with God and how we treat Him. God’s people have a tendency to continually become self-absorbed and forget just to whom they belong. If you take a look at the book of Haggai, you’ll see how true this is.
Starting at verse 2 of Haggai 1 (NIV):
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’”
3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
Before I go on, let me back up a bit and give you some context.
Haggai’s ministry took place after the Jews had been released from captivity and sent back to Jerusalem—approximately twenty years after their captivity had ended (for those who are avid OT readers, this was decades before either Ezra or Nehemiah came to Jerusalem). In the twenty years since the first Jews were released from captivity, they hadn’t managed much in the way of rebuilding. Though they started rebuilding the temple early on, the work had been halted and would stay that way for about ten years.
Along comes Haggai, sent by God to speak to the leaders in Jerusalem. While the Jews had stopped working on the temple, they had evidently kept working on the city and on getting their homes back up. In other words, they had abandoned fixing up God’s house and worried about their own homes and God was not pleased with that.
Sometimes, it’s hard for us to appreciate a circumstance like this, but keep in mind that the temple was central to the Jews in their walk of faith. They knew it as their means of coming to God where he dwelt and bringing everything you had to him as an act of worship. While it may not have been the only method of worship or service open to the Jews, since God was there, it was the big unifying point in their lives.
So what message does God give Haggai? He basically says to the Jews, “You’re not getting a lot out of your work to rebuild your lives because you’ve ignored Me in the process.” Clearly, things had not been going well in the reconstruction since their decision to put the temple on hold. According to Haggai, any effort they made to rebuild and put their lives back in order proved unproductive—all because they decided to put God on the back-burner and worry about themselves first.
Have we moved away from this behavior? I don’t really think so. If anything, the choice is made worse by the tendency in America to insist on being self-made. I’m sure there are those who would disagree with my claim. They might say that this is some hold-out from our dusty, old religious days. However, I am not the one who is calling out this behavior—God is. That should give anyone plenty of reason to stop and think.
God called His people out for putting Him last. The God of Israel was becoming usurped again in the hearts of His people. It’s not very clear in the passage what usurped God, but it looks like concern for physical wants and needs—shelter, food, clothing, etc. I think that this is where we arrive at the scary part: we’re guilty of doing the exact same thing. We may not fess up to it in word, but our actions sure make it obvious. How are we guilty? We’re more concerned with how we can benefit from our actions instead of how we’re worshiping God; we’re more concerned with how to provide for ourselves instead of giving back to The One who provides for us. It’s choices like this—and they span more that just material concerns, by the way—that affect the direction and focus of our worship—ourselves or God—and affect just what kind of results we yield if we claim to be His children.
Jesus told a parable of a foolish man and a wise man—the story where the first man built his house on sand and the second man built his on a rock. The short of it: sand makes a lousy foundation. Anything built on sand is liable to fall apart as the sand shifts with the changing weather. This is not the case when you build on a foundation that is sturdy like a rock. The same is true of our life choices today. We can either build on the sand of things that are perceived as important now—the house, the perfect job, etc.—or on the rock that is God and His ways.
Often, these aren’t ways that best serve ourselves or bring us comfort or do whatever else it is that gets in the way of God’s house being built up in our lives. Those choices don’t seem to really help in the long run, anyway.
Do you ever stop and ask yourself, “I wonder if the way I’m acting would make God proud”? I know that’s a heavy question for an introduction. You’re no doubt thinking about some of the times someone yelled at you because of this very issue—in the south, we say that someone’s “livin’ like the devil.” And I’m sure that most of those times involved someone—maybe that person or you—mishandling your particular indiscretion by getting overly angry and not pointing to scripture to handle or correct the situation. But even though you or someone may have handled accountability poorly, the question should still concern us. Why? Because it concerns God.
"Why do we do what we do?"
This question was posed to our church’s praise team by our worship pastor, who’s been a good friend of mine for several years. Obviously, the answers to this question were varied, but I bet if you were to ask this question of others in the church, you’d get responses a lot like them: ”To give God the glory”, “Because the church really needed some help in this area”, “Because it’s fun”, “Because I have a gift in this area”—and so on. Of course, these answers don’t really seem to cut it after a while.
Sure these answers are grounded in good intentions, but they seem to be potentially one-sided, don’t they? It would be so easy for any of us to put a spin on our reasons to make us seem like a super Christian or something. I mean, some of those defenses seem beyond reproach, don’t they? The problem is that it’s too easy for us to use them as leverage so we can compare ourselves to those Christians who don’t do as much as we do.
Quiet Science “With/Without” (2009)-Sometimes, there are groups that become instant favorites of mine. With those bands, it’s very easy for me to accept the first thing I hear from them and become dedicated to them. But sometimes there are those bands that I just kick myself in the head for not getting into sooner. Quiet Science falls into the latter category.
Children 18:3 “Children 18:3” (2008)-Punk’s a funny genre for me. There are some bands that have definitely stood out to me over the years, but they’re rarely the bands that most people talk about—with a noted exception for The Clash. What can I say? I like what I like. This band grabbed my attention so emphatically with their first album, that I can’t help but to list it as a favorite.
Plumb “candycoatedwaterdrops” (1999)-When I migrated away from a lot of the music I grew up listening to—basically, whatever could be found on popular radio stations—I stayed in that hard-and-heavy place for a while, not caring too much about music with obvious “pop” influence. Once I got this album, though, my thoughts had changed.