Monday, August 28, 2006

post about music videos

Before I begin, I'd like to note that my friend Brian have vowed to post 5 times a week in order to stick it to me for doubting the stamina of his beginner's enthusiasm. I've been inspired to pick up the pace a little bit, but not this week, since I'm moving this week. Brian, let this grizzled veteran of 5 months fill you in on reality. Blogging isn't like an exegesis paper or a marriage, you can't just show up, go through the motions and expect success. It requires work and dedication. The blogosphere is a fickle beast, one minute people are commenting and thinking you're the best thing since swiss cheese, the next minute you're stumbling about posting about some inane topic like music videos and your fans are moving on the next rookie sensation.

Speaking of which, I've never been a big fan of music videos as a genre. I've always been of the opinion that they were generally boring and lacked originality. Not all, but most. I've just always thought they were awkward looking, the band stands in a field or something and plays their instruments that aren't plugged in as the lead singer mouths the words into the camera. That describes the vast majority of music videos.

I generally prefer two types of music videos: those from live performances, and random funny ones. I love live music. I'd rather listen to Dave Matthews Band Listener Supported than one of their studio albums (some of which are great). I just think that live music gives you a better idea of the true talent of the band, in my opinion (I suppose studio work offers a view at a different kind of talent). Music videos give you a glimpse into how the band plays together and the individual talents of each member.

But the second type of music video is what inspired this particular post. Before I get to the specific video in mind, I'd like to note that I always felt that the Foo Fighters were the kings of randomly funny music videos. Between Big Me, Monkey Wrench, and Everlong (and there are probably more I'm forgetting), they ruled the genre (well, I suppose besides Weird Al, but he's different anyway). Weezer was always good for a funny video, too. I'm sure there are many others, but I honestly stopped watching these things years ago.

Anyway, on to my inspiration. I recently ran across a Jars of Clay video on youtube (the best thing to happen to the internet since blogspot) to a song called Mirrors and Smoke which is probably the coolest thing I've seen in a while. It's random, it's funny, it's stinkin' cool. I like the song anyway, add in the video and I'm hooked. It's something different from the norm, I suggest you take a look.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hymn of the Week: And Can It Be

After not posting for almost 2 weeks, I have now posted twice in 12 hours. Go figure. Don't skip over the last post (5.5 Random Things), it just might give you a glimpse into my psyche. Also, the blog police have informed me that if I don't start posting the "Hymn of the Week" once a week, the name will have to be changed to "Hymn of the Every-Other-Week", and that just doesn't have the same punch.

This week's offering was written by the one and only Charles Wesley, after whom the Charles Wesley Corollary is named, which I first unveiled a few weeks back. Charles Wesley is considered one of the finest hymn writers ever and is respected across a wide range of Christianity. In fact, I'd like someone to write a biography of him called Charles Wesley: Even the Presbyterians Like Him. Here are the lyrics:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain!
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Chorus: Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!


Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.


No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own


Modern worship aficionados will notice that the song You Are My King (Amazing Love) essentially stole from the chorus of this song. That's fine, if imitation is the highest form of flattery than theft must be even better, right?

Some things confuse me about this song. I honestly don't think that "Thine eye diffused a quickening ray" makes tons of sense, but what do I know. And "Emptied Himself of all but love" could be taken to mean that our author believed that Christ emptied Himself of His divinity in coming to earth (an interpretation that some take of Philippians 2:7), which would be wrong. But, while I'm not an expert in Wesleyan theology (though I know a bit about John and Charles) I don't really think that is what is meant here. Finally, this song is really hard to sing for those of us with no vocal range. In fact, I've yet to hear a good modern rendition of this song, I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible.

But there's so much to love here. The Incarnation (from the manger to the tomb) truly is the greatest act of love this world has ever seen, or will ever see. Why should I, who caused His pain and suffering, be rewarded through His death? Doesn't this defy logic? But that is what is so amazing about His love, it benefits those who mock Him. Amazing love indeed. The last verse is one of the most powerful in all of hymnody, in my opinion. I could sing it all day and never quite wrap my mind around it.

May I suggest that you ponder for a while the thought that Jesus, who has always been and always will be God, lowered Himself to this earth and died for you and me. The One who has been from the beginning suffered and died a humiliating death for His people. The One who spoke this world into creation and was rejected by it sacrificed Himself in the greatest act of love. Think about that. How is this possible? Did you or I do anything to deserve this? Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God should die for me?

Friday, August 25, 2006

5.5 random things

5.5: This post is dedicated to Bruce, of Bruce and Morgan fame, who managed to comment twice on my 13 day absence from posting. I would like to apologize publically (I almost wrote "to publically apologize", which is a split infinitive) to my legions of fans for taking so long.

5: I am an introvert. I took one of those personality tests a few years back and out of 22 questions I gave the "introvert" answer to 21 of them. And I suppose it's true, I mean, I'm the guy who snuck away from his own birthday party for 10 minutes because I needed a break. For the record, "introvert" does not mean antisocial or doesn't like people. On the contrary, I love people. In fact, I know many extroverts who don't like people. That is not a contradiction, extroverts love to be around people, it doesn't mean that like the people they're around. They need the interaction. Anyway, enough of my stupid pop psychology.

4: The best new blog on the market belongs to Brian, fellow Simpsons fan and boy band member. It's funny how he posted 3 times in his first 3 days, aren't these newbies so precious? Don't worry, Brian, you're wide-eyes optimism and innocent zeal will be sucked out of you in no time. Also, I'm not sure how he manages to find the time to blog, which leads me to believe that he slipped this one by his wife without her knowing. So if you know Mrs Brian, keep this on the down low.

3: When I was in college I had a Biology class that I really didn't like. When I wasn't skipping (sorry, mom and dad), I was struggling to stay awake. So, I invented a foolproof way to look busy, keep the mind sharp and in no way engage the course material at all. I would sit with my notebook open and pen in hand and think about a song I hadn't heard in a long time. Then, I'd write out the words as best I could, and would genuinely be looking like I was concentrating intensely. You could look through that notebook (it's probably in a trunk in my parents' basement if you really want to investigate) and find notes about photosynthesis mixed with the lyrics to Bobby Darin tunes.

2: While we're confessing scholastic laziness, I dropped a class in college because it interfered with the Red Sox playoff schedule. It was an Astronomy class in the Fall of 1999, which had its labs at night (obviously), Monday nights to be precise. I looked over the playoff schedule and realized I would have to skip 3 labs, and I was only allowed 1 skip. To be honest, it really wasn't a tough choice for me. And if I didn't drop that class, I would have missed one of the greatest single pitching performances ever (Game 5 of the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians and their high powered offense, Pedro Martinez came on in relief, bad back and all, and no-hit them for 6 innings, striking out 8 and winning the series, this happened on a Monday night). Oh, and this might be the first time my parents have ever heard about this. And I stand by my decision.

1. The greatest website of all time just might be It has the box scores for almost every baseball game in the last 18 million years or so. I could spend hours looking at this stuff if I wanted to (I'll let you guess if I actually have or not). It has all sorts of other goodies as well. And you can take a look at the box score and game log from the very first game I attended live (at Fenway Park) on July 12, 1986. It's amazing to me how much this confirms my memory. I remember it being Roger Clemens' 15th win, against Mike Witt of the California Angels, who was one of the best pitchers in the AL that year. I remember the center fielder making his major league debut (I didn't remember his name, though, it's LaSchelle Tarver). I remember Bill Buckner making an error to give the Angels the lead (he did in the top of 6th), then homering to give the Sox the lead (in the bottom of the 6th, and I can still picture the crowd in right field standing as the ball flew towards them). What the box score doesn't show is Wade Boggs arguing with an umpire about a ground ball on the baseline that he felt went foul (though it mentions Schofield's bunt single to third in the 5th, which must be the same play) or the papercut I got on my finger from the napkin I was holding while eating my first Fenway Frank. Yes, my memory of my childhood is that accurate.

I guess that's it, 5.5 random things. I'll be back to posting other more important stuff soon, I promise (I may or may not have my fingers crossed right now).

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hymn of the Week: Jesus with Thy Church Abide

It's actually been two weeks since my last Hymn of the Week, sorry about that. I recently thought to myself, "you know, we don't sing enough songs that prominently feature the word 'beseech.'" Well, that offense is corrected this fine morning with our latest installment, "Jesus with Thy Church Abide" by Thomas Pollock. This is probably not too well known, which is rather unfortunate. Ponder the lyrics for a while:

Jesus, with Thy church abide;
Be her savior, Lord, and Guide,
While on earth her faith is tried:
We beseech Thee, hear us,
We beseech Thee, hear us.

Keep her life and doctrine pure;
Grant her patience to endure,
Trusting in Thy promise sure:
We beseech Thee, hear us,
We beseech Thee, hear us.

May she one in doctrine be,
One in truth and charity,
Winning all to faith in Thee:
We beseech Thee, hear us,
We beseech Thee, hear us.

May she guide the poor and blind,
Seek the lost until she find
And the brokenhearted bind:
We beseech Thee, hear us,
We beseech Thee, hear us.

As you can see, this is a prayer for the Church. I find myself appreciating and loving the Church as I get older (not that I'm all that old, right?). For me, a major change in my attitude was my trip to Sri Lanka in '05 where I got to serve the Body of Christ in need. It helped me to see God's people beyond what I know here and realize the urgent need to cry out to God on their behalf. I've grown in my love for the Church and the love of the Church's Head.

Notice the focus on the role of the Church in this hymn. There is an emphasis on doctrine, evangelism and healing the hurting. When was the last time you sung about the Church's doctrine? Also take note of the character of the Church. There's an emphasis on unity and endurance, the former is obviously lacking and the latter probably is as well (although that's harder to measure, I suppose). Most importantly, note that these things are not accomplished through our own strength, but the the One who abides with His people.

When I think of this hymn I ask myself a few questions. Am I praying for the Church (beyond my own local fellowship)? Do I identify myself with my brothers and sisters throughout the ages and all over the world? Do I rejoice with her? Do I mourn with her? Do I recognize the need to intercede on her behalf?

May I suggest something for us to do? Use this hymn as a springboard prayer for the body of Christ. Learn to love the Church as Christ does. Many within the Church have taken a negative attitude towards her, may that never be true of us! Let yourself be known as someone who loves the Church and faithfully prays on her behalf.

Friday, August 04, 2006

free advertisement for friends

I've been privileged to have a few friends give me props and send some traffic my way, so I figured I'd return the favor. But, I ran into a problem- if I plug some blogs I will inevitably leave someone out, and they'll have their feelings hurt and I'll end up having to spring for some singing telegram in order to regain their favor. So, I decided I would dedicate an entire post to my friends' blogs, I encourage you to check them out. If I forgot you, I'm sorry. Get over it.

Sarah is a good friend from seminary. She writes some really great stuff, the problem is that she posts about once every 10 years or so. In fact, she posts most often when she's overseas. So pray she'll go on more mission trips. When she writes, it's the kind of stuff you could read for your morning devotionals. Good stuff.

Kurt can be one of the most entertaining bloggers when he isn't taking the bar (he just graduated from Harvard Law School, hence the "hls" in his address). Unfortunately, he often likes to write about getting a tan, but he's quite capable of pulling out some gems. Exhibit A (see, court room language): his three-part review of season one of Thunder Cats is pure genius. Oh yeah, and there was the time his girlfriend posted a comment referring to him as "cute and cuddly" (paraphrase), which earned him a tremendous amount of public mocking (mostly by yours truly). Good times were had by all.

Matt & Pam Neave are two of my favorite people in the world. You know those couples that never make you feel like the 3rd wheel? That's Matt & Pam. Anyway, their blog has all sorts of pictures, which makes it easy for simple folk like myself to read. I'll soon be neighbors with them, but my picture better not end up posted on the World Wide Web.

Bruce & Morgan are clearly the coolest of my friends, because they have an entire message board. Actually, Bruce has an entire message board, Morgan rarely makes an appearance (apparently being pregnant and a nurse takes up a lot of energy). Here you'll find talk about their coming baby, their first, who will be named Polycarp. Also, you can link to their site and watch the video of Bruce's proposal. WARNING: it's pretty gross, a lot of hugging and kissing. I'm convinced Bruce did this purely to make his kids (the aforementioned Polycarp and, in the future, Perpetua) squirm someday.

Have you ever wondered what a liberal MIT grad from Jersey is thinking? Me neither. But, Andrew is defintely worth a read. I mean, the site's description is "a blog to argue with danny", so that's got to count for something. In fact, the impetus for starting his site was to argue with my assessment of Bruce Springsteen (check out the first sentence of his first post). The best thing to come out of Jersey since toxic fumes and big hair.

I've mentioned him before, but Jeremy, my second cousin, has a high-quality blog. He's one of those philosophy types, so be prepared. A wide variety of topics are covered here: biblical commentaries, racial issues, politics, and so on. And he has more links that anyone would know what to do with. I don't know him as well as the other folks I'm mentioning, but he gets a pass because we're related.

In the college friend category, my old roommate A-Rock is one of those musical-musings types. If you're a big fan of indie music, I'm sure you'll enjoy reading his album reviews. Oh, and I think I'm the only person who still calls him "A-Rock." Anyway, it's been fun checking out his blog, even though I'm not sure he knows I read it. I've realized recently how much I miss this guy.

Winning the prize for fewest posts (currently with a grand total of one) is another college buddy, who evidently has decided to be known purely by his last name, Maston. He and I would discuss exegesis, Biblical languages, theology, etc, for hours in college. In fact, I credit much of my biblical understanding to those conversations working through issues, bouncing ideas off each other. He just started his blog, inspired by his upcoming move to Scotland to work on a PhD in New Testament.

I've recently discovered the blog of Addie, wife of my college friend Greenbow. It almost makes me miss life in Missouri. Not quite, but almost. Apparently their dogs play an important role in their life. But what else should we expect from folks who live in rural Missouri?

I'd like to finish up my mentioning a few folks who really need a blog:

My roommate, Jonathan. Smart. Funny. Lady killer. That's a recipe for success in life and in the blogosphere.

Seminary buddy, Ryan. He should name it "Not Really a Presbyterian" or "Pretend Presbyterian." Anyway, he'll probably be the first pastor turned president (first that I'm aware of, at any rate), so it'd be cool if we could say "hey, I used to read his blog back in the day."

My dad. Actually, I wish I had more time, I'd convince my dad to co-blog with me about sports. Honestly, if you transcribed one of my conversations with my father about sports you'd end up with better stuff than what you hear on sports radio or read on the internet. He's one of the few people I (sometimes) defer to when talking sports.

Anyway, thank you for humoring me. I love my friends, and like to brag about them periodically. Check them out if you get the chance. You know, like when you're bored at work or something (*cough*Matt*cough*).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

there's the right way, and there's the Lahaye way: reading the book of Revelation

Msn recently published an interview with popular author Tim Lahaye, of Left Behind fame, regarding the current war involving Israel and the end times (clicking on the title of this post will get you there). Many who know me are aware of my aversion for Lahaye and his theology, I may have even used the word "disease" once or twice. Mind you, I'm grateful that people have decided to study the Bible more as a result of reading his books, and the Lord has no doubt used such means to draw people to Himself. That doesn't mean he's right, of course, since the Lord has also used those who wholeheartedly disagree with Lahaye to draw people to Himself. That's just the way He works, thankfully we don't have to get it all right in order to be used.

I just want to point out a couple things really quick. The interviewer at one point states: "But my understanding is that current biblical scholarship reads some of the apocalyptic scenes in the Bible as metaphorically addressing events that were taking place as the Bible was being written." Lahaye's replies with: "These are usually liberal theologians that don’t believe the Bible literally." Woah, slow down, buddy! This is hardly a liberal position. Is it liberal to assume that the Bible had something to say to those living in the time it was written? Or should we automatically assume that the apocalyptic visions were written only for the future, or more specifically, for 21st century Christians? This is, after all, what Lahaye believes. This reminds me of a friend of mine who said Revelation is his favorite book "because it's the only book written specifically for us today." How arrogant is that to assume that John decided to skip over 2000 years of the Church in order to encourage us?

Actually, when you study Revelation, it makes much more sense to see the imagery as something that the initial readers understand. This isn't a "liberal" notion, it's common sense. It was written in the 1st century, therefore 1st century readers would have been able to figure out its meaning. Mind you, I think Revelation does talk about the end times, but not to the exclusion of addressing the original readers. The truth is that God delivering His Church from the persecution and temptations of Rome is intertwined with God delivering His people in the last days. Have you noticed how OT prophets refer back to the exodus from Egypt when talking about the Israelite return from exile? Why? Because they are connected. God delivered His people from Egyptian slavery, and He would do the same as they were in exile in Babylon. Looking backward is the key to looking forward.

Notice that Revelation does the same thing. There is imagery of the exodus (for instance, the plagues) and wording taken from the prophets (Zechariah, Ezekiel, Daniel) who spoke of the return from Babylon. Why? Because looking back to God's faithfulness to deliver His people is how John decided to encourage his readers in their trial. In a sense, history is cyclical. God's people are persecuted/enslaved/exiled and are delivered. There will one day be a final deliverance, which Revelation does talk about (see chapter 20). It is the "end-times exodus." We can understand Revelation to address its original audience without making it purely about us. We can understand the Lord's view of the future by looking at His view of the past. Rome was a brutal, oppressive force agains God's people. They were also a temporary power that eventually God would destroy, and John's readers needed to know that. And so does every generation of Christians who has suffered at the hands of an enemy of God. That is the primary way we can see Revelation addressing us.

I also wanted to make a comment about Lahaye's commitment to a literal reading of Revelation. It's interesting to note that he (and others who take his view) love to trumpet this claim- that they read the book literally. However, they aren't consistent. Does he really think a literal beast will arise from the sea (chapter 13)? No, he sees that as a picture. Why? If he's so committed to a literal reading he should see this as a literal beast popping up out of the sea. But he knows that's absurd, so he abandons his method at this point. In essence, he becomes a "liberal" (his word, not mine) when it's convenient.

I'd also like to point out that Revelation interprets itself metaphorically: "And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs, for they are the spirits of demons" (16:12-14, italics mine). It gives a picture (three frogs) and its interpretation (spirits of demons). Shoot, Jesus Himself does this in the last verse of chapter 1 ("the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches", where are the red letters when I need them?). This is one reason I read the book metaphorically, there aren't literal frogs, and there isn't a literal beast or literal horses with literal riders. And for the record, I don't take the numbers in Revelation literally, either.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is our poor understanding of how metaphors work (and here I may be getting away from my realm of "expertise" so bear with me). Admitting that something is metaphorical is not the same thing as saying it isn't real. A metaphor is grounded in reality. In fact, metaphors work so well because they refer to something that is real. We see this in art, music, etc., why not in the Bible?

Anyway, I really think I'm starting to ramble here, I apologize. My point is that we don't need to read the newspaper or watch the evening news in order to understand Revelation. The Bible does a fine job interpreting itself, we don't need CNN to do it for us. Revelation was always intended to be understood. Notice that the angel tells John "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near" (22:10). Contrast that to what the angel tells Daniel: "conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time" (Daniel 12:4). Daniel's book was not meant to be understood at that time. John's is.

Lahaye and others confuse the main point of the book with the wrong things. They think it's all about timing: when is the tribulation going to happen? What about the rapture? And so on. Revelation isn't about these things. I am convinced that people are intimidated by Revelation because people like Lahaye have focused on the wrong things. People have become worried about what is happening in the world because they keep wondering "what if this is Armaggedon? What if this man is the antiChrist?" It's odd because Revelation is meant to inspire confidence and trust in our God, not concern. It's about how to view reality in times of persecution and temptation to fall away. It shows us that God is the one who is truly in power, not those who attack God's people. We don't have to wait for the stars to align or the right powers to be in place for Revelation to become a reality. It already is.

We are living in the last days, and have been since the time of Jesus. I refer you to Acts 2, where Peter states that the last days as prophesied by Joel were beginning right then. The "end of time" that Daniel's book referred to is now. John uses all sorts of imagery from that book because he was aware of this fact. The time of confusion over what is happening to the people of God is through. We can rest in confidence knowing that the same God who delivered His people from Egypt is the same God who deliverd His people from Babylon and is the same God who delivered His people from Rome. Whatever might happen in the future is to be interpreted with this knowledge, not some secret knowledge we attain by reading the Bible with the newspaper opened next to it.