Car Radio

I fully acknowledge that I write and talk a lot about music. Music is vital to me. Since I was
a kid, I’ve been really passionate about it, and I listen as much as possible. In the car, at the
house, and in the office I often have music playing. So, it would then follow that much of my
writing centers on aspects of music. But I promise the next blog will have nothing to do with
music. Chances are it will be about food- one of my other passions.

But I digress. In the car this morning, I was flipping around on the radio. On my car radio’s
face, I have six pre-programmable options. I’ll cycle through them and get really frustrated
because it seems like when one station is on commercial, they all are. There’s nothing worse
than radio commercials, and I’m so used to DVR television, I feel like I should be able to fast
forward through the ads. But I can’t and so I work the pre-program buttons like a 1950’s
switchboard operator until I catch a decent song.

Even in that frustration though, here’s the thing that makes the radio great: I happened to hit
the #1 station button just as one of my favorite songs that I hadn’t heard or thought about in a
long time came on. It was a total surprise and kind of made my morning better. Now, I know
that in ten years, we’ll probably have microchips in our heads that play any song into our brain
immediately after we think it. Hypothetically, if you’re a Hanson fan, as most of you probably
are- then you could hear “Mmm-bop” anytime you wanted. But the radio is great because it
catches you off guard. I’m not in total control of the radio, and in some ways I’m at the mercy of
the DJ. And that’s why it’s exciting to hear a song on the radio that you love, even if you own it
on mp3 or CD. And every now and then, you get completely caught off guard in a very pleasant
way. In some ways, there’s spontaneity with the radio, and spontaneity can sometimes be hard
to find these days.

Lately, I’ve been rooting down in the first part of the books of Acts. One of the more attention
grabbing accounts is when the Holy Spirit moves amongst the Apostles.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a might rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (Acts 2.1-2, ESV)

The apostles were together, and suddenly and spontaneously, the Holy Spirit moved and
worked and empowered them. One of the main the ideas here is that the promise Jesus has
made in regards to the work of the Spirit, recorded in Acts 1.8 and also recorded by John in his
gospel (chapters 14 and 16) is fulfilled for the earliest believers forming the early church. This
is not the first time the Scriptures record the work of the Spirit, of course. For instance, when
Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist the Spirit is very present. Also, immediately after that, it is
the Spirit that leads Jesus into the wilderness. And here, in Acts 2, the Spirit is working again.
True Christian faith teaches that the Holy Spirit exists as a ‘person’ of the eternal Godhead
(‘person’ is used as an expression of distinct personality or presence). Christ followers are
monotheistic, affirming one God, but God is also three distinct ‘persons’ in that oneness- Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit. So, God has always existed as one, yet also always existed in community.
I know, very much an enigma, but wonderfully beautiful.

In the Acts passage, the Spirit is described as a rushing wind. This is familiar language as
one of the biblical Greek words for Spirit is a synonym for wind which beautifully captures the
spontaneity and the uncontainable power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, the Holy Spirit is not just
simply like wind- it is a personality of the Trinity. For instance, in the aforementioned promise by
Jesus in John 14 and 16; the Holy Spirit is described by the Greek word, paraclete. This word
means comforter, helper, or advocate. This is vitally important in our understanding of the Holy
Spirit.

For example, someone recently tried to explain to me that the Holy Spirit was not part of the
Godhead (another term for Trinity) but was just God showing his energy. He stated that the
Spirit was not in and of itself anything. He said, “It’s like electricity- you can see it, but it is not a
personality of any sort.” My response to him referenced back to Jesus’ description of it being an
Advocate and Counselor. I replied, “If I’m in a courtroom, in the midst of a trial, I need an active,
working Advocate and Helper. I’m not going to be comforted by the fact that the lights in the
courtroom are on.”

The beauty of the Holy Spirit is that it works to our aid and our help. It so often reveals its true
presence and work when we need it most. It feels like the spontaneous and unpredictable wind.
It may often surprise you and catch you off guard. But the Spirit, with its distinctness and specific
personality within the oneness of God, works just at the perfect time to comfort you in sadness,
advocate for you in trials of faith, and help you in times of anxiety and anguish. It’s a blessing to
be surprised and caught off guard by a Helper when we need it most.

Missions Class

I was in a Missions Class last night at the NP, and we were learning about better understanding a specific culture quite different from the culture of us present at the class. The class has been fascinating and has stretched us as a group in many powerful ways, and some things have been put on my heart. Now most of these things are thoughts and concepts that the majority of believers have likely wrestled with before, but in this missions meeting, we were forced to full on WWF-Hulk Hogan wrestle with them. Wait, that kind of wrestling is fake, so not the best example… but I think you get my point. I’ll speak for myself in saying, I was very convicted and very challenged at a new level in regards to certain things I’ve wrestled with before.

1) How do we treat the Gospel? The Apostle Paul says this about the Gospel: “…it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… for in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed…” (Romans 1.16-17; TNIV). So, obviously the message of the Gospel carries some serious weight. And yet, somehow it is often presented in a kitschy and corny way. Now, this may come from good intentions- for instance trying to get peoples’ attention and so forth, but there is nothing corny about which Paul says, “the righteousness of God is revealed.” It is a helpful reminder that the Gospel is powerful and doesn’t really need a dog and pony show, (sorry, but I love that expression) a bait and switch or to be used like a bad pick-up line.

2) This goes along with #1. Does everything have to be about ourselves? Evangelism is the active sharing of one’s faith with the purpose being God. But I’m going to use what I think is a new term here:
i-vangelism. i-vangelism is similar to evangelism, in many ways. It involves a person talking about her faith. It involves a person convicted about what he believes. It usually revolves around good intentions. The difference is that i-vangelism is ultimately about the person who is talking about God instead of it being truly about God. Let’s be honest, this is difficult because we are prone to make things about ourselves. It’s part of our condition, found both in our nature and nurture from childhood. But, the Gospel is not about us being heroic or slick. The Gospel is about God, and we are not to give ourselves credit for its success or discredit ourselves at apparent obstacles. God is glorified when the gospel is spoken and lived out. There are plenty of opportunities in our culture to credit ourselves and garner attention. The Gospel, however, is not that place.

3) The Gospel is not American. Certainly, I love my country and cherish my freedoms. When the US played its opening match in the World Cup, I got goose bumps from the National Anthem. But American culture and Christianity are not the same thing. When one realizes that other cultures view Christianity and American pop-culture as the same thing, one quickly gets a perspective on the difference. In sharing the gospel with people of other cultures, it is a big mistake to assume “westernization” needs to occur or is a necessary part of the process. The good news is that God loves his creation and ultimately reveals his truth in Jesus, and this stands on its own.

In reflecting on these things, I am continually humbled by a God who is greater, more loving, and beautiful than I could ever imagine. In that line of thinking, it makes it easier to look outside one’s self towards his glory.

Record Collection

Recently, I started collecting my top ten favorite music albums…. on vinyl. In other words, instead of logging on to the Steve Jobs audio warehouse known as iTunes and picking out individual songs on mp3, I’m searching for 33’s. I do occasionally search amazon.com for them, but I honestly try and find them first at the local record store (360 and Mayfield- if you’re familiar with Arlington). OK, some might be asking, “What’s a record?”  Well, back in the ancient days, songs were recorded in groups, called albums.  Often these albums had a meaning or a purpose all of their own, like a book or a story.  These songs were recorded on a record (like a CD but bigger and vinyl) and sold with pictures and notes on the inside pages of the packaging.

Now, before I get too pretentious about all of this, I must admit, I am a child of the 90’s.  The first piece of music I ever bought with my allowance money was digital- a CD. Over time, I garnered a giant CD collection and never once thought about buying vinyl.  But even with my generation’s neglect of vinyl, vinyl records never actually went away.  And unbeknownst to me and many of my peers, even current bands continued to release a small, limited number of their albums pressed on vinyl.

And so a couple of months ago, I stumbled upon this intriguing article about present day bands releasing albums on vinyl because of the quality of sound.  Without going into too much detail, basically, a song is recorded on vinyl in analog form.  It’s basically the original sound wave being written into the record.  When a CD is made, they are taking thousands of digital pictures of the sound wave.  So, while CD quality is incredibly good, and it’s a trustworthy replication, the record contains the exact sound wave in the most original form.  Thus, people actually have a basis for the often said, “Records just sound warmer and richer” or “I can’t explain it, but I just like listening to vinyl.”

So, I bought a second hand turn-table and receiver and bought my first record which was an album that I had owned on CD for years.  I put it on and listened. And I actually REALLY listened. Closely. In all honesty, I enjoyed the songs more than I ever had before.  I picked up on a few new things, and was very motivated to focus closely.

Of course, digital has its advantages.  For instance, I just recently downloaded an audio reading of the New Testament on mp3.  It’s great because I can listen to it anywhere, at anytime. I love reading Scripture, and I study and read as much as possible, but listening to it was a very challenging and fresh experience.  I focused in more closely.  I picked up on some things which I might gloss over when I read. I thought intensely about the weight of what it means that Jesus is the Word of God,[1] especially as I listened through the Gospel of John.

Certainly, the written Scripture is:

God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work;[2]

But Jesus spoke His message before it was written down by the Gospel writers, and listening to the Gospel of John has directed my focus towards hearing his words as the people following him and spending time with him would have heard it.  It has directed my focus to Jesus Christ, the eternal Word being in very form God, coming to speak good news to the world[3].  Also, the early church in the beginnings of Christianity did not have an efficient way of copying the Scriptures, and many people couldn’t read, so often in worship the Scriptures were read aloud as people listened.  The message was truly listened to, taken in, and absorbed. It’s been helpful to me to take in the Scripture this way.

I love reading Scripture.  It is a true blessing to read and study the inspired and true words and testimonies of the prophets, Gospel writers, and apostles. And most certainly the message can be “heard” by reading it. But listening to the words has challenged my focus and furthered my passion for the message it testifies to.  I can only imagine what was like to be there when Jesus said,

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.[4]


[1] John 1.1-2,14

[2] 2 Timothy 3.16 (TNIV)

[3] Philippians 2.6-11

[4] John 5.24 (TNIV)

Two Channel TV

I was having lunch with a friend today, and he was telling me about how his television started only receiving two channels. That’s all he gets. Two channels. So we started talking about what channels you would choose if you could only get two channels. I don’t know about you, but for me, I think I would choose ESPN (I can’t survive without SportsCenter) and The Food Network. Why The Food Network? I love food. I’m fairly confident that I think about food more than the average person does. But anyways, those are the two off the top of my head that I would keep. Unfortunately for my friend, he didn’t have the luxury of choosing, because apparently his TV made the executive decision of keeping the Public Access Channel and the Military Channel. That’s it. So, needless to say, he’s been watching a lot of WWI and WWII shows. We started laughing about how in a couple of weeks he’s going to be a military genius. He’ll know every war strategy and weaponry forward and back. At the very least, he’ll be really good at the game, RISK. After we had laughed about it, he sighed and admitted that because of the TV situation he already knew way more about militaries and wars than he probably needed to know.

Naturally, we have the tendency to learn about and take in the things that are put right in front of our face. People truly have the ability to soak up stuff like a sponge and it can shape our thinking, feeling, and worldview. This can be positive or negative. I’m sure you’ve felt the elation walking out to your car after an inspirational movie. Honestly, for about 15 minutes, you feel like you can change the world. On the flip, you often hear people talking about the dangers of de-sensitization. I first heard that term used in regards to violent video games that were popular when I was a kid. And while I’m not a proponent of cultural naiveté and legalism, I acknowledge that the things we put in our heads can be damaging, and Scripture challenges us:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. [Philippians 4.8;TNIV]

However, there is a deeper and more pressing point. There is a difference between indulging in debaucherous and decadent entertainment for kicks and honestly facing the truth of brokenness in the world for the sake of redemption. Following Jesus goes beyond fears of desensitization and safety and into the realm of redemption. In Christ, the call is to go to places of hurt, suffering, lostness, and struggle. We are not called to cloister away, hoarding faith and hope. And the truth is that as one goes to those places and builds those relationships, in faith, one grows stronger. Living faith out in the face of brokenness has the opposite effect of merely indulging in it through media. As I’ve had difficult conversations with people, listened as people have shared horribly sad stories and shared the raw truth of brokenness in their lives, as I’ve lived in and seen places that are riddled with evil, I have not become de-sensitized, hardened, and calloused. It has challenged me to be more loving, more compassionate, less judgmental, and more passionate about the Gospel. There are women and men who have been more places and ministered to more sadness than I have who would say the same thing. So, while often times you can be shaped by what is in front of your face, the power of the Gospel is that you grow ever more challenged to actually do the shaping of what is in front of you. Faith, and prayer, and community give one the ability to go into the world and be light.

The tendency is to immediately think that this can only begin by being dropped in by helicopter to an undisclosed, remote location in a country where Christianity is not allowed. It might but probably won’t look like this for you. It might begin by joining in on a missions opportunity, dedicating a Saturday at a food kitchen, or taking someone to lunch and asking them how you can pray for them and be a support for them. Then, who knows how God will continue to work through you.
The MESSAGE translation of Scripture says this:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand- shine! Keep open house, be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. [Matt. 5.14-16]

Across the Universe

I was briefly perusing Yahoo.com for some quick news, and I came across this article about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100425/sc_afp/scienceastronomyextraterrestrialhawking

In the article, I found this excerpt worthy of sharing.  “In 2008, American space agency NASA beamed the Beatles song “Across the Universe” into deep space to send a message of peace to any alien that happens to be in the region of Polaris — also known as the North Star — in 2439.”

I find this little excerpt to be really funny.  If you think about it, that’s a pretty random and crazy thing for the people of earth to do. Here are a few thoughts I had about it:  1) What if the aliens don’t like the Beatles?  In fact, what if the aliens hate the Beatles and don’t appreciate us forcing it down their throats? Who is to say that Simon and Garfunkel wouldn’t have been the right choice? Or, maybe, the aliens are the partying type and would have appreciated some Justin Timberlake?  2) I love that we assume the aliens will understand English and will get the theme of the song.  And truth be told, I’ve heard that song twenty or thirty times, and I don’t understand half it.  They don’t stand a chance.  3) At this point, how do you even have a conversation with Sir Paul McCartney?  What do you talk about with someone whose music has been potentially played for extra-terrestrials?  “Hey Paul, last week I [fill in the blank with any reasonable accomplishment] .”  Paul’s response: “Oh, really?  Aliens on the other side of the universe listen to my music.”

Now, let me try to tie it together with a more serious thought (if possible at this point).  While it’s funny and kind of random that we would send music across the universe, the point is that there is a message trying to be sent, and hopefully it would be received as a peaceful one. Basically, we’re all trying to send a message of some sort. It makes me consider the message that I send out.  Maybe you could consider today what kind of message you send out. What kind of words do you use with people?  What kind of concern do you actually have for people?  Do you feign interest in others, thinking they won’t pick up on it?  Even with the people closest to you, are you encouraging them in little ways, or is there a subversive message of discontent that saturates most of your conversations and interactions.  As a Christ follower, I believe that the message of peace and forgiveness is imperative.  1 John 1.5 tells us this about God: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”  So, you and I might consider the way in which we go about sharing the message that God is light and love, that He is perfect and good.  It’s certainly one that needs to be shared, not just with words but with lives lived in such a way.  The Scripture continues, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1.6).” So, what is your message today?

My opinion is if NASA was going to choose the Beatles, they should have picked “Come Together.”  Maybe the aliens could explain to us what the lyric “he got walrus gum-boot” means.

*Comment on NorthPointe’s facebook page and share what song you think NASA should have played*

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