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May 20, 2004

Yesterday I picked up Building 429’s “limited edition” EP they released a month or two again. I did so simply because it seems they may become a fairly popular band in the Christian genre and I wanted to hear what they were all about. They have already scored some success on the charts with the song Glory Defined.

It’s not a very good song. It has a catchy tune, I suppose, but the lyrics are just not awfully inspiring. The song is composed almost entirely of cliches. Check it out:

There’s always a better way
there’s always a bridge that needs crossings
there’s always the straight and the narrow
the wide and the shallow
But I know that you’re guiding me
and the best is yet to come
You’ve given me hope for tomorrow
and I know some day

I’ll wake up to find
Your glory defined
and I will finally bow at your feet
I will lift up your name in honor and praise
when I cross over Jordan
I know that I’ll be running home to you

It’s always the simple things
it’s always the obvious that crashes over me
It’s always in front of me
it helps me to remember
this is what I live for
and I can’t wait


there’s never a question in your message
never a moment without your presence
there’s never a doubt in my mind
that I’ll …

Repeat Chorus and so on

So let’s see. We have:

  • there’s a better way
  • bridge that needs crossing
  • straight and narrow
  • wide and shallow
  • best is yet to come
  • hope for tomorrow

And that is all in the first verse!

Now maybe this is some new-fangled poetic technique that I have not become aware of, but I suspect it is actually just poor songwriting. This song has far too many cliches and not enough real content. Boo!

May 18, 2004

I received the following excerpt in a newsletter from Relevant Magazine. Though I often disagree with some of what the folks at that magazine write, I though this quote was quite…well…relevant! I hesitate to post such a lengthy quote here (copyright issues, perhaps) but I could not find a link for this article at their site. To assuage my guilt I have posted a link to the place you can buy the book this quote is excerpted from.

Several months back, I was watching a special report about the homosexual movement. It expressed the tremendous interest by the public concerning the recent promotion of homosexuality. Years ago, the TV show Ellen did the “unthinkable”—it openly addressed the lesbian lifestyle. There were mixed reactions as this type of show was transported into millions of homes across the country.

Currently, the media has attempted to outdo itself. Networks are competing with each other about who can come up with the most risqué show centered around homosexuality. “Gay” sells, and America is eating it up.

The report showed gay celebrities everywhere. It highlighted parades, festivals, and couples stating their commitments to join in mutual life-long partnership. It seems as though all is well for the homosexual “agenda.”

Toward the end of the special report, the network interviewed a radical gay activist who wasn’t too thrilled about the apparent success. He talked about his fear in this season of homosexual tolerance and propaganda. He shared his concern that the movement was creating a false sense of victory. Americans might think that gay TV programs are entertaining, but in reality, the majority of Americans think homosexuals are odd and irrelevant in relationship to societal norms. No American really takes the gay lifestyle seriously. He wondered if the homosexuals who were celebrating the victories were simply deceived and foolish.

I thought to myself, how true this is concerning the Christian subculture? We have Christian programming everywhere. There is Christian propaganda on every corner. Yet, I wonder, what’s the effect? Do we have a false sense of victory? Is the world a better place? Are we winning the battle because there is now Christian candy? Does the world just view believers as entertaining? Are we simply odd and irrelevant to them? Are we taken seriously? Are most of us simply deceived and foolish because we are celebrating false victories?

There are “good” things being done in the “name” of Christ. But, let’s think critically for a second. What does a Christian phone book produce? It’s a collection of people who verbally align themselves with a fairly conservative Christian creed. So what’s the outcome?

Many times the Christian phone book directs other Christians to do business with other Christians. Is this our mission? After all, it is biblical to do good to those who are of the household of faith. However, are we truly fulfilling God’s will?


I wonder what Christ would think of the Christian market if He were living in the flesh here on earth today. He would probably contemplate the current situation while driving in His car purchased from the Christian car dealership. Most definitely the back of His car would bear a new Christian bumper sticker.

He would be sipping on his Jesus Java that He picked up from the Christian coffeehouse. Of course He would be decked out with the latest Christian T-shirt—a “creative” knock-off of a “worldly” slogan. He would journal His thoughts in His Christian notebook with his Christian pencil that reads, “I’m a member of the J Team.”

If He couldn’t get a healthy perspective, maybe He could listen to some Christian music. If that didn’t clear His head, He could always waltz into the local Christian bookstore. In fact, He might enjoy playing with a Jesus action figure. If His mind was still cloudy, He could gain some insight while walking the treadmill at the Christian fitness club.

Eventually, He’d become fatigued and need some Christian vitamins to help Him reenergize. All this walking in the world would probably wear Him out. He might enjoy kicking back on the sofa chewing some Christian candy while feasting on a healthy diet of Christian TV. If He got really hungry, He could always grab the Christian phone book and order out for a Christian pizza.


Is this our mission? Is our goal reached when we participate in every aspect of the market by providing a Christian alternative? It seems to me that all these alternatives collectively produce one common outcome. It seems they create a subculture that separates us further from the very people we are trying to reach. I don’t recall God giving us the option to create an alternative subculture that retreats and hides out from the world.

One of the only reasons—if not THE only reason—God did not transport us to heaven the moment we got saved is because He gave us a job description that calls for us to be salt and light in a decaying and dark world.

Salt seasons and salt preserves. Salt is only a preservative when it comes in contact with a rotting element. Salt only seasons when it comes in contact with something that needs seasoning. Salt has no effect when it’s on a shelf. If salt is on the shelf, it’s because it’s irrelevant.

Likewise, we become irrelevant when we separate from the world and refuse to interface with the people in it. We no longer season or preserve our environment. Instead, we’re merely absent from it. We sit on the shelf and shout our commentaries. As a result, the world continues to decay and remain a place of tastelessness.

Our spirituality must be incarnated into everyday life. When this takes place, geography or activity no longer bind spirituality. In other words, like Christ, we can interact with the world and still be spiritual. Our spirituality is not derived from where we go or what we do. We don’t have to be separated from the world and in the church choir in order to maintain our holiness. This must be understood. If not, then Christianity is simply reduced to a building (church) and/or a day of the week (Sunday).

This is what many believers are currently struggling with. They are localized Christians who are one-day worshipers. Francis Schaffer summed it up when he wrote, “A platonic concept of spirituality which does not include all of life is not true biblical spirituality. True spirituality touches all of life … not just ‘religious’ things.”

Adapted from The Journey Towards Relevance by Kary Oberbrunner, available now at the Relevant Store.

May 16, 2004

Sometimes I write Sunday reflections. When I got as little sleep as I did last night I’m sure I am capable of doing no more than ramblings. Abby, still recovering from her surgery, had a bit of a rough night last night and kept us awake for quite a while. I’m not sure if it was surgery-related or if she just had a bad night. Generally she is doing well, though, apart from a small infection which we are now treating.

I am working on a side project at the moment - a site that will help other people learn how to start and run their own blogs. It should be ready for launch in a week or so.

A second side project is the Christian music site I wrote about a week or so ago. I have still not decided whether or not to proceed with it since time is a valuable commodity at the moment. I have reserved the name saintsandsingers.com in case I decide to move ahead.

I have read a few articles recently about Protestant rosaries. Apparently many so-called Protestants are intruiged by the Catholic rosary and have begun praying it on their own, though they substitute something else for the “Hail Mary” portions. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I am far too skeptical about the current state of Protestantism for that! Of course it seems to me that The Prayer of Jabez which sold millions and millions of copies was really nothing more than a vain repetition. A friend of the family once said in his thick, Irish accent: “Ah, that stupid book! It’s nothing but a Protestant rosary!”

Plans for next week include: review of the new album by Everyday Sunday; review of John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel; launch of my new site; a few other articles I have been working on. I also have to finish several Web site projects (ie work-related Web sites). Hopefully we’ll all have a good sleep tonight and I’ll be capable of doing some worthwhile writing tomorrow!

May 14, 2004

The folks at Movabletype have released the long-awaited version 3.0 of their software. This is the software that runs many of the blogs you and I read on a daily basis (including this one). Among the best features they now offer is TypeKey, a key that will allow people to comment on multiple blogs using the same account. By allowing only people with a TypeKey to comment on a blog you are effectively blocking all spam, so that is quite an exciting feature.

When it comes to new version of software I am always a bit nervous to upgrade before there have been a few patches released, so I will probably wait a little while. It is a case of “once bitten, twice shy.” If you know of anyone who has made the upgrade please let me know as I would like to get some more information about how the new version works.

A couple of downsides to the new software. First, they really want you to pay for it this time. In the past it was free for personal (ie non-business) use. The price for the Personal Edition is now $99.95 (though for a limited time they have discounted it to $69.95). The free version is still available, but as per the license agreement you have to provide a link to Movabletype.org on every page on your site. This version is unsupported and can have only one author.

May 14, 2004

As expected, Abby came through her surgery just fine. They found that the cyst was about the size of a pingpong ball, though it didn’t bounce quite as well (just kidding, of course - I’m sure they didn’t try bouncing it). She was in recovery for a couple of hours and was doing so well (no vomiting, no lingering effects from the anesthetic) they said we may as well just bring her home. That was an unexpected but pleasant surprise since we had been told she would have to stay overnight. Of course on the drive home she vomited in the car, but we won’t complain. She is a little sore in her throat from the breathing tube and on her bum from the stitches, but seems headed for a quick and complete recovery.

So thanks to all those who took the time to pray for my little girl. God is good!

May 13, 2004

AbbyThis is my daughter Abby. She is 18 months old and tomorrow we are taking her to the hospital for surgery. She has a rather large cyst in her bum and though they are quite convinced it is harmless, the doctors would like to take it out. Eventually, they figure, it will get quite uncomfortable for her and may rupture and cause infection. The cyst is just under the skin so will not require any major digging-around to get it out.

So though the operation is low-risk, it still involves general anesthetic and cutting open her bum. Thus I am asking for you to remember Abby in your prayers tomorrow, not only for the operation but for the recovery as well. She is a very active child and it may be difficult for her to take it easy long enough to properly recover. The operation begins at 8 AM EST and is slated to last a couple of hours. She is expected to remain in hospital overnight and return home on Saturday.

May 12, 2004

Christianity Today has an article about Alistair Begg, pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland. I did not know this until today, but he plays a prominent role in the movie Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius. Apparently he was once speaking with Chuck Colson at a conference and one of the people in the audience was John Shepherd, the movie’s producer. He asked Begg to play the role of Bobby Jone’s golf instructor, Stewart Maiden.

The author of the article at Christianity Today hails this as a way of making the New Testament cool - nothing could do this better, apparently, than turning a pastor into a movie star. Now in theory I have little trouble with a pastor acting in a movie. But wait! How does the article describe Begg’s character? “Begg played the cursing and liquor-drinking Maiden, Bobby Jones’s Scottish golf instructor.” What? A pastor played the part of a man who cursed and drank heavily? The paragraph closes with the words “How’s that for relevance?” as if this was a good thing.

Sometimes I feel like I just don’t know which way is up anymore when it comes to modern Christianity. It wasn’t very many years ago that Christians would not even go to the movies, yet today pastors are being hailed as heroes for playing roles that require them to behave like unbelievers. To get in character they have to throw away what they believe and what they know to be true.

A pastor who becomes an actor does nothing to make the New Testament cool. Nothing can make the New Testament cool. It isn’t cool! Our culture hates the Bible and there is nothing we can do will make unbelievers embrace it. It is the Spirit who causes hearts to turn to God. Our job is to faithfully preach the whole gospel and to let our light shine. No amount of hypocrisy on the part of believers will make unbelievers suddenly reach the conclusion that God is cool and that His Word is cool.

So never mind asking “How’s that for relevance?” I would ask “How’s that for hypocrisy?”

You can read the article here.

May 12, 2004

A fellow blogger over at Between The Cushions has a great little post called Do You Need A Washing. I used to visit his site every day but as his posting decreased I cut it down to once every week or so. He posted this story a few days ago but I only noticed it now…