Friday, February 27, 2009

God's License Plate

Get used to it. I'm a U2 fanatic. The new album is coming out next week. So, more U2 musings. One of the songs is called, "Unknown Caller." The meaning of the song is clear...for those who have ears to hear. Bono calls Jeremiah 33:3 God's phone number--"Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." Other followers of Christ have called "Jer 333" God's license plate. Bono loves the verse so much that on the cover art to their 2001 album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," they photo-shopped J33-3 as a gate in their picture in Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Well, one of the lines of Unknown Caller is:
I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face
Speed dialing with no signal at all

Clearly a reference again to Jer 33:3 (obviously there is no time on the clock of 33:3 so he had no choice but to use 3:33). It's a call to get quiet before the Lord and listen to Him in prayer. Read all the lyrics...

Sunshine, sunshine
Sunshine, sunshine

Oh, oh
Oh, oh

I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face
Speed dialing with no signal at all

Go, shout it out, rise up
Oh, oh
Escape yourself, and gravity
Hear Me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
Force quit and move to trash

I was right there at the top of the bottom
On the edge of the known universe where I wanted to be
I had driven to the scene of the accident
And I sat there waiting for me

Restart and re-boot yourself
You're free to go
Oh, oh
Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you enter here, right now

Oh, oh
You know your name, so punch it in
Hear Me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
They don't move or say a thing

Why I'm Repenting

I need to repent. It's Lent, so it's a good time to repent. Actually, everyday is the right time to repent. When Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door at Wittenburg which sparked the Reformation, he wrote, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent," He willed the ENTIRE life of believers to be one of repentance." Ok, so what do I need to repent of today? Well, if you've been following my Blog, my tweets, my Fb updates, you know I've been getting pretty amped up over U2's new cd to be released on Tuesday. Now, before you jump to conclusions, I'm not repenting over getting amped up over that! I need to repent over the fact that I may have been giving folk the impression that ALL I'm psyched up about is Bono's blatently bold Christian lyrics on the album. That may have given the impression that all the Father cares about is music that has "Jesus" in it. The fact is, the Father, the Great Musician, loves good music for music's sake. Our Father, the Creator, loves creativity...and all creativity, art, music, literature, dance, cinema, etc is evidence that there is a Creator from Whom flows all creativity. So, whether we're talking U2's No Line on the Horizon, or Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son or Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, good art, simply as ART, is pleasing to God. It honors Him. It glorifies Him, whether or not the artist in question mentions Jesus, or spiritual themes, or even whether or not the artist intended to honor God (think of the Wachowski Brothers and the Matrix!). brothers and sisters, I repent. There really is no such thing as "Christian music." There's just good music and bad music. But it's still pretty cool that Bono is so boldly proclaiming his faith in Christ...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Justified Praising The Magnificent

Another great song on the new U2 cd, to be released on Tuesday...Magnificent


I was born
I was born to be with You
In this space and time
After that and ever after I haven't had a clue
Only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born
I was born to sing for You
I didn't have a choice but to lift You up
And sing whatever song You wanted me to
I give You back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise...

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent

Bono Writes a Hymn

From the new U2 cd, out this coming Tuesday:
White as Snow
Where I came from there were no hills at all
The land was flat, the highway straight and wide
My brother and I would drive for hours
Like we had years instead of days
Our faces as pale as the dirty snow

Once I knew there was a Love Divine
Then came a time I thought It knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the Lamb as white as snow

And the water, it was icy
As it washed over me
And the moon shone above me

Now this dry ground it bears no fruit at all
Only poppies laugh under the crescent moon
The road refuses strangers
The land the seeds we sow
Where might we find the Lamb as white as snow

As boys we would go hunting in the woods
To sleep the night shooting out the stars
Now the wolves are every passing stranger
Every face we cannot know
If only a heart could be as white as snow
If only a heart could be as white as snow

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snap! CRACKLE? Pop!

There's a video being sent around among followers of Christ. It's a good video. It's a moving video. It's a video blog by Penn Jillette, half of a very popular comedy/illusionist team in Las Vegas. In his video blog, Crackle, Penn talks about being given a Gideon New Testament and Psalms by a guy who had seen his show. It's a powerful video. Why? Because Penn, who calls himself an atheist, is visibly moved by the "goodness and sane-ness" of this guy who gives him a Bible. He says, as an avowed atheist, that you must really be filled with hatred for humanity if you believe that faith in Christ, or not, impacts other peoples' eternal destiny, yet you do not kindly and compassionately share Christ with others. It's rare to hear an atheist talk like this. Most of the time the world tells Christians that to open our mouths to others about our faith is obnoxious...and unfortunately, the Church has beleived the lie. Penn says that if a truck were speeding toward an unsuspecting pedestrian and you see it coming, at some point, you tackle the guy...then he says something a lot more important is happening if we believe faith in Christ impacts eternity. Love for others, he basically says, demands that followers of Christ find ways, in word and deed, to share their faith. Funny...I think God already told us that. But check out the video anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Guy--Reprise

If you've read my No More Mr. Nice Guy post, you'll be interested in checking out this post...(ht to my brother-in-law, Brian--Thanks!)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Gospel Snowman

I don't get to build snowmen much anymore...moving away from PA to the deep South took care of that. But in one sense I am building snowmen every day. Oh, and by the way, so are you, even if you live in Florida. If you've ever built a snowman, the perfect shape is very illusive. The perfect shape of the head, the trunk, the lower body, all in proportion,'s almost impossible unless the snow is perfect! The same challenge presents itself to every follower of Christ as we seek an integrated life. Some believers are spiritual snowmen/snow-women with big heads...they KNOW a lot of stuff ABOUT God or ABOUT the Christian life...but they may have tiny trunks (small, shriveled hearts) or they may have small "legs and feet" (no practical outworking of their faith on a daily basis). These followers of Christ are "brains on a stick," (and in some cases their heads roll off and break on the ground!) Other believers have a large trunk...big hearts but lack any sound theology to ground their passion. Sometimes this reveals itself in a very emotionally-driven faith that is based more on existential feelings than truth. In addition, Christian "snowpeople" of this type tend to be so consumed with seeking new spiritual/emotional experiences, that engagement with the real world, ie, fighting injustice and evil, is often lacking. Then there are snowpeople of the church that are known to be great activists. They have a large "base," but their hearts can be small and their brains can be disengaged. These people tend to be doers, but there may not be anything distinctively Christ-centered about their activism. When it comes to the gospel, we are to seek God for the grace to make us integrated Gospel Snowmen/Snow-women. Only Christ can make His Church into pefectly proportioned, perfectly shaped gospel creations. We need the power of the Spirit to enable us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul and all our strength. We need sharp minds that know the Scriptures and can apply them wisely. We need hearts deeply in love with Christ and moved with compassion toward the world. We need arms and legs that move us to engage the world with our faith in practical ways, bringing mercy and justice to a broken and hurting world as well as bringing the saving message of the Gospel to the lost. So, the next time your reading Scripture or listening to a sermon or attending a Bible study...listen as a snowman! How is the Father calling you to develop a truly Christian mind? How do you need to challenge your thinking with the truth? Or, what is being revealed about the Gospel that you need to believe with all your heart? How are you supposed to feel about the Lord or about sin or righteousness or the needs of the world? Or, as you read and listen, what do you need to go out and DO in the Name of Love? The perfect snowman, whether in the snow or in the church, is still relatively illusive. Perhaps the best we can hope for is a personal awareness of where we are are misshapened and disproportional...and look to the Savior to continually remake our lives by His grace.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Guy

A long, long time a galaxy far, far away...I was an Alice Cooper fan. School's Out. No More Mr. Nice Guy. OK, he was a little strange...but it was all part of an act. Rumor has it he might even be a follower of Christ these days...I don't know. But I loved his music...still have it on my iPhone. I even think "No More Mr. Nice Guy" might have a message for those who follow Messiah...well, at least the title has a message for me. I'm not even sure what the lyrics of the song are anymore. I was meeting with a friend yesterday and he reminded me about a passage in Acts 19. Paul comes to Ephesus and causes quite a stir. People are healed (even sounds scarily like some tv evangelist stunts! Why are some of those things recorded in the Bible??!!). Demons jumping on fakes and beating them to a bloody pulp. Witches and Warlocks turning their backs on their magic and burning their potion books that were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or more! Then some workers of silver, vital to the idol worshiping industry in Ephesus, began to fear that if Paul led any more people to follow Jesus, their livlihood might be threatened. In Acts 19:27, Demetrius told the other idol manufacturers, "there is DANGER not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing and that she may eve be deposed from her magnificance." Ok, cool, but what does all this have to do with Alice Cooper?? Well, here's a clue...I can't stand it when I hear people refer to someone as a "nice Christian man" or a "nice Christian lady." Those are words that make me want to flee to the hills. Most of the time it means someone who is a right-wing Republican and thinks America is the new Israel and who doesn't smoke, drink, chew or go out with people who do and who thinks a "good" Christian is someone who wags an angry finger at all those sinners out there in the world! Guess what? Paul doesn't want "nice Christians!" Paul was a DANGEROUS follower of Christ. Paul afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. Jesus was DANGEROUS...still is! Why is it that in Jesus' day, sinners were comfortable around Him and religious people were not? And why is it today that sinners are uncomfortable around the church and religious people are VERY comfortable? In my humble opinion, we are WAY TOO NICE! How can you and I be DANGEROUS today? Who knows, maybe I've been a little dangeous writing this blog!! Maybe some good has come out of being an Alice Cooper fan after all...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where are the gates of hell?

I stumbled upon a rather disturbing insight this morning. In Matthew 16, after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus speaks the encouraging words that "the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church." But then just a few verses later, Jesus speaks to Peter again. This time, after Peter tried to tell Him that He would not suffer and die, Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are a hindrance to Me." Ouch!! It seems to me that when Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail, He presents the gates of hell as a possible HINDRANCE to the progress of the Gospel...and then He tells Peter that he has become a HINDRANCE by not setting his mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. It's not too much of a jump to connect the two conversations. How often do we in the church act as the very gates of hell by getting in the way of the progress of the Gospel? When we refuse to deny ourselves and fail to take up our cross daily as we seek to follow Christ, we set up HINDRANCES to the Gospel. Poor Peter! He always seems to be an object lesson...yet he always seems to expose us as being just like him! Have mercy on us, O Lord!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Birds and the Bees From Crusty Theologians

I've been preaching verse by verse through 1 Corinthians...there's some tough stuff to plow through. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul addresses sexual purity head on...something contemporary churches seem very reluctant to do. It's like the only place sex isn't discussed is the church these days. Interesting...' cause it didn't seem to be a problem talking about it in church 400 years ago. Around 1648 a group of theologians met in London to help the church think through what it believes about grace and how grace should enable followers of Christ to act. The Larger Catechism is a Q &A series used to equip new believers about the Christian faith. There is a section that helps followers of Christ understand the 10 Commandments. The questions that address the Seventh Commandment, the one that addresses adultery, are Questions 138 and 139. Keep in mind that when Jesus taught the meaning of the Seventh Commandment, He raised the bar from merely declaring that the actual act of adultery was sinful and included lustful thoughts as well. The other day in church I tried to paraphrase the Larger Catechism Questions, and tried to think through contemporary technological issues as well. Here's what I came up with:
Q 138: What are the duties required in 7th Commandment? A: The duties required are sexual purity and moral innocence in body, mind, affections, desires, words and behavior; and the preservation of such purity in ourselves AND OTHERS! We are called to watchfulness and vigilant care over the eyes and all the senses; self-restraint of sexual desires, the keeping of sexually pure and chaste friends & modesty in dress; To maintain such purity, those who do not have the gift of singleness are called to marry and to enjoy sex with their spouse often; we are called to avoid all occasions of sexual impurity and to resist every temptation toward sexual sin.
Q 139—What are the sins forbidden in the 7th Commandment? The sins forbidden, besides the neglect of the duties required, are adultery (sex with someone not your spouse or with someone who is married to another); fornication (sex between unmarried people of the opposite sex); rape, incest, homosexuality, all unnatural & unBiblical sexual behaviors; all unclean and lustful imaginations, thoughts, intentions and desires; all sexually corrupt or sensually suggestive communication (words, notes, letters, texts, Wall-to-walls, etc) or reading or listening to such communication; sexually loose, obscene or perverse looks and shameless or immodest behavior and dress…allowing, tolerating or keeping of orgies, brothels and immoral parties or partaking of them; undue delay of marriage, polygamy; unbiblical divorce or desertion, as well as sins that contribute to sexual impurity such as idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, immoral friends, impure songs, books, pictures, emails, internet sites, sexually suggestive dancing, sexually stimulating movies, tv shows, plays and all other provocations to acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others! Guess now we know why we all are in desperate need of forgiving and transforming grace...all this from a bunch of crusty theologians! Who knew?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The St Valentine's Day Massacre

On Feb 14, 1929, St Valentine’s Day, 7 men from Chicago's North Side Irish Gang led by Bugs Moran were gunned down by members of Al Capone's south side Italian gang as part of the Prohibition Era's underworld conflict. This horrific event has come to be known as the St Valentine's Day Massacre. Another St Valentine's Day massacre occurs annually in our day. We have massacred what the day was originally all about. Church tradition has honored St Valentine's day as one of the oldest Christian holy-days (holidays) we have. According to fairly sound tradition, a man named Valentine was a priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius (268-270AD). At the time, Claudius was heavily recruiting men to serve as soldiers for his wars without much success. The men preferred not to leave their wives, families and sweethearts to fight in foreign lands. Because of this, Claudius became angry and declared that no more marriages could be performed and all engagements were canceled. Valentine thought this to be unfair and secretly married Christian couples in his parish. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine in prison where he died on February 14, 269 A.D. In 496 Pope Gelasius declared Feb 14 to be the day to honor St. Valentine. Through the centuries the Christian holiday became a time to exchange love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. Unfortunately, due to the onslaught of sexual messages all around us, Valentine's Biblical views of love and sex have been massacred and sexual purity has begun to be seen as joyless and strict rather than that which guards and promotes the highest and most pleasurable views of sex possible. The message of grace has come to redeem our past failures and to give us hope for the future...perhaps this wondrous, amazing, scandalous message of grace can even redeem what we've done to Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A 2000 Year-Old Boat

Reading in Matthew 14 this morning, I came upon the passage where the disciples get into a boat on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus remains by Himself alone, praying. There is a note in the ESV Study Bible that presents a drawing of the kind of fishing boat that was used by Peter and Andrew and James and John. The note reveals that the rendering was based on the actual remains of a 2000 year-old boat discovered on the "northwestern short of the Sea of Galilee." When I saw the picture and read the note, something happened inside of me. It's just a rendering, but at the moment I saw it, my faith, once again, was reconnected afresh with reality. Christians don't believe in some kind of religious or spiritual truth divorced from the real world of facts and events. As Francis Schaeffer said so many times during his life, Christians believe in "true truth." Our faith in grounded in historical fact and in space/time detail. We don't follow some moralistic philosophy, but as Christians we relate personally to the Real God of the Universe Who is There! We live lives of faith/trust in a Personal God in a supernatural universe. Our faith is NOT hoping that God is really there, but trusting in a God Who IS there! The more we realize our faith keeps us firmly grounded in reality, the more we will live lives of world-changing prayer; the more we will live lives of Christ-honoring vision; the more we will live lives of culturally-transforming obedience; the more we will live lives of radical worship. Why did I get so excited about seeing a simple rendering of a 2000 year-old boat? Because I am meant to realize on a daily basis, that my faith is grounded in time and in true truth. You are too!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Big is Your Bible?

When I was a new Christian, it sometimes seemed as though one's spirituality was guaged by the size and color of one's Bible. The truly spiritual folk always walked around with a big, black, leather Bible. But I wonder how many folk who walk around with Big Bibles, fail to appreciate just how Big their Bible is supposed to be. A lot of people today seem to use less than a third of what is recorded for us in the Scriptures...we even have separate New Testaments we can buy! There is more going on there than meets the eye. In Matthew 13:52, Jesus, after delivering some parables of the Kingdom, says, "Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old." The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. It's not like the OT is a God of wrath and the NT is a God of grace. The entire Bible from start to finish is about the Great Story of Grace...from beginning to end it is the Great Story of Redemption...the Hero and main Character, Christ, walks through every page. We are to be followers of Christ that appreciate Christ in ALL the Scriptures. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus, begining with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to the disciples in ALL the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27). So here's the deal...what's your view of the Bible? Not in theory, but in actual practice. Here are two questions that will help you answer the question for yourself: Do you believe that nothing from the Old Testament directly applies to Christians today unless it's been repeated by New Testament Scriptures? Or, do you believe that everything from the Old Testament applies directly to the Christian today, except for that which has been specifically changed by the New Testament Scripture? The first view believes that the Old Testament is a book primarily addressed to Israel in distinction to the Church. The second view (which, if you care, is my view) believes that the ENITRE Bible applies to the Church, the people of God in all generations. How Big is YOUR Bible?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Friend of Sinners, Gadsby Hymnal #1052

At Presbytery this morning, we sang a hymn from the Gadsby Hymnal: Friend of Sinners. One of the verses is:
"There, fastened to the rugged wood,
By Holy Love's resistless chain;
And life deriving from Thy blood,
Never to wander wide again."
That verse reminded me of a time 29 years ago when, as a relatively new follower of Christ, I entered into what believers of long ago called the "Dark Night of the Soul." I longed to know God, yet went through a long, long season when I experienced none of the Presence of God and very little sense of His love, favor and goodness. One night, while praying, I saw in my mind's eye, a scene at the cross (not a vision, it was simply a scene in my imagination!). In the scene, there was a lamb chained to the cross. It was a dark, cold, stormy night. Lightning was flashing, thunder clapping loudly. In the midst of the driving wind and rain, lightning and thunder, the lamb, filled with fear, jerked endlessly to try break free of the chain. Then another scene...this time, same lamb, same dark, cold, stormy night. Yet in the midst of it all, for some reason, the lamb was lying down, pressed in as close to the cross as it could get. Each time lightning cut holes in the darkness and thunder broke the silence, the lamb would shake, but remained pressed into the cross as it lay. The chain was still around its neck. Then, the last "frame" of the story. Same lamb, same cross, same dark, cold, stormy night. The lamb was still pressed into the cross, yet there was a peace, and it remained at ease even when the winds blew and rains fell and thunder clapped. And as I looked more closely, something was different....the chain was gone. The lamb was resting at the foot of the cross, not because it was chained there, but because it had no other place it would rather be in the midst of the storm. It took a lot of time for me to become that lamb, but the "resistless chain" of God's holy love never fails to accomplish its work. "And life deriving from Thy blood" enables and empowers us "never to wander wide again!"

Monday, February 9, 2009

Whew! Thanks Grammys!

I was on my way home from the church last night and received a call from my dauhter..."Dad, where are you? Are you on your way home? Mom and I are watching the Grammy's...we've taped it. We think you'll really like it." "Yes, sweetie, I'm on my way there in a minute." "Ok, dad, we're waiting for you before we watch any more." Hmmm. That was interesting. She seemed REALLY excited, but I had no idea why. So I get home, take off my coat, change into my warm-ups, sit on the couch, and they crank up the DVR. First thing out of the shoot is U2 opening the Grammy's, with, you guessed it...Get On Your Boots. It was I understood the phone call...and the excitement. My wife and my daughter just started laughing at me as I stopped bringing my spoon from my bowl of gumbo to my hand was paralyzed, my mouth gaped open. The boys from Dublin did it again...made their faith and their music clear. Through the song there were crosses flashed up on the screen again and again...there was also a point where the crosses merged into stars on an American flag...what a relief! Not only did I enjoy the song, but I was excited to see that my interpretation of their song might actually be on target (see past Blog "U2's New Song). For most people in the Grammy's, the crosses likely didn't mean much, but as Bono often states, as they "draw their fish in the sand" the message is there for people to see.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Redemptive Universalism vs. redemptive universalism

I just finished teaching a class at a local university on the impact of faith and spirituality on U2's music. I told the class that that subject needed a whole semester, not just one class period. As it turns out, it was a great time and there were some fantastic questions. One of the better ones revolved around the last Vertigo Tour. At one point, Bono dons a head band that has the symbols of the three great religions that trace back to Abraham...Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There were also, if my memory of my attendance at the Chicago concert serves me right, writings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran that flashed up on the screen. Typical of American Evangelicalism, there were immediate cries of "universalism" and U2's spiritual compromise (Folk have been levying that charge for almost 25 years, and each time U2 continues to do things that still leave these evangelicals scratching their heads!). The question in the class this morning was this: "How can Bono as a follower of Christ, speak so inclusively of Judaism and Islam. My answer was two-fold. First, you need only to read Bono's owns words (as well as those of the Edge, Larry Mullen, and now, also, Adam Clayton) concerning their faith in Christ. When it comes to Redemptive Universalism..."Redemptive" used in terms of being saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ, Bono and U2 are not Universalists but clearly stand in the stream of Orthodox Christianity. Second, however, there is another kind of redemptive universalism--that which flows from the call of Scripture for followers of Christ to live redemptively in this world; to live in such a way so that the goodness, beauty and truth of Kingdom Living brings redemptive elements to society and culture. When it comes to living redemptively to bring beauty to earth, there is room for a universalistic approach as it relates to working with others. If we are no longer talking about redemption solely in terms of the work of the cross to save souls and are now talking about redemption in terms of bringing the values of the Kingdom to bear upon the world, we ought to talk about working alongside all humanity. If we're talking about redemptive values of remembering the poor, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, showing mercy to those facing AIDS, etc, then we ought to include others in the conversation. Bono's point in his 2006 National Prayer Breakfast speech is that the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran all speak of helping the poor...therefore, when it comes to tackling issues of human brokenness, we need to enlist the help of as many as possible. Bono and U2 are motivated by love and obedience to Christ...others may not share the same motivation...but others may be willing to join hands in tackling difficult issues. So, what we have is redemptive universalism, NOT Redemptive Universalism! Get it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

U2 and American Evangelicals

U2 has had it's issues with American Evangelicals...and American Evangelicals have had their issues with U2. I think I have come to understand some of the tension from traveling and speaking in Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic). There is a real difference of emphasis between many evangelicals in Ireland/Northern Ireland/UK and evangelicals in America. In America, evangelicals tend to emphasize the gospel ethics of Paul's Epistles. This leads to an emphasis on issues of the religious right such as abortion, gambling, drunkenness, language, how we stand with respect to homosexuality, etc. These are very important spiritual and ethical issues, but they can become exclusive to other issues that are important as well. I describe this emphasis as a focus on the "dirty dozen, the filthy five, the sinful six, the awful eight, the nasty nine," etc. In Ireland/UK/Europe, however, they tend to emphasize the gospel ethics of Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So, there you see more of an emphasis on mercy and justice, peace and poverty and global issues. Now obviously these are generalizations, but they are generally true. All you would need to do to prove this is talk, as I have, to American Evangelicals and Irish/European Evangelicals about the last 3 presidential elections. By and large, American Evangelicals were strongly vocal in their support of Bush and recently, McCain. It's a much different picture in Ireland/UK/Europe...people over there were incredulous that Christians would be for Bush!; and Americans were incredulous that people across the pond didn't get it!! Now, when it comes to U2, the shoe still fits. American Evangelicals tend to condemn Bono because drops the F-bomb at the Grammy's, and immediately conclude, "He can't be a Christian." Now let me say, I do follow Paul where he says, "Let no unwholesome word come from your mouth." We are to obey ALL of God's Bono was out of line. However, I can easily hear Bono saying, "Wait, Jesus said we're to remember the poor, that He came to preach good news to the poor. We're to be people of mercy and justice. So, American Evangelicals, what are you doing there?" How can YOU be Christians if you don't do much in the way of mercy and justice? By the way, do you know that Bono is highly responsible for the most developed/wealthy countries of the world forgiving hundreds of millions of dollars of developing countries' debt and for the care of AIDS victims and other mercy and justice issues. So, which is worse, to allow unwholesome speech to come from our lips; or, to fail to remember the poor and the sick and the needy? Obviously both are important...but it's interesting that we all DO tend to judge other peoples' spirituality by our standards. Instead of falling into an "Either/Or" mentality, we need to pursue a "Both/And" perspective. Its before our own Master that we will all stand or fall.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I'm Glad I'm in a Band

Those who know me, know I'm a U2 fanatic. Many people who know the band, realize they tend to be somewhat spiritual in their outlook. But most have no idea about just how committed to following Christ they are. If you've kept up with this blog, you may have already read my thoughts on their new song, "Get On Your Boots." Well, back in the 80's, U2 spent quite a bit of time and effort lobbying strongly for an MLK Remembrance Day. One of their songs, Pride (In the Name of Love) is all about the power of a life of love in two men: Jesus, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Bono wasn't saying MLK was divine or was even in the same league as Christ, but the song simply acknowledges all the MLK did for African-Americans, who like all others, are image-bearers of God. Surely the fact that we just elected an African-American President reveals just how great an impact MLK had on the world. Though it is hard to say for sure how much of us having MLK Day is due to U2, certainly we can say they played a role in it. Of course, not everyone was happy with U2's agenda. So, in the late 80's as U2 prepared for a concert in Arizona, the band received a death threat that said, "Don’t do the concert; and if do, don’t sing Pride. If you do sing the song, I will blow your head off, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Not surprisingly, U2 decided to play anyway. During the concert, the came time to sing Pride (In the Name of Love), and Bono became distracted with the thought that it was actually plausible for someone to make good their threat. This was before 9/11. Concert goers weren't checked for weapons, someone could hide in rafters...a shot could come from almost anywhere. Perhaps in danger of losing focus, Bono decided to close his eyes in an effort to marshal all his concentration, and sang the song. At the end of the verse, when Bono opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was bassist Adam Clayton, standing as a sentry directly in front of him. Apparently Adam began thinking the same thing Bono was thinking and at some point in the song decided to step directly in front of Bono, directly in the line of fire, basically saying, if some bullet heads toward Bono, its going to have to go through me first! Bono, recounting the story, shared, "It was one of those moments when you know what it means to be in a band (story taken from Christian Scharen's book, "One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God," p.154). I'm glad I'm in a Band too.