Category Archives: Mockingbird

Everybody Loves Free Music

Derek Webb is at it again.

Remember back in ’06 when that dude went off the deep end and just started givin’ away his music? Yup – we got the entire Mockingbird album for as cheap as free. Webb is now involved in a similar gambit, and this time has several other artists along for the ride.

On NoiseTrade.com, you can download Webb’s album The Ringing Bell for free by spamming telling three friends about the site. Or you can “pay what you want” – and let the downloading fun begin.

I found the site a month ago, when Webb’s album was available along with one or two other unknowns. When I checked today, however, it seems the download options have expanded to over 25 artists, including well-known artists like Sandra McCracken, Waterdeep, and Sixpence None the Richer.  Looks like fair trade music is catching on. Take a look.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mockingbird, Music

Mockingbird: The Postlogue

The SuqWell, I have finished up what I had proposed to do several months ago. I have thought through and posted commentary on Derek Webb’s album Mockingbird. It was a good exercise for me. As I already make an attempt to listen to lyrics in whatever song I am listening to, this discipline caused me to listen and interact with what was being said. It is easy to hear words and pasively listen. So much of our culture has been shaped by music, it is uncanny. If you look around at the trends in our society, I think you would probably see the music culture blazing the way with either songs or interviews with those artists.

Pertaining to our evangelical context, so much of the music is fluffy and light-hearted. It is like cotton-candy. It is bright and nutrition-less. Sugar no fiber. What I have appreicated about Webb’s music is that he does not shy away frmo difficult topics. He has jumped into the deep end of politics intersecting with theology. Unlike so much of our theology-less music you buy at your local Christian bookstore, next to the Precious Moments Bibles and Veggie Re-Interpretations, Webb has pressed on us and asked us to think about why wevote for who we vote for. It is one thing to be pro-life. It is another thing to know why you vote pro-life. So many have jumped on the bandwaghon because ti is the right thing to do. And it is! But they could not give two good swats at why it is wrong to abort a child. Unfortunately all of our John 3:16 posters will only strike out in the political circle.

On the whole, I really enjoyed Webb’s album. I did not feel like he was ever being a wanna-be prophet. Rather, he challenges us to THINK. Why is there so much confusion as to whether Creed or Lifehouse are ‘Christian’ bands. Could it be that our criteria for music is so low? That is, we hear someone mention “God” and we assume that they are a Christan band. Are we grasping at the wind so that we can be cool in the music arena. And when men like Webb push against the status quo we label him a blemish rather than a friend. At least his music is giving a message. Far from grunting and throwing in some ambiguous statements about eternity, Webb gets in your face and asks you to give a reason for the hope you have within you.

While I disagree with Webb’s proselytizing of pacifism, it is not without warrant. There have been plenty of theologians who have espoused such a view. The main argument I have against Webb’s pacifism is the fact that when Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies, he was speaking to his disciples, and not the world’s discioples. When we are commanded to turn the other cheek in forgiveness, as a model of Christ who did not revile when he was reviled. One of the beauties of the Christian view of politics is that the government is a gift from God for the meting out of justice in a fallen world. If there were no retributive justice for those who raped, murdered, lied, etc., then the world would implode. The rod of the government is wielded for the protection of the righteous and punishment of the wicked – a foretaste of that glorious day when the saints will be vindicated.

When Webb says he will speak out against a rod not wielded well, he is right. However, governments that are capable will be held accountable for the sin they left unpunished. That’s right. Large, strong governments that look the other way when dictators’ sons rape and burn women will be held accountable for what they did not do. There will be a reckoning. I do believe on many levels that what has happened in the Middle East has been due to poor planning. I am sure that there was plenty of planning, but I don’t think there was planning in accordance to the territory that was invaded. That is, there was a misnuderstanding of Sunnis and Shias. That’s enough for now, I am trying to finish up my interaction with Mockingbird, not give a strategy for bringing about justice per se.

I continue to be amazed at Webb’s vulnerability on the mic. I am sure that even in his vulnerability about pride, he has to guard against the pride in being vulnerable. I know my own heart and am sure it is there for him as well as it would be for me. It is a struggle for those who are in the business of teaching God’s Word (and that is a role I think musicians are in) that sounding provocative and edgy can be a way of ponying up to our own pride and greed.

We are reminded by Webb that Christian love is naything but boring…it can be downright tantalizing.

We are challenged to live a consistent ethic of human life – a reference to a 30 second musical interlude I did not comment on until now. That is, we must be indicted for listening to sermons that give us ten ways to be a more successful Christian when there are ten chapters of Scripture we are ignoring. We will be held accountable for sitting in our newly renovated sanctuary while the inner sanctum of our lives is full of dead men’s bones. While we start the latest building campaign and there are poor men around the corner we are not reaching out to, we will be held to give a reason such oversight happened. May God help us to live such an ethic where the words we listen to and speak are overflows from our lives as a church and Christian.

The Full Series:

Mockingbird: The Album & A Dialogue
“Mockingbird”: A Dialogue
“A New Law”: A Dialogue
“A King & A Kingdom”: A Dialogue
“I Hate Everything But You”: A Dialgoue
“Rich Young Ruler”: A Dialogue
“My Enemies Are Men Like Me”: A Dialogue
“Zeros & Ones”: A Dialogue
“In God We Trust”: A Dialogue
“Please Before I Go”: A Dialogue
“Love Is Not Against the Law”: A Dialogue

2 Comments

Filed under Books & Media, Christian Living, Mockingbird, Music, Social Justice

“Love Is Not Against the Law”: A Dialogue

Bacchus Temple

This is a powerful song. We have just moved from the love expressed between mutual friends and lovers, and now we are in the harder place of loving our enemies. The main reason I am not a pacifist has to do wth my distinguishing between private and public life. While I know that you cannot separate the two – they will alwys be intermingled – we still need to distinguish between the cords that are tied together. Teh command that Jesus gave to his discples is that they love their enemies. When someone slaps you, you do not return in kind. You replace a curse with a blessing. This is the freedom the Christian has from the way the world operates. We are not slaves to avenge ourselves and our rights/rites. That’s right, I said ‘rites.’ As Christians we cannot expect to have our convictions embraced ni a culture that worships the creature. When we decry the injustices of being made fun of – some of it is rightly deserved mind you – we look more like a pagan than a Christ-follower. “Hey, you can’t do that to me.” Why not? How soon we have forgotten our Lord’s words when he told us that we will be persecuted. Paul’s words to Timothy, “All those who desire to live a godly life will undergo suffering.” The righteous shall enter the Kingdom of God through violence, that is as through fire. 

So we must have an uncomfortable tension. We do not rock the vote for a Christian nation. It will never happen this side of the consummation. Nor do we sit on our backsides talking about how awful the world is. We have to get our hands dirty if we are to be light in the darkness. We are going to have to get fleas when we play with the dogs. Who ever said that the most righteous thing was to be flea-free?   

 (vs. 1)
politics or love
can make you blind or make you see
make you a slave or make you free
but only one does it all
and it’s giving up your life
for the ones you hate the most
it’s giving them your gown
when they’ve taken your clothes
it’s learning to admit
when you’ve had a hand in setting them up
in knocking them down

(chorus)
love is not against the law
love is not against the law

The Church’s politics must be martked by love. However, we don’t turn a blind eye to sin. We shine light upon it and call people to repent – even as we kneel in repentance. Unfortunately love for man alone will set anyone free. It is love for God that will free men from sin. It is a dissatisfaction for the injustice that rides people’s backs. The last stanza, for me is the most convicting. How many times I am slow in admitting I am wrong or have had a hand in unrighteousness. The things that I have propagated the most may be the things that I am most unaware of. That is, as a middle class white man I have so much more privilege than a man or woman of another race. By virtue of my parents and circle of friends, I will not have to worry about things if my world crumbles. 
 
I am not advocating scoffing at said blessings. Rather, I thank the triune God for them.However, I am also sobered by the fact that I should give my unrighteous manna to those who are hungry. I Rather than being content with the obesity of blessing I find the blessing of the wealthy man who gave away twice of what he had taken. One of the things that we, the materially blessed ones, must remember is that everything we have received is a gift. We did not earn these things.

Whether we like to admit it or not, and it may make a puddle in your march to glory, we need to look out for those in need. Too mnay times we have bought into the lie that the government and social welfare is the replacement for the church. Instead, of just ladling soup and patting people on the back, we need to re-adjust our vision of ministry to the poor. We need to think through how we might be able to bless the poor.

(vs. 2)
are we defending life
when we just pick and choose
lives acceptable to lose
and which ones to defend
‘cause you cannot choose your friends
but you choose your enemies
and what if they were one
one and the same
could you find a way
to love them both the same
to give them your name
(chorus)

This ‘privilege’ is what Webb is keying on when he says we can’t choose our friends…But we choose our enemies everyday. On second thought, perhaps Webb is saying that all men are supposed to be our friends. In this way we cannot choose them.Either one works nicely. Too many times in the name of social justice for the unborn we have forgotten social justice for the less fortunate who have had their voices muted. That is, if both parties were pro-life it should be harder than we assume on who to vote for. What if the one issue were gone? How would you vote? Have you thought of all the implications of a libertine or minimal government? Do we blanket common grace on humanity without relaizing that without proper governors, the rich will eat the poor? Just questions…

But the Christian life is more than just pursuing social justice isn’t it? Isn’t it the ability to love the one who ignorantly hates you? Isn’t it being able to bless the cursing asses (for those who are taken back by my language, see Num 22.23-34). To give our name is to share with those around us that we have long looked past. It is breaking bread and calling our neighbor friend. It is sharing the Gospel with our neighbors intentionally so that they, too, will be called friends by our King Jesus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books & Media, Christian Living, Culture, Mockingbird, Music, Politics

“Please Before I Go”: A Dialogue

181832373_c89fdf5613.jpgAt first blush this song seems a little stronger than we would like. In fact, my first reaction was “Hey, we shouldn’t equate love with drugs! That doesn’t sound right.” And then I remembered that this is language from the Bible. Better than flimsy Harlequin romance. We are reminded that love is better than wine. There’s honey underneath our love’s tongue. There is a agrden that deserves exploration. There is grace as we stand naked before each other and feel no shame.

What beauty there is in biblical love…

I have been hearing a song lately that does a great job of defining ‘love’ from the dictionary of our culture. “Take a Look at My Girlfriend” by Gym Class Heroes defines love in terms of infatuation. It dies off after the mystery is gone. You date someone, trampse through their garden and leave. Oh how weeds have overtaken such a view. The fellow in the song speaks about his new girlfriend who is so very special – she has porcelain skin, has her own ringtone, can mesmerize him with inaudible hours on the telephonie. And he makes this stunning remark, “And if that ain’t love, then I don’t know what love is.” That’s right, our world does not know what love is.

It is giggling and arguing and hugging and being sanctified. It is standing before your best friend, naked and unashamed as Adam and EVe were in the Garden. And in such a way this is a foretaste of being known and seen by the glorified Christ when he returns to reign forever in the New Heavens and New Earth. It is being infatuated one day and being flustered the next. It is being speechless because of gratitude and then because you are so upset you don’t know what to say. It is allowing someone into your world long enough that they see clearly that you are a sinner. They see that you are rude, selfish, deceptive, in need of redemption. Oh, God give us a fresh vision for vulnerable commitment.

Remember, may the breasts of your wife satisfy you at all times! The Bible is not a prudish book…When we read it’s pages, we soon realize that we are the prudes. We relaize that we are the ogres who have wriongly defined love and expected a certain kind of ‘love.’ There is unabashed passion in the Scriptures. What a far cry away from those who think that it is a list of don’ts. So much of it is a list of DO. Quit squandering your existence on boring drink and women and fame. What a waste! Quit leaving your dreams of knowing and being known at the door of your sinful sanctuary. Read the Bible and be ravished and embarrassed at your frivolous view of life and love.

(chorus)
kiss me once more, please, before i go
kiss me sweetheart, and i won’t go no more

‘cause i feel a little drunk
like a man who just can’t get enough
and there’s just one thing that can cool my head

(chorus)

like an addict to his fix
so am i to your sweet lips
the wife of my youth, my drug of choice

(chorus)

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, Culture, Family | Parenting, Mockingbird, Music, Sanctification

“In God We Trust”: A Dialogue

I like the way that Webb has used such an Americanized term and turned it on its head. I have seen a couple of state license plates with this phrase. I have seen a bumper sticker that says “Keep God in ‘Bless America.’”

My first question is: “What God do you trust?” or “What God do you want to bless America?” The name God is taken in vain because people use his name but do not have any content to fill it. They have made his name as hollow as a chocolate easter bunny. So many people speak as though they know God, but when you get into the mess you find out that their ‘god’ is themselves. He makes no demands on anyone. He is not worthy to be obeyed. He is here to make me feel good about myself. Etc. May the triune God have mercy on us!

Now for the song:

in God we trust
and the government is on His shoulders
in God we trust
through democracy and tyranny alike
in God we trust
He uses both good and evil men

An indictment, perhaps, on the fact that so many people who claim they believe in God’s complete sovereignty fall into the mire of fatalism. That is, good things will happen, bad things will happen. God’s in control. Therefore, I don’t want to be an activist. I feel the angst Webb is feeling, but I think it is misdirected just a tinge. In other words, there are those who think that their god is giving them the thumbs up no matter what they are doing. In the name of God they think it is alright to blow every foreigner they see. They think it is alright to shoot the people whose culture is unintelligible to them. They think that the western culture is the messiah of the world. They cry freedom – but it is a freedom that Adam desired in the Garden. They cry for the right to do as they please and claim they are right based upon nothing other than their desire to rule others.

in God we trust
so we fight for peace and He fights for us
in God we trust
even when He fights us for someone else
in God we trust
even when He looks like the enemy

Again, Muslims cry that Allah is going to grant them eternal life while Redneck Rick says that his god drives a bigger truck. For a decent commentary on our plight where god is made in man’s image read Talladega Nights Jesus. I don’t think Webb believes that Allah and the Christian God are the same – as so many naive people do. If he does, then I must adamantly disagree. One would have to claim that God is schizophrenic to say that he has revealed himself in both religions. You cannot have triune God and a transcendent tyrant. The revelation in the two religions are diametrically opposed to one another. Rather than a far off, whimsical god as the Muslims claim, Christ revealed the Father and is, in fact, God. We worship three persons, equal in essence.

in God we trust
even though our hearts are bankrupt
in God we trust
for more than just the value of our dollar bills
in God we trust
but there’s no gold behind these notes of reserve

Oh, I really like this flip. We certainly do have the appearance of religion, but our hearts are far from the Lord. We wear our Sunday outfits, but have never taken a shower. What kind of God does someone worship when they say they want to give him praise for te record album that just glorified fornication, blasphemy, and sloth? What kind of god is this? Our god is too small . Did you notice the flip? We trust in God more than the value of our dollar bills…but they are not intrinsically worth ANYTHING. Sure our wallets are full, but we are too full of ourselves to know what it means to carry a cross.

in God we trust
even through our great presumption
in God we trust
even though He favors no nation-state
in God we trust
even when the blessing is a curse

“Guard me from presumptuous sins” (Psa 19.13). We have winked a blind eye to sin and presumed that God has done the same all in the name of love. Blasphemy. It is slander against his name of justice. For anyone that thought otherwise, let me tell you plainly, the United States of America is not a Christian nation. It is not merely by the fact that it is replete with gross sin. It is due to the fact that there never can be a biblical nation-state as we live in the City of Man.

May we never forget that the blessings that have resulted from a feigned Christianity, actually Deism, are blessings. However, such hollow autonomy without retraint is a curse. During the time of the judges in the Old Testament, everyone did as they saw fit. It was a curse, though they had unbridled passions. Those passions quickly threw them off before 8 seconds ticked. They were trampled by the rodeo clown. And so all those who mistake the blessing of freedom as a license for sin without accountability will be trampled as grapes…making the wine of God’s wrath complete.

1 Comment

Filed under Books & Media, Christian Living, Culture, Mockingbird, Music, Politics, Post-Modernity

“Zeros & Ones”: A Dialogue

293790155_8476465585.jpgOkay. I’m going to land somewhere as to what I believe this song means. And the place I land is somewhere between two interpretations – because I think this is what Webb is trying to with intentional ambiguity. Let me know if you think I am in the ballpark. Again, I invite Webb to make any comments to throw me a bone here.
(vs. 1)
this was real
oh this was what you’ve all come to see and feel
but i’m starting to doubt my reality
‘cause it does not last long
once the cash is gone
(chorus)
eventually all of this must become zeros and ones
everything, everywhere, everyone, zeros and ones

So much of the entertainment industry is fabricated. Whether it be romance where the good-looking man has just the right line with just the right smile. Whether it be a drama where everything works itself out in an hour-long program. Or a song that within 3 minutes spreads out the insides of a man and resolves the tension by the bridge. In a society where our issues are resolved on the surface with smiley faces and saline-induced eyes we have lost the raw nature of life. Instead of getting messy in our neighbors lives we get more involved in the latest Desperate Housewives episode.
God help us that we live plastic lives so that real life is just a commercial. Death is not mourned, just patted on the back and we are told to go on. We live in our latest CD moaning to the travesties of falling in and out of love while our neighbors’ marriage is crumbling.
(vs. 2)
i’m in love
oh i love what i can convince you of
‘cause i’m a prophet by trade
and a salesman by blood
now i’m dying just to be
a filtered, sub-cultural version of me
(chorus)

Again, we love the honesty of Webb don’t we. He shows us the struggle of an artist. Feeling like you have to sell your life in order to eat bread. This is the second play on words: in order to sell albums you sell your life. If you don’t make number one, then you are a zero. You claw along the race with the Juddses (the music equivalent to the Joneses). I get this interpretation from the line that he is a prophet by trade and a salesman by blood. He has to sell in order to eat and yet he wants to prophesy to the calloused culture around.
The “filtered, sub-culture version” I wonder is related to the song “This World” where the Christian sub-culture is critiqued as having so many trinkets and treasures but nothing that we need.
(bridge)
my blood is red
dripping on a page
if i’m brave enough to cut myself
but the more it sells
it thins my blood
(chorus)

Implied in this is the struggle Webb has, as an artist, to not be some Mello-Yello version of what he wants to say. That is, with so much of the Christian music these days sounding like mainstream evangelicalism (and selling platinums) it is hard to not give in to that so you can buy your wife a new guitar.
I appreciate Webb’s music so much more than the cotton-candy, bubble-gum thoughts so prevalent on Christian radio waves. May God continue to sprout up men and women who challenge our everyday assumptions so that we learn better what it means to take up our cross daily.

1 Comment

Filed under Books & Media, Culture, Mockingbird, Music

“My Enemies are Men Like Me”: A Dialogue

206452026_447006f518.jpg
This is probably the song that set men against Webb’s political push through song. The tune itself is slow and contemplative – a good fit for the song. By virtue of this, the words are that much more poignant and bruising. In light of the wars in the Middle East – in which the United States is the scapegoat by all those who oppose war, this song hits hard.
I have been thinking about our position in the Middle East – as pertains to war. In so many ways the wars in the Middle East are like hog-tying. We know there is an objective – stop the terrorists. Yet, how do we define the terrorists? What is more how does a nation differ from the mandate to forgive your enemies?

(vs. 1)
i have come to give you life
and to show you how to live it
i have come to make things right
to heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

(pre-chorus)
because i would rather die
i would rather die
i would rather die
than to take your life

Not much to say here other than the bitter irony of the cross. Jesus came to give us a more abundant life by being slain at the hands of Roman soldiers. The abundance does not come by way of Lexus or gold. The benefits rendered by the Cross would be diminished if they were equated with such paltry wealth. The blood of Jesus is trampled upon by men like Creflo Dollar and cronies who make the Christian life a parade of materialism rather than a procession of death (2Cor 2.14-16).

Let it be said that the Christian life is much more than majority evangelicalism in the United States lives. It is more than being good throughout the week – if good is defined by avoiding sin merely. The Christian life is going out to the highways and by-ways and compelling the drunkards and prostitutes to come to the banquet spread for them – though they have done nothing to deserve it. It is realizing that we are not the physicians. We, indeed, are sick men who must have an intravenous supply of Christ welling up in our hearts through his Holy Spirit. Broken vessels we are. Fragile clay pots.

What is more…a Christian realizes that God has every right to take his life. He is not his own. Not only did God have every right to smite us with sickness – due to our rebellion. But also, God continues to bear that right since we were bought at a price. Those who belong to Jesus realize that he died in our place. On the cross, our sin was crucifixed with/in him.

(chorus)
how can i kill the ones i’m supposed to love
my enemies are men like me
i will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
my enemies are men like me

As Christians we must protest the sword if it is not wielded well. The Lenin-Soviet Union, Hitler’s Reich, Mao’s Massacres. Yet, the sword is still in the hands of the government. When Jesus commanded his disciples to turn their cheeks, he was speaking of forgiveness – not a literal turning and invitation to smite again. Jesus himself did not offer the other cheek in such a staunch interpretation. He rebuked the one who slapped him: “Why did you hit me?” He had done nothing wrong. We must forgive. How? More on that in another post (I want to write another post that explains how and upon what basis Christians forgive).

We are to kill the ones we are supposed to love when they kill. That is, I don’t kill by my own vigilante justice. Rather, the governing bodies above me dictate where justice should be meted out. This is due to sin that reigns in men’s bodies. God has given us institutions like government as a gift of common grace to guard from hell-ward justice.

(vs. 2)
peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

Not exactly. Peace is brought about when injustice is squashed. The wars we see are foretastes and foreshadowings of the final battle that will cleanse the earth of sin and distribute perfect justice. True righteousness will only reign when God’s enemies are decisively put underneath King Jesus’ feet. In other words, without men being given justice in this life we can expect no peace.

Imagine, if you will, the Hussein brothers being asked to stop raping and torturing women. Ridiculous! They were representations of evil in this world. The only way to bring about beauty is by wiping off the filth.

(bridge)
when justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
the ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

This is sadly more true than I would like to believe. Economically speaking, the rich get richer. Venture capitalists and middle class Americans who love cheap gas are the ones who love to hear of wars and rumors of war.

This is why the church must be more than a country club. If it is true that the poor get poorer. The church must come alongside these poor and show them how to make ends meet. If we are the church constituted by the Lord Jesus, and evidenced in the book of Acts, we will share with all those who have need.

May God grant us the grace to live life like Christ…

4 Comments

Filed under Books & Media, Christian Living, Culture, Current Events, Middle East, Mockingbird, Music, Politics

Rich Young Ruler

Rich Young Man

I’m back after a long hiatus. I will continue and finish my thoughts and dialogue re:Derek Webb’s album, Mockingbird.

(vs. 1)
poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

My theology was revolutionized when I began to see Jesus in the context of my life. I began to see him less as a good teacher and more as a man whom I must follow. I looked around at my middle class surroundings and wondered if he would be comfortable with Panera bagels and Starbucks coffee. I am sure that he would enjoy them as he enjoyed the tax collector’s delicacies, but would he be as lackadaisical when he watched television or stuck in traffic in a heated sedan pumping out the latest pop Christian music. When he watched the news would he be able to flip the channel? When he saw the drunk beggar, would he easily ignore and walk faster? When his cell phone lost a call would he curse his carrier? When his pants were too tight would he complain about the blessings of food that had gotten him into that predicament?

Obviously, some of the questions are absurd. Jesus did not commit gluttony. He did not have unrighteous anger. He was not complacent. And yet the absurdity of them makes me wonder why I, as an adopted child of God, am so prone to these problems. “Oh, it is so sad that all that is going on in the Sudan.” Oh, I am so sad when I see a beggar on the streets.“ Oh, I should eat less and give more to those in need. In so many ways I had moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood. Watching ”The Nativity Story“ with my wife a couple of weeks ago caused me to pause as I thought of the poverty Christ took on to redeem the vile (2 Cor 8.9).
Christians in the United States have given into the exorbitant culture that surrounds them. We have forgotten that we belong to another land. We have forgotten the journey that we are on, fixing eyes on stones and not on the beaten man on the side of the road.
What is so painful about writing this is that I have no solution that I have performed. In so many ways my faith is theory. How often do we scoff at the idea of social gospel preaching and never lift a finger to take care of our neighbor. As we drive into our inner city church and leave to go to Denny’s, are we thinking of our poor next door? I have to admit that I have thought more of paying my bills than feeding Jesus.

What is captivating about this verse Webb has woven is the last sentence: ”i want the things you just can’t give me.“ Turn of phrase. The things we can’t give are the things we don’t want to give – because we have time and a voice. The other meaning is so true. We can’t give God perfect obedience – unfettered worship. How much of our works is motivated by self-exaltation and attempts to earn marks with the Almighty? What he requires of us is sinless worship in service to others as we usher in the kingdom for our neighbor. The ability to feed the hungry with a pure heart is not something that we can give. Rather, it is something that must overflow from what we have first received (Lk 7.47). Service is a gift from God – all the while it is to God – all the while it is through God.

(vs. 2)
so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

In the spirit of recent talk of prosperity preaching (that which says, ”God wants you to be rich!“), this verse hits the heart. But beyond that, it hits me in the heart – one who is a conservative evangelical who likes to say he loves the lost and wants to see people treasure Jesus more than anything else in life. Now I haven’t bought an SUV, but I own one. I haven’t invested all my money in order to make a lot of money.

But I have to admit that I want to make a lot of money. I am reminded of Ron Sider’s theology that pushes on the fringes of the acceptable in our fluffy North American culture. Have I given in to the idea that contentment is okay? That is, have I become the self-juestifying rich young man who says that he loves Jesus and wants to go anywhere and do anything for the kingdom; and yet I cling to my bag of IRA’s?

After thought, I have decided that Jesus does tell us to give up everything to follow him. There is a fine balance to be walked when it comes to material prosperity and spiritual fullness. Have we forgotten Jesus’ injunction that we use unrighteous mammon (money) to further the kingdom of God. I can’t help but think that if every Christian were to literally sell all he has, then we would not have people to financially support missionaries, pay for higher education, feed the poor, etc.

The remedy? Don’t spend your life and don’t fix the aperture on the lens of your life after material blessings. We should labor and seek to do well so that we can bless others. If I can say that God has blessed me so much that a Lexus with gold-plated rims is evidence of this, I have given in to North American definitions of success – and not conformed to the biblical mandates. If I had submitted to the biblical mandates, then I would have gotten a Toyota, subtracted the difference and given it to a worthy ministry.

(bridge)
because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

May we never forget this teaching of Jesus. How many are in prison? How many Samaritans are under the bridge smoking crack? These have too often become themes of jest rather than objects of brokenness. Need I remind you of the popular phrase, ”Are you smoking crack?“
May God forgive the plush, obese, lazy, self-centered pride of our lives which seeks to build ourselves up while abandoning the purpose he has given us to do!

1 Comment

Filed under Books & Media, Christian Living, Culture, Mockingbird, Music, Social Justice

“I Hate Everything (But You)”: A Dialogue

321949511_374b3f8481.jpg

This is one of those quirkily honest love songs that endeared me to Webb ever since his time with Caedmon’s Call (with “Table for Two;” “Somewhere North of Here;” “Daring Daylight Escape” on 40 Acres). It seems like the past few weeks especially I have resonated a lot with his sentiments.

I remember Tommy Nelson (of Song of Solomon acclaim) sharing that the world is a cruel place and there is nothing more special and secure than when a man crawls under the covers with his wife and knows that he is accepted and loved no matter what “they” say. I have found this true as I have entered to cut-throat business of quota retirements and deadlines and beating out the next salesman.

This kind of security is what Webb is itching for in this song. This kind of security doesn’t come with an ADT sticker or a concrete wall. It is nestled in the arms of your helpmate and head. When I have messed up royally or sinned exceedingly, God’s grace is manifest in the eyes of my wife. I pray that when she fumbles I will be as gracious and understanding with her. This is the beauty of marriage – God’s mercy overflows to sinner and sinned-against. The reciprocation is only possible is God opens the floodgates and showers such blessing down.
I was listening to NPR today where the Biologist from the University of Louisville was speaking of altruism. Try as we may to find an equation for it (as scientists have tried to do) the only pure altruism rests in the hands of God. He gives from his abundance and we constantly receive and are preserved.

Now the song…

//(vs. 1)
baby don’t give up
we’re the kind of folks who will always live
right around the corner from something big
yeah, yeah, yeah
so baby come on home
you can be the girl on my telephone
and will be your lion made of stone
yeah, yeah, yeah
come on home
yeah, yeah, yeah//

Although a little Beatle-esque with the “yeah,yeah,yeah” lines (being Beatle-esque is not necessarily a negative, mind you), he is just as enigmatic. I am not really sure about the line: “you can be the girl on my telephone and will be your lion made of stone.” If anyone has an idea, let me know. My stab at it is that it is a reference to “Table for Two” where he mentions waiting by the phone for the girl he is in love with to call.
Before you write this interpretation off, remember those days when you were young and giddy and love was ecstaticly emotional? I remember when I was in Argentina and my then girlfriend and I would set phone dates every Sunday evening (Domingo Libre on Telefonica for those who are interested…which strangely ended when I returned to the States). What joy I had that at the end of a hard week of students standing me up for coffee appointments and wondering what in the world I was doing with my life to know that there was a voice on the other end of the line that laughed at my jokes and reassured me that the sacrifice was worth it.

This would flow from the hopeful language with which he writes with in the previous lines – people who are living around the corner of the next big thing. My wife and I often quoted Psalm 126 which speaks of God fulfilling his promise to Israel when he brought/brings them back to the Land. We would follow that with Prov 13.12 – hope deferred makes the heart sick but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. These are what strengthened us when pining to sip coffee at the same table.

“Lion made of stone” – perhaps figurative language for a strong defender?

//(chorus)
it’s been one of those kinds of days
and i feel so out of place
and i hate everything, everything
i hate everything but you//

See introductory paragraphs to this post. And, no, I don’t think Webb wants us to take the word “hate” literally. It is hyperbole…right, Derek?

//(vs. 2)
baby when we’re right
i don’t mind the sun, i don’t mind the rain
or businessmen who think they know everything
yeah, yeah, yeah
everything
yeah, yeah, yeah//

I assume there are days when they’re wrong. But when they’re right…things are oh, so right.

//(bridge)
no one really understands my baby, if you don’t
let’s not fight, just turn the lights off, baby you’re all i want
(chorus)
it’s been one of those kinds of days
and the whole world is on my case
and i hate everything, everything
i hate everything but you//

See introductory paragraph (particularly Tommy Nelson’s words).

What this song should do is drive the Christian to the Christ. I listen all day to Muzak pumping through the speakers at work and I wait for a bridge that would tie all of them together. Our culture worships love…and people worship people. The sham(e) of it all is that with all the relationships people have and all the broken hearts that have been through rehab, you would think that reason would help people see the temporary nature of human love.
Like all good things, we should be pining to know God. Marriage will cease. Puppy love will eventually get hip displesia. May our weddings and arguments point to a more permanent love. The love that doesn’t equal to comfort under the sheets…but a love that embraced the foulest rebel. The rebel who refused to see that he was returning to his own vomit like a dog. The rebel who shook his fist at God, although he never said a cuss word. The rebel whose good deeds are nothing more than dirty rags.

I will say this. After reading Harold Best’s Unceasing Worship I have been convicted as to how I use my words. I tend to embellish the facts in order to get a rise out of someone or to make something sound greater than it is. “That pizza was awesome!” “That song is awesome!” “That book is…” You know. I am not wranging with words to be trite. Rather, I was challenged to get my adjectives accurate to reality. That way when I say, “God’s works are awesome!” it means just that.

Now I can sympathize with the sentiment that there are days you want to yell at everyone and kick the wall. It probably is hatred. Let’s be honest. Let’s confess it. But given our sinful wants, there are probably days (when things aren’t righ between you and your love) that, emotionally speaking, you hate him/her. We dare not mention it, though. So why should we mention when our emotions get us in a headlock and we declare we hate everything. Is this a true statement? If so, repent.

Severe mercy is what we needed on the Cross. And severed sin is what this righteous one will bring.

5 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Family | Parenting, Mockingbird, Music, Sanctification

“A King & A Kingdom”: A Dialogue

316841249_e56549eefd_b.jpg

Following off some comments I made on the last post we come to my second favorite song (yes, “Mockingbird keeps slipping on the charts!). In our cushy culture we have grown accustomed to our Christian pundits giving Christian commentary with their Christian jargon. Problem is, it has lost sight of the spreading of the kingdom of God. It has opted for political issues here on earth – policies rather than pure hearts. We can write millions of papers of legislation, but it will not usher in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. 1)That is done by the Father; 2) We are to be vessels carrying the news of change with us.

Much of the current cliquey talk in my generation of believers has revoloved around the words “conversation,” “kingdom,” “social justice,” etc. What has happened is the kingdom of God has been reduced to social gospel or watered down to a nebulous talk of something that exists out there. Eternal life is to know the Father and the one who he sent. I fear that with the skepticism in the air with groups such as the Emergent church we are missing the basics of Christian faith. The motto rings: “Question everything.” We should question, but we don’t need to (nor should we) re-formulate the historic foundation the Church has been built on – namely, on the Word of God.

Since there is nothing new under the sun, our task as Christians is to tell the old,old story in new songs and language. Oh, that we would not be archaic and esoteric in our verbiage!

Now the song…
—————————
(vs. 1)
who’s your brother, who’s your sister
you just walked passed him
i think you missed her
as we’re all migrating to the place where our father lives
’cause we married in to a family of immigrants
—————————

We are pilgrims on a journey home. We have not arrived until the new heavens and new earth arrive here. We press on against the Pit of Despair and the Giant and Sloth and Gluttony, battling the old man that we have crucified with the Christ. I am speaking of Christians, of course.

Too many times lovely language sacrifices true words. If Webb means here that we are passing by the poor man on the street or the man in prison without seeking to give a cup of cold water to him in the name of Jesus, then he is right. However, if he universalizing Jesus’ phrase to say that every person on the street should be seen as a Christian, then he is wrong. Those who are not in Christ are enemies of God and we should be at the plow tilling the soil and sowing the seeds of truth and grace so that a harvest of righteousness will sprout up for the glory of the King of that harvest.

This is why when I meet people I do not call them “brother” or “sister” until I hear their allegiance to Jesus. I will call them “friend” or “buddy” or “pal” or man” or…but not “brother.” This is because they are not my brother until they come under the Lordship of Jesus. I used to be lax in my usage of these terms, but I want to be accurate with what I say and not be the cause of confusion to people who think that Jesus being alright with them is okay with me.

—————–
(chorus)
my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a king & a kingdom
—————–

AMEN. Have we abandoned the resolve of our forebears? Christians were burned like candles in Nero’s courtyard because they would not pledge allegiance to him. Our president is no Messiahe. He will not usher in roghteousness no matter how bad he or we want it.

The United States is not the Garden of Eden. It is east of Eden, brothers and sisters. We, like Jacob, must wrestle to enter into it.

The second line is a little more racey. I believe that democracy is more Christian than say forced communism. However, I cannot say that democracy is Christian. I do live in between two cities and must succumb to the structures of the one where my feet are planted – thus, conceding democracy. But in the new heavens and new earth, there will be a Monarchy recognized and obeyed and served. Heaven is not a Buddhistic utopia where all are equal. Christ will have all things under his feet in submission and joy.

Due to the structures God has blessed us with, and due to indwelling sin, and pagan worship we must let the majority balance the rest. However, my ideal would be to have Christians share all things in common. Would this be a mix of democracy and communism? What do you think? For the record, I do not believe that a totally free capitalistic society is the answer – for the same reasons above.

——————
(vs. 2)
there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
(chorus)
——————

Whoa. Great lines though if he used the superlative I could not agree with the second. The danger of being pithy is not being true. While there are people out there who equate Christian with Republican, this would be a broad generalization for those who vote Republican because they are Christians. Many who do so are voting due to one issue alone – abortion. I might be swayed to a different position if they worked for justice for the unborn. Enough said.

——————-
(bridge)
but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think
——————-

Look in the mirror, this is where you need to start. Look to your family, this is where you need to be faithful in shepherding and raising up a tribe of Christ-treasurers. It is true that enemies unify us. Could this be due to our desire to have a scapegoat for our own problems? It keeps us from looking to ourselves and our culture to be changed. What’s more, evangelical culture at large has made enemies out of a lot of ur neighbors. Bumper stickers that slap people in the face; Slogans that alienate others; pastors who have not preached the WHOLE counsel of God; t-shirts and candy bars and testa-mints and fun/stupid trinkets that set us apart as…holy blazing idiots.

1 Comment

Filed under Books & Media, Christian Living, Mockingbird, Music, Politics, Post-Modernity, Social Justice

“A New Law”: A Dialogue

309110068_2c26074ac9.jpg

Okay, so I said that “Mockingbird” was my favorite song on the album. I have changed my mind. “A New Law” has been the most thought-provoking and soul-nourishing song and catchy tune so far.

I think this song hits the nail on the head for modern-day evangelicalism – from health, wealth, prosperity preaching to old-school legalism in the country. People have not done the hard work of reading and thinking about the teachings in the Scripture. Instead, we have become lazy in our religion. We have opted for the “Just tell me what I need to do to get to heaven” instead of the “What does the Lord require of me” (Micah 6.8). And so we see the slow of heart and mind pointing fingers at those who push the boundaries of what is okay for a Christian to do (i.e. drinking, smoking, and swearing) – calling them heretics – without rigorous thought as to why it is wrong.

I have tried in this blog to push those buttons and think afresh why Christians should live a certain way. I want all of us – smoker and non-smoker – to think deeply how the Bible calls us to live. On to the song…

————–
(vs. 1)
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

————–

I am reminded of the situation in North Carolina where a man was disciplined because he voted for a Democrat instead of Republican. Too many times we have equated Christian with Republican (more on this when we get to “A King & A Kingdom”). We need to ask deeper questions of who I should vote for and why I should vote.

Regarding music, many have sought to label various music so they can write it off or ascribe to it…Rather, shouldn’t we be asking what makes a particular song edifying?

((Side Question: Are there certain genres of music that should not be used to edify the Christian?))

Freedom has been the cry of the Christian from the day of his conversion. It has not become the cry of those who want to drink alcohol. Have we belittled “freedom” to just being able to do as we please. I am not a teetotaler, neither do I claim “freedom” where we may be called to be our neighbor’s slave. In some cases, has “freedom” been our new law? These questions might be where I would divert from Webb’s agenda in this song.

——————
(pre-chorus)
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me
(chorus)
i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

——————

It is much easier to have a Mosaic Law than it is to be indwelt with the Spirit of God. We can strive in our own energies to be obedient to the letter of the law so that we can miss the more pervasive problem of being transformed in our minds and hearts. The answers are not easy because we live in a world full of sin, sinners, and self. We have a mind that has been corrupted by our own elections in entertainment and thought. We have given ourselves to sensual pleasures rather than renovation of the soul.

—————
(vs. 2)
don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice
don’t teach me about loving my enemies
don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law
(pre-chorus/chorus)
(bridge)
what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
—————-

While I don’t think Webb’s agenda is to have everyone drink alcohol, we must not stop with such an arbitrary and subjective example of Christian freedom – nor do I think Webb is wanting us to stop here. I think it would be great if we re-thought the use of grape juice at the Lord’s Table. The new wine that will be offered at the Fellowship of every tribe and tongue will be refreshing and good. It will flow from the spiggot of God’s love and mercy and joy. Yes, Jesus blessed the Wedding at Cana not with a picture frame for the lovely couple but with vats of wine! He is the Lord of the feast (please listen to this excellent sermon by Tim Keller). I went to a Communion Service at a Lutheran Seminary some years ago where they served wine for the Supper. It burne when it went down. Nothing special about the wine, mind you, but it has much more powerful sensory results than grape juice. Could it be that we would be reminded of the power and taste of the Kingdom with wine? I can already hear some of my friends wondering if I have gone off the deep end.

No, I am still where I am…not advocating cracking open some brews and peanuts for the Lord’s Supper. What I am doing is asking (albeit, stream-of-consciousness) genuine questions about the things we have taken for granted. This is meant to be a discussion so I’d love to hear your feedback.

“Listening to the Spirit” could be replaced by a more theologically true concept of listening to the Word of God. The Spirit is too often reduced to a nebulous feeling for the Christian. The Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible so that we might exalt the Son (and be comformed into his image). Evangelicalism has become very fluffy (see my post Fluffy Faith). We have equated the rock solid truth of the Gospel for a search for pearls of wisdom offered by the emotions. We have gone on a journey like Pilgrim not to our Home but to a good feeling when we’re singing with a thousand people. We have become mushy in our convictions – trading in truth for “I feel”). I am not a stoic, but I am not an Epicurean either!

At first, I was annoyed by Webb’s repition of “do not be afraid.” But then I just let it ride the second and eith time I listened to it. I appreciate the repetition now. I am reminded of “Good Will Hunting” where Robin Williams gets in Matt Damon’s face and repeats ad nauseum “It’s not your fault.” Let the refrain seep into your thinking.

What does that mean, Matthew? Well, dwell on the fact that Evangelicals have opted for their new laws because they are afraid of something. What do you think we are afraid of?

4 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Culture, Mockingbird, Music, Sanctification

“Mockingbird”: A Dialogue

Hanging On
_________
(vs. 1)
there are days i don’t believe the words i say / like a life that i’m not living / a song that i’m not singing but to you / there are times that i believe i’m satisfied / like an intimate connection / despite this bad reception with you

__________

Webb’s honesty hits us right in the face from the get-go. This is one of the things that I appreciate about his work and lyrics. The things that we think (or should think) are brought out into the open and we are made to file these things in our drawer of conviction or avoidance. How many times have you felt dry early in the morning with your cup of coffee and Bible or late in the evening in a Bible study and wondered what in the world you are doing? None? Oftentimes I have felt the inertia of sin keeping me from moving forward, from being so convinced that nothing could hold me back from declairng the Truth.

Call it fear of man, sometimes it’s just laziness and darkness in my own heart. There are days…there are weeks…there are lifetimes when Christians don’t grasp the pervasiveness and repercussions of their worldview. God became flesh and dwelt among us – this has implications for the entire world of sinners. I am writing a paper on Pluralism now and have found it amazing that even John Hick believes that IF the Incarnation (as defined by Orthodoxy) is true, then the entire world must swear allegiance to this King.

As a Christian, I know that God took on flesh to redeem for himself a people. Because this is true my life should be utterly different than before. I look around and see so many Christians whimpering in a corner and tucking their tale in their legs and scampering away from intellectual battles and philosophical conundrums. The Creator of logic, philosophy, and reason has revealed to us all that we need in his written Word…we must be fully convinced. There is no 99.999% sure that the things we profess are true.

This is one of things that led to my conversion. I claimed to be a Christian and was hit with the fact that this Truth had no bearing on my life. I spoke but did not live by action. What a farce!

How whimsical and fickle are we finites. There are other days when we feel warm and fuzzies… how do you sift through all these emotions save through the Word of God.

__________
(pre-chorus)
because i can’t afford to pay / for most of what i say /
so it’s a lucky thing / that the truth’s public domain /
(chorus) 
and i am like a mockingbird / i’ve got no new song to sing / and i am like an amplifier / i just tell you what i’ve heard / oh, i’m like a mockingbird

__________

Here it seems that Webb believes his words are truth. What a haughty claim…unless it is true. So it is with us, Christian, we have nothing new to offer the world. Evangelicalism speaks of a ‘relationship with Jesus,’ ‘contextualizing’ the Gospel, ‘meeting people where they are,’ and the like. This is fine to a point. But when we start to add things to what has alreayd been stated by our Maker we rebel. We may not add a thing to his Word. So, in truth, we are mockingbirds.

It is a shame that much of what we echo is not God’s Word but slogans and pithy statements that don’t amount to much in light of eternity.

__________
(vs. 2)
and yes, it’s true that i need this more than you / like one whose name is many /
have mercy, please don’t send me away /
(pre-chorus) 
and i’ll do all i can / to be a better man / oh i’ll clean up this act / and be worse than we started / (chorus)

____________

What a beautiful turn of phrase around the pivot of God’s sovereignty. In reference to Revelation and Isaiah where Messiah is attributed with a myriad of names -signifying his Rule over all – Webb recognnizes that the One who has plucked him from the fire is the One who will keep him in his good pleasure. None of this, I left the faith. There is a hand that holds you, dear Christian. Be real. Be frail. Know that you are a sheep who responds to the Voice of the Shepherd.

What happens if you try and fix yourself rather than plead for mercy? You become a white-washed tomb. It is not by you might alone that you are cleansed from sin. It is the Lord’s hand who takes the coal and purifies your mocking lips. We work harder than anyone, but it is not us but the grace of God that empowers us and gives us the desire to obey (1Cor 15.10; cf Phil 2.13).

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Living, Culture, Mockingbird, Music, Post-Modernity, Sanctification, Theology

Mockingbird: The Album & A Dialogue

b000cc3seg01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg

For those of you who haven’t heard, Derek Webb (formerly of Caedmon’s Call) offered his latest album, Mockingbird, as a free download – see link on right sidebar of this blog. One of the reasons this was done was to begin a dialogue about the issues he raises on the album. I have been hearing people talk about the album, but nothing very substantive. So in an effor to honor Webb’s purpose and to start a dialogue about this alubm, I have decided to go song by song and give a commentary. This will be mostly an evaluation of the lyrics and issues presented – I will leave the technical music side to those more qualified than I. I may mention briefly about some of the structure of the songs musically, but that will not be the main purpose in these posts.

For starters, I have thoroughly enjoyed the album as a whole. While there are some things that I am not so sure about, I have found myself thinking on the issues and reconsidering previously held assumptions. I have listened through the album several times and it has been easy to pick up the lyrics and the tunes are easliy memorable. Unlike a friend of mine who accused Webb of attempting to be a cheap clone of Keith Green, I believe Webb is trying to speak into long-held beliefs. This is a good corrective to an otherwise lazy evangelical culture. Lazy being accepting the majority and status quo as orthodox without doing the hard work of Bible study and debate.

(Several friends have questioned Webb’s used of vulgarity, drinking beer (for the mere image of it), and being edgey for the sake of edgey – not to mention his comments about present-day Christian heroes in a Christianity Today interview. This is an excellent observation. Our generation – raised by the grunge scene and Tupac Shakur – has a tendency to try and push buttons to seem like they are wiser and more discerning than the run-of-the-mill believer. We must be wary of pushing buttons to get a rise out of people – this veers towards a lack of Christian charity.)

Back to the album. My favorite songs have been A New Law, A King & A Kingdom, In God We Trust, Mockingbird -in that order. I have just finished Harold Best’s Unceasing Worship. I have been encouraged to move forward with this evaluation and dialogue. This is due to Best’s affirmation that there are so many different expressions of musical offerings, we should be careful to uphold one way of singing. I understand some of the uneasiness with Webb’s political pushing, but I think it is very healthy for all of us to consider and reconsider our positions. Rather than buying wholesale into one political idealogy we need to challenge ouselves to rightly divide the words (and thoughts) of men.

In all of this, I would love to have as much feedback as long as it is thoughtful. No bashing, please.

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Culture, Mockingbird, Music