Archive - April, 2011

The Same Songs

Last night I had the immense privilege of seeing Mumford & Sons play at the Santa Barbara Bowl. It was a tremendous show. I am, admittedly, an incredibly late arrival to the Mumford & Sons bandwagon, but nonetheless I’ve grown to really appreciate their music in the past several months. It’s pretty funny to think that one of the hottest acts in music today is four guys from London whose live show features such instruments as the banjo, accordian, upright bass, horn, trumpet, and trombone. They played everything from their album Sigh No More and played several new songs, which the crowd seemed to love. Throughout the night the band seemed genuinely grateful for the crowd’s enthusiasm and support. They almost seemed a little bit surprised. At one point, in between songs, the keyboard player told the crowd, “Our first gig on the west coast was at a club in Los Angeles in front of about twenty people.” Then he shrugged and said something that I thought was pretty funny. “It’s the same songs.” A few years ago those songs were being played for an audience that could be fed with a couple of pizzas. Last night they played at a 4000+ seat venue that sold out the show in about fifteen minutes. I can’t entirely put my finger on why I was so struck by that comment. Maybe it’s the reminder that sometimes great things take time to develop. Maybe it’s the reminder that sometimes great things need to be developed over a long period of time, even if it is just “the same songs”. I guess on some level I was struck by his comment because we live in such a society of instant gratification. I am often mortified as I consider my own lack of patience, let alone my lack of persistence. I think it’s easy to be lulled out of a willingness to work hard at something over a long period of time by stories, whether real or made up, of overnight success, or by perceptions we can have that somehow successful people achieved their success without having to put in hours and hours and months and months “playing in front of 20 people in L.A.” The reality, of course, is that achieving things that matter is rarely that easy. I don’t believe there is a short cut to being a good parent or being good at relating to people or being good at a profession, regardless of what that profession is. Certainly a degree of natural acumen helps in all of those things, but more than anything, success requires commitment, hard work, and a willingness

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to dedicate oneself towards excellence. In between all of the amazing music, I was grateful for that reminder from Mumford & Sons last night. May we find our “songs”, and dedicate ourselves to the hard work of playing them well.

The G.O.S.P.E.L.

I thought this was a really creative explanation of the gospel by hip hop artist Propaganda. Enjoy…

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/20960385]

HT: Desiring God

God of the Losers, Liars, and Hypocrites

Yesterday at church we sang a song that I’ve sung hundreds of times. If you’re a church person chances are you’ve sung it a whole bunch, too. It’s that song that has this line in the bridge: Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, that seeks your face, O God of Jacob I like that song a lot, and like I said, I’ve sung it hundreds of times. At yet this time was different. As I was singing it I was reminded of a few pages in Counterfeit Gods that were about Jacob. While Tim Keller was much more eloquent than I, he basically wrote about how Jacob was a loser. He was a liar,

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he was a jerk, he was a punk. And yet, he was a recipient of God’s grace. And repeatedly in the Scriptures when God is speaking to Israel he refers to himself as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If one were so inclined one could quite easily make the case that Abraham and Isaac were hardly moral exemplars themselves. They were not without their positive qualities, but they also had some rather spectacular failures. And yet

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God chooses to align himself with them. Last night as I was driving home from Santa Barbara to Pasadena I was listening to Matt Chandler’s sermon from last Sunday. In making the point that the Scriptures are, in the end, about Jesus and about God reconciling all things to himself he had a great line. “There are only four people in the Scriptures that I would let watch my kids!” (Try to guess the four…you know you want to….they were Jesus and the three men from the fiery furnace) The point was that the Scriptures are filled with men and women who constantly failed, who constantly turned their back on God, and yet were constantly pursued by God, shown grace by God, and called by God so that they could turn away from their brokenness and be a part of his reconciling work in the world. Last night at Bible study we talked about how moralistic teaching and instruction without the gospel can restrain hearts but it will not transform them. Moralistic teaching might fix behavior but it does not give us life-changing, life-giving, heart-transforming affection for God. But, at least for me, what does transform my heart is the reality that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of the Losers, Liars, and Hypocrites. He is the God who shows grace and mercy. He is the God that descends to us, meets us in the midst of our junk, and then calls us out of it. He doesn’t wait for us to get our act together. Rather, he descends to us and meets us in our brokenness, so we might be, as the Scriptures say, reconciled to him and made to be agents of reconciliation in the world. That’s the beauty of the gospel, and that is what transforms hearts.