Jonah and Noah or is it Noah or Was That Jonah, I Get Confused!

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Monday Morning Music: Theologically Correct (nearly) Music from Pagan Artists

Don't worry I can duck quick and run fast so any of you cultural fundamentalists out there, bring it on! I believe in the Holy Spirit and his ministry of illumination. That is if a person is to really understand what the bible is saying and what it really means, you have to have the Holy Spirit give you understanding. It's a tracendent, spiritually originated book containing the revealed will and counsel of God, frankly I'm glad we have the Holy Spirit as a helper, guiding our understanding.

But I also listing to music, lots of music and am frequently astounded at the theological statements made in the lyrics that correlate to Scripture. It's odd to think but it is possible to put together an album of biblically theologically correct music made by raving mad, god hating, rock artists.

In this regular series of posts I will posts lyrics to a song I've picked, give a little bit ob background about the band the piece and then parse the lyrics, showing along the way that some of the most notorious bands decried by some as the very representation of Satan on earth- have at times correct theology. What's more, sometimes they articulate this theology better and more concisely that I can as a seminary student!

DISCLAIMER PORTION: I do not believe you should build your theology listening to rock music, God's word is the only place to begin and end in this endeavor. I don't encourage the listening of other songs be the artists I mention because additional songs MAY NOT BE THEOLOGICALLY CORRECT! I do advocate listing to modern, popular music as a means of listening to the wisdom and logic of this world. You've got to learn where to throw your punches as a preacher and I have found secular music an invaluable guide on directing me where to punch and to fight hard against the dulling, dumbing, blinding foolishness of this world. I will not only review rock music, which oft decried as 'Satan's Music' but will also branch into Jazz and often in to Classical Music, which I often perceive gets a pass as "God's Music". I will show you better than to draw this hypocritical dichotomy! Please comment with moderation my only hope here is to provide an entertaining and insightful way to view the world around you. We live here as Christians which means for the glory of God we must understand what is happening here so we can be the most effective and influential witnesses of of Savior that can possibly be.


L.A. Reinterpreted

A Hatred Turned to... Something Approximating Affection

I grew up in Northern California. This may seem insignificant to you but a 6,000 foot mountain range geographically separates Nor. Cal. from So. Cal. This wall is known as the transverse range and slices east to west providing not only the aformention physical barrier but also a psychological and sociological demarcation as well. It was a God ordained wall, we in the North believed, intended to keep the nuts and degradation of the south at bay. I grew up in a culture that looked down upon Southern Californians will all the disdain my upbringing could muster. This has since changed as I have adapted to living in this spaghetti bowl dish of freeways and concrete marinara. But every now and again I run across something that plucks the most primeval nurturing strings in my heart. The concluding quote is reminiscent of the feeling most Northern Californians have of where I now call home.

In Edward Weston: His Life, author Ben Maddow quotes him saying:

My disgust for that impossible village of Los Angeles grows daily. Give me Mexico, revolution, smallpox, poverty, anything but the plague spot of America – Los Angeles. All sensitive, self-respecting persons should leave there…

Edward Weston was an artist who lived in Los Angeles for 17 years, after which time he left and devoted considerable amounts of time destroying any record of his residence in LA.

You learn to love living in a place that elicits such vitriolic repulsion from some but is also nearly worshipped by every sun deprived, sand lacking, ocean missing, dry heat desiring East Coaster and Mid-Westerner in the US.


Monday Morning Music: Theologically Correct (almost) Music from Pagan Musicians

"My Own Prison" by Creed.
Click here for Lyrics

If you search the web you'll find numerous sites with potential interpretations of these lyrics. Explainations and interpretations of this song range from calling this song the product of a extreme night of drug use, a claim supported by the line "Should have been dead on a Sunday Morning, banging my head..." to those who interpret this song a a recognition of human responsibility before a just and soverign God. Admittably I tend toward this interpretation not simply because of a few particular words in the song but because of the the whole direction of this piece.

Apart from absolutely stirring music and evocative drum and bass playing the words to this song evoke the chilling imagery of a sinner standing before the judgment seat of God. The lyrics open with:"A court is in session, a verdict is in, No appeal on the docket today, Just my own sin" This is a place depicted in this song as a place of fear and trembling, demons crowd near our narrator expecting another soul to be handed over to them amidst the screams of the judged. Our narrator is "shackled" by his sentence and before the judge he expects no return, that is no release from the penalty he is bearing and the reality of this is expressed in the words "Here there is no penance, My skin begins to burn..."

This chilling imagery is punctuated by the chorus which takes into the mind and heart of narrator who stands in the midst of this scene. The narrator standing before God expecting to receive judgment for the sentence that shackles him exposes what is going in inside of him at that moment by the refrain, "So I held my head up high
Hiding hate that burns inside, Which only fuels their selfish pride"
. This to me is amazing insight because I believe it is an accurate depiction of what the judgment day will look like. We have it in our minds that sinners, unrepentant in this life will somehow suddenly, when faced with the withering glory of God, will fall on their knees and worship him. How is this possible? If they hate God in this life when they have not seen him, how much more will the despise him when they stand face to face with him? The sinner in that day will 'Hold his head up high'- this is pride, but tempered by the awesome fierceness of God will temper this rebellion, i.e. 'Hiding hate that burns inside'- that is hate for God. The antecedent to 'their' is the demons cluttering around in the first verse, they are fueled by the sight of rebellious pride in one they are about to receive.

We are again returned to the scene of the courtroom and the proud defendant but this time a vivid scene involving the cross of Christ is interjected. We know it is Christ who is the center of this verse because the imagery of a lion is used for the on who only "holds the keys". What are these keys? According to the song they are the means by which our defendant can be "freed from my burden" and "grant me life eternally" Namely the imagery of Christ is one who has born the Cross, is now resurrected in power and who holds the power to free men from their sins and to grant them life eternally.

At this point the initial chorus is replaced by one that expresses the recognition that our defendant, who before the cross imagery was holding his head up high but is now recognizing that he, not Christ, "Should have been dead, On a Sunday morning". But as is true to Scripture, the sinner who stands before God on judgment day has "No Time for Mourning...". God has warned that he will not always strive with man and the clock on his longsuffering will have hit midnight at judgment day. For the man in that situation the end of this chorus stands as a stark reminder that he "Ain't got no time..." This understanding only serves to further harden the heart of the defendant who after what seems to be a moment of possible repentance resumes his arrogant stance and returns to his burning hate.

There is nothing left now but to seek God's decision, the defendant cries out to God, "Seeking only his decision". Gabriel the angel is pictured here as a sort of ballif confirming the testimony of the defendant and the sentence of God. The truth of the situation is made explicitly clear at this point, God is not to blame because man, as represented by our defendant has 'created his own prison...' What response could we expect from the condemnd sinner? It only inflates his pride and hatred, a point driven home by the repeating of the chorus twice in a row.

The song concludes with the repeating of the recognition that the defendant ought to have been dead upon the Cross which Christ bore. It this end it is a terribly sad and tragic song, one that though written by pagan artists still serves to illustrate is a lesser degree some of the theological teaching that the bible proclaims in a much greater degree.

First, the God if the universe is a God whose very character demands of him that he be a judge. Sin must be punished, the criminal must be found guilty, righteousness and holiness must be preserved in all purity. We will all be judged accordingly. The difference is those who have Christ have the greatest defense attorney possible because he will tell God the judge that the penalty represented by the sins of each believer has been paid, on the Cross. This is what it means to be saved, saved from the wrath of God. The unbeliever does not have a defense attorney on that day.

Secondly, the reason for all of this is because mankind wilfully rebelled against God, each of us has build his own prison of sin and pride. We are self condemned and shackled to a sentence from which the only return we can expect is to handed over to the demons and Satan in judgment forever.

Third, man is inherently sinful and prideful- even standing before God sinners will not repent. They have but one option and that is to rebel as mightily as possible before being consigned to torment.

Lastly, it is a firm teaching of the bible that all who have rejected Christ in this life and have disavowed all knowledge of him here, will see him as he is in glory on that day of judgment. The cross will loom large because it will be the insurmountable piece of evidence that condemns the sinner. No man will enter hell without thourougly understanding that Christ came, suffered and died to prevent the torment about to be endured for eternity. I believe every sinner as he is handed into the realm of the damned will know as sure as day that he belonged on the cross and not Jesus.

In conclusion let it be stated clearly that God is a judge, a day of judgment is coming, the eternal prison stands ready to recieve the damned and all of this threat is cancelled but by one thing, namely Jesus. If you embrace him as a loving Savior and righteous King you will be burdened no more by your sentence of sin. Hate will be replaced with love and pride with humility. The judge will become a father to you and the defense attorney, closer than a brother. The greatest tradgety is representing in this song and it is the one who fails to repent and embrace Jesus. The day of judgment will be to late, there will not be anytime left to correct the mistake. While it is yet day then, let us work out our salvation, for night will come when no man can work" And what work is left at night will remain as such forever, either good works of repentance leading to eternal reward or evil works of pride leading to distruction.

Creeds song "My Own Prison" shows us that even pagan minds can apprehend the didactic truth of Scripture but fail to grasp it's meaning. This should not be surprising, the demons cast into swine has a perfect knowledge of eschatology so why should men who have access to the word not derive from it's contents the concepts contained in this song? The thing you must make sure of for yourself is that you not stop at simply knowing the Word of God, but that you truly understand it in life changing ways.


L.A. Reinterpreted

I once handled a phone call from a customer who expressed to me the utter amazement that our store was open. He called during the summer of 2006 when a half dozen major wildfires were burning up So. Cal. "I can't believer your open right now" he said, "with all the fires and earthquakes and gang shootings..." he went on to list a few other things. I laughed inside because this is the impression I'm think a lot of people have of living in Southern California. On a recent trip to New Zealand I was confronted by kind but inquisitive hosts by the fact that only 24 people last year in New Zealand died as a result of gun violence. An hour spent studying with the police scanner providing background noise of the LAPD Valley division reported 4 shooting incidents, one a possible fatality, in just ONE hour! "How do you live with such violence?" my Kiwi friends asked me, "Do you own a gun?" I replied with a jovial "Yes I do, and so does my wife and now that my 18 month old is walking we're thinking it might be time for him to get one as well!"

The perceived my joke and I went on to explain that LA is well honestly a lot of things. There are some pretty mean streets here where even cops tread lightly. But there are also far more places to visit and live that provide an almost unparalleled standard of living. I a new, occasional series of posts I want to reinterpret the LA persona for my readers. Granted I am a white guy with a young children which means I probably won't be pounding the pavement at midnight in some quarters but neither do most folks either. But I hope to show that LA is a vibrant place, even one where you could raise kids without them getting too screwed up along the way.
This is going to be tough though because I know that gunfire and violence are part of living in LA but at least we've grown so accustomed to it that if the officials know there's going to be trouble, they at least have the decency to put a road sign warning that it might mess up our commutes home!


It's finally happened, the American brain has been killed!

What follows is the hard forensic evidence that scientist would use to verify my claim.

Posh spotted at Valley eatery
Daily News

Victoria "Posh" Beckham wasted little time in exploring the distant reaches of her new home city.
Over the hill and far away from her Beverly Hills mansion, Posh dined Tuesday in Woodland Hills at the T.G.I. Friday's in Warner Center. Spotted by an off-duty Daily News reporter out for a beer, Posh sipped something from a straw and ate something from a plate. Further details were unavailable thanks to a couple of large bodyguards in front of her table.
Posh had her three boys in tow - the two eldest sporting soccer attire in a nod to soccer star papa David Beckham. Posh opted for an off-shoulder gray T-shirt - revealing her Hindi neck tattoo - tight jeans, and a pair of very high heels. She did not seem to notice the two paparazzi in the parking lot. The Beckhams hopped into a convertible black Bentley and left the eatery followed by a pair of Lexus SUVs that carried their entourage.

Link and credit for the photograph, click here

Link and credit for the article, click here

Commentary, not much needed.

This graced the back of the front page of our local news paper today. Such insightful observation has earned the Daily News lauds for its crack journalistic team. Granted we needed a break from the tradgety in Brazil, the bombings in Iraq and the endless violence between gangs on our own streets. The Daily News really ought to be credited for providing a community service by diverting our attention from more urgent matters by reporting on such insightful observations such as "Posh sipped something from a straw and ate something from a plate." Good job Daily News, I can't wait to see what tomorrow mornings edition will bring!


The Rock Slide Show

Please note the rock slide show has been replaced but the slide show has been added to the bottom of this post

I've recieved some questions about the above slide show. These pictures were taken from a location near Mono Lake, in the Eastern Sierra region of California. If you would like the exact loacation email me and I'll tell you how to get there. This site is to rare and precious to post openly since people have this unconquerable desire to touch everything. This is an example of sedimentary layering. Details of the pictures show you how fine the particles are in this layering indicating among other things the past presence of water since this type of rock forms as silt and dirt settle out of water. The different layers are like chapter markers in the geologic past of Calif. The different colors indicate differing types of sediment ranging from simply silts (browns) to volcanic sediment (greyish). They gray coloring comes presumably from pulverized pumice stone eject from volcanic vents within the region. Since these vents would have emitted ash and dust instead of lava AND there was a present body of water to capture this dust and ash, we get these great pictures today.
But wait a minute, you've explained how the layers got there, but what about the twisty swirly formation? Good observation. The theory is that these layers were laid down in a water matrix so they were not very compact. Well the presence of volcanoes in the region also presupposes techtonic activities, i.e. earth quakes. You'll notice in the center of most of the swirls ad dark gray colored rock, this is mud. Mud is heavy so when the shaking started the otherwise stable layers began to give way to the weight of the overlying mud. As the mud descended it contorted the surrounding layers. The shaking stopped, time passed, compression set in and eventually exposure made this rock visible and this posting possible. Thank you mother nature for the material and thank you IT guys for allowing me to indulge in my rock fetish here.
But, wait I must also comment on the creation God who established that these things take place. This is just a tiny testimony of God's natural laws a work again demonstrating that He is in control of all things. Believer or not we are all within the reign of God.


New Zealand- Churches

At the outset I will post the disclaimer that I am not an expert on the church in NZ and in some points that I make may stand to be corrected. If any misinformation is stated the intent is not to degredate the hard work of the Gospel ministers in NZ or to unduly criticize the past history of the church in NZ. All I have to work with is the experiences that I had while in NZ and the antedotal stories that I heard while visiting there.
The Hastings/Napier churches of 'The Church @ Riverbend" and "Hastings Bible Church" where euphemistically called, 'the Mecca of Christian Churches in New Zealand" others referred to the two churches as a sort of 'Christian Disney Land". Neither of the euphemisms were negative in anyway, rather the expressed the uniqueness of the particular ministries of these two churches in the Hawkes Bay region of NZ. The joking terms really reflect more low state of the status quo in the state of the NZ church. Things are so spiritually poor outside of this region that those who look from the outside in and see the ministry of these two churches are really complimenting and marvelling at the accomplishments of the C@R and HBC.
The islands as a whole are bereft of Biblical leaders. This is evidenced by the fact that every fad and new trend that the sewer piper of modern evangelicalism can spit out flows through this country with abandon. It is also evidenced by the numerous small faithful congregations that dot NZ. The situation is a little better in the North Island and while there may not be more than a dozen or two dozen biblical churches in the North Island, I found through visitors to the Impact conference that the South Island from Invercargill to Picton is nearly void of thriving, vibrant fellowship. Believers in many communities meet in small home studies or have Sunday worship that consists of no more than prayer and Scripture reading amongst a dozen or so people. Established mainline churches are liberal or apostate and exegetical bible teaching is so rare that it was expressed to me that the Impact conference was the one time a year that some people hear an expository sermon without having to press the 'play' button on their audio device.
But in this bleak assessment are some brilliantly shining testimonies of light! If you hadn't picked up yet that there are believers in both islands let me inform you that some of them have a zeal and passion and knowledge of the Lord that set this seminarian humbly back. There are precious sheep scattered and without shepherds. There are those calling and earnestly seeking Christ centered, God honoring preaching! Additionally, the liberalism of the past is bearing necrotic fruit now and some of those duped by the promises of liberalism and beginning to reexamine the Christian doctrine and if luck are finding churches like the ones in Howick and Wanganui. There are biblically trained men, few as they be, that are preaching and teaching. A bible college at the Church @ Riverbend is beginning to produce biblically minded people for the ministry. But the assests of the church at hand are so incredibly small and insufficent for the work, esspecially if the Lord were to unleash a Biblically defined revival in this land. The opportunties are breath taking.
I sat in on a meeting at the end of the conference for which I will forever be greatful to have been a participent. In the room where a handful of men which probably represented the better part of the Biblically minded Pastors in NZ. During the meeting the needs of the ministry and the present opportunties were discussed. TIme and time again the problem wasn't a lack of ministry opportunity but of laborers and workers to exploit the opportunities to their greatest advantage. This is truly a unique dynamic that is almost unknown in the U.S.
The past in NZ has left the present church in great need but the future also holds great opportuntity as well. My prayer is that the Lord would see fit to replicate the same situation in nations around the world. I also pray that the Lord would provide all the needed man power and teaching to meet the present need. If ever the statement were true, 'the fields are white unto harvest, but few are the labors' then NZ is the example to illustrate this. Faithful ministers shepherd their flocks with a passion and precision that left be impressed and the next generation of pastors stands poised to make great impact in this nation.


The Christian and Immigration

The Christian and Immigration

I feel compelled at the outset to explain the title of this post. In the growing political tempest surrounding the issue of illegal immigration, I am convinced that it must be remembered that we are talking about the fate of some 12 million people. This class of people is referred to by many title; illegal immigrants, aliens, undocumented workers, ect. But the fact remains that no matter what title is given to this group of people, they still remain exactly that- flesh and blood, human beings. They are a people of diverse nationalities, ambitions and goals. They share in common the principle that life is better in America than where they came from and that by being here they can have a better life for themselves and their families.

Their presence here in the U.S. is causing quite a controversy and resolutions to problems being raised by the growing rancor are hard to formulate. But one thing is certain, that this is an issue that will not be quietly put away or solved soon. Another thing that is undeniable is that certain elements within the immigrant community are engaged in illegal activity apart from their illegal presence in this country. This adds complexity to an issue that raises nationalistic patriotism as well as fear that these people are eroding the American way of life. Yet it cannot be forgotten that caught between an increasingly irate U.S. citizenry responding to an relatively fringe element of criminality in the immigrant population are millions of individuals seeking nothing more than the betterment of their life through working in the U.S,

Amid the din, Christians are challenged to find a response to the present social crisis. On the one hand no person naturally wants to be thought of as unpatriotic and going against the popular grain can be difficult. We may find ourselves agreeing with right-wing pundits who raise popular fears by announcing that our boarders are over run by gun toting, drug packing, bomb wearing illegal aliens; and cheap workers who are robbing Americans of their jobs. Yet we who name Christ, above all people must protect ourselves from emotionally jumping on the popular band wagon because our concern must be much more than simple politics or national fidelity. This is not to say that Christians are to be non-patriotic, rather it is to say that our patriotism must be subjugated to greater priorities as delineated by scripture.

These priorities are significant because they bear the weight of Scriptural authority but even more than that, the societal and ethical priorities of Scripture are of tantamount concern because they reflect the very heart of God himself. The Bible contains the God ordained revelation, complete in every aspect according to what God has determined to reveal about himself. One of the over arching themes of the entire bible is God’s concern for the poor, the outcast, the unrepresented in society.

People often blame the fall of Old Testament Israel on the Jews unfaithfulness to God. Ask any bible toting person about this and the word idolatry inevitable is cited as the reason for the failure of the Israelites. Idolatry was the reason why God is angry with Israel and idolatry was what led the hearts of the people astray. Yet, a survey of Old Testament Scripture produces another, if not even more compelling reason for the failure of Israel.

Leviticus 23:22 states that the Israelites, at the time of harvest were to leave a bit of the produce behind for the benefit of the needy and the alien (see also Deut. 24:17-22). Deuteronomy 1:16 guaranteed that justice be provided for both the native Israelite and for the alien who lived among them. Deuteronomy 14:29 goes a step further by saying that the Israelites, at three year intervals were to bring an offering of their produce to be deposited in their town of residence. This offering of produce was in turn to be used to support the Levites and to provide for the well fare of the alien population living among the Jews. In fact, God promised the Jews that if they were to do this they would indeed be blessed by Him! The Israelites were commanded by God to share of their bounty because God had so blessed His people that they would have a prosperity and abundance that would meet and exceed all of their needs. The sharing of this abundance was to result in the rejoicing of the Levite and the alien for the good which God had brought to the house of Israel. Jewish generosity was to provide blessing for them and satisfaction for the alien.

Why though did God command such sacrificial giving from Jews? Deuteronomy 10:18 gives us an explicit insight into the heart of God. The Jews were to be a compassionate and generous people because,

…the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:18)”

God is a God of love and compassion and He called his people to reflect this in their attitudes towards the underclass citizens in their land. But how did Israel fare in this obligation?
The prophet Jeremiah speaks out against the oppression of the aliens within the boarders of Israel by the Jews (Jeremiah 7:6). In Ezekiel again a prophet raises charges against the Israeli treatment of aliens within the land (Ezekiel 22:7). God is not pleased that His people have allowed themselves to become the oppressor of the alien, thus essentially fulfilling the role that the Egyptians had over them hundreds of years earlier. And in a warning of stern judgment, the Lord says,

“…I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me," says the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:5).

These must have been chilling words for the scripturally astute Hebrew to read since God places the uncompassionate oppressor in the same category as adulterers and sorcerers!

What is the point of all of this? The point is that Israel was to demonstrate compassion for the person within her geographical and political boarders but outside of Israelite custom and society. The Hebrews were to be compassionate because by being compassionate they would be directly demonstrating the very heart of God. It cannot be mistaken, the Biblical God is a God of compassion for the alien, the orphan, namely for those who are unrepresented and at threat of being taken advantage of or mistreated. Read Deuteronomy 10:18,

“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”

In the relation to Israel, God commanded that His people be unlike any other people on earth by not taking advantage of the non native residents among them. Rather than this, God knowing the evil propensity of the human heart to wield power over and against those who are powerless, God directed that the most vulnerable be protected by mercy, kindness and compassion. This was to be because this is who God is.

Tragically, history has born out that Israel fell far short of being obedient to this command and history bears the stamp of severe judgment against this covenant unfaithfulness. Israel today still does not enjoy the blessings promised to her in large part because she failed to be merciful and compassionate to the strangers in her lands. What are the implications for this in today’s charged climate of immigration reform? What role ought the church to take in the discussion surround the fate of millions of people? That will be looked at in the next article.