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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Red, Orange, and Yellow (for Jill on our 30th anniversary)



May these colors remind you of the Fall

My favorite season, above them all

And remember, as you always tell me—

It’s death that makes the greatest beauty

 

Think of me and my love for you

And how God can make all things new

Think of what the colorful cycle of life from death tells—

I wouldn’t want to go through a F/fall with anyone else!

 

Our anniversary always falls in the Fall

30 times now through hard falls and all

We’ve celebrated the union that God put together

And a friendship that (without the falls) will go on forever!


Monday, September 21, 2020

You should try this! (it will be good for you spiritually)

[This post is an unabashed advertisement, but it's purpose is not to benefit me--it's purely for your benefit. For the first time in a while I opened a wonderful book I have on my Kindle this morning for my prayer time--I have often turned to it over the years when I wanted to "spice up" my prayers or when I'm not sure what to say myself and want to pray along with the words of another. This prayer--reproduced in its entirety here, with headings added--is one of a collection of profound entries found in C. H. Spurgeon's Prayers. You can get inexpensive copies here in various formats, and I strongly encourage you to do just that. Learn from a master and let his words guide you in your own prayers...I guarantee you will be blessed!] 

O LORD God! the Fountain of all Fullness, we, who are nothing but emptiness, come unto Thee for all supplies, nor shall we come in vain, since we bear with us a plea which is all prevalent. Since we come commanded by Thy Word, encouraged by Thy promise, and preceded by Christ Jesus, our great High Priest, we know that whatsoever we shall ask in prayer, believing, we shall receive. Only do Thou help us now to ask right things, and may the utterances of our mouth be acceptable in Thy sight, O God our Strength and our Redeemer.  

Trinitarian Praise

We would first adore Thy blessed and ever-to-be-beloved Name. “ All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting.” Heaven is full of Thy glory. Oh! that men's hearts were filled therewith, that the noblest creatures Thou hast made, whom Thou didst set in the Paradise of God, for whom the Saviour shed His blood, loved Thee with all their hearts.  

The faithful, chosen, called, and separated, join in the everlasting song. All Thy redeemed praise Thee, O God! As the God of our election we extol Thee for Thine everlasting and immutable love. As the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we bless Thee for that unspeakable gift, the offering of Thine Only-begotten. Words are but air, and tongues but clay, and Thy compassion is divine, therefore it is not possible that any words of ours should “ reach the height of this great argument,” or sound forth Thy worthy praise for this superlative deed of grace.  

We bless Thee, also. Divine Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, that Thou didst not disdain to be born of the Virgin, and that, being found in fashion like a man thou didst not refuse to be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Let Thy brows be girt with something better than thorns; let the eternal diadem for ever glitter there. Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood; unto Thee be glory, and honour, and power, and majesty, and dominion, and might, for ever and ever!  

And equally, most blessed Spirit, Thou who didst brood over chaos and bring it into order, Thou who didst beget the Son of God's body of flesh; Thou who didst quicken us to spiritual life, by whose divine energy we are sanctified, and hope to be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, unto Thee, also, be hallelujahs, world without end!  

O Lord! our soul longeth for words of fire, but we cannot reach them! Oh! when shall we drop this clay which now is so uncongenial to our song? When shall we be able with wings to mount upward to Thy throne, and having learned some flaming sonnets that have once been sung by cherubim above, we shall praise Thee for ever?   

Yet even these are not rich enough for Thy glory. We would sing unto Thee a new song. We will, when we reach the heavenly shore, become leaders of the eternal music. “Day without night“ will we “circle God's throne rejoicing,” and count it the fullness of our glory, our bliss, our heaven, to wave the palm and cast our crowns with our songs at Thy feet for ever and ever!  

Intercession for the Lost

Our Father, which art in heaven; next to this we would offer prayer for those who never think of Thee; who, though created by Thee, are strangers to Thee; who are fed by Thy bounty, and yet never lift their voices to Thee, but live for self, for the world, for Satan, for sin. Father, these cannot pray for themselves for they are dead; Thy quickened children pray for them. These will not come to Thee, for, like sheep, they are lost; but do Thou seek them, Father, and bring them back.  

Oh! our glorious Lord, Thou hast taught us to pray for others, for the grace which could have met with such undeserving sinners as we are must be able to meet with the vilest of the vile. Oh! we cannot boast of what we are; we cannot boast of what we have been by nature. Had we our doom we had now been in hell. Had we this day our proper, natural, and deserved position, we should still have been in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. 'Tis Thy rich, free, sovereign, distinguishing grace which has brought us up out of the miry clay, and set our feet upon a rock. And shall we even refuse to pray for others? Shall we leave a stone unturned for their conversion? Shall we not weep for those who have no tears and cry for those who have no prayers? Father, we must and we will.  

“Fain our pity would reclaim and snatch the fire-brands from the flame.”  

There are those who are utterly careless about Divine Things. Wilt Thou impress them! May some stray shot reach their conscience! Oh! that they may be led solemnly to consider their position and their latter end! May thoughts of death and of eternity dash like some mighty waves, irresistibly against their souls! Oh! may heaven's light shine into their conscience! May they begin to ask themselves where they are, and what they are, and may they be turned unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.  

There are others who are concerned, but they are halting between two opinions. There are some that we love in the flesh who have not yet decided for God. Behold it trembles in the balance! Cast in Thy cross, O Jesus, and turn the scale! Oh! Love irresistible, come forth, and carry by blessed storm the hearts which have not yet yielded to all the attacks of the law! Oh! that some who never could be melted, even by the furnace of Sinai, may be dissolved by the beams of love from the tearful eyes of Jesus!  

Lord, Lord, if there be a heart that is saying, “Now, behold I yield; lo! at Thy feet rebellion's weapons I lay down, and cease to be Thy foe, Thou King of kings“ — if there be one who is saying, “I am willing to be espoused unto Christ, to be washed in His blood, to be called in His righteousness“ — bring that willing sinner in now!  

May there be no longer delay, but may this be the time when, once for all, the great transaction shall be done, and they shall be their Lord's, and He shall be theirs.  

Oh! that we could pour out our soul in prayer for the unconverted! Thou knowest where they will all be in a few years! Oh! by Thy wrath, we pray Thee, let them not endure it! By the flames of hell be pleased to ransom them from going down into the pit! By everything that is dreadful in the wrath to come we do argue with Thee to have mercy upon these sons of men, even upon those who have no mercy upon themselves. Father, hast Thou not promised Thy Son to see of His soul's travail? We point Thee to the ransom paid; we point Thee once again to the groans of Thy Son, to His agony, and bloody sweat! Turn, turn Thy glorious eyes thither, and then look on sinners, and speak the word, and bid them live. 

Prayers for the Church and the Country

Righteous Father, refresh every corner of the vineyard, and on every branch of the vine let the dew of heaven rest. Oh! that Thou wouldest bless Thy church throughout the world! Let visible union be established, or if not that, yet let the invisible union which has always existed be better recognised by believers. Wilt Thou repair our schisms; wilt Thou repair the breaches which have been made in the walls of Zion? Oh! that Thou wouldest purge us of everything unscriptural, till all Christians shall come to the law and to the testimony, and still keep the ordinances and the doctrines as they were committed to the apostles by Christ!  

Remember our land in this time of need. Do Thou be pleased by some means to relieve the distress prevalent. Quicken the wheels of commerce that the many who are out of employment in this city may no longer be crying for work and bread. Oh! that Thou wouldest make wars to cease, to the ends of the earth, or, when they break out break Thou the slave's fetters thereby, and though desperate be the evil, yet grant that Satan may cast out Satan, and may his kingdom be divided, and so fall.  

Plea for Christ's Return

Above all. Thou long-expected Messiah, do Thou come! Thine ancient people who despised Thee once are waiting for Thee in Thy second coming, and we, the Gentiles, who knew Thee not, neither regarded Thee, we, too, are watching for Thine advent. Make no tarrying, O Jesus! May Thy feet soon stand again on Olivet! Thou shalt not have this time there to sweat great drops of blood, but Thou shalt come to proclaim the year of vengeance for Thy foes, and the year of acceptance for Thy people.  

“When wilt thou the heavens rend, In majesty come down?”  

Earth travails for Thy coming. The whole creation groaneth in pain together until now. Thine own expect Thee; we are longing till we are weary for Thy coming. Come quickly. Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen and Amen.

 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Favorite Songs - At Your Mercy, by a sinner who needs it every day

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

I had a dream last night that I was driving a huge double-trailer truck through the countryside somewhere in Africa (probably Uganda because that's where I've visited and where my missionary friend Ryan Vance lives). I took my eyes off the road for a moment for no good reason, lost control of the truck, and watched helplessly in horror as the truck careened through a village and struck numerous people, including children. When it finally came to rest, I could hear the wails of pain and grief from behind me and then could see an angry mob of men approaching through my mirror, presumably to inflict the kind of tribal justice that I've heard about from my missionary friend. Then I woke up.

It occurred to me in the aftermath that when we drive any vehicle we are all just a moment away from hurting or killing someone through our own negligence, and I thought about how thankful I should be that such a thing has not happened to me in reality. It's certainly not because I never take my eyes off the road to fiddle with my phone or stereo or whatever, so I definitely don't deserve to be spared from such a fate. In other words, it reminded me that only God's mercy has prevented me from so many consequences I could have suffered, and God's mercy is my only hope for the future. 

It made me think of one of the songs I often sing to God during my prayer time (usually early in the "rotation"). It's called "At Your Mercy" and it's not a favorite because of the quality of the song (the vocals are certainly nothing to write home about:), but because it means so much to me after singing it to God thousands of times over the years. If you listen to it and can put up with the sparse instruments and amateur singing, maybe it will be a blessing to you. But even if not, the lyrics below should be, because they are all from Scripture and especially echo the famous phrase in Lamentations 3:23 that God's mercies are "new every morning." I usually think of that verse in positive terms as a promise that God will provide for us all we need every day even though we don't deserve it, but my dream made me think about it in a different way: Every day we should be grateful that we have not received the judgment and punishment we deserve for our sins.

At Your Mercy

At Your mercy, oh Lord
I’m at Your mercy, oh Lord
Nothing in my hands I bring
Only to the cross I cling

At Your mercy, oh Lord
I’m at Your mercy, oh Lord
Amazing grace—how can it be?
To save a wretch like me

I was lost, but I was found
Lord, You turned my world around and upside down
I was blind, but now I see
And I’m dependent on the life you make in me

At Your mercy, oh Lord…

I was down, and I was out
Lord, You lifted me from the valley to the mount
I was going, Lord, I was gone
And now I need Your strength to carry on

At Your mercy, oh Lord…

If you could stand some more minimilistic (but meaningful) amateurism, here is another short song I sing to the Lord in my prayer times...



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Favorite Songs - Holding Back the Storm, by Paul Rodgers


(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

While my wife Jill was away for a couple days helping a family in need, this song came on in my rotation and was already on my list to do a blog entry on it, so since I was missing Jill and thinking about her, I figured this was the time to do it.

This is my favorite of a number of songs on this album by Paul Rodgers that I love, because I think he has one of the best voices ever and on this more mature solo album (compared to his Free and Bad Company days), he actually uses it to sing about some important and meaningful issues (rather than "All Right Now," "Feel Like Making Love," "Ready for Love," and their ilk, which are great vocal performances but not very meaningful:). 

"Holding Back the Storm" is actually an ode to a godly woman, a Proverbs 31 woman even, which of course is what my wife is. The song says she flies "on the wings of a white dove," which can only be a reference to the Holy Spirit, and other lyrics in it echo these verses from Proverbs 31:

Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil

All the days of her life....
She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms....
She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy....
Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.... [The song says "Fly on the wings of tomorrow"]
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household....
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,

But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,

And let her own works praise her in the gates.

About the music in the song... As I've said before, powerful rock music can be very appropriate for various emotions that God wants us to feel, such as anger against injustice and other consequences of sin. In the case of this song, I find it very fitting for the celebration of one of God's greatest gifts to the world--a godly woman whose "worth is far above rubies." 

I posted my own song and video tribute to my wife Jill (and "the fruit of her hands") elsewhere on this blog, but here are the lyrics that are sung by a much, much better voice than mine:

Holding Back the Storm

She has the heart of a lion
The soul of a mountain stream
That flows through the heart of the valley of love
Pure as an baby's dream

She has the eyes of a tiger 
Watching her children grow
The power and grace of the love on her face
Sharing the secret she knows 

Hold back the storm
With a love so warm
Holding back the storm
With a love so strong
Holding back the storm

Fly, with the power of love
Fly, on the wings of a white dove 
Fly, away with my sorrow
Fly on the wings of, the wings of tomorrow

Holding back the storm

She has a way of believing
When nobody else gives a damn
She has a way of seeing the truth
Touching the soul of a man

Hold back the storm
With a love so warm
Holding back the storm
With a love so strong
Hold back the storm

My message to you baby, is that I love you, and you hold back the storm...


Saturday, July 18, 2020

A Discernment Exercise re: Progressive Christianity

In the course of my writing work I happened upon this statement of faith (of sorts) on the website of Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, PA, and I thought it would serve as a good exercise in discernment to compare what the statement says with some related passages from the Bible. Ask yourself if these church leaders are teaching the traditional faith of Christians throughout the centuries based on the Scriptures, or if they are creating their own "updated" version of religion in an attempt to improve on both.

The quotes from the church's statement are in bold and the Scriptures I'm adding are in plain print. (I didn't spend much time on this, by the way, but just put in some passages off the top of my head to help you compare the two.)

What We Believe

The mystery of the Christian liturgy well celebrated remains: God is faithful and waits.

So the liturgy in its whole range—from daily prayer, to initiation rites, to Eucharist, to burying the dead—waits patiently for our humanity to be opened to it. The liturgy waits patiently, like the Scriptures, like Jesus, like the whole life of God who, as Tolstoy once observed, “Sees the truth but waits.” (1)

"The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

Heaven is revealed upon the earth both in the cup of cold water which is given to the poor... and in Michelangelo’s David: in both the dance of a child and the melody of Mozart. (2)

Alertness is all. (3)

"But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isa. 64:6)

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

"Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thess. 5:21-22)

Belief is appropriately a moving target, which shifts and adjusts with time, circumstances, and the continuing new revelation of the Spirit of God. It’s also so varied and complex—even within a single parish—that any attempt at a summary would be immediately misleading. Belief isn’t a set of ideas or propositions. It’s rather an approach to life and a dynamic engagement with the mystery of God.

"Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Heb. 11:6)

"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." (Jude 3-4)

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory."
(1 Tim. 3:16)

The Episcopal Church is not principally identified by its adoption of a creed or an approved statement of doctrine; we are primarily a community formed by the practice of worship. Praying shapes our believing, and, thus, there are no insiders and outsiders but, instead, we are people who gather prayerfully to seek, across all divisions, peace and unity with God and one another and the joy that comes from sharing love directly and personally. Our churchyard, our church building, our facilities, our programs, our ministries, and our worship are open to all, because openness without limitation is the keenest form of spiritual alertness.

“'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber'... Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.... I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:1-2, 7-9, 25-27)

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." (Matt. 18:15-17)

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'” (1 Cor. 5:9-13)

Being alert in this way opens to us the reality of God’s heaven in our midst and in our world. Heaven is not merely a distant reward. This is a terrible caricature. Glimpses of heaven are, rather, present to us in the beauty of creation and in our sharing the image of God in our own creativity. They’re also made manifest in many acts of redemption: by our reaching out in care, by our offering forgiveness and reconciliation, and by our making our first delight service to others.

"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." (2 Cor. 5:9-10)

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)

"Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matt. 22:35-38)

True belief unfolds slowly, across the spans of lifetimes....

"Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

"By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." (Heb. 11:7)

"For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'” (Rom. 4:3).

"Once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation." (Heb. 9:26-28)

Those last verses highlight what is missing from that church's "statement of faith"--the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4)! What Christ has done for us on the cross, the most important truth for us to believe, is not explained in it. Of course, the leaders of that church may not even believe in the penal substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, because denying that doctrine is common in "progressive" or "liberal" circles. It's not my purpose here to defend it or to explain the nuances of the passages I listed above--I just wanted you to see and think about the disparity between the way many people talk about the Christian faith and what is actually contained in the Word that He gave us as a basis for it. But if you'd like to discuss any of this further, I'd be glad to.


Footnotes from "What We Believe":
1) Donald Saliers: Worship as Theology
2) Gerardus van der Leeuw: Sacred and Profane Beauty
3) Michael Fishbane: Spiritual Attunement


Monday, June 22, 2020

An All-Star Team-Up vs. Depression

I wanted to share with you, in its entirety, what I read for my time with the Lord this morning. First because it features three of the most profound and powerful wordsmiths in history--the prophet Isaiah, Charles Spurgeon, and Martin Luther (with God behind it all, of course). Secondly because it cut me to the core after a Father's Day when I struggled deeply with thoughts and feelings of depression when I should have been trusting and praising God, like these literary giants reminded me.

I also wanted to share it because I know I'm not the only one who struggles in that way. "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," as Thoreau famously said, and though he was using "men" in a general sense, middle-aged males and fathers in particular may be some of the most susceptible targets for depression (especially the "quiet" kind). But, of course, what is said in this excerpt from Spurgeon's comments on Isaiah 41 applies to everyone, regardless of gender or age. The Scripture verses are in bold and Spurgeon's comments (including a great story about Martin Luther and his wife) are in italics...

17, 18. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

See what God can do. Men are thirsty, they have no water; and lo! on a sudden, behold rivers, fountains, springs, pools, floods; for God does nothing in halves. He is an all-sufficient, overflowing God. When he gives, he gives like a king. He does not measure his gifts of water by the pint and by the gallon; but here you have pools, and springs, and rivers. When he has given waters, he will give trees to grow by the waters. When God gives blessing, he makes other blessings to spring out of it.

19. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together. Making a paradise of streams of water and lovely trees, evergreen trees of the most comely aspect, and of great variety.

See what God can do. Where there is a wilderness, where there were hills and valleys, and all was dry and parched, he makes woods and forests, rivers and fountains. He can do all things. Oh, that we had faith in him! But we forget him: we turn not to him; we look everywhere but to God; we try every method except that of trusting in the living God. Have we a God? If so, why do we act as we sometimes do? 

Martin Luther was a very cheerful man, as a rule; but he had terrible fits of depression. He was at one time so depressed that his friends recommended him to go away for a change of air, to see if he could get relief. He went away; but he came home as miserable as ever; and when he went into the sitting-room, his wise wife Kate, Catherine von Bora, was sitting there, dressed in black, and her children round about her, all in black. “Oh, oh!” said Luther, “who is dead?” “Why,” said she, “doctor, have not you heard that God is dead? My husband, Martin Luther, would never be in such a state of mind if he had a living God to trust to.” Then he burst into a hearty laugh, and said, “Kate, thou art a wise woman. I have been acting as if God were dead, and I will do so no more. Go and take off thy black.” 

If God be alive, why are we discouraged? If we have a God to look to, why are we cast down? Let us rejoice and be glad together; for God will do all that he has promised, for this reason:? 

20. That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

God wants you to know that he is at work on your behalf. He wants you so to trust him as to see how his promises can be applied to your case, and what his right hand can accomplish even for you. Let us trust him with all our hearts.



Saturday, June 20, 2020

Favorite Songs - Always, by Owl City



(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

I'm not a fan of pop music in general, and someone might think that Owl City is the epitome of pop music. But not really, for several reasons. Adam Young's music is just quirky and unique enough to set it apart from typical pop fare--maybe there's something like it out there, but I haven't heard it personally. Admittedly, I'm not heavily versant in pop music, but for me Owl City is unlike anything I else I've listened to. And then there's the fact that Adam is a committed Christian who is not afraid to say that publicly (see this recent Instagram post, for example). That alone takes him out of the category of typical pop star.

Adam might also be criticized for being a sentimentalist, but that doesn't stop me from loving many of his songs. I am, after all, a big Charles Dickens fan, and like Dickens, Adam manages to pull off his sentimentalism in an effective and (again) unique way. No artist I know communicates an innocent sense of wonder and optimism better than he does. And when Adam's sentimentalism is being expressed in lyrics that are truly encouraging spiritually, because they come from God's Word, those songs really hit the sweet spot for me in a big way.

Even though "Always" is tied for my favorite with another song I'll mention below, I've chosen it for this blog entry because it mentions a verse I've studied recently--Isaiah 40:31. It says, "They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." A rare thing happened when I read Charles Spurgeon's comments on that famous verse recently in my time with the Lord: I actually disagreed with Spurgeon! He said that the "running" we do is unfortunate and the "walking" is better, but after looking at the passage further and reading Edward J. Young's commentary on it, I think Isaiah is saying that we will be given grace both to "run" in crisis situations when we're weary and also to "walk" during the normal course of life. In other words, the strength God gives us will not only be a temporary one in a time of crisis, but will continue throughout our "walk of life."

Another great insight I discovered while studying that verse, by the way, is that the Hebrew text uses terminology indicating that God exchanges our weakness for His strength, echoing and presaging the "Great Exchange" of the gospel (see 2 Cor. 5:21). He freely gives us something we didn't have before, something that was completely foreign to our nature--namely, wings in Isaiah and righteousness in the gospel.

The other song that is tied with "Always" for my favorite Owl City song is the short but oh so sweet "Meteor Shower." Even after hundreds of times listening to the song, I still get goosebumps on my skin and in my soul every time I hear it...


Most of Adam Young's songs are not directly about God or spiritual issues, but many are also favorites of mine because of their quirkiness and uniqueness, and because they just make me feel good listening to them. If you could use some of those good feelings right now, check out this playlist of Owl City favorites I made on YouTube. I hope you enjoy them and will feel encouraged...as Adam's music says to us, "There's hope!"