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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.

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This post has 5 Comments

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  1. Thanks, Tony. That helps. I still like my interpretation, though:) Do you have any idea of what zeros and ones refers to? I think it might be binary code – which is metaphor for our technology age. Is that right?

  2. My guess on Zeros is about money. ‘once the cash is gone’ ‘prophet by blodd but a salesman by trade’ I might have been my isegesis but I first got the CD while dealing with my first year of FT ministry. If you have been there sometimes it feels more like a JOB than a calling. That was my take.

  3. So is that qa reference to who is #1 and those who are down and out are “zeros”? That sounds like it might be more plausible than my interpretation of digital code. Where’s Derek when you need him?

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What Is Sunday Worship?

I’m gonna keep this simple, but hopefully not simplistic. As you consider your corporate gathering of believers (typically on the first day of the week), there are three ways to think about it. You can think of it as an event, a participation, or a transformation.

The Event Model can take on two modes: emotionally-driven or cognitively-driven. The emotionally-driven mindset, of course, could baldly mean that you show up to hear some great music and hear a message. You go to watch and experience something. The cognitively-driven mindset could mean that you highlight the sermon so much that it becomes the point of your showing up. You hear this a lot in evangelical churches that the sermon is the most important aspect of the worship experience. The problem with such thinking, though, betrays an onlooker mentality. That is, I go to church to observe and consider and think and have my thinking changed.

In this model, there is an I-Thou expectation of the worship service. I go to that. I consider that. I am separate from and participate in that. In other words, this kind of approach to the corporate gathering is apart from who I am. I go to there. I leave from there. Sure, we talk about taking the message home with us…but come on! You and I both know we forget what was said within 10 minutes of leaving the building. When we are confronted with traffic on the way to the buffet. And then, we get bored. Bored with our lives. Bored with our faith. We find greater joy in our team winning the game than in our eternal salvation won at the cost of the Son of God.

The Participation Model is a little bit better than the event model. This puts the onus on the believer to come to the service seeking to be engaged in other people at church. For all the talk about this being a need in churches, and people nodding their heads in agreement…this does not happen in reality. People cognitively ascend to this truth, but they don’t fully grasp this truth.

If they do grasp a hold of this participation model, it often devolves into judgmentalism (others aren’t as serious about their faith as you are) or complacency (I asked someone how their walk with God is going and they gave me the cold shoulder). So what’s the problem with this model? Write simply it remains in the realm of I-Thou. That is, I bring something to you. I come to serve you. I am apart from and wholly different from you. At its root, it is simply another (albeit more spiritual rendition) of the event model. 

The third, and I believe more biblical model (of course!), is the Tranformational Model. This way of approaching the Sunday morning gathering sheds itself of the event. It doesn’t come in judgment of the service–I didn’t like that song. I liked the sermon. I really engaged with God this morning. Wow, what a wonderful time. Instead, it views Sunday morning as another step in my being conformed into the image of Jesus. It does see it as an event you come to. It is something we participate in. But preeminently it embraces the fact that over time we are being changed by the service itself. 

What does this look like? Well, it understands that every time we attend an event or participate in a service, we are slowly changing. You are much more different from the fifth football game you attended, than the first. You understand the language, the traditions, the cheers. 

So it is with a church service…and this is where it gets a bit thorny. With the typical evangelical liturgy (and it is a liturgy) of two fast songs, two slow songs, a sermon, and dismissal, we are slowly becoming consumers. Or better put, our already-ingrained consumer mentality is reinforced as we observe (and maybe participate). We watch the stage. We critique the songs–or what the song leader was wearing. We sit down and hear someone wax eloquently–or not. 

I fear that much of the problems we see in modern evangelicalism stem from us offering goods and services to people and not inviting them into be transformed. This fact is betrayed in much of the assumptions underlying decisions made on how the liturgy ought to roll. For example, since we need to be engaging and winsome in our communication of the Gospel, we need to play this popular radio song and do a Jesus juke to talk about how real love is only found in Jesus. Of course I’m not saying messages and songs ought to be fuddy-duddy and boring! Stop putting baby in the corner. 

What I am saying is that churches ought to be very clear in what they are shaping their people into becoming. We ought to understand that we are in the business of transformation–from one degree of glory to another. Not filling seats. Not being entertaining and relevant at the cost of depth. 

This is why at Christ the Redeemer, we have been intentional in our liturgy. We believe that the primary purpose of the Sunday morning gathering is the transformation of people. We have an explicit order to our service that follows the biblical storyline of Creation>Fall>Redemption>Consummation. Over time, people’s being is changed. It unwittingly becomes easier to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me” because you are trained to confess your sin every week. You more readily accept forgiveness because you are trained to hear God’s Word of Forgiveness to you after confessing. You more readily come to fellowship with God in spite of and because of your sin because you are trained that at the Lord’s Table you find satisfaction and rest for your souls.

Yes, Sunday morning is an event. But not merely so. It is something we participate in. But not merely so. It is preeminently another step in our being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The primary goal of Sunday morning is our transformation through intentional liturgies.

Sanitized Christianity

Below is a letter I just sent out to our church. I believe it might encourage and enliven your own faith, and share it with you to that end.

Redeemer,

What a gift yesterday was as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. As I shared in my opening comments, it is a sad state when the Church doesn’t even know about the glorious celebration of the Spirit’s filling of believers. This is not to chastise other churches. Rather, it is a stiff reminder of why we do what we do when it comes to the church calendar and liturgy. It roots us deep in the rich history of the church. While so many believe they are searching for the new and fresh, it is actually the firm and tried forms the church has been practicing for millennia. Surely, there are dead expressions of this beautiful liturgy. Therefore, we want to know what and why we are doing what we do to safeguard from form without substance. We want to have the skeletal work of the liturgy with the breath of life (read “Spirit”) and muscular reflex (read “walking in the light”).
With that said, as I was preaching I was struck by the beauty of considering the utter power and creative work of the Spirit. As I looked out on our fledgling congregation, it was as if I could see the small band of disciples at Pentecost—only eleven. Yet, being filled with the same Spirit who created the world. The same Spirit who filled the Apostles to speak fervently and with full conviction. This same Spirit lives within us! Have you considered the sheer magnitude of that? Your life is not a mere appendix to the story of redemption. It is a continuation of this magnificent work to go and tell other to come and see. Every conversation you have is alive with opportunity and grace. Every glance. Every moment is resplendent with the glory and presence of God. What would our lives and our world look like with a band of disciples whose lives and decisions revolve around Jesus? Not around vacations and job promotions and being thought highly of by those we so diligently seek approval from.
So much of our Christianity in Greenville is sanitized. That is, we put the Spirit’s work in a box or in a moment. We minimize him. We relegate him to private moments. In fact, he is constantly at work. He gives us every breath we have (remember Psalm 104.29-30?). What our city needs is less concern for our preening and being made much of in the eyes of others. What our city. What our world needs is Christians who really believe, and who live in accord with that belief, that Jesus is always enough. He’s enough for our pain and suffering. He’s enough for our excitement and comfort. He’s enough for my job. He’s enough for my neighbors. He’s enough for my family. He’s enough for me.
May God fill our church with his Spirit so that the watching world will indeed say, “See what way they love one another!”
May the Lord open your eyes to the beauty of his work this week,
Matt

Abiding in Christ?

How do you abide in someone you can’t see or touch or audibly listen to? When Jesus told his disciples to abide in him, was it merely for them or is it something we are called to emulate?

To the first question, Jesus most certainly expected his disciples to abide in him despite not being able to touch him and hear him and see him. After all, John 15 (where the speech comes from) is right before his crucifixion. Too often our faith is wedded to too much wooden-ness in understanding. We veer toward, “Yes, but…” Like Thomas who would not believe unless he put his hand in Jesus’ side, so also our faith is not expansive enough. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet believe–which leads to the second question.

Jesus prayed not only for his disciples in the Garden, but for all those who would hear the Good News from his disciples testimony. When he responded to Thomas that those who have not seen and yet believe are makarios (“blessed”), he had you and me in mind. What we see unfold in Scripture after the Resurrection is the kind of effulgent life he wants us to live…and abiding life.

So how do we abide?

I would suggest three ways.

Keeping His Word

Throughout John’s Gospel and his epistles, Jesus tells us that if we love him we will keep his commands. Like a father who loves his child, like an older brother looking out for his younger brother, Jesus tells us how to navigate God’s world. Do we trust him enough to actually follow his steps?

This explicit teaching is what is called the Revealed Will of God. While God is constantly working in his world for his own purposes, part of that working is his condescension to tell us how to understand his world. That is, unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East, Yahweh determined to tell his people how to live. His Law is gracious and kind to reveal his ways to us.

All the Law hangs on Jesus’ admonition to love God and people.

Throughout the New Testament we see what it looks like to abide in Christ when we hear the Apostles telling people to put others before their own whims and preferences. We see this worked out as the Spirit comes at Pentecost and the Church extends to the uttermost parts of the world.

Led By the Spirit

It is no accident that John 16’s (continued) discourse on the preferment of the Spirit’s coming follows on the heels of Jesus’ command to abide in him. While the Law is gracious and good, we botch it up with our self-seeking and short-sightedness. We need the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth.

As I shared in my sermon on Sunday, there are three witnesses: water, blood, and Spirit. The first two speak to the doctrinal clarity and objective reality of who Jesus is. The third is the subjective application of these truths into the life of the believer.

Unfortunately the Spirit is equated with emotionalism and awkward and outlandish activity by those claiming to be Spirit-led. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, indeed. While the Spirit blows where he will, and does things outside our meager understanding, this does not necessarily mean that his working in incomprehensible or outlandish or alien (more on this in the third point).

What are some ways we can be led by the Spirit?

Well, he inspired the text of Scripture and has clearly spoken there. Go there.

In Ephesians 5.18, we are told to be filled with the Spirit. How? The participles that follow this command tell us how: Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. The Spirit is guiding and directing God’s people. Go there.

It would be good to reflect on each of these four participles and consider how you might be filled with the Spirit in ever-increasing measure. Are you speaking God’s songs over people? Are you singing to soothe the angst in your own heart? Are you grateful? Are you putting others’ needs before your own–considering them more significant than yourself?

Being Attune to God’s Working

One of my charges as a pastor is to help us see God’s continual work in the world. It is easy to wax on about God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence but to deny his power and that this means right here right now. He is not all these characteristics merely in heaven. While you may say, “Obviously!” In fact, many of us affirm these aspects of God yet we live life as though he is not at work in the mundane stuff of life. We talk about him and his superintendent work int he world…but we fail to see his work in my making coffee or standing in line or talking to a stranger.

The shift in our lives happens when we see him always at work. Always. In the mundane. In the suffering and pain. In the exciting. That is God working and shaping you.

Every conversation. Every. Conversation. Is opportunity to hear God speak to you. For him to shape you. Every appointment is a “divine appointment.” He graciously guides our footsteps. The person in the checkout line needs to hear of God’s grace. Your co-worker needs to know that God loves him. The annoying neighbor needs to see God’s mercy. Your family needs to experience peace in your words and actions. These are all God’s ever-present work. His beckoning us to abide in his word and his world.