Friday, August 22, 2008

Times They are'a Changin'

Looking back over the summer, it's been pretty good. Enjoyable, long, some new memories. Growing stronger in several friendships, watching the Olympics (more thoughts on those later). Yeah it's been great, but finally, at long, the day that has been shadowing my whole summer has come....

I'm leaving for college.

Now not leaving leaving mind you. I'll still be within 100 miles from home at The Master's College, I'll still come home many, if not most, weekends to keep up with old friends and family and to fellowship with my decade-old church body. It's not really that that's so scary, exciting, and amazing. It's the total change in life that I'm about to experience. It's the fact that I'll never be able to go back to the "old days" again. Nope, life is really here, I'm an adult now. The place I've called home ever since I was born won't quite have the same comfort and significance it has for the past 18 years. My parents have assured me that when I graduate, they still be here with open arms waiting to welcome me back. That's encouraging, yes, but that's not what I want. When I graduate, I want a well-paying job (or a job in the ministry, we'll see); I've sapped enough resources from my family the past 18 years, and by the time I graduate, I better be able to take care of myself (especially if I'm married or engaged, but again, we'll see).

I've been reading the widely popular book, Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris over the past couple weeks, and it's been nothing short of amazing. One of the things the pair stressed was this myth of adolescence. They talked long and often about "doing hard things", growing up, and taking responsibility, because as teens there's really nothing stopping us from impacting the world except ourselves. I've always thought of myself as more on the mature side, but experiences like preparing for college and reading Do Hard Things are starting to change that. Heck, I'm 18 already and I would be in hot water if my parents (like some) chose to turn me loose and kick me out of the house as soon as I reached adulthood. I may be smart, I may adequately take care of my few responsibilities, and I may be self-motivated enough to write on this blog even when nobody reads it. One thing I am not, though, is a self-sustaining, fully functional, adult human being. If I was on my own, I wouldn't know where to start! That's a little bit why college is so scary (yet exciting). I get new freedoms living on my own, freedoms that don't seem nearly as awesome and glorious as they did ten years ago, but I also am living on my own. I have most the supplies and bills paid, but now I'm the one who has to start footing a little bit of the bill.

That's more or less what I've been thinking about the past week. No question, I'm looking forward to college, but that's only the first step into life, into the real world. So here I go! It's time to start learning, and time to start doing truly hard and manly (in the biblical sense) things for the glory of God.

Speaking of which, that is the true comfort in all of this. No matter what happens during my entire lifetime, God will still loves me, He'll still cares for me, and His perfect plan will always be what is best for me. Better yet, I have the highest calling of all: to serve Jesus Christ. Whether I end up writing the script for next summer blockbuster or working at Costco, I'll have the chance to share the Gospel and glorify God with my life. And that, after all, is what really matters!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Christian Music These Days

Last night I had the privilege of attending my second real contemporary Christian concert ever. The band was Kutless, the place was Valley Bible Fellowship; and I must say that I had a great time. For better or for worse, Kutless is one of my favorite bands, and it was fun to see them live. They put on a pretty good show; rocking out for several songs, calming down for a more "serious" time, and then ending the concert with several more crazy songs. Musically, they were great and Jon Micah was acceptable with vocals. Yes, he could've been a bit better on some songs, but he was good. Better yet, the opening group, lead by Eric Mizelle, was decent as well.

Now I like Kutless a lot. I have all of their albums, and all are really solid, each one bringing a slightly new feel lyrically and musically, but all retaining just a bit of that signature Kutless sound that fans like me know and love. I think that their lyrics are more biblically sound and God-centered than most "Christian" bands these days, and their music, quite frankly, rocks. Despite how awesome they are, though, it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend them to someone. For instance, two of their songs (which isn't too bad over five albums) revolve around such bad/weak theology that I've completely deleted them from my itunes.

You see, the tough thing about music, especially CCM, is that contemporary songs are by nature somewhat subjective. Even if you don't understand exactly what the artist was originally trying to say, it's fairly easy to read or interpret the lyrics in a way that you agree with. Consider Wavorly, another one of my favorite bands. It's pretty clear from reading their "behind the song" blurb online that they operate from an Arminian viewpoint (Kutless does too, btw), and as such speak of human choice in several of their songs. A line from one song goes "when choice spans such a great divorce (between heaven and hell)." Now they're obviously speaking of human choice, but when I listen to the song, I interpret the song to mean God's choice spanning a great divorce. It's possible to find much truth in Kutless' songs, but when the band actually talks explicitly about important spiritual stuff in their concerts, it's pretty weak. Nothing about sin, hell, or repentance, just stuff about how the Christian life is so much better, there's a "God shaped hole in our heart" and how only God can satisfy all our wants and desires.

Now don't get me wrong, that's all true, and fantastic, and good (besides the "God shaped hole" thing). It's great to hear someone in a band talk about how their music does not bring satisfaction or happiness. It's great to hear the lead singer pray that God would be glorified tonight. That's fine and that's beautiful, but there's something missing. Jon Micah mentions Christ, but little about who He is or what He did. He talks about living with God forever, but nothing about the judgment that awaits us if we leave this life without Christ.

After the concert, one of the pastor's of Valley Bible Fellowship got up and spoke for a few moments. Now given that this concert was free and that there were probably quite a few unbelievers in the crowd, he gave a little talk about becoming a Christian. Again, it was a good idea to use this as an outreach event. Here was a great opportunity to preach the gospel to hundreds, if not thousands, of unsaved people. Did this guy do that?

Yeah...well...maybe not. He started off great, using Paul's Gentile strategy of starting with general revelation. He talked about creation, and how there simply must be a creator God, and how this God revealed Himself to us by taking the form of a man named Jesus and dying on the cross for us. After that, though, he started to peter off, going into how having a relationship with Jesus will make you happy and give you a great life. Sin was mentioned at most two or three times, and hell was completely absent. I don't recall any mention of repentance either. The peak of watered-down theology came when this pastor said something to the effect of "not only do you get to live with Christ forever, you get a great life, you get hope, you get satisfaction, you get joy." It was almost as if eternal life was an afterthought. Sure, you get to live forever and escape the burning wrath of God, but now, here, today, you'll be complete and you'll be satisfied and you'll be happy! Just come up and make a decision to follow Christ today, and you're good to go.

Being a semi-frequent reader of blogs like TeamPyro,, and Pros Apologian, and frequently listening to podcasts like Way of the Master and Grace to You, I hear things all the time about the gospel getting watered down or perverted. I read about critiques of the seeker sensitive movement, decisional regeneration, and all that jazz. Hearing this stuff, though, live and in person at an event that I looked forward to attending was really tough and shocking for some reason. It was like I saw right through all the emotions and Christian lingo to the core of the issue: a weak gospel. Evangelicalism and Contemporary Christian Music, especially in churches like this, really is in a sad state these days.

Again, I really don't want to come across as being judgmental or legalistic, but as zealous for clear teaching of the Word of God. I think it's fine to listen to CCM as long as you listen with a discerning ear and avoid being swept away with the clever lyrics and emotional message. No question, we can enjoy bands like Kutless as long as the word of God is consistently being applied in our hearts and lives and we are able to avoid being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Prayer Request

Quick word before I cut to the point: this feels like a very pitiful thing to ask. The challenge I'm facing is nothing compared to Christians in the majority of the world. So keep this whole deal on the lower end of your prayer priorities, but I'll still appreciate all that God's people are willing to offer.

Me and several very good friends are going to be filming our second big movie for the Bakersfield Christian Youth Film Festival over the next four days. You can check out last year's film here. The film we did last year was a challenge to all of us, no doubt about it. You would be amazed at the amount of work it takes to produce a simple, low budget, ten minute film! Anyways, this year we face a much more daunting task. We're going to be camping for several days and filming everything as far from civilization as reasonably possible. If we forget something (which is likely) we're in pretty big trouble. If something doesn't turn out right, we're in pretty big trouble. If a huge and unexpected obstacle comes up, we're in pretty big trouble. In other words, there's precious little room for error, but hopefully we'll be able to learn from previous mistakes and produce the best movie that the Film Festival has ever seen.

So if you would be so kind, just ask that God would grant us quality and efficiency as we work, as cool weather as possible, and safe travel. Above all though, ask that He and He alone will be glorified through this project, and ask that we would be able to keep that in mind. It's so easy to get lost in the details and stress of the whole thing and forget that we're doing this all for a higher and holy purpose. To the Sovereign Lord God Almighty, and to Him alone, be all the glory, honor, and praise!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Horror of Anxiety

If you know me personally, you probably know that I and several of my best friends are producing our film for the Academy Awards this summer, since I'll be at college this fall. After almost two months of planning and thought, we are going to be filming in a few days (August 7-11 to be exact). The problem is, well, we're not really as ready to film as we should all. Ironically, I'm probably the one who is freaking out most about this thing, despite my new life-mantra: "just chill." Seriously folks, two days and we've gotta be 100% ready to film. Everything, and I mean everything, has got to fall into place or we're gonna have a very difficult and rough time out in the desert (long story, just watch the movie when it comes out early next spring).

Providentially and thankfully, we just had a guest speaker from Grace to You by the name of Don Green at church two Sundays ago, and he preached on anxiety. Never, as far as my weak memory goes, have I heard a sermon more chock-full of application and conviction than the fine peace of preaching Mr. Green produced. For some illogical and sinful reason, I had always felt a bit justified in my anxiety. "Oh dear, a test is coming up. Yes I've studied, but not very much, is God going to reward me with a good grade?" "Oh no this prop isn't going to work out after I thought it was, maybe God's trying to teach me a lesson here." Things somewhat along the lines of that. I knew that I didn't deserve anything from God, so I guess I was afraid that He might actually stop blessing me so abundantly and give me something closer to what I deserve. The terrible irony here, of course, is that an understanding of the lowness of man and greatness of God should make me more appreciative of my situation in life. Consequently I shouldn't worry about the future because no matter what, I can be thankful to God and satisfied with my lot in life.

I'm sure my thought processes were a bit more complicated, but I think that's basically what it boiled down to. We should never worry, we should never freak out, and we should be anxious for nothing. The same Sovereign King and Creator of the Universe who cares for the flowers and birds will always be faithful to his elect, working everything out for our good and His glory. Praise God!