Tag Archives: Authenticity

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Good Grief

Lately I’ve been given the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of some worship songs. It’s a development that has me both trembling with anticipation and strangely melancholy.

In my youth I was caught up in the rapture of music born out of the Vineyard movement. I found myself dancing in the rain on the Oregon coast, my 20-pound Sony Walkman belting out tunes by Brian Doerkson. Through this music my heart was ushered from years of dusty academic theology into a living, breathing faith in a transcendent, holy God. More recently I’ve appreciated the poetic offerings of the Getty’s and the fire coming out of Hillsong. I grew up Baptist, so I don’t usually use the word “anointed”, but…well…there it is. These artists have the Gift.

Whatever else they have written, the songs that have become popular are the psalms of joy, victory and power; they tell the story of resurrection. We like those tunes. Seriously, nothing should give us greater pleasure than to lift our banners high and proclaim that our God reigns! Amen? Amen!

So why the sadness? Because in the midst of the glory of the Kingdom of God there is a part of my spirit that craves the sorrow of repentance, and music that reflects this fulcrum of Biblical restoration. I don’t think I’m alone in this; recent songs like “Need You Now” by Plumb and “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave testify to the heart’s cry of a whole demographic that feels broken and is crying for a way to express that reality. We sing with “arms high and heart abandoned” of Jesus, but so rarely have corporate moments where we are first driven to our knees.

Call me old fashioned, but something seems to be amiss when we can create ninety nine songs about God’s holiness and glory for every one that genuinely says, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

We’ve decided it feels better to skip right to the forgiveness part. Jesus died so that we could feel good about ourselves again, right? Godly sorrow is a slippery slope that might lead to shame, correct? So let’s not give the devil a foothold. Instead, let’s camp out on Easter Sunday and let Good Friday take care of itself. (Insert loving slap here).

I suspect if we truly humbled ourselves before God, some of what we are currently composing and singing might reflect that humility. If we were convinced of our hopelessness without Jesus, perhaps then we could hope to create original music of a penitent nature instead of being forced to blow the dust off “Create In Me A Clean Heart.”

I miss Keith Green. His music helped make repentance a standard part of the Christian experience, and I think we’ve lost that. In our race to end our church services on a high and encouraging note we’ve relegated holy grief to a place with those things we find inconvenient and messy.

 

Jesus, Potpourri, and Power

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control…
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

I grew up thinking power was bad, mostly because it was the heart’s desire of those dirty godless Soviets. Anyone who had power was portrayed as evil: liberals, democrats, and everyone who had voted for them. The only politicians we could trust were the ones who couldn’t get a majority government. They were our martyrs and our heroes.

Jesus knockingIt didn’t take long before powerlessness became a Christian virtue. Jesus’ miracles were cute: when he walked on water he held the hem of his robe up so as not to get seaweed on it. Even when he chastised the Pharisees, he used King James English and a British accent. When he knocked on the door of my heart he did so politely, taking care to not disturb me should I be having a nap.

Jesus was nice. He cried sometimes. He liked perfume… lots of perfume. Incense at his birth, perfume for his feet during supper, potpourri for his body after he died. Jesus smelled great.

All I heard growing up was that I needed to be more like Jesus, and I tried hard, dammit. My first cologne was Brut 33; it came in a green bottle. And I tried real hard to be nice. Sure there was that time I offered up my sister’s stuffed monkey for archery practice, but other than that I was fairly easy to get along with.

The one thing Jesus was not, was strong.

So I learned to be weak. When I was told a lie, I believed it. When I was abused, I deserved it. When I became angry, I repented. When I felt powerless, I grabbed a girly magazine and faked it.

It’s really all just one big Satanic Bullshit Pie, and I’m sick of it. (Excuse my Aramaic).

It’s time for us to ask Jesus to “man up”.

My girls need a father who will fight to protect their hearts. My wife needs a husband who will minister to her with strength and love. Our world needs uncompromising men; guys who would rather have a “righteous fight” than “benign polite”. The only one who can train us to be what we are created to be is the REAL Jesus.

The Jesus who touched unclean things.
The Jesus who died from loss of blood, instead of fainting at the sight of it.
The Jesus who, when he became angry, calmly sat down and started braiding a whip so that he could channel his rage into something constructive.

When you think of people who possess both power and self-discipline, what images come to mind? Olympic athletes? Navy SEALS? Add unbridled love and you’re suddenly describing the Spirit of God.

He offers us the chance to be Difference Makers instead of Perfumed Posers. Let Him Loose.

Feng Shui and Fellowship

Like curds coming out of the milk jug onto your favorite cereal, there are moments in church that make you push back in your chair, throw up your hands in shock and maybe dry-heave a little bit. I’m talking about those times when Truth – in whatever form – collides with our inane attempts at keeping things piously platonic.

Think about the last time someone in your religious meeting pulled out the “Everyone who is a true follower of Jesus will be persecuted” speech. Sitting there with equal parts conviction and annoyance, all of a sudden there are at least a dozen other better ways you could be spending your time.

“Persecuted? Hey man, this is North America,” we think. “I’m persecuted; it simply doesn’t involve car batteries and jumper cables like it does in those barbarous countries across the big water. How dare you lay a guilt trip trip on me! I came here to be ushered into the presence of God, not be convicted!!!”

Then there are those moments where someone blurts out a random confession. There you were, wearing your foyer-face* and having another quaint surface confab with a likable saint when they blindside you with their dirty laundry.

titleawkwardface“Where in the name of all that’s good and pure did that come from? You have no right to push your honesty on me! Now what am I supposed to do? The Charter of Religious Etiquette demands I return the gesture, and you’ve given me no time to prepare a response that will satisfy the demands of authenticity without a telltale stammer or blush. Some friend you turned out to be!
‘I…I…uh…I…think bad thoughts sometimes. And… I swear a little.’ ”

There was a time when these situations haunted me. I’d play cards with my buddies simply as an experiment in self-awareness: learning what my own tells were so that I could pull out my poker face on Sunday morning if things went all viral-revival.

Let me tell you – it was hard work. So immersed was I in this little charade that years after laying all my cards (okay…most of my cards) out on the table, I can still feel the energy in the room change when someone pulls one of these little stunts.

There is a better way, brothers and sisters. There is a path that can clear the ether and apply a little Feng shui to our interactions.

It’s called walking in the light. It’s the ability to bathe oneself in grace to the point where your opinion of me doesn’t matter, and vice versa. Sin still has the power to entangle us, but it can’t cripple; it can be thrown off.

In the light of God’s grace there is no shadow of shame, no hue of humiliation. There is freedom. One of the greatest benefits to the quest for grace is the ability to look oneself in the mirror with a small measure of candor, and then take that openness into your relationships.

No more poker face.

Wanna give it a try?

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7 (NIV)

* “foyer-face” (C) Jeff Rempel, 2013. Used with permission.