Song Lyric Sunday: “The Problem” by Downhere

How can God be good if evil things happen?  If God really loves us, then why do bad things happen?  It’s known as “the problem of evil”, and it’s a question that philosophers and theologians have grappled with for years.  Some have written books to logically lay out how both evil and a good God can exist.  Others have simply shrugged their shoulders at the mystery.  The Pop/Rock group Downhere answers the question in their song “The Problem”:

“Everybody’s wondering how the world could get this way/If God is good then how could it be filled with so much pain/It’s not the age-old mystery we’ve made it out to be/Yeah there’s a problem with the world-the problem with the world is me”

Those who doubt that God is good seem to ask the question so that God seems at fault for evil.  How can God be good when evil things happen?  Doesn’t the fact that evil things happen mean that those evil things are God’s fault?

In their song, though, Downhere turns the question on its head.  Instead of evil being God’s fault, they say, evil is the fault of those who choose it–namely you and I.  Evil doesn’t exist because God created it.  Evil doesn’t exist because God does it.  Evil exists only because we do it.  We choose it.  If every person on the face of the earth refused to choose evil, evil would no longer exist.  “The problem with the world”, Downhere seems to be saying, isn’t that God allows evil.  The problem with the world is that we choose it.

“Saved From” or “Saved For”?

When I say “salvation”, what do you think of?  Maybe you think of being saved from your sins.  Maybe you think of being saved from Hell.  Perhaps you think of being saved from bad habits or actions that hurt yourself or other people.  If one of these things came to mind, I would say you are with the majority of Christians in America.  Christianity in America is largely viewed as being saved from bad consequences, or being saved from a list of sins.  Salvation means we don’t drink, have pre-marital sex or smoke. 

And all of these ideas are true.  We are saved from Hell, sin and bad habits.  We shouldn’t engage in sinful behaviors.  Satan and his ways should no longer run our lives as Christians.  But friends, realizing that we are saved from these things is only the very beginning of the Christian life.

I think that it is high time for American Christianity to stop focusing on what we are saved from and to focus on what we are saved for.  We are very well aware of the things we are saved from.  But what are we saved for?  What is the point of our salvation?  Is the point of our salvation simply self-focused?  Are we really saved primarily for what it does for us?  Are we saved for ourselves?

Or are we saved for the Other?  Maybe we are saved because God deserves to have a people who praise him and love him, not because they have to, but because they want to.  Maybe we are saved because there are other people who need to know the joy and hope and love that God offers.  Maybe we are saved in order to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a home to the homeless and hope to the hopeless.

Maybe, just maybe, the whole point of salvation is not me. 

Don’t hear me wrong–I am so very thankful for what God has done for me.  I just fear that we American Christians settle for so much less than what Christianity really is.  Yes, it is amazing what we have been saved from

I have a feeling, though, that it is infinitely more exciting, amazing, thrilling, holy and Christlike what we have been saved for.

Artist’s Best: David Crowder Band

What comes to mind when I say “Worship Music”?  Maybe good things such as–praising God, rejoicing, maybe images of Sunday morning worship services at your local church.  If you are a bit more on the cynical side, you might think of the fact that seemingly every popular singer in Christian music has released a “worship album”, whether or not worship is the particular individual’s calling. 

One artist who has proven that he knows how to worship well is David Crowder.  His best work to date is his newest album–Church Music

Lyrically, Church Music is timeless.  One can picture someone singing these lyrics 100 years from now.  If one didn’t know any better, the lyrics could be 100 years old.  This is one key to having great, genuine worship music.  The images Crowder uses are beautiful, ageless and universal.  Let me just quote a few songs:  “Like calm comes to a sea/Like snowfall quietly/You come to me…Like a song rising up/With your heart filling up/Like a heart’s not enough/For this love” (Alleluia Sing), “Heaven loud with glory ringing/Fill the air with angel’s singing/Earth take up the heavenly cry/Lord of all reigns on high” (What a Miracle).   With the abundance of worship music available, Crowder does not take the simple way out, lyrically speaking.  Crowder trades in the schmaltzy lyricism popular today and trades it in for lyrics that are eternal and genuinely worship-oriented. 

Musically, Church Music is a force unto itself.  First of all, the music is continuous throughout the album–there are no breaks between tracks.  Also, the last song ends the same way the first song begins, so if one leaves the cd on “repeat”, the praise would continue forever and ever.  What a thought! 

It turns out that the title Church Music is a bit ironic.  The music David Crowder Band employs is not what one would normally think of as, well, church music.  There are many styles included, but most have a flare of electronic/rock.  As usual, though, Crowder refuses to be easily categorized stylistically, which in itself is a unique quality for a worship album. 

Church Music also includes two remakes of contemporary classics: “All Around Me” originally by Flyleaf and “How He Loves” originally by John Mark McMillan.  “All Around Me” is done in a haunting piano-driven style.  “How He Loves” is simply glorious and praise-inspiring.  Both feel very natural to include on the album.

If you’ve never heard a David Crowder Band album, this is the one to start with.  If you are looking for genuine worship music, maybe something original, this is the worship album for you.  Buy this album–you will not be disappointed!

Song Lyric Sunday: “All Things New” by Andrew Peterson

“The world was good, the world is fallen, the world will be redeemed…”

What a great summary of the Christian worldview!

“The world was good…”  God created everything good.  After every day of creation, God called whatever he created, good.   After God created humans, he called them very good.  These are words we need to hear today.  This physical world we live in is not some hurdle that we have to suffer through in order to make it to our ultimate spiritual non-physical eternity.  We were created for physicality.  And that fact is very good.

“The world is fallen…”  We humans have distorted and perverted all of creation, including ourselves.  This is why the physical world sometimes feels like a hurdle we have to suffer through.  The world as it is now is not how God created it.  It is fallen, imperfect, sinful.

“The world will be redeemed…”  This, my friends, is the hope of the Gospel.  The hope of the Gospel is not that this world will finally be destroyed so that we can live in a spiritual state, almost as though we were ghosts.  The hope of the Gospel is that everything that has been perverted by human sin will be redeemed, including the physical world.

The New Testament tells us over and over again that what happened to Jesus in his resurrection is what will happen to us in ours.  Jesus was resurrected in a physical body.  Yes, his body was different, but it was still physical.  Jesus ate after the resurrection.  Doubting Thomas touched Jesus’ scars after the resurrection.  Jesus’ body was a physical one after the resurrection.  And ours will be too.  The fallen physicality of the world as we know it will be redeemed in the end.  How does the Story end?  Read Revelation 21 & 22.  A new heaven and a new earth are created.  We don’t simply go to live where God is.  God creates, indeed, re-creates everything, both heaven and earth in order for us to live there with Him. 

“The world was good, the world is fallen, the world will be redeemed…”  Amen!

What if the Book of Acts was written as evidence for Paul’s trial?

(Remember–the “What If…” series are not necessarily ideas I think are true–just ideas that are fun to think about and could possibly be true.)

Most of us have heard of the Apostle Paul.  He was a fervent defender of the Jewish faith…until Jesus appeared to him and he converted to Christianity himself.  After this, he went on missionary journeys, founding churches and sharing the Gospel of Jesus with many people.  He also wrote many letters to both churches and individuals, some of which were preserved in the New Testament.  The end of Paul’s story as we have it in the Book of Acts is that he gets arrested for treason.

What if Luke wrote the Book of Acts as evidence in Paul’s trial?  What evidence do we have to think this?

1.  Luke introduces the Book of Luke (the first volume of Luke-Acts) by addressing the work to the “most excellent Theophilus”.  The title “most excellent” could mean that Theophilus was a government official–in this reading, an official involved with the trial.

2.  The Book of Acts spends many more chapters on a much shorter period of Paul’s life because that period of Paul’s life would be important to the trial.  Chapters 21-28 are spent on Paul’s life in relation to his trials, which took place over 4 years, versus Chapters 1-20, which cover 24 years.

3.  The Book of Acts ends without telling us how the trial ended.  Surely this shows that the trial had not yet finished by the time Luke finished writing Acts.  This would of course be the case if Acts was meant to be used as evidence.

4.  Acts 28:30 says that Paul had been under house arrest for 2 years.  Paul was a Roman citizen.  According to Roman Law, the accused prisoner had the right to a “speedy trial”.  Perhaps this mention of the 2 year house arrest was to show Theophilus that Paul’s rights had been violated.

Was the Book of Acts written to be used in Paul’s trial?  I don’t know.  But it seems to be a possibility!

The Upside-Down Kingdom of God (Making Sense of Christianity #5)

There is something backwards about the way God works.

Think of the stories we have in the Bible.  God wants to bring salvation to the world through a specific people.  God needs to start a nation through an individual, so who does He choose?  Maybe a general of a mighty army, someone who could demolish all of God’s foes.  Maybe a mighty king, who would have all the wealth in the world, who could buy anything the new nation of God’s chosen people might need.  Maybe a mighty religious leader who God could use as his perfect mouthpiece.  Who does God choose?  A sort of wandering gypsy named Abraham, who is way too old to have children, let alone start a new nation.  Continue reading