Monthly Archives: March 2011

Thoughts on Scripture Memorization

I’m currently in the process of working on memorizing the first 5 chapters of the book of Romans.  I’ve probably read the  entirety of Romans 1 twenty or thirty times over the course of my life. I’ve read the whole chapter through in one sitting numerous times and I’ve also read, studied, exegeted and  interacted with different fragments of it hundreds of times. This is good because I can tell you what Romans 1 is all about and how it should be read and understood. This is bad because it makes memorizing it nearly impossible.

Before I settled on the ESV,  I have used and owned the NCV [extreme teen bible!] NASB, and more recently the NKJV. This is on top of all the times I have seen parts of Romans unpacked with an NIV. I used all those translations to interact with the text, and now I’m working on memorizing with the ESV, but those translations keep jumping to my mind.

Lets use Romans 1:1a as an example.  I originally memorized it in the NASB, which says “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle. “ The ESV has it as “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle.” Now, it’s not too difficult to switch from one translation to the next, except I know that the word servant and bondservant are poor and misleading translations. The Greek word is DOULOS, and it only has one definition. Slave. And so when I quote it, I end up saying “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to [or is it unto?!]  the gospel of God…” That’s one of the easier ones.

More challenging is Romans 1:26, NASB,  which reads “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” The NASB has degrading passions, the NKJV has vile passions, the ESV has dishonorable passions, and the NIV 1984 has shameful lusts. I’ve heard and read them so many times that whenever I try to quote the ESV, it seems like I am incapable of it. I’ll interchange any of those other ones, so that it’s anybodies guess which one I insert, or else I’ll stick with “dishonorable”, but then I’ll stop midway and get distracted because I’m so used to saying it and hearing  it as “vile” that I lose focus because it doesn’t sound right. Then once I do that I lose my rhythm and flow and I have to start all over.

Not only that, but I find myself blurring various articles, determiners and participles, so that sometimes I will quote something and will get hung up on whether it should be “an” or “a”, and other such things. What this has resulted in, therefore, is an amalgamation of stitched and sewn together bible verses. More often than not it seems like I have my own translation. I can quote about half of Romans 1 from memory, but if you are following along in an ESV for any length of time, there’s definitely a few places there where you’ll be shaking your head and asking where on earth I got that particular string of phrases from. I don’t want to be the creator of the NESDV [New English Sanctified Dustin Version] but it seems that at least for certain chapters that I am overly familiar with it may be inevitable.

Which begs a few questions.

1. Do you ever have this problem- getting hung up because the verses you are trying to memorize in a new version sounds wrong due to overfamiliarity with a different translation? What do you do about it?

The Gospel in 6 Words

This an excellent presentation of the Gospel. Humble Beast is like a complete inversion of Rob Bell – including real hip sensibility. Enjoy and be edified.

Matt Chandler. Silly Irreverant Myths

The Myth of New Testament Tithing

The Myth Of New Testament Tithing

The idea of tithing in the Church is so ingrained and commonplace that it has become  part of the very fabric of ecclesial life. The necessity of giving 10% as the tithe is a belief as widespread and accepted as Jesus rising from the dead in bodily form. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to give your tithes and offerings in church, and every envelope says so much on it. This of course tends to get abused very easily, and while it would be tempting to speak of the abuses that money-hungry charlatan pastors engage in, or the manipulation and compulsive pressure that is placed on people who don’t tithe enough, that’s not the thrust of the post. People will use and abuse money all the time, and so the purpose of this post is not to rattle and rant against prosperity preachers [directly anyway] but rather to point out some simple facts about tithing- which is that tithing has nothing to do with New Testament Christianity. We are no longer that Old Testament Mosaic Law, and pastors should never teach you that you must tithe.

I don’t think that most pastors are putting their flock under the unbiblical commands and laws on purpose. While some preachers may use the tithe and the false promises that they attach to it as a way to manipulate their congregations, I think the vast majority of them simply do it out of ignorance. The reality that there was no compulsion to tithe before the law, there was a necessity to tithe under the law, and no compulsion or command to tithe after the law. For this reason I would urge every pastor to re-examine the issue, and then  tell their congregations that they don’t have to tithe anymore, and that there is a system of giving in the New Testament that is superior to law-based, out of context,  Old Testament tithing.

There are people who say that tithing is binding upon New Testament believers. They argue  that since tithing was practiced before the Mosaic Law was given it must also be practiced after the Mosaic Law was fulfilled. They point to Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, Abram and Melchizedek in Genesis 13, and Jacob in Genesis 28.  And yet we see upon closer examination that there was no command from God that they should be tithing. With Abram, it was completely voluntary, being made out of his free decision and choice. Abraham was never commanded to give a tenth on a regular basis and there is no evidence that Abraham ever tithed again. His giving of a tithe to Melchizedek was a voluntary reciprocation for the priestly functions performed by Melchizedek and a thank offering given to God for the success of his military excursion. Indeed, if Abram’s tithing is any kind of model for Christians, it provides support only for occasional tithes of unusual sources of income. Therefore the texts that discuss tithing prior to the Mosaic Law do not portray tithing as a systematic, continual practice but as an occasional, even exceptional, form of giving.

We start to see the actual, legitimate tithe when Moses comes around and the theocracy begins. There are three major passages related to tithing in the Mosaic Law: Lev 27:30–33; Num 18:21; and Deut 14:22–29. Each passage needs to be examined to see whether God commanded the Israelites to render one, two, three, or four tithes. The primary key to identifying how many separate tithes existed within the Mosaic Law  is the description of their nature and purpose in the respective passage.

The first tithe is the Levitical Tithe, found in Leviticus 27:30-33. In the Mosaic law the Levites stood between Israel and God, offering daily sacrifices for sin. Numbers 18 and Leviticus 27 declare that the Levites will receive the tithes for their service as payment for bearing this burden and for not getting an inheritance of land. Because the Levites had no inheritance in the land of Canaan like the other tribes, God provided for their support through the tithes of the rest of Israel. The tithes took the form of animals, land, seed and fruit. In fact, while land, seed and fruit could be redeemed with money by adding 20%, animals could not. In this case the offering was compulsory. These tithes were used for the livelihood of the Levites, who would then give one tenth of their tithes to the priests.

The second tithe is the Festival Tithe, found in Deuteronomy 14:22-27.  On the prescribed days the Israelites would go to a place determined by God and celebrate the feasts. This was mandatory and no one was to be excluded. They were to bring either their second tithe with them to share and devour. If it was too much and too hard a journey to travel with all their goods,  they could sell their for money and then buy whatever they wanted to eat. In this, they were exhorted to share of it with the Levites.

The third tithe is the Poor Tithe, found in Deuteronomy 14:28–29.  This third tithe can be distinguished from the previous two by the facts that  it was offered every third year and because  it was intended for the Levite, foreigner, orphan, and widow. The previous tithes were to be given either every year or during feasts; this third tithe was to be offered every third year. The previous tithes were mostly for the Levites’ sustenance; this third tithe was not for the Levites. It was not to be gathered in Jerusalem, but in their own town. The people of the town were to bring a tithe of their crops and herds and gather them together to take care of the poor of their towns including the alien, orphan and widow.

Don’t even get me started on the butchering, misuse, molestation and out of context scripture twisting that is thrust upon poor Malachi 3 and Luke 21 on a weekly basis by preachers saying that we’re robbing God when we don’t tithe, and that we should give like the widow with her mite.

So here’s the situation. First, it appears that the annual tithe of the Israelites surpassed ten percent of their income, actually totalling more than twenty percent. The Levitical Tithe was ten percent of the Israelites’ income. The Festival Tithe was another 10 percent of a person’s income [or of the remaining ninety percent after the Levitical Tithe had been paid], with both of these tithes totalling twenty percent of a person’s income. Finally, the Poor Tithe averaged 3 1/3 percent every year. This adds up to a total of approximately 23% of people’s overall income. That’s just what was compulsory. When you factor in the involuntary giving, such as leaving gleanings in fields for the poor, helping pay the temple tax, giving on the Sabbath year, and setting aside of debts in the Sabbath year and the jubilee, it’s probably more like 25%. The fact of the matter is that clearly it was much more than just 10%. The whole idea that a tithe is 10% is based on faulty figures and an incomplete number. It only takes one of the three tithes into consideration, making its very foundation biblically suspect.

That’s just biblically speaking. Historically speaking, Judaism around the time of Christ understood the Old Testament as prescribing multiple tithes Josephus wrote concerning tithing that “in addition to the two tithes which I have already directed you are to pay each year, the one for the Levites and the other for the festivals, you should devote a third every third year to the distribution of such things as are lacking to widowed women and orphan children” (Ant. 4.8.22). The Mishnah, for its part, describes three tithes: First Tithe, Second Tithe, and the Poor Tithe.

Furthermore, we must keep in mind that the tithes were given to the Levites. Since there are no Levites in the church today, the argument is sometimes made that pastors have taken the place of Levites and that they should therefore be the primary beneficiaries of the tithe. Yet no one else besides the Levites had the slightest authority to receive that tithes. More importantly, the priests, a group within the Levites, served as mediators between God and people, yet the New Testament teaches that there is only one mediator “between God and people, the man Christ Jesus”. For this reason it is deeply problematic when pastors are said to replace priests in the New Testament church, not the least because this compromises the New Testament teaching on the priesthood of all believers.

If someone truly wants to tithe according to Scripture, he/she would have to do the following: 1) Quit their job and buy a farm so that they can raise herds and grow crops; 2) [No one ever tithes money in the Old Testament] Find some Levitical priests to support; 3) Use their crops to observe the Old Testament religious festivals like Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; 4) Begin by giving at least 20 per cent of all their crops and herds to God; and 5) Expect God to curse them with material deprivation if they were unfaithful or bless them with material abundance if they were obedient. That’s neither feasible, practical, or commanded under the New Covenant of Christ. And so I make the case that it is a myth that we should be giving tithes in the Church today. In fact, the scant few references to tithes in the New Testament are always descriptive, never prescriptive.


So as I’m against giving tithes to the church today, does that mean that I think that it should all be free and that the pastor should preach for free and that we shouldn’t be giving? Not at all! I think the worker deserves his wage, and that there ought to be people in the local church who regularly go to the pastor to make sure that all his and his family needs are met, above and beyond whatever his set salary is. We should be upkeeping the building, giving to missions, have a relief fund for the poor, funding programs, and whatever else a church wishes to spend money on. What I am saying though, is instead of telling your congregations that they should be giving an unbiblical tithe, that you should exhort them to just GIVE in general. Don’t beat them over the head with threats of curses because they’re robbing God by failing to bring tithes into the storehouse. Don’t withhold the Eucharist from them if they don’t give their income tax money. Don’t point to the widow who gave all she had and tell us we should do likewise. Don’t manipulate them using out of context, dead, mosaic covenant demands.

Instead, tell your people about the glorious riches of Christ Jesus, the absolute majesty of Jesus and how he had intimate fellowship with God the father for eternity past, and yet laid down his life for sinners. How He added sinless human nature to himself.  That He died on the cross for our sins, and the sins that we had He suffered under the wrath of God to completely absorb our sins. And how he was raised as victor over death sin, hell, and how he has adopted us into his family, and how we have been saved from our sins and the glorious nature of the Gospel. If you teach your people that, they’ll give.  Someone who is overwhelmed by God’s grace will be generous, and will grow in generosity the more they come to see how good that grace is.

The New Testament never gives a certain percentage point as an obligatory and required standard for our giving. The Bible especially doesn’t give us 10%, which I think is a confusing and unhelpful baseline anyway, as it supposes that people who can’t afford and shouldn’t be giving 10% should give it, and that those who can give much more can give only 10% and feel like they’ve done their giving duty. Instead, the Scriptures declare, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver” [2 Corinthians. 9:7]. The Old Testament tithe was required by law and was pegged at 23%. The Jews were under compulsion to give it. The New Testament teaching on giving focuses on its voluntary character. “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord” [2 Corinthians 8:3]. This voluntary giving is exactly what Abraham and Jacob were doing before the institution of the Law, and is what all Christians are to be doing today. We are to be free and joyous and hold our money loosely by give sacrificially and cheerfully. Truth be told, many of us are probably not even doing that.

Believers today are free to give the amount they choose to give. If you want to give 10% as Abraham and Jacob did, then go for it.  You’re perfectly free to do so, but don’t do it because you consider that some sort of tithe.  And as a freebie, you should know that you’re never blessed if you give a tithe.  He blesses you because you give, but not if you go back to the Mosaic Law which Ephesians 2 has destroyed. You’re blessed when you give, even if you mistakenly think it’s a tithe, but there are no blessings inherent and associated with giving what you consider the Old Testament tithe. However, if you decide to give 3% or 11% or 20% or 50%, then you may do that as well. Only you know how much you should be giving. The standard of giving is not a fixed percentage point, but the example of our wonderful Savior “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” [2 Corinthians. 8:9]. Our standard of giving is Christ Himself, who did not give mere percentages of himself, but rather gave everything He had, including His very life in order to redeem us.

The Oxyrhynchus Hymn

The following is taken from a manuscript fragment known as Parchment Oxyrhyncus 15.1786 [or more commonly as POxy 1786]. It was found on a papyri fragment in an ancient garbage dump in Egypt in 1918  and dates from the late 3rd century. It is significant for two reasons:

  1. It is the latest in date of the extant compositions using ancient Greek music notation and thus marks the end of that era.
  2. It is the earliest extant example of Christian hymnody. There are a few other hymns that are arguably older, including “Hail, Gladdening Light” and some passages of the New Testament [though there's some disagreement there if they are hymns or merely poetic flights]

The Oxyrhynchus Hymn

“(Spoken) [Σε Πάτερ κόσμων, Πάτερ αἰώνων, μέλπωμεν] ὁμοῦ, πᾶσαι τε Θεοῦ λόγιμοι δο[ῦλο]ι. Ὅσα κ[όσμος ἔχει πρὸς ἐπουρανίων ἁγίων σελάων.]
(Sung) [Πρ]υτανήω σιγάτω, μηδ’ ἄστρα φαεσφόρα λ[αμπέ]
(Spoken) σθων, [ἀπ]ολει[όντων] ῥ[ιπαὶ πνοιῶν, πηγαὶ]
(Sung) ποταμῶν ῥοθίων πᾶσαι. Υμνούντων δ’ ἡμῶν [Π]ατέρα χ’ Υἱὸν χ’ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, πᾶσαι δυνάμεις ἐπιφωνούντων· Ἀμήν, Ἀμήν. Κράτος, αἶνος [ἀεὶ καὶ δόξα Θεοὶ δωτῆρι μόνῳ πάντων] ἀγαθῶν· Ἀμήν, Ἀμήν.”

. . . Let it be silent,

Let the luminous stars not shine,

let the winds and all the noisy rivers die down;

and as we hymn the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

let all the powers add ‘Amen, amen.’

Empire, praise always, and glory to God,

the sole giver of all good things.

Amen, amen.

11 Year Old Reveals Jesus In The Entire Bible

This will be my kid one day :D

Alliance Church Sermon Review. March 6. Communication. Pastor Phil.

Alliance Church Sermon Review. March 6. Communication. Pastor Phil.

Pastor Phil begins the sermon by telling  the story of going on a cruise to Hawaii. He uses different aspects of his trip as a metaphor  for relationships and conflict, such as going through storms, not letting the boat idle in 20 foot swells, that the journey won’t be easy, that you need to trust the captain at the helm, etc.

He spends some time dispensing with the belief that if we serve God that at some point “we’ll make it” and everything will be good.  The reality is that if there’s life, there’s going to be problems, and that the Lord would have us develop an ability to walk through the problems.  He then reads a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox called “Tis the set of the sail” which is about how in life will have problems, and that its up to each person to get through those problems.

We are not born with conflict resolution skills, and we need to have the proper perspective, so that we don’t get in trouble. A captain would never put his boat in peril on purpose, and yet if problems arise, there is no choice but to go through. Our society runs when that happens though. People run when they get hurt, which is detrimental. For this reason our attitude cannot be “oh no, a storm”, because if that’s the case we’re done. If you put your confidence in God the captain, you’ll be able to get through anything,  especially in regards to relationships and communication. Conflict resolution can usually best be seen in the context of a marriage. He then gives us several steps in conflict resolution.

1. Call on God and say “God, we need your help”

13 minutes into the sermon we get our first crack at scripture, which is Psalms 145:18 “ The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. “ We are then told in no uncertain terms that “You are the righteousness of God in Christ. Not cause you’re in church, but because of what Christ has done for you”

2. Realize the person you’re dealing with isn’t your enemy.

Ephesians 6:1-18. There is no posturing or favoritism in God. Talks about how we ought to put on the armor of God and have that battle-ready mindset. He says that the number one tactic  that the enemy wants us to do is fight each other. He points out the truth of the matter that  if people are fighting each other, nothing happens.  And yet our struggle is not against flesh and blood, and how do you rectify the two?

“The first thing you can do is say look, in your own mind first, my struggle is not against- we’ll I’ll use my wife as my example. My struggle is not against Linda. And there are times in our heat, and in our marriage, where I’ve had to look at her or she’s looked at me and said “I am not fighting with you. My fight is not with you”. And we’ve had to deliberately position ourselves in our thoughts, as to what it is that we’ve doing. And that was one of the first steps after calling out to God, I’ve looked at Linda and I said “You know what, I’m not fighting you. This isn’t between you and me, this is an assault of the enemy trying to get in and divide us, and make us go against each other.”

Phil says that knowing where the battle is key to your success. Its 85% of the battle. We must not fight against people, because our fight is against something else and someone else. Its not easy to do that, but we must. “You see that’s where we have to… the bible says cast down every vain imagination and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ. What’s the knowledge of Christ? My fight is not against you. That’s the knowledge of Christ. Anything else that comes against that I have to cast down. I have to throw it away, because that’s not an accurate thought.”

3. Show up and be fully present.

This is the hard part. If we’re in a struggle, the last thing  people tend to want to do is be together. They want their space or they want to walk out of the room or go into silent mode, Ignoring or letting someone landlord your life. We can’t do that. Conflict is not fun, but it’s necessary

4. Take ownership for actions that you’re responsible for and repent.

This is not saying something like “sorry you got hurt” or “sorry you were offended” but rather “I’m sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry I offended you.”

5. Agree with the other person

6. Use submissive language.

This involves your tone and the words that you speak. You don’t want to take the accusatory role of “you disrespect me!”, but rather should be something akin to “when this happens, I feel disrespected’.” Don’t listen to the enemy who gets you riled up and makes suggestive thought, listen to the person.

7. Repent and forgive and ask God for your help.

The balance of the sermon involves telling a story of a counselling session, how he pushed a young man’s buttons to help him get the truth out, and how we need to forgive. He says that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. If we cry out and ask him for his help he will be there for us.


This sermon had its strengths and weaknesses. I think it was at its strongest in the middle section, when he used large portions of scripture to back up his assertions of how we don’t fight against flesh and blood. That we’re not fighting people, but rather are fighting against something altogether different. I found it quite instructive, because oftentimes this can get hyper-spiritualized and relegated to the realm of spiritual warfare for prayer warriors and other such things. But this is a great, real world application that we are not fighting our spouses, employers, families, friends, or even enemies. Even stopping in the middle of an argument and saying “Love, I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m not fighting with you.” That makes sense, and it was rooted in a strong scriptural foundation. I can only hope that next time I’m embroiled in an argument with my wife or family, that I can recall these words and bring it to bear. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” Ephesians 6:12-13.

The rest of it though… I’m not sure it was as successful. Not because it wasn’t instructive, because it was, but rather because this sort of relational/non-theological topical  sermon is not my cup of tea. Well- that’s not really fair. It was theological, just…loosely, if that makes sense. It’s probably good advice, but that’s not what I personally come to church to hear, or what I’m looking for in a sermon. I think he spoke true things about God, and I like that the whole thing had a very loving and pastoral tone. But but with little  biblical support used to buttress each point, it seemed more like a lesson in spiritualized psychology than biblical theology. Its probably all completely true with the right application, but I was hoping for more and found myself wanting.

Two points I did want to comment on, was when he said the #1 tactic of the enemy is to have us fight each other. I’m not sure where it says this in the bible- that its the main tactic. I think its something that Satan utilities, sure, but I don’t see a basis for saying it is the number one of anything.

The second was that he said “but the Bible commands us to forgive [people]. And you know why the Bible commands us to forgive? Because if you don’t forgive you’re hooked to them for the rest of your life. And they don’t care that you’re hooked to them because they don’t care about you cause that’s why they hurt you in the first place” I would  like to know what scriptures he bases that on. Where does the bible tell us to forgive, because if not were hooked to people for the rest of our lives? That may be a truism and a legitimate inference, but I’m unfamiliar where we see that that’s why the bible commands us to do it, and so if anyone could provide that reference it would be much appreciated.


Having a hard time “connecting” at Church?

John Acuff over at the legendary “Stuff Christians Like” wrote this phenomenal  gut-checking post. I thought it was worth sharing.

Stuff Christians Like- Saying you’re having a hard time “connecting” in Church

“This church isn’t very friendly. Have you noticed that? We might need to change to a new church, because we’re having a really hard time connecting at this one. We’ve been coming here for six months, sitting in service, not talking to anyone, then immediately sprinting out of the building and going home. And no one has connected with us. Rude!

We haven’t met anyone in small group either. We didn’t sign up for one, but still, it would be nice if a small group kind of magically happened in our living room, on a night that was convenient for us and someone brought banana pudding. Not box banana pudding, but like the kind your grandmother used to make. Is that so much to ask for?

Probably, considering that this church doesn’t really seem to reach out to people who have spent six months attending Sunday morning service and not participating in any other activities.

No one even called us and asked why we weren’t at the fall festival. Sure, we’ve never given them our number, but google it. And then help us connect.

I thought this church was going to be different. I thought it wouldn’t be like the last three churches we attended. Remember those three? Always saying, “Please stay for lunch and learn about the church. Please let us know if you have any questions. Please come to our first time visitor’s luncheon.” So annoying.

What’s that you say? Where are we serving at the church? Serving is a great way to get connected and plug into a place that is ultimately a two way street of people loving and giving and growing together? Even something as simple as handing out bulletins can jump start new relationships with new people? Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work. Quit judging us.

And start connecting us.

We’re having a hard time connecting at this church.”

Paperthin Hymn. In Christ Alone


In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sins curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a lifes first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand


Written in 2002, “In Christ Alone” was a collaborative effort between Stuart Townend and fellow Keith Getty. “The song came about in an unusual way,” Townend explains. “Keith and I met in the autumn of 2000 at a worship event, and we resolved to try to work together on some songs. A few weeks later Keith sent some melody ideas, and the first one on the CD was a magnificent, haunting melody that I loved, and immediately started writing down some lyrical ideas on what I felt should be a timeless theme commensurate with the melody. So the theme of the life, death, resurrection of Christ, and the implications of that for us just began to tumble out, and when we got together later on to fine tune it, we felt we had encapsulated what we wanted to say.”

The result, in my opinion, is one of the finest worship song in the last hundred years. Townend and Getty both admit they are motivated by the idea of capturing biblical truth in songs and hymns that will not only cause people to express their worship in church, but will build them up in their Christian lives. It seems evident to me that they have succeeded, and that there is both a theological depth and poetic expression that is incredibly rare in today’s worship writing. There are so many verses that cause my whole body to tremble, my heart to stir, and which thunderously rip my spirit into worship. It is a song that is such a sharp contrast to many of Christless and man-centered praise songs that filled the void that the old  hymns left when they were yanked out of circulation some thirty years ago.

There are many great renderings of it. Page CXVI has done one, so does Krystin Getty and Adam Young of Owl City. There are also numerous covers on Youtube and other places, and just under 200 professional recordings on Itunes.  But my favorite so far and the one I wish to showcase was done by Together for the Gospel.  Together for the Gospel (T4G) began as a friendship among four pastors: Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler. In April 2008, more than 5,000 people, mostly pastors, gathered at the T4G conference to hear God’s Word and sing the praises of the Savior. Bob Kauflin on an acoustic piano led these men in worship, and the result is haunting.

You can purchase the entire album HERE

Identity in Christ- A Response to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way

Born this Way is a song  written by Lady Gaga [Real name Stefani Germanotta] and released less than two months ago. As it were,  it is the fastest-selling single in Itunes history, selling one million copies in five days. I have downloaded a copy of the song, but I have absolutely no interest in seeing the music video for it. I hear that it has been highly acclaimed and artistic, but I can’t imagine it being anything different than the sort of garish, hyper-sexualized softcore pornographic spectacle that we have seen before,  and so I would not recommend that anyone view it. That having been said, I would like to apply the biblical lens to this song and give some thoughts first on the person, then on the message of the song.

I should say right out of the gate that I am not a fan or hers, nor do I follow her life and music in any sort of meaningful way. My primary interaction with her is through covers and parodies of her music, as well as when she makes the news and is mentioned in some sort of ancillary way, and I admit that I am more or less ignorant on the matter. It seems that she is often pictured tottering down the street in some outlandish get-up and fright wig, and although she presents herself as the messianic voice of all the misfits, freaks, and non-conformists, there is little evidence that she ever was one. Her upbringing was upper-middle class and eventually affluent. She attended the same upscale Manhattan private school as Paris Hilton. For this reason there’s a wild disconnect between Gaga’s melodramatic self-portrayal as a lonely, rebellious, marginalized artist and the powerful corporate apparatus that bankrolled her makeover and has steamrollered her songs into heavy rotation on radio stations everywhere. She is the shepherd who calls all her sheep to her, the pied piper with bombastic ready-to-mix club beats. Her style and personality is avant-garde, but I wonder for whom she is dressing for.

I think that’s what strikes me about her more than anything whenever I catch a glimpse of her on my You Tube sidebar, or performing at some music awards, that  despite showing acres of pallid skin in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all, despite the efforts and millions of dollars that go into painting her as such. As Camille Pagila puts it “She’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? Can it be that Gaga represents the exhausted end of the sexual revolution? In Gaga’s manic miming of persona after persona, over-conceptualized and claustrophobic, we may have reached the limit of an era…”

For that reason I wonder how many of the young women in the Church see that and are caught up in it? How many of them think it’s cool and courageous? Surely the message of hyper-personalized and radical inclusive individuality must have some sort of effect on them. Because absent a biblical wordview [that is generally absent] I’m not sure how they would be any less susceptible than the unchurched and non-religious youth of our communities to be drawn into what she’s singing about.


It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We’re all born superstars
She rolled my hair, put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir
“There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “‘Cause He made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up, girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Ooo, there ain’t no other way
Baby, I was born this way
Baby, I was born this way
(Born this way)
Ooo, there ain’t other way
Baby, I was born this way
Right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Don’t be!

Give yourself prudence and love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice the truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth
A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (hey, hey, hey)
I love my life, I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight or bi
lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
chola or orient made
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave

This song, in every way possible, seems to be an anthem to individuality and to the prowess of mankind. It is the pop refrain of a generation, much like Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit was for the 90′s. Several themes run through the song. Some are admirable and should be echoed. Love and acceptance of oneself and others, that we ought to strive to be comfortable in our own skin, a disparagement of racism, a recognition that God made mankind a certain way and that in his sovereignty he did not make any mistakes, and that there is hope and comfort for the socially marginalized. Those are good things, and I think people looking for validation will find it.

And yet we see different aspects of the song which are troubling and which seek to burn to the ground the foundation of the biblical worldview I spoke of earlier. These would be an overemphasis  and a glorification of  self-love, self-hype, self-aggrandizement, and self-esteem. The eschewing of biblical sexual ethics whereby the expression of free love and the promotion of homosexuality, lesbianism, and the encouragement of sexual experimentation is lauded and encouraged. We see God/ Capital H-I-M make an appearance, but any notion of holiness and majesty is reduced to a deistic being who creates mankind and then endorses  and blesses every action and feeling they have. As it were, the whole song screams the message “I was born this way, and so whatever I chose to do and think and be is good in and of itself, and no one can tell me otherwise.”

At its core the message of Lady Gage and of “Born this way” is unrestrained unaccountability that is fueled and powered by subjective experiences, all of which according to her should be accepted as legitimate and good. It is a seductive message, and one that I think rings intuitively as true for most people who hear it because that is the experience in their own lives.  She comes into our homes through the airwaves, belting out the clarion call that is a simple continuation of the greater themes of our culture- that you are not fallen. You are not fractured. You are not a sinner. You are not broken. You’re perfect just the way you are, and instead of needing redemption from something outside yourself, you just need to look inward and love and accept yourself more,. Then you’ll be okay.

Our response to this then should be simple. The antidote to a script that says we ought to find our identity in ourselves by virtue of ourselves, is that we should find our identity in Christ. That’s the contradistinction that should effervescent in our bones, spirit, blood, skin and brains.  That’s the message that we need to communicate that will tear down the walls of self-lust and the pride of life; that our questions are given answers in Christ. Our insecurities are made secure in Christ. Our uncertainties are made certain in Christ. Our burdens are made light in Christ. Our hurts are made whole in Christ. Our attitudes are bent towards God in Christ. Our incompleteness has been made complete in Christ. Our tears are dried away in Christ. Our sexuality is redeemed and restored in Christ. Our pain is understood and made pure in Christ.

What Lady Gaga offers is nothing but a cold, hard, calloused imitation. It’s a dry husk. It’s a corpse. Its a prison of self-reliance disguised as freedom but betrayed by its own fragility. For this reason it won’t last long, and we need to be there with the truth of the gospel when this worldview collapses in on itself.


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