Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Conduits of Sound

My friend plays the cello. Once a year, he has to change the strings, and it costs him over $300. From what he tells me, most serious cello players buy different strings from different companies. Apparently some companies make some strings better than others. If you want the best sound, you can't just buy a full set from one place.

Musical instruments are a wonder. When you really get down to it, everything in the universe is made up of the same basic materials, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anything like a tuba in nature. How do we come up with this stuff? Strings and pipes and skins and metals all meticulously engineered to produce such precise noises. When I was in Milan, I saw a museum filled with old instruments, many of them primitive by today's standards. I never could have come up with them, though.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Soteriology: A Bunch of My Thoughts at This Point

NOTE: I started working on this post back in the summer. I worked on it for awhile, then abandoned it because I felt like the scope of what I was trying to talk about was just too broad. But a couple weeks ago I looked at it again and realized I had put too much work into it not to try and finish it (even if "finishing it" just meant getting it to a point where it was blog-worthy and ready for further refinement). I do think I'm biting off more than I can chew here, but as God helps me to sort through this stuff I have to start somewhere. So, here it is.

In 2007, I helped to staff a summer missions trip in Wildwood, New Jersey for seven weeks. It was a great experience - one of the best summers of my life. I learned a lot about what it looks like to live in community, to counsel those who are hurting, and to share about Jesus.

The theme of our project that summer was treasuring the Gospel, so most of our teaching focused on helping the participants to realize just how wonderful the Gospel message is. We spent most of our devotions in the book of Galatians, emphasizing freedom from legalism and assurance of salvation, and we spoke often about God's unconditional love - the idea that, because of what Christ has done, we can rest confidently in the knowledge that our redemption is certain. We told the participants that, because of Christ's sacrifice, God no longer sees our sin. We even asked them to evaluate themselves, only to hand their evaluations back with A-pluses at the top. Christ has earned your A+, we said. That's the good news.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lord, Save Us From Ourselves

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands."  - Matthew 22:36-40

What is the essence of the Christian life? If there is a purpose to human existence, what is that purpose? What were we made for? What are we supposed to be?

Jesus says we are supposed to be lovers. Lovers of God and lovers of people - people who give and receive freely and selflessly, finding joy and delight in blessing others. This is what we were made for. This is where we find our purpose.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Wish I Wrote Reviews For a Magazine

I like music. My ears consume it as if my hearing depends on it.

Here's what I've been listening to as of late...

The Reckoning - NEEDTOBREATHE 

Needtobreathe's new album is probably the best thing they've done, and that's high praise for a band of their caliber. I was skeptical when I started listening to the first track - "Oohs and Aahs" is kind of jazzy and grating - definitely not as instantly ear-catching as their previous album opener, "The Outsiders." Just when I was about to dismiss the track as a weak intro, acapella gang vocals appeared and I was sold. By the time screeching brass entered the fray, the song had reached the "I-think-I'm-going-to-need-to-hit-repeat-when-this-is-over" category.

But I didn't end up doing that, because the bouncy acoustic-riff that started the following track, "White Fences" was so immediately absorbing I couldn't go back. White Fences and the track that follows it, "Drive All Night," are just top-notch. Lead vocalist Bear Rinehart has never sounded better. His voice is strong, gritty, and filled with longing - a perfect match for the melodies his band supplies. White Fences is an especially good example of the album's great mix: loud and punchy percussion and vocals hovering on the verge of distortion. Also, one of Needtobreathe's strengths has always been their soulful background vocals, and this album uses them to great effect.