Monday, February 21, 2011

Two Ways For The Church To Treat The Past.

I broke up my solo project, IKAIK, after thirteen years. My relationship with the members got weird after all those years. Things just had to change. Now I have a solid, reliable group of dudes to play with me. We're called The Summer Country.

For the thirty or so people who kept up with IKAIK, the new stuff might sound very much like another version of "Isaiah-plus-band". The difference isn't so much the music as it is the focus of this group. For one, I plan on having the same drummer, bassist, and lead guitar for some time. No more revolving door of talented but otherwise occupied friends. For two, the four of us all have a similar vision for our place in Nashville. We want to encourage and influence the spiritual and cultural renewal of our city.

With that in mind, I've worked on a song called "A History Lesson At The End Of The World". In it, I talk about how people tend to forget that the old days were just as crappy as these days. Nostalgia can cause a person to assume they haven't made or won't make any progress in life. They think about how the weather wasn't so crazy ten years ago (when, come on, it totally was), how their high school/college sweetheart was better than nothing, and how we might never have another Great Awakening or Billy Graham.

But maybe that's okay. Maybe we don't want things to be the way they were. Why don't we have an attitude of "Things are different now, so let's work to make the present even better than past." When asked what he would do if the world were to end tomorrow, Martin Luther answered, "I would plant a tree today."

If the world were to end tomorrow, I would still write a song or a weblog post today.

Going back to the Nehemiah 9 thing, much of the prayer looks at the past. God continued to bless His people and show them mercy in spite of their constant unfaithfulness. The leaders praying recognize God's justice in sending them into exile and hardship. This stirs them to makes decisions and a covenant for holiness in chapter 10.

My question is this: in your own life or that of your church, do you look to the past because it feels like the only bright spot of your history, or do you try to learn from your mistakes like the leaders in Nehemiah?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Fine" Is a Four Letter Word - The importance of confession, repentance, and accountability.

Jon Acuff has a talent for calling Christians out on their cultural malarkey. The average person doesn't want to broadcast their problems. I get that. But shouldn't Christians feel most comfortable confessing their struggles with other people in the church? Doesn't James teach us to do just that?

In Nehemiah 8, the people respond to hearing the Bible by expressing grief. They've all sinned, they know it, and they know how everybody else knows it too. Chapter 9 records a prayer made by the leaders of the people. This passage shows public praise of God's goodness and repentance for the nation's sin.

Go ahead, read it.

For those of you who took the time for a little Bible, doesn't their prayer read like one of the Psalms? I've been thinking for about a year now how this prayer in many ways captures a major theme of the Psalms: "God, you're awesome. We suck. Thank you for being so awesome."

I have two questions for you about this passage. First, if we know God wants us to confess our sins to each other and accept His grace, why don't we do it more often? Second, what do you think about the leaders confessing on behalf of the people?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A New Era For the Press.

While driving through Kentucky in a van full of stinky dudes, we all got into an argument. As you do. One guy said I was impossible to talk to because I presented everything as if I already assumed I had the right answers. "First," I said, "I don't always have the right answers. And second, any idiot would agree that..." and I continued to press my point with crushing logic.

My wife and I met with our pastor and his wife over the course of a few months for pre-marital counseling. During one meeting, he had us discuss how we argue. Turns out I'm a persuader. Our pastor told us my ability to persuade isn't wrong, but I need to learn how to use it with humility and grace.

Next month, 'Am-ha'aretz Press will have lasted three years. In that time, I have written (or at least done my best to write) two essays a month about what I have learned in prayer and study. Not a bad format. Better, I think, than some who write about their cat (System of a Meow) or about how much they dislike their classmate in homeroom (John-what's-his-name Memorial High School Rumor Hub).

But now I'm wondering if my format, by default, shuts down conversations because of the way I present it. On a few occasions, I've opened the floor for reader interaction. Once in a great while I'll get a response. Most of the time, I hear from my parents, Dan, or Julia (my Facebook fan). But I want to see something more.

I want to see people get something more.

So here's my proposal. I'm going to continue posting about things I learn in prayer and study, but put up my thoughts and questions on the topic in more readable doses. Instead of writing as if I'd finished another book for you to read, I'm going to post part of my thought process about what I plan to write in the future. That way you can have a hand in what I learn and address.

I also want to increase the frequency of posts. Maybe four times a month to start. Maybe a couple times a week in the future. Who knows...

If weblogs are the future of public discourse, I'd better learn from my Kentucky road trip and allow one of you a word once in a while.