Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan’


In our day and age humility is not seen as a blessing. We live in the age of the big ego. This is the dawning of the age of narcissism. Our social media usage seems to stroke our pride as we seek after likes.

IThe Blessing of Humility: Walk Within Your Calling‘m aware of the irony. I’m writing this on a blog, part of social media, hoping people will read it. But I’m hoping they will go beyond this blog post to the book I’m writing about: The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges has written many books that I’ve found helpful in the course of my life as a Christian and a pastor. This is one of the last books he wrote prior to his death. I was unaware of its release until seeing it in a clearance sale. Good for me, but a sad reflection on society and even American church culture. This is a book too many of us need to read.

Pride is like bad breath, everyone knows you have it before you do. The struggle against pride is one that is a daily affair, if we are paying attention. Over time I’ve read a few books on the topic including Humility: the Forgotten Virtue by Wayne Mack, and Humility by C.J. Mahaney. I used Mack’s book for our Men’s study at one point.

In Bridges’ book, he looks at the Beatitudes as a description of humility. Humility is one of the twin traits of mature Christianity. The other is love.

Bridges notes that in Jesus’ day, humility was looked down upon in Roman culture, the dominant culture of the day. Before moving into the Beatitudes, he addresses some key texts including 1 Peter 5 which joins precepts and promises.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,…

Humility is the metaphorical clothing we should wear as we appear in public. We are to be humble in our relationships with others and with God, in keeping with the two great commandments upon which hang the whole law. While humility seems off-putting and working against our advancement in life, God offers promises of grace and glory for those who humble themselves in this way. There is promised blessing for humility.

Bridges view of the Beatitudes is one of what a sanctified person looks like. While our failure to possess these characteristics as we should points us to Jesus who perfectly manifested them for imputed righteousness, we must not stop there. Like Mark Jones, Bridges sees this as a description of imparted righteousness in sanctification. The Beatitudes reflect whom Jesus is making us as He conforms us to His likeness. Thus we are to seek these traits and therefore humility.

“In the Beatitudes Jesus is talking about the character traits of those already in the kingdom.”

In this relatively short book, just under 150 pages, he explains teach character trait and ties it to humility. With short chapters it can be read devotionally. It contains a study guide in the back for group study or personal reflection and application of the material.

What we find is not an exhaustive book, but certainly a helpful book. It is not very technical, assuming a knowledge of the original languages or lots of theological terminology. It is written for ordinary people to study. He often connects the ideas he is exploring with hymns that express those sentiments. It is rich in Scripture and hymnody.

Humility is poor in spirit. We recognize that we are spiritually destitute and unable to please God in ourselves. Our struggle with sin is far more profound than we realize, and realizing that is half the battle. Maturity means increasing in our awareness of this ongoing struggle. Our focus shifts from our actions to our attitudes and thoughts.

It is because we are still practicing sinners that we mourn. We mourn our spiritual poverty. We aren’t simply aware of our continuing sinfulness but broken hearted about our continuing rebellion.

Meekness points us to the humility of accepting the difficult circumstances in our lives as part of God’s wise, loving providence. Following Thomas Watson (for Bridges loved the Puritans as well as hymns) he applies meekness toward other people in terms of “bearing of injuries, the forgiving of injuries, and the returning of good for evil.” We will all be subject to the sins of others against us. Humility does not retaliate but bears, forgives (!) and bestows good. This is so contrary to our prideful flesh what strikes out, bears grudges and tries to destroy the offender. Our words are often weapons we use against them.

“Meekness is a defining grace, produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, which characterizes that person’s response towards God and man.”

We also have a hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be personally righteous. Such hunger and thirst is not so we don’t need Jesus but so we are like Jesus and bring Him glory. Prideful righteousness, religiosity, is an attempt at self-salvation. It is in this section in particular that Bridges distinguishes between positional and personal (what he calls experiential) righteousness. If I am a Christian I need not hunger and thirst for positional righteousness. I have it! But I do for personal righteousness.

Jesus then moved to mercy, and so did Bridges. He develops the idea of mercy as compassion in action. It is not simply empathy but moving to relieve misery as seen in Isaiah 58 among other places. Part of mercy is remembering the sins of others no more. This is not forgetting but choosing not to bring those sins up against them anymore. This happens only as we see the fact that God no longer remembers our many and grievous sins.

Bob Dylan plays a guitar and sings into a microphone.Another aspect of humility is purity of heart or whole-heartedness. He ties this into the fact that we are not our own but have been bought with a price. We are property of Jesus, as Bob Dylan sang long ago. Purity of heart recognizes this and seeks to see all of life through that lens.

Conflict is regularly addressed in Scripture. When I recently preached through Philippians I was shocked to discover how much this “epistle of joy” was marked by conflict. As someone going through a prolonged conflict, I found hope as well as conviction as I struggled to preach through such a “simple” letter. Humility seeks peace, and makes peace. Peacemaking is very difficult and goes against all our basic inclinations to seek peace on our terms. In other words, there complete surrender.

“To be a peacemaker, then, means we absorb the hurtful words or actions of others without becoming resentful, retaliating, or even cutting off a relationship with the person.”

Humility is revealed in how we respond to being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. While it is appropriate for American Christians to seek protection in our earthly citizenship (Paul, as Bridges notes, appealed to his Roman citizenship at times) we should recognize that our courts system will fail us eventually. We may lose our rights as the tide rises against Christianity. While experiencing hostility, we are not to be hostile but humble. Bridges reminds to entrust ourselves to our Creator, like Jesus, and continue to do good in keeping with 1 Peter 2.

He ends with humility and the gospel. He channels his inner Jack Miller and talks about preaching the gospel to himself and yourself every day. The gospel is not simply the door we walk through to begin life as a Christian but the path we walk as Christians. Humility only grows in gospel soil.

“It is the gospel that will keep us from becoming discourage and will instead motivate us to keep pursuing humility, even when we fail so often.”

This little book is gospel-drenched. That means it is encouraging, not discouraging. Our failures are opportunities to look to Jesus, not a call to despair or simply try harder. The humble and meek Jesus is ready to pardon and help us. Humility keeps coming to Jesus as our only hope. As we do this we find ourselves no better than others, in part because we are not focused on their sins so much. Our sins, and theirs, drive us to Jesus who deals with us as a wonderful, merciful Savior.

This is a book worth the time to read and think about.

 

Read Full Post »


Born to Run (Front Cover).jpgThe other day, at the beginning of Sunday School, I asked the group which was better: Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town. Most of them were clueless.

My brothers were Springsteen fans. I began to listen to my brother’s Springsteen albums. I’m torn between BtR and Darkness. Born to Run was the first album that didn’t sound like a 60’s Dylan album that took about $100 to make. That’s because the label give it a big budget in the hopes Springsteen would finally find commercial success. Darkness is … darker and more aggressive. But BtR is more consistent.

Springsteen is a story-teller with a great back up band. He’s not a singer. He’s one step above Tom Waits. He stays in tune but his voice is rough, very rough. These are great songs though.

The album, thanks to the big budget, took 14 months to write, refine and record. The title track consumed 6 months alone. Springsteen had a vision that he struggled to bring to life. His manager and producer just couldn’t understand and would soon be replaced.

While Darkness is darker, this is still dark. It has a fair amount of nihilism and despair. While they were born to run he laments an American dream the characters can never achieve.

At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines…

I wanna die with you, Wendy, on the streets tonight in an everlasting kiss…

Yet, like George in Of Mine and Men he holds out the hope of a better future. He’s a man confused and torn by despair.

The album starts with Thunder Road. This time her name is Mary. She’s not a beauty but she’s alright enough for him. That is one of the interesting things about Springsteen. He uses lots of names, adding to the authenticity that helps him connect with his audience.

Again it is about soul-eating poverty, hopelessness. He longs to escape with Mary. The lyrics are long and meandering, like Dylan, instead of following the more typical pop song structure. It’s like he’s talking to you, sharing his fading hope for a promised land (and having a song by that title on Darkness on the Edge of Town).

The lonely harmonica begins the song to set the tone before the piano kicks in. It is a strange way to start a rock album. Finally the guitar kicks in and the song builds with his urgency. The sax solo is the crescendo and the song fades.

The is a big shift to Tenth Avenue Freez-Out. The more upbeat music hides the danger of the main character who has his back to the wall running on the bad side. Bad Scooter is looking for his groove as a musician seeks to find a place to play, a way forward. More isolation. All due to a 10th Ave. Freeze-Out. No gigs?

It all changes when the Big Man joins the band. Scooter and the Big Man bust the doors and take the city by storm. You are left to wonder how autobiographical this song is, or isn’t

In Night Bruce is writing about what he imagines a working man’s life is like. In a concert he tells the story of working for his uncle when he was 14, just long enough to get the money for a guitar. Hasn’t worked a day since.

This person lives for the night when he looks for the nameless woman with whom to share his life. There is no meaning in work, and love is elusive. This is a man looking for meaning, desperately. It explodes musically, and keeps up an aggressive pace.

Backstreets speaks of young love at the beach. But this isn’t Grease. Or is it just friendship. Terry is one of those names. But there is talk of slow dancing, studying movies to get the strut right. And finding life on the backstreets where life is a little dangerous.

It starts slowly, piano and organ until the sax, guitar crank up the volume. Ringing chords fill the verses. Finally a guitar solo. For a guy who showed up in a book on great guitarists, he sure didn’t play many solos, focusing on the band. I like guitar solos. At the end he repeats “hiding on the backstreets” about 20 times too many. Yeah, we get it. Play guitar!

Image result for dancing in the darkThe second side begins with the title song. Remember, I was listening to vinyl. This is the song that broke it up for him. Yes, it all went to another level with Born in the U.S.A. but Born to Run made him a star ready for superstar status in the mid-80’s thanks to MTV and Courtney Cox. Cars, a girl, despair. Oh, yeah I said all that already. But the song is full of hooks and they catch you.

She’s the One begins with the power chords and swirling piano. She’s the one who will steal your heart. She’s nameless, ethereal. The song is surprisingly aggressive musically. The sax really kicks in in the last part of the song.

Meeting Across the River begins with trumpet and piano reminiscent of a meandering river. A jazzy feel is a surprise. We meet Eddie and the two of them have a meeting about a “job” across the river. He wants to turn the tables on Cherry who claims she’s going to walk out on him. He wants to strike it big and walk out on her. It is a sad song. A vindictive song.

I don’t know what Jungleland is about. At points it seems like a brawl to settle debts but then boys wield guitars like switchblade knives. It is a mystery that begins with strings and piano. Then the piano begins the familiar riff that sets up the song. He throws in all kinds of details like a Dodge, the Magic Rat, a band or gang called the Rangers.

At the word jungleland the guitar strikes the chords and the song picks up steam. One of the astounding things is how Springsteen can remember all of these lyrics for his marathon concerts. Frequently there are tons of lyrics to the stories he tells. There are two instrumental breaks featuring the sax. They are quite lengthy as the song takes up over 9 minutes. The second winds down to the piano until Bruce sings again. It returns to a sense of despair. The Rat’s own dream guns him down. It was not a good night in jungleland. Bruce groans in lamentation as the song winds down. As does the album.

A number of these songs still fill his concerts. This is one of the best albums of the 70’s. Springsteen’s vision came to life and it was worth the struggle.

Read Full Post »


Continuing with my favorites from the 60’s series…

ILater North American releasen high school I was a big Jimi Hendrix fan. He was the first great guitarist I listened to. I read one of his biographies, ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, multiple times. My favorite album of his at the time was Are You Experienced?, the one that started it all.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was one of the first great power trios. It put the focus on Jimi’s innovative style of playing guitar.This doesn’t mean the other members were slouches. Noel and Mitch were excellent musicians in their own right, able to to complement Jimi. They just weren’t well-known names like Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce when Cream was formed. Noel was actually a guitarist.

What Ritchie Blackmore appreciated about Hendrix was that he was always searching for the right note. He pushed the boundaries. And when he found that note it was amazing.

This goes back to your idea of what a musician, particularly a lead guitarist, is supposed to do. Some people want a band to perfectly reproduce their music live. If you listen to Matthias Jabs of the Scorpions, you wonder if he ever misses a note. But the reason I love live music is the improvisation. That is probably why I love Blackmore so much. It is a reflection of my personality. Blackmore often begins and ends his solos with “standard” solos, phrases from the studio recordings, and then improvises. He’s on the tightrope.

That was Hendrix too.

One of the weird things about the album is that the title track is the last one on both the U.K. and U.S. versions. The U.K. version included Red House, Remember (which I don’t remember hearing- perhaps it wasn’t memorable) and Can You See Me. The U.S. versions included Hey Joe and The Wind Cries Mary instead. Red House shows up on other collections so Americans could enjoy this great blues rock number. It was frequently played on the radio here in the States. It is a song that has stuck with me.

Purple Haze is one of his songs most commonly played on classic rock stations. It is quintessential Experience. Oddly enough, it was not on the original U.K. release. That opening riff gets your attention and sets the tone. According to Noel, Jimi hadn’t taken LSD yet. Jimi said it was about a dream he had. But that’s not important now. The point is the music, and this is a song full of hooks and great guitar. The psychedelic style helps create some of the misheard lyrics, like “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy.”

The mood changes slightly with Manic Depression which supposedly isn’t about bipolar disorder. It is essentially about not being able to get what you want. Perhaps it is about Jimi’s inability, even his, to produce the sounds in his head expressing (I know what I want, but I just don’t know, how to go about getting it). It has the feel and timing of a jazz song more than a rock song. As a teen who seemed to be on the outside looking in, this song captured some of how I felt.

Hey Joe is a cover of a oft-covered blues song by Billy Roberts. Deep Purple also did a version of this song. This is still the standard version of the song for many of us. Straight up blues.

A black and white photograph of three men, one is sitting on the floor.They go back to psychedelic with Love or Confusion, May This Be Love, and I Don’t Live Today. The tempo is faster, and the guitar work is great. Sadly these are all pop songs too. They were made to be played on the radio. The last song on the side is the longest at 3:55. Purple Haze is an all too short 2:45. You are left wanting more, especially from a guitarist this good. I had the same feeling with the first Van Halen album. The songs really didn’t have extended solos, which is precisely what I want, but both albums made their mark. Perhaps it was simply an issue of money. The budget for this introductory album was small, and studio time was at a premium. It takes time and money to put together longer songs.

The rest of the album is also full of songs under 4 minutes with the exception of Third Stone from the Sun, which is 6:40 of Jimi using feedback and pedals for a strong psychedelic feel. But it starts with Jimi’s nod to Bob Dylan in The Wind Cries Mary. It isn’t a Dylan song, but you’d swear it was.

Back to fast-paced rock and roll with Fire about passion. This is something any teenager can identify with. His guitar work mirrors the urgency.

After Third Rock, is the song that starts the U.K. release, Foxy Lady. This is a classic guitar song about an attractive woman with attitude. This another one of the songs on this release that has stood the test of time despite the ‘dated’ style.

The album ends with the title track. The rhythm, bass and drum tracks were backwards, which Mitch reportedly hated trying to do live. It added to that psychedelic feel.

This was a ground-breaking album that broke a ground-breaking artist. There really isn’t a bad track on this album. The only weakness is that you want longer solos, to hear more of this incredible guitarist.

After my collection was stolen in the late 90’s I never replaced this album. Putting this together makes me think it is time to do so.

 

 

Read Full Post »


A web site I visit had mention of the new book by John MacArthur, Slave, based on his sermon series on the topic.  Grace To You has a free offer, if you join their mailing list.  Here is the trailer.

It always concerns me when someone thinks there is a ‘hidden’ word or some sort of conspiracy.  I’m not sure why it took him so long to realize ‘doulos’ means ‘slave’ not servant.  I agree that we need to reckon with this since it is Scripture.  Paul, at times, called himself a slave, to emphasize the reality that he had no rights.  Iain Duguid in his book on Abraham, calls a covenant a relationship marked by submission in which one party surrenders their rights.  That would be us, not God.

We also need to remember that in Philippians Jesus became a slave, obedient unto death to deliver us from slavery to sin (see, you are a slave to something as Bob Dylan sorta sang).

But it obviously is not the only identity we have (as MacArthur mentions in the trailer).  We don’t stop being ‘slaves’ though we are ‘sons’, as the trailer seems to imply.  We are both (like we are both righteous and sinners at the same time, just not in the same sense).

Richard Pratt used to tell us you need to go the the biblical medicine cabinet and choose the right medicine for the personal problems people have.  This requires discernment.  Is it a justification issue?  Don’t talk about sanctification issues, or they will end up legalists.  Sanctification issue?  Don’t address it as a justification issue or they will become antinomians.  Paul does this in the Scriputres.  If people are acting entitled (for instance making too much of their Roman citizenship, or suffering from an over-realized eschatology) he takes out the ‘slave’ pill so they know this is part of their identity.  If they are wrestling with a sense of worthlessness and abandonment, he breaks out the ‘son’ pill so they know and experience the freedom and acceptance of God’s adopted children.

I fear that a popular book like this tends to polarize things.  This should transform some people’s experience because they have a strong sense of entitlement.  They don’t grasp that whole obedience thing.  They think Christianity sets them free from all obligation to pursue all their desires.  This is a huge problem here in the land of the televangelists and consumerism.  But many of the people who would be drawn to a book by MacArthur would have the opposite problem.  I suspect they would need to know of God’s love and acceptance because they are prone to a legalistic spirit.

All this to say, know to whom you recommend this book.  It could be a helpful medicine to their sin-sick soul.  Or it could be deadly, because it is the wrong biblical medicine

Read Full Post »