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April 22, 2007

An overcomer – Rev 12.11

Writing about web page

This week's news has been dominated by the events at Virginia Tech, but for the small group of Christians in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, another event has sent shockwaves over the country. In Malatya, eastern Turkey, a  Christian publisher's office was attacked by a gang of thugs who tied up the staff before slitting their throats.

I would like to say I knew one of the victims. In fact, in my six-and-a-half years in Izmir, I probably met Necati three or four times, and all I can really remember is that he knew my name, which I was quite impressed by, considering how rubbish I am at remembering names.

But among the 100 or so Izmirli who have come from a muslim background and embraced the gospel, he was held in high regard as one who had faced arrest, false charges and the Turkish justice system - yet still went on and did what he believed God had called him to do.

He will be very much missed.

March 04, 2007

Do you know what you are?

5 out of 5 stars

This is such a darned good album that I had to write a review of it sooner or later.
Jars of Clay are an American Christian band, comprising four guys who met in college. None of them play bass or drums, and only seem to recruit said instrumentalists for recording or touring. This may seem strange, but I believe it makes for a more focussed group. Why have a permanent bassist/drummer just because every body else does?

To the album,then. Jars songs reflect a God who is not afraid to look down with compassion on this Earth. “Even Angels Cry” tackles homelessness and drug addiction in a very sensitive way, while the Elvis-like “Mirrors and Smoke” tells us the things we may not like to hear about romantic relationships. (“You always make me cry but that’s what true love is all about”)

The title track, which is on YouTube here challenges the tendency towards inertia in the Christian community:
“All the good monsters rattle their chains
And dance around the open flames
They make a lot of empty noise
While all of the bright eyes turn away
As if there wasn’t anything to say
About the justice and the mystery…... ”
is about an inward looking group who only, it seems, turn up to have a good time “worshipping” (if that’s what it is) while the difficult issues get ignored. This is the heart of the challenge “Do you know what you are?” The songs themselves are not judgmental in a holier-than-thou sense, but Jars themselves confess and repent: “We are bored with all that we know”, “We are slaves of all the things we love”.

“Light gives Heat” gives an example of another issue that the church IS addressing to a degree – globalisation and cultural imperialism, which seem to go hand in hand. (This year we are celebrating the bicentennial of the law outlawing the slave trade, at least in the UK. It took Wilberforce and his friends 20 years of overcoming discouragement, entrenched attitudes/interests and parliamentary inertia, to achieve this. Are you ready for a 20-year battle to “Make Poverty History”?)

Only in one or two songs do the Jars address more direct subject matter. “Oh my God” is a straight “How long, O Lord” cry from the heart about the state of a fallen world, while “All my tears” reminds us that no matter what, when this life is over, we will get to meet the One who loves us like no other.

You won’t find this in HMV/Virgin/Fopp, and you certainly won’t hear it on Radio One I’m afraid. Most mainstream retail outlets avoid Christian music, either because it is Christian and therefore very non-PC, or maybe they just think they can’t make any money selling it. If I wasn’t so cynical perhaps I could believe the latter, but….. At least Amazon don’t seem to be as choosy. And if you want a couple of samples, you can go to YouTube. Either way…. essential listening.

February 15, 2007

Your God?

Is this the God you want?
One that you can ignore all your life
(as you drink/smoke/snort/screw)
And then blame when everything goes wrong
Finally to be dismissed as non-existent
Because he didn’t do what you wanted him to do
When you wanted him to do it?

Well, you’re almost right.
God doesn’t exist.
Not that God anyway.

And, Oh!!!!! the very idea
That you should live the way someone else wants you to
There goes the “Personal Freedom” alarm bell
Someone’s going to get locked up
Or P.C.’d on from a great height

Stalin, Mao and Hitler
Were so good at using their personal freedom
They and their minions
Killed 100 million people.
But you can go ahead and bang on
About how religion causes all the problems.
Far be it from me
To limit your personal freedom.

Why should The Living God
Invite you to His party?
Oh, yes. There is one, you know.
It’s decorated with Joy
With large helpings of Hope
And the truth of Salvation
Is enough to make anyone want to dance.
God wanted us to come
Enough to send His own son to invite us
And to pay the price for us to get there.

Not all Christians are perfect
In fact, I haven’t met one who is, yet.
God invites people who are far from perfect
To His party.
Just as well, really.
It means that you can go as well
If you really want to

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