Category Archives: From Me to You

A Reformed Dude Named Alex Jordan sings I Will by Paul McCartney

Readers of this blog who don’t know me too well probably think I’m very, very serious all the time, because I write on heavy topics like “hell”, I’m studying Reformed theology and seem to enjoy theological debates and quoting Scripture.   Well, I won’t deny that I have a serious side to my personality– we should be serious about serious topics!  But honestly, I’m really rather silly (when no one is looking) or at home, joking around with my wife (uh oh, this is sounding like Ann Romney’s speech last night about her husband Mitt Romney— how he’s so serious in public but in private makes her laugh all the time… it was a great speech, by the way).  Anyway, my wife could testify that I am quite the clown and that my humor is even a bit strange sometimes.

All that to say that I think sometimes we all get stereotyped because folks may know only one facet or aspect of one’s personality.  But all of us are more complex and interesting than that; we can’t be defined by just one thing.  And especially in the Internet age, you may be able to know something of what makes me tick from reading this blog, but of course this blog is just a public persona I present and of course doesn’t encapsulate who I am as a person.  On the other hand, I am trying to make this blog more reflective of my total personality, and I think reformed theology at its best is wholistic and tries to deal with man in his totality.  Anyway, here I am getting all serious again.

Today I want to share another side of myself– the musical side.  I am a Beatles music fan and to some that may seem out of place for one who professes to be a reformed Christian.  But I like the Beatles for their music.  I’m not following them in their philosophy, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t.  I think talent is a gift from God, and I have always admired Paul McCartney’s way with a tune, which has inspired me in my own songwriting.  Anyway I have been meaning to post videos of songs (both original and covers), and keep procrastinating about it.  So tonight I just decided to record and post a quickie video of me singing Paul McCartney’s song “I Will”, from the Beatles’ White Album.  I recorded it using my Samsung Galaxy SII phone, and the results were not bad considering it’s just a phone.  For future videos I’ll be experimenting with better devices for recording both the audio and video, but right now, without further ado, may I present you my rendition of “I Will”.   Hope I “pass the audition”, as John L. once quipped.

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Noise- Enemy of the Soul

As my wife will attest, I really dislike noise– I’m always ranting about jerks who drive by our house blasting their car radios so loud my TV  rattles violently.   In those moments, I’m rattled too, and feel dark and violent impulses.  But don’t worry, I’m not a gun owner.

My mother tells me I was always very sensitive to noise, as a child and even as a baby.   Perhaps then, my antipathy to noise is a personal quirk.  Or maybe I’m deficient in some vitamin.  This could be, but I think I’m not alone in my aversion to noise, and I think there’s good reasons to think the constant noise we deal with in modern life in America is not a good thing for anyone’s soul.  Really, for the life of me, I have a hard time understanding why people enjoy blasting music into their ears (especially, BAD music– another rant).  I’m a music lover myself– and occasionally I turn up the volume a bit– certain songs just sound better that way– but I can’t imagine sitting in my car, mindlessly listening to the “boom-boom-boom” at sound levels designed to destroy eardrums of entire neighborhoods.  I can’t figure out how or why that is enjoyable to some people.

More than ever, we’re the plugged-in generation– especially the younger folk among us– from sunup to sundown we’re attached to our devices– TVs, cell phones, iPads, PCs, Macs, car radios, tablets, etc–  it seems we can never not have background noise.  Is this constant din a comfort to our souls?  Can we not stand a few moments of silence?  Perhaps in the silent moments our secret frustrations, disappointments, sadness, musings  about death and God and what’s it all about– are apt to come tumbling into our heads, giving rise to feelings of dreadful anxiety.  Such reflection is stressful, unpleasant and unnerving.  Maybe we find it comforting then to have noise that distracts us from these questions to which we don’t think we have answers.  I’m as guilty as anyone of listening to music, or watching a movie as a way of de-stressing and not facing issues in my life.  I don’t think those moments of escapism are necessarily always a bad thing.  Music has wonderful power to calm our souls.  Having a good laugh while watching a TV show, or feeling a thrill as we watch an action movie may not just distract, but bring temporary respite to a weary soul.

But the danger I see in today’s habit of allowing the constant noise of modern life to overtake us, rarely stopping to be silent, is that this practice diminishes the capacity to be  reflective, which in turn short-circuits personal growth.  Not all of us have genius IQs, not all of us have gifts of artistic or creative expression, but I’m convinced that by keeping ourselves continually distracted, we don’t allow our minds and souls the opportunity to think the profound, creative thoughts we’re capable of having.  What is genius anyway?  Is it not the result of concentrated effort to solve a creative problem or solve a scientific puzzle? But when our minds constantly flit about from one thing to another, we lose the powers of concentration and focus that could bring us into genius insights, healthy self-recognition, and perhaps even place us on the path to finding truth.

So as you can see the noise I’m talking about isn’t just loud sounds, but it’s also the noise we manufacture to drown out pain, soothe fears, to forget and ignore our troubles.  In this sense, we’ve all been noisemakers at times, haven’t we?  But  this noise making works against us, because after the distractions are over, the problems and questions still remain.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God-in-the-flesh.  He came to Earth to live His life as a flesh and blood human being and to demonstrate how we ought to live.  Jesus was a busy man and full of life.  He attracted followers wherever He went, He spoke as no Man before Him ever had spoken, He had powers that attested to His special relationship with the Father.  Yet in all the activity of His life, we have this report about Him… “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1:35).”  Apparently it was the custom of Jesus to get away from everything and everyone, to be alone, presumably in a quiet place, and to pray to God.  Oh, how we need this as human beings!  If Jesus Christ, the Perfect Man, needed time alone in a quiet place to pray to God and be strengthened and find direction for each day, how much more do we as imperfect beings require this time of quiet.

If you don’t yet know this Jesus, you can find Him through the Bible.  Read a gospel such as the book of Mark of John, and there you will see a picture of the perfect human being, the One who came to show us how to live and how to die.  And for those of us who know Him and follow Him, may we take time each day to go to that quiet place, to be alone with our God and reach out for His grace.

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Back to Blogging

I’ve fallen behind with blogging.  Again.  Here are my excuses:

1) Recently I joined Google+, Google’s new social network and answer to Facebook.  I like it quite a lot, as the system is built upon “Circles”, a way of organizing friends and following content I think makes more sense than Facebook.  So I’ve been learning my way around Google+, updated my profile there, and have been sharing many items over there (by the way, if you want an invite, let me know in the comments);

2) I’ve been posting exceedingly long comments in the comments discussion of an article Is it Okay for Christians to Believe in the Doctrine of Hell But Not Like It? by Kevin DeYoung (these comments could easily have been turned a blog post here– maybe I’ll do that);

3) Went to see Paul McCartney in concert last Saturday;

4) Was sick with a bad chest cold a few days last week;

5) Put together a surprise birthday party for my wife, in which a really good time was had by all;

6) I’m playing with my cat too much, as she is very demanding of my attention;

7) I’ve actually been working on new article, but not posting it.

All of the above are really true (well maybe # 6 is a bit of an exaggeration)– and, I have been working on an exceedingly long  post in my eternal series on hell (pun intended), but keep getting distracted from completing it.

But honestly, the truth is I’m pre-occupied with trying to figure out my next 5 year plan, and making tough but needed decisions about career/ministry/seminary direction.  Integration of effort is what is needed, on many fronts.   Perhaps I can find a way to post to Google+, Twitter and Facebook each time I post here.   But “big picture” integration is what I’m most after– to figure out how to integrate my various passions and gifts in a more focused, fruitful way, and, of course, to stay vitally connected with God as I do so.

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Spiritual Birthdays

Happy Birthday, Alex!!  You know, today happens to be my birthday.  Traditionally, we mark the day people are physically born into this world, and may do so with gatherings in which we give them gifts, eat cake, and try to make the birthday “honoree” feel special.   Each one of us is a unique creation of God, and each individual’s life should indeed be celebrated, because each of us was brought into this world by God.  We are special because we are each a small reflection of God’s beautiful image.

And yet, that image of God in us is marred by the universal presence of sin.  Even the best-natured, most talented, brightest and most attractive among us suffers from this disease of sin, which spoils the  image of God in us, and makes us into something we were not meant to be.

The presence of evil in this world is readily observed.  Each day we hear all the bad news, as we watch television reports, and read our newspapers or Internet news feeds.  The bad news is all the horrible things people are doing to each other: theft, rape, abandonment, adultery, murder, etc.   The list is never-ending, fueled by the energy and creativity of minds under the influence of evil.

On top of this we also have the bad news of natural disasters, accidents, sicknesses, and deaths that happen every day, not by the hand of other human beings, but simply because we live in a fallen world in which such terrible things happen to all.  Something within us intuitively reacts to all these negative events with the feeling– this is not the way it should be, not the way things were meant to be.

But the scariest, most sobering part of recognizing evil on earth,  is that we find evil not only without, but also within.  We may want to deny it, but we know that in our hearts we too have hated, lusted, stolen, coveted and thought things we know are wrong.  And often we have acted upon these evil impulses, and have hurt others and also ourselves by our acts.

The presence of evil, both without and within, and the havoc it causes is sad, even tragic.   Perhaps we are tempted to question the God we know or suspect exists, as we cry out, “Why, oh God, must things be this way?  Why all this evil in the world? Why is evil within me?”

But there is good news.  There is a solution to these questions.  God did not leave us alone in our earthly predicament.  But in love, He sent His own son, in the form of a man, to Earth.  His name was Jesus of Nazareth.  He lived on Earth for only a brief 33 years, and in his humanity was subject to the same conditions we experience every day.   He  walked and ate and drank just like any other human being.  Like us, He was born a helpless infant and had to be taken care of and raised by his human parents.   He learned to read and write, how to do the things children of his day were expected to do.  As He grew up, He had to fulfill certain responsibilities as a member of his family.  From Joseph his earthly father He learned the family business of carpentry and later began a preaching and teaching ministry.  Surely He too witnessed all the good and evil that is part of life on earth.  But there was something very different about this Man.

In his ministry, incredible miracles were taking place, things that had never been heard of — the blind were seeing, the lame made to walk, lepers cleansed– even the dead were raised to new life.   He commanded demons, who instantly obeyed Him, and even the winds and the waves responded when He spoke the word.  What kind of man was this?

In His teaching Jesus said unique things, things that sometimes made Him look like a madman or even a blasphemer to some.   He had the audacity to forgive people their sins, and He taught that unless one who ate of His flesh and drank of His blood would have eternal life  (John 6:54-56).  What kind of teaching was this?

One day a man came to him in secret  to ask Jesus some questions.  He had seen the miracles Jesus was doing and knew this man must have something special- God must be with him.  Jesus proceeded to teach this man, Nicodemus, who himself was a religious teacher, essential spiritual lessons.  Jesus told him that in order to see and enter into the kingdom of God, one must be born again.  To paraphrase, Jesus was saying it’s not enough to have only a physical birthday, but we all must also experience a spiritual birthday.  One must be born spiritually, as well as physically!

Friends, today happens to be my physical birthday, but I am so glad that June 7, 1983 marks my spiritual birthday.  On that day, as I recall, I quietly asked the Lord to save me, as I was alone in my bedroom. I confessed before Him that I recognized that I was a sinner and that I believed that Jesus had died on a cross to pay for my sins.  How beautiful the feelings of peace and joy I experienced in the months after that, knowing that my sins were all and forever forgiven, that I had a new start with God, and that from now on I would live knowing that God was watching over my life, who would direct and shape me into the man I was supposed to become.

But it has not always been an easy path.  Mostly this is because I battle with sins in my life and heart, sins that too often I have let dominate me.  But God is faithful, and I see how He is working in me, sometimes by allowing painful circumstances that I would not have chosen nor could have foreseen.   I believe that I have been on a journey of learning and applying more deeply the truth that will set me free.  We have been led to a church where right doctrine is highly valued, not because it makes one intellectually superior or more right, but because it leads to a better understanding of who God is and how He works in our lives.  This leads to living a more God-centered life, in which I learn to love and honor Him God better as I see more and more how glorious He really is, how good and kind and patient He is.  Sin and evil, then, do not have the last word.  Jesus, the Word made flesh, does, and He declares “Behold, I am making all things new (Rev 21:5).”

As John Piper said in a sermon titled, “Behold I Make All things New“,

When God makes all things new, he will make us spiritually and morally as pure as flawless crystal, he will give us a body like the body of his glory, he will renovate all creation to take all futility and evil and pain out of it, and finally he himself will come to us and let us see his face. And so forever and ever we will live with pure hearts and glorious bodies on a new earth in the presence and the glory of our heavenly Father.

This will be the glorious result of what began with a spiritual birthday here on Earth– I, along with the creation, will be made completely new, by the power of Christ.  To God be the glory.

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Challies: “I am not by nature an organized person”

In his latest post, How I Get Things Done, “iron-man” blogger Tim Challies declares,

I am not by nature an organized person!

Oh my goodness! OK, wait. So Tim Challies is not by nature an organized person, yet manages to be super-productive (at least from my vantage point). So using excellent technology tools must somehow make a person organized and productive, right? But like Tim, duh, I use technology too, ‘nough said. Thanks for sharing!

Actually, I often ask myself, with a mix of envy, admiration and exasperation, just how do folks like Challies get so much done? So I do appreciate the “insider’s” post about the secret technology that helps him with his productivity. But Tim, there’s more to it than that, right? If technology could make everyone as productive as you, well it would be worth buying it… all. But we all know that technology- in and of itself- doesn’t make the lazy guy stop being lazy, or the disorganized, unfocused person suddenly get on target.

So Tim, thanks for sharing the techno info, really, but puh-lease, let me/us know more about being organized from a heart perspective, brother. For I think that’s where the problem lies with most of us.

Have a blessed and productive day, my friend!

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