There and Back Again

As Bilbo was preparing to secretly leave the Shire forever, a hobbit asked him, “Mr. Bilbo, where are you off to?”  Bilbo answered, “I’m already late.”  “Late for what?” replied the inquirer. “I’m going on an adventure.”  These were the last words spoken to his admiring townsfolk.

“There and Back Again” was the original title of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”  It was the title of the book Bilbo would compose about his first adventure.  Well, like Bilbo, I have to bid you a farewell, for I must go on an adventure of my own.  As was Bilbo, I am late.  For years I have been perplexed with a nagging desire to search the depths of Covenant Theology.  For me there is a treasure of truth hidden in the riches of God’s promises annexed to his Covenant of Grace.  I am confident that the downgrading or downright denial of Covenant Theology by the visible Church, has hindered the spiritual growth of many believers. From the Protestant Reformation until the mid 19th Century, the majority of those saints who struggled before us, mostly in much more difficult situations than we have, relied on the God’s faithfulness in his promise keeping.  As my intent has been to encourage my fellow travelers on the journey through this foreign land, Middle Earth, if you will, and who seek to follow Christ into Glory, I have touched on my strong position concerning this doctrine, in order to show you from where I look for strength.

Being categorized as middle-aged, I feel more like Bilbo on his “eleventy” first birthday when he left on the final adventure.  There is no time to waste.  I must leave my blog for now and focus on this quest.  However I will be back again full of the tales of my adventure.  God willing, I may be able to share with you what I have found.

Farewell for now,

The Reformed Agonist

Soli Deo Gloria

Advertisements

Some Kind of Wonderful

Some songs are timeless and can pass across generational and genre boundaries with ease. In 1967 the rhythm and blues band Soul Brothers Six released the song “Some Kind of Wonderful.”  The name of the band tells it all.  The lyrics come from the soul.  R & B music, which was born out of a quest for freedom and joy by a disadvantaged culture in the middle 20th century, was the source for many future songwriter’s material across multiple genres, primarily because the common man could relate to the message and the insistent beat made it a catchy tune.  Over the next generation this title would be reproduced by the rock super group Grand Funk Railroad (1974), country music legend Conway Twitty (1977), the German metal band Viva (1982), pop star Huey Lewis (1994), British rock vocalist Paul Rodgers, formally of Bad Company, accompanied by blues guitar great Buddy Guy (1997), and England’s BBC actress and singer Joss Stone (2003), though she changed the gender pronouns.

Why was this song so special that so many artists borrowed it to speak to their followers?  Simply put, it appeals to one of the most basic desires that a man has in his soul, whether he knows it or not, which is to have a good wife.  The creation mandate, how things were created to be in a perfect world, was that man would have a helpmeet.  He would call her his wife and he would treasure her above all things on earth. God describes this gift in her perfection in Proverbs 31.  She was to be a rare jewel.  The rarity made her precious.

I am partial to the Grand Funk version of “Some Kind of Wonderful”. As a Billboard topper in the 70s and a classic rock pernnial, I have always liked the moderate rock shuffle beat and the jazz style licks.  However just the other day while riding on the tractor mowing pastures, my preferred music theory classroom, I had a revelation about the lyrics.  What the songwriter was saying,  I already knew and just needed reminding.  My wife is “some kind of wonderful.” She is what the writer was describing that he had. Just check out the first stanza and chorus:

I don’t need a whole lots of money,
I don’t need a big fine car.
I got everything that a man could want,
I got more than I could ask for.
I don’t have to run around,
I don’t have to stay out all night.
‘Cause I got me a sweet… a sweet, lovin’ woman,
And she knows just how to treat me right.

Well my baby, she’s alright,
Well my baby, she’s clean out-of-sight.
Don’t you know that she’s… she’s some kind of wonderful.
She’s some kind of wonderful… yes she is, she’s,
She’s some kind of wonderful, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhh

Today is my 27th wedding anniversary and this post is intended to express how thankful I am for my wife and for God’s providence in her.  He has seen fit to give me what I need and what I want all wrapped up in one little package.  He does not always give you what you want and what you need.  In fact it is rather rare that he does because quite often the two are antithetical.  It was actually 34 years ago that I determined that she was what I wanted.  My first experience with high school romance was it.  No playing the field for me.  My mission was to secure for myself that one perfect girl. I was playing for keeps.  Well, as things went initially, I was the only one on board with this plan, not surprisingly of course.  You might say I was a little overbearing.  What on earth was I thinking?  She was a smart, pretty, popular girl and a cheerleader.  I was, well, none of the above.  In my defense,  I’m not sure I was allowed to be a cheerleader, discrimination and all that.  As things normally go, in a world that doesn’t appreciate the possibility of a fairy tale ending, life got in the way.  High school, college, finding a job, and many hurdles along the way, were, by God’s hand, put behind us and our union was complete.  I was completed seven years later.  We tied the knot.

There is, in a certain sense, a rarity to our story.  I quite often am very pleased with myself for “making” this marriage happen.  I guess I should be, although I was obviously such a wonderful catch that she shouldn’t have needed convincing.  In God’s economy, however, he chose for us this path, modeled after the union of Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5), with a few exceptions I suppose. Not the least of which is my poor portrayal of Christ. Rather than prophet, priest, and king, I was agitator, aggravator, and royal pain in the butt.

The truth is that God, in his goodness and mercy, has made the “fairy tale romance” attainable for all of his children.  The true story is found in the union of believers and Christ, and that can be real for anyone whom he has called. The Song of Solomon describes the romantic beauty of our regenerate union with Christ. You may or may not have the spouse you always wanted or have a spouse at all. In the counsel of God’s will he decides what is best for you.  Whether you have a perfect marriage or none at all, you have the opportunity to say you have the perfect husband in Christ, for he is your true love, your first place love and object of your affection.  Take what ever situation you have been given and use it for the Glory of your savior.  Cling to your true, faultless, and always faithful spouse who will not and cannot ever forsake you. He’s some kind of wonderful!

In the words of the Soul Brothers Six:
Can I get a witness?
Can I get a witness? Yeah…
Can I get a witness? Ohhh…
Can I get a witness? Yeah…
Can I get a witness? Yes

 

The Good Ole Days???

“Put out the spotlights, one and all
Then let the feelin’ get down to your soul
The music’s so loud, you can hear the sound
Reaching for the sky, churnin’ up the ground
It’s all part of my rock and roll fantasy
It’s all part of my rock and roll dream”

As a teenager I was in a rock band.  Short lived though it was,  I still have that rock and roll fantasy. The music and the culture influenced me and I’m sure, from my parents perspective, quite negatively. These lyrics from the 1970’s British group Bad Company tell it all.  That period of the 60″s and 70’s greatly influenced young people in the western world to break out of the cultural and moral restraints which they perceived to be in place.   Little did the hippie generation know, they were really a product not of social change but rather a social norm.  Institutions gauged the moral compass and determined there to be a spiraling decline of future mores and values.

Paul Rodgers, the front man for Bad Company, had quite the ironic reason for the name of the band.  While browsing through a 19th century book on morals and etiquette he saw a picture of a young boy looking up at a man leaning against a light post.  The man was portraying what today we might refer to as a thug.  The caption read, “Beware of Bad Company.”  The idea was that you shouldn’t hang out with a bad crowd because they might cause you to behave the same way, BAD.  By naming his band Bad Company Rodgers was basically saying that he new their influence was going to be amoral. Was he, though, part of the degradation of society?   Were the times an indication of a coming apocalypse of moral decay?

From a perspective removed by some 100 years, what was popular in 1970, morally, compared to 1870, makes for an interesting sociological discussion.  During the Victorian era Christian values were promoted and accepted as the norms of society.  Being “good” was popular.  Literature, art, even science promoted the moral improvement of man’s evolution.  Government, both civil and ecclesiastical, declared that high moral standards were the necessary means to a happy end.  The question is, did the people agree?  Was this era of a higher moral standard than that of the free love, dope smoking, rock and rolling era of the 1970’s and beyond?  Are we today, both youth and baby boomers alike, more corrupt than those of the Victorian age or any other age, for that matter?

Being that we have no crystal ball or time machine, we have to trust the recorded history we have available to get any idea of how things were before our own time.  The other problem to consider is the accuracy of the history and how the opinion and perception of the writer of history effects the accounting.  Even I have slanted opinions.  I can be eisegetical.  Today we call it spin.  We can spin any history to fit our position.

Well, I guess you could say that I am putting my own spin own this article.  Okay, I am, but it’s my blog.  Here’s the challenge that I give you. Test the facts.  Start with the scriptures.  If you read the account of man’s history in the bible you see a pretty bleak picture.  From the creation account to the gospels and epistles what is the picture you get of the moral condition of man?  I realize the bible only gives you a history of certain cultures and nations, not the whole world,  but just from what you read, isn’t it obvious that most people were rather immoral.  Now look at secular history from early AD to present.  What is the trend?  Even if you are not a history buff.  Even if your only experience of history is in the movies and TV.  The trend is a general overall improvement in the moral fiber of people as a whole.  I dare anyone to dispute this interpretation.

Let us just look at the Victorian Age in North America.  Remember, we have a relatively short history so it is easy to pick out the trend in our momentary existence.  Right smack dab in the middle of the reign of Queen Victoria, we have the War between the States.  The atrocities committed in the years before, during and after this war are unimaginable.  There had to be some general moral fault that could make the majority of some of the most advanced people group on the planet behave in such a way.  If you wish to compare the riots, murders, theft, abortion, drug addiction, divorce or what ever other debauchery of today, they will not hold a candle to what occurred during this period proclaimed to be the ‘good ole days.’   This was a time when prayer and the bible were in schools, the major universities were church affiliated, and almost all political offices were held by “church going” men.  With all of these attributes in place, which the Christian conservative right rally for today, people were enslaved for economic advantage both in the North through unlivable wages as well as in the south through bondage.  Men slaughtered one another both through military battle and civilian property devastation.  Afterward, a period  called reconstruction was actually legalized theft and economic oppression.  The spoils going to the victor.

What I am driving at is that we cannot assume that things are worse today than in the past.  In fact, I would contend that as far as morality goes, as a whole, things are getting better. There are more followers of Christ alive on earth today than ever before.  The word of God is spreading to every tongue, tribe and nation and the Spirit is making it effectual.  Don’t sit around watching Fox news and drowning in the swell of doom and gloom.  If you do, you are falling for Satan’s scheme to make you doubt the sovereignty of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is King, not the POTUS.  He is gathering a people for himself and does not need the government of any nation to assist him.  Certainly it may be more comfortable to live as a Christian in a Christian theocracy.  Comfort, however, is not necessarily one of the prescribed benefits of Christian society here on earth.

As followers of Christ we must not focus on what we see before our eyes but rather what God tells us in his word.  Don’t be near sighted in the sense that what we see is what is important.  Have faith that God in time past has foreordained everything that has and will come to pass.  I confess that for many years I thought it “Christian like” to fall into the sign of the times camp.  End times theories of war and immorality seemed to always be talking points and motivation for change.  Our motivation for change should be the internal work of the Spirit which only God himself can impart.  God did not set the world in motion by winding it up and setting it down to watch it spin out of control and self destruct.  He carefully works to engineer this world in order to make a more perfect world.

 

For What It’s Worth

Remember how I often mention my difficulty with paying attention?  Well, this post is a direct result of my being distracted for a moment.  Last week, while cutting back a ditch bank in the South Carolina summer heat, plugged into some great oldies, I had a thought that could be applicable for the blog.  The heat could have been responsible, but I rather prefer to believe my fascination with God’s providence in all things brought me to this topic.

Does anyone remember the band Buffalo Springfield?  In 1966 they were the house band at the Whiskey a Go Go, a night club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.  This area was home to the music and club scene, and the gathering place for a generation that would soon be in turmoil as their government was making war on the other side of the world, in a place they had never heard of.   In November of ’66 the city of LA passed a 10:00 curfew ordinance for the Sunset Strip area because of traffic and pedestrian congestion, or so they said, basically shutting down the popular club scene there.  On November 12 as many as 1000 young people staged a protest which became violent. According to witnesses, a fight broke out when the occupants of a car stuck in the traffic started a fight with protesters.  You know what happened next.  The police interpreted the fight to be protester violence and it all went south.  In the days following the riots Stephen Stills, vocalist and guitarist for Buffalo Springfield, and later would be famous as a member of the folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, wrote the song “For What It’s Worth,” also known as “Stop, Hey What’s that Sound.”  The lyrics were inspired by the Sunset strip riots, which deeply affected Stills.  He saw the pent up anger from both the youth culture and the civil government collide on the streets of LA, where no side was a winner.  A few weeks later Stills contacted an Atlantic Records producer and said something to the effect,  “I have this song here, for what it’s worth, if you want it.”  On December 6, “For What It’s Worth,” the title given in jest, was recorded. This solidified the theme song for a generation in turmoil.  While only peaking at #7 on the 1967 Billboard Charts,  today it sits at #63 of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 500.

Obviously when Stills arranged and recorded these lyrics he nor his mates ever considered what an impact they would make.  In the turbulent decade that would follow, these lyrics would inspire young baby boomers who were voicing their desire for cultural freedom, African Americans struggling for social equality, and soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines trying not to die in foreign political campaigns.  Even Forrest Gump would tell his story set to the music of Buffalo Springfield.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Understand, I am no free love hippie and am not promoting civil disobedience.  Nor am I seeking to glorify a musical artist.  What I am highlighting is how in God’s sovereign providence something seemingly benign can work for change, and always for our good and his glory.  Whether you believe that some of the changes brought about by those who were inspired by this song were good, God says that they were. Rom. 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for GOOD…”  For if one of God’s attributes is goodness, then all he does must be good.

You never know how God will use even the most seemingly small event in your life.  The butterfly effect is God’s trademark.  Always remember that behind all you do is an all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present God, who will direct your path with or without your help.  When you speak a small word to a stranger, do the anonymous good deed, or even write a song,  you have started a wave of providence that will have impact on some shore.  Don’t become discouraged that your role as a member of the body of Christ is insignificant.  Even if you doubt your fulfilment of Paul’s instruction to the Romans (12:1), to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, as if anyone does, you can offer your service through your daily walk before men, and trust that God will provide the affect.  Always remember that your efforts are worthy because Christ makes them so.