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Something Amazing Tonight

April 21st, 2007 by Rob Osborn

My wife Elizabeth has been appreciating the fact that I’ve started writing again here in the blog. I’ve been trying to make a habit of getting both some reading and writing in before bed, and lately that has meant staying up pretty late. As Elizabeth was heading to bed awhile ago she said “write something amazing tonight.” So, here It is:

Something Amazing Tonight. Mission accomplished.

In more seriousness though, I’m becoming more and more convicted that I often treat Jesus’ commands in much the same way, making a joke or even a mockery of them. The few people who know me well know that i can justify anything. Tempt me to do something wrong, and i can find a way to justify it in my mind. It’s downright frightening. Elizabeth and i watched the TV show Desperate Housewives for it’s first season and part of the second. Several episodes into the second season one character on the show killed another and was consequently given a polygraph test. He passed the test with flying colors, although he was as guilty as sin, because in his mind he had completely justified his actions. This is an extreme example of the kind of justification i often make for my less-than-holy ambitions.

In His wisdom, God saw fit to instill into my personality a cautiousness that has spared me from much wrong-doing. Although i can justify just about anything, i am usually too timid to act upon my justifications. I don’t like risks, and therefore won’t take them. I’m sorry to admit that this is one of the main things that has kept me as honest as i can honestly claim to be. And this is where i get frustrated and discouraged about the person that i am.

Almost every Bible teaching i’ve been listening to over the past few weeks, from Brent Allen’s sermons over at Old North Church, to the podcasts i’m consuming on a daily basis, have been driving home the conviction that i am not living the life that my Christian faith demands of me. My words, thoughts and actions are not proving themselves to be the fruit that we are supposed to bear as Christians. This fact saddens me–not because i believe that my words, thoughts and actions are the basis for my salvation (which they are not) but because i know that i know that a lack of fruit in my life basically means that i am still an infant Christian who has not fully embraced the abundant life that a true believer should receive. I think that my justification for this (there’s that word again) has been a general distaste for most of what “christian culture” has become in this country, and my haste to get as far away from it as i can. I have been very outspoken, in my small circle of close friends, about the disgust i feel every time i walk into a Christian bookstore. I have even stronger feelings about most Christian radio, and almost every single Christian TV show or Christian movie that i have ever watched. Rather than feeling embarrassed about my obvious lack of spiritual fruit, i’ve been embarrassed to be a part of our Christian culture altogether.

I still feel as strongly as ever about the sad state of the church culture in America today. But I have no right to focus so violently on it while there are still so many areas of disrepair in my own life. Jesus made it clear that we are not to go around removing dust from people eyes while we are blinded by the 2×12 that is protruding from our own. I like removing dust though–i’m good at it. In spite of my own lack of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, and self-control, i’ve got a great knack for recognizing the faults and misdirections in the lives of others. Elizabeth and i joke about how we should hire ourselves out as “life guides”–because we’re both so good at telling people how wrong they are. This is just plain arrogance on my part though. Something i’m not proud of, and something that i hope to distance myself from as i grow closer to Christ.

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Mere Christianity and Love

April 19th, 2007 by Rob Osborn

I find myself softening a bit when it comes to the ferocity of my ideas and convictions. In spite of what some would consider a quiet personality, i have always loved a good debate (if i thought i could win it), and i have a strong opinion on everything–opinions so strong that i told my pastor the other day that they are always right. I was only half joking.

Recently though, i’m starting to understand that there are some things in life and in christendom that are more important than winning the debates that i am so fond of. I don’t really know when this softening started. The last three months of my life have seen a big change in my thoughts and attitudes about a lot of things. Most of these changes have been internal, and have not yet begun to show on the outside through my words and deeds, but they are slowly working their way out. I think that the change simply has a lot to do with the fact that i’m finding myself in strong Christian fellowship again, for the first time in a few years, and the people i’m spending my time with are starting to influence me in many good ways.

One of the changes i am noticing in myself is a sensitivity and a tenderness to the feelings of others. There are really two aspects of this idea that i’m talking about. One is simply a rude habit that i’ve formed over the past few years, and one has more to do with the attitudes of my heart.

The bad habit is that of disregarding people when i sense some urgency to complete a project or an argument or even a spoken thought. Elizabeth knows better than anyone that i have a very disrespectful way of interrupting people mid sentance to interject a thought or an opinion–often ones that are completely unrelated to the present conversation. The friends that i converse with often show me a lot of grace by ignoring this character flaw as often as they do. I am working hard to break myself of the sin of showing others through my interruptions that i think my words are more important than theirs.

The heart attitude is something that i have struggled with for years (sometimes unconsciously). I have always been an empathetic person. I don’t like to see people hurting, and i really don’t like to cause harm to anyone. However, i have on many occasions put my empathy aside for a few moments as i brutally argued any number of different opinions (some important, and some not so much so), under the false assumption that winning the debate in the end would justify tearing someone’s feelings to pieces in the process. I’m sure that i’ve hurt more people than i know of in this way.

Here is the bottom line, and the conviction that God is gently working through the layers of my heart: Few ideas matter most, and a most ideas matter little. I think that the majority of us, especially those with opinions as strong as mine, would be surprised to find out how worthless most of our arugments and debates really are.

The ideas the really do matter are what CS Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” These ideas are the fundamental tennants of the Christian faith, and essential to all believers. Most people reading my blog are born-again Christians, and these ideas are familliar to all of us. We understand that we are saved not by our own labor, but by the work Christ has done for us (by dying as punishment for our sin), and that we must simply accept His free gift of salvation in order to be saved. I am not a theologian or scholor, but i understand this to be the central and most important concept of our faith.

There are miriads of other ideas that are not as important, and that shouldn’t distract us from the basics. Most of us have run into debates (either intentionally or by compulsion) about predestination vs. free will, baptism, spiritual gifts, communion, Bible translations, and any number of the other things we like to challenge each other with. I am not saying these issues shouldn’t be discussed, debated, pondered and prayed about. I am saying that i believe it is more important to love each other than it is to agree on each one of these secondary issues. I have often been guilty of putting my opinions over my love for others. For this i apologize to all of you, and ask for forgivness.

Derek Webb has a new album being released on May 1st. I have, in the past, been somewhat outspoken about my dislike for much of Derek’s recent work, but this new album is striking a chord with me. I pre-ordered the CD last week (and was therefore given the chance to download an mp3 copy), and one song in particular really hit me right in the middle of all of these thoughts. The song is called “I Don’t Want to Fight” and really gets to the heart of this issue. The lyrics are some of Derek’s most profound in recent years, and deserve to be pondered by all of us. Here they are for consideration.

don’t want to be right anymore
I don’t want to be good
I don’t want to change your mind
to feel it like I do

I don’t wanna sell graves
peddle them door to door
a little something to ease your mind
and prepare you for what’s in store

[Chorus]
I don’t want to fight
brother I’m not joking about peace
we can have it here tonight
it all comes down to you and me

you never asked me to save anyone
not in whole or in part
like I was some kind of Holy Ghost
come to change their hearts

[Chorus]

you know the tree by the fruit
but just between me and you
I never do what I want
I do what I’m taught
and I’ve been learning a lot
about the violence I’m capable of

so I’m walking away from this
before I hurt someone
‘cause I’m facing enemies
on both sides of the gun

Derek really hits the nail on the head when he talks about “the violence i’m capable of.” I am a dangerous person when i allow myself to engage in argument–because i want to win. All of us, in some way, have the potential to hurt each other–and we do it for such stupid, selfish reasons. For me, it all comes down to pride and my desire to feel like i have control of my life. Winning a debate, no matter how stupid or how small, allows me to put a mark in the win column. But at what price?

I hope that all of you who are reading this realize that i am preaching to myself. I am the man who needs to learn to love my brothers and sisters. I need to learn to hold my tongue and consider the impact of my words. I need to walk away from argument for agruments sake and stop the ‘violence’ before it begins. I simply need to love more than i do now. I would like to ask all of you to pray for me, and to hold me accountable to these words.

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Covered In Eyes

April 18th, 2007 by Rob Osborn

Anyone who knows me well knows that i am a very introspective person by nature. If you listen to any number of my songs you’ll see that the common thread is a general dislike for myself and the person i have become. In reality i focus much too much of my attention on myself–a practice that has never served me well. I wish that i could claim that so much self-examination is making me a better person. But i think that the real, gut-kicking truth is that a big part of me likes being able to be so down on myself all the time. It’s easier to lament myself than it is to fix myself. And we all know how lazy i am.

This is a problem that i have been attempting to remedy lately. I’ve decided to make an effort to focus my attention on more important things than myself. Just to be fair to all, i’ll state that this will be a slow transition. Changing such a deeply ingrained personality trait cannot happen overnight (save for some sort of miracle–a miracle that would be counter productive in my case since it would only allow me to stay lazy). I’m hoping though, that the baby steps of transformation will be evident in the near future.

One of the steps i’m taking is to spend more time thinking about the Bible. Since i’ve become a lazy reader, and my quiet times have been nearly non-existent over the past few months, i’m trying to supplement reading with a few daily (and i hope, well chosen) podcasts. Two of those podcasts, “The Winning Walk, with Dr. Ed Young” (Dr. Young happens to be the father of Cliff Young, founder of Caedmon’s Call–the band responsible for the message board where Elizabeth and i met), and “Renewing Your Mind with RC Sproul” just happen to be studying the book of Revelation right now. Revelation has always seemed daunting to me, so it’s been really interesting to hear these two pastors discussing it.

In today’s lecture, RC Sproul was teaching about the angels that are mentioned in Revelation 4. Specifically, he was talking about the fact that John describes them as being covered with eyes in front and in back. It was a fascinating discussion, but one thing in particular jumped out at me–the concept of our greatest hope as believers–the hope that we will someday have “The Vision of God.” Basically, that we will finally see God in His fully revealed glory.

RC talked about the fact that we cannot see God not because of our humanness, but because of our sin. When Adam fell in the garden God made the decree that we could not see Him without resulting death. These aren’t foreign concepts to me and not really what interested me today. The concept that intrigued me was the fact that when we finally see God, it won’t be with our eyes.

The illustration that RC used was the idea of watching a football game on TV. What we are actually seeing is a representation of the game–an image that has been turned into some sort of transmission, beamed through the air, and that is reinterpreted by our television set for our eyes. We are not seeing the actual game, but a picture of it. He took that another step further, however, and made the point that even if we were sitting in the stadium watching that game in person, we are still seeing only an image. Our eyes receive light that is reflected to them, and send that to our brains, which reinterprets it and sends it to our minds. Our physical senses bring an image of what is around us to our minds. Often, that image is tainted by any number of factors, and is not exactly the reality of what is going on around us.

This makes a lot of sense to me as someone who spends a lot of time recording music. One of the terms i’m familiar with in the recording world is “signal path.” This is the path the sounds travel from their beginning to their end. For instance, the sound that leaves my acoustic guitar is picked up by the microphone. The microphone converts the sound into electric impulses that travel down a wire to the microphone preamp. The microphone preamp amplifies the sound, making it loud enough to be usable, and sends it on down the ‘path.’ Eventually, the sound ends up on the CD, after passing through many different stages in the signal path.

I realize that i just lost most of you with my geekyness, but try to hang in there with me. Signal path is important when i’m recording music because every stage along the way changes the original sound that came out of my guitar. And, if i’m not careful, the end result will be nothing like the original guitar sound. Therefore, it is very important to keep the signal path as short as possible–to keep it as pure and untainted as it can be. Our physical sense are a signal path, so to speak, that bring reality to our minds. However, when we finally have “the vision of God” or “beatific vision,” when we are finally in God’s presence, we won’t see Him with our eyes, hear Him with our ears, or feel Him through our sense of touch–our mind will have an immediate perception of God that is not a result of our senses. It will be the direct knowledge of God–untainted, unhidden and pure.

This is a concept that has my head reeling. I’m a stupid, stupid man. I have wrapped all of my thoughts and opinions about God and about my faith up into tidy little packages and bundles. I read something like “someday we’ll see God face to face” and in my mind i picture myself standing before God’s throne and looking up at Him with my two human eyes. But i’m learning, so very slowly, that wrapping God up in such small packages is nothing more than a waste of wrapping paper. If nothing else, this small revelation of what it will be like to actually “see” God has moved me to ponder what larger truths i’ve always taken for granted.

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