29 May 2014

Reviews, Pt. 2

Part 1 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8 -- Part 9

There's probably a better way to share these than in bunches, but I'd rather not make individual posts for each review.  I want maintain this blog as a venue for personal expression as opposed to transforming it into a forum for music reviews.

Regardless, in case anyone is interested, here's my latest round of reviews (since April 3rd).  For classic prog fans, I recommend Rocket Scientists and Láquesis.  For fans of blues rock, psychedelia, and quirky hooks, Marblewood or These Curious Thoughts.  Backhand is a bit of an enigma -- Latin metal with progressive elements, but a distinct bend toward songwriting.

I've also got albums from five more bands/artists currently on the table: Soup (Norway), Psycrence (Greece), Paving the Labyrinth (South Africa), Yossi Sassi (Israel), and Ghost Town Riot (Seattle).

If you take a listen to any of these, let me know what you think!


Láquesis - Láquesis (Argentina)

Láquesis is a strong debut release, full of powerful ballads, soft instrumentals, and enough musical technicality to satisfy fans of both classic and contemporary eras of progressive rock.
Rocket Scientists - Supernatural Highways (California)

Supernatural Highways is an invigorating, compelling, and thoroughly enjoyable EP, well-written and well-orchestrated, commemorating Rocket Scientists' 20th anniversary.

 Marblewood - Marblewood (Switzerland)

With song structures that are loose, fluid, and supremely high-energy, Swiss jamband Marblewood compose long, blues-influenced instrumentals well-suited to the live performance.

These Curious Thoughts - What is it, and how did it get in there? (UK/Detroit)

These Curious Thoughts write powerful compositions - indie/post-rock at its finest. What is it, and how did it get in there? is unique, strange enough to beg additional listens, and profound enough to demand a few more.

Through the Turbulence accomplishes exactly what its title suggests: the album is full of frenetic solos and rapid sections, and deals with heavy thematic elements, but also showcases the musicians' appreciation for intense dynamic changes and quality songwriting.

24 May 2014


I've had the privilege to be on the teaching side of a 6-week study on ethics (Doing the Right Thing by the Colson Foundation) with the college group at our church.  One of the principles we've frequently encountered over the course of the last month has been the idea of integrity.  I was reminded as we dove into the discussion that there is more to possessing integrity than simply having good moral quality, a positive reputation, or even honesty.  Integrity more than just a moral compass, more than just the intersection of belief and action -- though it is certainly not less than that.

Integrity is wholeness.

It's the secondary definition in Merriam-Webster, but it's ironically the more applicable when it comes to ethics.  If a boat's hull has lost integrity, it is full of holes.  If an argument has no integrity, it is structurally flawed.  By definition, integrity is completeness, soundness, stability.  It means being unified, unimpaired, of sound construction.  Waterproof.

James discusses this idea thoroughly in his epistle to the scattered believers in persecution.  In fact, spiritual integrity -- wholeheartedness -- is the main thrust of his entire argument.  Don't be double-minded, he says (1.8).  Don't separate faith and works into two separate entities, he pleads, because they are two sides of the same coin (2.26).  Don't doubt when you make a request of the Lord, he argues, but have faith that the One you are petitioning not only has the power to assist but also the desire to do so (1.6, 17-18).  Don't yield curses and blessings from the same mouth, he insists, because the practice of slandering is perhaps the quickest way to undermine a testimony of righteousness (3.10).

Don't be subdivided.  Be wholehearted.

There is no room for a Christian to have divided allegiances, even in the midst of such extenuating circumstances as the early church was enduring.  To serve two masters, to devote ourselves to Christ in word alone while our deeds are devoted to serving self, is to have no integrity.  To have no integrity means more than just a breakdown of moral responsibility: it's the inability to live righteously.  When society makes integrity more about the conscience or the ability to do good things, it becomes easy to bifurcate spirituality into religious components, but believers shouldn't separate civil service from the obligation that drives it.

Integrity, wholeness, is a crucial element to Christian living because it informs our hearts, not just our moral behavior.

13 May 2014

Practically, how do I overcome failure and pride?

There are three basic principles of developing Christian fortitude -- that is, a long-suffering, Kingdom-focused attitude entrenched in the grace of God. 

  1. I cannot live in my success
  2. I cannot live in my failure
  3. I must prioritize eternity over the temporary

An eternal perspective is only possible to maintain when I am not consumed with anger over my current predicament, or when I am not enamored with the experience of life.  But how, practically, do we change perspective?  Is it really as simple as "just getting over it?"

Arrogance and regret are intimately juxtaposed.  They are two sides of the same coin -- a coin called pride.  Let's make no mistake about it: both are applications of inflated self-worth and really are the ultimate forms of self-idolization.

When we are consumed by regret, we are refusing to pull ourselves out of the cesspool of self-pity.  We evaluate our problem as too great for God's grace to handle.  We think our sin is special, something no one else has ever committed or could ever possibly understand.  We think it is our right to be miserable over our shortcomings and mistakes.  We take ownership of them instead of surrendering them to the One who has already taken them upon Himself.

Arrogance functions in the exact same way as its twin, but at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Like self-pity, arrogance is incurably comparative and evaluates everything on the basis of what I've done versus what others have accomplished.  It regards blessings as achievements: the mountaintop on which I stand is a right or an entitlement, something I deserve.  It squashes the needs of others in order to meet the needs of self.  Maybe arrogance is the easier aspect of pride to identify, but both sides of the coin are ultimately only concerned with the coin itself, and not the function for which it was minted.

What I'm getting at is this.  To some blunt degree, the answer is yes: it is as simple as "just getting over it."  In either extreme -- arrogance or regret -- we simply need to stop thinking so highly of ourselves, though it's a goal that is certainly much easier to state than to do.  For that reason, I've come up with three practical R's of "just getting over it" that I think are helpful for narrowing down the specific steps we must take in order to progress in our battles with pride and failure.


Paul spoke in Colossians 3 about putting on and putting off -- in other words, replacing old behavior with new behavior.  It's not enough to simply stop lying: becoming a truth-teller necessarily requires us to actively speak truth.  When I'm struggling with lust, it's not enough to simply remove an internet connection or end a sinful relationship: maintaining purity requires me to replace lustful thoughts with pure ones and sinful relationships with wholesome ones.  In the same manner, I need to replace obsession over failure with new goals.  I need to repurpose my regret into a glorified object lesson.  Failure is only failure if we don't learn from it.

As it pertains to arrogance, I need to replace the idols I possess of my own ability and success with humility.  I need to reflect on my failures in order to remind myself of the weaknesses I still possess in order to allow Christ's strength to be revealed in those areas.  I need to return to the basic principles of the gospel: that all have sinned and fallen short, and that there is no other name given among men that can produce salvation.  I need to remember that my identity has been replaced with His -- that it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me, and that my old state of being has been replaced by a brand new creation.  I need to remember that my ambition has been replaced with righteousness.  I need to replace self-contentment with dependence on Him.


The process of re-evaluation means a complete re-orientation of perspective.  When I focus on the present and make my current goals my priority, or obsess over the past and revere the what-ifs as my gods of regret, I make myself the center of my own worldview.  Celebrating my state of affairs is to cross the line from simply being thankful for a temporal blessing to making comfortable living the end of my pursuits.  Regretting the past not only shackles me to self-pity but also presumes that I am the master of my destiny: it halts forward progress.

On the other hand, when I prioritize eternity by making the most of the present via devotion to study of the Word and prayer and living as though my actions have eternal consequences, I return God to the center of my worldview -- to the place He so justly deserves.  Re-focusing my perspective isn't as simple as just looking forward.  It means radical transformation.  It means seeing with new eyes, not just changing my prescription.


Perhaps the greatest and simultaneously most underrated tool of Christian living is fellowship.  We take it for granted and assign it to social functions, but fellowship means accountability.  Nothing kills a sinful desire like confessing it to a peer; conversely, nothing feeds a sinful desire like concealing it.  But we don't want anyone to know what we're carrying with us.  Perhaps we fear they won't understand, or worry that maybe they'll judge us.  Maybe we want to just sit in our own pit of self-loathing and feel sorry for ourselves.  And that's the reason why we relegate "fellowship" to meals after a church service: because we're far too proud to utilize the actual benefits it promises.

In order to move on from failure, we need to consciously counteract the tendency to conceal.  If I have guilt weighing me down, I need to confess that to someone who will not only pray for my healing but also positively encourage me in the steps of restoration.  If I am lazy and contented, I need someone who will challenge me to live purposefully, to radically amputate the areas of my life that are causing my nearsightedness.  If I am arrogant because of the things I've accomplished, I need someone to remind me that the only thing I should be boasting in is the work of Christ in my life, because all of my achievements stacked upon one another don't fill the hollow depths of my soul which only God's grace could fill.

Pride is a disease with lots of symptoms: self-pity and arrogance are only two of them.  If there are warning signs of this struggle, then I need to reveal that tendency to someone who will walk in humility alongside me.


Developing Christian fortitude means living for eternity.

Living for eternity means prioritizing my desire to be with Christ over my desire for the insubstantial things of this world.

Living for eternity means my failures are a moot point and my successes all belong to Christ anyway.

Living for eternity means that my works and the fruit I bear point to His righteousness in me.  It means that the cup of my life runs over with the grace He lavished upon me, a fountain of life of which I am but a conduit, designed to reach into the lives around me.

Living for eternity means living for the Kingdom.


Aren't there healthy applications of pride and regret?

The answer is yes, but the margin for error in either category is enormous.

Regret communicates the idea of a poor choice, so if regret is the motivator to never make that same choice again, then yes - it can be positive.  But regret has this way of hanging around and becoming debilitating.  It can sink us into depression or cause us to hesitate at an opportunity to make the same choice again.  In that regard, regret is only positive if it is a motivator to righteousness.  However, a much better motivator to righteousness is the desire to be like Christ, so if regret is the stepping stone we immediately leave behind in order to get across the river, it certainly has a positive function.  Carrying a bag of regrets on my back throughout life, however, is to be consumed with my own failure.

In the same vein, being proud of something is certainly different than being boastful.  There's an appropriate level of recognition of a job well-done or a skill honed through years of practice.  However, an appropriate level of pride is tempered with humility: someone who possesses great skill is fully aware of his imperfections, of a continual need to improve.  In that regard, accepting a compliment for an achievement is not the equivalent of being arrogant.  Arrogance doesn't recognize the need for compliments or the need to improve.