Monday, October 8, 2012

The Holy and the Common

One thing I love about the church I attend is that we still practice the reading of longer passages of scripture in the service each week. In recent months we have been hearing the book of Ezekiel read aloud. It is easy to get lost in some of the details and visitors may sometimes wonder why we are reading a particular section of the Bible. We read books of the Bible in their entirety so some weeks may seem random for a first-time visitor.
As is often the case when I am reading (or in this case hearing) Old Testament prophets, I will be struck by a simple phrase or statement that is a jewel to be pondered. Yesterday, it was Ezekiel 42:20. The Lord is giving Ezekiel the details and measurements of the new temple chambers when at the end of the chapter he writes, "It had a wall around make a separation between the holy and the common."It hit me that this is something that is lost in our time and culture, even in the church.

There is to be a wall between what is holy and what is common.

That which is common is for everyday use and available to all. There is nothing special about the common. It is precisely that...common. When we take things that are common and try to blend them with the holy, we contaminate the purity of what God has declared as his own and we defile it, making it a stench that dishonors his name,which is Holy. In our services, if we are not attune to the holiness of God we can easily become so focused on being culturally relevant and unoffensive that we lose the holiness and reverence of our gathering to worship the living God, maker and sustainer of all things.

That which is holy is set apart for God and his purposes. God takes people and purifies them, making them holy for himself. Peter writes that we are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9 ESV). We are called saints.

Our lives should be characterized by a pursuit of holiness.

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:13-19 ESV).

We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 7:23 ESV) and do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God and since he has set us apart for his purposes, we are holy.

To preserve the holiness of God's name, we must guared against the temptation for our lives and the church to become common. We must make a separation between the holy and the common.We and the church are anything but common.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sinner's Creed by Scott Stapp

I was stocking groceries at Winn-Dixie on the graveyard shift the first time I heard Creed. Because the store closed at midnight, the crew would alternate choosing the music to listen to. We would play it through the often crackling PA system.  I was a Bible college student at the time in Knoxville, TN at the time and the crew knew what I believed and we had some good conversations about faith and music. One of the guys put on a new CD one night and said to me, “You’ll probably like this one.” He told me it was a new band, Creed, and the name of the album was My Own Prison. He was right, I did like it. I was blown away by the intensity of the lyrics and of course the amazing guitar riffs. Not long after that, everyone knew who Creed was.
I love a good rock and roll story. I also love to hear of people’s journeys of faith. Sinner’s Creed, by Creed lead singer and lyricist Scott Stapp, is both. It is an intimate look into the Stapp childhood home and a backstage pass to the story of Creed.  It is a memoir paved with love and pain, disappointment and success, faith and doubt.  
Stapp recounts with brutal honesty his father’s abandonment of the family and the joy he felt when his mother remarries and his step-father fills in the gap and makes him feel special and loved. But when his step father turns abusive, both physically and spiritually, he was disillusioned. Scott was introduced to rock and roll during this time which was forbidden in his home. At the same time, he was comforted and inspired by the lyrics of King David in the Psalms. Rock and roll would be the best thing that ever happened to him….and the worst.
Creed was born at Florida State University in 1994 and by 1998 My Own Prison had launched them into the big time. Their follow up album, Human Clay, made them megastars. The members of Creed were living their dreams as rock stars, but for Scott Stapp it was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the title of the debut album. He was in his own prison.
Conflict with his bandmates was intensifying because so much focus was on the Christian spiritual themes of his lyrics. The media and many fans were referring to Creed as a “Christian” band, which angered the other members of the band. They never considered themselves to be a Christian band, so what was going on? Scott just wrote what he was feeling and how he wrestled with matters of faith, foundations coming from what he gained from his mother, step- father and grandfather. Scott was also becoming addicted to pain medicines his “rock and roll doctor” was giving him for his throat and he was also drinking heavily.  Needless to say, the combination of all this almost killed him and it did kill Creed for a season. He couldn’t go on.
But God holds on to his people. Scott shares of the deep hurt and his return to God and life-giving faith. His wife and children are motivations for him to press on and he continues to understand the dangers of life as a rock and roller but he knows who is in control of all things. I love how he summarizes the first 3 steps of his recovery from drugs and alcohol. It will also serve as a fitting summary of his memoir, Sinner’s Creed.
1.       Scott can’t
2.       God can.
3.       Scott lets God.
We come Full Circle, like the title of the Creed reunion project. This is a rock and roll story. It is also a story of the journey of faith. It is a painful story. It is an inspirational story. It is Scott Stapp’s story. But ultimately, it is God’s story.  Don’t miss hits the shelves on October 2.
(This book was provided free of charge from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.)