Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Murmurs from the Mundane: "Culture: And the World became a Hotspot for Weirdoes"

Living out in the countryside has its perks: it’s a lot cleaner than an urban environment, it’s a lot quieter than a city, and, let’s face, on the whole, it’s more beautiful to look at. Nature surrounds you whichever way you go, exploding into each and every sense of the human existence.

On the other hand though, the big downside, or one of them anyway, is that it can get very lonely. While the joys of family life do detract from this somewhat, if you’re like me, you like to hang out with people your own age. This isn’t a problem if you have friends living in the immediate vicinity, but again, for me, the closest friend is located roughly an hour, maybe an hour and a half away.

It’s because of this feeling that I love having friends over at my house. It gives them a chance to take a break from their ordinary day lives, and it relieves me of that loneliness that seems to play a huge part in mine.

I recently had a couple of friends over for a single night while my parents were away on holiday. And because I live in the middle of nowhere, we couldn’t do anything the “hip” young adults would do in a situation like that; we didn’t go to a dance club, we didn’t avail of alcoholic beverages, we didn’t even cause a little bit of a ruckus…ok, we caused a ruckus with my sleeping pattern, but that was as far as it went. All we really did was bake, played some video games, listened to some music, and watched some quality and some trashy TV. In the end, it was a perfect weekend of sorts.

Its funny how, even in a few short days like that, we can experience something we know as “culture.” I’m not going to bore you with a precise and detail description on what it is exactly; that’s what a dictionary is for. In fact, I don’t think a dictionary can fully sum up what “culture” is. We can fill up the majority of the answer; that it is the view and belief of a group of people determined on place and thinking, or to put it in even simpler terms, the way in which someone conducts their life. But is that really all it depends on, a location and a means of contemplation? Because of this, it’s been very hard to write this chapter in some sort of way that’s as engaging as the previous. Hopefully I won’t have bored you too much by the time you reach the end.

If you were to ask what culture meant to a group of Greek philosophers, they would say something along the lines of their belief in terms of the spiritual. Ask a group of teenagers today, and they’ll say its all about celebrities and technology. So what’s the key factor that we all seem to forget?

Time. Culture, as we know it, is hugely impacted upon by time. As time moves forward, the culture of a place or group of people changes. We can see this in our own life time, with the integration of home computers in our daily goings-on. And this is just one example; the introduction of new technologies, changing political structures, vast and confusing ideologies. The church is not immune to this, seeing the rising of new and bold movements, the most common examples being the rise and fall of the emergent church, and the continued efforts of the “prosperity gospel.”

Because of the fact that culture, in itself, is so vast and complex, I can’t really give an aspect of it that we tend to forget. Rather, it is in comparison to culture that we tend to forget parts of the very nature and character of God Himself.

You may be wondering why I went on such a big spiel above on how culture is influenced by time. The reason is we can use this to compare culture against God. Whereas culture is directly impacted upon by time, God isn’t. The whole concept that He is the unchanging God is lost on us, not because we don’t know it, but because we rarely look at the gravity of the statement, as God Himself states in Malachi 3:6;

“For I the LORD do not change…”

- Malachi 3:6a

We’re often reminded of the fact that God doesn’t change. However, we only think of this in terms of our own existence. It’s uncommon for us to realise that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. While its easy to say this, we really need to think this through; the God who created the heavens and the earth is the same God who was born in a food trough; the God of men such as Moses, Abraham and David is the same God of a couple of fishermen and a tax collector; the God whom songs were sung of is the same God who was jeered and mocked on the way up to be crucified.

And not only is the God of the Old and New Testaments the same, but He is the same today. More so, He was the same God before He created the heavens, and He will be the same in His kingdom which will come.

Not only can we compare the nature of God and the nature of culture in terms of time. Before I even wrote that paragraph on time, I talked about the definition for what culture is. And when I finished, it all came down to two things; location and a means of contemplation.

Just as culture varies with time, so too does it vary with the location which it is in. While there may be a near global culture in relation to technology (at least in the 1st World,) there are many aspects of culture which are unique to a specific place. Ireland is a prime example; here we have a small island nation, with a population of roughly 4 million in the Republic, which loves to have a bit of “craic.” What is craic you ask? To be honest, it’s hard to put a definition on what it means exactly. But one thing can be observed; no where else on the planet do they have “craic” the same way the Irish do.

Obviously this change depending on region isn’t limited to entertainment. The language, economic and political system, morals and laws, ideologies, transport, architecture, food, music, night life, work, etc, all depend on area.

It will come as no shock then to find that God is once again on the completely opposite side to this. How so? Simple;

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…””

- John 14:6

Jesus Himself says it oh so very clearly; there is one God. That’s it. We often look at this passage and completely forget the connotation of the word “the,” being the definite article. Jesus is a way, or a truth, or a life, He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. He Himself clearly and emphatically states that the only way to heaven is through a relationship with Him. Some people outside and inside the church are guilty of forgetting this; those outside have come up with various religious systems and ideologies, and the ones inside, and out, have placed greater emphasis on worshiping money, power, fame, sex and the like. We have all become idolaters in one way or another. Unlike culture, in which there are many different ones depending on location, there is only one God, something that we all need to be reminded of daily.

While culture may vary over time and location, there is one aspect of culture, its nature that remains constant. I said that the nature of culture changes, and while that it is, there is always something which is common in all instances of culture.

Let’s once again take modern youth as an example. We said that culture for a group of teens today would be about the celebrity status and making sure they had the latest gadgets. If we contrast that to, let’s say, British medieval individuals, a large part of their culture would be the strict following of religious rules and laws. What’s the one thing that both of these examples have in common? I admit, because of the fact that its very hard to think of two examples like these, and even in the fact that the examples themselves are not all that great to begin with, it may be hard.

Both are devoted to the self. It kind of links back to the idolatry that we talked about earlier on. In the two instances here, and in the others not mentioned, a large part of culture is devoted to self. And when we are focused on self, sin crops up. To put it in slightly easier terms, much of culture, today and as a whole, is sinful. The devotion to greed, fame, power, lust, sex, acceptance, image and status, all linking back to envy and pride, is what this culture is built on.

God, however, isn’t sinful. Rather, He’s the complete opposite, being holy, as the angels declare in Isaiah 6:3;

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

- Isaiah 6:3

There’s so much focus on God being loving and forgiving that we tend to overlook the fact that, unlike the world where we live, God is set apart and different from the whole of creation. God is holy, and because of this, He cannot be in the same place as sin. Where sin exists, God cannot live because of His very nature. In the same way, we also forget that good is a good and just God;

“The Rock: His works are perfect, and the way he works is fair and just…”

- Deuteronomy 32:4 (MSG)

Something that I’ve learned to be reminded of all the time is that God has no obligation to this sinful world with this sinful culture. He has every right to leave us and start a new creation without ever thinking back on us. The fact is though, He chose out His good and just nature to set into motion a rescue plan which would span millennia, culminating in the death of Jesus on the Cross. Through the death of His Son, we see the holy and just nature of God. Not only that, but through Jesus, we have an opportunity to escape this sinful culture, and live a life holy and pleasing to Him…

Monday, July 19, 2010

Murmurs from the Mundane: "Body: One Giant Leap for Humankind"

I’m what you might call accident-prone. Not a lot of people realise this, but it’s something I have to almost remind myself, or be reminded by myself, daily. For someone whose diet is not particularly balanced, I seem to have a lot more energy than would be expected. Normally this energy proves to be useful, but whenever I have so much that a bash my head on a door frame while skipping down our very short corridor, it can prove to be a bit hazardous.

I remember the first proper accident I had. There were times before this when I was genuinely sick, but those instances were out of my hands. I was over in my nana’s house, y’know, because that’s what you do when you’re 3 years old. I was in the kitchen, just standing about, not really do anything. My nana, Kathy, left me alone for some reason which I can’t remember. And if you don’t learn anything from this story, just remember not to leave a two year old in a kitchen alone…

Especially if there’s a freshly brewed pot of coffee just in reach of his hands. Also make sure he has something to protect his feet so that he doesn’t get second degree burns on his tiny little walkers.

I think, while being accident prone is something which is out of our hands, it goes against the whole concept that the Bible talks about, when it says;

“…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own…”

- 1 Corinthians 6:19


And while my clumsiness may just slightly infringe on that whole idea, it’s something we all tend to forget from time to time. Whether it is in terms of over-working our bodies, to our diet, even to items or objects which attach to this vessel, this body we’ve been given, while in no way perfect, is a temple of a part of the Triune God. Hopefully by the end of this chapter, through some stories and what not, we might just learn a thing or two about this thing we call a body.

I get scared very easily, probably because it’s the way God designed me. But there was one time when I was four which had me quivering in a boots, or some other sort of analogy, for a long time after. Getting up as a four year old wasn’t exactly what you’d call eventful; get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, watch some cartoons, and head off to school. There’s not a whole lot that can go wrong with that sort of routine.

That is of course if you can actually get up…which on one day would have happened, but would’ve required everyone that came within a 5 kilometre radius of me to wear ear plugs due to the absolute pain I was in, and consequently, the screams which bellowed from my tiny voice box.

To this day, I’m still not sure what was wrong with me. I couldn’t walk without being in physical pain, and from what I could gather, I contracted some sort of bacterial infection in my legs which acted a lot like arthritis. As you can imagine, for a four year old, it was terrifying. I mean, I had gotten sick before, but nothing on this sort of scale.

Anyway, after a week on some form of medication, and plenty of rest in the hospital, I was finally able to walk again without acquiring a sore throat in the process. And life went on as normal for me. But as I grew older, I kept getting cramps in my legs, particularly at night. My mum, who’s a nurse, said it was an after effect of that bacterial infection I had when I was a child, and that, from what she knew, I would experience this sort of thing for the rest of my life.

Here’s what I’m trying to get at; whatever you do to your body, there’s gonna be consequences. The whole thing of there’ll be repercussions for every action is still very true, but we seemed to have forgotten about this when it comes to our physical well-being. This ranges from good effects, to negative ones, such as my cramps. We rarely think about what will happen to us if we eat a certain way, exercise a certain amount, perform dangerous actions, or some not so dangerous. Proverbs 6:27 talks about consequences, and while it is mainly referencing to adultery, it may just be a helpful reminder for when we come to eat 20 Easter eggs all in one sitting as soon as that time rolls around…not that I’ve done that, of course…

“Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?”

- Proverbs 6:27

There’s another story to do with how I’ve treated my body over the past decade or so. I used to be quite an avid martial arts connoisseur. I’ll admit I wasn’t going to be able to take on Jackie Chan without seriously contracting a serious case of getting my back side handed to me, but I’d like to think I wasn’t bad bad.

Anyway, I practice a style of martial arts called Ninpo from when I was about 12 or so up until I was 14. The day of our practice came up, and it was time to perform some flying shoulder rolls. Normally when you do this sort of thing, it’s all very safe. And that’s what I thought that day as well. I ran, jumped, and rolled, but when I landed, something didn’t feel right, as if I had landed awkwardly. My shoulder wasn’t feeling its best, and at first I decided that that was enough…

This was before I decided to, against my common sense, have another go. And guess what? I landed awkwardly again. And you know what happened? I become the proud owner of a broken clavicle.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the tale, because the idea I want to submit to you is right there in the above paragraph. Against my own better judgement, I decided to push my body’s physical limit, and in the process, ended up with something that still pains me to this day.

Here’s the thing; we get so caught up in trying to keep our body in peak condition, or we try to just go that extra bit further when it comes to exercise that we normally end up hurting ourselves in some way. Put simply, sometimes we need to give our bodies a break.
Now I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t break past the limit of what we’re capable of. If we never did that, then we’d never know our breaking point. Nor am I saying not to go the extra mile. I’m purely talking about this in a physical aspect. We need to rest. I’ve been hurt physically enough in my life to understand that the body we’re given is pretty damn fragile. We can’t just go chucking it about for hours on end without taking a bit of respite.

One aspect of Matthew 11:28 that I think we tend to forget is the physical point;

“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

- Matthew 11:28

When Jesus says this, we always assume that He’s talking in a solely spiritual sense, that if we’ve got troubles in our spiritual lives that He’ll give us respite from them. And while this is so very true, we often don’t look at the fact that, in conjunction with the numerous miracles of healing He performed, He’s faithful to give us physical rest as well. This is the God-Man who for most of his life probably worked a blue collar job with His earthly dad as a carpenter. So if anyone knows when its time to take a break from exercising, its Him.

In the summer of 2010, I was privileged to take part in a week long activity called “Urban Soul,” based in the capital, Dublin. Around 200 teens and young adults gathered to work in different community projects around the city centre and the outskirts too. The majority of my time there was spent gardening in some old folks’ homes based in the Liberties, an area of the city full of life, and in desperate need of development.

I have to say I’m not a huge fan of manual labour. That’s probably because of all the time I’ve spent on the couch watching some absolutely horrible shows on the television instead of getting outside and exercising. But when it comes to physical, I can be pretty lazy. So for me to garden for three days straight, it was a pretty big accomplishment.

But as I was wondering how I should end this section, a verse I had always thought about popped into my head;

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

- Romans 12:1

This is something I forget all the time. Not only are our bodies a temple for the Holy Spirit, but they are meant to be a sacrifice of love. The work we perform on a day to day basis is something more than a means of getting a wage at the end of the week. The work that we’ve been given (and I think we’ve even forgotten that we’ve been given work) is meant to be something more.

In light of this, Urban Soul was more about loving God then it was about fixing up a garden, or painting a classroom. With the bodies we’ve been graced with, we can love God, by offering them up as a sacrifice. This is, in one sense, what Jesus did on the cross, offering His broken body up as a sacrifice to His Father. We forget this so much of the time, and yet it’s right in front of us. And while God perhaps doesn’t call us to be nailed to a hunk of wood to be deemed worthy of a sacrifice, the work that we do everyday of our lives, if done in His power, is completely and fully “holy and acceptable to God,” as a sacrifice…

Monday, July 12, 2010

Murmurs from the Mundane: An Introduction

I had a conversation with myself not too long ago. To anyone aside from me, that would sound quite weird. I don’t do these sort of things because I’m some sort of ├╝ber loner, or because I have nothing better to do. I like talking to myself, partly because I’m a very private person, and so questioning certain aspects of life by oneself remains hidden behind…well…whatever people who talk to themselves hide behind.

I also like talking to myself because I’m not really a confrontational person. As much as I love to stick up for what I believe in, I must admit I don’t like the whole perception of confrontation. You’d never think it; I mean, I can be vocal about topics and beliefs I hold true to, but rarely will I get physical in anything. Talking to myself means I can eliminate that whole aspect of my social skills.

But out of all the reasons why I converse with my own being is because you can’t get interrupted. I know that you can lose a train of thought and you might consider that an interruption, but an interruption to me is someone outside of myself butting in on a conversation while I’m full swing…

At least, I thought I could be uninterrupted…

The topic for the conversation was what to do for the summer. I had a few pre-made activities to partake in, but for the majority of what was set to be one of the greatest summers ever, I had gotten relatively little to do. I was getting into a good bit of banter with myself about different books that could keep me occupied for those lazy days in the summer…

And then Dad showed up.

I should explain. While I am stuck in the back-end of nowhere for most of the time with my family, including my dad, my other Dad is everywhere I go. Creepy sounding I admit, but that’s the kind of guy…I mean, God that He is.

Anyway, Dad decided to drop in unannounced into this conundrum I had dug myself into. Whenever Dad shares His two cents on a matter, it’s always worth listening to. He didn’t say a whole lot, verbally anyway. He rarely does, to me anyway. Rather, He tends to plant ideas which could only come from someone outside of myself. And that idea spawned this series. All He “said” was this;

“What have you forgotten?”

Another thing which is pretty obvious from the above statement is that a lot of what He says can be, on occasion, quite hard to understand. Mind you, I guess He wouldn’t be revered as having a great mystery about Him without something like this cropping up.

But it’s an interesting little statement isn’t? I mean, it could be taken on so many different levels. He could be reminding me had I forgotten that dinner was ready an hour ago and was probably gone cold, or I could’ve forgotten why I stopped watching the curse-ridden show that it Glee…OK, the last one will never be forgotten, but I needed something to fill the space.

But I think what Dad was reminding me about were the things that we take for granted in this life. I’m sure all of you have heard the little tale of a group of friends and myself getting jumped during the summer of 2010. If not, it’s bound to be bouncing around the internet somewhere. And the one thing that I took away from that evening was how precious and fragile this life is. There’s so much stuff we’ve been given that we often overlook them, or in my case, completely forget about them. This very life, the life we’re living is a gracious gift given by the only one who can give it;

“If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

- Romans 5:17

And so this book is devoted to reclaim these forgotten items. In this book, I’ll take a look through the different aspects of life which have been given to us, and yet which we need reminding of their power, presence and purpose in our lives.

This is going to be a good one guys…

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Angry God, and Broken Michael W Smith CDs...

In case you haven't realised, I can be quite an angry person...

Its true...

Ask my mum...

I get angry far more often that I'd like...

I get angry at really stupid little things. An example? Last night I got angry because the covers on my bed weren't big enough...

Stupid little thing...

That's not to say that I don't get angry at big things either. The cowardice of a lot of Christians...that really ticks me off. Its equivalent to someone going up and punching a complete stranger square in the jaw for no apparent reason. It makes me very angry.

Hold on, you might say...Christians aren't meant to be angry.

Right?




Wrong.

Despite what modern culture and the media, and even some pastors say, Christians get angry. Its a fact. We're human. Its not because of our sin nature that we get angry. Its because we're made in the image of God.

Jesus gets angry. He gets angry quite a lot.

We've just read the passage where He's chucking over tables and throwing merchandise in the temple so many times that its lost its power.

It'd be like Jesus walking into a Christian book shop, and deciding to burn the entire self help section, all the while crushing Michael W Smith CD's.

Now wait a second there Phil. God isn't angry, God is love!

Very true. I won't deny that. The Bible clearly states that God is love. If I were to deny it, I'd be denying a big part of scripture.

But more often than not, God is attributed in scripture to being holy and righteous and just. And so He gets angry.

At what?

Sin...

and sinners...

But what about hating the sin and loving the sinner? What about that Phil?

That's never mentioned in the Bible. What is mentioned however is that, in places such as the Psalms, that God hates all that do evil, ie. sin.

Read that again...

God hates ALL that do evil.

Not just some, ALL. That includes you and me.

I'm not supposed to tell you this. Christians are meant to be nice, that's how much of the world perceives us.

Yes, we're meant to be kind...but we're meant to tell the truth...even if it offends people.

Really?

Yep...in case you haven't figured this out, we worship a guy who got murdered, who claimed that there is only one way to salvation, and it is through Him. The cross is an offence. And if we don't proclaim it as such, then we're lying to people.

I'll stop with the whole "Rob Bell" style of writing.

Seriously, if we don't proclaim what is written and what we believe without sugar-coating it, we're lying to the world. And ultimately we're offending God by not proclaiming His word. So if its to come down to offending God, or offending a person, the person's gonna get it every single time. Its ridiculous how Christians today are so cowardly! Why? Cause they're afraid of what the people they're talking to will say!

That shouldn't matter. God is the only one who should matter, what He thinks is the most important thing in our lives. Not the opinions of idiots. Cause lets face it. We're all idiots. Maybe not by choice, but we are by nature. After all, we turned down a happy relationship with God for an apple...

But there's no excuse for us not to proclaim that Jesus is the Savior of all man-kind, and if you don't believe in Him, then you my friend are going on a very long holiday...tempurature...INFINTLY HOT!

In case you don't realise, I'm describing hell, although not a lot of people seem to get my humor.

We're made in the image of God, and if God gets angry, then so should we! Its incongruent with who He made us to be. The verse from which this all stems from is Nehemiah 13 v 8;

"And I was very angry..."

The gist of the story is this. Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem, rebuilds the city, constructs a new temple, and gets people to start running it. He goes off back home, and then when he's an old guy, finds out that the city is being run by God haters, and that the people of the city are acting like douches and falling back into old habits. So he goes, kicks out the God haters, and hires new guys to make sure that its run smoothly.

And the whole back drop on this is the following...its OK to get angry. What depends is whether its righteous or unrighteous anger. Lorcan knows what I'm talking about here, I've had this convo with him before. Righteous anger is being angry for the right reasons and responding in the right way. Unrighteous anger is being angry for the wrong reason and/or responding in the wrong way.

If someone was to get raped for example, they're allowed to be angry. Who wouldn't be! Its a sign that we're agreeing with God!

And I know this post has been kinda jumpy, going back and forth between one idea and the other. But I'll close with this. The reason why Nehemiah came back to fix the problem in Jerusalem was that the guys in the city weren't going to fix it.

Its the same with Jesus. God saw the problem of sin, saw that we weren't going to fix it, and so sent Jesus. And here's the thing. Jesus died for our sins. But not only that, He propitiated the wrath and anger of God from us to Himself. Simply put, He took the beating that we should be getting from God.

Earlier on I said that God is angry with all of us. I jumped the gun there. There are people out there that God is angry with.

But...if you've accepted Jesus as Savior, you can sleep easy...

He got his metaphysical ass kicked for you.

Let Him be the Nexus of your life...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Life As Of This Minute...

So I haven't blogged in quite a while. Thought it might be an idea to change that.

"WELCOME BACK PHIL! WELCOME BACK TO THE BLOGOSPHERE!" I hear you calling, and it is very much appreciated, I can assure. Life has been pretty hectic for me the past little while, although the chances of you being someone I know is very great, and so you already know that little fact.

School is...well school...I have to be honest, I'm not very much enjoying the whole pressure dealio. I mean, seriously, there's like way too much pressure on LC goers, its ridiculous. Thankfully, I've had friends who have been able to calm me down, as well as knock some sense into me. Plus, my teachers are like so supportive. I'm the guy in class who carries way too much in his school back, so much so I wouldn't be surprised if I had to visit a chiropractor at some stage before the end of the year. But because of this, it can take me a little while to pack up my stuff. This gives each of my teachers the chance to ask me how I'm doing. Like seriously, my English teach is like one of the most supportive persons I know. She's always asking me how I'm doing, checking on me to make sure I don't stress out too much. She's even told me not to worry at all about the Christmas Exams coming up in two weeks. The may not seem significant, but its like such a big comfort to know that the teachers know what I'm capable of, that they say to take it easy for these exams, and just get ready for the mocks.

Apparently I'm also filming this is years Christmas Concert...which is kinda odd, seen as I have no idea what I'm going to be doing...seriously...I say seriously a lot don't I?

While from the above paragraph it may seem that my life isn't enjoyable, I would disagree. I am loving my life right now! I mean, I'm just thinking about school, but in like 7 months time, my exams will be finished and done with! Man, that really isn't a whole lot of time... I mean, the first 2 months flew right by. Its going to be awesome to be able to have lie ins, and not worry about comparing Wuthering Heights and Casablanca on Literary Genre...

But back to the loving of life, I'm really enjoying school to be honest. Its the stress I don't like, but that'll pass in time! I'm also loving all the down time I'm getting with my friends. You guys really are awesome, I don't know what I'd do without you guys. I mean, the Saturday before I was due to go back to school, I was invited out of the blue to go to a Tim Burton fest. I got drenched, didn't get a whole lot of sleep, but man did I just love hanging out the guys for an evening.

And of course, lets not forget about God. Ahh God...what HASN'T He done over the past little while? I've been able to rely more and more on Him when I need. That's not to say that I love Him just for what He's done over the past little while. To be honest, He's done something which have brought me to tears...but the thing about God that I'm really discovering, learning, and loving about is that He never changes.

Never.

Ever.

Never.

I may change, and my feelings toward certain people, certain situations, the world and Him may change too...

But He Doesn't.

Maybe I forget to pray one day.

He doesn't change.

Perhaps I say something I shouldn't, or do something I shouldn't do.

He stays the same.

And the other thing that I'm loving at the moment is God's foreknowledge. I am loving the doctrine of predestination! I know some of you may not be inclined towards that train of thought. I know, I've had conversations with you. This doctrine isn't something to be argued over, its something to be praised! The fact that God saves anyone is by itself a gracious miracle. The fact that He sent His Son to die for our sins is something else. That fact that He calls forward elect is remarkable!

"...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."

-Ephesians 1 v 4-6


God has been revealing wonders to me, and I am just so excited about the plan He has for my life. I've already got a meeting with my two pastors to talk about different Bible College, and will at some stage be looking for a group of guys to be going up to the Mandate in Belfast next year.

If I was to summarise this post into 3 words, they would be the following;

Jesus is AWESOME!!!

Let Him be the Nexus of your life.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ohh Music, Wherefore Art Thou Music...?

Surprise surprise, I love music.

Let me stress that again;

I LOVE MUSIC.

If you read my 100th blog, you'll have seen that I have a huge love and admiration for a number of artists. And through the course of 2009, there was a significant growth in my admiration. And upon seeing some of my friends writing posts based on new albums and what not, I thought it would only be right if I gave my two cents.

And so begins my mammoth task of sifting through the proverbial mountain of new music that has come across in the past 12 months or so. However, I do wish to point something out. I love Jesus. *Gasp!* Really? I hadn't noticed from the reference to Jeremiah at the top of your blog, writing consistently for about 6 months on the work of the cross...you're kidding me!?

Shocking as it may seem, it is in fact true. But without spinning off into a tangent, I must add the following addendum. Just because I love Jesus, doesn't mean that I have to love Christian music. There are a lot of wing nut Christians out there who have crazy theologies who write music. And while I'm not saying that I don't love them, I do, what I am saying is that people need to be discerning when it comes to music. It just so happens that I do love Christian music, because the band I listen to are quite sane in their doctrinal beliefs...And because I've sounded like a pastor guy talking about doctrinal beliefs, chances are you've lost interest. Ohh well...

So over the past 12 months, the music that I'll write about has been split into two categories. 1st being artists that I already know and love releasing new albums. The other section is where artists that I never knew about suddenly came into my field of vision. Hopefully I'll get both done so that you'll still be alive by the time you come to comment.

So new albums first off. Well there have been quite a lot of new albums. Muse's "The Resistance," U2's "New Line On The Horizon," Skillet's "Awake," and so on...but here I hope to write about the albums which to me stuck out this year. That's not to say the above albums aren't good, they just aren't as good as the others. Truth be told, I wanted to write this quite a bit back so that I could consider "Brand New Eyes," and while it is a cracking album, it doesn't have the spark that the other albums do.

So let's kick things off with a band who you may have vague recollection of, Mute Math and their new release "Armistice." The reason why you might recognise them is the fact that their single from their album, "Spotlight" featured in the "blockbuster film" twilight. Yes, I despise the series so much it doesn't deserve inverted commas of capitalisation. But I digress.

I'll openly admit that Mute Math is not everyone's cup of tea. Quite the opposite in fact. Consider it a ix of techno rock, with dashes of Paramore driving beats, and lyrics to match any John Mayer song (more on him later). Its an odd blend. What I think drew me to the album so much is the maturity of it. Listen to their first album, a masterpiece in its own right, and listen to "Armistice" and you'll see where I'm getting at. For a band that's as original as Mute Math, there is a lot of depth and passion behind the lyrics. Honestly I could recommend the whole album, but I'll give you verse to one of the songs, entitled "Lost Year;"

Hold on to the way we started,
How it all should've gone,
Somewhere love was disregarded

And it all came undone, undone.

'Cause nothing's a breeze,
We suffer, we bleed,
For two hearts to beat as one.
We learn as we go,
At least now we know,
Something we can't become, become.


Second band that has delivered some new piece of work to the fray is...no its not The Fray, but rather Thousand Foot Krutch, or TFK for short. I'm not gonna lie, I do occasionally love to head bang...by myself admittedly, but still...and what I've loved about TFK is the fact that they can be deep, while still making you want to start a mosh pit.

"Welcome To The Masquerade" is no different, and in my opinion is their finest work yet. From the driving beats of "Bring Me To Life," to the raw intensity of "E For Extinction," there's something for everyone. If you're not big into the whole wanting to make your ears bleed, then they satisfy your needs too with the deep and meaningful "Forward Motion." What stuck with me about this album is the cleanness of it. It feels so much more refined than a lot of what I've heard this year. Musically it doesn't put a foot wrong, all the elements are there to keep it solid throughout. As a sample, here's the opening lyrics to "Forward Motion;"

Let's keep it moving in a forward motion,
If we can hold on, we can cross this ocean
There's no sense in lettin' our emotions
Get in the way, until the door keeps closin'

If we sort this out, would we know how,
To live like we were different,
I know we've both had some doubts,
whether things would come around,
And look at us now

I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life...

And so we come to the final album in this section. And it wouldn't be right if I didn't put this on here. Decyfer Down aren't a well known band. I'd be very surprised if you've heard of them outside of me mentioning them to you. And yet they have some of the finest talent for producing top notch music, while still remaining true to their faith, and packing every last drop of their new album "Crash" with passion.

Again, this is on the rocker side of things. However, I would implore you to not let that put you off. "Crash" can be heavy in places, but not to the point of, say, Metalica heavy. What I mean by this is that the music they've composed, while being in a rock format, is packed with depth and emotion. Out of all the albums and artists that are on this post, these guys deserve an award for crafting some of the finest pieces of music I've heard in a long time, while still remaining true to the God they love. From the complexity of the title track "Crash," to the all out good time tune of "Ride With Me," to what is possibly my favorite CCM song of the year, the absolute emotion and power of "Fading." Listen to that one song, I beg of you. You will not regret it;

It starts with one time to fit in
Addiction slowly setting in
I drifted off into dismay

Eyes looking back at me
I can't even see your face
The pressure is closing in
It's taken me again

Wait, it's all that I can take
And every single day
A part of my soul is fading
But now by letting go somehow
Unshackled and unbound
I'm calling out your name
I'm fading
So save me
From what I've become...

Truly each of the above artists deserve a look at. However, these were not the only artists musically to catch my eye. Over the course of the past 12 months, I've discovered artists which I have never heard off before. Both of the artists that are going to be mentioned aren't new. They've been around for about 4-5 years roughly. So they aren't new to the scene. Its just taken me some time to get around to them.

These will be more brief than the above artists, but the first one that I discovered which has spoken volumes to me in the small amount of time that I have listened to her music is a gal called Brooke Fraser. If you're into Hillsong, you'll know that Brooke is the women who wrote "Hosanna," a favorite worhip song among our peers. If you didn't know, well...surprise!

What I love about Brooke is her depth and complexity. That's a phrase that seems to be cropping up a lot in this post, but it really is why I love her music. This is not forgetting the fact that she is a freaking awesome guitar singer. And let's not forget her voice! Aww! To me, when I listen to my favorite song of hers "CS Lewis Song," her passion is so vibrant I almost...you know what, I don't think I can come up with an analogy that would do justice to her;

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I, I was not made for here.
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
The of course I'll feel nude when to where I'm destined I'm compared.

Speak to me in the light of the dawn,
Mercy comes with the morning.
I will sigh and with all creation groan,

As I wait for hope to come for me.

The final artist that I'll mention really should need no mention at all. I'd be surprised if you haven't heard of John Mayer. Mind you, I hadn't heard of him before this year, so I'm surprised at myself in that case.

Out of all the guitarists I've heard, Mayer far exceeds all of them. And not only does he have the most incredible male vocals I've heard in a long time, his songs, despite him saying are no way spiritual, have many spiritual layers, and contain such a depth and understanding, that I've often questioned if he really meant that statement. My favorite song at the moment has to be "Covered In Rain," with absolutly fantastic guitar work, and deep lyrics and vocals to back it up;

In these days with the world gettin colder
She spends more time sleeping over

Than I’d planned

Tonight we're gonna order in

Drinkin wine and watchin CNN
It’s dark, I know
But then again, it's the brightest thing I've got

When I'm covered in rain, rain
When I'm covered in rain, rain, rain, rain

And so there you have it. From old time favorites of mine releasing cracking new albums, to brand new artists in my eyes displaying huge amounts of talent. If I was to recommend anyone of the new albums, I'd recommend "Armitice," simply because its very different to everything else that is floating around out there. And as for the artist...well, seen as most of you have probably had some form of contact with John Mayer, give Brooke Fraser a go. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Let Him be the Nexus of your life...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

100th...

So...this is my 100th blog post...hmm...if I'm honest, I've been putting this off for quite some time, mainly because of the fact that I've gotten it into my head that the blog needs to be epic in nature...something special, something extravagant...

So instead, I've decided to just let my thoughts run rampant on the screen, like an elephant stampeding through downtown New York...see, if I was to have taken a few minutes to think of a better analogy, it wouldn't have been as awesome as that...

What is there to talk about...argh...stupid Leaving Cert...the thought of having to do another English essay has brought my mind to the annoyance that is the Summer Quiz...I honestly don't see what the big problem is...its more of an annoyance than anything of great importance...yes there's the whole college thing that seems to going about the place, but honestly...I ain't really that fussed...I'm not going to go study my ass off for the entire year and come out the end of it looking like something out of a Blair Witch Project film...there's no point...people seem to forget that people doing the Leaving still have a life. I mean, I've already taken a day out going to Higher Options and seeing "District 9" as a bigger highlight that going around talking to guys in pretty shirts who could pass for college students...I wouldn't have been surprised if the colleges had just wrangled them in off the street 30 mins before the thing started...

I have a day of paint balling planned for me and 7 other manly men...And another weekend for simply hanging out with some really close friends...I mean, we all need these sort of breaks, otherwise our brains turn to mush...I sound like I'm being really not arsed about the Leaving, but actually I am...just not to the point where's gonna control my decisions...I mean, its only one year...

Saying these sorts of things isn't advised when you're face to face with your guidance counsellor...not that I have done, but my brain is telling me to go for it when I have my appointment with her...fact is that the system which we are living in is flawed. The majority of what we learn all comes down to a single day in the year, and if that day happens to be the day you get mauled by a bear, then that's you pretty screwed...hey it could happen...

Personally I think that a continuous assessment would be in order...but that would then require you to work CONSTANTLY throughout the year, not letting up for a second...something I could not do...I get very stressed VERY easily...I've already had two nervous breakdowns since I started school...I'm almost guaranteeing you that I'll be in a mental institution before the LC is out...

Ahh, talking about the LC is depressing...having said that, I cannot wait to get to college. There's just something so appealing about having the responsibility to go to class, and having it be mandatory...I also love the prospect of community...I live out in the middle of frickin' nowhere, so it would be nice for some proper company once in a while other than my mumsie and daddy...

Speaking of which, man I love my mum and dad. Nothing special to look at, but man, they are pretty classy. Not only do I feel loved like a son, but I'm growing closer to them as individuals, as friends...I'm finding it way easier to talk to them...especially my dad...I've always gotten along with him, and by getting along I mean having mock wrestling/boxing/fight club matches whenever I see him...but I'm just generally getting to know him more...

I Love Lamp...

RAW Summer was pretty epic...man there was a good community there, I just loved that place...It just seemed so fantastic...like I could go up to anyone and talk to them, and knowing they weren't going to spray metaphysical mace in my eyes and hit me with their metaphysical hand bags and run away...as you can see, my mind is a strange place...

But I loved it...I won't say it was the best camp I've ever been to, because that would entail that it was better than any other camp I've been to...I'll admit that I am prone to ranting on about the last camp I've been to as the greatest thing since Eoin Commins...but a) nothing could be better than Eoin, and b) each camp I've been to has been the best camp for where I was at the time...RAW Summer was fantastic because it gave me that boost before going back to school...not to mention the fact that some crazy stuff got sorted out, stuff that will be mentioned later...

But now I'm thinking back to when I said that RAW Easter 09 would be my last ever camp...that ain't gonna be the case...I thought it might have been the last camp for me as a camper, but I knew, and I still know that I'm gonna go back with the intention of leading at camps...

Its odd cause I was watching a debate this morning on whether religious relics were special in anyway...I thought to myself "Yeah, they probably do have something special, but if relics are the only way of getting closer to God, then it ain't very efficient." Maybe efficient isn't the right word there, but you get the idea...

It was the same thinking I had when I was talking of RAW being my last camp as a camper. For me Ovoca camps have always been great, but I've come to realise that I kinda depend on them too much for that spiritual boost. I wanna be able to find God out in the ordinary world, not just at some place high in the Vale of Avoca...

Looking back on that now, its utter bull-honkey...I need people...I thrive on being around my friends...maybe that's why I'm so clingy...but I can't help it...Ovoca has embedded itself in my heart as a place where I can go and just be myself around people and not feel afraid...

And besides, I've been finding God pretty much everyday since school started back up...

Ahh, there's school again...for something that only plays a small portion in our lives, it certainly gets mentioned a lot...I guess you could say by righting this I'm kinda half procrastinating...I have maths study to be done and an English essay to be done...

Ahh screw it, bearing my soul for the whole blogosphere to see is far more fun!

I like girls...Just thought I'd throw that out there...Yes, shocking that Philip King is a heterosexual, and yet its true...granted, there was that week in Budapest with Bernard...but that's in the past...

I guess I wanted to say that because I'm pretty lonely...I've often wondered what its like to have someone in your life you can completely trust, and that they in turn completely trust you...Its fair to say I've had girl problems in the past...which is kinda odd seen as I've never actually had a girlfriend...

Looking at the last two paragraphs, it kinda sounds like I'm saying "I wanna girlfriend, just so I can say I have one." Please...if I ever come across like that, slap me in the face...that's the last thing I wanna have people think of me... I wanna have a girlfriend because I love that person, and that I would want nothing more than for them to be happy...I realised that if my own desires and wants become the centre of my focus....then...BAM! Everything goes poop side up...

At the same time, I'm quite happy to wait...people who know me are gonna be like "who are you and what have you done with Phil?" But honestly folks...its me...if I'm not meant to have a girlfriend yet, then I'm cool with that...hell, I'm more than cool with that, I'm ecstatic! I realise that God ain't finished with who I'm to become, and if He thinks I ain't ready, then He's gotta have something up His metaphysical sleeve...And besides, Jesus was single...and in 1 Corinthians, it basically says that those who have never been in a relationship a) can focus more on God, and b) are in a special fraternity that few are part of...boo-yah...

Yes folks, the new word I've learned this year is "metaphysical..."

Probably learned it from watching so much House...man I love that show...man I love TV...there's so much good stuff and there...and at the same time, 99.9999999999% of the time its utter crap...everything in today's world is based on self, the fact that we are the bomb, we are cool, we are better than Eoin Commins...

Its ridiculous! There is so much pride in today's world! I'm noticing it more and more everyday, just in the conversations that go on in school...Its horrible, its the frickin' sin that got Satan kicked outta hell...

I hate pride, often because I'm guilty of it a lot of the time. I think because of my experiences with being prideful, I can understand where Jesus was coming from when He said He came not to be served, but to serve...

How awesome would it be if there was no pride in our world? Pretty freaking awesome, that's how awesome...there would be no stigmatism to not help that homeless man on the street, no need to worry about how people would react if you gave all the money you won in the lottery to charity...I could live in a world like that fo'sho'...

Better yet...what if everyone in the world lived lives worthy of Jesus? Obviously, only Jesus is Jesus, but what if we lived the lives he truly called us to live? Man, I would not be able to contain myself!

I was walking towards Grafton Street one day, and I saw a homeless guy sitting in a doorway...I thought "Why not get him something to eat?" Before I go on, I was kinda half pushed to do so by Damien Parle, who offered us a challenge to feed a homeless person...I think we need that kinda push, the push that will inevitably drive us to desire Christ forever...

So anyway, as I handed him the sandwich I had just gotten, I came over all...happy! It was fantastic! I'm not trying to boast here, but it felt really good just to help another human being like that! I would've run back to the shop and bought another sandwich to give to someone else...unfortunately, economic recession dictated otherwise...

Ahh now there's something that we can't escape...Honestly, I don't see what the problem with this is...yes, the banks aren't lending any money...but so what? The only reason why people would need loans is because they wanted something they didn't actually need...in other words...they were just plain greedy...

Personally, I'm looking on the brighter side...Because of all this bad financial crisis, people are being smarter with their money...they aren't buying on impulse any more, rather they're shopping around. I just bought a copy of Killzone 2, one of the games of the year, for a €10! A €10! Its unheard of!

Mind you, part of all this is down to the crappy government we have at the moment...actually, its probably just down to ole Biffo, but I ain't one to judge. I honestly can't see what any other party would do if they were elected in. All they would be focusing on is trying to stay in power, and would therefore, render any promises they have made moot...

SPES MARIENS! WE HAVE FAILED THE EMPRA!

Ohh how I love video games...I've practically grown up with some of the biggest technological releases ever...Hell, my first proper games console was the the original PS...man how I loved that machine...There's just so much fun and creativity to be had...Its really the only place where you could create a story about handicap penguins with missiles for arms...as long as the gameplay is decent, then nobody really cares!

That being said, I do love me a game with a good story...MGS springs to mind...I really don't care what you say about it, cause honestly, if you don't like MGS, you ain't a true gamer...its true...you can't fully grasp the complexity that goes into one of these games, particularly the story! First game to ever make me cry was in fact...Final Fantasy 10...but the second game to make me cry was MGS3...

They really are like films...speaking of which, man do I love a good film...I've turned away from the Hollywood blockbuster in favor of something with a bit more finesse...a bit more style...something that isn't your conventional movie...kinda like District 9...

A thought that a friend gave me a few days ago just popped into my head...its to do with how people right...I had shown him the blog of friend, hoping he might like it...He inevitably said it was just a collection of neatly crafted thoughts arranged in a pretty mosaic...I wonder what he would think of this post? Personally, this is how I write...it ain't reserved for blog writing...and if you need proof of how good it is, my 100% in my English essay on Wuthering Heights last year should be proof enough...

Wow this is turning out to be long...I thought I was only gonna start writing for about an hour or so...its my third hour as of now...Me thinks I'll go and play some cricket with my Dad...

Ahh cricket..truly a game of kings...mainly because me and Dad play it...Have you got it yet?...People think that cricket is boring...sometimes they're right, but when you're actually playing it, its as dangerous as any other game out there...don't believe me? Ask the bruise I got about 2 inches away from my family jewels...

Yeah...this is pretty long...congrats if you've stuck through all this...I must admit, it can be pretty boring in my head...that is when I'm not thinking about God...when I am, its a party!

I'm looking outside my window...man I miss our forest...we didn't own a forest, although I almost got into a fist fight on Paddy's Day about it...that was crazy...and no, I wasn't drunk...

There was a forest the opposite side of the road from us...I used to spend hours in there coming up with stories about how I was a super hero and that all my friends were calling "SAVE US PHIL!" And I was like all dark and mysterious and I said "No Problem..." Now I'm confined to do that in my garden...

Speaking of which (again), I love my house. Its pretty awesome. It ain't the biggest house you've ever seen, but it suits us perfect...And its got a half acre of land to boot...which apparently people love...I just nature...all the weird little intricacies of our world...its mind boggling...

So yeah...I'm back...after taking a two week break from writing anything on this...I must really enjoy nature...

Music is also another passion of mine...Ohh good lord how I love music! I don't what it is exactly...I can just get lost in a song whenever the mood takes me...I love deep songs...songs that require some effort of thinking, but I also love passionate songs...Songs that you can't help but cry when you listen to them, songs that bring you to tears when you sing them with all you have...Probably the reason why I love worship songs so much...

But music is spectacular...I find huge comfort in listening to anyone of the artists on my mp3...which is quite long...Jeremy Camp, Bebo Norman, Hillsong, Planetshakers, Muse, Switchfoot, Skillet, Demon Hunter, Third Day, John Mayer, Red, Brooke Fraser, Decyfer Down, Thousand Foot Krutch, Mute Math, Manafest, Bethany Dillon, Big Daddy Weave, Jars Of Clay, U2, Paramore, JesusCulture, Joshua Radin, Natalie Grant, Nickelback, Newboys, Pillar, Project 86, Underoath...shall I go on...?

As some of you know, I recently turned 18...Hooray and what not! Honestly, its not all that different to being 17...I mean in feeling anyway...obviously I can drink legally, vote, have sex without consent (which I don't plan on doing), enlist in the army...and so on and so forth...

But all it is to me is another year closer to the day when I'll come face to face with God, be judged, and start to live my new life with Him...

I could go on...but instead I think I'll close with two final paragraphs...

A huge thank you must go to you, my friends. No words can describe the feeling that is knowing you...You have brought such joy into my heart over the time we've known each other...Lorcan, Damian, Mike, Bernard, Edel, Jane, Cat, Chris, Eilis, Ali, Leanne, Grainne, Kirsten, Courtney, Dave, Philli, Joshua, Nathan, Emma, Nicole, Christina, Gina, Leah, Stephen, Billy, Lisa, Andrew, Louise, Alice, Alison, Orlagh, Carla, Simon, Eric, Simon, Eve, Ste, Paul, Stan, Ciaran, Rachel, Debs, Jonny, Jonathan, Tommy, Matt, Katie, Keith, Graeme, Wolf, Eoin, Nicola, Sabrina, Brian, Susie, Sean, Jonjo, Brendie, Ethan, Adam, Scott, Alastair, Sally, Skate, Wes, Jenny, Des, Rob, Natasha, Jessy, Megan, Brendan, Ruben, Hannah, Jude, Pete, Luke, Gareth, Barry, James...May these years be only the beginning of our friendships, that we may continue to grow in one another, that God will forever be with you, and that you may always know the He loves you…And that I love you too...Thank You...

Finally to Author and Finisher of our faith, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Alpha and Omega. Beginning and End. The Lion and the Lamb. No words can describe the thankfulness that I have for your provision of strength, kindness, mercy, faith, hope, friendship, grace and love to me. It is you who I live for, now and for all my days, for there is none like you, my Jesus. Let your name be exalted on high, and may your glory touch the lives of others like it has touched mine. And may your voice, word and light be my guide for all my days. Thank you for what you did 2000 years ago, and continue to do everyday of our lives. May Christ be the centre of my life, and let all of us take up His challenge…Thank You…