Propoganda – Cynical

I recently read a BBC news article that says they’re banning Fairytale of New York on the radio…(or at least their ‘radio 1’, and they’ll play a censored version). Because ‘young listeners were particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality’.

I’m not really one to engage in the so called ‘Culture Wars’, especially on the blog. (I don’t know enough, and I’d probably knot myself in inconsistencies!) But when my brother informed me that the same radio station is happy to play WAP – I found myself feeling pretty cynical.

And I wanted to share one of my favourite songs by a rapper called Propoganda:

In the song, he aims his words at both ends of the spectrum, those on the right and the left, both those running to ‘trump rallies’ and the ‘white and woke’. I can’t articulate it near half as well, so please do listen to the music!

The song ends with this refrain:

I don’t take too kindly to being lied to
If I could look inside you
And I’ll hate you if I fear you
And we fear what we’re blind to
So if I sound cynical… It’s ’cause I’m cynical

Propoganda, is a gritty-Christian artist, who presents his faith in an honest, down to earth, deep and profound way. It’s not the poetry of a perfect man and his faith, but a man who struggles with his religion, wrestles with it’s people and remains faithful to his God. I’d also recommend songs: Crooked, Precious Puritans, Three Cord Bond.

And that’s just my opinion. 😉

Question: in a world of increased ‘fake news/media’ and yet increasing atheism, in a world where leaders are frequently found guilty of hidden crimes and betrayal…do we think the [western] world is becoming more cynical – or more gullible?’

In conclusion, it doesn’t really bother me if Radio 1 want to play the song or not. (I’m not a real radio listener anyway!) Upon reflection it’s odd that the article played on my mind so much, after all as a Christian surely I want to see less and less ‘derogatory’ language for gender and sexuality.

I just wish they could acknowledge the inconsistencies of the culture, to see how crooked we all are (left and right). It’s like how the culture wants (so-called) “sexual-liberation” and yet takes offence at an underwear billboard because it “sexualises” men/women. It’s like how the culture want us to stop judging people on their appearance, and yet would refuse a job to someone who arrived to an interview in jeans and t-shirt. I don’t get it, surely it’s one or the other. It’s like the Pharisees who taught that people should honour God, but could insult their parents in order to do so. It’s like me when I preach on patience, and then am unfairly-angry with my wife for “making me late”. Inconsistent.

Deep down I long for the world to realise it’s inconsistencies because I hope that it will lead them back to Christ.

God doesn’t use a broad brush

God sees that the human race is inclined towards sin. He searches every heart, looking for anyone who is willing to receive His mercy, to receive Him.

Then he finds Noah.

He determines to destroy the human race completely because they all have turned away from Him. But He saves Noah, because He has examined every heart and found but one man who walks with faith.

The story of Noah, isn’t the only occasion where God’s grace is demonstrated by the abandonment of the convenient broad brush of judgement. Does He not also save Lot from Sodom’s destruction? Does He not pass over the Israelite first born because of the faithful obedience of the parents? Does He not look upon Jesus crucified between two sinners?

Just as God avoids the broad brush of judgement, may we too seek to be merciful. To look for the best in each person (1 Cor 13:7 AMP). Do we assume all the people who hold different opinions to us, be they political, cultural, ethical, theological, are evil? Or do we see past the stereotype, and consider the individual heart.

It is generous of God to weigh us as individuals, may I extend that generosity to others. And not just to individuals within groups, but to the person in the individual circumstance.

Broad brushes are imprecise and harmful to fine art, and we humans are indeed fine art.

Genesis 4:1-26 Part 1: Sin is Crouching at your door

A while back whilst I was studying Genesis chapter 2, I came across a little quote that put the story into practical terms for us today. I think it also applies to chapter 4:

“A story rooted within our space and time, but a story which catches us up into itself and confronts us with the truth about ourselves”

It’s important to remember that the story of Cain and Abel, however well known it is, and however distant it feels, is still a story which catches us – “up into itself”. We don’t have to look far to see ourselves in the characters and dilemmas which they face.

It is a story of jealousy, denying responsibility, lying, doubting our self-worth. It is a story of passion, hate and murder. (We might be inclined to think murder is far away from where we are, and then Jesus comes and broadly re-defines it as hate.)

The story of the man who killed his brother. Is a story of warning about the power of anger, jealousy and hate to destroy us.

In this post we’re going to examine Cain’s sin(s) and take lessons we can apply to our own struggle with sin.

1) Sin hi-jacks our Legacy

Again, this isn’t a foreign concept to us 21st century readers. How many church leaders have had their legacy re-defined as one characterised by their greatest moral failures? We are no longer surprised when politicians are accused of abusing women, or when priests are found to have manipulated children in horrible ways.

Sin has the potential to overwrite our entire life’s work. Especially the hidden sins. This is important to remember, especially in light of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:2-3 about hidden things being revealed.

It seems few people appreciate the city Cain built, or the accomplishments of his children also detailed in Chapter 4. Did you know that he also spent his life building a city? No, his sin caught up with him. It overwrites all his other accomplishments. His legacy is the man who killed his brother.

This is real, for me and for you. Let us fight to rule over sin.

I guess this is where the good news of Jesus’ gospel comes in. No matter our past, God completely forgives those who put their trust in Jesus. He is able to use the “worst of sinners” to accomplish His legacy (1 Tim 1:15).

2) Sin is a choice

What we see in Cain’s life are the multiple avenues and choices he makes in order to disobey God. Firstly, in temptation, God plainly explains to Cain: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it’ (verse 7). Cain is here given a choice, does he continue in despair and jealousy, or does he seek to do what is right.

As we know, Cain chooses murder.

But then, even after Cain has killed his brother, he is offered another choice. Either repent and confess his sin, or try to hide it and run away from God? We don’t know what would have happened, if Cain had turned to God and apologised for the murder of his brother.

But we do know, later on in the Bible, that King David would sleep with Bathsheba, kill her husband and get her pregnant. However, in his confession and repentance, God’s grace is shown to be powerful to pass over his sin.

Instead, Cain’s response is famously: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Inferring blame on God. He chooses to deny responsibility. And in so doing he refuses to accept God’s grace.

Sin is a choice. And our response to our failures is also a choice.

3) The Choice we face

The picture presented in Revelation 3:20 is a counter piece to the picture God gives Cain. In Genesis 4, Cain is told that Sin is crouching at His door. In Revelation, the Church is told that Jesus is standing at the door knocking.

Who do we open the door to?

Do we confess our sins, or do we hide them? Do we turn to Jesus to forgive us, or do we avoid responsibility, and tell ourselves its not that bad.

4) Our Sin affects others

We don’t know an exact reason why Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted, whilst Abel’s was. Although there are several very convincing theories. However, we can see a parallel in Cain and Abel with that of the Pharisees.

Cain’s offering was rejected by God, he couldn’t enter God’s presence on that occasion. And so, in his jealousy, he prevented Abel from ever entering God’s presence.

In the same way, the Pharisees are accused by Jesus: “You have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52).

We need to be very wary, about the impact our lives have on the faith of other believers. This is one of the reasons Paul gives for abstaining from meat altogether, because of the consciences of other believers (1 Cor 8).

In an age, when the promotion of individual freedom is held as one of the highest values. The Bible asks us to limit our personal freedoms for the sake of others. This is love.

‘if you cross Her, then you cross Me’

I was walking to work the other day, listening to my music and on came a familiar song by Ed Sheeran – Cross Me. There were a few lines that jumped out to me and just made me think of God’s love for His people – the Church. So I put the song on repeat and started listening out for all the parallels I could find.

In an odd way – I think I heard God’s voice of comfort, encouragement and belief through Ed Sheeran’s music.

God’s Confidence in Us

There’s a few lines where Ed talks about his wife’s faithfulness and how much he can trust her. ‘She ain’t messing with no other man’. Did you know, that God has confidence in us – His Bride?

If He didn’t there would be no way He’d leave the great commission up to us (Mt 28:16-20). To make disciples of all nations?

I listened to a talk the other day and the speaker shared that in Jesus’ culture a Rabbi would only take a Disciple if he truly believed that the disciple had the potential to ‘be like him’. When Jesus approaches fishermen and unschooled people, He is effectively saying – “look, I know the world doesn’t believe in you, or think that you have much potential, but I see that you have the potential to be like me”.

God has confidence in us!

God’s Provision for Us

Ed Sheeran boasted that ‘anything she needs, she can call me’. He then goes on to tell other people they don’t need to meet her needs ‘don’t worry about her…thats all me’. God is so able and powerful, He can boast that all our needs are met in Him.

This is why Jesus says, ‘don’t worry, saying “what shall we eat?” or “what shall we drink?” or “what shall we wear?”. For the pagans run after such things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:31-33).

In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand pleasures forevermore! (Psalm 16).

God Will Fight for Us

Probably most obvious in this song, is Ed Sheeran’s willingness to step into the ring with anyone who attempts to hurt, insult or intimidate his wife. It’s in the title… ‘if you cross her, you cross me’.

Isn’t this true of our God too? Not only does He identify with us in our strength and ability, but also in our weaknesses. Jesus declares, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me’ (Matthew 25:40).

This is how the prophet Zephaniah described God: ‘The Mighty Warrior who saves’ (Zeph 3:17). Our God is mighty to save. This is what Jehosphat learnt: ‘do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s’ (2 Chron 20:15).

Our God will and has fought for us!

God is Close to Us

One of the reason’s I’ve shared the video at the top of this post is because I love the imagery twist at the end. Maybe it was obvious to everyone who watched it. But the first time I saw the video, I honestly thought it was another guy in the green-screen costume. At the end of the video, it’s revealed to be a woman. It added a wow factor, that they were “together” through the whole video.

In the same way, our God promises to be close to us. His presence is with us. The New Testament writers knew this when they claimed, it is not longer I who live – but Christ who lives in me. Let me finish with three encouraging verses in the Bible which emphasise this truth:

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4)

“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you.” (John 15:4)

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:16-20).

Thanks Ed for making great music! Thanks God for having confidence in us, for providing for us, for fighting on our behalf and for being close.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 3 How do you know that?

This passage in Genesis also speaks into our acquisition of knowledge. Throughout Scripture God pleads with humanity to gain knowledge, insight and wisdom. The apostle Peter even urges believers to ‘add to their faith…knowledge’. God wants us to study His word, to discover truth, to walk the right path. Moreover, God praises the humble and those who are teachable.

God means for us to adopt the posture of a life-long learner.

And yet, in this passage God plants a tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and He commands mankind to not eat from it! What is that about?

You see, it is important to God how we come to know things. (The sub-category attitude to learning – if you will.) He does not want us to idolize knowledge (Jeremiah 9:23). Nor does He want us attain knowledge without love (1 Corinthians 8). In fact knowledge is supposed to build up and edify the Church (1 Corinthians 12). It is important how we acquire knowledge, and for what motive.

In this passage, God presents Adam with an option, to acquire knowledge instantaneously, through disobedience to God’s word, to His commands. To acquire knowledge via worship of the intellect rather than worship of God (- for we cannot serve two masters)!

What is the alternative, how else will Adam discover the knowledge of good and evil? It is intended that Adam discover what is good, by obeying the good command of God, by experiencing the “goodness” of creation as declared repeatedly throughout Genesis 1. To see evil, as disobedience to God’s will, by experientially ignoring/subduing the snake – (or by speaking God’s truth in place of the snake’s lies – just as Jesus did in Matthew 4).

The rest of the Bible supports this, approach to acquiring knowledge. We are told to acquire knowledge through:

  • Obedience to His commands
  • Careful study, meditation and response to God’s words (Psalm 1, Matthew 7:24)
  • Through love and relationship with God and mankind
  • Through stillness, rest and sitting at Jesus’ feet (Psalm 46:10, Luke 10:38-42)

He does not want us to take shortcuts to knowledge, that bypass experiential knowledge. One commentator that I read, notes that the rise of “enlightenment” taught that we can learn through detachment and isolation. God’s word, on the contrary, teaches that we learn through involvement, relationship and experience. Through obedience and engagement with God’s word.

God wants us to learn. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To be set free by His truth. To be still and know that He is God.

When we are tempted to reach out and grasp at knowledge to satiate our pride, to garner power for ourselves, to elevate ourselves above others. Let us remember Christ, who did not: “consider equality with God [something to be grasped at] to be used for his own advantage. Rather He made Himself nothing taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death even death on a cross (Philippians 2)!