Called to Be Our Consecrated Selves

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

People have moments where they wish they had a greater role in the world around them.  We see other people around us, or in stories from the Bible or in the news, and think we’d like to be more like them.  More influential, more effective, more powerful.  For example, what if I could be a prophet or an apostle?  Or in our modern world, maybe a “social media influencer”?  “Be yourself” is often the advice for finding contentment when we feel like this, but the Bible says we are “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”[1]  So, should we be ourselves, or should we be like Jesus?  What will give us contentment?  While not a full answer, the call of Jeremiah the prophet offers some help.

Jeremiah was not a prophet by accident, because Jeremiah 1:4-5 says:

“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
            and before you were born I consecrated you;
            I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”

Here, God calls Jeremiah both to conform his ways to God’s, and also to his own specific task.  Like Jeremiah, every Christian is known by God and called to do His will.  Only God knows why we were each made the way we were made, and in a way God calling us to serve Him is like Him saying “stop living like you’re an accident of a random, purposeless world.”  It is because we were made, not just evolved, that we have purpose, and God has “consecrated” us to that purpose.

Stop living like you’re an
accident of a random,
purposeless world.

But each of us was made differently, also on purpose.  Unlike Jeremiah, my fellow travelers on this blog probably aren’t prophets, and that is part of why Jeremiah needed to be a prophet.  His job wasn’t to call everyone else to be a prophet, but to serve everyone else by calling them to find their own purpose in God.  Jeremiah wanted all of God’s people to take whatever He has endowed them with and dedicate it to Him.  Likewise, being “conformed to the image of” Jesus does not mean we should all be carpenters, but that we should apply His righteousness to every task He puts before us.

Therefore, God’s people should never live like they are an accident.  We are all a valuable work of creation, made to find our good and His glory in His amazing design.  We will find our true selves in the One who made us, and God’s people will have unity in Christ’s character, combined with diversity in the infinite creativity of the people He created.

Be yourself, and also be like Jesus.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10


[1] Romans 8:29

The Joy, Unity, and Peace to Come – Psalms of Ascent #6

Finally, we return to a series on the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134), used as a liturgy for ancient Israelites travelling to Jerusalem for annual worship festivals.  Today’s post focuses on Psalm 122, where David writes of the joy found in the destination – the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.  When first written, this house would be the tabernacle, since the temple was built under David’s son Solomon, but when the Psalm was organized into its present order, this house would be the temple.  After the pilgrims look up from their circumstances in Psalm 121 to find their help in the LORD, in Psalm 122 they reflect on what they will find at the end of their journey.

This short, 9-verse Psalm has three sections: an expectation of joy, a path to unity, and a prayer for peace.  I’ll summarize each as we go.

First, expectant joy.  Verses 1 and 2 of the Psalm say:
I was glad when they said to me,
            ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’
Our feet have been standing
            within your gates, O Jerusalem!

David was glad to attend corporate worship, and this joy would be an encouragement to other when worship required a lot of travel, large crowds, and disruption of daily routines.  In the following sections, David explains where his joy comes from: that worshipping with others reminds him of what only God can truly provide: Unity and Peace.  David doesn’t expect everyone arriving in Jerusalem to get along and have a perfect experience, but it doesn’t ruin his joy because God promised these things to those who worship Him.  While perfect is unattainable in this imperfect world, corporate worship acknowledges that this world is not all there is, and that God’s people will worship perfectly in eternity.

Second, a path to unity.  In verses 3 to 5 David writes:
Jerusalem—built as a city
            that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
            the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
            to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
            the thrones of the house of David.

Corporate worship is a physical, visible reminder of our membership in a tribe that is not of this world.  From all the tribes of the world, God calls His people and promises to make a perfect unity out of vast diversity.  However, unity only exists when differences are resolved through either forgiveness or judgment.  Worship should remind us that every injustice ever committed will be judged.  Every offense to God’s laws of love will be paid for by either the sinner, or by Christ on the cross, and we can be thankful for both.  We do not experience perfect unity or justice yet, but we know that the price has been paid for God’s people to be perfectly unified in eternity.  Jesus ultimately sits on the throne David established; therefore Jesus’ authority in mercy and in judgment provides a hopeful expectation that overcomes the current, inevitable conflict that exists among God’s people, and between God’s people and the world.  He remains “glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”

Lastly, peace.  The final verses of the Psalm say:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
            “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
            and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
            I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
            I will seek your good.

The Holman Bible Commentary notes that these prayers for peace are “a reference to divine protection from hostile nations. They needed an indivisible unity and impregnable safety that can come only from God. Where God finds unity, he commands his blessing there.”  While Christians do not take pilgrimages to Jerusalem, in Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  God does not promise absence of trial and persecution to His people, but He asks that in worship we do all we can to promote joy and unity within His church, wherever His people congregate.  Peace can, and should, exist within the church even if peace is absent outside the church, since God’s peace is not dependent on circumstance.

David found joy in expectation of worshiping with God’s people, based on God’s promises.  This week, pray for joy, unity and peace as God’s people gather locally, but also globally.  While we remain yet unperfected by His grace, we hold fast to His promises and to His call to ascend to His sanctuary for worship.

Amen.

This post continues a series on the Psalms of Ascent. To start at the beginning, click here, and for the next post click here.

Do You Have a Caged-Up Gorilla in Your Trunk?

I’ve been a fan of the rock band King’s X for many years and am currently reading King’s X: The Oral History, a book by Greg Prato that chronicles the history of the band entirely through quotes from the band, those who have worked with the band, music journalists, and other musicians.  They have a musical style all their own, combining heavy rock influences with complicated arrangements and Beatle-esque vocal harmonies.  Some even credit them with inventing the “grunge” genre, not just by often tuning their instruments to a lower, heavier tone, but also through their gritty lyrics as a contrast to the “hair metal” that dominated rock in the early and mid 1980s.  On top of the musical style, I also liked that in the late 1980s and early 1990s there were a lot of Christian themes in their lyrics but written around the reality of their struggles with their faith and with aspects of Christian culture and the music industry.  Unfortunately, these struggles continue for them, and only one of the three members seems to still be a Christian.

One of the reasons I bought the book was that it promised to cover “every song” in their catalog, and since some of their lyrics are enigmatic, I wanted more of the story.  The rest of this post is about one of those songs, how the book (understandably) didn’t explain it, and what I was able to get from it anyway.

When I unwrapped the book, the first thing I did was to find the hoped-for explanation of the lyrics for “Six Broken Soldiers.”  Written by the band’s drummer, Jerry Gaskill, it’s a different style than other songs and the lyrics seem intriguingly random.  Flipping through pages, I quickly found Jerry’s only comment on the song:

“It’s always hard for me to talk about lyrics, because I don’t like to say exactly what I’m thinking, because then that takes away from anything that you may get from it. When I write, I put everything I feel and think into each line, so it comes off very ambiguous sometimes, and even unintelligible sometimes. But I have specific things I’m thinking when I wrote that. Basically, it’s just me talking about me.”[1]

Jerry Gaskill

Bummer.  Although I was hoping for more specifics, I definitely understand an artist’s desire to let the audience interpret the work in their own way.  So, if “it’s just me talking about me,” what do I see knowing that, and re-reading the lyrics?  Below I’ll go into some of the lines and my take-aways, but it might be handy to have the lyrics, which you can find here, or if you want to hear the song, click here.  There are parts of it I don’t get, and will skip in my comments, but which meant something to the author and that might mean something to you.

Us Talking About Us
In general, I think the song describes the complexity of human personality, not just Jerry’s, but everyone’s, and how little we understand it.  First, the title of the song says a lot.  Brokenness is right there, but also “six” says we are broken in many ways.  We can all identify with having problems, and more than one of them.  With “soldiers” I think of our struggle against our problems, and that even the “soldiers” we have to fight them with have their own problems.  Our brokenness affects our ability to combat it and there’s no easy fix.

The opening verse suggests that our surrounding culture and heritage are not enough to solve these problems, and often don’t even care about them.  Is all we have an “American library” to deal with our sickness?  How often do you hear something on the news, or something a politician promises, and think – that’s exactly the answer to my specific situation?  Probably rarely, and even rarer if you consider whether they can actually do it, and on time for it to help you.  A lot of what is available to us is too vague and too ineffective to be what we really need.

The next part is series of seemingly random short phrases that are metaphorically part of our personality.  For me the lyrics include these parts:

  • Among the “Six broken soldiers in the trunk of my car”, there are parts of us we share with others (“Two of them speak”) and parts we’d rather not (“four go to bars”).  If this is what it means, then it also implies the parts we hide are much larger than the parts we let others know about.  All of it is baggage we carry with us everywhere we go, as in the trunk of our car.
  • “A caged up gorilla” – There are parts of us we don’t like, that might be harmful, and that we can barely control.
  • “three local bands” – There are parts of us that are experiences that led to where we are now, for good or ill.  King’s X had multiple, earlier versions before the current one, and so do we all.

Lastly, Jerry mentions an internal parrot that speaks multiple languages, all of them unintelligible, while “the audience he scans.”  Parrots repeat what they hear without understanding it so this line could mean there’s a lot that goes on inside ourselves that we don’t understand.  This echoes Paul’s frustration with himself in Romans 7:15 where he says: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  Our internal thoughts and motivations aren’t always reliable, and we don’t always know where they come from.

The parrot scanning the audience means he is looking for confirmation from outside that he is doing the right thing.  The irony is that when we don’t understand ourselves, why would we expect others to consistently understand us better and be able to guide us?  Do other people’s internal parrots speak more intelligibly than ours?  If they don’t, is popularity or majority rule a good guide for our decisions?  He has “sixpence and a quarter,” but doesn’t know what to do with it.

Not a very hopeful song, so what to take away from it?

First, that there is far, far more diversity inside of any one individual for even that individual to understand.  How can any society, armed with only an “American library,” hope to truly deal with people as actual individuals?  We can claim to respect the individual and stand for diversity and inclusion, but are such things even possible without vastly oversimplifying the situation?

Second, that there is far, far more brokenness in each individual for anyone other than God to fully diagnose and treat.  From what vantage point can we actually see the truth we each need, know the answers to our problems, and effectively apply them?

Before moving to the last section, I must clarify that I’m not saying human efforts at solving our problems are totally wrong and useless.  Many people manage their problems well enough alone and others manage with a lot of help from different sources.  Good friends, family, and in some cases therapy and medication, are very helpful.  We know a lot more about human psychology and other related topics than we used to.  The “American library” is not a static thing, but grows and changes over time, sometimes improving and becoming more effective, but not always.  Sometimes “progress” creates more, newer, problems before the old ones are solved.   Therefore, when honestly looking at the human condition with eyes wide open, we seem doomed to always fall short of a full solution with the resources we have.  What we have is not sufficient, but we have hope.

Where Does Hope Come From?
While our Six Broken Soldiers seem hopeless, there is an answer from outside our inner confusion and from beyond our material existence.  Members of King’s X are (or were) fans of C.S. Lewis[2], who wrote this description of mankind from Aslan, the fictional kingly lion who represents Jesus, in Prince Caspian, part of the Chronicles of Narnia series:

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.  Be content.”[3]

Against our problems, we have far, far more dignity and nobility and talent than could possibly come by some cosmic accident.  We are each individual creatures of a loving God, and we have far more than an “American library” at our disposal.  We have Someone who knows us fully as the complex people we are, who loves us completely, and who was broken so that we might be delivered from our brokenness.

Therefore, come to Jesus, bring your Six Broken Soldiers, and ask Him to heal all of them.  He is an infinite resource.  There’s nothing about you He doesn’t already know and understand, and nothing He does not have a solution for.


If you don’t know how to do that or what that means, read this earlier post about what it means to have a loving, personal relationship with our Maker and Lord Jesus, who guides and empowers us to love as He does.


[1] Prato, Greg. King’s X: The Oral History (2019).  P. 97.
[2] Their first album was titled “Out of the Silent Planet,” and they later released a song referencing a chapter in “That Hideous Strength,” two books written by Lewis.
[3] Lewis, C.S.  Prince Caspian (1951).

This Mother’s Day, Celebrate the Caregivers

I was recently invited to a workshop on “Caregiver Bias,” which was explained as a problem in our society that people who take care of children, older or sick relatives, or others in need don’t do as well in their careers.  In addition, they said, since Caregiving is more often done by women than by men, these social norms are discriminatory and need to be corrected.  The workshop was part of a broader Diversity and Inclusion initiative, which includes support for women’s reproductive choices.

But shouldn’t Caregiving for children, the elderly, the sick, and the needy be what we celebrate and admire most?  Shouldn’t we choose Caregiving?

In that spirit, for this Mother’s Day post, I choose to salute a diverse set of Mothers:

  • I salute those mothers who choose to serve their families and communities full-time.  Those who volunteer on the PTA, at the local church and food pantry, and who make the school plays and concerts run smoothly.
    I salute the working mothers who choose to make time for the PTA, their church or food pantry, and the school play.
  • I salute those full-time mothers who choose to keep their calm when asked “so, what exactly DO you do all day?”
  • I salute those mothers who choose to run their own business in a way that allows time for them to spend with their children.
  • I salute those mothers who didn’t plan on having children but choose to love and care for them always.
  • I salute those mothers who choose a partner who can focus on Caregiving where they can.
  • I salute those who choose to support those in need who are someone else’s children and relatives, as if they were their own.
  • I salute those who choose to support the choices of all mothers, even if their choices aren’t what they would choose themselves.

Mothers[1] very often sacrifice for the benefit of others, and this Mother’s Day let’s celebrate and admire them all, especially the ones who demonstrate that Caregiving might be the most important career of all.  Let’s be biased in their favor, not today but every day.

After all, aren’t our careers a way to provide what not only we need, but also what others need and can’t provide for themselves?  As suggested by the Apostle Paul a long time ago:
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” – Ephesians 4:28


[1] Fathers do too, but this is Mother’s Day.  Look for my Father’s Day post about a month from now.

Love is the Dance of Eternity

Tonight I’ll be at the Warner Theatre to see the progressive metal band Dream Theater! I like lots of music that might be called “rock”, from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Imagine Dragons and even twenty one pilots, but this is the only band in this genre I like.

Why am I posting this? Only one of my friends likes this band, and I’m going to the show with him! This post might get 0 “likes.” As much as I want to get “likes” on my social media posts, life is more than that. Everyone reading this is a Creation of a Benevolent Creator, and an individual work of craftsmanship. None of us are an accident. Therefore, like what you like, but also be encouraged to put more craft into your daily life, at work and home. Because you yourself are a craft, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Seek to be what you were made to be. Don’t just “play it safe.” Define success differently.

So, what does Dream Theater sound like?

I considered posting the most “accessible” song by them I could find, but that wouldn’t fit the point. Instead, here is their instrumental “Dance of Eternity” which changes time signatures 108 times in just over 6 minutes. Oddly, the original drummer (and co-writer) on this song was in a Beatles cover band for a while.

Nearly all of you will hate this song, but this band does what they do and inspire some to also pursue their idea of “excellence” in spite of the outcome for their Facebook “likes”.

If this song is too much, the video for “Pull Me Under,” their only song that got any radio play is linked here. Tonight I’m wearing the T-shirt from that tour in 1992. The show was at Pier 6 in Baltimore during a heavy thunderstorm. For those that haven’t been to Pier 6, it’s basically a stage in front of seating under a big tent, open on 3 sides. It was a great show.