Posts Tagged ‘The Beach Boys’

Devotional Podcast #29: “Death & the Gospel According to the Beatles”

August 29, 2018

In this episode I challenge us Christians to ask ourselves which gospel we believe: the gospel according the Beatles or the gospel according to Jesus. Don’t answer too quickly! We all know what the “correct” answer is… but what does our heart say?

Devotional Text: Matthew 6:19-21

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Tuesday, August 28, 2018, and this is episode number 29 in my ongoing series of devotional podcasts. You’re listening right now to a song called “Girl,” by the Beatles, which I recorded directly from their 1965 LP Rubber Soul, on Capitol Records.

“Girl” is one of the best Beatles songs from one of their best albums, which means it’s a pretty darn good song! I played a longer portion of the song to introduce this episode than I normally do in these podcasts because I needed to get to the song’s third verse! Listen to these words about the eponymous “girl” to whom the song is directed:

Was she told when she was young
That pain would lead to pleasure?
Did she understand it when they said
That a man must break his back
To earn his day of leisure?
Will she still believe it when he’s dead?

John Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine in a 1970 interview that this verse is an attack on the Christian idea that suffering can be good, necessary, and redemptive—that “pain would lead to pleasure,” as the song says—indeed, that living a faithful Christian life is a life of self-denial, but this self-denial is worth it because it leads, ultimately, to lasting happiness and joy—in heaven if not before. As Jesus himself said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”[1]

Did the girl in the song grow up believing this—back when she was young and naive; back when her parents made her go to Sunday school; back before she had a mind of her own or could think for herself? If so, the song says, don’t believe it anymore! It’s not true! 

From the singer’s perspective, pain never leads to pleasure; it’s never good or necessary; pain is an enemy that disrupts or interrupts or otherwise distracts you from living “your best life now”; and death is the greatest enemy of all! The sooner the girl realizes this, the better. 

Besides, from the singer’s perspective, the girl will realize it eventually—when the worst thing happens to her. And the worst thing in the case of the song is the death of this unidentified man—perhaps her father—who obviously believed in Jesus, who “broke his back to earn his day of leisure”—who’s now dead. 

“Will she still believe it when he’s dead?” the singer cynically asks. The answer: “No… no, she won’t.” Whatever comforting Christian convictions, or principles, or—worse—platitudes she grew up with will come crashing down in the light of the harsh, cold reality of death. And when they come crashing down, well… she’ll realize that she needs to live for herself and not for others—and certainly not for God.

So the song is a cautionary tale: you’re going to die some day, too, dear listener… just like this man that the girl loved. Except… here’s the good news: it’s not too late for you to avoid the mistake that he made. You don’t have to end up like him; you don’t have to miss out on life the way he did! 

So… repent while there’s still time, the song says. Turn away from faith in God; turn to yourself; turn to pleasure; turn to getting as much out of life as you can while there’s still time. Read the rest of this entry »

Devotional Podcast #8: “What Are You Afraid Of?”

January 26, 2018

Have you noticed that the things that you fear today aren’t usually things that are happening today? Rather, they are things that might happen next week, next month, next year. Why is that? Yet Jesus says not to worry about anything beyond today. It seems clear to me, then, that our fear is a far bigger problem than the things that we’re afraid of.

Devotional Text: Matthew 6:34

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Friday, January 26, and this is Devotional Podcast number 8. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I bring you a new devotional on this channel.

You’re listening to the Beach Boys and their 1963 song “In My Room.” This came from the album Surfer Girl originally. I recorded this from their 1974 compilation album, Endless Summer, which reached number one on the Billboard album charts.

Recently, I was reading a college football blog, and the readers of this blog were arguing in the comments section—as they often do—about my team, the direction of the program, the coaching staff, the institution. And one of the commenters referred by name to another commenter with whom he disagreed—I’ll call him Jason—and said, “Last year, I remember that Jason said thus-and-so, but here’s why he’s been proven wrong.”

Well, that prompted Jason to come out of the woodwork and respond. He wrote, “Thank you for letting me live rent-free in your head for the past year!”

That was a pretty good putdown. Jason was saying, in so many words, “Yes, you may think I’m wrong, but whatever I said a year ago made such an impression on you, that you’ve been thinking about it ever since—stewing over it, letting yourself be bothered by it or angered by it. Therefore, I win the argument.”

But it got me thinking about the people that I allow to “live in my head rent-free.” Who are they and why do I give them such an exalted place of honor?

And usually, the people who “live in my head” are people I’m afraid of for some reason: For me, this is almost always in the professional sphere; my career: I’m often afraid of colleagues, or supervisors, or parishioners who I perceive don’t like me—I’m afraid of how they might judge me, what they might say about me, how they might influence the opinions of others.

I’m like Sally Field at the Academy Awards so many years ago. “You like me! You really, really like me!” I just want everybody to like me!

I know this is beyond silly; this is un-Christian. My only concern should be to please my Lord—and worry about how he judges me. But instead I worry about others. There are, I know, a host of very interesting reasons going back to my childhood why I struggle with this insecurity.

My point is, these are the people who I let “live in my head.”

I wish I could say I was afraid of bad and powerful men like Kim Jong-un, but, no… he rarely crosses my mind. The objects of my fear are much smaller and much more local.

But it’s not just people—I let things I worry about live there as well.

I’m not saying everyone is like me—you probably let other kinds of people other kinds of things live in your head. But I’m sure, like me, you do so out of fear.

One of C.S. Lewis’s masterpieces is The Screwtape Letters. It’s an imagined correspondence between a demon named Screwtape, a well-seasoned tempter of humans, and his nephew Wormwood, a so-called “junior tempter.” We only get to read Screwtape’s side of the correspondence. But we infer that Wormwood is seeking advice from his uncle on how to handle Wormwood’s “patient.” You see, in the world of The Screwtape Letters, each demon is assigned a human “patient”—more like a victim—and it’s that demon’s job to lead their victim away from God, and away from salvation through Christ, and toward hell. If their human ends up in hell, well… then that demon will be judged a success.

In one of Screwtape’s letters, he talks about how Wormwood can use his patient’s fear to his advantage. In this case, his patient is worried about being called up for military service. (The novel is set in World War II Britain.) It’s uncertain whether the patient will be drafted, so he feels a mixture of anxiety and suspense. Screwtape writes the following [emphasis mine]:

Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy’s will. [Remember, the “Enemy” in this case is God.] What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him—the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that he is to say “thy will be done”, and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided. It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of. Let him regard them [that is, the things he is afraid of] as his crosses: let him forget that, since they are incompatible, they cannot all happen to him, and let him try to practise fortitude and patience to them all in advance. For real resignation, at the same moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible, and the Enemy does not greatly assist those who are trying to attain it: resignation to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear, is far easier and is usually helped by this direct action.[1]

Do you see Lewis’s point? The devil tries to focus our minds on the things that we’re afraid of—things that are waiting for us out there, in the uncertain future, where any number of fearful, undesirable things may happen to us—or not: because the future is unknowable. What we know for sure, right now, is that we’re afraid. Therefore, what what God wants us to focus on instead at this very moment—is the fear itself. That fear should be the thing occupying our prayers.

In other words, the anxiety that we’re feeling right now, as we think of possible future outcomes, is the problem; not the possible outcomes that are making us anxious.

Or put it this way: The fear is the problem; not the thing that’s making us afraid.

This is clear from Jesus’ teaching. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). Or as the New Living Translation puts it, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.” This also clear from the rest of scripture. As Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, “[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Do you see the practical wisdom here?

What is making you unhappy todayright now… at this moment? It’s probably some “worst case scenario” that you fear will come to pass not today but at some point in the future—tomorrow, next week, next month.

Pray first about the fear that you’re experiencing right now. That fear is part of today’s trouble for which the Lord tells us to pray. You don’t yet know what tomorrow’s trouble is until you get there. But today’s trouble includes the fear that you’re experiencing. Pray about it! Your fear, as Lewis said above, is your “appointed cross” for today—not the thing that you’re afraid of.

Because, believe it or not, God doesn’t want you to be anxious… about anything… ever!

It’s not God’s will for you to worry. You’ll find out whether it’s God’s will for you to face that thing you’re afraid of when the time comes; at which point you can count on God’s giving you the grace you need to face it; but it’s definitely not God’s will for you to be afraid.

So pray that God will take away the fear. And listen to God’s Word—especially what it has to say about anxiety and fear. Start with Matthew 6:25-34.

1. C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Westwood, NJ: Barbour and Co., 1961), 34-5.

Advent Podcast Day 23: “Forgiveness Is the Hardest Part”

December 25, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Luke 2:13-14

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Merry Christmas! This is Brent White. It’s December 25, 2017, and this is Day 23 of my series of Advent podcasts—the last one for this season. You’re listening to the Brian Wilson song “Love and Mercy.” It’s not a Christmas song, but in addition to being a beautiful song, the sentiment is perfect for our topic. This song comes from Wilson’s 1988 self-titled solo album. Our scripture is Luke 2:10-11, which I’ll read now:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

In Matthew chapter 2, the wise men likely lived in Babylon, in the Persian Gulf region—about 700 miles east of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. How did God get these men to travel such a great distance to find Jesus? If the star was a miraculous astronomical event, God created it out of nothing for the benefit of these stargazers. If it was a natural event, God designed the universe in such a way that at just the right moment in history this natural astronomical event would appear in the night sky, get the attention of the magi, and inspire them to travel those 700 miles to see the newborn king of the Jews.

Just think: For the sake of saving a few lost, superstitious, idolatrous, pagan, polytheistic men, God literally moved heaven and earth to guide these men to salvation through Christ! Like it was nothing at all! Isn’t that amazing! God is amazing!

Similarly, in Luke chapter 2, God does something equally powerful, equally amazing: You see, Micah chapter 5, verse 2, tells us that the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

One small problem… The Messiah’s mother, Mary, was going to be having a her child very soon, and she’s 80 miles north of Bethlehem in Nazareth. If you’re God, how will you get her from point A to point B? You will put it in the mind of the most powerful ruler the world had ever seen to take a census of his empire—and require that everyone must return to their ancestral homeland. And voila! Problem solved. Crisis averted. The Messiah was born in Bethlehem, just as the Old Testament said he would be.

Pastor John Piper points out that God doesn’t do things “efficiently”—whether it’s moving heaven and earth for the sake of a few astrologers, or moving tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people around an empire like pieces on a chessboard—all for the sake of moving two seemingly “insignificant” people—Mary and Joseph—from Nazareth to Bethlehem, so that prophecy can be fulfilled.

As Piper says, It’s almost like God is showing off—the way he accomplishes things in the world!

The point is, these spectacular miracles are not hard for God. Likewise, it’s not hard for this same God to make a paralytic walk, or a blind man to see, or a hemorrhaging woman to stop bleeding. It’s not even hard for for this same God to bring someone back to life. That’s simply not hard for God.

But in this podcast I want to talk about the one thing that is hard for God: the forgiveness of sins—the very reason Jesus came into the world. What do I mean when I say it was hard? Well…

Was it not hard when Jesus sweated drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for his Father, if possible, to take away this cup of God’s wrath away from him—a cup that Jesus would drink down to the bitter dregs? Was it not hard when Christ endured the beatings, the mockings, the crown of thorns thrust on his head, the nails driven through his hands and feet? Was it not hard when, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us on the cross, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God? Was it not hard when Jesus experienced the God-forsaken death, the suffering, the separation from his Father, the hell, that we deserved to suffer on the cross? Was it not hard when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This is what forgiveness of our sins cost God. God purchased our forgiveness with the shedding of his own blood, the only way forgiveness of sin is possible. And how does God have blood in the first place? How does he have a body that can bear the punishment for our sin? How does God become a perfect substitute for us human beings? How does God die in order save us?

By becoming human. Which is what God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, does for us when he became incarnate—out of a love that we can hardly comprehend.

And that is the meaning of Christmas. This is what we’re celebrating today.

And maybe some of you are thinking, “Pastor Brent, I think you’ve got the wrong holiday: You’ve mostly talked about Jesus dying on the cross. And today is Christmas, not Good Friday… not Easter.”

But brothers and sisters, you don’t understand: the meaning of Christmas is Easter.

Advent Podcast Day 20: “It’s a Wonderful Life”

December 22, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 22, 2017, and this is Day 20 of my series of Advent podcasts. You’re listening to Brian Wilson’s song “Wonderful,” from the Brian Wilson Presents Smile album, an album he originally conceived, in 1966 with the Beach Boys, as a “teenage symphony to God.”

This week, I renewed my annual Christmas tradition of watching It’s a Wonderful Life. I haven’t watched it in four or five years—so I guess it’s not much of a tradition, but it ought to be! This time I even watched it with my son Ian, who had never seen it before—and he liked it as much as I hoped he would. Oh my goodness… It was somehow even better than I remembered! Deeper, more thought-provoking!

There’s a lot in It’s a Wonderful Life that’s grist for the mill for one Advent podcast, but I want to limit myself to just one idea in this particular podcast.

If you haven’t seen the movie, let me give you a brief recap: George Bailey was an ambitious young man who always dreamed of escaping his small town of Bedford Falls, of seeing the world, of going to college, of becoming a success architect, engineer, and entrepreneur. But through a series of misfortunate events, George sacrifices one dream after another, until he gets stuck in Bedford Falls—running a Building and Loan he inherited from his father, watching old classmates and even his younger brother achieve the success and notoriety he so desperately craved himself.

To add insult to injury, George’s ne’er-do-well Uncle Billy loses an $8,000 bank deposit, which the authorities believe George has embezzled from his Building and Loan. Since George has no money to pay the money back, he fears that he’ll soon be arrested. Convinced that he’s worth more dead than alive—since he at least has a life insurance policy—he contemplates suicide before an angel named Clarence intervenes to save him. And one way Clarence saves him is by showing him what the world would be like if George had never been born.

The angel shows George one example after another of how much better his fellow townspeople’s lives are as a result of George’s life. George sees that every unlucky break, every setback, every disappointment, every perceived failure in his life played a role in blessing the lives of others.

It was almost like someone was behind the scenes of George’s life, pulling strings, coordinating events, making things work out in a particular way. And although the movie doesn’t come right out and say it, we Christians can watch this movie and know that Someone was doing these things. While things weren’t going according to George’s plans, they were going exactly according to God’s plan—and that plan was very good. This is how God works in our world, too, for those of us who believe in his Son Jesus.

It was certainly true of of Mary in Luke chapter 1. There we see a number of ways in which Mary’s life is not going according to her plans. Pregnant out of wedlock for a reason that her fiancé could not believe… called by God to do the seemingly impossible, she nevertheless surrenders to God, saying, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And a few days later, when her relative Elizabeth confirms everything the angel had told her—Mary is ecstatic. She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

Brothers and sisters, being a Christian means learning to be O.K. with the idea that God’s plans are infinitely bigger and more important than our own. And not just being O.K. with it, celebrating it! Saying, along with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord!”

The prophet Jeremiah spoke the word of God to his fellow Jews after Babylon had conquered Judah and all hope seemed lost. Not what these Israelites had planned, to say the least. And he said the following: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Friends, if we are in Christ, God has the same good plans for us! God has made us a part of his plans. So that, like Mary, we will also “magnify the Lord!” The Lord’s bigger than that dream of yours that never came true. Besides, he’s got a better dreams for you anyway. “Magnify the Lord!” He’s bigger than any problem you’re facing in your family, with your kids, with your husband or wife. “Magnify the Lord!” He’s bigger than that scary diagnosis you received, or that cancer, or that tumor, or that disease you’re dealing with. “Magnify the Lord!” He’s bigger than any problem you’re facing in your job or at school! “Magnify the Lord!” He’s bigger than any financial crisis you’re dealing with! “Magnify the Lord!” He’s bigger than any sin, any failure, any disappointment. “Magnify the Lord!” He’s bigger than whatever you’re afraid of. “Magnify the Lord!”

Why do we act like our problems are so large, and the Lord is so small? We need to magnify the Lord!

Billy Graham on Vinyl, Part 1: “God’s Delinquent”

March 28, 2014

graham_lp

Given my natural interest in old things, I figure I should have been born around 1952. That way, at 14 years old—the most formative time in life to discover great music—I could have walked into a record store on May 16, 1966, and purchased two of the best albums ever made, both of which were released that day: Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. And I could have easily gotten them both in mono—the way they were meant to be heard!

Ahh… That would have been a perfect day!

Nevertheless, the great thing about being a vinyl junkie is that records—at least since Columbia Records introduced the LP in 1948—are surprisingly durable. Which brings me to today’s subject…

Vintage Billy Graham sermons on vinyl!

I bet there are at least three people out there who are as excited about this as I am!

graham_back_pic

Detail from the back cover.

Consider this a new series on my blog. In addition to today’s sermon, I have five more in the hopper. (And, if eBay cooperates, maybe even more on the way!)

Today’s sermon is “God’s Delinquent,” which comes from Side 1 of Word Records W-6114-LP, circa 1964.

The sermon, as Graham says at the beginning, is aimed at young people and their parents. It’s about Samson, whose story is found in Judges 13-16. It includes several topical references (as all good sermons do), so it’s well past its expiration date. And Graham’s oratorical style—which is GREAT, by the way—isn’t congruent with contemporary styles of preaching (but that’s our problem). But if you can look past that, the message still rings true.

Am I the only one surprised by the frank manner with which Graham discusses young people’s “problem with sex”—even the fact that he uses the word “sex” in a 1964 sermon surprises me. (Eat your heart out, Mark Driscoll!)

I especially like this part:

And there comes a time when a young person has to make up his own mind. When you come to give your life to Christ, you can’t go on your parents’ religion. There are a lot of people who are resting on Mother’s faith or Dad’s faith. No, it’s got to be a faith of your own! You see a lot of us tonight have been reared with religious backgrounds, but you never really come to know Christ for yourself. There isn’t the joy and the peace and the satisfaction and the assurance in your own life. You haven’t really come to him yourself. You haven’t had the experience of Christ in you. That’s what you need.

I heard about some people down in the south that had told everybody that they were going to New York City, and while they were in New York city as tourists they were going to see My Fair Lady when it was on in New York. And they went and to their amazement when they got there they couldn’t get tickets,  it was packed out. And they were going to be there four days and every show was packed. And they wondered how in the world they were going to go back to their little town in the south and tell everybody they didn’t get to see My Fair Lady.

So, they stood in front of the theater one afternoon and saw people coming out after the matinee. And they saw that people were throwing tickets away—half tickets. So they got an idea. They went over and they bought for a dollar a program, My Fair Lady. Then they reached in the gutter and got some tickets, put them in their pockets and went home singing and humming “I Could Have Danced All Night.” “On the Street Where She Lives.”

They had the tickets to show. They had the program. They knew the songs. They had everything, except they hadn’t been to see My Fair Lady.

And that’s the way with a lot of you: You’ve got the language. You’ve got the looks. You can sing the songs. You can quote the verses. You’ve got everything except you yourself haven’t been to the cross… and known Christ for yourself.

To listen, click on the media player above or right-click on this link to download .mp3 file.