I was thinking of the words to an old hymn, Hide Thou Me…
Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my life in vain, I’m tempted oft to murmer, to grumble and complain; But when I think of Jesus and what He’s done for me, Then I cry, to the Rock of Ages, hide thou me.
There are times when the burdens of life get so heavy; when the struggles get so hard; when no matter what, we still worry; that we have to cry out to Jesus, “Hide me!” Thankfully, He does. Back around 1880 Vernon Charlesworth wrote, “The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide, A Shelter in the time of storm; Secure whatever ill betide, A Shelter in the time of storm.”
How different it is for the unbeliever.
Where does the atheist turn when his world is falling apart? When all friends forsake him? When the doctors say, “I’m sorry, but we’ve done all we can do?” When someone sings “The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow,” but he knows he won’t see it?”
Where does the unbeliever hide? In drugs? Alcohol? Meditation? Sex? Nietzsche? Nature (which he believes is nothing more than the product of random chance and void of meaning)?
Scripture (Revelation 6:16) speaks of a day when men who chose to run from the Rock will “cry to the mountains and rocks” to “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne…” Ironic, isn’t it?
Oh, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”
I was a senior in high school; I was infatuated with Pheobe Cates and Susanna Hoffs; I drove a 1979 Pinto station wagon, and that Chrismas season the English pop duo Wham! released “Last Christmas.”
The year was 1984.
George Michael (the famous half of Wham!) wrote “Last Christmas,” and in the end donated all royalties toward the Ethiopian famine relief. However, it’s my belief that there was an alternative purpose for writing “Last Christmas.” Besides feeding the hungry, the idea was to create a song which every new and up-and-coming talentless pop star could record in lieu of composing something original.
It was December of 1984…the year the movie Dune came out. No wonder I hate this song.
It’s Now 2021
It is now December of 2021 and everyone from Ariana Grande to Ashley Tisdale have done a cover of “Last Christmas.” Just about every time I get in the car and turn on the radio, or walk into any store, restaurant, or torture chamber, “Last Christmas” can be heard degrading the airwaves.
You know, if mankind is supposed to be evolving, why doesn’t Gwen Stefani just do a cover of Handel’s “Messiah”? Oh, yeah, I forgot.
Why I Hate It
So what is my gripe about “Last Christmas”? I’m glad you asked.
It’s the chorus…the chorus that gets sung over, and over, and over, and over again.
“Last Christmas I gave you my heart / But the next day you gave it away /
This year / To save me from tears / I’ll give it to someone special.” – George Michael
Was the person this song was written about not a special person when the singer’s heart was first given away?
If this year you’re going to give your heart to “someone special,” what does that say about the person to whom the song is being sung? Was she nothing more than some floozy you met at the ski lodge? Did she wake you up before she went went?
If you’re in the habit of flippantly giving your heart away to non-special people – people who think so little of your heart that they give it away the very next day – what makes you think this year’s “special” person won’t do the same on December 26th?
I can see how a person would receive a heart, like during a transplant, but how does one “give it away” the very next day? Does one say to a new lover, “Hey, baby, let me give you this heart – some other guy gave it to me yesterday for Christmas”?
The other day my wife and I stopped by a charity to donate some items for resale. Before we unloaded the items we no longer needed, my wife asked, “Do you want to go inside and look around?” “Sure,” I replied. “Anything to make you happy.”
A few minutes into our exploring of used or discounted items, my wife saw this strange, yet interesting music box sitting on a shelf. She said, “Look…a music box…it’s different…I wonder how much they want for it?”
Valerie reached up and turned the music box up on its side, and then she asked me to look at what she saw. Immediately I was struck with the awkwardness of the message and realized there was a potential blog post waiting to be written.
Here was the answer to at least one of my questions to George Michael and all of his subsequent knock-offs. Obviously, George was giving his special and non-special Christmas relationships tacky music boxes…
Honestly, I’ve written some fairly decent songs over the years, but one of my favorites (at least in the month of May) is “The Mother’s Day Song.”
Therefore, I want you to listen to this song again.
Seriously. It’s a tradition. And I would love for you to share it in honor of my late mother who went to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on March 16th.
Read Them, Love Them
Now, it’s not because I’m being lazy, it’s just that some previous Mother’s Day posts I wrote were pretty good ones, and I’m not really up to writing much more than this on this Mother’s Day. Below are a couple of links.
(As a bonus, scroll through the comments and you’ll get to see me play and sing it live.)
My grandmother died in 2019, then my mother died a couple of months ago. With all my grandparents, and now both my parents gone, I’m truly the “adult” in the family. When my mom was still living (and she lived with us), there were times I would take a piece of art to her, or ask her about a sermon, and say, “What do/did you think?” Even as a 53-year-old man I wanted my mother’s approval.
That’s one of the things I already miss that I truly took for granted.
But I know she liked my “Mother’s Day Song” and smiled when I sang it.
So, appreciate your mother on Mother’s Day, everyone! Sing the song!
It’s the dream of many young people to have a garage band. A few of them actually put a band together that can crank, get in gear, and drive out of the garage.
Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s my sister and I had a band called “Mirror Image.” We came on to the scene at a time when musical styles were in the process of changing and popular Christian music was still trying to find itself. Stylistically, we were either too early, or too late.
Nevertheless, our final incarnation, consisting of my sister, Rebecca (keyboard & vocals), Steve Castlen (drums), Jody Gould (guitar), and myself (bass), was a locally popular band that, at least, made a small impact on eternity. Our music was original (either written by Rebecca, me, or the group), fun, and intended to reach a younger generation with the gospel of Christ.
As a result, more than a few young people came to know Jesus as their Savior! I can remember one concert in Dayton, TN, where 7 or 8 youth accepted Christ!
A New Year
It’s now 2021 (Hallelujah!), Mirror Image is no more, and all of the band members have gone on to other things. Rebecca has been living in Germany for the last 10 years and is married to a German citizen, Carlos (I gladly call him my brother-in-law). Fortunately for all of us, she has been here with us in the States for the last couple of months visiting because of our mother’s health.
I’m not too sure what all the rest of the guys are doing these days. I do know they are all well, married, and still doing music in some way or another. It’s been a long-time dream of mine to get everybody back together (including our first band members, like our first lead-guitarist Alex Quarles) for a reunion concert. But, as you can imagine, it’s not been easy or practical.
However, since Rebecca has been back, before she returns to Germany in a week or so, we are going to partially fulfill my dream of a reunion concert! This coming Sunday morning we are going to perform at the church where I’m the pastor (Bethlehem Baptist, Warthen, GA)! Yes, it will be a reunion concert (if only with half the band)!
If you can’t be there, I hope you can watch it on Facebook Live.
An Old Song
One thing that has changed since the 1990s is our age – we aren’t the young and energetic 20-somethings we used to be. Therefore, not only our health but our tastes in music have changed a little and matured. Therefore, the songs that Rebecca and I will be playing will sound a little different than they did 25 years ago, especially since it will be performed on only the piano and bass, with an acoustic guitar thrown in on a few.
But to give you an idea of what we sounded like back in the day, I’ve included below a recording (made during a practice session in a Sunday School room). It’s a song I wrote called “New Age.”
“New Age” talks about how many religions and cults point toward a coming day when the world will enter a “new age” of peace, understanding, and oneness. The only problem is that those who dogmatically worship one God must be “taken out” of the world, one way or another.
The New Age, the Paradigm Shift, the new age of human evolution: none of it can come to pass as long as Christians are still in the world. Ironically, Christians believe the same thing.
We refer to it as “the Rapture.”
(Written by Anthony Baker; Performed by Mirror Image)
I love good music, especially live music played by the ones singing their own songs. As a matter of fact, as a musician, I respect those who get up on stage and perform, regardless their style. At least they’re not singing to tracks.
Therefore (full disclosure), when I am riding in my car on long trips (anything over an hour) I tend to scan the channels for anything to keep me awake. For the most part, when I listen to the radio or music from Pandora or other sources it’s usually Christian music or talk radio. But sometimes talk radio can put me to sleep, so that’s when I turn to the “worldly music.”
Last night, as I was driving home late from dinner I had with a fellow pastor, I decided to listen to some 1980’s rock on Pandora. That’s when a song I’d never heard before started cranking out a catchy, enticing rhythm. It was a song by Sheryl Crow called “In the End.” Did she do that song in the 80s?
Anyway, Sheryl Crow is an accomplished songwriter as much as she’s ever been a singer. I like her voice and music style, so when when all of that talent comes together the sum is usually something entertaining. This song, “In the End,” is a prime example.
The Jesus Part
So, I started tapping my left foot as I began keeping time with my fingers on the steering wheel. Because “all I want to do” is stay awake, I didn’t really bother paying close attention to the lyrics.
But then the lyrics of the second verse of Sheryl Crow’s song spurred my attention.
There’s a man on the cross with His arms open wide And a tear that can quench the world’s fire But His name is a shield to the ones who would wield Their own power and greed and desire
She didn’t call Him out by name, but I do believe she was referencing Jesus. And on top of that, she was singing about those who use the name of Jesus to become rich and powerful. In other words, she was singing to the ministers who would take advantage of the “believers,” a common theme and stereotype promoted by the left.
Notice that Crow said the name of Jesus is a “shield” for those who want to use Jesus to get what they want. It’s nothing new, either. Remember Simon Magnus from the book of Acts? He actually wanted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit in order to use God’s power to make a profit.
Have you ever heard it said, “Jesus I like, but I can’t stand his followers”? That’s kinda the idea.
But false prophets, millionaire ministers, and greedy pastors are not the only ones who hide behind a “shield,” a banner, a motif, or an ideal to fleece the sheep. Ever noticed that the most broken, crime-ridden, blood-splattered, poverty-stricken cities have been run by Democrats?
Have you ever noticed that the very same people who have been in charge for so long continue to say they are the ones needed to fix things? Why is there still poverty in black communities? Why is our national debt practically untenable, yet they say we are not spending enough on infrastructure, education, and abortion clinics?
Why is it that every Democrat politician leaves office richer than when they were elected, and by far more than the accumulated wealth from their salaries? To be fair, I could ask the same for the Republicans, too!
In the beginning of Crow’s song she is clearly referring to politicians and their “believers” who blindly accept every promise. The second verse shines light on the greedy preacher or televangelist. Both will eventually get what’s coming to them… in the end.
But what of those who year after year, decade after decade, hide behind the “shield” of the disenfranchised, the poor, the homeless, the hungry, etc., etc., etc.? It’s so easy to label those behind the pulpit, but what about the podium?
In the End,” who are the ones always telling their followers exactly what they want to hear, yet never delivering? Who are the ones hiding behind the “shields” of race, gender, equality, tolerance, benefits, and handouts while accumulating more and more power over those for whom they promise to wipe their tears?
I don’t believe in Karma, but it could explain the increased rat population.
I know I’ve already shared this song. I played it at church, yesterday, and then posted the video on Facebook this morning. However, I thought it would be good to re-post this piece, today, so that new readers might get the whole story.
Unfortunately, I learned just this week that Sgt. Sullivan’s grandmother (Brenda Sullivan, 70) passed away in June of last year, followed by his mother (Debbie Sullivan Beavers, 54) on July 5th.
Several years ago, just after the second gulf conflict broke out, the town I was living in lost its first son. On December 30, 2006, Sgt. John Michael Sullivan was killed by a roadside bomb. Only 22, he left behind a wife and baby who was born the day after Sgt. Sullivan died.
I will never forget the visitation at the funeral home. Soldiers stood guard at each end of Sgt. Sullivan’s casket. One soldier was a West Point cadet. Every thirty minutes they would rotate out, similar to the way the guard is changed at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington. The honor and respect was palpable.
Folks in the southern United States don’t take kindly to disrespect – especially at the funeral of a fallen soldier. Sgt. Sullivan died while taking a friend’s place on patrol, which made him a genuine hero. He was a local boy. So, when it was rumored that protesters from Westboro Baptist Church were going to be protesting, blood began to boil.
Standing guard outside the funeral home, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, were motorcyclists (over 200 hundred of them) holding American flags. They lined the street and sidewalks as far as anyone could see. Each one, wearing leather vests, seemed as tough as the Harleys they rode.
I won’t give names, but I heard a couple of high-ranking officials discussing the protesters. They knew Westboro’s hateful tactics and what typically went on at other funerals. So, in a whisper not meant to be overheard, one official said to another, “If those ———-‘s show up, just turn your back – let the guys outside handle them.”
Westboro never showed up. They must have gotten word.
More than Talk
Some people talk a big talk, but never walk the walk. Some people brag about what they would do in a given situation, such as combat, but never volunteer to prove it. But as Sgt. Sullivan lay there in his casket, no words were needed; his sacrifice proved his courage – and love.
Scripture says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Others may say they love their friends, but the silent soldier in front of me didn’t have to say a word.
As I paid my respects, it struck me how this young man had essentially given his life for me, a stranger. Like so many other men and women we remember on Memorial Day, Sgt. Sullivan willingly took another’s place. He did what we could not.
The emotion I felt that day led me to write a song in Sgt. Sullivan’s honor. But it also honors of the One who gave His life so that we could be eternally free.
Here is “No Greater Love” as sung by my daughter, Katie (we just recorded it on the iPhone, so forgive the low quality).
(Note: Unfortunately, when I wrote the song, I didn’t know Sgt. Sullivan was actually 22. However, his mother, after hearing the song, told me it was OK.).
Yes, it has been a while since my youngest daughter, Haley, has heard me preach. However, this morning she was with my wife as thy watched the service from home.
Even before we left Soddy Daisy and South Soddy Baptist, Haley had started attending another, larger church several miles away. I couldn’t fault her, for she had grown up hearing me preach every Sunday. At least she would now be going to church on her own, not feeling obligated as my child to attend. That’s a good thing, right?
So, yes, it has been a while since Haley has sat in a room when I preached. The closest she’s been in a year was today, and that was a bedroom, not an auditorium. I do miss her.
Notice any difference?
This afternoon, no more than an hour ago, I asked Haley, “Did you notice any difference in the way I preached today compared to at Riverside or South Soddy?”
Have you ever received a comment that you couldn’t quite tell it’s meaning? In other words, have you ever been told something that could be interpreted as either a good thing or a bad thing, and you just didn’t know how to take it? And have you ever received one of those kinds of comments and not wanted to go deeper for fear it might have actually been derogatory and not complimentary?
That’s the kind of feedback I got from my daughter. I didn’t know how to take it.
“Uhh, well, you’re more of a Bible-thumper,” she said with a cool, matter-of-fact tone.
It’s hard to describe the feeling I got when she said that. At one moment I was both hurt and indignant; sad and elated; depressed and emboldened.
“That could be a good thing, I suppose” was my reply.
an evangelist or other person who quotes the Bible frequently, especially as a means of exhortation or rebuke. – Dictionary.com
an aggressively zealous advocate of Christian fundamentalism. – Merriam-Webster
Used as a disparagingtermfor a Christian,especially a fundamentalist or evangelicalChristian,considered to be overlyzealous in haranguing or censuringothers. – TheFreeDictionary.com
Or, maybe it’s not.
I guess it hurts, coming from my little girl. I just hope she can see beyond the delivery of the sermon to the Truth of the message.
Decide for Yourself
Should you want to decide for yourself, feel free to watch the attached video from this morning’s streamed service.
(Please excuse the poor video resolution, but in this part of the country the upload speed is only 3-6 Mbps, so I have to set my iPhone to the lowest setting, which is 720p.)