Hope Where There Was None: A Review

I haven’t written a blog post in quite some time, but listening to Loud Harp’s new album Hope Where There Was None has inspired me to return to the computer (just this once for now) to endorse this album.

Hope Where There Was None, which was just released today, is a demonstration of Loud Harp’s growing ability to take biblical truths and weave them into atmospheric music that is approachable, especially for those going through genuine hurt. The entire theme of the album is Immanuel, God with us. The reality of God’s presence in the midst of every crisis we face is the simple but profound truth that every song breathes out. “Weeping Mary” introduces the album with a call to all those who are weeping, sinking, and doubting. The subsequent songs point the listener to God as the one who provides strength, joy, peace, and hope when we come to the end of ourselves and turn to Him. The final song, “Sew My Heart,” ends the album with a prayer to God, asking Him to sew our hearts to His Word with the expectation that our worries will fade away as we focus on His truth.

As a Bible college graduate, I greatly appreciate Loud Harp’s talent in incorporating profound truths from Scripture into beautifully crafted music. Take these lyrics from the song “Steady” as an example:

You’re the joy in the middle of my pain (James 1:2)
You’re the peace I cannot explain (Philippians 4:7)
You’re the love I’ll never escape (Romans 8:38-39)
You are, You are God (Psalm 46:10)

I added biblical references at the end of each line to demonstrate how saturated this album is with God’s truth. As I listened through this album, I was reminded of the many promises and truths in Scripture that I literally clung to during a time of trial. I was led to praise many times during the past two weeks while listening to this album, remembering God’s faithfulness during seasons of trouble.

Hope Where There Was None is a much needed antidote to our culture’s prevailing advice to turn inward and trust in yourself during times of trouble. The message of Loud Harp’s new album rejects this notion, turning instead to God, His Word, and His faithful presence for sustenance during the trials of life. I would say that this album is especially needed for those in hurt. The prayerful and worshipful tone of HWFWN makes the album so approachable. Loud Harp seems to understand that some people are in need of an alternative to the upbeat CCM songs that are constantly played on Christian radio. Several of the songs follow the pattern of many psalms, acknowledging the difficulty of a situation but calling to mind God’s truth and praising him for the strength He provides. Loud Harp’s talents are much needed for those walking through difficult times, as they ultimately point the listener back to God.

Whether or not you are going through tough times, Hope Where There Was None is worth buying and listening to. The album has been greatly encouraging for me, and I hope that you find it an encouragement as well.

Hacksaw Ridge: An Introduction Without a Finale

As someone with a rich Anabaptist heritage, the story behind director Mel Gibson’s recent film, Hacksaw Ridge, greatly intrigued me. Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Desmond Doss, a WWII veteran that participated in the action in Okinawa in the Pacific theater of war, 1945. What set Doss apart was his unbreakable affinity to nonviolence as a Seventh-Day Adventist. The film portrays Doss’ participation as a combat medic at Okinawa which earned him the first Medal of Honor award ever given to a conscientious objector.

For all his concentration on nonviolence, something which I believe is wholly biblical, Gibson spends an incredible amount of time crafting nauseatingly pornographic scenes of violence. In effect, he ennobles what he seeks to protest. But perhaps this was Gibson’s point. It’s only in the truly macabre display of bloodshed that Doss’ nonviolence is given a piercing contrast.

While there’s much good to affirm in Gibson’s portrayal of Doss’ Christian beliefs, the final result falls short of a truly nonviolent message. Doss’ convictions stem from a fascination with the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13), a passage only understood in the context of Gen. 1:26-27. At one point, Doss does allude to Matt. 5:21-26, implying a rudimentary understanding of the New Covenant. But unfortunately, Jesus as the slain Lamb of God who conquered by being conquered is seemingly absent from Doss’ worldview, leaving Gibson’s message caged in the Old Testament devoid of the power of the resurrection—victory in defeat. Gibson’s film, while poignant, is grossly incomplete.

Let’s Talk About: Social Media

A few years ago, before I began attending Eternity Bible College, I took a class at a Pennsylvanian university in child psychology. Though I forget her name, the professor was the best professor I ever had. She connected well with her students, she was extremely passionate about the subject, and she designed every assignment with a specific purpose. In class one day, as she leaned back against the metal desk that stood in the corner of the room, she tossed out a question to us: “What impact do you think social media has on the development of children and teenagers?” Since then, I’ve never viewed social media the same way. Continue reading

How Helpful Honda Hurts Human Hearts

You may have heard their commercials on the radio or seen them on TV. Those kind and thoughtful Helpful Honda people are always around when you seem to need help. Whether your mom needs a new air conditioner, the football program at your underprivileged school needs some financial oomph, or you just want free gas, Helpful Honda people are looking for ways to meet needs in your community. I really want to travel to Europe sometime and I could use a new car because my “Little Ford Focus that Couldn’t” keeps breaking down. Maybe the Helpful Honda people will see this blog and give me a brand new Honda and an all expenses paid trip to Rome. One can dream, right?

Christians can learn a thing or two from the Helpful Honda campaign. For one, Helpful Honda people are willing to seek needs rather than waiting for needs to come knocking on their showroom door. Second, Helpful Honda people are doing really good work restoring schools, helping underprivileged communities, and blessing people with free gas. When was the last time you bought a tank of gas for someone? But that’s where the dark side of Helpful Honda shows through. Behind all the philanthropic positives and kind Mr. Rogers-esque enthusiasm about helping your neighbor, Helpful Honda is a shockingly accurate reminder of sin.

See, Helpful Honda runs on the basis of karma: “I’ll help you meet your need to make myself look and feel better.” It’s a program designed not to help people as it claims but to give Honda a better reputation, provide content for marketing campaigns, and get people in the door to buy a new car with low interest rates. The end goal of Helpful Honda is not to help people. The end goal of Helpful Honda is to manipulate people into buying more Hondas. Karma, masquerading as Helpful Honda, is selfish. It’s all about using and manipulating someone to make yourself look good and feel better, and maybe something good will happen to you as a result. Someone who believes in karma doesn’t open the door for me because they want to serve me; they open the door for me so that something good will fall back on them. Karma isn’t externally focused at all, and it’s one of the most deceptive ideologies in our world today. Thankfully, Jesus came to save us from karma.

In 1 John, the apostle John writes that our human understanding of love was incomplete until Jesus came and died on a cross for us. In 3:16 John writes, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Jesus, quite literally, redefined love for us by coming to serve instead of be served (Matt. 20:28, Mark 10:45). He showed us that loves looks a lot like crossing your legs in the dust of Nazareth with the least of these—the lepers, the blind, the paraplegics, and the demon-possessed. Jesus showed us that love looks a lot like a King washing the camel dung and dirt off of 24 calloused and bunioned feet before breaking bread with His betrayer. Love looks a lot like a King born with chords trumpeted from the throats of donkeys and sheep rather than brass melodies. Love looks a lot like a cross. It looks like helping people who can’t return the favor and dying for your enemies. Both Jesus and karma died on a cross 2,000 years ago, but only One raised three days later.

Karma is a painful reminder that no matter how “good” of a morally upstanding citizen you claim to be, you’re still hopelessly wicked. No matter how many good things Honda tries to do, it’s still a flawed system. People nowadays call that manipulation and it destroys healthy relationships all the time. I’m very passive aggressive, I should know this.

But like Tim Keller once mentioned, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Even the most seemingly innocent worldview, karma, is completely broken without Jesus. Even the nicest, most well-intentioned people are still the most wicked and selfish jerks deep down inside. But Jesus died for broken systems filled with vicious jerks. Just look at me.

Let’s Talk About: “Secular” Music

Have you ever talked with someone who’s not a Christian about music? Would you ever use the word “secular” to talk about what that person listens to? Let me know how that conversation goes, because I’m sure the person won’t feel particularly loved by the way you describe his music. The terminology is only something  a religious person would use to distinguish that type of music from religious music. It’s not in other people’s musical vocabulary. But since it’s a type of music that many Christians warn against, let’s talk about “secular” music.

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