Thursday’s Random Thoughts


1. I’m pretty sure that boycott of Chick-fil-a is not going to work. One reason is that every time there is a news story about it I want to eat ten of their chicken sandwiches and drink Chick-fil-a sauce. I can’t be the only one. Another reason is that it may be the stupidest boycott ever.

2. Those of us who can retain a good mood while sick are at a distinct disadvantage over against those who cannot. No one thinks we are really all that sick. We should mope more. The problem is that the only thing I really feel like doing when sick is reading, which just happens to be my favorite thing in the world to do. So I smile.

3. I knew I was sick and should not be at work yesterday when I got emotional trying to get some work done and I kept getting interrupted. Normally I just yell and scream and toss my monitor through the window.

4. Criticism of someone’s theology/convictions should be acceptable and understandable.  But when the criticism veers into overt insult something it is damnably wrong. We cannot seek to protect his glory while being unloving to his people.

5. Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) writes in the liner notes for The Gaslight Anthem’s new album, Handwritten, “Anyone who has ever been frustrated by anything – a girl, a boy, a job, a self (especially that) – can listen to this music and feel understood and energised.” Yep.

6. You ever think, “Why does everyone wanna be famous? I just wanna sit outside my home under the night sky with my wife while the kids sleeping soundly”?

7. Talked on the phone with an A29 church planter who joked about me being the guy who *loves* Acts 29 church planters. We laughed heartily. Fact is, I do have quite an affection for many of them. I just think the whole Acts 29 system needs to be rethought. Within its DNA there is trouble brewing in the future. We’ve already felt the tremors.

8. I’ve only worked two days this week and I’ve already had two young girls cry at my desk. This keeps happening to no one else at the branch but me. I’ve gotta be honest it’s what keeps me at it the most. The money is OK. The subject of banking and finance is vaguely interesting. But sitting there making hurting and lonely and scared people feel comfortable for at least a short window of time keeps me at it.

9. For all the problems social media has, I love seeing all the good that is done simply because someone knows about a need and has the means and desire to meet that need. But I still get tired of all the rainbow Jesus pictures. Those are horrible.

10. I don’t think rock’n’roll can save the world. But it sure helps to sing along while Someone else does the saving.

Midweek Music: Review of The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten

Dec. 26, 2008. I’m lying in bed at my parent’s house after being very sick the Christmas night before. By the afternoon, I start to feel better so I decide to cash in credit and buy some music. While looking through a list of albums, one stood out. Four guys staring into the lens. Leather Jackets. It had rock and roll all over it. I bought it based on the cover alone.

By the time I finished listening to The ’59 Sound straight through, I was astounded. My first thought as the last note vibrated out into the ether was, “I’ll never be able to listen to this for the first time ever again.” The only album I’ve listened to more may be Darkness on the Edge of Town by Springsteen. But I never saw the influence the Boss had on them till much later. I kept telling people it was the Clash meets West Side Story conceived in a garage.

Hard to believe that was four years ago.

Since then we’ve had American Slang, a great album, which simply suffered from comparison. We were graced with Brian Fallon’s wonderful side project, The Horrible Crowes’ Elsie

But we’ve been waiting. Not so much for a repeat of The ’59 Sound as much as a repeat of all that emotion and energy. All the intensity and wonder. All the youth crashing into the retaining wall of adulthood.

And we have it with the release of Handwritten. I’ve been listening to to it over and over for days and with each listen the songs swell from within. 

Each of the eleven songs are full to breaking of all that makes rock and roll so great – that relentless go for broke explosion of emotion in the midst of daily life. This is rock and roll for the everyman. 

In a musical landscape full of quirky and ironic, not to mention strange tunes, The Gaslight Anthem serves up gritty gut-level, heart-on-your-sleeve music. Handwritten is relentlessly honest. From the opening track, “45,” to the closing beauty, “National Anthem,” this is a soul wide-open album.

And all the subjects we wrestle with in the ditches and dining rooms of our life are present in these songs – death, lost love, should-have-beens, and the questions of faith. And you’ll want to sing as loud as you can to each one. Over and over again.

Below are the first two cuts from Handwritten, a one-two punch of fist-pumping, vein- popping-singing-with-every-window-down-rock-and-roll.

Tuesday’s 2: TGA’s new album and my piece on

1. Today is Gaslight Anthem day. It’s been over 2 years since a TGA album was released. I’ll give you a review tomorrow but suffice it to say, this album is all we hoped rock and roll could be. Go get it on iTunes. Below is the video/short film of title track, Handwritten. Let your heart beat right out of your chest.

2. Maybe even bigger is that I have a post up at Internetmonk. I read…get fed from this site everyday so it’s an honor to be there. Don’t stop with my article. Read the articles by Chaplain Mike and Jeff Dunn. Then do yourself a favor and read from the archives the writings of Michael Spencer.

For All Doug Wilson’s Theological Acumen

A new commandment I give to you, that you be a complementarian…

A new commandment I give to you, that you be an inerrantist…

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…

I did all I could to stay out of the fray. But I was too amazed. To catch up with what has happened, you should probably start from what should have been the end of it.

But that was not the end of it. Not by a long shot. Doug Wilson, in contradistinction to Jared Wilson, went on the offensive. And by “offensive” I mean offensive. Chaplain Mike sets up the responses side by side here.

So, for all his theological acumen…for all his wit, he cannot see that he has failed at the one thing the Scriptures calls the most important. Whether it is Jesus answering the question of the greatest commandment or Paul distinguishing between the greatest of these – love is set up to be the singular distinguishing trait among Christian ethics.

And yet Wilson finds himself in the position of shrugging off any need for kindness because he has good theology and “they” do not. So he insults them by calling them “feminist bedwetters” and a “sob sister rugby scrum.”

Then he mocks them.

Here’s what I don’t get – why not just make your case and step away? Wilson is a great writer. He is witty and clever. But it doesn’t happen. Whereas sometimes an apology can ring hollow, this defense has the tin of arrogance.

He didn’t have to be so cruel and offensive. But he was. Why? Because hitting all the acceptable theological points is what counts. Loving those who you disagree with – even on important topics – is far enough down the list to be written off. Once we’ve worked our way down the list of necessary convictions, we are supposed to be far too impressed to care that love is missing.

And those of you who know me personally, you already know that I probably agree with Wilson in theology more than I do those he is attacking. I attend an evangelical conservative Presbyterian church. But we are light years apart on this.

I do not think you get a free pass on lovingkindness simply because you have your theological ducks in a row and the ones whom you disagree with don’t. I also do not think this is “Christianity Lite” – to have this expectation of love.

A word to young pastors and the YRR. Do not go down this path. Hold on to all those theological convictions outside of the early creeds loosely. Learn to love those who do not hold them at all. Make your theological/denominational differences optional for others to be a part of the body and to be your friends. Hold tight to the the thematic ethic of the NT to love – one another, enemies, everyone. Be patient with those who are not with you on even some of the most critical points of theology. Yes, it is loving to preach and teach the truth! But it is infinitely important to also love in a way that those whom you disagree with will see you as loving.

My deep fear is not a country going down the tubes. It is not theological liberalism. It is not the entertainment industry. My deep fear that will not let me go – though I am through with pastoring – is a church that mirrors the political divide that is at each other’s throats far more than it mirrors Jesus –

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 ESV)

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. One of the great problems I had not thought of previously, with the whole celebrity pastor phenomenon, is the problem of parrots. Most pastors want something very exciting to happen in their church. Best case scenario is true zeal for God. Worst case scenario is so others will see what is happening and the pastor’s kingdom can be built more easily. Either way, almost every pastor will be tempted to parrot a celebrity pastor. And we can see that almost everywhere now.

2. I’ve been listening to a lot of Springsteen over the past year. Heck, if my book had a soundtrack, it would be Darkness on the Edge of the Town, I listened to it so often while  writing, if some lines edged its way into my work, I would not be surprised. And so I’ve been thinking deeply about why I cannot get enough of some of his albums. It’s gotta be the place of “place” in his songs. Not only do his songs have 4D characters with names. They have places. Places that really exist. You can feel the air of those places when he sings of them. At least I can.

3. The better I get at my job, the less I enjoy it. A couple of months ago, I feared depression might take over. I had trouble sleeping. I hated getting up in the morning. That is no longer the case. But I have far more good days at work now than bad days now. However, I don’t want to keep doing what I am doing much longer. My bosses already know this. And maybe that is why I fear being good at a job I do not enjoy.

4. I’ve often thought about writing a post for youth pastors. I’m one of those rare former youth pastors who would never go back but does not think youth ministry is a terrible idea. I just think most youth pastors approach it all wrong. They are looking for the eventful and hoping events will do something. Anything. They make the most zealous and spiritual kid the benchmark for everyone else. And they hope a camp, retreat, or some event will change the rest of ’em. In other words, they do not trust the week in and week out means of grace to change hearts one lesson, conversation, or meal covered in laughter at a time. And they judge by numbers. Numbers are for bankers.

5. Before I go to bed at night I’ve been spending a chapter in Middle Earth. I just started the LOTR trilogy again. If I was to write down all the great lines in these books, I would have a folio almost as thick as the original. The story is great – full of affection and adventure – but I love the language more than any of it. The way they speak to each other and have poems and songs spill out like tears and laughter in their midst are what keeps drawing me back.

6. Am I the only way who gets a number of followers on Twitter who once I follow them they ask me to go to the blog and/or retweet something of theirs? Am I the only one who loathes this practice and finds it insulting? Far too often it is a pastor or someone in parachurch work doing this.

7. This book thing seems to be really happening. I’m supposed to working up a list of people I would want to review and/or endorse the book. They want my ideas on this. The idea that someone would recommend my book is all at once sensational and surreal. I know I want writers, who are concerned about the craft of writing to endorse the book. And I know my greatest fear is ending up in the clearance bin.

8. I’m no longer in ministry, vocationally speaking, but I still get a thrill of reading the NT in the Greek. That may never leave. Some of you get this. Part of it is a love of words and their meanings and how they are used. Part of the enjoyment is how different it is from what I get paid to do. And no one I work with would care that I can read the Greek. They most likely do not even know. It’s another world, set apart from my job. They don’t know that Matt Redmond, the one who writes and is made happy by words.

9. If someone wants to make fun of social media they usually use the example of someone taking a picture of their lunch and uploading it for everyone to see, to do so. But I think it makes more sense than not that we would do this. Should we only take pictures of the wonders of the world and not the everyday meals we love and have to sustain us? There is not much more fundamental…elemental than our meals. There is something holy about eating food, satisfying a hungry stomach and entertaining our palette all at once. It’s not silly, on the contrary it may only be surpassed by our pictures of loved ones.

10. This may be the form of random thoughts from now on. So many others are now doing the short thoughts, alternately funny and serious, I might as well do something else now. I enjoy reading other people’s too. But there is too much for me to say, so if I keep it up at all, the thoughts will be more extended. Longer. Still random, though.

Midweek Music: Van Morrison at St. Luke’s Church, 2008

For some reason Van Morrison videos are now more available on Youtube than they were. For years they were few and far between. Maybe Van the Man has warmed to the digital medium. Regardless, it’s our gain, watching Van play and sing is a treat and the following show from 2008 is a rare one. It’s flawless – the sound and picture are incredible. Kill your “Call Me Maybe” and watch this…

Also, new album coming in October.

Tuesday’s 10: Things we are not upset about enough

1. Plastic Wrap. The fact that there have been no wars or uprisings over this travesty of an invention is no excuse for there not being one now. I number Ralph Wiley among the great villains of our time.

2. Bacon Packaging. Do the people who package the stuff even like bacon? The package makes no sense and is an abomination. Maybe they are Jewish. We need the guy who came up with egg packaging to get on this.

3. Dora the Explorer. Why in the name of all that is sane, is she always yelling. My kids will listen to the Beastie Boys before I allow them to watch Dora. She is probably undocumented anyway.

4. Fax Machines. Wha…? Why are these still around? Has Mr. Fax made some deal with Western Civilization that establishes them in all business in perpetuity? They. Do. Not. Work.

5. Faith Hill/Taylor Swift/Etc. as Country Music. I don’t think Hank done it that way.

6. MTV. Ummmm, there is no music. At all. Ever. And yet someone is still watching it. If everyone stopped watching it, we might get music videos back. Or at least pop-up video. Something.

7. Hand-dryers. My kids are 9, 6, and 3 and they have already figured out that wiping their hands on their clothes works better.

8. Keira Knightly Playing Iconic Roles from Classic Novels. Why does this keep happening. Does she and her agent and all who put her in these roles hate my favorite stories? Do they hate me? If I were president she would go to Gauntanamo for her portrayal of Lizzy in P & P.

9. Ugg boots. We are laughing at you.

10. Skinny Jeans. You know, we used to stone men for less.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. I remember when ESPN was awesome.

2. You hardly ever hear of anyone disliking C.S. Lewis, even though he had some strange views. I wanna be liked like that. Maybe I should write some children’s books, loved the world over.

3. I got a little sad when I realized that baseball season is half way over. But thinking about baseball always leads to thinking about hot dogs, and that made me feel better.

4. I’ve been listening to a lot of songs lately that are not “Call Me Maybe.”

5. I have now listened to two lectures by N.T. Wright and find myself still alive and believing.

6. For the first time since I was very young, my stuttering is becoming a hindrance and getting much worse, affecting conversation daily.

7. “…more than watchmen for the morning…”

8. Who wants to give me a job where I get paid to check baseball scores and read British novels?

9. More of Brad Pitt’s mom. Less of Brad Pitt.

10. At the risk of inadvertently creating a black hole in our den, I let both of my sons wear a Spiderman costume. At. The. Same. Time.

iMonk: No Super Christians

My plan was to post a humorous Tuesday’s 10 today. But when I read “No Super Christians” by Chaplain Mike I decided it could wait.

I watched the Francis Chan video he posted and discussed yesterday. And it haunted me. But probably not in the way you think.

A few years back, as a pastor to students, I took my students to a camp where Chan spoke. I took them there because he was speaking. And now I wish I hadn’t. Because now they’ll hear this Don’t Waste Your Life 3.0 and despise every life except the craziest ones. Platt’s Radical was 2.0.

From now on when asked about my book – coming later this year – I can just point to this.

Last thought…is everyone just parroting Piper nowadays?

One Good Result of A Culture Hostile to Christianity

Our world is changing. And it seems so at a rapid pace, demanding we take notice. Even the most isolated among us cannot help noticing. Some of the change we are seeing is due to the advances of technology. We used to get news when the paper came out or when the news came on TV. Now we get news of events a world away through social media with a rapidity we could not have imagined even a generation ago. And we are inundated with stories and ideas.

Another way our culture has changed is the values it holds dear. There was a time when what Christians held dear was the norm in our culture. The institution of the church was held dear and the very behaviors the church labeled as shameful were at least done in a way that honored such an opinion. But things have changed.

More and more of our culture is now hostile to Christianity and Christians themselves. We are marked as intolerant, homophobic, and a downright ignorant, superstitious people. There was a time when a celebrity could espouse his faith in God and be celebrated while the homosexual celebrity would have to keep his sexual preference under wraps. Now it is the reverse. Now a celebrity who comes out of the closet is celebrated for his or her courage and any celebrity who held anything close to an evangelical faith in Jesus would have to think twice before going public.

You might insist say these sins have always been there. True. But now they are far more accepted and far more mainstream. I live in Birmingham, Alabama – the buckle of the Bible Belt, where there are evangelical churches on every corner. And new ones springing up, it seems, every week. But even here, faith is more marginalized than it was even 10 years ago.

In my own workplace, gambling is a more acceptable topic than faith and church-talk. There is fervor and passion when my fellow employees talk about the evils of not having a casino nearby and reckless joy when discussing their winnings, losses and hopes of fortune. But when belief or participation in church-related activities comes up in conversation, it is done in hushed tones and the conversational equivalent of tumbleweed blows across the space between us all. It’s all been reversed since I was in the “secular” workplace over a decade ago.

And there is a lot of fear in our culture about this reversal. The fears are varied. But for the most part, the fear can be boiled down to one of being forced to change. The fear of not being able to have certain convictions without social, political, financial, or even criminal penalty is real. The church has been an accepted institution in our country since even before its birth. But is no more.

Why am I even pointing all this out? Because even though I hate to see sin applauded and accepted more and more and the church marginalized more and more, there is some good that can result from these changes. I think we will also be forced to do at least one thing we have not done all that well before now and it will result in much good.

We will be forced to really love. We, Christians will have to love each other. And we will have to love those who are hostile to us.

Nothing else will really be all that compelling. All the things we talk about and worry about will not impress the unbelieving world around us. They will not be impressed with our intelligence, theological acumen and worship music. Our views on sexuality, manhood & womanhood will draw yawns from all corners. And they do not, have not and will not care about what we think about leadership. All these subjects and many more we spend our efforts on will be of no consequence. Our evangelistic strategies will be seen as just another marketing strategy.

Yes, we will have to hold our convictions dear. But the only thing we will have to offer, that will impress upon the world that Jesus may be worth their attention, is our love. Everything else will fall flat.

And this is a really, really good. For this is the way it’s supposed to be.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34,35

We use a lot of things to define us as followers of Jesus – evangelism, missions, quiet times, church attendance, sexual purity, abstention from alcohol and tobacco. But none of these are distinguished as having “love for one another” is.

“By having quiet times all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have quiet times.”

It sounds silly because there is nothing like it in the New Testament. But for some reason we have constructed a spirituality that is made of this. Some of these things may or may not be good ideas. But love stands apart as the one defining mark of those who are disciples of Jesus. Love is the only thing that has a chance of impressing upon the unbelieving world around us the grace to be had in Jesus.

What about our steadfast faith in the gospel and the hope of heaven in the face of suffering?

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

We should be talking about these things – where our faith lies and what our hope is in. They are very important. But Paul makes it clear love is the greatest of the three.

For years I wondered why love was distinguished this way. Faith seems so important. And hope? Its the one thing that keeps us going in the face of troubles. The answer may be before us now. Everything else is neither here nor there for everyone else. But love…love is something the world will respond to. All else they will be hostile towards. But if they can see us loving each other…

The hostility we are beginning to see towards our faith will force us to ask the question of ourselves, “Are we going to be a church of love for each other within and even to those hostile to us on the outside? Or are we going to be a church of warring against the changes only?

Christians are always looking for something really spiritual to do. So we make lists and before long these lists are laws we try to keep and try and get others to keep. But Paul said something that simplifies it all for us.

When Paul wrote to a group of Christians who were had a terrible theology of trying to buying God’s favor with their works, he also told them how to do all they needed to do. He said, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 ESV)

So, maybe one result of this seemingly seismic cultural shift is that we, who follow Jesus, would be people of love and not merely people of spiritual exercises.