Reflecting on the U2 Concert at Giants Stadium

This past Thursday I had the good fortune of going to see U2 at  Giants Stadium with some good friends. First, even if you think U2 is  overrated and are convinced that Bono is  the antichrist, you should  really go see a U2 show.  Second, even if    you don’t have the  money, go find a treasure in someone’s property,  sell everything you  own, buy the field, and resell it so you can buy a  ticket to see U2.  If  that’s too impractical, then remember the good  Lord created you  with two kidneys.  The one is essential for life and  the other is your  U2 concert fund.

I’ve seen U2 in concert a few times (yes, I was born with a surplus of  extra kidneys) and each show has been an incredible experience.  It is not an exaggeration that I’ve been to over 100 concerts – Bob Dylan a few times, White Stripes, Sufjan, Death Cab, Arcade Fire, Wilco, to name a few.  I’ve even seen Geoff Moore and the Distance and can tell you that U2 is a life altering experience – truly amazing.  I am not sure I’ve ever felt that kind of electricity before (I mean except for our church on Sunday morning).

I love the sound. From the Edge’s guitar to Larry’s drumming to Adam’s baselines, they sound great. And of course, I love Bono’s words –

I can stand up for hope, faith, love

But while I’m getting over certainty

Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady” (from Stand Up Comedy)


Dressed up like a car crash

The wheels are turning byt youre upside down

You say when he hits you, you dont mind

Because when he hurts you, you feel alive” (from Stay)

I love that each show tries to be bigger than the last one.   Now a couple of things regarding the show.  I understand the criticism that it’s similar to the Dismantle … Bomb tour, the circle stage from All You Can’t Leave… but this was a stadium tour.  The feat is that they have 70,000 people seeing and hearing the music in amazing quality.  While I won’t go so far and call it a miraculous feeding of 5000, you are hard-pressed to find a concert experience of this quality for so many thousands of people. My only disappointment was that the stage was not directly in the middle of the field.  We have our theories why but it’s not worth mentioning.

Speaking of the stage, it is incredible.  Ths year featured “The Claw” and it’s a sight to see.  It takes 4 days to set up, two to tear down.  They have 3 sets because of it’s setup time and they use a crew of 500 people and 189 semi-trucks.  While it may not be the most environmentally friendly tour (as if there actually was such a thing), it’s certainly helping the economy (for those who keep track of that sort of thing).  Frankly I am not bothered by these things.  Some concerts are like wedding celebrations to me and practicality goes out the window.  I mean do the guests of the bridegroom while he is with them?  (Yes, that is used in its proper context ;-)

I also love that Bono uses his celebrity status for good causes – Third World Debt in Africa, apartheid, freedom in Iran and creating awareness of  Aung San Suu Kyi’s unjust home confinement in Burma.

I love how spiritual these experiences are.  Some may think that Bono is drawing people to himself but I and millions of people will tell you that Bono and friends are used as vessel to draw people into community, solidarity, promote love and justice and force us all to realize there’s someone greater that is behind and in front of all this. – I really believe that.

Please know that this is not an apologetic of my huge claims but a witness.

I went to a rock n ‘roll show and communed with God.

For those interested, this was the set list:


Get on your boots

Mysterious ways

Beautiful day – She’s a Rainbow – Blackbird

No Line on the Horizon



Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For/Stand By Me

Unknown Caller

Until the End of the World


The Unforgettable Fire


City of Blinding Lights


I’ll go crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonite

Sunday Bloody Sunday/Rock the Cazba


Walk On

One/Amazing grace

Where the Streets Have No Name – All You Need Is Love


Ultra Violet Rays

With or Without You

Moment of Surrender

It was one of those terrible, great weeks, you know?

Well you know it was a typical week for me.  Went to go see Rob Bell on Saturday, worshipped at church on Sunday, Lamazza class Monday, seminary class on Tuesday, youth group Wednesday, U2 on Thursday, and I took friday off because I practice sabbath.  I don’t want to even mention my lunch with Thomas Turner, coffee with Tim Nye, carpooling with Evan Curry and making fun of the CCM kingdom with Mark Allen in fear that you may do some thing rash and hurtful to yourself or worse do something to me out of envy.  My one year old laughs at all my jokes, my wife is perfectly pregnant and my parents have more pictures of me than my siblings.  (It could be because I was the first born and that I broke the Yashika but the truth is rarely appealing).

I’m preaching next week and all this confidence has me considering to go with a sermon that includes tithing, the trinity and the Christian mandate for a jacuzzi in each pastor’s office.  What better time than clergy appreciation month?

Truth is, as many cool things happened this week, it was a tough week in a variety of ways.  They would be petty to actually list so I’d rather just keep you thinking about my aforementioned rock’n roll lifestyle.

Seriously speaking for a moment.  This was a week that I truly needed to rely on the Lord for grace and strength.  I found myself very frustrated by moments that got the best of me.  While there were no fits of actual rage, I was fighting an angry spirit all week.  Realizing that I had a lot to be grateful for, I kept asking the Lord not so much to change my circumstances but to allow myself to rely on His peace. I spent some time in the Psalms and in Jeremiah and found comfort with them.  I was moved by the time it became to me.  It was humbling, frustrating, and brilliant.

In that sense it was a great week.

It would have only been better had the Yankees swept the Red Sox and clinched the East. :-)

What if Jerry Falwell Had Not Been a Televangelist?

I read with a bit of pride and a hint of skepticism as I read this CT article, Liberty Unbound concerning Liberty University and Jerry Falwell.  After 15 years of thinking about Dr. Falwell, I’m still not sure what to make of him.  As the chancellor walking around campus, he was great.  He had a terrific personality, had a sharp sense of humor and it’s always magnanimous when a ruler of a kingdom chats with the lowly.  It was when he was speaking into a microphone from behind a pulpit that I would get a headache.  It was when he would appear on Larry King or on a news program that I would wince.

It would be a greater problem if I dared to question his motives and I hope I do not come across that way.  In fact, I believe he genuinely cared about the good of everyone from his students to Larry Flynn. The problem was not his motives, but instead the words and methodology he chose to describe his care.

It remains to be seen if I will ever be able to let go of the Teletubbies fiasco.  A brief recap, one of the Teletubbies was outed and Falwell basically said watching the show might make your kids gay.  Though Falwell was not the first to mention this but the Washington Post, it was his strong words that began the controversy.  To me, it seemed to be a fundraising effort to al the grandfathers whose worst fear was that their grandkids would become gay.  I can hear it now, “Thank God for the cultural watchman/warrior Jerry is.  Let’s write a check to that school of his and turn on some Gaither music.”

To me, this was not counter-cultural or prophetic, but rather it demonstrated a lack of understanding of culture and came off sounding pathetic.  However, if the idea was to rally the conservative troops then mission accomplished – in fact, you could even call it brilliant.  If it was to engage the culture, hmmm, bad intelligence and poor exit strategy.

I am still trying to repress the memory that it was Dr. Falwell that appeared with Pat Robertson shortly after September 11th.  The idea that God was punishing America for its immorality is a very dangerous accusation.  While I am very much aware that God punished Israel in the Old Testament, it is not theologically responsible to assume that America is the “new Israel”.  To most, the Church is Israel and that changes everything.  Second, even if America was the OT Israel and God really was punishing America and chose this way, the prophets didn’t appear in the Jerusalem Gazette the day after Babylon came to town and said, “We told you so!  Repent or burn … in captivity and burn some more in hell!  There’s a timing issue that those in the broadcast culture were not sensitive about.

We could go on but here’s my point, Dr. Falwell was a better pastor-chancellor than televangelist.  For the most part, the vision of Liberty is a solid one when it comes to the topic of a Christian university.  That’s not to say that it’s the only model, nor am I saying that all Christians should even attend a Christian college, however, Liberty has done some good things for the Kingdom and Dr. Falwell was an important part of that.

This leaves me asking a few questions:

What if Dr. Falwell had never been a televangelist?

1. Would Bono have heard of him and the Old Time Gospel Hour?  Would I still smile every time I heard “Bullet the Blue Sky”?

2. Would Reagan have been elected President if it weren’t for the Moral Majority?

3. Would Jerry’s church (Thomas Road Baptist) been able to birth Liberty?

4. Would he had died at the relatively young age of 73?

Indeed these questions are difficult to answer but I think they are worth asking.  Many like to assume that if Falwell had not been the celebrity that he was, the school would not have been founded.  Some would like to assume that if he had not been on television that we would have had an even more godless America.  I wonder if Liberty would have been as conservative and as strict if it didn’t have such a spotlight on Jerry’s school project.  I wonder if it would have run into the financial mess in the late 80’s and early 90’s if Dr. Falwell didn’t feel the pressure from those watching. I wonder if Reagan would have been just fine without Dr. Falwell.

It could have gone the other way.  Bono might have befriended Falwell like he did Bill Hybels.  Reagan may or may not have been elected and a Moral Minority had been formed to be a subversive voice for those who were weak and in despair.  Jerry’s church could have been cool as opposed to what it was in the 80’s and 90’s (if you witnessed a singing Christmas tree,  you know what I mean).  Maybe he would have lived longer, did more work and perhaps he would not have been so polarizing.

Maybe Liberty would have been more interested in creating a film school than a law school.  Maybe Jerry would have befriended Ellen Degeneres instead of feuding with her.  Maybe he would not have been important enough in the eyes of the world for her to have returned his calls. Who knows really but that would have made more of an impact on Christian college kids than Teletubbies.

It may be true that I have the ulterior motive of trying to reconcile the tension of Falwell and my Liberty experience but I now look back and seriously wonder about this.  Especially now that he’s passed and the Falwell sons have taken over.  With credit to their dad, the school is in great shape but to their credit (Jerry Jr. and Jonathan) the future looks very promising.  As an awkwardly proud embarrassed alumni reconciling the paradox of it all, I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Monday Morning Brief – 9.21.09

What I Enjoyed This Week – 1. I’ve enjoyed being a husband and dad this week.  Nathan and I really bonded on our trip to Phoenix and while I think kids should be born potty-trained already like cats (or at least with the ability to change their own diapers if control is a problem in the early stages of life),  it’s been nice receiving the attention from the 1yr. old.  I would only bore you with stories of these great moments.  Also, and I know I’ve said this before but it’s been great seeing my wife pregnant and healthy, though I know it’s been so tough lately.  39 Days til baby boy’s due date!  2.  Loved seeing Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars in Providence.  I highly recommend it.  I think I may have liked it more than The Gods Aren’t Angry (although he said some extremely important things on that tour).  It was great making the long drive with Tim Nye, Mark Allen and new friend Troy Davidson. 3.  Enjoyed laughing at Scott Kent Jones’ Jabez twitter jokes.  He’s usually not this funny. 4. My fantasy baseball season is over. It was a lot of fun and I really think I enjoyed the season more.  I lost to a former student, future worship pastor-heartthrob (hey He calls some to be apostles, some to be evangelists and some to give up an inevitable boyband career and pick up his cross to become a worship pastor), and fellow Yankee fan Davey-boy. I beat him in fantasy football this week though ;-)  Good luck in the championships, friend.  5.  The tree that had dripped sap on our cars and the reason we don’t use our driveway has been taken down!  Don’t worry, we’ll use the wood to heat a mcmansion around here and use the sap on the front doors and car doors of fundamentalists.

What I’ve Been Listening to – U2.  Achtung Baby is my favorite U2 album (even though real U2 fans will stop listening to if you don’t say Joshua Tree), but No Line on the Horizon is fantastic.  2. The new Muse album – The Resistance.  3. Homebrewed Christianity Podcast – I am a bit behind but the last one I listened to was “God and the World Wide Web” with Donna Bowman.  This is a good one to start with if you’re new to Homebrewed.  A bit of pop culture, a bit of academia and whatever else it was, you can check it out here. Also for those interested, the previous one I enjoyed was Terrence Fretheim’s “Relational View of Creation.   I’m pretty interested on the topic of creation and all the meaning, baggage, and promise that goes with it.  I need another listen to it but I think what I like about Homebrewed is that  they don’t take themselves that seriously even though they are interviewing these  brilliant academic voices.  Most likely, I’m not going to read Fretheim’s books in the  near future but I am fascinated about these figures and this podcast makes them  accessible enough to listen to in the car or at the gym.

What I’ve Been Reading – In addition to my school reading (and in some cases instead of), some magazines and posts that I liked. Among them is Relevant’s Jeff Tweedy cover story.  I’m a fan of Wilco and in addition to the great music, I think Tweedy has a few helpful things to say.  If you’ve never heard of Relevant, you can read it free here.  If you have allowed your subscription to lapse and are mooching their free service then read something else.  Seriously, don’t be a mooch.  I’d rather you return to your den of thieves and download Osteen’s new ebook illegally than to take advantage of their graciousness ;-)

What’s Going on in Student Ministry – So far, we are off to a solid start.  If you saw last week’s post we talked about the reason for our creation.  This week we are tackling what we were created with and among our talking points will be discovering our spiritual gifts.  This is something that I’ve come around on because I’ve been pretty spiritually gifted out of that conversation.  “Listen Pastor, what you need to do is shut up and listen to me and my friends because I have the gift of mercy and I’m biblical”.  A couple years of that and you really start wondering about the importance of these gifts – lol.  In any case, in the proper place, I see that an understanding of our spiritual gifts as an important aspect in our identity and calling.  2. We’re starting a new student leadership called Sugar.  It used to be called SALT and we’ve made a few changes so the name had to go.

What I Plan on Blogging About One Day – I have 17 drafts that need to be finished.  Among them are: What if Jerry Falwell Wasn’t A Televangelist?, my reviews of Derek Webb’s Stockholm Syndrom, Robert Wright at the Templeton Foundation from a few months ago, Rob Bell, and some student ministry stuff.

What I’m Looking Forward To – This Thursday – going to the U2 concert with my friends!

Why We Were Created (As Told to Our Sr. High Group)

Last night kicked off our first night of Sr. High youth group.  I was glad that it went pretty well.  This year’s theme is simply called, “God & The Other”.  Ironically, the series began by talking about ourselves, specifically for what purpose were we created.

Though I am somewhat familiar with the idea that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism), I am not sure that accurately sums it all up.   I was raised in thinking that we were created to worship God in all that we do.  While there’s truth in that statement, I’ve always found it lacking.

From a very early age, I knew where I would spend my eternity and I tell you, it scared me.  Clearly I remember hearing the older ladies behind me squawking as we sang these hymns in slow motion.  Then the worship leader would proudly say, “This is what we’re going to do in heaven! Worship God with the angels for aaaalllllll eternity!”  This distressed me because I found it nearly impossible to get through our Sunday morning worship service.   In fact, I remember being relieved when the worship leader would say, “Only the 2nd & 4th verse!” because we were short on time.  My motivations were suspect when I prayed for the rapture to come every Sunday.

Many times I can remember staying up at night feeling guilty that I did not want to go to heaven.  I didn’t want to go to hell obviously but in heave (as it was described) I was afraid I would be bored and when every one would pray for the Lord Jesus to return soon, I would quietly hope that He would wait a little longer so I could enjoy a little more of this life before I had to fasten myself to the pew of eternal hymn-singing squawkers in heaven.  I later discovered that I was not alone in this hope.

It seems to me that if all God wanted was for us to sing songs all eternity long to Him and interrupt the singing by shouting that He was  amazing, awesome, indescribable, majestic and the many synonyms that Charles Wesley and Chris Tomlin have given us then God would not have created us in the way He had.  Certainly, He went beyond that if we are in HIs image.

Consider our spiritual gifts.  If all God wanted from us was to worship Him in the singing/praise sense, then why the spiritual gift of mercy?  Why service?  Why does James forbid favoritism?  I mean hey, just sit on the floor, shut up, and consider yourself lucky enough to worship our God.  Why do we crave community? And why are we so sexual?  Why is the first command in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply?  Further, it’s been pointed out that if reproducing was so more people could worship God, we could simply agree and hold hands or mutually consent of thinking up a person.  Or since this a coffee-themed blog, we could procreate in a french press by boiling some water, putting in some human soul grounds and truly brew a Guatemalan or an Ethiopian.  It would be much easier than pregnancy and much faster too.  Could God be this inefficient or is it more likely that we have sold God’s idea of  our purpose and worship short?

Most readers of this blog know that the definition of worship I’ve described here is very limiting and weak.  It’s clear that God has created us to love Him and to love others.  We are created to worship God, to worship Him together but we are also glorifying God when we show compassion, when we serve others, when we act justly and sacrificially.  In my opinion, we as an evangelical Church have failed in showing this way of worship to our congregations and to our youth groups.

The problem is if we make God only to be worshipped, we’ve objectified Him and drastically undermined what it means to be created in His image.  We are created to be relational, to be creative, to rule with God and to love with Him. We are created to live in communion with God and with each other.  it bears mentioning that when Jesus is asked (in Mark 12) what was the greatest command, he quoted the Shema and cannot limit our purpose to just loving God with all that we are but also the need to love each other.  This is worship, this is our purpose and this is what Christians should be known for and this is essential to share.  This is what we tackle as a youth group this year.  I covet your prayers as we unlearn, relearn, and learn.

Revelation Generation – What I think Rev Gen Could Improve On – Post 2

In my last post, I gave my praise about Rev Gen.  Each year they have demonstrated they are trying to make this event better and so for this post, here are some things they ought to consider.

1. Are all those tables in the Resource Tent necessary?  Honestly, some of them mock our faith more than help it.  I know it helps offset the costs of the event but is it substantial?  Unless they are serving as an example of what artists like Derek Webb are singing against, I’m fairly certain that if Jesus were to return on Labor Day weekend, He would first stop at this tent, overthrow half these tables and then continue on to that East Gate in Jerusalem that He’s supposed to walk through ;-)

2. I think it’s time to stop the annoying tract givers as soon as you walk into the festival.  Those money tracts are absolutely ridiculous.

3. I love the leader tent, it really is helpful.  But this year the vibe seemed a bit more stingy with the free drinks.  If youth leaders are abusing it and handing out free water, they could just put up a sign that says something like, “In order to provide adequate refreshments to our leaders, please help us by limiting these to our leaders.” or something like that.

Monday Morning Brief – 9.7.09 never in the morning, rarely on monday but semi-brief

What I Enjoyed This Week –

1. My niece Lina!  I mentioned this last week but my sister and  brother-in-law welcomed this  beautiful little girl on August 30th.  5lbs 13oz., 19in. Healthy, happy  and Nathan and I are headed out  Wednesday to meet her.  (Susan will  be enjoying a little break as we  are away.  She will devote her time to  cleaning out our gutters and  re-shingling our roof ;-)

2. Susan’s pregnancy is going well. We have had a number of doctor  visits and “Baby G” is doing just fine inside.  I have to say my wife  looks fantastic at 8 months and while I feel bad that sleeping is  uncomfortable, eating is tough, chasing after the 1 year old is frustrating, this has been a beautiful time, especially since we thought it may never happen.

3. Hanging out with my friend Brian and fiance Lille.  Brian is an old college friend, the author of Pop Surf Culture and one of the most interesting people I know.  They were in NYC and stopped by so we could spend a little time together.  We ended up in Hoboken enjoying lunch at a Sinatra shrine called Piccollo’s.  My hope is that they end up moving in NYC.

4. Rev Gen. You can check out my posts about the specifics but all in all, we had a great time.  Highlights inlcude watching Jon Foreman (Thanks TNye) from backstage and sitting next to some of my sharper students and good friends for the Derek Webb set.

Seminary Update – starting back up this week.  First class with cohort fav – Derek Cooper – “Jesus and His Mission: Book Study on Mark”.

What I’m Reading – Karl Barth (but way behind for this independent class). Some other excellent books for school, The Challenge of Jesus by NT Wright, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus by Jacob Neusner, and Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman and still on Doug Pagitt‘s A Christianity Worth Believing.

Revelation Generation – What I Liked – Post 1

The story of “Revelation Generation” begins quite awkwardly for me.  I had just begun my  second pastorate here and had decided to take the students to this new music festival  with a  name that I wasn’t crazy about.  Long story short – Rev Gen got rained out and  headed to  Philly.  The following year, we attended and the kids loved the Philly Stage and  stayed for  Newsboys.  Last year was exactly the same, kids loved Philly Stage, and the  Newsboys did  the exact same set list, down to Peter telling the same stories. We left    during Breakfast in  Hell to beat the traffic.  After that, I was fairly certain that we would not return (We have a saying in Texas, “That says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again”). How could we return for a fourth year?  Well, we’re glad we did and here’s why.

What I liked about Rev Gen:

1. The excellent line-up.  The Philly stage attracts a number of our students.  The NY Stage has gotten alot better.  One year they had Brian Latrell (I believe he was a Backstreet Boy and I refuse to Google that for any type of confirmation).  Opening bands like the Fold and Seabird were steps in the right direction.  Then headlining bands like Relient K and Switchfoot tell people like me that they are really trying to make this a great event.  There were more tents like the Urban Stage, the Come and Listen Stage (which is a label that gives away free music), and the Nashville Stage which had Bethany Dillon, Jon Foreman, and Derek Webb.  (I really, really liked that they invited Derek and didn’t censor him.  He’s an important prophetic voice in the Church and along with many of my friends, we were grateful he was there).

2. We didn’t do the Friday concert last year but this year, they had Jars of Clay, Matt West, Delirious, and Mercy Me.  For most of us, wanting to hear  Jars do new songs off “The Long Fall Back to Earth” was the reason we came Friday.  The unfortunate thing was we underestimated a couple of things.  Some of our students had just returned to school and so by the time we left, we missed most of the bands.  Two, Jars wasn’t headlining.  Three, Mercy Me was.  And Four, it wasn’t really Jars’ best show.  Not a big crowd yet, not very energetic either.  Then Jars said they lost track of time and were told they had just played their last song.  Frankly, I think the concert organizers should have let them play their last song, it was clearly an accident and they are an established band.  I don’t know the business of putting on concerts but I’m pretty sure Jars has earned enough respect to play one more.  So in the most anti-climatic way, Dan took the blame, apologized for not paying attention to the clock and said something like, “We want to be invited back so we’ll say good-bye here.”  I thought it was pretty classy to submit to the stage manager and end their show the worst way possible.  I know I’m not being complimentary but it was an awkward moment that Jars handled really well and it spoke to me a bit.

3. Unless you go into the merchandise tent, you don’t feel that you are at one of those cheesy Christian concert events.  The production is fantastic from the signs a few miles away directing you how to get this to obscure farm to the numerous workers and volunteers that create a presence of “we know what we are doing so don’t get any ideas.”  They have great signage, very professional looking stages, and enough porta-potites to “facilitate the pending needs” of their own feeding of 5000.

4. Cheap Water.  Bottled water was only a dollar.  I still think water bottles should be allowed in because there are no water fountains but $1 water is a fair deal.  Speaking of concessions, food tickets do help eliminate lines at the actual food booths – nice job.

5. I appreciated the leader tent, (even though they seemed a little more stingy with the water this year).

6. All the workers, volunteers, security measures, demonstrate their professionalism and communicate that they are serious about keeping control of this event.  This is important to me because too many Christian events are put on by well-intentioned churches with not enough expertise or volunteers and people, students especially, find the weak spots and exploit them.  For instance, there is only one way to actually get in.  The perimeter is fenced in very well and monitored.  As a youth pastor, I like this level of safety and security and aside from a few check-ins, our students roam as they please and check in with me every so often so I can make sure they are hydrated and more importantly not hanging out with home-schooled kids from the hyper-fundamentalist church ;-)

7.  Loved going with Tim Nye, Josie, and my youth group. Also loved seeing my friends, Evan Curry, Eric Couch, Charlie Lyons Pardue, KJ Marks, and appreciating seeing Rob Schwinge.

Stay tuned for what I didn’t like.