Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lonely Figure

While driving home from our Christmas trip to Michigan, I saw a lot different things through the windshield, but one site has continued to remain in my thoughts days later. We were driving south through Kankakee, IL on I-57 when off to my right I saw a cemetery. (My inquisitive mind has led me to the conclusion that is was Mt. Calvary Cemetery.) It was one of probably a dozen cemeteries we passed by on our trip and it had no special monuments or anything else out of the ordinary that should have kept my attention. However, this cemetery had something that none of the others had at the time we passed them.

On cold, windy winter's day, facing North into the snowflaked wind, meer feet away from a busy, noisy highway stood a man ankle deep in snow with his hands in his coat pockets and his hat pulled low on his head. In the brief moment that I was able to see him head on, his face appeared somber and grief stricken as he stared down at the grave of someone he obviously cared about deeply. The earth surrounding the grave did not appear to be freshly dug, so I assume that this was not an incredibly recent death of someone he loved. And just as quickly as I saw him, we had driven past him. I stole a couple of quick glances in the rear-veiw mirror and watched as he didn't move a muscle.

I told Lisa what I had seen a few minutes later and have wondered so many things since that time.
Who was this man?
Who was buried in the grave he was standing over?
How long ago had he lost this friend or family member?
How long had he known them before they died?
How many times has he stood in that exact same place?
Does he speak any words as he stands all alone in that place?
Does he have any family or friends remaining in his world?

So many questions that could be echoed for any person standing in any cemetery in the world.
And today, as I thought of this lonely figure, bracing against the cold to spend time in sorrowful reflection of one who has passed away, I thought of the following passage:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  -- Isaiah 53:3-5
I'm thankful that when I do find myslef in times of grief and sorrow that my Savior, Jesus Christ is more than familiar with those feelings and He has endured them and conquered them. I pray that whoever that man in that cemetery is would come to know this Man of Sorrows and trust that He is enough for him and that He can comfort like no other.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Divine Interruption #2 (Redemption) - REALMnotes

These are notes that I used for last week's college talk.

Traditions, a Tree, Presents and More
When you hear the word Christmas, we think of many things:
Some are family traditions, some are cultural traditions and some are memories of the past.

Tonight we are going to begin at a place that is very familiar to most (if not all) of us. It’s a familiar story. Some of us could recite it. Most of us could tell it. But tonight we are going to take the next step and dive a little deeper into why Christmas is important.

Last week, JTosh talked about the prophecies that were fulfilled by the birth of Christ. He spoke of how Christ’s arrival on Earth was the original Divine Interruption in the timeline of humanity. Tonight we are going to dwell on why the birth of Christ matters from an eternal perspective. To do that, we must take a look at His life and see what makes Him so unique, so worth celebrating.

Obviously, we cannot retell everything about Jesus’ life, so I thought maybe we could start right where Linus left off in the “Christmas story” and work our way through some of the events of Christ’s life.

There are certain moments in Jesus' life that are directly tied to the Temple. As a Jew, there were certain activities that the Law demanded during His life on Earth.

7 Days Old – Luke 2:21
Christ was circumsized.

40 Days Old - Luke 2:25-40 (references Exodus 13:2,12 ; Leviticus 12:8)
Christ was first proclaimed by a man to be God's Promised Salvation and as a Light to the Gentiles. The first pronunciation of how God intended for Salvation to reach all men.
29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
12 Years Old - Luke 2:41-52
Christ is "Lost" at the Temple
Christ first publicly proclaims who He is - God.
48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
49 "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
33 Years Old – One Week Before His Death - Luke 19:45-48
Jesus Drive the Money Changers out of the Temple

Small Group Questions
Read Luke 19:10. What did Jesus say was His purpose for being alive?

Romans 3:23 & Roman 6:23 make it clear that all are lost.
Read carefully through John 3:14-21 and answer the following:
• Does Christ reveal how He will die?
• What was God’s purpose for sending Christ?

Romans 5:17-21 speaks of two men.
• Who is the disobedient man mentioned in this passage?
• What is the result of the actions of the second man?
• What is the importance of Christ’s being fully human, yet fully God?

Galatians 4:4-5
• Why was Christ born according to this passage?
• What do we as Christians get out of His birth?

When we think about these verses, do they increase the importance of what we are celebrating at Christmas? How so?

Does thinking about Christmas as the day God began your adoption process change your perspective at all?

Bonus Question - Does Jesus care if we say Merry Christmas or not?

We’ve established why Jesus came to live on the earth for 33 years.
Now let’s look at what He accomplished for all eternity.

At the Moment of His Death - Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38
The Temple curtain is torn in two
- This had separated the Israelites from God.
- Only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer the sacrifice on Israel's behalf.
- Without the curtain, there was no way for a proper sacrifice to be offered.
- Without the curtain, there was no way separate the world from God.
- The curtain was ripped apart from top to bottom, something no man could do.

Hebrews 9:22
- The Law demands blood to cover and eliminate sin

Hebrews 9:27
- Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people

Hebrews 10:5-10
- Jesus took on human for for this purpose

Hebrews 10:11-24
- Jesus offered one sacrifice (Himself) and then sat down because the atonement was complete
- Jesus is the High Priest
- Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice, Himself

Hebrews 12:2-3
- Jesus is the cornerstaone of our faith and finisher of our faith

1. Christ was born in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecies about His birth and death.
2. Christ knew His purpose and lived purposefully.
3. Christ accomplished His life’s mission.
4. We have been adopted into his family and given new life.

It is impossible to celebrate Christmas without the Cross.
Tell the birth story.
Remember the baby.
Study the Man.
Repent at the Cross.
Live as a redeemed child of God.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gift Card Purchases

For my birthday, which is in May, I received several Amazon gift cards. My balance recently hit $5.50, so I decided to look back and see what I have purchased with these gift cards.

The following albums that I purchased were Amazon MP3 Downloads. If you have an mp3 player (iPod, Zune, whatever), you should be using Amazon to buy your music. It's not complicated to use, it's great quality files, it's DRM-free and cheaper than iTunes. in addition to these albums, I have purchased two singles and have downloaded dozens of songs for free.

Hello Hurricane by Switchfoot

Alive Again by Matt Maher

Hope Rising by Fee

Fireflies And Songs by Sara Groves

Bible Belt by Diane Birch

Church Music by David Crowder*Band

The Complete Billie Holiday by Billie Holiday

Life Light Up by Christy Nockels

Clearly by Joey Wright

Let June Decide by Reilly

Five Hours of Relaxing Classical Favorites (Amazon Exclusive) by Various Artists

Beginnings - 2 Cd Set by Fernando Ortega

In addition to music, I also purchased the following:
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller

DLO Action Jacket Case with Armband DLO Action Jacket Case with Armband

Who says gift cards cards aren't a good gift to give or receive?
Not me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Unbelief in God and Pornography


Mary, Did You Know? - Tuesday Tunes

I first heard this song on Michael English's debut album and loved it. Dozens(hundreds?) of artists have recorded it since then and it is firmly planted in the Christmas music library of most people. I could show several different videos capturing this song, but today I want to show you these two for very specific reasons.

The first video is Michael English singing the song with Buddy Green who wrote the music for the song.

This video is of Mark Lowery singing the song he wrote the lyrics to.

Lyrics for "Mary Did You Know?" by Mark Lowery

Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know
Tht your baby boy
Will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new
This child that you delivered
Will soon deliver you?

Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod
And when you kiss your little baby,
You've kissed the face of God?

The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know
That your baby boy
Will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy
Is heaven's perfect lamb?
This sleeping child your holding
Is the great I AM.

Being Thankful in Spite of Circumstances

If you spend much time perusing the Christian blog circles of the internet, you will most likely recognize the name of Matt Chandler, who is the Lead Pastor at Village Church in Texas. Matt has a huge online following and is a highly requested speaker for conferences all over the United States. Obviously, I have never met the man, but I have listened to several sermons and have read a lot of what he has written or said.

On Thanksgiving morning, Matt had a seizure and ended up in the hospital. Doctors ran a multitude of tests and discovered that Matt has a brain tumor in his right frontal lobe that measures 2 inches by 1 inch in diameter. Obviously, this is a serious situation and the doctors' only path forward was to perform surgery as soon as possible to remove the tumor.

Just prior to heading to the hospital for his surgery, Matt wrote on his blog. After you have read Matt's post from Friday morning (My Heart is Full... I am Thankful) go watch the video he made for his church to view on Sunday morning (Video from Matt). I find his attitude to be one that I pray that I would be able to have if placed in such a situation.

The surgery was performed Friday morning and seems to have gone well. I haven't seen or heard any specifics about his condition, but Matt did post a tweet on his Twitter account on Sunday afternoon while heavily medicated, so that tells me that he does have motor function and thought/speech/text ability.

Please be in prayer for Matt and his family as they work through recovery.
Praise God for the ability/knowledge he has given men to perform such surgeries!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Church Music - A Review

I just realized that I never posted this review I wrote at the beginning of October. Enjoy!

I have spent quite a bit of time listening to "Church Music", the newest release by the David Crowder*Band and thought I would post a song-by-song review.

Overall, the album is solid and displays the creativity and ever-changing sound of the David Crowder*Band. If you have enjoyed his music in the past, then you will find yourself pleased with this endeavor. If you are one of those people who are on the fence when it comes to Crowder's music, then this album might hit you in all the wrong spots. I am pleased with this album and find myself listening to and singing many of the songs quite often.

"Church Music" by the David Crowder*Band

1. Phos Hilaron (Hail Gladdening Light)
a. Song builds from nothing into an almost haunting melody before it melds into second song
b. Sets the mood for the album well

2. Allelujah, Sing
a. This song goes through several transformations before pounding the chorus through you - it's pretty great: “Alleluia majesty, Alleluia King of Kings, Alleluia, Alleluia, angels sing, Alleluia sing”

3. The Nearness
a. This is one of the anthems of the album
b. It has great lyrics
c. Has a rocking chorus that drives your body to movement
d. The difference of intensity and sound from chorus to verse to chorus is great

4. Shadows
a. The chorus has resonated in me since I first heard it: “When shadows fall on us we will not fear, we will remember, when darkness falls on us we will not fear, we will remember, when all seems lost, when we’re thrown and we’re tossed we’ll remember the cost, we’re resting in the shadow of the cross.”
b. This is a song that churches and youth groups could sing in corporate worship times
c. This song will lend itself well to creative visual interpretation (video, dance, drama)

5. Eastern Hymn
a. I like the way this song focuses on who God is to us and what He can give to us
b. Very catchy chorus
c. No real way to sing this with others

6. SMS [Shine]
a. Starts out very smooth and melodious and builds slowly to chorus
b. This is a song churches and youth groups will sing and should

7. The Veil
a. Electronica laden beginning
b. This song rocks from the start and uses brief instrumental pauses effectively throughout to add to the ever increasing buildup

8. We Are Loved
a. Trip Hop / Electronica / House music blend
b. Fun song
c. Makes you move

9. All Around Me
a. Simple piano throughout
b. A solid song for solitary reflection

10. How He Loves
a. The reason this song is getting consistent airplay on CCM stations is evident from the first listen
b. Starts simple and slowly builds into a crescendo just in time for the resounding chorus
c. The bridge is lyrically stout and it ends wonderfully back at the chorus: "And we are His portion and he is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking, And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, and my heart’s unraveling inside of my chest, I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about the way... That He loves us, Oh how He loves us!"

11. Can I Lie Here
a. The first song on the album I find to be kind of blah.
b. It’s a bit repetitious, but the lyrics don’t turn me off
c. I find that the song doesn’t seem to move very far from start to finish musically
d. It’s slower and follows much stronger, more resounding ballads on the album

12. Birmingham [We Are Safe]
a. Not a big fan of this song
b. Doesn’t flow well for me
c. Quite repetitious lyrically

13. Church Music – Dance [!]
a. Very fun
b. All about movement
c. The synthed over lyrics at the beginning sound cool, but cannot be understood

14. What a Miracle
a. While I like the lyrics of this song, the music just didn’t really move me much.
b. The final half of the song is like an explosion of sounds thrown in a blender.

15. Oh, Happiness
a. The funky intro immediately tells you this will be an interesting song
b. I can’t help but smile through the chorus
c. The lyrics are deep but are possibly lost due to the fun nature of the song
d. This song grows on you and bounces around in your head long after it stops

16. God Almighty, None Compares
a. I feel like this song is kind of all over the place
b. The tempo changes multiple times, while the melody is constantly morphing into something else
c. At 6 minutes and 50 seconds long, this song goes on forever.

17. In the End [O Resplendent Light!]
a. This song went nowhere for me
b. After 4 minutes you get to hear a bunch of random sounds that fade to a soft melody

I feel that the first 10 selections would have been called a complete album for most bands. Crowder has gone out of his way to give even more to his fans and I can appreciate that. However, part of me wonders if this album would have been better served if 3 or 4 of the latter songs had been scratched from the playlist. Yes, the album would have been shorter, but it still would have been 13 or 14 songs, with the majority of those being songs that moved me with greater ease. Again, this is a solid effort by the David Crowder*Band and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Side Note - If you are looking for some Christian music for your iPod that you can workout to, this album has several great songs to add to your playlist.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World Aids Day 2009

World Aids Day 2009
When I was in college, AIDS/HIV was a very popular topic. At that time, it was just becoming more widely discussed, especially on college campuses across the US. As a Resident Assistant (RA) in a hall on campus, it was part of my job to provide educational programs to the students about various topics. One of the most time intensive presentations I ever created revolved around the topic of AIDS.

The statistics I was able to find at the time were altogether nauseating and left me feeling helpless in the fight of the spread of the disease. To add insult to an already devastating disease, many within the Christian community were quick to condemn those who had contracted the disease, declaring that this was a judgement from God for their sinful behavior.

Here we are now, years later, and there are medications that can and do prevent AIDS from being so utterly debilitating. There are millions of people around the world living with AIDS. Yet, at the same time, there are millions more who will die of the disease this year due to lack of care and treatment. Millions of innocent children have and will contract HIV in utero and will face an incredibly short and bleak life.

The face of AIDS/HIV is no longer associated with the homosexual, nor is it relegated to the prostitutes and junkies of this world. The face of AIDS/HIV can be seen on the face of children all around the world who are exposed to the disease through the birthing process and never have an opportunity to live beyond their 5th birthday.

There are hundreds of programs available that allow you to help combat the spread of this disease and to provide medical treatment for those who do have it. Lisa and I have used WorldVision to impact people in the past and I would recommend supporting their World AIDS Day program without hesitation.

Behold the Lamb of God - TuesdayTunes