Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Last Song

Today in church history marks the death of Philip Bliss (December 29, 1876), a hymn writer and evangelist of the 19th century. He died at the age of 38 when his train derailed in Ashtabula, Ohio and plunged 60 feet into the icy waters below. He died alongside his wife and 92 other passengers.

He was famous for writing such hymns as "Wonderful Words of Life, "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" and "I Gave My Life for Thee." The lyrics to his brand-new hymn "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" were found among his belongings following the train catastrophe. They essentially became his last words and epitaph.

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.

Sing, oh, sing of my Redeemer,
With His blood He purchased me,
On the cross He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.

I will tell the wondrous story,
How my lost estate to save,
In His boundless love and mercy,
He the ransom freely gave.

I will praise my dear Redeemer,
His triumphant pow'r I'll tell,
How the victory He giveth
Over sin, and death, and hell.

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His heav'nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.

Bliss died with the praises of God on His lips. The Redeemer to which he had just finished writing and singing became his heavenly audience moments later.

And I can't think of a better way to meet my Savior than to have just composed my last song of praise to Him - singing of my Redeemer.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Flashback Friday: SpyTech

One of the fondest Christmas memories I have was receiving some dearly-coveted SpyTech gear. Do you remember SpyTech? It must have been Christmas 1988 and I got the long-range microphone and the periscope. You should have seen our expressions when my brothers and I learned that the art of parental-spying that we had come to know and love was now being encouraged and endorsed by our victim parents! It was truly an act of providence raining down!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'll Take It (God's Love)

Christmas Eve Recap

The Christmas Eve service at Southbrook was off the hook!! After it was all said and done, we led worship 8 times. The band did awesome. We gave it all we had every service. I've never been more proud to be a part of a team of worshipers like I was Monday night. With each service we pumped each other up like it was the last time we'd ever get to lead, keeping in mind that there most certainly lost people needing Christ in each service. As adrenaline-laced as the night was, there were some small things that we discovered helped us stay psyched throughout the night. For instance,
1. We gave each other the "wet salmon" frequently throughout the night (a quick slap back and forth just above the knees as a sort of "gotcha when you weren't looking" gesture).
2. After a quick wardrobe change halfway through, I ditched my sweaty undershirt in place of a fresh one.
3. Many of us kept the caffeine flowing intravenously.
4. Hot tea with honey for the vocalists - a heavenly concoction.
5. Unending inside jokes.
6. And endless amounts of food provided by our wonderful team of volunteers.

Check out Rob Singleton's blog for more on the Christmas Eve service, including pics and videos.

And a special thanks to the whole team of volunteers who kept everything rolling. You guys were amazing!!

Song Set:
1. O Come, O come Emmanuel
2. O Come Let Us Adore Him
3. Joy to the World (w/ Coldplay's "Talk" intro)
4. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing/Noel
5. O Holy Night

Monday, December 24, 2007

Playlist 12.23.07 and Christmas Eve!

Yesterday we had the privilege of leading worship again at our home church here in Charlotte - Southbrook Church. It's been about 3 months since we were able to do that, being on the road so much. It was awesome though. Pastor Rob gave a strong salvation message and the Lord broke through to many hearts. 76 people prayed to receive Jesus. Praise the Lord for that! Read my wife's blog for more details.

We played:
1. O Holy Night
2. Rejoice (Chris Tomlin)
3. Immanuel (Via, brand new one)
4. O Little Town of Bethlehem w/ the tag from Fix You (Coldplay).

If you're in the Charlotte area tonight and you're looking for a great Christmas Eve service, come on out to Southbrook for "Going Home for Christmas" - a dramatic production and time of worship. You can choose from any of 5 services!! (Yea, a death-wish, I know) 4:00, 5:30, 7:00, 8:30 and 10:00. Tasha and I, Sarah Scott, and Andy Cherry and the band will be leading the worship portion. Pray that we'll all have enough stamina to get through it, and most importantly, that God will be honored!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sufjan Stevens - Put the Lights on the Tree

Here's a sweet little diddy to get us all in the Christmas spirit!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Flashback Friday: Agapeland

When I was about 5 years old, my favorite cassette tape was called "Bullfrogs and Butterflies" by the Agapeland Kids Series. I still remember the magic, beauty and wonder that exuded from the tape player when I popped it in. Hours of listening enjoyment for me. Hours of senseless torture for my parents. To fill you in, Agapeland was a series of music tapes and records that taught essential Bible truths and principles for kids. It was sort of a precursor to Veggie Tales, Hillsong Kids, and stuff like that. And I loved them. I still remember the tune and lyrics to the chorus of "Bullfrogs and Butterflies."

"Bullfrogs and butterflies. We both been born again!" (repeat)

That's good stuff right there.

I remember on vacation one year my parents convinced me that we were actually going to visit Agapeland, "the wonderland of love." I imagined it as a magical place where God and the angels lived, with roller coasters and cotton candy. The next day when we arrived at Dollywood, I didn't know the difference. My brother, Smooth, and I had a blast, except for the slight pain in the bottom of my foot. I tried to complain as little as possible, sucked it up, and walked an entire day around "Agapeland" with a throbbing foot. When the day was over, my mom decided she'd better have a look. She removed my shoe to discover a small toy football helmet about the size of a golf ball. And that was the day I decided that I hated plastic toy football helmets, but I still loved Agapeland.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Walk in the Name

I read Micah 4 this morning. Verse 5 jumped off the page:

"Though all the peoples each walk in the name of their gods, we will walk in the name of Yahweh our God forever and ever."

It reminded me of Joshua 24:15, where Joshua drew a line in the sand saying,

"Choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped ... or the gods of the Amorites ... But as for me and my family, we will worship the LORD."

I wondered what it meant to actually "walk in the name of the Yahweh." Calvin said that it's meant to show the stark contrast between Yahweh and every other god.

"How did they derive their majesty and their power, except from the false imagination of men? ... The power and authority of God is not founded on any vain device of men, for he of himself exists, and will exist, though he were denied by the whole world" (Calvin's Commentaries, Micah, 273).

A false god has no majesty or power except that which is given it by the imagination of the dreamer. But since it is merely an object of the imagination, the power is void. To walk in the name of Yahweh is to walk under the reign of the One God who holds the planets in orbit, yet holds the hearts of men, desiring a genuine relationship with each and every person - a task impossible for a god who does not exist.

When I was 14 I stood in the city of Trivandrum (a port city of southern India) peering at an enormous temple built around a large twisted oak tree. The tree was worshiped as one Hindu god among millions. Later during that same trip, I heard fireworks that lasted for several hours. I finally asked my interpreter what was going on and he explained that the fireworks were devices meant to awaken the sleeping gods so that they could then be worshiped.

Most American Christians scoff at the god-imaginations of other cultures. But we have our own devices to awaken our sleeping gods - they're called remote controls. They awaken our 60" flat screen in HD so that worship can follow - they're called credit cards and bank accounts that awaken the sleeping god of American consumerism and materialism - a god that promises to fulfill, but never cashes in on the promise - a god that has many different names, but carries the same illusion.

If we are honest, are hearts are often torn and divided in our allegiance to the Living God. If this is where you find yourself, read this verse to see how the Psalmist prayed against this tendency. Then let this Puritan prayer be the prayer of your heart today:

Lord, "I confess and bewail my deficiencies and backslidings:
I mourn my numberless failures,
my incorrigibility under rebukes,
my want of profiting under ordinances of mercy,
my neglect of opportunities for usefulness.
It is not with me as in months past;
O recall me to thyself, and enable me to feel my first love."

P.S. As soon as I get the chance I'm reading this book by Antonio Monda. I heard about it on NPR. Yea, I know ... I'm getting old!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

That's My King

If this doesn't fire you up, check your pulse!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Running Out

This verse spoke to me today:

"...for the Devil has come down to you with great fury,
because he knows he has a short time" (Revelation 12:12).

In its context, the verse is dealing with end times. But I think it's just as appropriate and applicable right now.

Yesterday was a rough day of ministry. I think we all have those from time to time. Details are not important. It just happens. And I'm not one to see the devil hiding behind every rock, but I do think that he came down in great fury yesterday, because he knows his time is short. It probably wasn't him, since he's not omnipresent, but at least one of his demons. Trying to discourage me. Trying to derail me. Trying to stifle the work of God in our family and ministry, especially when God wants to show up and do something big. So, praise God, I woke up to read this verse (non-coincidentally) which gives me the triumphant confidence to say, "God is still on His throne, He will always receive the praise and glory He's due, and the devil's time is running out!" So, to my friends in ministry, to my friends making a difference in the American workforce, and to my friends in about 9 different countries around the world, remember this:

Stand strong against the devil's fury, because his time is running out.

Recaps 12-16-07

Chrio Church AM

1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
2. Joy to the World
3. Angels We Have Heard on High
4. The Wonder of This Sight (Via)
5. Emmanuel (Via)
6. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
7. Wonderful Maker
8. O Holy Night

Ridge Church PM

1. Joy to the World (Family Wise)
2. Gloria (Family Wise)
3. What Child is This?
4. Hosanna (HU)
5. I Believe (Natalie Grant)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Eternal Interest

"Turn my heart from vanity,
from dissatisfactions,
from uncertainties of the present state,
to an eternal interest in Christ."

-a Puritan prayer

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Worship with Oprah

Apparently the set of Oprah is a great place to tune in to the heart of God. Check out the lady about 6 sec. in. She's really gettin' her praise on!! Hallelujah! Praise you, Opr... I mean, Jesus!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ghost Riding and Risk

CNN is playing in the background as I write this. They’re doing a report on ghost riding – when the driver of a moving vehicle purposefully leaves the wheel unmanned while riding on the hood, on the top, or wherever else he can find for some joyful moments. I’m watching as they report about kids who have died and others who have been mangled from experimenting with ghost riding. There’s one guy they’re interviewing who is bragging about how he never does it without being sure he’s in a safe and controlled environment. Brilliant.

Here’s a tip. It’s free. NEVER DO THIS! Find your kicks and thrills somewhere else. You have way too much life to live. And I can think of about ten other ways I would rather die than by being run over by my own moving car. I can’t even imagine trying to explain that to God in heaven.

Risks. People take them all the time. They find thrills in many different ways. My brother always wanted to sky dive. I never wanted to. He hasn’t done it yet, but I’m sure he will one day. My two other brothers did bungee jump over the crashing, raging Nile River. I saw the video and wasn’t impressed. I’m not afraid of heights, but I can think of other things to do for thrills, like reading books.

I think the apostle Paul was a lot like my brothers. He took risks. He was an extreme guy. Risk was something that he understood to be a logical part of the Christian faith. Listen to his description of some of the hardships he faced:

Five times I received from the Jews 40 lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the depths of the sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing” (2 Cor 11:24-27).

Paul suffered. Paul took risks. And he didn’t think it was abnormal. Does that sound contradictory to the way we normally experience Christianity? See, I believe there exists a tendency, at least among Christians in America, to equate faith in Jesus with safety. Most of us in America could never imagine the horrors the Apostle Paul experienced staring death’s door in the face countless times over. We cry and pout when the express lane is backed up into the aisle. We panic and get angry when God doesn’t open up a parking space toward the front. We curse and blame God when He calls a loved one home to heaven, when we should be rejoicing for their homecoming.

Agreed, there is an element of pain and suffering that we, as Christians in America, will likely never face in comparison with believers in closed countries such as China, North Korea, and Sudan. But safety, as we normally think of it, is a complete contradistinction to our faith.

Now, don't press the example of ghost riding too hard. It's not meant to be an analogy. Merely an example. As followers of Christ, I don't think we're called to be reckless. But somewhere along the way we've developed this mentality that Christians should forever live “safe and secure from all alarms.”[i] At the very best, I think this is bad theology. Paul never taught this. Nor did he live this. And here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. In every other area of life, a certain amount of risk is expected and assumed. Here’s what John Piper says about this inconsistency:

Risk is woven into the fabric of our finite lives. We cannot avoid risk even if we want to. Ignorance and uncertainty about tomorrow is our native air. All of our plans for tomorrow’s activities can be shattered by a thousand unknowns whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways . . . The tragic hypocrisy is that the enchantment of security lets us take risks every day for ourselves but paralyzes us from taking risks for others on the Calvary road of love.[ii]

We’ll pull out of our driveway and accept a certain amount of risk as we travel to our destination. We’ll accept a new job opportunity with the understanding that it may or may not lead anywhere. We’ll enroll in college and gladly accept the uncertainties that come with it. But we’ll never share our faith with a lost friend, because of the risk of rejection. We’ll never lay our Bible on our desk for fear of the risk of being intolerant. This is inconsistent. Concerning our faith in Christ, we’ve deceived ourselves into thinking that risk and uncertainty do not coexist with salvation and victorious Christian living.

We accept risk in normal life. We reject risk in Christianity. We’re simply inconsistent.

In what ways have you segregated risk from Christianity in your mind and actions?

[i] From the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” by Elisha A. Hoffman.

[ii] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), p. 81.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Magic Motion Monday: Water Shortage? No Problem

I never should have said that I would have a new crazy video for you all each and every Monday. But, at least, I can keep you surprised when they do pop up from time to time. Here's the latest installment. The water shortage in the southeast US is no problem for our family. We have learned to bathe in other ways!!

To the tune of "Love Letters in the Sand" by Sixpence

Recaps 12-9-07

Here's the rundown from the weekend:

SouthPointe Fellowship AM

1. Angels We Have Heard on High (trad.)
2. Joy to the World (trad.)
3. Be Thou My Vision (trad.)
4. The Wonder of This Sight (Via)
5. Wonderful Maker (Tomlin)

-SouthPointe has been a really cool church to minister in as they continue to search for a full-time youth and worship guy. They've been really great to our family. Yesterday was it for us for a while. We may be back in January a couple Sundays. We'll see. It was great to have my friend Nathaniel Bryan (part of Return Worship) beatin' on a 4-piece!

Ridge Church PM

1. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Mercy Me)
2. Salvation is Here (HU)
3. Gloria (Family Wise)
4. Grace Will Be My Song (Fee)

-Another good night at Ridge. Had an awesome band to play with, as usual. Rusty Burchard and the whole production team continues to take it up another notch every week. Keeps me on my toes!!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Guest Blogger: Jacob Via: Review of The Golden Compass

As the holiday season comes into full swing, statistics are showing that The Golden Compass is sure to be the biggest film of the season, if not the year. It's sad really when I realize how easily this movie has slipped through the cracks within the believing community. Why on earth did we rant and rave over the Da Vinci Code but allow The Golden Compass to sneak into the main stream media without a single fight?

The Golden Compass, as many of you know, is a movie about an evil dictator trying to rule the world, and a little girl destined to stop him. Let's let these quotes from Phillip Pullman, the author of this trilogy, to speak for himself.

"If there is a God and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put to death and rebelled against," Pullman told the Telegraph newspaper in 2002. "As you look back over the history of the Christian church, it's a record of terrible infamy and cruelty and persecution and tyranny. How they have the bloody nerve to go on 'Thought for the Day' and tell us all to be good when, given the slightest chance, they'd be hanging the rest of us and flogging the homosexuals and persecuting the witches."

Pullman calls C.S. Lewis' Narnia Books "propaganda in the service of a life-hating ideology."

As a matter of fact, Phillip Pullman, when asked why he wrote "His Dark Materials" (the trilogy of which The Golden Compass is the first), he answers "I'm trying to undermine the very basis of Christian belief.”

Some have said that the attacks against Christianity in the books are so subtle that you can’t even tell. Well let’s see if that is true:

- In the second book in the trilogy, "The Subtle Knife," one of the main characters, Will, is told he possesses "the one weapon in all the universes" -- a magical knife -- that can "defeat the tyrant." That tyrant, he is told, is "The Authority. God."

-- In "The Amber Spyglass," the third and final book of the series, Will is told -- by two fallen, homosexual angels, no less -- that "The Authority" has many names, "God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty." These were names God "gave himself" even though "he was never the creator." Instead, Will is told, the Authority simply was the first angel formed out of "Dust" and thereafter God proceeded to tell "those who came after him that he had created them."

-- In another scene in The Amber Spyglass, one of the homosexual angels tells Will that churches "tell their believers that they'll live in Heaven, but that's a lie." Instead, believers go to a "prison camp."

-- In one of the final chapters of The Amber Spyglass, an ex-nun named Mary tells Will and Lyra, "The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all." Mary also tells them that after she learned there was no God, she soon discovered that "physics was more interesting anyway."

One of Pullman's apparent themes is that science and reason trump faith. He says that “it's impossible to have a life of joy, of pleasure, and be a member of the church."

Obviously Pullman’s intentions are to be as direct and adament against Christianity as he can be. It was his sole purpose for writing the books.

So what do we do then believers? I hardly believe that a boycott is of any use, as history shows us. But do we just sit back and let this heresy entertain us? Of course not!

This should be a challenge to us. This is a “Golden” Opportunity (pun intended) for us as believers to spark discussions with non-believers. Use this as an open door for the Gospel.

Don’t be ignorant of the issues. If you want to see the movie, go see it. If you want to read the books, read them. But don’t just sit back and let everything that you live for be attacked and ridiculed. Does God need our help? NO! But our lives are designed to bring him most glory. So give glory to the Lord by taking advantage of this opportunity to share the Gospel and defend your faith.

I’m reading The Golden Compass now. I went and saw the Da Vinci Code. I want to be informed so I can carry a conversation and know that facts.

Do you remember when the Da Vinci Code came out? There were books, magazine, pamphlets, TV shows, radio shows, all debunking Dan Brown and The Code. Did it help? I don’t know. But why have we not seen the same thing with The Golden Compass. Because it’s a children’s fairy tale? That should be even more reason to be cautious.

That’s all I have to say. Please take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t just stand on the sidelines. That’s not where you belong.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Wanna Be Like You

How can I not help but blog about this!? And how can you not help but think what a little hardcore heartthrob this guy is!! I was gone when Tasha took this, but apparently Zeke was walking around all day patting his head, wearing my beanie and saying, "Da-da, da-da!" Reminds me of that old Harry Chapin song, Cats in the Cradle. No pressure, though! No pressure!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Playlist 12-2-07

Here's the rundown from yesterday. It was an awesome Lord's Day as we kicked off the Christmas series for 2 different churches.

South Pointe Fellowship - AM
1. Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Let Us Sing (arr. Via)
2. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (trad.)
3. O Come Let Us Adore Him (trad.)
4. He Is Exalted (Shane and Shane arr.)
5. Wonderful Maker (Tomlin)

Ridge Church - PM
1. O Holy Night (Third Day arr.)
2. Gloria (Familywise Music Resources)
3. O Come Let Us Adore Him (Matt Redman arr.)
4. How Great is Our God (Tomlin)
5. Angels We Have Heard on High/Gloria (Mercy Me arr.)