Tuesday, August 31, 2010

John Mark McMillan's "The Medicine" Album Review

It has been a while since I have done an album review. This is a particular favorite of mine. I am just getting acquainted with John Mark McMillan's music since hearing some of his music earlier this year. You might not think you know who he is, but you probably have heard some of his songs before. The most obvious one would be "How He Loves", which was recorded on the Church Music album by the David Crowder Band.

John Mark's album starts off with "Reckoning Day" which is a call asking everyone if they would come alive and get out of bed for the sound of the song unsung...it asks us to wake up and lift our eyes...and become untied from the weight of this age. These lyrics and the song's presentation begin the edgy feel that can reach beyond the circles that typical "pretty Christian" music can touch. His lyrics talk about life...he says that he writes music for people and God to listen to.

The next song I would point out would be track 6, "Death in His Grave". This is another story that has been put to music. The chorus echoes with...

"On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave"

The final song I would feel necessary to mention has to be "How He Loves". This has become one of my favorite songs of the past couple years. It is a stirring song that reminds us of exactly how much God truly loves us. One of my favorite lines from any song would have to be from this one, when it says...
"I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us"

I couldn't find the time to submit a full review of every song on this album, but they are all strong theologically and speak from John Mark's heart. I would recommend this album to anyone who enjoys contemporary Christian worship music. The edgy lyrics and music can speak in ways that many artists have yet been able to.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Is Suffering Optional???

I know that it's not the most popular subject in Christian circles, but one that I feel should be discussed! I am not sure about your walk with the Lord, but from time to time, I tend to get "comfortable" and expect nothing uncomfortable to happen to my little world. But, we have been promised otherwise...remember that our adversary walks around like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour...and that doesn't sound comfortable in any translation!!!

Anyway, when struggles come about, I tend to want to throw my hands up and just give up...is it just me? But, last night while watching a podcast of Francis Chan speaking from Biola University's chapel series, I was struck when he said that we ALL face hardships and trials...IF WE ARE TRULY DOING GOD'S WILL! Therein lies the emphasis...if we aren't doing anything for God in our lives, why would Satan even need to obstruct our path? You're right, he wouldn't. But, be alert...if you are doing the work of Christ, the trials will come. And, they don't always just affect you...Satan will attack in any way he can hurt you the most.

I wanted to share several verses on the subject of our suffering today, with the first being found in 2 Timothy 3:12..."Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Like I have mentioned, the trials will come if you make a stand for Christ. One point Francis made in the podcast was particularly on point, I believe. He said that some of the biggest opposition you will find in seeking what God is telling you to do will be found in the church. Unfortunately, that can be true. Sometimes others want you to "cool off" or just calm down a bit because "that's not the way we do things around here". But, don't allow someone else to quench a fire that has been placed in your heart!!!

Another reference I would share is found in 1 Peter 2:19..."For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully." Sometimes we may even have to suffer wrongfully out of conscience sake. I know that can seem unfair, but in showing the true love of Christ to others it might be required. By the way, can you think of anyone else who suffered and died wrongfully, so that others might have life?

That would lead us to 1 Peter 2:21-23..."For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (23) Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (24) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
There is no better example of how to deal with suffering and being mocked than Jesus Christ. When He was spat upon, he kept His composure...when He was mocked, He didn't mock back...through it all, He showed a grace on those who didn't deserve it. But, He knew what He was called to do...and through His death upon the cross we were given life...and by His stripes we are healed.

Another example of dealing with sufferings is found in James 5:10..."Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience." If you look at the history of the prophets who spoke in the Lord's name, you will find men who were imprisoned, beaten, stones, and even killed for the cause of Christ. But notice how the verse puts it...they were an "example of suffering and of patience".

In Philippians 1:29, we find..."For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;" We have been granted to suffer in His behalf...probably never thought of it that way either, have you? I know it opened my eyes as I read it again. Not only do we get to believe in Him, but we get to suffer. This verse ties perfectly with the message in the following Scripture, found in Romans 8:18..."For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward." This makes it seem a bit better, when we realize that the things we struggle with here on earth will pale in comparison with the glory that will be revealed to us in Heaven! Don't lose hope. Remember what the last part of 1 John 4:4 says..."greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world"

The final passage I would like to share with you comes from Philippians 3:8-11..."Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,(9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (10) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (11) If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."

Take a look at the same passage as translated in the Amplified Bible..."Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), (9) And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith. (10) [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] (11) That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]."

Don't get stuck dwelling upon the lows of this life, and the suffering you will endure this side of Heaven...that is to be expected! Rather, allow Christ to do His perfect work through your life as a result of how you deal with it. Others will see in you what they have been searching for! Keep your head up...you are not alone in your struggles!

Please let me know if you have a special prayer request I can word on your behalf today!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Can We Show Some Compassion???

I have some quotes on compassion I have come across the past few days that I thought would fall in place with what has been weighing heavily upon my heart. My heart is burdened to feel for those who don't know the Lord. I want to see them as the Lord does...lost and needing a helping hand to lead them to the one true Light!!!

"Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation." -Henry Ward Beecher

This quote speaks to me in the vein that if we are showing compassion, we are likely to be able to reach sinners where they are. Too often, we are caught condemning the sin, rather than loving the sinner.

"We ought to be people of compassion. And being people of compassion means we deny ourselves, and our self-centeredness." -Mike Huckabee

If we are only concerned about ourselves, we can't have a heart for others.

"Compassion costs. It is easy enough to argue, criticize and condemn, but redemption is costly, and comfort draws from the deep. Brains can argue, but It takes heart to comfort." -Samuel Chadwick

How easy it is to kick someone when they're down. It's much harder to lend a hand and stand in the gap for someone who has fallen. If we aren't there for them, who will be?

And the final quote I will share is this..."I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it." -Thomas Aquinas

Ouch! That one hits home...it's easy to talk about this and that, but when the rubber hits the road, what are we doing about it? My dad always used the old line..."your actions speak so loud I can't hear a word you're saying" What are our actions saying? Are we truly loving others and showing the compassion that has been shown to us?

May we practice what we tell others we believe...hollow words mean nothing if they aren't backed up with our lives.

There are several verses on compassion you can look to as well...Matthew 18 tell the story of a master who has compassion, only to have that one show nothing of the sort in return to another (verses 23-35)...also Luke 7:13, where the Lord showed compassion upon the widow...the Samaritan showed compassion in Luke 10 as well...the Scripture references are nearly endless...

Our lives should live out the verse that the picture above illustrates, which is found in Philippians 3:14..."I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Everything we do should be towards that end!!!

Do you have a favorite verse or quote that deals with compassion? Share it with us...

Please let me know if you have a special prayer request I can word on your behalf today!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Loving God...But Are We Loving Others???

This evening, our Collegiate class study was focused on a couple of the Nooma series videos by Rob Bell. The one that has been stuck in my head is the one entitled Bullhorn. The thought I am hit by is that we are called to love God and also to love others, right? In Matthew 22:36-40, we find them asking Jesus..."Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

I know it seems easy to understand the loving God part, right? But what about the one whose opinion or lifestyle isn't what you agree with, or even detest? Are we supposed to treat them with contempt? Or are we to love them the same?

I am reminded of the passage in John 8, when the scribes and Pharisees brought the adulterous woman in, seeking for her to be condemned and stoned. What was Jesus reaction? Was it to put her down...shun her for her lifestyle...or to simply show love? In verse 8, He states plainly "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

Too often, I am afraid we are trying to clean people up to bring them into our "church" environment. But, I am reminded of the illustration made by Mike Warnke back in his '80's comedy..."do we have to clean up for a bath?" The answer...simply put is no. We aren't called to clean up sinners, but simply reach out with the love of Jesus.

The verses say it clear enough, don't they? "...love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind...love thy neighbour as thyself"...Let's look at others today through the loving eyes of our Lord and Savior.

Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:21..."I am made all things to all men , that I might by all means save some." May that be our goal and our outcome...to save some...

What are your thoughts on this subject??? Would love to hear your take on this subject...

Please let me know if you have a special prayer request I can word on your behalf today!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Set Apart or Blending In???

As I got home this evening from church, I continued to focus on the first point of Caleb's message tonight...being sanctified. The definition of sanctified reads like this...(1) to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use (2) to free from sin (3)(a) to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to (b) to give moral or social sanction to. We are called to be set apart, free from sin...and to be sanctioned, both morally and socially. Being sanctioned socially would mean that we are noticed to be different, right?

As I was thinking and praying on this I came across a great passage I wanted to share with you from James 1:19-27..."Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (25) But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein , he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (26) If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. (27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

The first verse hits us right where it hurts, doesn't it? Be quick to listen, but slow to talk and quarrel...the Amplified version brings it out like this..."Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry." So we need to mind our tongue and temper, people (actually pointing more at myself than others here). We also see it continue that by getting angry and offended we are not showing forth the righteousness of God.

Verse 21 continues by saying to get rid of all the junk we are carrying around, whether it be by habit, addiction or whatever else it could possibly have a hold on you. The Amplified puts it this way..."So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls." So when we get rid of the stuff that holds us back, we allow room for the Word to penetrate and work in and through our lives.

The next verse is one we have all heard numerous times...be doers and not hearers only. If we listen that's good, but if we put no action to our belief, how can people see it? If we don't show forth the love of Christ, how will anyone even tell we possess it? And as it continues on, if a man seems "religious", but can't control his tongue...his religion is vain. This is where I would make the case against religion and FOR Christianity. It's not about men's ideas and interpretations, but rather about Christ...it's ALL ABOUT HIM!!!

And finally, what TRUE religion (Christianity) looks like...be there for those in need and keep one's self unspotted from the affairs and sins of this world. I hope this passage holds great meaning for you and maybe struck a chord in your heart today. But, as it says...don't just hear it...DO IT...and what better time than today. No telling who you will encounter today that need to know what you have been hiding in your heart...let it show!

Please let me know if you have a special prayer request I can word on your behalf today!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Let's Do Lunch" book review

Let me start this review by first stating the obvious...this is not the normal book I would pick off a shelf. I chose it because I, like many in America, have gained unwanted pounds and inches. Roger Wilson does a great job in this book cutting through the myths that are out there and just shares the simple facts of how eating schedules and eating "smart" can take those pounds off.

I know it seems as though this is another eat yourself thin book, but there is nothing space-age or never-seen-before in this one. It's a no-nonsense approach that speaks plainly and explains why it works.

I would tend to be skeptical of such books, but Roger Himself lost 230 pounds and 24 inches by applying the principles listed in this book. If you are looking for a quick fix, diet pills, or point system to follow...this is not the book for you. However, if you are willing to watch what you eat and when you eat it...and are willing to submit your life to a great "life change for the better", this plan can work for you!!! Pick it up at Thomas Nelson, Amazon, Christianbook.com or your favorite online or local bookstore.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Refuge Be...

The words of this song touched me yesterday as my friend, Larry sang in our morning worship. Too often, we are looking for God to help us when we are down and out, but simply rely on self when things are "good". This song clearly states that we will seek the Lord all of our days, and will find our shelter and refuge in none other.

In Scripture, there are many references to God as our refuge, such as the following verses:

Psalm 9:9..."The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble."

Psalm 46:1..."God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Psalm 62:7..."In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God."

The Lord is there as our defense and refuge...but, He is also waiting to be there in our good times. As a parent, I understand this more than I ever could as a child, adolescent or young adult. I don't want to be there for my children only when they need my help, but rather to have a relationship that is based on love in spite of circumstances.

If our love wants that, how much more does the perfect love of God wish for such a relationship? Think about that as you read these words from "My Refuge Be"...

Into You I will hasten
Into You I will lean
Light of the world my only Shelter
King of love my refuge be
King of love my refuge be

Verse 1
All throughout my days I will seek Your peace
Let me hear Your voice singing over me
When my weary heart drives me to despair
In the shadows Lord let me find You there

Verse 2
Friend of broken hearts and all the lost
I will find my strength in Your precious cross
And with ev'ry breath that You give to me
May I glorify Your majesty

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Please let me know if you have a special prayer request I can word on your behalf today!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Outlive Your Life book review

Another review I should have posted some time ago is of the soon to be released "Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado. This is just another added to my large collection of his books. The official release date is scheduled for September 14, 2010.

This book is a call for us as Christians to live beyond the confines of life and rather reach out and make a difference. It may be a call to be more charitable, serve in a soup kitchen, or help an elderly person you know. Whatever this book inspires you to do...one thing is for sure...we need to stop sitting back and expect others to do the work we have been called to do. If we are to all sit by and watch, then nothing will get done, right?

We all need an eye-opener or a shot in the arm from time to time, and that's exactly what this book does. If you are in a rut or just need to be awakened from a sleepwalk through your daily life, I urge you to grab a copy of this book. You can pre-order it at Thomas Nelson Publishers or at Christianbook.com.

One hundred percent of all author royalties from this book will benefit children and families through WorldVision and other ministries of faith-based compassion.

The Heart Mender book review

The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews is the latest book I have received for review through the BookSneeze blogger Review program. This is the second book I have read from Mr. Andrews and I have to say I love his writing. Everything in his books flows so seamlessly as he narrates the stories. This latest book tells a story of loss, anger, and ultimately forgiveness in the World War II era.

In 1942, after her husband was killed in the war, Helen Mason finds a nearly-dead body on the shore. Seeing the German uniform, Helen is enraged and would leave the soldier to save himself, but is struck by a phrase and re-thinks her situation.

I am not the normal romance reader, but the mending heart story that follows is one for the ages. The reconciliation and forgiveness that is made in the pages of this book will touch even the hardest of hearts. Once again, a true gem of a story.

It’s even hinted that some of the book could possibly be true. Like my parents always told me, truth is much more entertaining than fiction, right? But, regardless, I would invite you to get a copy of this book and enjoy the story I just finished.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”