Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Favorites of 2008

(Here's Last Year's Favorites, just in case you are interested.)

Here are some of my favorites from 2008...

Favorite Blog: - This has to be the most incredible design site for anyone who works with the web. I've really enjoyed it this year.

Favorite Coffee:
I've really started liking Folger's House Blend. But I've also started putting some whip cream and chocolate into some stronger coffee to make an evening snack. Boy is that good.

Favorite TV Show/Movie:
I don't really have a favorite TV show this year, haven't really been keeping up with much. I have watched a little bit of Heroes, but it doesn't seem as good as last year. I really liked the movie Bella and would highly recommend it. You can check it out on one of my previous posts...

Favorite Album:
I loved Gullahorn's album Room to Breathe. You can check out other's favorites by reading the comments at the bottom of my last music post.

Favorite Moment:
Getting my ear pierced. Yep. I know it's strange. But that has to be my most memorable experience from this year. E-Team singing is a close second.

Favorite Scripture:
Psalm 63:3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

Favorite Photo:
I love this picture from St. Croix.

If you have a list of your favorites, feel free to put a link in the comments. Jeff got me started on this last year. Here's his list.

Thanks to those of you who have kept up with the blog over the last year. Stay tuned, I have what I think is an interesting idea for 2009. We'll see if it actually comes to pass.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bible Reading Plans

It's that time of year again, time to consider a Bible Reading Plan. I have really enjoyed going through the ESV online. Every Day in the Word has been a really good plan. I highly recommend it.

I'm considering some other options this year and Between Two Worlds has mentioned quite a few in this post.

If you haven't tried reading through the Bible in a while, I'd encourage you to give it a shot.

Speaking Up...

I had an interesting encounter at Walmart tonight. A woman in front of me was buying some cigarettes, but she didn't have any ID. She seemed very familiar to me. She began to share the date of her birth with the clerk, and then I was almost positive that I knew her.

Usually at this point, I would just keep quiet and wonder, but for some reason, tonight I was bold enough to ask. Turns out she remembered me, and we went to Junior High and High School together. I wonder how many times I mess up by not speaking up.

Tonight's reading reminds me that I need to speak up for the unborn as well...

Proverbs 31:8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Lord, help me to be bold and speak as You lead.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Diamond Hard Hearts

Found this phrase in today's reading...

Zechariah 7:12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts.

Lord, please help keep me from a "diamond-hard" heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Music Tuesday - Merry Christmas

My kids picked the winners for this year's giveaway. Congratulations to Jeff T. and Jacob. Your presents should be in your Inbox. Thank you to everyone for sharing some of their favorite music with us.

If you're looking for some new music you might want to check out Patrol's The Best Faith-Inspired Albums of 2008. I think you'll be really surprised what's NOT on this list. These aren't your typical "Christian" albums.

Also, if you have never listened to Sandra McCracken - you seriously need to. You can get her sampler free from NoiseTrade.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Can the Blues Make You Happy?

I'm not exactly sure why, but whenever I hear good blues music, instead of feeling sad, it makes me incredibly happy. I must be one twisted individual.

For your viewing pleasure Mr. Freddie King...

You also may want to check out B.B. King's rendition with Gladys Knight and Etta James.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Are We The New Freaks?

I don't know anything about Carl Trueman, but JT (Justin Taylor) from Between Two Worlds has highlighted a couple of his posts these past few days.

Here's what's scary...

It appears Mr. Trueman and I were watching the same edition of the Rachel Maddow Show and it stirred both of us the same way. He wrote this piece after watching that show. I wrote my own "Troubled" parts 1 and 2 after I saw the show.

I have been really thinking about what I see because of this incident and lo and behold Mr. Trueman has another post, Goodbye Larry King and Hello Jerry Springer, and it is exactly what I've been thinking. He words it so well. I wish I could have done the same. Here are a couple of quotes...

What is becoming increasingly clear is that the day is probably not far off when those who regard homosexual practice as wrong will be consistently presented as the moral, cultural and intellectual equivalents of white supremacists...

You can have the hippest soul patch in town, and quote Coldplay lyrics till the cows come home; but oppose homosexuality and the only television program interested in having you appear will soon be The Jerry Springer Show when the audience has become bored of baiting the Klan crazies. Indeed, evangelicals will be the new freaks.

I think he makes a good case for our response. Be sure to read the end of the article. Basically, we must hold firm to the scriptures and also look at people as people, not labels. Don't become the "hatemongers" that some claim we are.

I hope I'm not depressing some of you out there. I see some great opportunities ahead for the church. I appreciate all of the comments reminding us that we aren't here to please people or put on a nice PR campaign. I am in total agreement.
But what I think we are seeing right before our eyes is the beginning of the "freakization" of evangelical, dare I say biblical, Christianity. We are going to need to prepare our churches for living in this new world.

The Kingdom Comes

I often pray the Lord's prayer.  It has become my guide for prayer since we went through it as a series a couple of years ago.  I pray that the Kingdom will come.  In today's reading, it does come.

Revelation 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

Lord, I look forward to the day, when we no longer pray "Your Kingdom Come," because it will have arrived.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is There Any Reason for Urgency?

The Lord is going to bring judgment, but also wonder and beauty. He isn't indifferent. He will act.

Zephaniah 1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’

Lord, make me bold in You.

Troubled. Obama and Warren Part 1

I'm really troubled tonight because of all the noise about Obama picking Rick Warren to say a prayer at his inauguration. I'm troubled for different reasons...

(Click here for Part 2)

First, when we finished our study this fall on the book UnChristian we were left with the impression that if the church began to change certain behaviors our reputation among our nation would dramatically improve.

For example: if Christians focused on having civil dialogue with those around us -- even those we disagree with -- people would come to respect us.

If we, the church, started really working for finding a cure for AIDS and/or helping out the HIV community, -- people would come to respect us.

But here is a person (and believe you me I am not a Warren fanatic by anyone's stretch of the imagination) who is doing both of these things. He is encouraging dialogue. Who else got both presidential nominees to come together? He is working hard for HIV/Aids. Which I find truly commendable. And yet what is the opinion of those in our nation?

Homophobe. Insulting. Arrogant. Liar. And these are the nice words.

I'm really not sure that being "civil" and working for HIV/Aids is going to change the rep of the church all that much. I think we must be civil and we need to work for social causes such as this, but I'm not putting my hope in changing the way the world views the church.

Recently, one of my devotional passages reminded me about this:

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.

John 15:18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

I'm not trying to fly the martyr flag here. I'm just being reminded again that maybe the world as a whole will never see the church as people of grace and truth, because of the hardness of their hearts.

Where this battle will be won is at the individual level. Respect, love, service, and dare I say it -- truth - combined with God's Spirit will win the hearts and souls of men and women.

(Click here for Part 2)

Troubled. Obama and Warren Part 2.

(See Part 1 here)

Here's the other thing that is really bothering me... I'm not sure how to handle this tension of morality vs. freedom. "Do the right thing" vs. "Everyone should be free to live as they please as long it doesn't hurt someone else."

I know this is no new question, but how do we live the Christ-like life in a pluralist/democratic environment? I am a sinner, I try to err on the side of grace. I don't want people to feel judged and condemned, I want them to feel loved. I am a Christian, I must obediently live and speak the truth. I can't compromise the gospel and I need to be clear about truth of Christ in my speaking.

I need to serve and to speak. This is a both/and proposition, not an either/or proposition.

If I have an unbelieving friend who is living in an adulterous relationship, can we still be friends? I think I can still be friendly, and loving, and do my best to keep the lines of communication open. I think I can still be a good friend. But will they think much of my friendship if I say that their relationship is wrong?

How can you tell someone that you believe their choices are wrong, and yet have them feel loved in the process? I've had my choices questioned before, and I usually didn't feel "loved." I felt criticized, judged, marginalized, but not usually loved.

This is hard stuff.

This will probably be what divides this nation, if the truth speakers keep speaking.

Is there a way to "stand for truth" and still find respect among civil and reasonable people with dissenting opinions? I would like to think there is. But I'm not sure that respect is always reasonable to expect.

Do you respect a racist? Would you sit down and have a nice chat with your good buddy from the Aryan Nation or the KKK? Maybe you would. Would they want to sit down and have coffee with you?

From what I'm hearing in the media - this is how some are viewing Warren and other Christians who feel that homosexuality is wrong. They think that people with this viewpoint are just like the racists of the 50's and 60's and their views should not be tolerated. They should be scolded, marginalized, and even laughed at, but their viewpoints should not be in the mainstream.

Welcome to the 21st Century in America. I'm afraid Bible believing Christians have a difficult task ahead. Don't expect respect. I don't think it's coming.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday is for Photos - Good Intentions

Good Intentions
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)

I took this photo last year at my friends' home. They have a lovely tree, and they were kind enough to let me take some snapshots of their decorations. I worked on this picture just a bit to make it into a Christmas card. Unfortunately, last year I took the picture after they had already sent out their cards, and this year we totally forgot I had taken the shot.

I hate for it to go to waste.

So from me and Mike and Donna, to all of you on the web -- Merry Christmas!

Click on the picture - you really need to see this one at full resolution to enjoy it!

Tell Somebody...

Two links that you should check out if you haven't already...

1. Mohler talking about how more evangelicals are not holding to the exclusivity of the gospel.

2. This video of Penn (from Penn & Teller) sharing how someone witnessed to him. You gotta see this one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Music Tuesday - 2 Free Album Giveaways

I've had a lot of fun giving away music throughout the year, but what's amazing is how many times no one would take me up on the offer. So with all the money I've saved, I'm going to try giving away two album downloads on iTunes.

Of course, as with all giveaways, there is a catch. Here's this one...

This giveaway will be a drawing. In order to participate you need to share what you think is your favorite song or favorite album that you heard in 2008. (The song/album can be from any year, but this year is when you really came to enjoy it.) You will need to post your comments on the blog -- facebook comments won't count.

I will draw from the names next Tuesday, December 23rd, and the two winners will receive one free email gift certificate for $10 from iTunes for the music of YOUR CHOICE. So you can get an album or you can choose 10 different songs if you wish.

Here's my favorite album of the year:

Room to Breathe from Andy Gullahorn. This album isn't his latest, but I just found it this year. (Thanks Jackie!) I listen to a lot of stuff, but I keep coming back to this one.

So what's your favorite album or song this year?

Calvary Setlist for December 14th

Born in Bethlehem
Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Angels We Have Heard on High

A Week Late

I preached a message on peace a week ago, but somehow I missed this passage.
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth;then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace.

Jesus didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. And yet, He is our peace. He really is.

Loving What God Loves

We say it a lot in our church...God's will is simple.

Love what God loves and hate what God hates.

Somehow we get mixed up. Looks like we weren't the first...

Micah 33:1 And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?— 2 you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones, 3 who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron.

Illinois is in trouble because our leaders are not loving the good and yet we act like everything is ok. Again, we should have learned this by now.

Micah 3:11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.”

Lord, help us to love the good and hate the evil. Help us to cling to Your ways in this mixed up, upside-down world.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Like a Weaned Child...

Just enough independence to realize my dependence upon the Lord.

Psalm 131:1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

Lord, I don't have all the answers. Your ways are so much higher. Help me to quiet my soul in your presence. I need you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday is for Photos - #24

#24 is my Favorite!
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)

It's been a tough year for the Lady Rockets, but I'm really proud of my "B." She does an amazing job considering the genes that handicap her. She plays hard, and she gets better as she goes.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shut Up then Put Up

Lately I've been doing a lot of talking. It comes with the "job." Sermons, Bible Studies, Counseling, etc... Sometimes I just get tired of hearing myself talk. I want to see some action in my own life. Then along comes this great reminder:

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Lord, please help me to stop talking so much and start doing more.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What Will You Be Doing at His Coming?

From today's reading:

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Have you ever wondered what you'll be doing when the Lord returns? All of this talk of Advent has me thinking about the Lord's coming. How will I be found? I hope I'll be found watching and working for His Kingdom to come.

I remember Bro. Swain leading this old hymn in my church home back in Decatur, but the words still ring true...

"Oh can we say we are ready brother, ready for the soul's bright home? Say will he find you and me still watching? Waiting, waiting when the Lord shall come."

Lord, help me to watch and work and wait for Your kingdom.

What's on Your Christmas Playlist?

What do you like to listen to during the Holiday Season? Does anyone have a list that's as crazy as this one?

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • These Are Special Times - Celine Dion
  • Behold the Lamb - Andrew Peterson
  • A Christmas Together - John Denver & the Muppets
  • Christmas With Elvis - Elvis Presley
  • A Jazzy Christmas - Steve Newcomb Trio

I think if I just had some Boys II Men - it would really round out the list.

What's on your Christmas Playlist?

Monday, December 01, 2008

James and the Giant Advent Conspiracy

Yesterday we started Advent for the first time at our Church. I think it is really going to be a meaningful experience for us. I decided to show the Advent Conspiracy video clip just to help people get into the right mindset.

I was not planning on our church joining in on the Living Water project - though I'm glad many are. We are already doing some things locally. After the service yesterday, James - one of the kids in my Sunday School Class - comes up to me and wants to find out what he can do to help the water project.

Then today I get this note on my desk...

No wonder Jesus asks us to have the faith of a little child.

Idea Nation

I'm not sure where this site is headed, but it has some cool possibilities. Check out Idea Nation.