Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Another Sidewalk Prophets Concert

Sidewalk Prophets have announced another Live Stream Event... The Reasons For Joy Tour.

"If you've been feeling down, out, hurt, or helpless you aren't alone. This night is all about finding joy in the midst of all life's struggles, and the best news is that you don't have to go through it alone."

Tickets are now available for the following dates:  Feb 17th through the 20th and Feb 24th through the 27th. Lots of opportunities to see this concert. All dates on the “Reasons For Joy” tour will feature interactive moments, plenty of hits from Sidewalk Prophets’ extensive catalog, and fresh favorites from the band’s latest full-length album, The Things That Got Us Here, featuring new songs like “Smile” and “Chosen.” Pick you date and claim your ticket HERE. Your ticket gets everyone in your home access to enjoy the HD virtual tour experience for one low price. (AND the free option is still available). All paid tickets get early access to the pre-show Band Devotional.


With a career spanning three major label studio releases—These Simple Truths (2009), Live Like That (2012) and Something Different (2015), plus 2013’s celebrated holiday offering, Merry Christmas To You, and their newest album, The Things That Got Us Here, released July 3, 2020.—and multiple hits, including Gold-certified “The Words I Would Say,” “You Love Me Anyway” and “Live Like That,” among others, Sidewalk Prophets remains a mainstay at Christian radio. The Dove Award-winning band has sold more than 740,000 albums and 1.8 million digital tracks. In addition, the group has garnered five No. 1 songs, nine Top 5 radio singles and more than 43 million views on YouTube. 

The band originally formed at Indiana’s Anderson University, and since signing with Curb | Word Entertainment, they’ve been nominated for a Billboard Music Award, multiple K-LOVE Fan Awards and four Dove Awards, taking home the New Artist of the Year Dove in 2010. Over the course of their career, they’ve played for more than 2.5 million fans, and counting. Known for spending more days on the road than anywhere else, Sidewalk Prophets’ most recent tours have morphed into interactive experiences for their fans, whom they affectionately call “The Great Big Family.” 

I have attended several of their Live Stream concerts and they are always great. Get your tickets now!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New Music / Videos

Some great new videos were released last week. First, genre-defying artist and multi-instrumentalist Crowder released a new single today. "Good God Almighty," which was debuted at the all virtual Passion 2021 conference and the song was met with rave reviews.

"This song is just some good old fashioned group singing," Crowder shared on social media. "And what I love about that is it is a group of people in harmony together. That’s what we need and what I'm praying for, some harmony and togetherness."

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Next, GRAMMY and GMA Dove Award-winning artist Zach Williams released the official music video for "Less Like Me.". The track was first featured on Williams' 2019 album titled Rescue Story.

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Finally, after announcing their farewell last year, Tenth Avenue North released their last offering as a band with newly recorded versions of their hits over the last two decades. The album, Unplugged For The People (The Acoustic Greatest Hits), is available now and features 10 of the band's greatest hits and fan favorites including "By Your Side," "You Are More," "Control," "Greater Than All My Regrets" and more. The band felt it would be fitting to close this season of their lives by recording and reimaging some of their greatest hits for their loyal fanbase. With their farewell tour being last year postponed due the pandemic, the band was able to dream and record these new versions during lockdown.

More than 20 years ago, Tenth Avenue North was formed as three friends in a dorm room, and they have gone on to sell more than two million albums, win multiple GMA Dove Awards including New Artist of the Year and tour around the world. Tenth Avenue North has been awarded a RIAA Platinum certified single ("By Your Side"), two RIAA Gold certified singles ("Worn," "You Are More") and a RIAA Gold certified album (Over and Underneath). Since their acclaimed national debut, Over and Underneath, Tenth Avenue North’s career has been built one hit song at a time thanks to radio favorites like “Love Is Here,” “Hold My Heart,” “By Your Side,” “You Are More," and their multi-week No. 1 smash “Control (Somehow You Want Me).”

The band has begun releasing music videos from Unplugged For The People , beginning with three new videos. I'm sure you are familiar with these songs, but these versions are great.



Monday, January 18, 2021

Martin Luther King Day

Today, Monday, January 18 is the federal holiday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Signed into law in 1983 and first observed in 1986, the holiday is a deserving tribute to King for advancing civil rights and social justice through non-violent protest. His was only the second birthday designated as a federal holiday after the observance of George Washington’s birthday. The making of their respective holidays reveals the still unresolved tension between independence and freedom in the making of the United States.

Since the nation last celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, it’s been “a year of extremes” that underscores the urgent need of creating the “Beloved Community” that the civil rights leader envisioned, his daughter said last week.

“As I consider the inhumanity, injustice and indifference currently persisting in our world, particularly in the United States of America, I cannot imagine a more relevant and powerful way to commemorate my father’s birthday than with focus on the urgency of creating the Beloved Community,” said Bernice King. “Now, more than ever, we must turn our attention to fostering reconciliation, which includes truth and repentance, and also turn our attention to achieving true peace, which includes justice.”

Looming over this year’s events are the tense and contested presidential election and last week’s attacks on the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., where five people were killed.

This year’s commemoration will be quite different from past years — events will be held virtually. The coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted almost every aspect of life in 2020, continues to rage. The events will be streamed live at the King Center, (which I had the privilege to visit years ago when in Atlanta, GA with our church youth group for a convention.)

“A great part of me is sad, not being able to do some of the things we traditionally do in connecting with each other,” King told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It feels very awkward to me. But I thank God for the gift of technology that allows us to still do something that is meaningful and, in many ways, can be impactful. I don’t know what we would do without it.”

53 years after King’s death, the promised land where Black people “take their rightful place on earth,” remains elusive. The protests against police brutality and the demonstrations in support of Black Lives are a powerful reminder that the United States has yet to fulfill its promise to Black Americans. King’s closing words at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple the night before his death captures the purpose and meaning of Black protest and sacrifice. “I might not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

In honor of MLK Day, here is perhaps his most remembered speech, "I Have A Dream".

You can also watch a great special remembering the life, legacy, and message of MLK, and the church’s role in measuring up to the ideals of Martin Luther King, I Have A Dream: Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  HERE on TBN.

On this MLK Day let us all re-dedicate ourselves to building a promised land where Black protest and sacrifice are not a requirement to live in the United States.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Flashback Friday

Today's Flashback Friday takes us back around 50 years to the beginning of Contemporary Christian Music. Larry Norman was an American musician, singer, songwriter, record label owner, and record producer. He was a groundbreaking rebel rocker with long hair, a principal architect of what came to be known as "Jesus Music", and is considered to be one of the pioneers of Christian rock music. Through his career, he released more than 100 albums.

Larry Norman was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. Norman graduated high school in 1965 and won an academic scholarship to major in English at San Jose State College. After one semester, Norman "flunked out of college and lost his scholarship". Although he was able to play a variety of musical instruments, he never learned to read or write musical notation.

In 1966 Norman opened a concert for People! in Pacific Grove, California. He later became the band's principal songwriter, sharing lead vocals. People! performed about 200 concerts a year. Soon after Norman left People!, he had "a powerful spiritual encounter that threw him into a frenzy of indecision about his life and for the first time in his life, he received what he understood to be the Holy Spirit".

In July 1968, following a job offer to write musicals for Capitol Records, Norman moved to Los Angeles, where he "spent time sharing the gospel on the streets". As he described in 2006: "I walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard several times a day ... witnessing to businessmen and hippies, and to whomever the Spirit led me. I spent all of my Capitol Records' royalties starting a halfway house and buying clothes and food for new converts." He was initially associated with the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, and its Salt Company coffee shop outreach ministry, where he explored and pioneered the rock-gospel genre.

In 1969, Capitol Records released Norman's first solo album, Upon This Rock, which is now considered to be "the first full-blown Christian rock album". Norman was denounced by various television evangelists, and Capitol deemed the album a commercial flop and dropped Norman from the label. However, his music gained a large following in the emerging countercultural movements. Sales of the album rose following its distribution in Christian bookstores.

By the early 1970s, Norman was performing frequently for large audiences, and appeared at several Christian music festivals. In 1971, Norman first visited England, where he lived and worked for several years. During this time he recorded two studio albums. The first, Only Visiting This Planet was released in 1972 and "was meant to reach the flower children disillusioned by the government and the church" with its "abrasive, urban reality of the gospel." It has often been ranked as Norman's best album. The second album, So Long Ago the Garden released in November 1973 was met with controversy in the Christian press, due to the album's cover art and some songs.

Some of his most memorable work came off the Only Visiting This Planet album. Songs like "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus," "Righteous Rocker," "The Outlaw," and one my personal favorites, "Wish We'd All Been Ready"...

In 1974, Norman founded Solid Rock Records to produce records for Christian artists "who didn't want to be consumed by the business of making vinyl pancakes but who wanted to make something 'non-commercial' to the world". Norman produced music on the label for artists including Randy Stonehill, Mark Heard and Tom Howard.

Throughout his career, Norman had a contentious relationship with the wider Christian church and with the Christian music industry. He wrote in September 2007, "I love God and I follow Jesus but I just don't have much affinity for the organized folderol of the churches in the Western World." Norman's music addressed a wide range of social issues, such as politics, free love, the occult, the passive commercialism of wartime journalists, and religious hypocrisy, that were outside the scope of his contemporaries. Defending the confrontational approach of his music, Norman said, "My primary emphasis is not to entertain. But if your art is boring, people will reject your message as well as your art." In the 1980s, he complained that Christian music generally meant "sloppy thinking, dishonest metaphors and bad poetry," and that he had "never been able to get over the shock of how bad the lyrics are."

Norman disapproved of Christian musicians who were unwilling to play in secular venues or to "preach" between songs. He also criticized what he saw as the "commercialization of Christian music in America", including the role of copyrights and licensing.

We could go on and on about all the hits and successes as well as all the trials, tribulations, and controversies of Larry Norman. In 1989, Norman received the Christian Artists' Society Lifetime Achievement Award and his songs have been covered by over 300 artists from DC Talk to Janis Joplin to Geoff Moore to Phil Keaggy. After a lengthy illness, Norman died on February 24, 2008, at the age of 60.

In 2008, Christian rock historian John J. Thompson wrote, "It is certainly no overstatement to say that Larry Norman is to Christian music what John Lennon is to rock & roll or Bob Dylan is to folk music." Thompson credited Norman for his impact on the genre as a musician, a producer, and a businessman. Steve Camp, Carolyn Arends Bob Hartman, TobyMac, Mark Salomon, Martyn Joseph, and Steve Scott have credited Norman as influences. Larry Norman is often considered the "father of Christian rock" and it was once said that if you could combine the onstage magnetism of Mick Jagger, the lyrical brilliance of Bob Dylan and the personal fragility of Brian Wilson, you would only have begun to scratch of the surface of Larry Norman.

Larry Norman wrote and sang too many great songs to mention in this article, but I am going to leave you today with another hit from the Only Visiting This Planet album that seemed to sum up Larry Norman' musical philosophy, "Why Should the Devil Have All The Good Music"...

Thursday, January 14, 2021

New Music

Last Friday, Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) dropped three new songs from his upcoming solo album titled Departures. The full album is set to drop on February 12th, full of songs "born from the Journey, not the destination." The pre-release tracks include "Education," "Red And Gold," and featured below...  "Jesus, I Have My Doubts" .  


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Also last Friday, singer/songwriter, worship leader and record producer Tim Timmons released his newest single titled "This Is The Day."  
"Psalm 118 was written in the midst of a CRAZY, SCARY, DANGEROUS season. So in the middle of it all, this song was sung," Timmons shared on social media speaking about the heart behind his new song. "This is a new year, with a new beginning. This is the day!" 

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In recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, eight-time GRAMMY nominated artist Tauren Wells and Tim Tebow Foundation President Tim Tebow recently united forces to release “All God’s Children.”

Wells debuted the song in a live performance on New Year’s Eve at the virtual 2021 Passion Conference, an annual gathering of roughly 50,000 young adults uniting their voices to promote a spiritual awakening of their generation.

100% of the proceeds from “All God’s Children” will benefit the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Anti-Human Trafficking ministry. Funds raised will support the deployment of a multi-faceted global strategy to confront human trafficking through prevention, rescue, and restoration through long-term relational care of survivors. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Church Triumphant

Last Friday, I talked about the remaking of 50 year old Bill and Gloria Gather song, "The Church Triumphant."  If you haven't heard it, here is the 2021 official music video for "The Church Triumphant" featuring: Ben Backus, Francesca Battistelli, Harper Bovi, Laurie Crouch, Jim Cymbala, Christine D'Clario, Gloria Gaither, Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, Kathie Lee Gifford, Jack Graham, Natalie Grant, Mark Lowry, Toby Mac, Mandisa, Martins, Jody McBrayer, Pastor Mike, Jr., Nicole C. Mullen, Sandi Patty, David Phelps, Wintley Phipps, Mac Powell, Joel Smallbone, Michael W. Smith, and Michael Tait...

While the Covid-19 pandemic may be holding the world hostage at present, and political divisiveness may seem out of control, believers and followers of Jesus can be assured that ultimately God is still in control, and that His Church is and will be triumphant.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

New Song Cafe

If you are not familiar with New Song Cafe, it is a program from Worship Together, a resource website for worship leaders, musicians, and fans. Worship Together provides free weekly resources such as chord charts, sheet music and New Song Café videos. The videos are on YouTube and listed HERE.

New Song Cafe showcases an exclusive acoustic version of a (fairly new) song and talks with the artists about the story behind the song and offers tips on how it can be played. I find it very interesting to hear about how and why the song was written and the show often provides great personal insight into the artists.

Last week, the program featured "Child of Love" by one of my favorite groups, We The Kingdom.

Monday, January 11, 2021

New Music

Happy Monday, we are starting to see a few new videos now that the holiday season is behind us. First is from the alternative-pop duo Apollo LTD. Bandmates Jordan Phillips and Adam Stark have learned to keep a steady perspective during unstable times. Apollo LTD and Social Club Misfits members come together again, this time as animated characters in the “Good Day” video that premiered last week.

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Last week, breakout Contemporary Christian/Country band We The Kingdom ​(​Ed Cash, Scott Cash, Franni Rae Cash, Martin Cash and Andrew Bergthold) released the video for "Take Me On A Ride."


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Next we have a new release by singer/songwriter JJ Heller.  Heller began releasing monthly singles in April 2017 that together have amassed over 55 million combined streams to date (through August 2020). The songstress will continue to announce a brand-new song on the first Friday of each month. Last Friday's new song is titled "I Believe In You".


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Finally,  Christian singer-songwriter Simon Khorolskiy has released a new Country single based on Isaiah 6:1-8, the Scriptures that conclude with Isaiah's famous call: "Here am I, send me."    

Simon comes from a Russian Christian family that immigrated to the U.S. when he was two years old. His music ministry began in 2016, primarily serving the Russian-speaking community in America, but soon included enthusiastic fans from diverse nations around the globe who often say that although they don’t understand Russian, they still enjoy--and are inspired to worship God through--his music. English subtitles and translations are provided on YouTube.

His new single launched a couple weeks ago, "Holy Is the Lord" is Simon's original composition using lyrics straight from the King James Bible, yet surpassingly modern. You will soon be singing along, quoting this extraordinary passage. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this song, but it is oddly appealing and I find myself listening to it repeatedly.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Not A Flashback Friday

Today I am not presenting a flashback on a CCM artist, but kind of doing a flashback to a song. This is not a CCM song, but rather a famous gospel song that could be considered a hymn.  In 1973, Bill and Gloria Gather wrote and released "The Church Triumphant." 

Here is a live performance by the Gaither Trio from 1991 at the Reader's Choice Awards...


So what is the significance of presenting this song? Well, as it was written in 2 Corinthians 5:17 "The old has gone, the new is here!"... Let me share the words of Michael W. Smith:
The Covid 19 pandemic has taken its toll on all areas of society and the church is no exception. The vital routines and rituals of worship and fellowship—everything from “passing the plate” to potluck dinners—have been embargoed by the virus. For many who live alone, the church has been a reliable place of connecting with others. The pandemic has only compounded their loneliness.

Through all of the adversity of 2020, and its impact on the church, God still has a people. He has always had a people. Whether they occupy the pew or the pulpit, our sense as Christian and Gospel artists is they could really use a rallying cry to lift their spirits and build resolve to be the people of God. As many churches are starting to re-open their doors to in-person worship, we think the timing could not be better.

The very nature of pastoring is intimate and personal – the opposite of social distancing. Many pastors are very discouraged, lonely, and, according to various reports many have left the pastorate while others are on the verge of doing so.

In the early 1970’s, we saw firsthand how a song titled, "The Church Triumphant," brought millions to their feet as they were reminded of God’s faithfulness to build His church irrespective of the circumstances of the day, or the whims of the age. It is our desire that we revive this powerful song as an anthem for the church as she gathers once again in sanctuaries and screens across the US and beyond.
Christ’s church has always faced difficulty with hope and resolve. And often with a song. To encourage God’s people, especially Pastors and Leaders, some of the most respected recording artists in Christian music have come together to offer this re-imagined anthem for 2021. Many artists have joined with Michael to sing this new anthem. 


Church Triumphant 2021 debuts Friday, January 8 on TBN (8, 9, 10, 11pm Eastern).  This one-hour special debuts the Church Triumphant video, featuring Mandisa, Toby Mac, Mac Powell (formerly of Third Day), Francesca Battistelli, Joel Smallbone (of for King & Country), Natalie Grant, Michael Tate (of DC Talk & Newboys fame), Sandi Patty, Gaither Vocal Band, and many more joining with Michael W. Smith. The song will be available on YouTube to share beginning Sunday, January 10th. Find out more info on the Church Triumphant website.


After a year like this, we need something reminding all of God’s family that His Church is alive and well and I am anxious to hear how this song is being renewed.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Kindness & Peace

Last night, Sidewalk Prophets released their song "The Comment Section" which had previously only been seen as part of their live concerts. In light of yesterday's events they decided to release this video. This is what they have to say in the email that they sent...

Be kind at all times. This is a song about all about kindness and the lack thereof. Kindness seems so small. It’s a word we push aside in favor of words that are full of sound and fury, but signify little to nothing. But, kindness is powerful, defiant and strong. I’d argue that it takes more effort, more strength, and more power to be kind in the face of opposition than to plunge head first into battle. So when you awake tomorrow and look back on the news of today, I hope you simply do just this one thing:

Be kind.
Be kind when no one is looking.
Be kind when the world is watching.|
Be kind when you have no idea what to do.
Be kind even when you know you’re right and they’re wrong.
Be kind when it’s free and easy.
Be kind when it costs you everything.
Be kind behind your mask, the one you wear today.
Be kind behind your mask, the one you’ve worn for years.
Be kind to the point that the world points and laughs and calls you names that hurt.
And then, be kind to those that call you those names.
Be kind when you see their tune change.
Be kind even when you think they will never change.
And never forget the 3 keys to ultimate success
As Mr. Fred Rogers once softly, sagely said,
“Be kind, be kind, be kind.”

Be kind unto another, tender-hearted forgiving one another, just as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you” - Epehisians 4:32 

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Also,  Steven Curtis Chapman released a new song last night in response to the day's events, "A Desperate Benediction.". In his own words...

Words can’t describe the sadness that I feel as I watch the events currently unfolding in our country. I’m so heavy hearted at the brokenness and division that we are witnessing and experiencing in our world today, and I am processing in the way most natural to me as a singer-songwriter: with a song. I actually started writing this song about a year ago with my brilliant songwriter friend Tom Douglas, but have been waiting for the right time to share it, and I feel like now is that time. Now more than ever before, it seems like the soul of our world (& our nation) is aching, longing and desperate for PEACE. Whoever & wherever we are, I’m convinced that at our core we are all brothers and sisters crying out for the same thing, what the bible calls “shalom”... a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness. And ultimately, I believe that true peace...the peace that transcends all understanding and guards our hearts and minds...comes from the Prince of peace, Jesus Christ. So it is with a heavy yet hopeful heart that I share this new song with you...as a prayer...a cry...a Desperate Benediction for all of us....praying for peace, and praying that it starts with me, with you, with each of us.

(Thank you to my son Caleb and daughter-in-law Jillian for joining me on this song.)

Peace be with you,
scc 

Lyrics:
Peace on the mountain peace in the valley
Peace on the bulls on wallstreet and the lost sheep in the alley
Peace on the painted desert down the Mississippi river
Peace on the takers and peace to all the givers
Peace in the blessing and the curse
Oh let there be peace on earth
Oh let there be peace on earth

Peace on the lovers peace on the leavers
Peace on the doubters and peace on the true believers
The star in the spotlight…the fearful in the shadows
The divers in the deep end and drowners in the shallows
For all I’m not and for all it’s worth
Oh let there be peace on earth
Oh let there be peace on earth

Peace on the poor man peace on the king                                   
The radio flyers and the broken wings
Let there be peace let there be peace on
The babies being born and the roses on the grave
The losers the winners the fearful and the brave
We’re all brothers and sisters crying to the Father for

Peace on earth Peace on earth
Oh let there be peace on earth
Oh let there be peace on earth
And let it start with me
Oh let it start with me


I believe that kindness and peace are two things we should all be praying for!

A Prayer For Our Country

America is hurting. Pandemics, racial inequalities, job loss, and political division have caused great suffering. We are called to be salt and light on the earth. As Christians, we can begin healing our land through prayer and action. Let us come together not just by words but a faith that produces works. The love and grace of God can begin turning the tide of America.

Dear God,

We look to You and to You, only, Lord. Help us make wise decisions that move our country in the right direction. Help us to do our part in praying and in staying with what we know is right according to the truth of Your Word. Teach us to make our actions count and our words matter, and line them both up to Your sense of rightness, not ours. Guide us with Your eye; grip us with Your strong arm; teach us what we need to know to make our lives - and our nation - count for you.

Make us a great nation, yes. But more than that, make us good, Lord, with a heartbeat that wants every person of every creed and color to know Your love, Your goodness, and Your worth. Make us wise as serpents, but gentle as doves. Turn our fears to faith, as we look to You and You alone for the future of our country. Give us God-confidence that no matter what happens, we will believe You are not only in control, but that You know exactly what is needed to accomplish Your purpose. Help us not to second-guess Your moves, but to move at Your command, always without hesitation.

Forgive us for wanting our own way and making our own paths—often the ones paved with least resistance. Forgive us for fence-walking, or for ignoring completely the truths that can so easily set us free. Deliver us from mindless quarrels and destinations that lead us nowhere, but away from You. Free us from divisiveness, and melt our hardened hearts to love, not hate, and to heal, not debate.

We pray that you would unify your people for the glory of your Name that all who call themselves Christians would rise up, believing your great Truth. Wake us up Lord! Remind us to live aware, to redeem the time, to listen to your words, to be willing to make a difference in this land. We pray for all those in authority, that you would give them your wisdom and discernment as they lead. 

We need, You, God. Oh, how we need You! You have exercised nothing but faithfulness and fairness in Your treatment of our country, even when we've turned our back on You and forgotten Your goodness to us. Your discipline at times is hard, but You are just. Your purpose is always to draw us close to You, to bless us, and to make us a great nation who honors You. You are a good, good, Father—and Your love for us has endured.

Amen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Free Livestream Event with Dave Ramsey

 If you are fond of Dave Ramsey you will not want to miss this event...

It’s Time for a Reset
Free Livestream Event

Wow . . . 2020 sucked, didn't it? But we made it to the other side, and now it's time for a clean slate. This year can be different, and your fresh start begins at Reset Live—a free livestream event on January 12.

Tune in for motivation, encouragement and the kick-start you need in order to say goodbye to money stress—for good. Dave Ramsey, Chris Hogan, Rachel Cruze and Craig Groeschel will show you our proven money plan, so you can gain the security and freedom you've always wanted. 


Go HERE to RSVP to see this livestream event.

If you are not familiar with Dave Ramsey and his "no-nonsense" approach to life and financial security here is a recent show talking about America post election...

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

New Music Releases

A couple weeks ago, Steven McWhirter released the video for "Heavy Load" from The Choir Sessions Album. This album is a kingdom collaboration of culture and creativity, feat. Jason Clayborn and The Atmosphere Changers. In a time where the world and the Bride are more fragmented than ever, we are pressing into the longing of God for His children to be one (John 17:20-21). It’s the marrying of worship and gospel choir music that releases a new sound. 

Some great music on this album like "Come Jesus Come", "Oh Your Blood", and "Stand Up" and the versions really bring a gospel feel to the music.


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I don't talk about many gospel groups here, but this group reminds me of the classic sound of the Statler Bros. Redeemed Quartet is a group from Indiana singing country-styled southern gospel. Raised on traditional gospel music and Biblical values, the 4 best friends (who are actually 2 sets of brothers) began their work in the hills of Southern Indiana as teenagers. From their start in 2014, their mission has been to be a light in the darkness and lift the weary traveler, as well as showcase the tight blend of 4-part harmony that has come to define the traditional male quartet. Internet recognition grew in 2015 after posting a simple video of their performance of the classic “Just A Little Talk With Jesus”.

In 2021 they will be releasing an album titled Timeless Classics.  Here is a just released song from the upcoming album, "Thank You Lord, For Your Blessings On Me"...


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Ben Rector who gave us "The Thanksgiving Song" in November, now has a new song called "A Song For 2021". 

In his own words:
This verse and chorus hit me late last night out of nowhere. This year has been the strangest year I can imagine, for everybody and for me specifically (having the twins, my job suddenly just grinding to a halt). In the midst of a lot of sadness and loss in the world it has somehow been one of the most formative years of my life, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I think I imagined that by the time I had kids music would have burned me out, but somehow in being home I’ve really fallen in love with it again and feel deep peace and excitement at the same time. Here’s to putting 2020 behind us and believing that the best is yet to come. 

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Finally, Passion continued their tradition of ringing in the new year in a spirit of worship and with some new music. The Passion 2021 Conference was held virtually this year and was free to youth and adults alike. (You can still sign up and re-watch Passion 2021 HERE.) Pasion 2021 also featured the debut live performance of two new songs from Passion Music titled "Breakthrough Miracle Power" and "You Are The Lord." Passion Music shared, "these two songs felt like a stake in the ground for us declaring who God is and that there is hope that He is always working. We couldn't leave Passion 2021 without sharing them with you."


Monday, January 4, 2021

COVID Vaccine News

Still have questions about the COVID 19 vaccine? Here are some helpful answers to questions you may be having, or questions that people in your life maybe be asking. Know that the developments around the vaccines change daily, especially with the different stages of approval, distribution and availability. 

1. The safety of COVID-19 vaccines is a top priority.
The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. While the vaccine was developed faster than normal, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would not have granted approval if it wasn’t as safe as other vaccines that may have taken longer to develop.

2. COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you.
Two doses are needed. You need two doses of the currently available COVID-19 vaccine. A second shot three weeks after your first shot is necessary in order for you to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer against this serious disease.

3. When and where will I get the vaccine?
Right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is being offered to healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. We expect essential workers to be in the next phase. Hormel Foods will be working with local and state healthcare officials on vaccine availability and will let you know about timing as soon as we know. The supply will increase in the weeks and months to come. It is expected that anyone who wants to get a vaccine will be able to get one by summer. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as large enough quantities are available. Once the vaccine is widely available, the plan is to have several thousand vaccination providers offering COVID-19 vaccines in doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers.

4. What about side effects?
After COVID-19 vaccination, you may have some side effects. This is a normal sign that your body is building protection and the vaccine is working! The side effects from COVID-19 vaccination may vary from a sore arm to mild flu-like symptoms. Nothing that we can’t handle!

5. How much will it cost?
Cost is not an obstacle to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost.

6. Is there only one vaccine available?
Currently, there are two vaccines that have been authorized for use. The vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are currently being used. Both offer excellent results. If more COVID-19 vaccines are authorized or approved by the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will quickly hold public meetings to review all available data about eachvaccine and make recommendations for their use in the United States.

7. Will we be able to get back to normal after the vaccine is widely available?
COVID-19 vaccines are one of many important tools to help us stop this pandemic. It’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and wash your hands often.

8. Should everyone get the vaccine?
All people who are able to do so should get the COVID-19 vaccine. We know that the best way to get back to normal is to take the vaccine so the spread of COVID-19 can be stopped. Only through large numbers of people being vaccinated can we accomplish eliminating the virus from our communities. Additionally, while some people have mild symptoms from COVID-19, others have more severe reactions, including serious long-term health issues and even death. People don’t know how COVID-19 will affect their bodies until they get it. The vaccine is the top defense to keep you and your family safe.

9. If I’ve had COVID-19, can I get the vaccination?
Yes. Health officials recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccination, even if you’ve previously had COVID-19, but people should wait until they are no longer infectious to get the vaccination.

10. What about children?
Currently the vaccine is approved for persons aged 16 years or older for the prevention of COVID-19 infection. Studies are underway for children under the age of 16.


Still looking for more information? Check out this list of myths about the vaccine and the debunking answers from the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/covid-19-vaccine-myths-debunked. Here are a couple of examples...

Myth: The current vaccines embed a tracking mechanism or microchip into the body. 
Fact: This is absolutely false. In order to track vaccine doses, there is technology on the packaging that ensures a couple of things – that it is the real vaccine and not counterfeit and it helps the health care system know how many doses have been given. COVID-19 vaccine syringes could contain RFID microchips on labels, but they wouldn’t be injected into the individual that receives the vaccine. The chip is not an injectable device but more like a barcode on a food item. The chip transmits information, it does not gather any. The chip is located on the outside of the container holding the vaccine.

Myth: I already had COVID-19 and recovered, so I don't need to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it's available.
Fact: There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. This is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Mayo Clinic recommends getting the COVID-19 vaccine, even if you’ve had COVID-19 previously. However, those that had COVID-19 should delay vaccination until about 90 days from diagnosis. People should not get vaccinated if in quarantine after exposure or if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Flashback Friday

A new year and a new Flashback Friday. This week we are traveling way back to the 70's to feature the group, 2nd Chapter of Acts. This group was one of the pioneers of the Jesus music genre, later to be called contemporary Christian music.  2nd Chapter of Acts was an early contemporary Christian music group composed of sisters Annie Herring and Nelly Greisen and brother Matthew Ward. They began performing in 1973 and enjoyed their period of greatest success during the 1970s. The group disbanded in 1988.

The 2nd Chapter of Acts began as a result of the trio singing at home together as Annie played the piano. Following the death of their parents (Elizabeth in 1968 and Walter Ward in 1970), Nelly and Matthew, still minors, moved in with their older sister, Annie, and her husband, recording engineer and producer, Buck Herring. Annie was a self-taught singer and songwriter who composed and played her songs around the family piano. Her brother and sister would often join in as she played, and eventually they developed extremely tight and intricate harmonies.

They started singing for local coffee houses and small gatherings, then gained the notice of Pat Boone who arranged a contract to record and release two singles with MGM, "Jesus Is" (1972) and "I'm So Happy" (1973). The fledgling trio also came to the attention of 1960s folk singer Barry McGuire, who had recently become a Christian and was preparing to record his first Christian music album, produced by Buck Herring. The siblings provided background vocals for Seeds and McGuire's 1974 follow-up Lighten Up.

The trio released their debut album, With Footnotes, in 1974. This album featured "Easter Song" which would become a signature piece for the group and has been recorded by many other artists since. This is certainly their most recognized and remembered song.


The group released 15 albums between 1979 and 1989. Except for two sabbatical years in 1976 and 1983, 2nd Chapter of Acts toured until 1988. Their final concert was in Houston, Texas on August 12 of that year. 2nd Chapter was recognized by the Gospel Music Association in 1999 by their induction into its Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Years Eve

We've finally made it to the end of 2020. Though things may not be much better right away tomorrow, we at least have hope that the coming year will be better than the one we are finishing.

We can watch the New York's New Year's Eve festivities at Times Square virtually this year (though to be honest, I have never witnessed it in person anyway)... 


I actually suggest that we celebrate the new year with the "4 R's"...

1. Remember
The wise man of Ecclesiastes said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Eccl. 12:1). In January, the year is young and the opportunities seem fresh. So many productivity gurus preach a gospel of self-empowerment, but as gospel people, we know the fragility of human life. We know every breath is a miracle, a gift given to us by our Creator.

In a cursed and tumultuous world, creation itself reminds of God’s great faithfulness. Every new season is a testimony, a signpost, to grace. So the proper response to the past year, whether good or bad, is not “I made it through” or “Look what I achieved.” It is “Thank you, Lord.”

2. Repent
Our worship of God for his faithfulness and majesty, evidenced by the changing of seasons, should then lead us to repentance. His goodness breaks us in fresh ways as our sin is exposed by the light of his glory. But this isn’t a morbidly introspective, navel-gazing exercise. To repent is to rejoice. We claim the promise of 1 John 1:9 because we know our forgiveness has already been purchased at the cross.

Beginning the new year with repentance is to draw closer to Jesus, to appropriate the fresh grace that is ours in him. This is why confession always brings relief and joy. It is the gateway to greater intimacy with God.

3. Renew
New Year’s should also be a time of renewing old commitments, like marriage, family, and church. Before we begin grand plans to lose weight or develop a new skill—good creational goals—let’s begin by renewing the core commitments we already have.

We should also renew ourselves to the faithful body life of our local Bible-treasuring, gospel-preaching church. The local church is the locus of God’s mission in the world, where we gather in community to declare Christ’s kingship each week, and where we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Commitments to marriage, family, and church don’t always look or feel significant. But faithfulness in these core things over a long period is a radical, countercultural life. They form the habits of a disciple and show the world what it looks like to be a Christian.

4. Rest
New Year’s should be a time to rest. First, we rest in the reality of our identity in Christ. We probably didn't accomplish all the resolutions we made at the beginning of 2020, but Jesus still loves us, despite our failures, unchecked boxes, and disappointment at the scale. The gospel tells us that he loves us in the midst of these.

It’s not the voice of your Savior, but the whisper of the enemy that says you have less worth because you blew your resolutions. A “more successful 2021" will not make Jesus love you any more. He’s the One, after all, who calls broken sinners and empowers them for his mission. Failed apostles, former persecutors, recovering Pharisees—his body is full of them. 

Second, we should plan to physically rest. We don’t often do this on New Year’s. We plan to work and hustle. But do we schedule time to reflect and acknowledge our need for sleep and leisure? Rest isn’t a sign of laziness or weakness; it’s a sign of spiritual strength and confidence that when we close our eyes, our lives are in the grip of a sovereign God. To sleep is to say that we’re not God and that the world can go on without us. 

So make a toast and welcome in the new year with renewed hope and anticipation that this year will be better. New Year’s Eve is a wonderful time for Christians to get together and celebrate the completion of another year of life, and welcome in the New Year with prayer and rejoicing. New Year’s Day is an opportunity to prayerfully set goals for the year ahead.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him! The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

As 2020 Comes to an End...

This year has been filled with uncertainty, tragedy, and chaos—and countless opportunities to share the love of Jesus Christ. Watch this month’s Billy Graham TV Special and witness the many ways God has drawn people to Himself—from patients in COVID-19 field hospitals to protestors in the middle of civil unrest. You’ll also see how hurting men and women are discovering the hope of the Gospel in their own homes in the midst of lockdown restrictions. Plus, hear a powerful message from Franklin Graham on the importance of persevering in sharing God’s love in 2021. Watch the video HERE.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” —Galatians 6:9, ESV 


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The 12 Days of Christmas

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Technically we are still in the Christmas season. There actually is a 12 days of Christmas in Western Christianity, but it begins on Christmas Day, not before, and ends on January 6, which is known as Three Kings Day, or Epiphany. It’s the day the Three Wise Men arrived to honor Jesus. 

We are all familiar with the secular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and though the song is titled thus, it is actually a secular song. The original poem goes back to before 1780 when it was printed in an English children's book and was not put to music until 1909. Though the rumor of a "secret code" in the song has been around since the 1990's, it has never been documented to be true. The rumor is that after the Reformation in England, persecuted Catholics taught their children the catechism using the poem’s imagery as symbols relevant to their faith. 

The symbolic nature is as follows:
The partridge in a pear tree is supposed symbolizing Jesus
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, hope, and charity, as the principle theological virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels |
5 Golden Rings = The first five books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch,” which gives the history of man’s fall from grace
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation (highlighting life)
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

It’s an interesting theory, a good bit more romantic and mysterious than tit simply being a fun Christmas song written for children. 

What is interesting is that for 37 years PNC has calculated the cost of all the gifts in the 12 days of Christmas. In 2020, there was a substantial drop of 58.5% from last years cost to $16,168.14. They claim it is due to the adjustments for the pandemics impact on the cost of purchasing the gifts...  primarily due to unemployed dancers, pipers, and drummers.

Today would be the 5th day... and I look forward to receiving five golden rings. 😁 Regardless of what you believe about it's meaning, it is a fun song. Here is a version from Pentatonix released about a month ago...

Friday, December 25, 2020

Have A Happy Christmas!

Due to the pandemic, many people are not able to gather with friends and family today. If you are looking for something to fill your time this Christmas, I recommend watching the program, Christmas with The Chosen that was presented live 1 1/2 weeks ago. It was easily the best Christmas programs/concerts that I have seen this year. You can watch it here...


If you aren't in the mood for a full program, I suggest that you at least watch the show The Chosen: The Shepherd. This is an amazing program that was the pilot for the television series, The Chosen.



***********************
If you enjoyed the above Christmas show but are not familiar with The Chosen, this multi-season show is a series is about the life of Christ through the eyes of those who encountered him. This is show that you can binge-watch over the holidays without any guilt. 

Season 1 can be watched for free by downloading The Chosen app at https://thechosen.tv/app. Season 2 is currently being produced and should be out in early 2021. This is an amazing show with remarkable scenery, great acting, and of course a wonderful story. I encourage you to watch. Here is the series trailer...



Regardless of how you plan to celebrate, I wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you are blessed with a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

 It's finally Christmas Eve. 

Just for fun, here is the reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas 2020 Edition as imagined by Matthew West...


On a more serous note - I'm not sure how you are going to celebrate this year. I will be at our annual candlelit service at church (beginning at 5:00 PM for those who would like to attend). This is my favorite church service of the year. I know that a lot of  people will not be able to attend a Christmas Eve service this year because of the pandemic, but I pray that you have a way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. 

The resounding theme of Christmas Eve is hope... I think sometimes that Christmas gets in the way of Christmas. Are you following me? Sometimes the celebration of Christmas causes us to take our eyes off of the true hope of Christmas. Christmas is a time when we often indulge ourselves in gifts and extra things we don’t necessarily need. And sure, they bring us joy for a moment, but they don’t satisfy our hearts in the way we wish they would. It is because they are a replacement for the real hope that is Jesus.

We have featured a lot of great new Christmas songs about hope over the past couple month's but here are some that are worth another listen this Christmas Eve. 

First, Matt Maher tells us that there is "Hope For Everyone"...


A song that is probably most relevant this year is "The Hope of Christmas" by Matthew West..


Another great new song about hope is "Hope Is Here" by Building 429...


However you are celebrating this Christmas may you have hope. Trust in the promise that God will make all things new (Romans 8:20). That creation will be changed.  Satan, sin, and death will be forever cast away. This is a hope that no other present can replace. May your Christmas grow in the hope of a coming Savior.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

More Christmas Music...

 Last week I shared a couple of videos of songs that were remade into Christmas versions... "Christmas Amazing Grace" and "Christmas Hallelujah". Today I have a real treat... For all you Queen fans I would like to share the "Bethlehemian Rhapsody".

Okay... if you are looking for a more serious (and seriously better) representation of Christmas music, here is the encore performance of Sidewalk Prophet's Christmas program. I highly recommend watching (especially if you didn't get a ticket and watch the show live last week.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Real Christmas Story

I found this article and thought it should be shared. Mary and Joseph were people just like you and me. Thinking about their personal story of faith and hardship can  give us a new perspective and change the way we view Christmas.

 
A Teenager

Mary was a teenager. Wait. Stop. Think about that. She was only a few years older than my oldest daughter. She was a teenage girl in a culture where her entire identity consists of having a husband and having babies. She had no rights, no voice, no occupation outside of having a family.

She could lose her life for admitting to her pregnancy outside of wedlock. And if she was “shown mercy,” she would be labeled a liar and a whore for the rest of her life. She wouldn’t be taken by any man. She’d be a burden to her family. And she’d carry shame with her for the rest of her life.

I can’t imagine how terrified she must’ve been. Even today, young girls getting pregnant is considered scandalous, but with the help and support of a community, they can still have hope and a future. But for Mary, this pregnancy would’ve tainted her for life.

I’m certain she considered all of this: a possible death, shame and cruelty from others, and a reputation that would prevent her from starting over. She was giving up her only opportunity to do something with her life. She’d face disappointment from her parents and live under a cloud of embarrassment in her community. But her answer is “I am His servant, let it be to me according to your word”. And so it all began. She was brave and had immense trust.

When we read the words of the angel, she is told who her son is said to be. Luke 1:32–33 says,

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Upon hearing these words, she goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant. When she greeted her, the baby inside Elizabeth leaped within her and Elizabeth exclaimed, “Why am I so favored that the mother of our Lord would come to me?!” Elizabeth was John the Baptist’s mother, old and pregnant, claiming to have a great child within her. And here comes Mary, young, unmarried, and pregnant, proclaiming she is carrying the savior of the world.

Most people would have called them crazy even today.

Mary’s Family

I’m not sure there was any way for Mary to fathom the depth of what she was told about the greatness of her baby, but in her Magnificat she speaks of being blessed among all women

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. I believe she stayed and helped Elizabeth give birth to her son, six months before she would have her own child. Two women helped one another, served one another, found comfort in the other’s company. It’s the sweetest picture of empowerment and sisterhood, in a time when it scarcely existed.

We don’t know when Mary told the rest of her family. Did she tell them right away? Did she wait until she began to show?

I know some of the young moms I’ve worked with waited until the last possible moment. One continued to lie even when her mom guessed she was pregnant. It’s not a secret easily kept. And it quickly becomes a secret impossible to keep.

Joseph was also a good man, refusing to have Mary killed or publicly shaming her. Instead he trusted Mary and the angel’s words. I’m sure he was ridiculed and also brought shame to his family for taking a promiscuous girl as his wife.

He even honored her by not having sex with her until after the baby was born. Again, in this culture, she had no say over her body, and his act was loving and selfless and showed a kindness to Mary beyond what her culture said she deserved.

I don’t know, but it’s entirely possible they were shunned by their families. In moments somewhat similar to these, where I was so sure of something, when I get resistance from others I can start to wonder: “Did I hear it right? Did I make the right choice?”

So many things are left unanswered. I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever doubted their choices.  They were human, after all. I wonder if they ever said, “This won’t work out!” Those months before Jesus’s birth had to have been so full of massive ups and downs.

Mary’s New Husband

When the time came for Mary to give birth, they travelled to Bethlehem.

Really think about that.

They were foreigners and alone. They had no friends or family near, and Joseph’s betrothed wife was in labor with a child that is not his. He can’t find a place for her to rest or give birth. He probably felt completely helpless.

I’ve seen that deer-in-the-headlights look with many, many dads during labor. They feel worthless and want to fix it.

Not only could Joseph not fix Mary’s pain, but he couldn’t even find a private place for her to have her baby- a very true and urgent need.

And Mary. Desperate, vulnerable, alone, scared, in pain. In labor, a very intimate thing, in front of a man she hardly knows. A man she may not have even grown to love yet.

He had never seen her without clothes on.

No matter what people will tell you, women like to keep their dignity while in birth. I work hard to preserve it for each woman I help. While the give birth, they are still women- with thoughts going on in their heads about people seeing them in this state. Women aren’t any less uneasy just because they’re giving birth.

We don’t know if she had a midwife to help her, but we do know she didn’t have any family with her. Birth was something women in the families were a part of. Mary had probably seen a handful in her life.

Because of my experience as a midwife, I can picture her pacing, falling to her knees, crying, grabbing her belly as contraction after contraction seized her. I can see her sweating, wiping her hair from her face. Asking for a drink of water. Crying out for her mom. Clutching onto a post or laying on the hard floor.

Nothing is clean. Nothing is sanitary. Women died doing it. And she is left on her own in an unfamiliar place with a man she is just getting to know. And she’s doing one of the hardest things a woman does.

In my job, seeing so many women give birth, those moments are engrained into my mind.

I’m certain, like every single woman on the planet, she thought she would die. She lost track of the goal. Felt helpless.

It’s a very vulnerable and very desperate scenario.

What Really Happened?

I wonder… was Joseph any help? He had never seen a woman give birth. Was Mary embarrassed or self conscious? Was she fearful of what he would think? Did she ask for his help? Did she have anyone to help her? Did he run to find help? Was she completely alone? Was she scared to yell out?

Then the moment came when her body told her it’s time to bring her baby forth. And if she was quiet before, she probably wasn’t after the final contractions began. It’s the most intense and impossible sensation, and the sensation feels like it will swallow you whole. The hard work, the energy expelled, the digging deep for each push. The grunting, the wanting to give up. The thought you would give anything if it could just be over.

I wish I could’ve seen that moment. But if it’s anything like the many births I’ve seen, it was probably no more than a humble, messy, raw, and simple moment.

Unremarkable. A commonplace miracle- an unremarkable birth and commonplace miracle that changed the world. He came into it just like all of us. The creator of the universe came as a helpless poor baby delivered to a newlywed teen mom.

Each mother’s body breaks to bring forth a new life. Mary’s body broke to bring forth life. Her body broke to to bring forth the peace God had established within Jesus. It began with a simple, but so costly “yes” from a girl and it continued with his birth.

Then, 33 years later, Jesus’s body also broke to bring us life. His body broke to finish the job that began within Mary’s body- the job of bringing peace between us and God, the job of bringing peace between each other. And his mother was there to the end, when all but two others ran away.

What a beautiful bookend to the most beautiful story I know.

No Cost was too Great

So I ask this advent: what are you and I giving up to bring peace to others?

Mary gave up her dignity, safety, home, reputation and body.

For Joseph, it was his honor, his name, and home. He became a father to a child that wasn’t his.

Jesus gave up everything.

To Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, no cost was too great.

I pray these next few days, we think on Mary and her sacrifice, her courage, her trust. I pray that we may be more like her. Maybe that means saying yes to something simple or something really hard.

I pray we think of Our Savior’s birth in the stable where Mary cried out with no immediate family around her.

And I pray we deeply consider the beauty of Jesus becoming our brother. The weight of His name ends oppression. His light breaks chains of bondage.

The awe and wonder of Christmas isn’t about Santa, gifts, or shopping. The awe and wonder of Christmas is about God being born into the world through a teenage virgin to a poor misfit couple. Merry Christmas. May we all ponder His gift of peace and love.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Everywhere

As Paul Anka told us 60 years ago, It's Christmas Everywhere. This thought is reflected in a lot of Christmas songs. Just for fun, I thought I would share a few of these with you...

CMA star, Thomas Rhett told us that its "Christmas In The Country"...

Irish CCM group, Rend Collective reminds us that its "Christmas In Killarney"...

Glee alum, Lea Michele sings about "Christmas In New York"...

Collectively, I have attended more concerts of these two groups than any other artists. Home Free joins with the retired group, Alabama for a rendition of the Alabama hit, "Christmas In Dixie"...

Country artist Scotty McCreery knows that Christmas time can be tough if you’re missing a lost loved one. There is an empty space in our hearts and the holiday season just doesn’t feel quite the same. His touching song ‘Christmas In Heaven’ will remind you that our friends and family are in a better place.

I hope that it is Christmas wherever you are. Just remember that like Steven Curtis Chapman told us, "Christmas Is All In The Heart"...

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Dave Ramsey Ruined Christmas

Thought I would share this bit of comedy with you today...

If you know what a “rice & beans budget” is or where the phrase” Act your wage” comes from, chances are you’ve been through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

Whether you’ve given your “debt-free scream” or you’re working your way there, this parody will make you laugh.


*Don't forget to go to the Living Word Lutheran Drive-Through Live Nativity from 2:00 to 4:00 this afternoon.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Flashback Friday

This week on Flashback Friday we go back to the 90's to talk about CCM artist, Chris Rice. Chris Rice, a native of Clinton, Maryland, grew up as the second of four sons born to bookstore owners. His parents, and other adult mentors, influenced Rice's Christian faith and his early work with youth and college students.

Having taken only three years of piano lessons as a child, Rice did not aspire to a career in either music or student work. But frequent invitations to speak and lead music at his church's youth group events led to more such invitations throughout his college years at the University of Maryland, Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, and Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Rice's songwriting career began in the mid-1980s, after moving from his Washington, D.C., home to Nashville, Tenn. During that period several of Rice's songs were recorded by other artists, including Kathy Troccoli and Terri Gibbs. Rice's "Welcome to Our World", an original Christmas song since recorded by Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and John Tesh, moved Smith to urge his new label, Rocketown Records, to sign Rice as its first artist in 1996.

Of course with Christmas next week, we need to feature "Welcome To Our World," a song we play in church every Christmas season...

After signing his recording contract, Chris released his debut album, Deep Enough to Dream in 1997. The title song off this album is one of my favorites...

The album, Past the Edges followed a year later. Rice's third album, Smell the Color 9, was issued in late 2000. In 2001, Rice released two piano-only, instrumental releases, The Living Room Sessions and The Living Room Sessions: Christmas, recorded on Rice's own living room grand piano. His sixth album, Run the Earth... Watch the Sky, released in March 2003.

The year 2005 marked a major turning point in Rice's artistry. Leaving Rocketown Records at the end of his contractual agreement, he no longer limited his music to Christian radio format. His fifth studio release CD Amusing, released in August 2005, included love songs and other life topics, as well as some songs about his faith.

The year 2006 proved to be a turning point in Rice's emphasis, with most of his attention and radio station visits and interviews involving pop AC stations across the United States, rather than his former attention to CCM radio. Since 2007, Rice has branched out in the visual arts, including photography and painting. In 2016, he self-published Widen, a book of poetry.