Monday, August 31, 2020

Attitude of Gratitude

Standard disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are the rambling thoughts of the author and not necessarily representative of Living Word Lutheran Church.

I am having some random thoughts while I am sitting at home recovering from a hip replacement surgery (my second one this year) or maybe it is just the pain medication that I am taking. 😁 Anyway, I was thinking about the year 2020 now being 2/3's complete. It has been quite a year so far. Personally, I've gone through the two aforementioned surgeries and a few months ago, my wife fell and had emergency surgery to repair a broken leg and hip. Between the two of us, we now have enough metal to make airport detectors light up like Christmas trees. 

Then there was this global pandemic thing, and social isolation turning into social unrest turning into civil disobedience, polarizing distrust of figures of authority, the political divisions, conspiracy theories, racial tensions, record heat waves, massive forest fires, hurricanes, and though I know that it is not one of the seven last plagues, there has been an excessive number of frogs in my backyard this summer (see Ex 7:25 - 8:15). Yes, it sure feels like the four horsemen are running amok. But personally I doubt that the Rapture is near. I think it is more likely that God is just trying to get our attention. Often it takes something drastic to get our attention.

So, while I sit here in my "pain medicine induced" period of introspection, I choose not to focus on the negative things that have occurred, but rather all the positive things. I have many things to be grateful for:  I am employed and able to work from home, we are relatively healthy, the family and grandkids are great, no one in my family has suffered health issues, we have a home, food on the table, and enough toilet paper... and there still is church.  I am thankful for my church. I don't really understand all those people who keep jumping from church to church because they don't like a message, or style of music, or a pastor, or a church board or member. I think they are missing out on the real joy and sense of belonging of a church. I don't think a church should be too comfortable because that may lead to complacency, but a church should be like home. There is no place like home... though there may be countless chores, unpleasant duties, or repairs to be made, it is still great to be home.

To be perfectly clear, when I am talking about church, I am not talking about a physical building. My church has had several of those over the years. No, a church is the people. My church family. Like my physical family, my spiritual family is always there to support me... in prayer, words of encouragement, in volunteering to help in any way possible. Also like my physical family, I don't always agree with everything my church family says, does, or opines. Sometimes they surprise, perplex, annoy, or even anger me, but they are my family. Sometimes I don't even like or want to associate with all the members of my family, but I can still love them because love is a choice, not just an emotion (that is a thought too deep to discuss at this time). And just like my physical family, my church family is definitely not perfect. In fact to some outsiders we may seem to be an odd group of characters, but like Sister Sledge says "we are family". We are bonded together by the love of Jesus and though we are certainly not perfect, the Head of our family is, was, and always will be.

So my gratitude for today is my church family. I give them thanks and I thank God for them. I am truly blessed.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Flashback Friday

 Back to the 90's again this week, featuring PHILLIPS, CRAIG, & DEAN. They are a contemporary Christian music trio composed of pastors Randy Phillips, Shawn Craig, and Dan Dean. All three are senior pastors at their respective local churches. Since forming in 1991, the group has sold over two million units. They have also received ten GMA Dove Award nominations, winning four, including Praise and Worship Album of the Year in 2007 for Top of My Lungs, and Inspirational Album of the Year in 2010 for Fearless.

They have had many hits over the years. Some of their early songs include "Crucified With Christ", "Turn Up the Radio", "Favorite Song of All", "Table of Grace", my all time favorite Father's Day song: "I Wanna Be Just Like You" , and many more.

Perhaps my favorite Phillips, Craig, & Dean song is Mercy Came Running". released in 1995...

There have been many more hits throughout the 2000's and beyond. In recent years, they've shed their contemporary Christian roots and focused on more worship oriented music. On that line, they've released their latest albums. 

Since all three singers are full-time pastors and make it a priority to be at their respective churches in Sunday services, they have declared a virtual moratorium on Saturday night concerts. They have performed at the conventions of the National Religious Broadcasters and Christian Booksellers Association, appeared at Moody Church, played at Promise Keepers rallies, and recorded music for the National Day of Prayer.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

New Artist: Lion & Bear

Introducing another new CCM group... LION & BEAR. Hailing from southern California, Lion & Bear - a moniker inspired by the biblical story of David & Goliath - is a family band to its core. Members Andrew Enos and Michael Landingham are brothers-in-law (Michael is married to Andrew's sister), both work at their respective churches, and both have experienced devastating losses. They also both share that their unthinkable tragedies were followed by a stark realization: most people don’t know how to grieve. Lion & Bear was fashioned from the ashes of their tremendous anguish as an effort to not only find healing but to share that healing with others.

Lion & Bear is so new that their website is still "Under Construction" They will release their self-titled EP September 11 (an obvious choice of date for songs dealing with grief). The four-song EP will offer songs of hope and the unending love of Jesus, songs that offer praise along with lamenting, proclaiming the truth that pain is messy and uncomfortable. Their message is clear - if you go to the depths of your humanity, God will be there.

LION & BEAR have a nice, easy listening sound and their first release, "Held By Your Love", is very good. They have just released a video of another new song, "Stillness". 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

His Love Endures Forever

 Reached Psalm 136 in my daily Psalm readings. The message of this Psalm is pretty straightforward... "His love endures forever".

Psalm 136 is a special psalm, with each one of its 26 verses repeating the sentence, "His love endures forever". In my mind I picture a great multitude of the people of God gathered in the temple courts. A leader would call out a reason to give God thanks, and His people would respond with, “For His love endures forever.” What better reason could there be to praise our God and give him thanks?

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.  His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:  His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders,  His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,  His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,  His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights—  His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,  His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;  His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborns of Egypt  His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them  His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm  His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder  His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,  His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;  His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;  His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings,  His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—  His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites  His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—  His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,  His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.  His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate  His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.  His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.  His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.  His love endures forever.

When I read this Psalm, I am instantly reminded of the Chris Tomlin song "Forever" which we sing occasionally in church:

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Contemporary Christian Country?

Much of Country music was founded in Christian/Gospel beginnings. There is actually a genre of music that is often referred to Christian country music, but this most often a subgenre of Gospel music.

Recently the lines between Contemporary Christian music and Christian country music have become even more blurred. In fact the recent release of the album, Chris Tomlin & Friends (which was the subject of several previous posts in this blog) features many country stars and debuted at #1 on Billboard's Christian Albums. It features songs that have been getting airplay on both Country and Christian radio stations. In fact Chris, along with Rhett Thomas and Florida Georgia line were on the The Late Late Show with James Corden last week to perform "Thank You Lord".

We are also starting to see traditional country artists release songs that could easily fit within the CCM framework. Pastor Dave talked about one such song ("Monsters" by Eric Church) in a sermon about three months ago and I'm sure we can come up with many, many more examples.

That being said, I would like to introduce you to a song that was released a couple months ago by country artist, Larry Fleet called "Where I Find God". This is a great song about finding God in our everyday life.

From a bar stool to that Evinrude
Sunday mornin' in a church pew
In a deer stand or a hay field, an interstate back to Nashville
In a Chevrolet with the windows down
Me and Him just ridin' around
Sometimes, whether I'm lookin' for Him or not
That's where I find God

What examples do you have to share of mainstream country that could be a CCM release?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Unite to Fight Poverty

 Looking for something to do on Friday night? You could tune into a virtual concert event...

On Friday, August 28th at 7:30 CT Compassion International, Food for the Hungry, and World Vision are coming together to unite the Christian community through a two-hour concert event to benefit children and families worldwide who are most vulnerable to the aftershocks of COVID-19 as well as other natural disasters.

Featuring your favorite Christian music artists: 

  • TobyMac
  • Hillsong Worship
  • Kirk Franklin
  • Tamela Mann
  • for KING & COUNTRY
  • Michael W. Smith
  • Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Matthew West
  • Cece Winans
  • Natalie Grant
  • Zach Williams
  • Mandisa
  • Big Daddy Weave
  • Matt Maher
  • Phil Wickham
  • Christine D'Clario
  • Blanca
  • Rita Springer
  • Dante Bowe
  • Colony House
  • Jon Reddick
  • ... and more!

And hosted by Sadie Robertson Huff and Carlos Whittaker!

Tune in on Youtube at
or watch on Facebook at


Friday, August 21, 2020

Flashback Friday

When I wrote yesterday's post about the theatrical production, Jonah, streaming this weekend on TBN, I thought about the song, "Big Fish". (In fact, the song was stuck in my mind all day 😒). With everything going on right now it sure seems like we are "sitting in the belly of a world gone mad" and its nice to know that the solution is as simple as the song states, just "Listen to God and follow His plan".

So without further ado, from this week's Flashback Friday artists, FFH, here is the 1998 hit "Big Fish". "Do de dum da digga dum dum da dum..."

Formed in 1993, FFH (Far From Home) is a Contemporary Christian band from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. FFH released six independent projects before being signed by Essential Records. Since then, they have released seven studio albums, as well as a "greatest-hits" album.

The group formed as Four For Harmony, an a cappella group. Over time they developed a vocal acoustic pop style, similar to that of Avalon, and changed their name to Far From Home, but that name was being used by a secular duo, so they morphed the name to FFH.

In addition to "Big Fish", numerous FFH singles have charted, including "Fly Away" and "Watching Over Me" which hit the number one spot on Adult Contemporary radio and the Top 5 on Christian Hit Radio, "On My Cross" which had a two-week run at number one inspirational radio, "I Want to Be Like You," "Lord Move or Move Me," and one of my favorite songs, "One of These Days"...

Thursday, August 20, 2020

A Special for This Weekend Only

 I had talked before about signing up to watch things on TBN (it's free). Here is something worth watching this weekend:

Sight & Sound Theatres Presents: JONAH

Filmed onstage in front of a live audience, Sight & Sound’s JONAH is a state-of-the-art theatrical production that has been seen by more than two million people. 

Now experience it on TBN for one weekend only! 

Jonah is a prophet and a man on the run. From whom? From God! After a series of wild adventures involving a seaport called Joppa, a huge ship, and a terrible storm, Jonah finds himself in the belly of a giant fish. But this isn't the end. It's here that God teaches Jonah how to receive grace and extend mercy, even to his archenemy: the city of Nineveh. 

Take your family deep into this Bible story as Sight & Sound’s spectacular original production comes to life in this special worldwide television debut—exclusively on TBN, available on demand streaming on August 21st - 23rd only.

I enjoy theatrical productions of historical events... I watched the streaming version of Hamilton and in my opinion, Jonah looks more interesting. I know that I am looking forward to watching.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Lutheran Cranes

 Guess who I saw visiting the other day... the Lutheran cranes.

How do I know that they are Lutheran? Well, they have been pretty regular summertime visitors the past couple years. They generally stay to the back of the church. They tend to keep to themselves, do not get too excited about anything, and don't make much noise.  They must be Lutheran, right?

Besides, I enjoy the reminder of my days growing up in Nebraska.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

New Music Releases

NATALIE GRANT will release her tenth studio album, No Stranger, on September 25, 2020. A new track from the upcoming album, “No Stranger,” was recently released.

Written by Grant, her husband Bernie Herms, and songwriter Paul Duncan, “No Stranger” explores the intimacy of a God who identifies with the human experience. “You are no stranger to the scar / So You can have my wounded heart / You weren’t protected from the pain / So You can hold me when I break,” Grant sings, backed by the lush strings that define her latest project.

“In the last few years, through deep valleys and victories, my awareness of God’s presence in my life has awakened like never before. It’s not like He became more available, I just became more aware, and that has changed everything,” Grant shares of the personal significance behind “No Stranger.” “The King of the world, the Author of time and space, makes Himself personally known to me. This everlasting God, the Alpha and the Omega, He is no stranger. He is friend.”

BRANDON LAKE debuted another new solo track along with an accompanying music video. "Just Like Heaven" follows “I Need A Ghost” as an early glimpse at Lake’s highly anticipated Bethel Music solo debut, House Of Miracles, slated for release later this summer.

"I've never written a song like this, nor have I produced the sound it carries," Lake said of "Just Like Heaven". He continued, "A sound that says I'm done - done trying to fill the void inside me with anything but the Spirit of God. I don't need flashy lights. I don't need smoke or mirrors. I don't need to be entertained to feel alive. I need something stronger - stronger than lightning. I need it in my bones. I need it in my veins. I need the ghost. The Holy one. The Holy Ghost."

Friday, August 14, 2020

Flashback Friday

For this week's musical time machine journey we take a look at another band that was a huge influence in the 90's, the NEWSBOYS. The Newsboys are another Christian rock band from Australia (seems to be quite a few Christian artists from down under) that was founded in 1985.They have released 17 albums, 6 of which were certified gold. 

The 1992 album, Not Ashamed, gained them notice in the CCM world, then in 1994 they released the album, Going Public, which had a huge hit with the song, Shine, which won the 1995 Dove Award for Rock Song of the Year. Here is a performance of Shine:

They followed this success with their 1996 album Take Me To Your Leader (and title song of the same name) that was hugely popular and nominated for a Dove award as Rock Album of the Year.

In spite of their success in the 90's, the Newsboys are not another group from the 90's that disappeared. Arguably, their best years have been after 2000. Since 2009 their lead vocalist has been Michael Tait (formerly of DC Talk). They are still popular and continue to produce hits today... songs like God's Not Dead, He Reigns (which we play in church), I Am Free, and We Believe, to name a few. They have also  appeared in all three of the God's Not Dead movies.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

New Release from Jason Gray

JASON GRAY has just released a new song, "Glory Days". I have been listening to Jason Gray for many years and feel a special connection ever since he performed a small concert for our church members at our newly purchased land before we started building our current church. Besides, he is from Southwest Minnesota and still lives near the Twin Cities.

This song will be released for radio play next month and is the first single from the third volume of his three-part album, Order Disorder Reorder, which will be available Oct. 2.

“I love the way the two different uses of ‘glory’ play together in these verses,” says Gray, referencing 2 Cor. 3:18 and Romans 5:3-4 as the inspiration for his new single. “It got me thinking about the phrase ‘glory days’ and how we tend to think of the glory days as a charmed time in our life when everything was perfect and trouble-free. But as I read those verses, and elsewhere in scripture, it’s clear that the difficult days are when God gets his best work done in us; as suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope [Rom. 5:3-4]. I wondered: what if our glory days are actually the days of trouble and struggle that God uses to transform me ‘from glory to glory?’ [2 Cor. 3:18]

“I find myself feeling something like a quiet anticipation on days when I’m feeling broken hearted,” continues Gray. “I, too, can ‘glory in my sufferings’ [Rom. 5:3] because I know those are good days to seek God, trusting that I’m in a good place for him to do his work in me, moving me from glory to glory, making me more of the person I most want to be—someone who looks a little more like Jesus every day.”

These are my glory days
Busted and broken, but finally open
Wider than an empty grave
This is the good life now
Found it where I fell down
Shattered in pieces, but thank you Jesus
These are my, these are my glory days