Friday, March 5, 2021

Flashback Friday

Back to the 90's again this week to talk about a CCM vocal quartet, Avalon. Avalon was formed in 1995 in Nashville as a vision by Norman Miller and Grant Cunningham, A&R Director at Sparrow Records to have two male and two female vocalists who could sing tight harmonies and carry the Gospel to the world. Cunningham publicized his intentions and received many demo tapes, but nothing fit his desires. 

After letting the idea of Avalon rest a while, Cunningham attended an artist showcase in Nashville to listen to a singer. However, another artist, Michael Passons, caught his attention, and Passons was the first of the group's founding members. Soon after, former Truth vocalist and South Carolina native Janna Potter (Long) heard about Avalon's formation. Rikk Kittleman and Tabitha Fair became part of the group, but each left after a short time. Fair was offered a solo record deal, and Kittleman left for other opportunities. With two member openings, Long contacted former Truth vocalist Jody McBrayer, who became a member of Avalon a few days later. Nikki Hassman Anders was the fourth founding vocalist of Avalon. Hassman recorded two albums with Avalon, Avalon (December 26, 1996) and A Maze of Grace (December 1997), but left in May 1998 to pursue a solo career with Sony Records.

A Maze of Grace was a great album and the single "Testify To Love" became the group's trademark song. This was Avalon's first album to be certified Gold by the RIAA.

Cherie Paliotta Adams replaced Hassman after one of Avalon's co-managers listened to a country music demo tape recorded by Adams. Though country is not a genre Avalon performs in, executives chose Adams as they believed she would be a perfect fit. Adams recorded four albums with Avalon, In a Different Light (March 23, 1999), Joy: A Christmas Collection (September 26, 2000), and Oxygen (May 22, 2001) including a remix album, O2: Avalon Remixed (March 2002). In 1999, it won the Concert Artists Guild Competition. 

In A Different Light was Avalon's second album to be certified Gold by the RIAA. The project was an instant hit at Christian radio, containing four No. 1 singles: "Can't Live A Day", "Take You At Your Word", "In Not Of", and my personal favorite "Always Have, Always Will".

On March 25, 2003, Avalon released a greatest hits record, Testify to Love: The Very Best of Avalon, which featured two new singles that became No. 1 hits; "Everything to Me" and "New Day". It was the last album to include founding member Michael Passons; only months after the album's release the member known as 'Father Avalon' was dismissed by the group in summer 2003. On February 24, 2004, Avalon released the studio album The Creed. Three singles were released: lead single "All", which made it to No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary Christian Songs chart; "You Were There"," a No. 2 Inspirational Charts hit, and "I Wanna Be With You", featuring Greg Long as the lead singer. Avalon's sixth studio album, Stand, was released on January 24, 2006. Lead single "Love Won't Leave You" peaked in the Top 20 of both Billboard Hot Christian Songs and Hot Christian Adult Contemporary charts. On October 17, 2006, Avalon released a fan-requested hymns album, titled Faith: A Hymns Collection. On February 26, 2008, Avalon released their ninth album, Another Time, Another Place: Timeless Christian Classics.

In 2009, Avalon had more than three million albums had been sold since its founding. That same year in June 2009 Avalon released an album titled Reborn. The first single "Arise" was released to Christian radio in August 2009; on December 9, it officially became Avalon's 22nd career No. 1 radio hit, topping Billboard's Soft AC/Inspirational chart.

In 2009 Avalon stopped making new music to focus on family and church life, but on June 20, 2019 (nearly a decade later) Avalon announced the name of a new album, Called. Their first single for the album, "Keeper of my Heart", launched on December 7, 2019, 10 years after Avalon's previous radio single, "Alive", from the album Reborn.

In the history of Avalon, they have had: 9 successful studio projects, 2 RIAA-certified gold records, 21 No. 1 radio hits, 23 Dove nominations, six Dove Awards, three GRAMMY nominations, a 2002 American Music Award for Contemporary Inspirational Music, and “Group of the Year” for three years in a row with the 2002, 2003, and 2004 CCM Reader’s Choice Awards.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

New Music

Yesterday, Ryan Stevenson debuted a new song, "When We Fall Apart" featuring Vince Gill and Amy Grant. 

And you’ve got the gift of mercy
Don't ever think it's strange
Not a curse, but it is a blessing to feel other people's pain
And always love without condition
And trust with all your heart
There’s healing in the story of your scars

I really like this song..

************

Also yesterday, Matt Redman released a performance video for “All Praise (Acoustic)”. Matt Redman, a global worship leader and highly regarded songwriter of numerous well-known anthems such as “10,000 Reasons,” “You Never Let Go,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” and “Better Is One Day,” so often captures the revelation of God and the response of the Church in his songs.

************

Not a new song, but as part of their Tuesday releases, Sidewalk Prophets released a special live performance video for “I Believe It Now”. The video was filmed at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. “I Believe It Now” was originally featured on the band’s 2020 album The Things That Got Us Here.

Then yesterday SWP published the story behind this song.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

New Music from Mike Donehey

Singer/songwriter, author and podcaster Mike Donehey is a founding member of the hit CCM band, Tenth Avenue North, which called it quits in 2020. Their farewell tour was cut short due to the global pandemic leaving him at home during a lockdown wondering what was next. Being part of a band for two decades, he is now learning what it means to create and release music on his own. Donehey made his musical solo debut yesterday with the release of his EP, Work of Art, which is a thank you to his fans.

“Being in a band is amazing,” shares Donehey. “There’s a sharpening and a refinement that happens when you bring songs for a group to work on it. But there’s an intense freedom I’m feeling working on songs on my own. Ironically, I feel like it’s releasing me to be much more eclectic than I was before. I have a very broad appreciation for genre and lyric, and now, on my own, I’m able to explore much more unchartered sonic territory than I have before.”

During 2020 while at home, he began writing as a therapeutic process to deal with the abrupt end of his band as well as being home during lockdown. It was during this time that he realized that his musical career was not ending but pivoting.

“I think I’ve written more songs this year than I ever have in that span of time of being home,” he explains. “The Work of Art EP is all about the different things it takes to make and keep beautiful relationships. The songs are about listening, becoming less defensive, radical ownership and radical acceptance. My full-length album is due in the fall, and it is about my spiritual journey and the things I’ve been wrestling with lately.

Here are the four songs from this EP...

"What You Mean To Say"

"Work Of Art"

"You Belong Here"

"Better"

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

What's Your Glorious Purpose?

Sharing another email from artist Jason Kotecki discussing how we all have meaning. We all have a purpose in life...

Ready for a fun fact about COVID-19 (you know, the virus you’ve been inundated with information – and misinformation – about for an entire year now that’s wreaked havoc on a global scale)?

It has been recently calculated that all of the virus circulating in the world right now could easily fit inside a single Coca-Cola can.

Yep, British mathematician Kit Yates figured out there are around two quintillion – that’s two billion billion – of the virus particles in the world at any one time. Even calculating the fact that the spherical shape and spiky proteins would leave gaps when stacked together, they’d still fit easily into a single soda can.

“It’s astonishing to think that all the trouble, the disruption, the hardship, and the loss of life that has resulted over the last year could constitute just a few mouthfuls,” Yates said in a statement.

Astonishing indeed.

But it goes both ways. Just as one very small thing can unleash an enormous amount of devastation, so too can something small lead to an astonishing amount of good.

One of Fred Rogers’ earliest jobs was as a puppeteer for a local children’s show in Pittsburgh.

The Simpsons started out as a bumper sticker on the Tracey Ullman Show.

Michael Dell sold his first computers out of his college dorm room.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver started the Special Olympics in her backyard.

The Missionaries of Charity, which now consist of over 4,500 sisters active in 133 countries, started with one humble woman helping one poor person.

It’s astonishing to think of all the opportunity, progress, and positive impact and changed lives that can come out of very small actions.

People who are burdened with glorious purpose, the ones intent on changing the world, started small. They often look a little foolish at first. But purpose mixed with tiny actions is very powerful. All the big, world-changing things had humble beginnings.

John S. Pemberton was a pharmacist and a colonel in the Confederate army during the Civil War. He was trying to find a safe substitute for morphine when he invented Coca-Cola. 

Let the naysayers laugh and the doubts roll off your back.

You are not too small to make a dent in the universe.


Monday, March 1, 2021

New Song from Lauren Daigle

On Friday, one of the most anticipated new releases of perhaps the past year happened when two-time GRAMMY Award winner and multi-platinum selling artist Lauren Daigle released her new single, “Hold On To Me.” It marks her first offering since the release of 2018’s GRAMMY Award winning break out album Look Up Child. “Hold On To Me” combines Daigle’s legendary range and powerhouse vocals with the sweeping melody and heartfelt lyrics that convey a deep message of hope.

“I hope this song reminds you there’s still good in the world. No matter the circumstance you are walking through, there is someone in your life there to help you get through it. There’s something powerful about having people in your life that see who you are through the worst of circumstances and still choose you. ‘Hold On To Me’ is about all of us coming together and remembering that being with each other and being there for each other is what life is truly all about,” shares Daigle.

For “Hold On To Me” Daigle worked with long-time collaborators Paul Mabury (“You Say,” “Still Rolling Stones”) and Paul Duncan (“Still Rolling Stones”) to create a poignant song that offers comfort and reassurance to those who need it. 

Since the release of her GRAMMY Award winning, platinum certified album Look Up Child, Lauren Daigle has reigned on the Billboard Charts. The album debuted at No. 3 on the Top 200 Albums chart making Daigle the first female artist to simultaneously hit the Top 10 on both Billboard’s Pop and Christian Billboard Album Charts. In addition, the GRAMMY Award winning triple-platinum crossover hit, “You Say,” became the longest-running No. 1 song of any genre on the weekly Billboard Hot charts at an incredible 116 weeks. Daigle has earned seven Billboard Music Awards, four American Music Awards, ten GMA Dove Music Awards and sold-out concert venues all over the world. 

You may have already heard the new release over the weekend, but here is "Hold On To Me"...

Friday, February 26, 2021

Flashback Friday

Back to the 90's again this week to talk about Susan Ashton (born Susan Rae Hill, July 17, 1967), a contemporary Christian music and country music artist who topped the Christian charts throughout the 1990s. In 1991 she began using her mother's maiden name, Ashton, when she recorded her first single, in order to distinguish herself from CCM singer Kim Hill.

In 1991, she released her debut album, Wakened by the Wind, which became the top-selling debut in the history of the Sparrow Records label, with Ashton repeatedly reaching number one in the Christian charts that year. She was nominated for a Dove award for New Artist of the Year and won a CCM readers and reporters poll for Best New Artist. This album produced hits like "Down On My Knees" and "In Amazing Grace Land." 

In 1992, her second album, Angels of Mercy, produced four CCM number one singles and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Pop Gospel Album category. Songs like "Hunger and Thirst,"  "Walk On By," and perhaps the most recognized of these is "Here In My Heart."

In 1993 Ashton released her self-titled album, Susan Ashton. She won the 1993 CCM Readers Award for Favorite Inspirational Album and a reporters poll for Best Female Artist. The album included hits like "Waiting For Your Love To Come Down." 

In 1994, Ashton, in collaboration with CCM artists Margaret Becker and Out of the Grey's Christine Denté, released a trio album Along the Road

Also in 1994, Garth Brooks approached Ashton to open for him on his European Tour. She stated in 2005,"I did a leg of his '94 European tour, but we weren't playing to his largest crowds. But there was still something very special about his audience. Initially I was a little nerve-wracked, worrying they'd boo me off the stage, but I got a wonderful response. I was also really nervous about meeting him, but he was so nice and supportive. He told me if there was anything I ever needed, just to let him know."

So Far... The Best of Susan Ashton Volume 1, an album of mostly previously released singles, was released in 1995, and featured a newly recorded track entitled "Stand."

A Distant Call was released in 1996. This album included two songs co-written by Sheryl Crow, and one with the late Kevin Gilbert who wrote many hit songs for Crow. Wayne Kirkpatrick once again provided significant songwriting for the album, co-writing several songs with Ashton. Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith also provided co-writing credits on one song each. Alison Krauss provided background vocals for "Love Profound." I think the best song off this album is "You Move Me." Garth Brooks would release his own version of Ashton's single "You Move Me" on his own album Sevens the following year, which became an international hit.

Ashton provided vocals along with Collin Raye for the 1997 Jim Brickman single "The Gift", from Brickman's Christmas album of the same name. That single was number one on the pop charts for three consecutive weeks. In 1999, Ashton her first non-CCM album Closer. She reached the country music charts with "You're Lucky I Love You", which peaked at No. 38 on country music charts. 

In 2005 Ashton released a second trio album. Originally released only in Australia and Europe as Kisses from Heaven, the album was eventually released in the United States as Lost in Wonder: Voices of Worship. This album was recorded with Michelle Tumes and Christine Denté. 

In 2006 Sparrow Records released Susan Ashton: The Ultimate Collection, a two-CD set of previously released material. On March 5, 2013, Ashton released Thief, a self-distributed six-song EP. This marked her return to the music business.

Ashton has recorded eight studio albums to date. She has also charted fourteen number one hits on the Christian charts, and four singles on the Hot Country Songs charts.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Upcoming Concerts


I will be joining the Sidewalk Prophets Reason For Joy live stream tour tonight that we have previously talked about. There is still time to get your ticket for tonight, tomorrow, or Saturday. Go to https://virtualtours.greatbigfamilyproductions.com/2021-livestream-tickets/?mc_cid=841488d5d5&mc_eid=4208c4b89c.


Sign up for the Hope Lives On, a free virtual concert that will live stream on February 27th at 7:00 pm Central Time. A virtual event to unify fans of Christian festivals across the nation. Experience the best of all of the festivals combined into one amazing program which delivers the message of Jesus throughout the airwaves at a time when people need answers and a way to find hope. Featuring Casting Crowns, Cochren & Co, and more. Sign up at https://www.christianfestivalassociation.com/hope-lives-on-splash


Another concert is Better Together: A free virtual concert featuring Crowder. Join Bethesda and Christian music superstar Crowder on Thursday, March 25th @ 7:30 pm Central Time as he inspires us with his music and helps shine a light on people with disabilities and their many talents. This free event is open for everyone to attend, so please invite your family and friends! Reserve you seat at https://includeallabilities.com/crowder/.




Wednesday, February 24, 2021

New Artist: The Rescued

The Rescued is a worship collective started by songwriter/musician James Jones. The Rescued’s first EP is the result of Jones gathering St. Louis area worship leaders and musicians to work together. Together, the team created an all-acoustic set of 25 original songs. The collective selected their seven favorites and created full band, radio versions that became the first, self-titled EP.

Because the team wanted to share its message with the surrounding community, The Rescued began playing at local churches and venues.

“Human nature leads us to want to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves,” Jones says.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, ‘Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’

“The Rescued was not meant for us as musicians to have an outlet to write and play music. It was meant for the people of the community to be part of the experience of the salvation story,” he says. “At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters, to be rescued.” 

The Rescued has released their first single from their debut album, “iPraise.”

“I wrote this song during a time when I was reflecting on how we are all sinful and that we leave marks on Jesus’ hands with our sins,” says Jones, who adds that Psalms 103:7 and Deuteronomy 31:8 influenced the lyrics. “And even though I keep falling, He continues to be there for me and for all of us. I always know that He walks by my side even in times of trouble, even if I caused them myself.”

The message of the song, Jones says, also is the message of the worship collective. “That’s what The Rescued is all about – showing people that Jesus is inclusive to all.”

Regarding the song’s title, “the lowercase “i” in “iPraise” represents “humility and that God is the true “I Am,” says Jones.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

New Music

Jon Foreman’s musical journey began in 1996 in a surfboard filled garage in San Diego, California. These were the humble beginnings of multi-platinum selling, Grammy Award winning alt-rock band SWITCHFOOT. His latest release, Departures, serves as the latest chapter in Jon’s lifelong search for light in the dark moments.

“For me, 2020 has been a year of departures. And I’m not alone in this. For many of us, this has been a season of death. Of decay. Of fear and doubt and uncertainty. For Americans. For humans. For friends and relatives around the world. I’m not alone when I say that this has been a rough year.” – Jon Foreman

Departures features a highly anticipated collaboration with Lauren Daigle on the track “A Place Called Earth,” which can be heard below. “My dear friend Jon Foreman and I sat down to write ‘A Place Called Earth’ about 3 or 4 years ago now,” Daigle shared. “My heart is really in a similar place…longing for Heaven to come in this place called earth.”


***************
TobyMac released a new song last week,  "Help Is On The Way (Maybe Midnight)"

"I wrote “Help is on the Way (Maybe Midnight)” after a season in the valley of sad songs. With a broken heart after losing my firstborn son and stepping almost immediately into quarantine everything was dark. I woke up one day and turned to the Psalms. I read that “God is rolling up His sleeves”. What beautiful imagery. This picture turned me from having hope to yelling it from the rooftops. The God of all creation is rolling up His sleeves on our behalf. What a promise. We are not forgotten, not at all. That very morning I started writing;
“It may be midnight or mid day,
never early, never late
He’s gon’ stand by what he claims,
I’ve lived enough left to say…"

***************
Jordan St. Cyr, the recently signed singer/songwriter with BEC Recordings, has just released another new track. “Be My Defender” which will be featured on St. Cyr’s upcoming EP, Be My Defender, slated to release March 12, 2021. This new song follows in the footsteps of his “Fires” track released late last year which continues to gain momentum in streaming and on the radio.


***************
Recording artist and songwriter John Waller releases his first new radio single in over two years, “But God.” The song is the title track from Waller’s sixth full-length studio album set to release this spring.

Inspired by scriptures like 1 Corinthians 1:27, and written for a season that has been difficult for Waller and plunged so many people around the world into a spiral of hopelessness, “But God” is a declarative anthem of hope.

“The story of ‘But God’ is all of our stories in the past year,” perceives Waller. “There is so many moments in Scripture where there was trouble, persecution and where things seemed hopeless. And then there is that ‘But God’ moment. The biggest one was God demonstrating His own love by sending his Son.”

“I think this song is going to encourage a lot of people,” continues Waller. “I know when I listen to it and sing it, it brings hope, light, life. We may see darkness and chaos, but God sees new beginnings. I pray that this song will do that for you and for anyone who hears it.”

Monday, February 22, 2021

New Testament Summaries

Found an interesting article by Kristi Walker on Crosswalk.com that I would like to share. I thought this was kind of an interesting brief summary of the New Testament.

One-Sentence Summaries of Every New Testament Book

Matthew
Matthew records an angelic proclamation that the Messiah would be born to a virgin in Bethlehem, just as the prophets foretold, and continues on to tell, from his unique perspective as one of Jesus’ disciples, of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, his life, his baptism, his earthly ministry, his miracles, his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his final charge to his disciples (followers).

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Mark
All four of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) record events from Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, but Mark, or John Mark as he is called in the book of Acts, omits Jesus’ ancestry and birth and starts his record with Jesus’ baptism and ministry, focusing more so on Christ’s humanity. 

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

Luke
Luke, a medical doctor, a gentile, and the author of both this gospel and the book of Acts, focused largely on Jesus’ healing ministry in his account of Jesus’ life, and his two-volume set of Luke and Acts (written for Theophilus) gives us an overview of Christ, the origins of Christianity, and the birth of the Church!

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4).

John
John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, and one of the “sons of thunder” along with his brother, James, wrote his gospel after the other three were written and focused his eyewitness account on supplying supplemental information, perspective and details complementary to the other gospels. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Acts
Luke’s second volume written for Theophilus, more aptly named, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles,” starts with Jesus’ ascension into heaven and last instructions to his disciples (followers), followed by a description of how, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles (messengers) spread the good news (gospel) about the resurrected Savior and birthed the Church!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Romans
The Apostle Paul, a Roman citizen and a Pharisee, whose miraculous conversion was recorded in the book of Acts, was largely responsible for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire and  wrote a total of thirteen books of the New Testament in the form of letters, known as the Pauline Epistles, Romans being Paul’s letter to the early church in Rome (a church founded by Paul and Peter), focused primarily on the righteousness that comes only from God.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).

1 Corinthians
This letter, known to us as 1 Corinthians, Paul’s second epistle to the church in Corinth (the first having been lost) and a reply to a letter the church had written to him asking for clarification on several issues, contained mainly corrective instruction for the Corinthian believers on matters including carnality, sin, worship, righteousness and spiritual gifts. 

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

2 Corinthians
Paul’s fourth epistle to the church in Corinth (the first and third not included in Scripture), was written after Paul received troubling news that the church was being deceived by false apostles who were also maligning Paul’s character and slandering his ministry, prompting this intensely personal letter defending his divinely-appointed apostleship. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Galatians
The only one of Paul’s epistles written to more than one church (likely the churches in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe), was written to counter false teaching and heresy undermining the doctrine of justification by faith. 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21).

Ephesians
Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, one of the four “Prison Epistles” (letters written by Paul from prison), was written to a church started by Priscilla and Aquila, to encourage and remind the Ephesian believers of the immense love God had for them and to challenge them to walk in a manner worthy of that love. 

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17b-19).

Philippians
Another of the four “Prison Epistles,” Paul reminded the church in Philippi to rejoice in the midst of tribulation and suffering, and to seek to know Christ and be found in him, which is greater by far than any other pursuit or gain!

…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8-9).

Colossians
Another “Prison Epistle,” this letter, written to the church in Colosse (a church founded by Epaphras), was a reminder to get back to the basics of Christianity; namely that Christ alone (and not intellectualism or higher spiritual knowledge) is sufficient for salvation.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

1 Thessalonians
Nine of the thirteen Pauline epistles are full of wisdom from the heart of a shepherd to a flock (or flocks), and Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica focus on encouraging them for their faith, love, and endurance, as well as challenging them in regards to purity, temptation, holiness, and hope.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

2 Thessalonians
In this second letter, Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica to encourage them in the face of persecution and amidst confusion due to false teaching, providing spiritual comfort, correction/discipline, and caution.

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17).

1 Timothy
This letter is one of four that Paul wrote to special individuals in his life, 1 and 2 Timothy being written to Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith, entrusting Timothy with the leadership of the church in Ephesus and encouraging him in his ministry.

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).

2 Timothy
2 Timothy, written from a Roman prison, was the final epistle Paul wrote before he was executed, urging Timothy to visit him before he died and imparting final encouragement, wisdom and love, passing the metaphorical ministry mantle on to the next generation.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day---and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Titus
In this personal letter to another young man named Titus, a spiritual son and co-laborer in the gospel, Paul encourages, equips and counsels Titus in his ministry on the Mediterranean island of Crete.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:11-13).

Philemon
Philemon, a member of the church in Colosse and a slave owner, was the recipient of a brief letter from Paul regarding his slave, Onesimus, who had run away, met Paul in Rome, received the message of the gospel from Paul, converted to Christianity, and was returning to Philemon a changed man.

It is as none other than Paul – an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus – that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me” (Philemon 1:9b-11).

Hebrews
Written to Jewish Christians, the author is contested but the message is clear: Jesus is superior and sufficient, better than the angels, than Moses, than any other priest, covenant, or sacrifice.

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).

James
Another letter written to Jewish Christians, Jesus’ half brother, James, wrote this practical discourse on the topics of wisdom and true, living faith, almost like a compact, New Testament book of proverbs.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17).

1 Peter
Paul wrote the majority of the epistles, but two of the letters in the New Testament were written by Peter to Jewish Christians who had been persecuted for their faith in Christ, encouraging them to live victoriously in the face of suffering.

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. . . . So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:16, 19).

2 Peter
Whereas 1 Peter was written to encourage persecuted Christians, Peter, at the very end of his life, wrote 2 Peter to confront and expose false teachers and give instruction to Jewish believers on defending themselves against heresy and deception.

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:17-18).

1 John
1, 2 and 3 John were, in a sense, love letters written by the Apostle John, the last remaining apostle (who also wrote the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation) to churches and believers under his influence; 1 John presents the confidence believers can have in eternal life if obedience and love exist as evidences of true faith.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

2 John
John wrote the very brief epistle of 2 John to “the lady chosen by God and to her children,” which may have indicated a church body or an actual sister in the faith but whatever the case, John exhorts her to have spiritual discernment in regards to itinerant false teachers (“deceivers”).

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).

3 John
John’s third letter was a personal greeting to Gaius, a dear friend of John’s in the truth to whom John commended for his exemplary faith and faithfulness, starkly contrasted with another man named Diotrephes, mentioned toward the end of the letter who was not to be imitated.

It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:3-4).

Jude
Warnings against false teaching were present in many of the New Testament books, indicating that it was a serious threat to the early church, and Jude, another of Jesus’ half brothers, deals primarily with the issue of apostasy in his short epistle, calling the church to contend for the faith and the truth.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 1:24-25).

Revelation
The 66 books of the Bible tell one cohesive story of redemption, beginning with the creation of the world and mankind, and concluding with a graphic, prophetical vision and depiction of the end times (written by the Apostle John), culminating in the eternal reign of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, promising the reward of eternal life and joy for those who trusted in Him and eternal separation from God for those who rejected Him.

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:12-13).

Friday, February 19, 2021

Flashback Friday

This week its back to the 90's to talk about one of my favorite female CCM artists at the time... Pam Thum. Pam Thum was the only child of traveling evangelists Bruce and Ruth Thum, producers of the very popular and unique drama, Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames. The experience, which never kept them in the same place for more than a month, had both positive and negative effects on Pam.

Pam's music career began when she was three years old and started singing on stage. As the years went on, Pam began to realize the effect music had on people and the hope that the words she sang often gave them. "I wanted them to feel the peace I did when I sang to God. I wanted them to feel as though Jesus were hugging them through my music."

And so it began. Pam Thum started writing songs when she was 16 and decided to pursue songwriting and performing as her own full time ministry. In 1987, Pam was offered a songwriting contract after her song "We Are An Army" was recorded by Trace Balin. She was offered a recording contract in 1992 and released her self titled debut album in 1993. The record was a huge success, with six of the songs making the top ten. She also received a Dove Award nomination for New Artist of the Year.

During the 1990's, Pam Thum released four albums, had four #1 songs, numerous top 10 radio hits, three Dove Award nominations, and played in countless concerts in the States and Overseas. She has toured with popular Christian artists 4HIM, Wes King, Newsong, Bob Carlisle, Tammy Trent, and many more, and loves to share her story of God's grace and faithfulness in her life.

A lot of great songs on these albums... "You're All I Know," "See You In The Morning," "Come Home," "Starting To Rain," "Faithful Heart," "All Of My Life," "Love Conquers All," "Through God's Eyes," and on and on. One of my favorites is "Life is Hard"...

Another favorite is "I Will Stand"...

Today, Pam is married to Stephen Marshall and together they have built Pam Thum Ministries, which is partnered with several other "world-changing" ministries. Her mission remains the same - to fearlessly share the Good News of Christ with the world and encourage others to do the same. "We have the greatest news for this world," says Pam, "and we've spent too many years acting as if we're in some kind of secret club. People are living and dying without Jesus – hurt, hatred, sickness, and fear have ruled for too long. I just feel an urgency that we've got to shake off the apathy in our lives and get bold and direct about our faith."

Thursday, February 18, 2021

New Music

Pat Barrett announces the upcoming release of his sophomore studio project, Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly, on February 26th. Barrett's gift of writing melodies with timely emotive lyrics have propelled his songs to the top of radio charts as well as the global church. His No. 1 song, "Build My Life," continues to impact the church as one of his two songs in the Top 100 songs on the CCLI chart as well as 17 songs in the Top 2000. Last week, Barrett released a track from this album, "Morning By Morning.". So many scriptures about the Morning. So many scriptures about the faithfulness of God. So many songs written because of it. What a beautiful thing to be a part of a long line of people over so many generations to sing about it," Barrett shared on social media.


***************
Dynamic entertainer and multiple award-winning artist Ginny Owens became a household name when she was named the Gospel Music Association’s “New Artist of the Year” in 2000. In a meaningful career that now encompasses nearly two decades of music, the critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter is now celebrating the recent release of Expression II: Wonder. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, a degenerative eye condition left Ginny completely blind by the tender age of three. As her vision diminished, her love of music and the piano expanded, and Ginny discovered songwriting as a window into her unseen world. The unique perspectives inspired by her vision impairment have resulted in inspirational lyrics paired with her diverse musicianship. This is evident in her new video release, "Don't You Dare."


***************
 "Gospel Song" is the latest single from the GRAMMY and multi-GMA Dove Awards nominated southern rocker and songwriter Rhett Walker. "This song is a reminder that God is still in the business of redeeming stories and changing lives," Rhett Walker shares about the poignant tune. "It’s easy to lose our focus and be surrounded with negativity, so I wrote this song to help refocus each day and look to the Gospel and its good news."


***************
Irish celebration band Rend Collective's new single, "Year of Victory." "Like many of you, this last year has been one of losses and pain for us," the band shares when speaking about the heart behind the new single. "Loss of time with loved ones, economic loss, unexpected medical diagnoses, and mental health battles all took their toll and honestly we came into the new year feeling a little apprehensive about what it would hold." end Collective adds, "But the idea of the 'Year of Jubilee' in the Bible really captured our imaginations. That yes, this world will have its struggles, but the vision for God's kingdom is one of freedom, emancipation, debt forgiven and sin atoned! Even though we've been through so much, we can still live prophetically the vision of the kingdom of God - which is good news to ALL people. It's in HIM we can claim our victory!" 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday

Last night, Matt Maher posted about Shrove Tuesday.  You can watch here...

Today, February 17th, 2021, is Ash Wednesday. Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a 40-day season (not counting Sundays) marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.

Often called the Day of Ashes, Ash Wednesday starts Lent by focusing the Christian’s heart on repentance and prayer, usually through personal and communal confession. This happens during a special Ash Wednesday service. Usually during this service the congregation will be invited to receive the ashes on their foreheads. Usually, as the priest or pastor will dip his finger into the ashes, spread them in a cross pattern on the forehead, and say, “From dust you came and from dust you will return.”
The ashes of this holiday symbolize two main things: death and repentance. “Ashes are equivalent to dust, and human flesh is composed of dust or clay (Genesis 2:7), and when a human corpse decomposes, it returns to dust or ash.”

“When we come forward to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, we are saying that we are sorry for our sins, and that we want to use the season of Lent to correct our faults, purify our hearts, control our desires and grow in holiness so we will be prepared to celebrate Easter with great joy”

With this focus on our own mortality and sinfulness, Christians can enter into the Lent season solemnly, while also looking forward in greater anticipation and joy of the message of Easter and Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death.

If you’d like to start thinking through and observing Lent and Ash Wednesday, here are a few verses specific to Ash Wednesday to meditate and reflect on, and then a prayer you can pray to observe the day.

  • Our Creation: Genesis 2:7 - Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
  • Our Curse: Genesis 3:19 - By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
  • Our Cry of Repentance: Psalm 51:7- 10: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
If you are from this area, I would like to extend an invitation to join the Ash Wednesday worship at Living Word Lutheran Church tonight.at 7:00.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Shrove Tuesday

If we were in New Orleans, we would be celebrating Mardi Gras today.  Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season.

As a Christian, I prefer to think about today as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), observed in many Christian countries through participating in confession and absolution, the ritual burning of the previous year's Holy Week palms, finalizing one's Lenten sacrifice.

Shrove Tuesday is observed by making a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs we need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth we especially need to ask God's help in dealing with. This moveable feast is determined by Easter. The expression "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word shrive, meaning "absolve".

As this is the last day of the Christian liturgical season historically known as Shrovetide, before the penitential season of Lent, related popular practices, such as indulging in food that one might give up as their Lenten sacrifice for the upcoming forty days, are associated with Shrove Tuesday celebrations. Like "Fat Tuesday", referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, it was traditional in many societies to eat pancakes or other foods made with the butter, eggs and fat that would be given up during Lent. Many Christian congregations thus observe the day through the holding of pancake breakfasts, as well as the ringing of church bells to remind people to repent of their sins before the start of Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, many churches also burn the palms distributed during the previous year's Palm Sunday liturgies to make the ashes used during the services held on the very next day, Ash Wednesday.

So let's celebrate Shrove Tuesday. Let's have a stack of pancakes and make ready for this year's Lenten season to begin.

If you need a good pancake recipe, here you go...

  • 1 cup (5.5 oz) flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup (8 oz) buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

Heat a griddle or non-stick pan over medium to medium high heat.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium size bowl and make a well in the center. Next, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a measuring jar, then pour into the dry ingredients.

Whisk all the ingredients together, but do not overmix, or the pancakes will be tough (it’s okay to see a few lumps).

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour batter onto hot griddle or pan to make 2 or 3 pancakes.

When bubbles start to form and pop, flip the pancakes with a turner, and continue to cook until the pancakes rise nicely and are golden brown on both sides. Adjust the heat accordingly, if necessary.

Serve these buttermilk pancakes immediately with real maple syrup, fruit syrup, honey and/or fruit.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Season of Lent

First, Happy President's Day! The day when many Americans celebrate great deals on new cars, sales at the malls, and a day off work. Originally to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, the federal holiday was changed in 1968 to be celebrated on the 3rd Monday of February and is now commonly considered to be a day to honor all US Presidents. Considering all the turmoil this year about the presidency the holiday feels somewhat ironic this year. But enough about that...

Lent begins this week starting with Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 day season of the church year leading up to Easter Sunday.

Early in the Church’s history, the major events in Christ’s life were observed with special observances, such as His birth, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension. As these observances developed, a period of time was set aside prior to the major events of Jesus’ birth and resurrection as a time of preparation.

During Lent, the Church’s worship assumes a more penitential character. The color for the season is purple, a color often associated with penitence. The “Hymn of Praise” is omitted from the liturgy. The word “Alleluia” is usually omitted as well. By not using the alleluia–a joyful expression meaning “Praise the Lord”–until Easter, the Lenten season is clearly set apart as a distinct time from the rest of the year. Additionally, it forms a powerful contrast with the festive celebration of Jesus’ resurrection when our alleluias ring loud and clear.

Finally, the penitential character of Lent is not its sole purpose. In the ancient Church, the weeks leading up to Easter were a time of intensive preparation of the candidates who were to be baptized at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday. This time in the Church’s calendar was seen as an especially appropriate time for Baptism because of the relationship between Christ’s death and resurrection and our own in Holy Baptism (see Romans 6:1-11). This focus would suggest that the season of Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God.

If you are searching for good Lenten devotionals, may I suggest signing up with Lutheran Hour Ministries. This year's Lenten devotionals follow the narrative of Mark’s Gospel, The Marks of Love explores the life and ministry of Jesus. The tragedy of Golgotha is met with the triumph of the resurrection on Easter morning. Along the way, we learn of Jesus’ deep compassion for those He loved and served, including those who put Him to death.

No story in human history is like the narrative of Jesus’ Passion. In it we see God in the flesh, coming to seek and to save the lost. In The Marks of Love, we meet a Savior who endured life’s hardships, suffered our pain, and bore the weight of our sins. Each left its mark on Him as He pressed on to the cross, giving His life for ours, appeasing God’s wrath against sin, and rising victorious over sin, death, and the devil.

These devotionals are available to read online or as a podcast beginning February 17, 2021, The Marks of Love can also be received as an e-mail subscription throughout the Lenten season. Go to https://www.lhm.org/lent/ for more information.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Flashback Friday

Not going too far in the past this week, we go to one of my all time favorite CCM groups, Third Day. Third Day was a Christian rock band formed in Marietta, Georgia during the 1990s. The band was founded by lead singer Mac Powell, guitarist Mark Lee (both of whom were the only constant members) and Billy Wilkins. Drummer David Carr was the last band member to quit, prior to the band’s farewell tour in May and June 2018. The band's name is a reference to the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day following his crucifixion. 

In 1991, high-schoolers Mac Powell and Mark Lee formed Third Day as a Christian music group. In 1993, the band started playing more frequently in the Atlanta region in order to save money to record an album. Long Time Forgotten was released in 1994, producing and selling 2,000 copies. The band's second album, Contagious, was self-financed for $3,000 and 1,000 CDs and cassette copies of the demo were released.  Then in 1995 the band released the album Third Day, which sold 20,000 copies. Shortly thereafter, Reunion Records bought their contract and released the now official version of Third Day, which has sold over 300,000 copies and was well received by critics. The album also yielded their only mainstream rock radio hit in the U.S., "Nothing at All", which peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard rock charts. Later in 1995, Christian music headliner Newsboys asked Third Day to open for them at five West Coast shows. The band also launched their own 65-city tour with All Star United and Seven Day Jesus opening for them.

In 1996, the band was nominated for a Dove Award in the category of New Artist of the Year and their video for "Consuming Fire" won a Billboard Music Award in the category of Best Christian Video.

 

Not the most popular song off this album is one of my favorites and may be one of their most recognized songs, "Love Song"...

In 1997, the band started working on their second album, Conspiracy No. 5. The album was nominated for a Grammy and won Dove Awards for Rock Album of the Year and Rock Song of the Year for "Alien". The following year, the band toured around the United States, both alone and again opening for Newsboys. Also in 1998, the band recorded a cover of Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei" for his Dove Award-winning compilation project Exodus.

In 1998, the band started working on Time. Time was nominated for a Grammy Award and won another Dove Award for the band. Some of the songs that were recorded for possible inclusion in the album, but left out during production, are on the EP Southern Tracks. During the band's live shows, they included a significant worship portion, prompting the band to release an album made up exclusively of worship songs. The subsequent album Offerings: A Worship Album took about a week to record.  Many great songs on this worship album like "These Thousand Hills," "Agnus Dei," "King of Glory," "Your Love Oh Lord," and more. Many of which we still play in church today. In 2000, to support both Time and Offerings, Third Day went on tour alongside Jennifer Knapp. Later the same year, the band collaborated on the project City on a Hill: Songs of Worship and Praise with FFH, Caedmon's Call, Newsboys, Jars of Clay, and others.

In 2001, the band played in Australia and New Zealand on the heels of the success of the Offerings album. While touring in the US, Third Day recorded a concert attended by 15,000 fans at the HiFi Buys Amphitheatre in Atlanta to be released as their first DVD, The Offerings Experience. That same year, the band won five Dove Awards as well as their first Grammy. They closed the year with the release of their fifth studio album, Come Together, which won two Dove Awards and a Grammy. The album was certified gold the next year, along with Time. The band appeared in the 2002 film Joshua, the movie version of the story of Joseph Girzone. The Third Day song "My Hope is You" was included in the Joshua soundtrack album. 

In 2003, the band released a follow-up to their hit worship CD Offerings entitled Offerings II: All I Have to Give. In 2004, the band released their seventh album, Wire, and toured the States with tobyMac and Warren Barfield. In June of the same year, they traveled to Europe for a two-week tour. Upon returning, the band recorded a concert at Louisville and released it as the live album, Live Wire. During that year, they collaborated on the soundtrack for Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, played at the Republican National Convention, and were featured on 60 Minutes.

The band's next album, Wherever You Are, debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 8. It also won the band their third Grammy Award. The band recorded and released its first Christmas-themed album, Christmas Offerings, in 2006. In 2007, they released their first compilations of hits, Chronology.

Supporting the July 29, 2008, release of their new album Revelation, the band appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno where they performed the album's first single "Call My Name" and on November 20, 2008, they appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson performing the album's title track. "Call My Name" hit No. 1 and was the fifth most-played song on R&R magazine's Christian CHR chart for 2008.

In April 2009, the band released a live version of the album Revelation under the title Live Revelations as a CD/DVD combination. Third Day was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on September 19, 2009. In December 2009, Third Day was nominated for three Grammy Awards, with Live Revelations winning Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album, their fourth career Grammy, and receiving nominations for "Born Again" in the two categories Best Gospel Performance and Best Gospel Song. Live Revelations achieved Gold status in its month of release, becoming the band's eighth album to do so.

Third Day was featured on Winter Jam 2010, touring alongside a variety of contemporary Christian groups including the Newsboys, Fireflight and Tenth Avenue North. After releasing the single, "Lift Up Your Face" in July 2010, Third Day released their ninth studio album, Move, on October 19, 2010. On October 30 they finished the World Vision-sponsored tour Make a Difference Tour 2010 with TobyMac, Michael W. Smith, Jason Gray and Max Lucado.

Third Day released Miracle on November 6, 2012. The band toured Miracle on the Miracle Tour in 2013 - 2014 with artists Colton Dixon and Josh Wilson as their opening acts.

Third Day released the worship album Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship on March 3, 2015. The album, produced as a worship experience with Third Day at the center of a "friend choir", peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on the Christian Albums chart, No. 5 on the Top Rock Albums chart and No. 13 on the Digital Albums chart. The album has had one single, "Soul on Fire", that spent 19 weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 2 on Hot Christian Songs and No. 3 on Christian Digital Songs.

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, Third Day released the back-to-their-roots album, Revival, on August 4, 2017.

On March 2, 2018, Third Day announced their farewell with 12 shows as a last chance to see them live. The farewell tour eventually expanded to 20 concerts. June 27, 2018, in Denver, Colorado was the final show.

It is hard to summarize the the illustrious career and number of hit songs that this band produced. There are way too many to share in this post. Third Day has sold over 7 million albums in the United States and had 28 number one Christian album chart radio hits.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination

There are lots of discussions and social media posts about whether or not we should get the Covid-19 vaccine. I won't share my personal viewpoint here, but will publish a letter from Pastor Matthew C. Harrison, the President of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod...

January 21, 2021

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In recent weeks, I have received a number of inquiries from concerned members of the Synod about the COVID-19 vaccines, as they seek to maintain their support for the sanctity of life and for religious freedom. These questions have come not in the interests of politicizing the matter, but out of sincere Christian moral convictions. Having consulted with our district presidents and other agencies of the Synod, I requested that the staff of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, in collaboration with the Office of National Mission’s Life Ministry, draft “The LCMS and COVID-19 Vaccines: Facts and Considerations.” On the basis of this counsel, let me address a few of your most pressing questions.

1) Are COVID-19 vaccines related to abortion?  The science regarding this is complex. The two vaccines currently approved by the FDA — Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna — were not designed, developed or produced using cell lines derived from aborted human fetal tissue. Other vaccine candidates — including the UK-approved Oxford/AstraZeneca — did use human fetal tissue, however. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines did perform laboratory tests using cells derived from abortions (one from 1972 and another from 1985) to confirm the final vaccine quality (as, surprisingly, do many other commonly used medications and vaccines). For more information on how the COVID-19 vaccines relate to abortion, I encourage you to consult the website of the pro-life bioethicists at the Charlotte Lozier Institute and the list they maintain there: lozierinstitute.org/an-ethics-assessment-of-covid-19-vaccine-programs/. According to their assessment, neither the Pfizer/BioNTech nor Moderna vaccines contain any substance derived from aborted human fetal cells.

2) Does the Synod have a position on the reception of vaccines using human fetal tissue?  The Synod does not have an official position on such vaccines at this time. Official decisions of this nature come through the Synod acting in convention, and no convention action has yet been taken. However, our church body remains firmly committed to the sanctify of life, and we continually seek to advocate for pro-life positions in the public square.

3) Can I obtain a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine? Religious or personal belief exemptions are based on conscientious objection and do not require official support from the denomination. The absence of an official Synod stance does not impact your ability to seek an exemption. Please consult your local lawmakers or public health officials for more information on how to proceed should the need arise.

4) Should I take the COVID-19 vaccine? This is a question only you can answer. Some may choose not to take the vaccine because of concerns over its relation to abortion or fear of possible  health complications. Others may take it in spite of such reservations out of concern for their own health or that of their neighbor. Since neither Scripture nor the Synod has explicitly addressed this issue, it remains a matter of Christian freedom where you must choose according to your individual conscience.

5) How should I talk about the vaccine with others who disagree with my view of it? In a sensitive issue of this nature, we remember the words of St. James: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Listen carefully and openly to the points of others. Consider them. Share your positions patiently and objectively. Reflect upon your own penchant for error. Forgive others where they sin against you and ask for forgiveness where you wrong them.

In this contentious issue, we must respect the consciences of fellow believers who share our same commitment to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, as well as our life together as a Synod. As St. Paul urges us regarding matters of conscience, “let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:24), and “let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Rom. 14:13). At a time of cultural upheaval, I would encourage you not to allow disagreement even over undoubtedly important matters such as this to take precedence over the faith that unites us in Christ. In all things, we should heed the call to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Please study the document mentioned above. It provides a summary of what we know about the COVID-19 vaccines, their relation to the issue of abortion, and what we can (and cannot) say about these matters from the Synod’s perspective. I hope it proves useful to you as you wrestle with how to bear Christian witness in this world through your love of both God and neighbor.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20–21).

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

PS: “The LCMS and COVID-19 Vaccines: Facts and Considerations” document is available online at lcms.org/doc/covid19-vaccines-fact-sheet.

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

A New Video

 Happy Wednesday! I don't have much to talk about today, but yesterday, Sidewalk Prophets did post a new video of their performance of "Real To Me" from their concert at the Ryman Auditorium. A great song off of their latest album, The Things That Got Us Here.

Enjoy...

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Love is Patient, Love is Kind

With Valentine's Day soon upon us, I thought I would share the following article about love from Reverend Kyle Norman on Crosswalk.com...

Familiarity can rob us of delight. Becoming overly comfortable with an object, location, or saying potentially causes us to ignore its uniqueness or relevance. It is like a song on the radio; what once was catchy and meaningful is rendered dull and meaningless when listened to too often. The same thing can happen with the truths of scripture. The popularity of certain verses can, if left unchecked, cause us to miss the full impact of God’s Word on our lives.

This is no truer than in the case of 1st Corinthians 13. Here, Paul’s words about the nature of love have long been heralded as one of the most profound articulations on love ever written. Furthermore, and it has become the go-to passage for wedding ceremonies and marriage vows. It is on posters, t-shirts, and countless memes. When Christians think of romance, it is a good bet that somewhere along the way, these words will be referred to.

There is only one problem with this: Paul is not writing about romance! This passage does not describe the relationship between husbands and wives, boyfriends, or girlfriends. Paul is not attempting to describe the institution of marriage. His statements about love simply do not refer to sentimental expressions of fondness, or squishy feelings of puppy-like attraction. To hear this verse in this way is to mishear Paul’s call for our Christian lives. Frankly, what Paul says is a lot more profound, and a whole lot more radical.

To understand exactly what Paul is getting at, and how important this word is for our lives today, we need to understand three things about the love described in 1 Corinthians 13.

1. Love Is about Living the Spirit-Filled Life

1 Corinthians 13 follows directly on the heels of chapter 12. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is important to remember. The two chapters must be read together. This is how Paul expected his letter to be read. In chapter 12, after a lengthy discussion on spiritual gifts, Paul advises the Corinthians to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” 'How does one do so?', one might ask. Luckily, Paul answers that question in the next statement: “I will show you the most excellent way” (12:31). This “most excellent way” (of living the Spirit-filled life) is the way of love.

Love is how Christians live out their relationship with Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Love expresses how the Christian life has been transformed. Spiritual gifts, such as tongues, prophesy, or words of knowledge, are not exercised to the bolstering of the spiritual ego. They are to be manifestations of love. If our workings of spiritual gifts do not lead others, or ourselves, into a deeper experience of Christian love, then we have missed the way of Jesus. 

The same is true for Christian ministry. In chapter 12 Paul puts forward his image of the Christian community as a body. Just as a body is made up of many parts, so too the Christian community involves a multitude of people, all working together for a common purpose. Each component of the community is honored and uplifted. This is true whether one is a teacher, a preacher, or a worker of miracles. Again, the question comes: How do we know that one is engaging in ministry in the way of Christ? The answer is love.

For Paul, the logic is clear. Paul highlights various examples of spiritual gifting and then roots them in the context of the Christian community. He then discusses how each ministry works together for the good of the whole. Finally, everything holds together through the empowering work of love. Love transforms us. Love flows through us. Love is fundamental to living a Spirit-filled life. If we don't have love, can we really say we have the Spirit?

2. Love Is Rooted in Jesus

Recognizing this priority of love in our spiritual lives does not yet answer the question of how we define 'love.' The contemporary usage of this word can be far-reaching. After all, we use the same word to describe our devotion for the Lord and our fondness for bacon-jam! Surely the two are not equal.

The word Paul uses throughout 1 Corinthians 13 is the Greek word agape. While our contemporary usage of 'love' can be quite broad, agape was narrowly defined. It was not used for love of spouse or partner, nor did it express the camaraderie of friendship. These expressions of affection were taken up by different words: Eros, for romantic or intimate love; and Phileo, for familial love. Agape is a unique type of love. The word describes the selfless, sacrificial manner of love, seen primarily in God’s love toward humanity. It is best to understand agape as the love that finds its source in the presence of God. In fact, John the Apostle literally writes, “God is Agape” (1 John 4:8). Ultimately, this divine, sacrificial love of God is seen in the incarnation. Jesus declares this very reality when he says, “For God so agape-ed­ the world that he gave his one and only son” (John 3:16). Jesus is the incarnation of agape.

Love is not a principle. Love is not a philosophy. Love, in this context, is certainly not an emotion. In the Christian understanding, Love is a person – and that person is Jesus. When God incarnated himself in human flesh, Love walked upon the earth. It was Love that was born in a manger; Love was crucified on the cross. The use of the word agape, therefore, expresses the reality of God’s presence amid human life.

Agape, describes God’s unyielding, unstoppable, self-sacrificing love toward the world, seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, we cannot understand the call to love without rooting ourselves in the presence of Jesus. Without Jesus in our lives, the call to love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13 is nonsensical. When Paul writes about love he is speaking about a way of life that is empowered by the Spirit and connected to Jesus.

3. Love Embraces Community

We can now begin tackling what exactly Paul is getting at in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul is writing about the way Christians live in the world. He is not speaking about the romance of two lovebirds but of the witness of the Christian community. Love speaks to how Christians express Christ’s love to the world. Christians ought to agape others, as Christ has agape-ed us (John 13:34).

While this may appear simple enough, these words are packed with meaning. To be patient and kind, for example, is to act in the same manner as Christ. Our patience toward one another is ultimately rooted in Christ’s eternal patience toward us. The kindness we receive in Jesus must be mirrored in the kindness we share with others. To do otherwise is to undercut the flow of the Spirit within us.

When Christians are rude or aggressive, they are negating the very life to which Christ calls them. Furthermore, the call to love others demands that we recognize that we are not the only ones that Christ loves. We simply cannot be dismissive of someone to whom Christ’s love is directed. After all, if Christ is patient, kind, and forgiving toward others (as he is towards us), what right do we have to be anything different?

This is the fundamental principle that undergirds this entire passage. Christians are to express toward others the very love that Christ expresses to us. We cannot accept Christ’s offer of agape love and refuse to express that outwards. To do so would be the highest form of insult – to Christ and to our neighbor. As God expressed God’s love toward us so too must we express the love outwards to one another.

A Radical Word

Because we know this passage so well, we tend to forget how profound this is. Paul’s words here are as life-changing today as they were in the first-century world. In an age known for its 'cancel-culture,' the call to be patient and kind is radically transformative. Christ calls us to express love to those outside our circles of friendship and communion. Make no mistake, Christ’s love is to be expressed to the very people we would otherwise choose to ignore. If we find ourselves hating another group of people, for any reason, we can be sure that it is to them that Christ’s love is to be expressed. Echoing Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, Christians are called to express agape love to the very people we may be tempted to disregard, even reject. It is to those who differ from us, who may even be opposed to us, we are called to be patient rather than dismissive. Instead of being rude, opinionated, or aggressive, Christ calls us to kindness. Pride, boastfulness, arrogance, or vanity destroys the work of Christ’s love in our lives. There is no place for these things in the loving heart of the Christian.

Of course, we all have people we dislike. We all have people we would rather not associate ourselves with. This occurs as much for those within the church as those outside the church. Whether our separations are based on political, social, or theological divides, we all have people that we see as “the other.” This is a part of the fallen nature of humanity. Christ, however, empowers us to move beyond this. Christ calls us to love those whom he loves, to serve those whom he serves, and to be as radical in our expressions of this love as he was. If Christians would but fully embrace the spirit-filled, Jesus focused way of agape love, we could, quite literally, change the world.

Monday, February 8, 2021

New Music

On Friday, The Belonging Co released new music titled "Every Victory" featuring Danny Gokey. "Every Victory" is a bold declaration that we are not fighting for victory, we are worshipping from a place of victory. Every battle belongs to the Lord, every victory is secured in the name of Jesus, and what we do in the midst of it all is lift our hands in worship and His power is revealed. 

Founded in 2014 by husband/wife pastors and native Australians Henry and Alex Seeley, The Belonging Co began as a ministry dedicated to meeting the unique needs of Nashville. The church's manifesto is: "Encounter over entertainment, intimacy over industry, presence over presentation, people over position, and most of all, Jesus over everything." The Belonging Co gathers weekly and hosts an annual multi-day conference in downtown Nashville, attracting attendees from around the globe.

***************

Also on Friday, singer/songwriter, worship leader and record producer Tim Timmons releases his newest single titled "Roar." Timmons shared on social media speaking about the heart behind his new song. "So let my praises ROAR. ROAR like a freight train LOUDER than all my fear."


***************
YWAM Kona Music released "The Great I Am - Live,"  featuring Teira Ila. YWAM Kona Music is a diverse, global collective of artists, creatives, dreamers and musicians. With radical faith and a passion for loving God and loving people, this community of worshippers has the Great Commandment in their hearts and the Great Commission on their lips.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Flashback Friday

Back to the 90's today to take a look at  a Christian rock band that was formed in 1996, All Star United. The band is known for clever and sometimes sarcastic lyrics, as they frequently use their songs as vehicles to lampoon perceived excesses in Western culture. Their musical style combines elements of alternative rock and Britpop, anchored by melodically powerful choruses.

All Star United has released five full-length albums, a collector's EP, and a "best of" collection that included two previously unreleased songs. All Star United's songs have been licensed in recent years for use on ABC's The Evidence, the movie Saved!, the trailer for the film Superbad, and multiple CBS network imaging campaigns.

All Star United was formed by frontman Ian Eskelin, drummer Christian Crowe, guitarist Brian Whitman, keyboardist Patrick McCallum, and bassist Gary Miller. Shortly after, Miller was replaced by Adrian Walther, and guitarist Dave Clo was added to the line-up. They released their eponymous debut album in 1997 to much critical acclaim. 

Some of my favorite songs were off the debut album like "Bright Red Carpet," "Smash Hit," and my favorite "La La Land"...

They followed it with International Anthems for the Human Race in 1998, which received equal praise. The band toured heavily in the United States and internationally during this period.

Amidst some line-up changes and label changes, the band released a compilation album titled Smash Hits in 2000. In 2002, the band signed with Delirious? record label, Furious Records, and released their third studio album titled Revolution. A favorite off this album was "Sweet Jesus"...

After this, the band retired from heavy touring while Eskelin recorded and released a solo project and produced albums for several other artists. However, in 2007, the original line-up (minus Patrick) reunited and released Love and Radiation.

All Star United's most recent project, The Good Album, was released internationally in 2009, with a delayed US release in early January 2010.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

New Videos

Last week, We Are Messengers unveils a special acoustic version of their latest hit, “Image Of God,” featuring 21-time GRAMMY winner Vince Gill. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to ‘Image Of God’ over the past few months,” shares We Are Messengers front man Darren Mulligan. “It’s so encouraging to know that the fabric of our very existence is evidence of God’s deep love for us.”

In partnership with AccessMore, Mulligan recently launched “The Daily Message,” a podcast where he shares Scripture and personal thoughts each morning to breathe new life into listeners’ spiritual journeys. Learn more at www.accessmore.com

***************

Sidewalk Prophets just released the video of their performance of "Where Forgiveness Is" from their Live at the Ryman concert...


***************

Jonathan Stockstill recently announced the release of his newest single, "You Fight My Battles." It will be featured on Jonathan's upcoming album scheduled to release on February 19.

In regards to writing "You Fight My Battles," Jonathan said, "I tend to try to figure things out in the natural world. But I went through a season where it seemed like I was facing spiritual attack after spiritual attack. Through that, God reminded me of three key scriptures. The first was Exodus 14:13 when Moses told the Israelites that God would fight for them; all they needed to do was remain calm. The second was 2 Chronicles 20:21 when King Jehoshaphat sent the worshipers ahead of the Israelite army and God fought for them. Finally, I was reminded of Paul and Silas in Acts 16 when they sang to God in the prison and God shook the prison cell in the midnight hour. This song came from the inspiration that if I just focus on praising God, he can and will fight the spiritual battles for me."

***************

Powerhouse vocalist and songwriter and "The Voice" season 9 winner Jordan Smith has released his first single with the label today, titled "Great You Are."

Smith has a voice that needs no introduction and with faith that needs no explanation. From the moment the Kentucky native was first introduced to America through "The Voice," and now his beliefs take center stage as he steps into the next natural chapter of his career with new music and his new label family.

“Great You Are,” sings of God's worthy praise, recalling Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey as people greeted Him with palm branches. Smith and his co-writers leaned on Scripture that reminds us that the rocks will cry out if we fail to praise Him.