Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Five Dangers of Drifting Away From God

from Crosswalk.com...

 We see it all around us, in headline news stories, or from the lives of those we know and maybe once trusted. And even so often, in our very own lives.

Sometimes it happens before we realize what’s occurred. It’s unintentional. We don’t plan it. Lulled by the slow pull away, swayed by other things we start deeming more important, we wake up one day and realize things seem different. We find ourselves in a place we’d never intended to go.

The drift.

Happens.

5 Dangers of Drifting:

  1. -We begin to pull away from godly influences. Marriages suffer. Trust gets broken. We lose our heart for others. We fall away from close fellowship with other believers. We neglect accountability and connection with those who would encourage our walk in Christ. Matthew 22:37-40

  2. - We stop praying. We’re too busy. We’re weary. Or simply overwhelmed. We shoot a few prayers up His way, like, “Lord, bless our day,” but we’re unaffected by the lack of closeness we have with our Creator. Constantly wired to electronic devices, we’re more in tune to what others are saying and doing, the constant media chatter, than we are to what is on God’s heart for the day. - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

  3. - We lose focus, or desire, for His Words. We’re no longer reading or hearing it. We’re distracted by all that calls our name through the day.  To-do lists beckon us from the moment we wake up, crazy schedules leave no room for moments with Him. Or maybe we find ourselves just disconnected completely. Stone cold, distant, withdrawn, His words of life and truth fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts. Matthew13:14-15

  4. - We lose our heart for worship. We stop going to church and fill our minds with excuses of why we can’t. Or why it’s not that important. Or maybe we still go so we can check the church box. We sing words, hear words, then we go home. Yet not really singing and not really hearing. Unaffected. Distant. All the while, our hearts feel a million miles away. Hebrews10:25

  5. - The spiritual things that once concerned us, no longer concern us. We’re more easily influenced by the opinions of the world instead of the truth of God’s Word. Compassion for people wanes. His Spirit within us is stifled. Our heart for God is dulled. The pull towards sin increases. We begin to see life through selfish motives, blurred by pride, and our quest to live happy, on our terms. We find ourselves twisting truth to meet our own needs. We become numb to the danger that surrounds us, often until it’s too late to avoid great consequences that follow our choices. 1 John 2:16, 2 Timothy 4:4

But we don't have to live that way, we can choose differently...

And that’s not always easy. Because often, it's easier to just go with the flow. It takes effort, hard work, not to drift away. Knowing "of" truth isn't the same as immersing ourselves "in" truth. One will keep us aware and close to our Safety, the other may allow us to drift slowly in the wrong direction.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Flashback Friday

 Back to the 80's this week to take a look at the group NewSong. NewSong is an American contemporary Christian music group that was founded in 1981, at Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia. They have had twelve GMA Dove Award nominations, and one Grammy Award Nomination. The original four members included the current members Eddie Carswell, Billy Goodwin, and former members Eddie Middleton and Bobby Apon.

NewSong recorded three custom albums independently. In 1982, they signed on with Covenant Records, and released The Son In My Eyes the next year. In 1984, they signed a contract with Canaan Records, a branch of CCM label giant Word Records and released The Word. NewSong continued to stay with Word Records until 1991 when they signed on with DaySpring Records. The next year they released One Heart At A Time, The Best of NewSong, which featured 12 hits from their previous albums. In 1993, they joined up with the Benson Music Group and released All Around The World, which brought four No. 1 hits. I think my favorite off this album is the title track "All Around The World"...


In 1994 NewSong released People Get Ready which also brought four No. 1 hits, and featured a re-recorded version of "Arise My Love", which was first recorded by the original group in 1987.

In May 1999, they released Arise, My Love, The Very Best of NewSong. This featured 12 of their previous No. 1 hits. It also included two new songs which became No. 1 hits, "Jesus To The World (Roaring Lambs)" and another personal favorite, "Can’t Keep A Good Man Down"... 


Leading up to 2000, NewSong caught the attention of popular radio personality, DC Daniel (then, of "Steve & DC") and began collaborating on production ideas for future projects. The partnership led to the most successful period of NewSong's career as they released the album Sheltering Tree, in late 2000. DC, Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom penned the bonus track "The Christmas Shoes" for Sheltering Tree, which became a No. 1 mainstream radio hit in a Billboard chart-record 3 weeks, topping Billboard's Adult Contemporary Chart. 


This is the most recognizable song from NewSong and spurred a best selling book and was later made into a TV movie  that was the second highest-rated TV movie of the 2002–2003 seasons.  

In 2003 a second bestseller based on the song was released and and was later made into a TV movie by CBS. It was the most watched TV movie in 2005, and had an appearance by NewSong, which showed them singing their holiday single "The Christmas Blessing". NewSong also received a Dove Award for Musical of the Year for The Christmas Shoes Musical.

In November 2004, NewSong recorded their live worship album and DVD, Rescue: Live Worship at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, which is the home church for several members in the band. The album was released in May 2005, and the DVD of the concert came out in September. Also in 2005, NewSong was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

NewSong continues to perform and release new albums. You can catch up with their current activities on their website at http://www.newsongonline.com/.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

New Music

CAIN, the sibling trio behind the multi-week No. 1 single “Rise Up (Lazarus),” announces the anticipated release of their first full-length album, Rise Up which will be available May 7.

Leading up to the album’s release, CAIN – comprised of Logan Cain, Madison Cain Johnson, and Taylor Cain Matz – just dropped their latest single “Yes He Can.”  “Yes He Can” shares the message of how God is always working miracles in our lives.

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Last week, UK-based worship music collective Orphan No More released the live video for “Thomas.” “Thomas” is from the group’s eight song EP, Death Died.

“Thomas is an honest and reflective confession of faith and doubt. Written in the wake of loss and recorded during the height of lockdown and isolation, the song reaches out from the depths of the human experience into the scarred hands of divine love and acceptance,” 

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Also last week, Josh Baldwin released a new music track titled “Evidence (Live)” featuring Dante Bowe.

“This stripped down version unfolds into a natural and organic sound for Josh, taking him back to his deep southern roots. Josh describes this song as a journey of coming home, watching as all throughout his history, God has faithfully walked beside him every step of the way.”


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The Belonging Co released a new song titled“The Truth” featuring Lauren Strahm and Andrew Holt.

The worship group shares about the release: “The Truth” is a bold new anthem that unashamedly declares Jesus is the only way, truth, and life. This worship moment serves as a compass, pointing the Church back to the basis of our faith, our due North, Jesus Christ.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Just in case you missed the Easter specials last weekend here are a few to watch if you are still interested and aren't quite ready to be finished with the Easter season just yet...

Good Friday Worldwide hosted by Chris Tomlin & Max Lucado

Because He Lives: An Easter Celebration.


Global Easter Celebration with Chris Tomlin


Selah Easter Special

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Three Results of Jesus' Resurrection

I hope that everyone had a good Easter weekend. There was a good article on Crosswalk.com that discussed the 3 Beautiful Results of Jesus' Resurrection that I thought I would share...

When we think of the Gospel, three elements come to mind. Paul gave us this succinct list in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 when he said Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.

It is this last event that we celebrate at Easter—and without which Jesus would have been just another dead prophet. Of course, He couldn’t stay dead because He was God and the grave couldn’t hold him. Hallelujah!

But there are three other beautiful truths associated with the Gospel, and specifically Jesus’s resurrection, that I think we need to remember especially at Easter. These facts help us face our daily lives with greater hope—and the help of our Lord.

When the world seems out of control, family drama threatens to overwhelm us, or our finances unravel, we can trust His unchanging, unfailing love and provision. 

1. Jesus Is Coming Again

Just when we might think the gospel couldn’t get any better, it does. Not only did Jesus die for our sins, and then rise from the grave, but He’s coming again. The purpose of his Second Coming is to first bring heaven to earth, and then bring [a transformed] earth to heaven.

Sprinkled through the New Testament are references to this coming. The most direct of these is when Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for his disciples, and that he would come back again and take them with him to it in John 14:2-3. Jesus also referenced his return when he spoke these words to Peter after his resurrection when he appeared to the disciples “... until I come..." in John 21:22-23.

Paul taught the return of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:23. He goes on in verse 24 to tell us how Jesus will reign on earth. Through the rest of that chapter, he teaches further about our own physical resurrection upon Christ’s coming.

Then in Revelation, the event is detailed for us. Chapters 20 through 22 include some of the most exciting verses in the whole Bible. They tell the end of the story. Have you ever read a mystery novel and cheated by reading the ending because you couldn’t stand the suspense? As Christians, we can do that.

We have the whole story in the Bible. We don’t have to wonder or be afraid. Jesus didn’t leave us in suspense. He made sure we could draw comfort from our knowledge of the triumphant end.

We turn once again to Paul’s writing, this time in 1 Thessalonians chapter five, to learn how to discern the timing of Jesus’s return. He closes his discussion with the admonition in verse 11 that we encourage each other by remembering how it will all turn out.

We can do this because the end of God’s story includes a happy outcome for us. So hang in there. The best really is yet to come.

2. Jesus Is in Heaven Praying for Us

I rely on this knowledge when I don’t know what else to do or where to turn. The New Testament gospels relate that Jesus rose into heaven after his resurrection. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, confirmed that Jesus was in heaven after his resurrection.

Luke recorded in Acts 7:55-56 how Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God just before Stephen succumbed to his injuries. What might have seemed like a senseless death to the rest of the world, was really Jesus shedding his human body so that He could return to his heavenly throne room.

Romans 8:26 says that the Holy Spirit prays for us, helping us when we don’t know what to pray for. Because we believe in the Triune God—meaning that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three parts of the One True God—we know that the Holy Spirit is actually Jesus Himself. Putting this verse together with Stephen’s vision, we learn that not only is Jesus standing at the right hand of God in heaven, but He is praying for us through the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus is always interceding for us, because he is our high priest!

We never have to feel like we’re all alone, or that no one cares about us. We don’t ever need to think Jesus doesn’t know, or isn’t doing anything to help, when the going gets tough. He is. He’s standing in the ultimate place of authority and praying for us.

3. Jesus Is Preparing a Place for Us

We turn again to Jesus’s words in John 14:1-3, concerning Jesus’s return for his followers. This passage is a solid reminder that we have an ultimate destination—and it is with Jesus.

It’s not some random, general place, either. Jesus used the Greek word meaning remain, or stay. In Latin it is mansio, a traveler’s resting place. The word choice here indicates a particular place to stay where a person can rest. The Bible wasn’t written just for the disciples. It’s for us, too, so we can take this as our promise.

Doesn’t the idea of a place to rest and put your feet up sound inviting? Jesus knew exactly what we will need when he returns—and he knew we needed to hear about it now, in our crazy, stressful, sometimes frightening physical lives.

Jesus is coming again, and while we wait for his return, He prays for us. He’s also getting our ultimate abode ready. I say, along with John in Revelation 22:20, Yes! Come, Lord Jesus!

What a relief to know that we don’t have to worry about what we might have to face. No phone call, or doctor’s report, or accident ever catches Jesus off-guard—and He’s got a plan for how it will all work out in the end. We really can encourage each other with the words in the Bible that tell us Jesus is coming again, He’s getting our ultimate resting place ready for us, and He’s praying us through until we can get there.

Monday, April 5, 2021

New Music

Some great new music debuted last week. First we will start off with a new mashup just in time for Easter by Charlotte Ave. of "Because He Lives" and "Redeemer"...


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Celebrated worship artist Phil Wickham premiered a bold new song on Friday, “House of the Lord." Wickham shared on social media that this track has “some JOY on it.”


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For more than a decade as the frontman for Memphis May Fire, Matty Mullins is no stranger to the industry. He has been able to share his faith-based positivity with large secular crowds all over the world. He has previously released two CCM-based projects Matty Mullins (2014) and Unstoppable (2017) with much success on both projects. Now on Good Friday, Mullins shared a brand new solo song. “Show You The Cross.”


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Finally from Friday, my favorite husband and wife duo, Caleb & Kelsey Grimm released a mashup of Zach Williams' "There Was Jesus" with "What a Friend We Have In Jesus."

Sunday, April 4, 2021

He Is Risen...

 ...He is Risen, Indeed!

Wishing you a happy Easter as we come together to celebrate our Risen Lord.


Saturday, April 3, 2021

Hallelujah!

Cassandra Star (age 10) & her big sister Callahan (19) sing this beautiful & meaningful Easter version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Nothing more I can write to add to this... Enjoy...

Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday!

 Our regularly scheduled Flashback Friday will return next week... This week we take time (in what may be the ultimate flashback) to remember Good Friday.

What is Good Friday?

For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Paul considered it to be “of first importance” that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:10). It is followed by Easter, the glorious celebration of the day Jesus was raised from the dead, heralding his victory over sin and death and pointing ahead to a future resurrection for all who are united to him by faith (Romans 6:5).

Why "Good" Friday?

Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.

In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.

The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.

Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" Romans 5:6-10

He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday

Today is April 1st... commonly known as April Fools Day. It has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, though its exact origins remain a mystery. April Fools’ Day traditions include playing hoaxes or practical jokes on others, often yelling “April Fools!” at the end to clue in the subject of the April Fools’ Day prank.

You may even be involved in a prank today, but more importantly, since this is the Thursday before Easter, we celebrate today as Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday is believed to be the day when Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. Most notably, that Passover meal was when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples in an extraordinary display of humility. He then commanded them to do the same for each other.

Christ's "mandate" is commemorated on Maundy Thursday---"maundy" being a shortened form of mandatum (Latin), which means "command."  It was on the Thursday of Christ's final week before being crucified and resurrected that He said this commandment to His disciples. Jesus and his disciples had just shared what was known as the Last Supper and he was washing their feet when he stated:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34).

This new commandment raised the definition of love to a new and higher standard. Jesus sacrificially met His followers' deepest need---that of new spiritual life and the forgiveness of sins. He even loved His enemies, and He calls us to show love to those who don't appear to deserve it. Just as Jesus loved sinners "to the end" (or "to the max" John 13:1) when He had nothing to gain from them, so must we. The Bible says that there was nothing attractive about sinful mankind that drew Him to love us. God loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Salvation is not only a wonderful gift that protects us from the penalty that we deserve Romans 6:23 , the work of Christ also embues new life, grants spiritual strength, and motivates godly action in those who believe:

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2:11-14)

While Scripture doesn't forbid us to commemorate days like Maundy Thursday, the main question is are we observing Christ's new command to love---especially those who deserve it least?

"Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:7-8)

Many churches observe Maundy Thursday with a Communion service and often a foot-washing ceremony. These traditions help Christians reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus and his commandment for us to love and serve others.

Often, during communion, a pastor will read the following passage about what happened on the events of Maundy Thursday:

1 Corinthians 11:23-26: "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes."

Every time we participate in communion, we recognize what happened during the events of Maundy Thursday. That our Lord Jesus was betrayed, to be tried and crucified the next day on Good Friday.

Luke 22:27-38 - "When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” .."

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Problematic Public Perception of Christians

I decided to share the following article from Crosswalk.com. Some of the conclusions will not be popular with some Christians but I feel that the author, Dr. James Emery White, presents some valid views...

Over the course of the last year, those outside of the Christian faith have increasingly looked on Christians with derision. A new animus has emerged toward Christians and Christianity—specifically evangelical Christians and evangelical Christianity.

Why?

This is when you need to put on your big-boy pants. I’m going to be telling you why they feel this way. It’s not about whether they are right or justified. I’m telling you how they’re thinking, and how they’re feeling. I’m going to tell you how we are being perceived. The reputation of Christians, and evangelical Christianity in particular, has been hit in five ways, over five issues, over the past year.

Issue 1: In-Person Services
First, the insistence of some to meet for in-person, weekend services. That didn’t and isn’t going over well. The anger toward “open” or “opening” churches from the wider population is palpable. And no segment of that “wider population” is more livid and more disgusted than those who are unchurched. The sentiment is that churches insisting on meeting indoors, in person and in mass, are selfish, uncaring, unloving, and belligerent. 

Even though many churches are gathering with masks and social distancing, it doesn’t help that there are just as many, if not more, gathering without masks or distancing and posting the gatherings boldly on social media as if a badge of spiritual pride. This causes all cautiously “open” churches to be painted with the same brush of perceived reckless irresponsibility and disdain for the health of others.

The bottom line is that those we are trying to reach care little for our desire to meet, our hunger for corporate worship, or our First Amendment rights. They would say that they have been deprived of much themselves. What they do care about is any group of people acting in such a way that seems to callously put others at risk. It is simply deemed selfish and unloving. It is seen as putting the emotional or relational needs we had to be together over the now 500,000 plus lives lost in the U.S. alone, not to mention the one in five Americans who have lost someone dear to them.  

In a strange cultural twist, it is now the unchurched saying that we value the quality of life over the sanctity of life. In their minds, we have not loved our neighbor. Specifically, we have not loved them.

And there’s some truth to that.

A Pew Research survey was recently released that found only 54% of all white evangelicals planned on getting the vaccine. But here’s what was most concerning: More than half of white evangelicals said they would not even take the health effects of their community into account in their decision. In other words, they wouldn’t consider what taking or not taking it would mean for their neighbor. They literally said they didn’t care.

Issue 2: Conspiracy Theories
Second, the embrace of conspiracy theories like QAnon by many Christians, mostly evangelical ones, put us firmly on the fringe in their minds.

We’ve all heard of QAnon by now. What is alarming is the degree by which conspiracy theories like those it spreads have taken hold in Christian circles. It’s some bizarre stuff: 5G radio waves are used for mind control; George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; Bill Gates is related to the devil; face masks can kill you; the germ theory isn’t real; and there is a ring of pedophiles made up of deep state leaders.

Now, if you’re reading this thinking, “Wait, some of that is true!”, I’m not going to get into conspiracy theory debates with you. I’m telling you what the people we are wanting to reach are thinking. They’ve got one word for it: crazy. Again, to the unchurched, it makes Christianity as a whole seem not just extreme, but on the fringe, and even weirder than it already was to their thinking.  

Issue 3: Christian Nationalism
Third, the violence that has seemed to come with Christian Nationalism has them frightened and appalled. The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by people carrying the Christian flag, signs about Jesus and faith and a Christian America – even holding a prayer service once the rioters got inside – will forever be etched in their psyches.

It’s all about Christianity being identified with hate and violence and insurrection and forcing a Christian cultural and, in their minds, political agenda onto the world through terror. In their minds, we’re no different than the people who flew planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11 as retribution against Islam. Only this was retribution against Christianity. To their thinking, it’s all the same terrorism in the name of religion.

Issue 4: Political Affiliation
A fourth issue is the confusion about all things Trump. White evangelicals in particular supported him. The unchurched, non-Christian didn’t care about the importance of conservatives in Supreme Court appointments, laws about freedom of religion, or the question of abortion. All they saw were Christians fawning over a man to the point of seeming idolatry—a man who even his most ardent supporters would admit is a deeply immoral man. From their perspective, we cared about power more than purity. We would eagerly condemn sin in their lives – such as homosexuality, adultery, and pornography – but embrace and overlook lying, sexual immorality, multiple divorces, ego, and immaturity in Trump. In their estimation, Christian support of Trump was hypocrisy. It gutted our moral authority because we threw what mattered morally out the window in return for political gain.

Issue 5: Silence on Social Justice
Finally, they saw the often-muted response to the death of George Floyd and other tragic events related to race, racism, and social injustice as wildly insufficient. Their verdict was that many Christians were silent on the greatest moral issue of the day. Instead of a clear stand, all they felt they heard from us were arguments about critical race theory, the denial of institutional racism, and the condemnation of violence and looting in the streets. Which, to them, was at best culturally tone-deaf and at worst exhibiting our own racism.

Now again, there’s no point in trying to push back at this. It’s how they feel. And you can’t just write all this off and say, “Well, they’re just liberals and we’re conservatives.” Or “Well, Christians will always be persecuted.” Or “We shouldn’t care what the world thinks.” I won’t get into whether those sentiments are true or not. I will say they are largely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the source of the attitudes toward the Christian faith may be.

Here’s What Matters
The world we are trying to reach believes that we don’t care about them. They believe we are certifiably crazy and irrational—not because of our doctrine, but because of what we believe off the internet. They believe that we are as violent as any terrorist group, that we are hypocrites, and that we are racist.

That’s kind of a problem. Those are assessments about our character. Those are assessments about how we match up to the Jesus we proclaim. Those are assessments about our morality. You can laugh at me or hold me in contempt all day long for believing in the virgin birth, the atonement of my sins through Christ’s death on the cross, the Trinitarian nature of God, and the inerrancy of Scripture.

I’ll wear it as a badge of pride.

But if you are holding me in disdain for perceived lovelessness, the lack of sound reason and judgment, violence and hatred, hypocrisy and racism, then I’m no longer proud (whether I’m guilty or not)—I’m in crisis mode.

All to say, cultural apologetics has gotten a lot tougher, with a lot more to help people get past than ever before. So that’s the bad news.

The good news is that a lot of local churches gained ground with the unchurched during this time. Christianity as a whole might have had some tough sledding in the court of public opinion, but many local churches earned respect and admiration. 

From the perspective of the unchurched, they gained points for staying closed, or by making it very clear that when they gathered, they took every possible precaution. They spoke out against racism and took time to pray and teach about it. They debunked conspiracy theories. They spoke out against the violence at the Capitol and the many insidious elements of extreme Christian Nationalism. And they walked through the election year politics in a way that made clear that they were Christians first, and Democrats or Republicans second.

But let’s be candid.

The pandemic, collectively, was not our greatest moment in terms of perception and public relations. And we need to realize that the mission is going to be much, much more difficult as a result. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

New Music

One of my favorite artists, Crowder released “He Is” off his upcoming album titled Milk & Honey, which is expected to drop June 11.

P.S. If you missed the live Crowder concert last Thursday night, you missed some great music. I believe you can still see the recorded concert HERE.

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Last Friday, MercyMe released “On Our Way,” featuring Sam Wesley. The track is off their upcoming album titled inhale (exhale), which is expected to drop April 30.

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Also on Friday, Aaron Cole released his latest music with a single that is the first song from his upcoming album titled “Like You” featuring Tauren Wells and TobyMac.

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Okay, I know that this is not new music but last Thursday four-time GRAMMY Award-winning duo for KING & COUNTRY showcased the for KING & COUNTRY LIVE CONCERT FILM- a full-length concert performance from the duo’s internationally acclaimed Burn The Ships I The World Tour. The one-hour concert special provides an exclusive perspective of for KING & COUNTRY’s last arena show before the COVID-19 pandemic, giving a close-up view of the incredible live show that the duo has become known for. From intimate backstage moments to passionate singalongs with the sold-out audience, this is the most complete chance to see for KING & COUNTRY’s fully produced live spectacle. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

What to Watch This Week

We are in the midst of Holy Week and there are lots of great entertainment options (after going to church services of course)...

A while back we talked about The Chosen program. I can't recommend getting the app and watching this program enough. Season 2 is starting on Easter so to celebrate they are going to livestream the first season as follows:

"Holy Week with The Chosen" Schedule (Season One livestreams start at 8:30pm ET):

  • Tuesday, March 30:  Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2 Livestream
  • Wednesday, March 31: Season 2 Official Trailer release!
  • Wednesday, March 31:  Season 1, Episodes 3 & 4 Livestream
  • Thursday, April 1: Season 1, Episodes 5 & 6 Livestream
  • Friday, April 2: Season 1, Episodes 7 & 8 Livestream

SEASON 2 LAUNCHES!
Sunday April 4th, 8 pm ET:  Episode 1, Season 2

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On Thursday, April 1st at 8:00 central time the Gospel Music Association is presenting Because He Lives - an Easter celebration on TBN. With performances by Amy Grant, Ellie Holcomb, CeCe Winans, Natialie Grant, Zach Williams, and many more... Watch on TBN







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Also at 8:00 and 10:00 EDT  on April 1st or Saturday, April 3rd @ 2:00 EDT on TBN... Explore Christianity’s Highest Holy Day with Matthew West

Easter Sunday. The highest holy day in Christianity. And billions of Christians around the world celebrate it every year with a beautiful variety of traditions.

While the origin behind Easter Sunday is known to all — the resurrection of Jesus — the origins of the traditions that accompany the holiday are less familiar to many. When did Christians start celebrating Easter? How did they first celebrate it? When did the rabbits come into play? And the chocolate bunnies and eggs?

To find out the answers to all these questions and more, tune in to our new documentary, The History of Easter. Hosted by Matthew West, this joint presentation by Museum of the Bible and TBN will take you from the Easter traditions enjoyed today back to the event that started it all.

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On Friday, April 2nd tune into Chris Tomlin facebook at 7 PM CDT for Good Friday Worldwide with Chris Tomlin, We The Kingdom, Max Lucado, and Pat Barrett. Even though we aren’t together in person this year, the heart of worship hasn’t changed and we would love for you to join us in worshipping and praising our Savior.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Flashback Friday

Back to the 70's this week to feature another early pioneer of CCM music, Don Francisco. I decided to feature Don this week because Easter is nearly here and his song "He's Alive" is the first song that I think of at Easter time.

Don Francisco was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a Christian seminary professor. Francisco's early career with the band Highway Robbery, centered on the folk-rock music common during the mid-1960s, but after an experience Francisco believed was supernatural, he rededicated his life to God and changed his personal, musical direction. He has been writing and recording CCM music since 1974.

Don's first album, Brother of the Son was released in 1976 and featured an easy listening folk sound. In 1977 he recorded "I Don't Care Where You've Been Sleeping" for the album Forgiven. It is one of the most uncompromising songs he has ever written and it is considered by many to be one of his best songs.

Perhaps his most remembered song off the Forgiven album is the one that I mentioned above... "He's Alive." The song has been recorded by the likes of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Walt Mills, The Gaither Vocal Band, Ray Boltz, and countless others.

In 1979, He released his third album, Got To Tell Somebody and continued to release albums through the 80's, 90's, up to his last album, Forever My Friend, released in 2014. 

Francisco's style is fairly distinctive, focusing on acoustic instruments barren of modern production techniques and concentrates on the narratives of the songs, using ballad styles or speaking through the music that interprets Scriptural events or Biblical lessons. This is specifically with respect to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his messages of "unconditional love" ("I Don't Care Where You've Been Sleeping"), salvation ("Give Your Heart a Home"), and a lesson against religious self-righteousness and pharisaic condemnation ("Beautiful To Me"). As is the case with many singer-songwriters advocating a specific religious belief or philosophical viewpoint through music, Francisco uses his adaptations and interpretations as the means to convey what he feels are the most important teachings of the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

Don Francisco retains full copyright on all of his work and holds a very liberal approach to sharing music. His original website used to provide free music downloads and actually encouraged copying with proper notice. The new website is still in development and doesn't yet have those pages, though Francisco still holds those views.

This position is held on the basis of Christian love and a rare stand against the commercialization of Christianity. The updated website has a storefront as the landing page and is primarily used to market his merchandise. The free downloads are frequently done through his Facebook page, however, which has a following of 27,000 plus currently. The MP3s page does offer MP3s for any donation, however, if the shopper cannot afford the purchase price.

Don Francisco won 1980 song of the year (for "He's Alive"), and 1980 Songwriter of the year. He has over 20 albums, two Dove Awards, 30 years of sharing the Word.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Palm Sunday

This Sunday, March 28th, is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, the Sunday before Easter, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified. Palm Sunday is known as such because the faithful will often receive palm fronds which they use to participate in the reenactment of Christ's arrival in Jerusalem.

In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). 

Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–9), when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. It thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent. Jesus traveled to Jerusalem knowing that this journey would end in his sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Before he entered the city, he sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage to look for an unbroken colt:

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say, 'The Lord needs it.'" (Luke 19:29-31, NIV)

The men brought the colt to Jesus and placed their cloaks on its back. As Jesus sat on the young donkey he slowly made his humble entrance into Jerusalem.

The people greeted Jesus enthusiastically, waving palm branches and covering his path with palm branches:

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" (Matthew 21:9, NIV)

The shouts of "Hosanna" meant "save now," and the palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. Interestingly, at the end of the Bible, people will wave palm branches once again to praise and honor Jesus Christ:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9, NIV)

On this inaugural Palm Sunday, the celebration quickly spread throughout the whole city. People even threw down their cloaks on the path where Jesus rode as an act of homage and submission.

The crowds praised Jesus enthusiastically because they believed he would overthrow Rome. They recognized him as the promised Messiah from Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (NIV)

Although the people did not fully understand Christ's mission yet, their worship honored God:

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise'?" (Matthew 21:16, NIV)

Immediately following this great time of celebration in the ministry of Jesus Christ, he began his journey to the cross.

In churches of many Christian denominations, members of the congregation, oftentimes children, are given palms that they carry as they walk in a procession around the inside of the church.

Palm Sunday is a celebration of peace and gentleness
In a world that is torn apart by violence and polarization, things like peace, calm, and gentleness are much needed. Palm Sunday allows us to take a moment to appreciate the gift of life and all that it has to offer.

Palm Sunday is a celebration of hope and harmony
The people of Jerusalem had been waiting for generations upon generations for the Messiah to come. Prophet Zachariah’s prophecy took some time to happen, but it eventually did. Palm Sunday promises better times to come, always.

Palm Sunday is a celebration of different cultures coming together
While Palm Sunday is a religious day with fixed standards in terms of importance, each culture celebrates the day with its own customs and traditions. It’s a sign of unity in all senses of the word — unity in togetherness and unity in uniqueness.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Passover

Passover 2021 begins at sundown this Saturday, March 27 and ends Sunday evening, April 4. It commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, and their transition from slavery to freedom. The main ritual of Passover is the seder (a Jewish ritual service and ceremonial dinner), which occurs on the first two night (in Israel just the first night) of the holiday — a festive meal that involves the re-telling of the Exodus through stories and song and the consumption of ritual foods, including matzah and maror (bitter herbs).


“The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.” (Leviticus 23:5-6)

As the Jewish people prepare to observe the important biblical festival that celebrates God’s deliverance of His people in the Exodus story, Yael comes to us with this Passover video. In it, she shows us how to bake matzah. Join her in the Holy Land as she makes this unleavened bread that reminds Jews of God’s providence and protection as they prepared to escape slavery in Egypt. 

 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

New Music

On Friday, Lincoln Brewster releases his latest music with a single titled “Move."  This single comes after Brewster’s release of “Nobody Like You” earlier this year (Feb 17). 


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Also on Friday, Zach Williams dropped his latest music with a single titled “Stand My Ground.”  He also released the official lyric video...


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Singer, songwriter, and worship leader Patrick Mayberry releases his latest music with “No One Like You Lord.” and the official lyric video...


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Finally, Colton Dixon is debuted a brand new single last week, “Made to Fly.” “Made to Fly” will impact radio on April 30, and follows Dixon’s 9-week streak at No 1 on Hot AC/CHR with “Devil Is A Liar” and 2020’s “Miracles,” which hit Top 5 on Billboard’s National Christian Audience chart and holding on to the No. 1 spot for 6 weeks on Hot/AC CHR last summer.

Monday, March 22, 2021

More Concerts

For King & Country fans... On March 25th at 7pm CST, four-time GRAMMY Award-winning duo for KING & COUNTRY will be showcasing the for KING & COUNTRY THE LIVE CONCERT FILM – a full-length concert performance from the duo’s internationally acclaimed Burn The Ships I The World Tour. The one-hour concert special will give fans an exclusive perspective of for KING & COUNTRY’s last arena show before the COVID-19 pandemic, giving a close-up view of the incredible live show that the duo has become known for. From intimate backstage moments to passionate singalongs with the sold-out audience, this is the most complete chance to see for KING & COUNTRY’s fully produced live spectacle. for KING & COUNTRY THE LIVE CONCERT FILM will be available to view on for KING & COUNTRY’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

“We’ve really missed performing and seeing all of you over the last year,” Joel and Luke Smallbone share. “But, in that time, we’ve been working hard to put together the ‘for KING & COUNTRY LIVE CONCERT FILM’ for you all! So, on March 25th at 7pm CST, we’d like to invite you to share what was our last sold-out arena show, before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world. Mark your calendars, let’s share some music and together let’s step into a new day.” 

for KING & COUNTRY brought Burn The Ships to fans across the globe, selling out concerts across the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, and Singapore. Burn The Ships produced three No. 1 singles, including the multi-week hits “joy.” and “God Only Knows,” the latter of which has accumulated over 50 million YouTube views.

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And... from Sidewalk Prophets more chances to see great livestream concerts from this group:  

Over the past year, these live stream events have become a very special way for us to keep connected with you.  As we prepare to make our return to playing in person shows (very soon), we wanted to create a very special live stream experience.  With that in mind, we actually decided to create FIVE live stream experiences. During each of these five shows, we'll be playing one of our studio albums from front to back.  We'll also be sharing exclusive original song demos, and never before heard stories behind songs.  That means you'll get to hear all the songs you love along with the songs we rarely perform live.  We're excited for the challenge.  Below is the schedule for the concerts. 

  • April 2 - These Simple Truths Album
  • April 9 - Live Like That Album
  • April 16 - Something Different Album
  • April 30 - The Things That Got Us Here Album
  • May 7 - Merry Christmas To You Album 
SWP wants to make these live stream concerts as affordable as possible.  That is why they created the "Pay What You Can System".  This system allows you to pay what you can afford to watch a show.  They do offer a free option, and are happy to do so.  Please keep in mind, that if you can afford to purchase a ticket, you should do so.  Get you tickets for one or all concerts HERE.

A great way to spend your Friday nights in April...

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Won't You Be My Neighbor

I just discovered that today (March 20th) is Won't You Be My Neighbor Day. This is a day to remember and honor Fred Rogers, that iconic children’s TV presenter of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. His show reached it’s heyday in popularity back in the 1970’s and 80’s, and repeats can still be seen today. Gentle, soft-spoken Mr. Rogers was a mainstay for preschoolers and their parents; teaching them that respect of those around you and a good attitude were just as important as learning your colors and letters.

Why not don a 70’s style sweater today, and speak softly to your partner? Be mindful of how you can show kindness and patience in explaining a simple concept to a child (or perhaps even to a work colleague!) After all, it’s a beautiful day for a neighbor – and for being neighborly!

So for your listening enjoyment...

Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian, and many of the messages he expressed in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were inspired by the core tenets of Christianity. Rogers rarely spoke about his faith on air; he believed that teaching through example was as powerful as preaching. He was a pioneer in recognizing television as a powerful vehicle of formation. It was this vision paired with his theological training that made for a truly unique approach. 

Rogers’ work not only challenged many societal assumptions but exemplified his understanding of religion as a tool for service. Rogers invited his viewers to be open to our own neighbors by modeling it himself.

In the end, Rogers’ mission was as simple as it was timeless: Love thy neighbor.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Flashback Friday

 Last week we took a look back at the history of Amy Grant. This week's logical choice then would be an artist that often collaborated with her... Michael W. Smith. He is an American musician who has charted in both contemporary Christian and mainstream charts and to date has sold more than 18 million albums.

In 1978, Smith moved to Nashville, taking a job as a landscaper to support himself. He played with several local bands in the Nashville club scene. He also developed a problem with substance abuse.

In November 1979, Smith suffered a breakdown that led to his recommitment to Christianity. The next day he auditioned for a new contemporary Christian music (CCM) group, Higher Ground, as a keyboardist and got the job. His lead vocals were heard on much of CCM radio with the single, "I Am". It was on his first tour with Higher Ground, playing mostly in churches, that Smith was finally able to put the drugs and alcohol behind him.

In 1981, while he was playing keyboards for Higher Ground, Smith was signed as a writer to Meadowgreen Music, where he wrote numerous gospel hits penned for artists such as Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither and Amy Grant, to the effect that some of these popular worship songs can now be found in church hymnals. The following year, Smith began touring as a keyboardist for Grant on her Age to Age tour.

He would eventually become Grant's opening act and recorded his first Grammy-nominated solo album The Michael W. Smith Project (which he also produced himself) in 1983. This album contained the first recording of his hit "Friends"...

By the time Smith's second album Michael W. Smith 2 was released in 1984, he was headlining his own tours. In 1986, Smith released The Big Picture.

After the release of his 1988 effort, i 2 (EYE), Smith once again collaborated with Grant for her "Lead Me On" world tour. The following year, Smith recorded his first Christmas album, simply titled Christmas (1989).

In 1990, Smith released Go West Young Man, his first mainstream effort, which included the mainstream crossover hit single "Place in This World". The song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. 


In 1991 he won the Favorite New Adult Contemporary Artist at the American Music Awards. In 1992, he released Change Your World, which included the No. 1 adult contemporary hit "I Will Be Here for You". In 1993 Smith released his first box set, The Wonder Years and his first greatest hits album, The First Decade (1983–1993). The latter also includes two new songs, "Do You Dream of Me?" and "Kentucky Rose". In 1995, Smith released his eighth album I'll Lead You Home, which combines the pop style of his secular albums with a touch of religious feel. Live the Life (1998) and This Is Your Time (1999) follow the same style. In 1998, Smith also released his second Christmas album, Christmastime.

Nearly all of Smith's albums include at least one instrumental track, and in 2000, Smith recorded his first all instrumental album, Freedom. The following year, Smith released his first all-worship music album, Worship, on September 11. This album was followed by a sequel, Worship Again in 2002. Both albums were recorded live in concert. 

Smith won the Male Vocalist of the Year award at the GMA Music Awards in 2003. The same year he also released his second greatest hits album, The Second Decade (1993–2003).

Smith's album, Healing Rain, was released in 2004 and debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart. The title track rose to No. 1 on the Radio & Records Charts and a music video for the song was released. The album combines the pop style of his previous recordings with the religious feel of his two live worship albums. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. In 2006 he released Stand, which is similar to Healing Rain (2004) in style and genre but with more Christian-themed songs. 

In October 2007, he released his third Christmas album, It's a Wonderful Christmas. On June 20, 2008, Smith recorded his third live Worship album at the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, titled A New Hallelujah. It was released in October 2008. That same month he began a tour with Steven Curtis Chapman. 

In 2009 Smith was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  In September 2010, he released Wonder. Smith's second instrumental album, Glory, was released on November 22, 2011. The following year he released his third compilation album, Decades of Worship (2012).

In 2014, Smith released three albums, Hymns, Sovereign, and The Spirit of Christmas. Smith, along with Amy Grant, was honored as the "cornerstone of Christian music" by ASCAP in 2014 for his significant influence on the genre. In 2015, Smith and his son Tyler wrote the score and soundtrack for the film 90 Minutes in Heaven, which he also has a small acting role in.

In November 2015, Smith and Amy Grant started their annual Christmas tour again after a roughly 15-year break.

Smith's second hymns album, called Hymns II - Shine on Us, was released on January 29, 2016.  On February 23, 2018, Smith released another album called Surrounded which is his first live worship album in ten years. On February 22, 2019, Smith released Awaken: The Surrounded Experience, a live worship album.

Smith continues to record and write music today and is often heard on CCM radio. Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, an American Music Award recipient, and has earned 45 Dove Awards. In 1999, ASCAP awarded him with the "Golden Note" Award for lifetime achievement in songwriting, and in 2014 they honored him as the "cornerstone of Christian music" for his significant influence on the genre. He also has recorded 31 No. 1 Hit songs, fourteen gold albums, and five platinum albums. He has also starred in two films and published 14 books.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Truth vs. Conspiracy Theories

I found this interesting article at Crosswalk.com and wanted to share. It seems relevant after the events of the past year...

Disinformation has always been around, but there’s no question that it spreads like wildfire today. We’ve all seen it – someone sends out a newsy tweet with incorrect information and it goes viral. The correction tweet walking back that same information barely gets shared at all.

The rise in the use of social media is a big factor in the spread of false information, but it’s not entirely to blame. After all, it’s only the medium. It’s largely us humans (Russian bots, notwithstanding) on the other end of the keyboard propagating it.

In 2013 following the Boston Marathon bombing, Twitter became a main source of news and information. Unfortunately, as everyone hungered for updates, rumors and untruths began to spread. This caused three MIT scholars to conduct a study on this phenomenon. The findings are not all that surprising: false news spreads more rapidly on Twitter than real news does--and by a substantial margin.

“We found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude,” says Sinan Aral, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of study. As it turns out, it’s the novelty factor that draws people to share false information. People desire the attention of being “in the know” and that leads to hitting the share button.

The last couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic a rise in the sharing of false information and conspiracy theories. It’s invaded all of our Facebook feeds, as we’ve seen “news” articles or documentaries spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, the COVID-19 pandemic and more. The group QAnon is a household name now, as the conspiracies they champion eventually led to the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6. And, it’s not just a problem out there in the world--it has invaded the church.

I’ve really been burdened by this, as I’ve witnessed how easily captivated many of my friends, family members and fellow Christians are by false information. I’ve seen people I love and respect, people who I believe are committed followers of Jesus, share debunked information that is blatantly false. I’ve even seen pastors on my social feed sharing such information, and it’s heartbreaking.

In a recent Lifeway Research study, 49% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they frequently hear church members repeating conspiracy theories. But, how can we be followers of the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), and be so captivated by lies?

For starters, let’s take a closer look at the makings of a conspiracy theory. Aaron Earls, writing for Lifeway Research, defines conspiracy theories as “descriptions of an event that reject the standard explanation and credit a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot.”

Mary Jo Sharp, author of the book “Living in Truth: Confident Conversations in a Conflicted Culture,” says there are two main reasons people are drawn to conspiracy theories—ease of understanding and escape from the ordinary.

“In some ways, conspiracy theories provide people with a neat-and-tidy box in answering a question or issue,” she says. “While the theory may seem outlandish or complex, it typically limits the scope of the issue in question.”

They often ignore the complexity of an issue so it can be easily explained and digested. In that way, Sharp refers to conspiracy theories as “fast food for the mind.”

We, even as Christians, are drawn to these types of conspiracies because they reinforce things we want to be true. We don’t want to accept the outcome of an election, so we share false information about it being rigged. We don’t want to accept the reality of the pandemic, so we advance conspiracies that contradict doctors’ recommendations. Just as the MIT researchers found, we share these little-known “facts” with our audience out of pride in showcasing our own ability to discern and the desire to puff ourselves up.

So, what is the big deal? After all, Christians who share this type of information would argue that God has given us the ability seek after the truth, and the reason they share it would be out of an earnest desire to find it.

Spreading false information isn’t just a bad idea. For Christians, it’s sinful and it is devastating to our Gospel witness.

Rich Stearns, author and former president of World Vision recently tweet this: “Probably the most dangerous threat to our nation in my lifetime - Not Trump, not Biden, not climate change, not socialism, not Covid - disinformation and the death of truth.”

God commands us in Exodus 23: “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil…” (Exodus 23: 1-2).

God has given us an important job: to share the good news of the Gospel to those around us. We are called to share Jesus--the Truth--with the world. To do that, our credibility matters. The world is watching, so when we share false information, we are building walls, not bridges. No matter how earnest we may be, sharing conspiracy theories communicates that we have little regard for facts and we are primarily interested in advancing our own agenda. Why would someone listen to us talk about Jesus?

Practically speaking, what should our posture be to sharing information on social media? Pray before you post. We need to examine our own motives to find out if we are advancing God’s agenda or ours.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139: 23-24).

Rich Stearns is right. Disinformation and the death of truth is a dangerous threat in our world and in the Church.

Fortunately, the Truth with a capital T, is alive and well, and He alone can set us free (John 8:32). 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day. So do you celebrate like Dr. Seuss with green eggs and ham or in a more Irish style with corn beef and cabbage? St. Patrick's Day has become a pretty secular holiday, but when it comes to Saint Patrick, the true story is even more exciting than the legend and the myth. The facts are far better than the fable. This day that belongs to St. Patrick has become about leprechauns, shamrocks, pots of gold, and green—green everywhere. But long before there was the St. Patrick of myth, there was the Patrick of history. Who was Patrick?

Patrick was born in 385 in Roman Britannia in the modern-day town of Dumbarton, Scotland. Patrick opens his autobiographical St. Patrick’s Confession with these opening lines:

My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time.

Patrick skips over much of his first sixteen years. But who can blame him? At sixteen and being captured by barbarian Irish pirates is a pretty exciting place to begin a story. When the pirates landed on the Irish coast, they took Patrick about 200 miles inland where he was a shepherd and farm laborer. Six years passed and Patrick had either a vivid dream or a vision in which he was shown an escape route. Emboldened, Patrick made his break from his captors, traveling back over the 200 miles to the shoreline. As he approached the docks, a British ship stood waiting. The sails unfurled and Patrick was home. But he didn’t stay long.

Before he was a prisoner, Patrick’s Christian faith meant little to him. That changed during his captivity. His previously ambivalent faith galvanized and served to buoy him through those long, dark days. Now that he was back in his homeland he committed to his faith in earnest. He became a priest and soon felt a tremendous burden for the people that had kidnapped him. So he returned to Ireland with a mission. Patrick’s missionary work over the next thirty years was truly remarkable. He journeyed across Ireland, spreading the gospel, baptizing and confirming countless believers and founding many churches and monasteries. 

Patrick had no less of a goal than seeing pagan Ireland converted. These efforts did not set well with Loegaire, the pagan king of pagan Ireland. Patrick faced danger and even threats on his life. He took to carrying a dagger. Yet, despite these setbacks, Patrick persisted. Eventually the king converted and was baptized by Patrick and much of the people of Ireland followed suit. A later legend would have it that Patrick rid all of Ireland of snakes. Snakes were not native to Ireland at the time. Instead, Patrick rid Ireland of marauding ways and a cultural and civil barbarianism by bringing not only Christianity to Ireland, but by bringing a whole new ethic. It was not too long ago that a New York Times’ bestselling book argued that St. Patrick and his Ireland saved civilization.

Patrick would come to be known as the “Apostle of Ireland.” He planted churches, the first one likely at a place called Saul, in Northern Ireland, a bit inland from the coast and just below Belfast. Patrick planted more churches as he crisscrossed Ireland. The challenge with Patrick is sifting through the legend. Take the shamrock for instance. Some biographers claim definitively that Patrick used the shamrock as an object lesson to teach pagans about the Trinity, that God is one in essence and three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no evidence, however, for such a claim.

Curiously, like most of his legend, St. Patrick is not even truly a saint. He has never been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Patrick himself told us he was a sinner, not a saint.

Legend further has it that Patrick died on March 17, 461. He likely died in Saul, where he planted his first church. A significant monument stands atop the hill overlooking the town. Panels depicting scenes from Patrick’s life surround the monument’s base.

What casts a far greater shadow than his monument, however, is St. Patrick’s Day. And that day in the middle of March raises a significant question: Should Christians celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? If you do, you might want to consider wearing orange. Orange? Here’s why. After 1798 the color of green was closely associated with Roman Catholicism and orange with Protestantism—after William of Orange, the Protestant king. The holiday is certainly not to be used as means for excessive partying and celebration. But wearing orange and trying to tell people who St. Patrick really was might be a good way to celebrate.

So we remember Patrick best not in the legends and fables and not in the ways his holiday tends to be celebrated. Historically, St. Patrick’s missionary work forever changed Ireland. His bold faith and godly character makes him one of the great saints in church history. As a former slave, he condemned slavery as an ungodly institution. As a missionary, he lived among the Irish, identified with them, honored their customs and beliefs and redeemed many of them to reflect the truth and teachings of Christianity. As an evangelist, he was driven to make God’s name known among the Irish. God used his steely resolve and ambition to advance God’s kingdom in a mighty way in Ireland. Patrick was passionate about evangelizing the Irish, but he was also passionate about educating converts in Christian living and service. Today, Patrick is seen as the ultimate model for Celtic Christians. Ultimately, his life and ministry serve as a pointer to the life and ministry of Christ himself.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

New Videos

Last week, Hannah Kerr released her latest new music with a single titled “Same God.” The track will be going to radio later this month (Mar 26).

“The same God who makes the planets spin, Tells the tide when it should rise, Put the color in my eyes,” Kerr shares about the new release.  She continues to touch the hearts of listeners reminding them of the promise that, “even when I’m feeling far away, You love me the same, God.”

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Also last week, Sinach released new music with her latest single titled “Love My Home.”This single is another pre-release ahead of Sinach’s upcoming album titled Greatest Lord. Sinach, whose full name is Osinachi Okoro, is the songwriter to over 200 songs, most recently to the world-renowned worship anthem “Way Maker.”

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Last week, seven-time GRAMMY Award winner Carrie Underwood debuted the video of "Nothing But The Blood of Jesus" from her new gospel album, My Savior, which will be released on March 26th. Joining her is Bear Reinhart of NEEDTOBREATHE.

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Also last week, Anthem Lights released a new video covering "You Raise Me Up"...

Monday, March 15, 2021

Let Go Your Troubles

Last Tuesday, Sidewalk Prophets released another video from their concert at the Ryman promoting their newest album, "Let Go Your Troubles". This song carries a great message about worry.

In the release from SWP...

"Let Go Your Troubles” is a song that makes us smile!  Over and over again, the Bible tells us not to fear. In fact, there are 365 verses in Scripture that command us not to worry—that’s one verse for every day of the year. 

Worry is worthless. Fretting about something that may never even occur can rob us of what is happening now. While it’s important to face our fears, plan for the future, and dream of what’s to come, we will never live deeply if we let worry take the wheel. 

We have talked about worry in the past. Worry doesn’t solve problems. It doesn’t keep bad things from happening. It doesn’t motivate you or help you cope. Yet we still continue to worry. I know I’m guilty of worrying. It’s so easy to get caught up in worry. We worry about finances, our health, our family, our jobs, what other people think, and what the future holds.

Over time, worry can start affecting your daily life. Doctors and psychologists will tell you that worry is bad for you, both mentally and physically. Chronic worrying can interfere with your relationships, job performance, appetite, sleep, and lifestyle. Medical science even tells us that chronic emotional stress and worry can trigger many health problems, such as suppression of your immune system, short-term memory loss, heart disease, digestive issues, and even heart attack. Mentally, worry can lead to anxiety and depression.

What does God have to say about worry? He commands us not to do it. The same God who tells us in the Bible not to lie, not to kill, not to commit adultery is now telling us in the book of Matthew that we are not to worry. It’s a command – one that so many of us have difficulty following.

Worry doesn’t just hurt us (just look at all the negative physical and mental effects of worry), but it also hurts God. Why? Because worry is the opposite of faith. When we worry, we are telling God with our actions that we don’t trust him to come through for us. We’re doubting that he will take care of us. When we stay up at night worrying about a problem, we’re essentially telling God, “I don’t have faith that you are going to take care of this problem for me.”

Ask yourself this question: When did God ever fail you?

The solution to worry is talking to Jesus. Telling Jesus about our worry. Laying all of our burdens right down at his feet. Cast your cares on Jesus, then you need to leave them there. God wants us to leave our worries with him. To have faith that he’ll come through. To stop bearing the burden of worry because we have faith that he will always take care of us, in every situation.

Whatever you’re worrying about right now, God wants you to cast that worry on him. A life if worry is not one God wants for his people. It hurts you, and it hurts Jesus. He wants to take your worries from you. And he wants to give you peace. So, Let Go Your Troubles...

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Southerner in MN

This video was posted yesterday and I had to share it because I thought it was hilarious. Home Free is one of my favorite groups (and they originated in Minnesota)...