Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Problematic Public Perception of Christians

I decided to share the following article from 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.


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.

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.

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.

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

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


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


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.


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 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). 

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

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

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.


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 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.”


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.”


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.


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)...

Friday, March 12, 2021

Flashback Friday

Okay, I have avoided this for a while. Not because I am not a fan, but because the task of writing about this week's artist's volume of work is a bit overwhelming... Today we go back to the beginning of the rise of popularity of CCM and talk about Amy Grant. Grant was born the same year I was and it seems that I grew up listening to her music. She started in contemporary Christian music (CCM) before a successful crossover to pop music in the 1980s and 1990s. She has been referred to as "The Queen of Christian Pop".

In 1976, Grant wrote her first song ("Mountain Top"), performed in public for the first time at Harpeth Hall School, the all-girls school she attended in Nashville. She recorded a demo tape for her parents with church youth-leader Brown Bannister. When Bannister was dubbing a copy of the tape, Chris Christian, the owner of the recording studio, heard the demo and called Word Records. He played it over the phone, and she was offered a recording contract, five weeks before her 16th birthday.

In 1977, she recorded her first album, Amy Grant, produced by Brown Bannister, who would also produce her next 11 albums. It was released in early 1978, one month before her high-school graduation. Toward the end of 1978 she performed her first ticketed concert after beginning her first year at Furman University.

In May 1979, while at the album-release party for her second album, My Father's Eyes, Grant met Gary Chapman, who had written the title track and would become her first husband. Grant and Chapman toured together in mid-1979. In late 1980, she transferred to Vanderbilt University. Grant then made a few more albums before dropping out of college to pursue a career in music—Never Alone, followed by a pair of live albums in 1981 (In Concert and In Concert Volume Two), both backed by an augmented edition of the DeGarmo & Key band. It was during these early shows that Grant also established one of her concert trademarks: performing barefoot. To date, Grant continues to take off her shoes midway through performances, as she has said, "it is just more comfortable."

1982 saw the release of her breakthrough album Age to Age. The album contains the signature track, "El Shaddai" (written by Michael Card) and the Grant-Chapman penned song, "In a Little While". "El Shaddai" was later awarded one of the "Songs of the Century" by the RIAA in 2001.

Grant received her first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Gospel Performance, as well as two GMA Dove Awards for Gospel Artist of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year. Age to Age became the first Christian album by a solo artist to be certified gold (1983) and the first Christian album to be certified platinum (1985).

In the mid-1980s, Grant began touring and recording with young up-and-coming songwriter Michael W. Smith. Grant and Smith continue to have a strong friendship and creative relationship, often writing songs for or contributing vocals to each other's albums, and as of 2019, often touring together annually during November and December putting on Christmas concerts. During the 1980s, Grant was also a backup singer for Bill Gaither.

Grant followed this album with the first of her Christmas albums, which would later be the basis for her holiday shows. In 1984, she released another pop-oriented Christian hit, "Straight Ahead", earning Grant her first appearance at the Grammy Awards show in 1985.

The head of NBC took notice of Grant's performance and called her manager to book her for her own Christmas special.

Hardly had Grant established herself as the "Queen of Christian Pop" when she changed directions to widen her fan base (and hence her musical message). Her goal was to become the first Christian singer-songwriter who was also successful as a contemporary pop singer. Unguarded (1985) surprised some fans for its very mainstream sound (and Grant's leopard-print jacket, in four poses for four different covers). "Find a Way", from Unguarded, became the first non-Christmas Christian song to hit Billboard Top 40 list, also reaching No. 7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. She also scored No. 18 on Billboard AC in 1986 with "Stay for Awhile". Grant scored her first Billboard No. 1 song in 1986 with "The Next Time I Fall", a duet with former Chicago singer/bassist Peter Cetera. That year, she also recorded a duet with singer Randy Stonehill for his Love Beyond Reason album, titled "I Could Never Say Goodbye", and recorded The Animals' Christmas with Art Garfunkel.

Lead Me On (1988) contained many songs that were about Christianity and love relationships, but some interpreted it as not being an obviously "Christian" record. Years later, Lead Me On would be chosen as the greatest Contemporary Christian album of all time by CCM Magazine. The mainstream song "Saved by Love" was a minor hit, receiving airplay on radio stations featuring the newly emerging Adult Contemporary format. The album's title song received some pop radio airplay and crossed over to No. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "1974 (We Were Young)" and "Saved By Love" also charted as Adult Contemporary songs. In 1989, she appeared in a Target ad campaign, performing songs off the album.

When Heart in Motion was released in 1991, many fans were surprised that the album was so clearly one of contemporary pop music. Grant's desire to widen her audience was frowned upon by the confines of the popular definitions of ministry at the time. The track "Baby Baby" (written for Grant's newborn daughter Millie) became a pop hit (hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100), and Grant was established as a name in the mainstream music world. "Baby Baby" received Grammy nominations for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Record and Song of the Year.

Four other hits from the album made the Pop top 20: "Every Heartbeat" (No. 2), "That's What Love Is For" (No. 7), "Good for Me" (No. 8), and "I Will Remember You" (No. 20). On the Adult Contemporary chart, all five songs were top 10 hits, with two of the five ("Baby Baby" and "That's What Love Is For") reaching No. 1. Many Christian fans remained loyal, putting the album atop Billboard Contemporary Christian Chart for 32 weeks. Heart in Motion is Grant's best-selling album, having sold over five million copies according to the RIAA. Grant followed the album with her second Christmas album, Home For Christmas in 1992, which included the song "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)", written by Chris Eaton and Grant.

House of Love in 1994 continued in the same vein, boasting catchy pop songs mingled with spiritual lyrics. The album was a multi-platinum success and produced the pop hit "Lucky One" (No. 18 pop and No. 2 AC; No. 1 on Radio & Records) as well as the title track (a duet with country music star and future husband Vince Gill) (No. 37 pop).

After she covered the 10cc song "The Things We Do for Love" for the Mr. Wrong soundtrack, Behind the Eyes was released in September 1997. The album struck a much darker note, leaning more towards downtempo, acoustic soft-rock songs, with more mature (yet still optimistic) lyrics.  Although "Takes a Little Time" was a moderate hit single, the album failed to sell like the previous two albums, which had both gone multi-platinum. Behind The Eyes was eventually certified Gold by the RIAA. The video for "Takes a Little Time" was a new direction for Grant with her image re-cast as an adult light rocker. She followed up Behind The Eyes with A Christmas To Remember, her third Christmas album, in 1999. The album was certified Gold in 2000.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Grant's "I Will Remember You" saw a resurgence in popularity as many radio DJs mixed a special tribute version of the song. 

Grant returned to her roots with the 2002 release of an album of hymns titled Legacy... Hymns and Faith. The album featured a Vince Gill-influenced mix of bluegrass and pop and marked Grant's 25th anniversary in the music industry. Grant followed this up with Simple Things in 2003. The album did not have the success of her previous pop or gospel efforts. The same year, Grant was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame by the Gospel Music Association, an industry trade organization of which she is a longstanding member, in her first year of eligibility. Grant released a sequel in 2005 titled Rock of Ages...Hymns and Faith. Amy Grant has several more albums, written books, and provided many performances in the following years and continues today to record and perform. Just last week we introduced a new collaboration with Ryan Stevenson, "When We Fall Apart".

As of 2009, Amy Grant had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, won six Grammy Awards and 22 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and had the first Christian album to go Platinum. She was honored with a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 for her contributions to the entertainment industry. Among praise for her contributions to the Contemporary Christian genre, Grant has also generated controversy within the Christian community, from "complaints that she was too worldly and too sexy" to a "barrage of condemnation" following her divorce and remarriage. Despite this, Amy Grant has had a hugely successful career and had a great impact on the success of Contemporary Christian Music. Here is a Spotify playlist of Amy Grant: Essentials to enjoy.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Daylight Saving Time

This coming Sunday marks every American’s least favorite part of Daylight Savings Time—waking up and discovering we were robbed of an entire hour of sleep, and then spending the remainder of the week trying to convince ourselves that 7 o’clock is the new 6 o’clock.

Daylight Savings fascinates me. It makes the universal constant of time feel completely arbitrary, as if resetting clocks across the nation grants us the power to bend the arrow of time itself.

That’s not the way it works, of course. We set the clocks forward in the spring, but we can’t just keep pretending to fast-forward through time. The clocks go back an hour in the fall because we understand that Daylight Savings has no impact on the actual flow of time. Turning our clocks forward or backward doesn’t stop time from marching forward, completely indifferent to us and our customs.

Studies have made conflicting claims over the years about the benefits and drawbacks of DST. Those in favor say that it saves energy, promotes outdoor leisure activities in the evening, and provides more time for shopping. Yay for more daylight to cook out, play a round of golf after work, and go fishing. Others have said that since most mischief happens in the dark, the extra daylight cuts down on crime.

However, the cost benefit for electric usage is negligible if you compute the cost of turning on lights for longer periods of time in the mornings while it’s still dark, and using them less in the evenings because it’s light. After all, most of our big-ticket home electrical systems run constantly, and don’t give a rip what time it is.

On the other side of the issue are those who claim that DST costs as much as $40 billion in what it takes to adjust clocks, computers, and even the stock exchanges. Health officials have concluded that DST increases the risk of heart attacks by 10%, and changes in sleep have a direct correlation to poor work performance. Contrary to the popular opinion that DST was created for the benefit of farmers, they are some of the biggest opponents of it. The rationale is that grain is best harvested after dew evaporates, so when farmers or their help arrive at earlier hours and leave later it causes quality problems with the products, especially if you depend on someone with paid-by-the-hour drivers, harvesters, and trucks whose schedules have been rearranged by the time change. Dairy farmers also complain because their cows are finicky about the timing of milking which is dictated less by the sun as much as it is by when the dairy company sends their trucks.

So I am confused, since there are both benefits and disadvantages. In the discussion of pros or cons there is one thing that’s clear: Nobody is talking about the time change from a religious perspective.

II Peter 3:8 says, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Psalm 39:4-5 and James 4:14 declare, in similar ways, that life is very fragile and transitory. “Our time on earth,” as one writer puts it, “barely registers on the eternal radar screen,” so we better use our time wisely. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 tells us the same - to use our talents and time wisely! The bottom line is that we need to make the most of time and remember that there is a time for everything...

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; ...  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV 

Or to paraphrase from the Byrds...

And on a "public service note"... while you are up changing the time on the clocks; it is still a good idea to also change your batteries in all your safety equipment such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, weather radios, flashlights, etc.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tenth Avenue North Farewell Show

Last week on a post about Mike Donehey's new EP, we talked about the retirement of Tenth Avenue North and how the pandemic cut short their farewell tour. Well, last week Tenth Avenue North shared some exciting news regarding their final shows together as a band. The band is planning a two-night epic live event from a large church in Orlando, FL on April 22nd and April 23rd at 7:30pm ET. 

Hey friends,

A year ago we hit the road on what we didn’t know would be a farewell tour when we planned it, and certainly didn’t know a pandemic was going to descend upon us when we started it.

But here we are. A year has passed, and even though the whole world shut down, you’ve been so patient and supportive, hoping and praying, along with us, that we’d get to gather and sing together in person one more time.

So, we are beyond stoked to let you know we’ve decided to do two final shows in a large church in Orlando – one night storytelling power acoustic, and the next night will be a full on rock show.

The best part – the entire band will be back together again. Jeff, Ruben, Jason, Brendon, and myself (Mike) will all be present and ready to play.

If you can’t make it to Orlando to party with us in person, we’ll also be live-streaming both nights!

We love you all and are so honored that you have supported us through all of this. We pray God continues to use our songs to bring you encouragement and assurances of His love for years to come.

Hoping to see you in Orlando,

Tenth Avenue North

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

Unfortunately, tickets are not free for this livestream, but it is probably the last chance to see this great CCM group perform. Tickets cost $15 for one night or $20 for both (plus fees) and can be gotten HERE.

After nearly two decades of great music I was sad to see Tenth Avenue North disband. I remember seeing them years ago at Sonshine Festival in Willmar. I will definitely be watching their final concerts.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

New Music

Last week, the award-winning band Sanctus Real released long-awaited new music with a single titled “My God Is Still The Same.” This is the first new music released from Sanctus Real in 2021, following the debut of 2020’s Today Tomorrow & Forever (Acoustic Sessions).


Also pop singer/songwriter Riley Clemmons released new music with a single titled “Keep On Hoping.” The track is the first release for Clemmons in 2021.

Raised on southern gospel music and classic rock, Riley began singing at a young age. She was discovered at age 13 and began attending writing sessions shortly after. At 16, Riley was signed to Capitol CMG and sky-rocketed onto the scene with her 2017 debut hit single “Broken Prayers,” which has amassed over 30M global streams since its release. Riley followed up the song with her self-titled debut album in August 2018, which debuted at No. 13. In June 2019, she released her single “Fighting For Me,” which was one of only two female songs to reach Top 5 on the National Christian Audience radio chart in 2019, establishing Riley as a radio mainstay. Riley was then nominated for “New Artist of the Year” at the 2019 Dove Awards and named a featured performer. 


Jason Nelson, best-known for his No. 1 gospel ballads “Shifting the Atmosphere” and “Forever,” is showcasing another dimension to his immense talent on the smooth, mid-tempo track, “Residue.” “Residue” is Nelson’s first release in three years and he’s planning to release a full album later in the year. 

JJ Heller began releasing monthly singles in April 2017 that together have amassed over 55 million combined streams to date (through August 2020). Last Friday Heller released “Anything.” The songstress will continue to announce a brand-new song on the first Friday of each month.

I really enjoy this month's release...

Monday, March 8, 2021

Easter Traditions

I found an interesting article about Easter traditions on that I would like to share...

As Easter approaches and we prepare for celebration, you may begin to wonder why we observe or partake in some of the traditions that have become so commonplace.

Many of these traditions date back to the first Easter in remembrance, while some have been altered from Pagan spring rituals to represent Christian themes instead.

As you organize your upcoming Easter plans, the meaning behind these traditions can help them become richer in value and consideration. Here are eight secular and Christian traditions and where they come from.

1. Easter Egg Dyeing

For children, especially the coloring and dyeing of Easter eggs is one of the most recalled aspects of Easter weekend.

The eggs represent a new season, new life, or rebirth. Easter eggs find their root in Pagan Spring rituals as the Earth becomes lush and green again in the Spring, but Christians have brought the practice into Easter for a new approach.

The eggs represent Jesus emerging from the Tomb alive, and the egg is not a far stretch of life emerging.

During the 13th century, eggs were not a permitted food during the Lenten season, thus making eggs a celebratory reward at the end of the forty days. Consider this year as you dye Easter eggs discussing how through the Holy Spirit we are given new life and rebirth.

Consider also how dye colors can represent Holy colors. Purple is the color of royalty, red of the blood of Christ spilled for us, and green as restoration. As with all things Easter, we must keep our minds and hearts in remembering all Christ did for us.

2. Easter Bunny and Easter Baskets 

Much like Easter eggs, the Easter bunny finds its roots in Pagan tradition.

A celebration of Spring was a typical practice for Pagan religions, and rabbits represent fertility as they typically reproduce in great number. As traditions changed and evolved with time the folklore of an Easter bunny tied in with Easter eggs and Easter baskets for children.

It can be a bit harder to find a stretch of how the Easter bunny can connect with the true story of Easter, but we can recall how God has made all animals big and small. We can remind our children how in the Garden of Eden God instructed Adam to name each of the animals, including rabbits.

It is also the duty of man to subdue the Earth, that includes being kind to animals big and small and respecting them. Hollow chocolate bunnies in baskets can also point to how the Tomb was empty that Sunday morning as Jesus kept His promise in rising again. 

3. Easter Brunch and Ham

Typically, families with gather at large at Christmas and at Easter, and where there are people food makes it a party. After Easter services brunch is a popular meal or a late lunch usually serving lamb or ham.

Lamb was the chosen main dish throughout Europe generally with connection that Jesus was the Spotless Sacrificial Lamb and the great reminder of such. In America, ham became popular due to pork’s ability to be salted, cured, and stored through the winter for Spring consumption.

What ham also signifies is how with the sacrifice Jesus made for His people on Earth a new covenant was established, making clean what was unclean.

In the Jewish tradition, pork was considered an unclean food, but in Acts 10 Peter is given a vision from God in which he is told, “The voice spoke to him a second time: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Enjoying a meal of ham reminds us that Christ has made us clean.

Hot cross buns are another aspect of the meal that have a cross on the top to signify the cross of Christ. Lastly, a time of prayer often occurs at an Easter brunch, connecting families more deeply than by blood, but by the Spirit of God.

4. Lent

The season of Lent begins forty days prior to Easter beginning on Ash Wednesday in preparation for Easter.

Ash Wednesday starts Lent traditionally with a service and a mark of ashes in the shape of a Cross on one’s forehead. Forty is a common number in the Bible used for increments of time for a certain period of preparation, a journey, or fasting.

Jesus retreated to the wilderness for forty days of fasting prior to His public ministry, Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai with God, and Elijah spent forty days and nights walking to Mount Horeb. The number forty is also often connected with testing.

During Lent Christians often fast from something, be it a type of food, an activity, or a distraction in order to give that time in dedication to prayer and spending focus on God. This prepares our hearts prior to Easter and fastens our focus to Christ. 

5. Maundy Thursday Communion

Maundy Thursday comes the day before Good Friday and follows the tradition of taking communion.

Christ joined with His disciples the night before He was taken to be killed and it was there at the last supper that He broke the bread and poured the wine signifying what He was about to do.

Participating in this custom reminds us metaphorically through the taking of the bread and the wine of what Jesus actually did the next day.

Services will include a communion service, or you may participate intimately at home sharing, ““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.”

Whether carried out at church or among believers elsewhere, hold richly the importance of this day in the leading up to Easter.

6. Good Friday Service

Following Maundy Thursday comes Good Friday. The typical custom for this day may include a church service or the reading from the Gospels of the events after Jesus broke bread with His disciples in Communion.

A time of prayer recalling His prayer for unity among believers (John 17) in the Garden of Gethsemane is often observed, leading then to the retelling of the events of Jesus being taken by guards before Pilate and then horrifically beaten and crucified.

Good Friday is a dark and solemn part of the traditions of Easter, but it is vital to remember that in fact Jesus did die for mankind. John 19 shares of that day and the burden He undertook for us.

Additionally, it should be highlighted of the tearing of the curtain after Jesus took His final breath that Friday and the Earthquake that ensued in Matthew 27, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.”

The curtain being torn was the physical representation of what Jesus had just done in removing the barrier between God and man. Let us observe Good Friday in remembrance of His sacrifice. 

7. Sunrise Service

Sunrise services are in connection with how it was discovered that in fact Jesus had kept His promise in rising again on the third day.

Matthew 28 explains, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

Because of this joyous event at Dawn on the third day we now celebrate Easter with sunrise services because in fact the Son did Rise. 

8. Flowering of the Cross

Outside many churches on Easter Sunday it is common to decorate or adorn a Cross with flowers. This tradition signifies adorning what was once the marker of death as something beautifully transformed because of how Jesus kept His promise.

As you place flowers gently on the Cross consider the parts of your own life Jesus has redeemed and made beautiful. What things were once so awful, soiled, or painful that because of Christ are now redeemed and made new?

Continue this tradition with a heart of thankfulness of how Jesus can redeem even the worst of things.

A Call to Continue Traditions 

Each year we carefully select what opportunities we will carry out at holidays.

Many new and family-specific traditions will join with, but consider these traditions of old and how we can point each of them towards Christ.

Share the meaning behind traditions with those you celebrate with and bring the center of the conversation towards remembering Christ and the great love He has for us. 

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.