Ten Albums That Changed The Way I Viewed Music

As the title suggests, I am going to list (and briefly comment) on ten albums that I have come across in my forty-five (almost forty-six) years that made me stop and go, “Wow…that is something different.” I encountered each of these albums at different points in my life so that may explain the diversity found in the list. To those who know me or who have read any of my musical posts, most of these won’t be surprising. However, I think that a few may raise some eyebrows. Here goes nothing. These are not in any kind of order.

Electric Light Orchestra – Time

This one shouldn’t come as a shocker. I first heard this album when I was in sixth grade. It was one of my first true exposures to music outside of the church (and AM radio) and it blew my mind. Thirty-five years later it is still a unique album and quite difficult to describe to those who have never heard. It remains my favorite album of all time. I don’t know what else I can say about it that I haven’t already said.

King’s X – Out Of The Silent Planet

This one was a couple of years old when I first heard it but that doesn’t matter. I had already listened to their second album (Gretchen Goes To Nebraska) and was mesmerized by their combination of heavy guitars and lush melodies. The spiritual lyrics only added to the mix. When I finally heard the debut I realized that Christians could write original music and address their faith without resorting to cliches and Jesus Prom songs. I still enjoy their music but nothing they’ve done eclipses the first three albums and this one is my favorite.

Thrice – Vheissu

I have only been listening to Thrice for about ten years and I can thank Neil Anglen for it. We were classmates at Roanoke Bible College (now Mid-Atlantic Christian University) and he played one of their songs (Image Of The Invisible) before chapel one morning. My memory may be wrong but I think he originally wanted to play it in chapel and was denied. I can remember sitting there and absorbing the lyrics. I had heard of Thrice but they were a band that the “kids” listened to. Remember that I was thirty-five at the time. The first thing that impressed me was the musicianship. Those guys can really play. The second thing was the way in which vocalist/lyricist Dustin Kensrue addressed his faith in such a way that it felt real. Once again, this wasn’t your typical KLOVE Jesus Pop. It was intense and it was genuine. I am eagerly awaiting their new album later this month.

16 Horsepower – Low Estate

I discovered the music of David Eugene Edwards after one of the Paul twins (can’t remember if it was Stuart or Stephen…sorry guys) sent me a link to a documentary on YouTube. I was captivated by the guy and probably watched that video four or five times. Edwards, like the guys in King’s X and Dustin Kensrue, addressed faith and spiritual issues in his lyrics. What grabbed me about him was the music. I honestly can’t describe it. I’ve seen it called “alternative country” but it incorporates so many different styles that one simple description just doesn’t work. Edwards went on to form Wovenhand after 16 Horsepower and he continues to make some of the most original and honest music I have ever listened to.

John Mark McMillan – The Medicine

If you are paying attention you will notice the common theme in most of these. With the exception of the E.L.O. album, all of these are from artists who are/were addressing their faith in honest and creative ways. McMillan follows this pattern. He is the author of How He Loves (which became popular after David Crowder covered it) but the rest of this album is leaps and bounds above that song. He isn’t as cryptic as some of the others and makes very clear professions of Christian faith but the music is moving and the lyrics are thought-provoking. Death In His Grave is probably my favorite song on the album and would probably rank in my top twenty-five songs of all time.

Citizens & Saints – Join The Triumph

I don’t follow a lot of modern praise and worship music but I have friends who do and occasionally one of them will suggest an album. Matthew Lloyd told me to check this one out sometime last year when it was still relatively new. Lyrically it is closer to some of the stuff you hear on modern Christian radio but musically it sounds like it stepped out of a time machine from the year 1983. The best way to describe it is Retro New Wave. It reminds me of those synthpop bands from the early days of music video. This is one I like to play in the car when I’m driving through the hills. It showed me that there are still some people in the modern Christian music industry who are making quality music that isn’t just cookie cutter pop drivel.

Stryper – Soldiers Under Command

This is another band (and album) that I have talked about quite a bit. The reason is that is made such an indelible mark on me as a teenager. I grew up going to church and I knew music within the context of the church. I knew pop and rock music from the radio and as I hit my teen years I discovered even more. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there were Christians making music that was similar to the stuff I liked. You just didn’t hear it in church. I remember the first time I heard Stryper. It was earth-shattering. Here was a band that looked and sounded like the other hard rock bands I was into…and they were singing about God. Stryper opened my eyes to Christian rock music (for good and bad) and remain one of my favorite bands. The fact that they are still recording new music and touring amazes me.

Lecrae –Rehab

It may surprise some people to know that I listen to some rap and hip-hop. Remember that I was a teenager when groups like Run DMC and Beastie Boys were getting popular. I even remember hearing The Sugar Hill Gang and Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five before that. Rap grew up at the same time I did so it was pretty much a constant on my musical radar. There were even some Christian rappers in the early days but I will be honest, many of them were pretty silly. It wasn’t until Frank Johnson played me Lecrae that I realized there were some really talented Christians making interesting records. I have since stumbled onto Trip Lee, Flame, and several others but to me, Lecrae is at the top of the game. I know everyone won’t dig it but for someone who appreciates rap he is definitely one to listen to.

Jars Of Clay – Jars Of Clay

Their debut album came out right as I was dropping out of Bible college in 1995. I was going through a serious crisis of faith at the time and I was shutting a lot of churchy things out of my life at the time. I was tired of things that felt phony and forced and most of the Christian music out at the time felt exactly like that. My response to Jars Of Clay because I was hoping to start a band and that was the name I wanted to use. I remember deliberately refusing to buy the album because I was so mad over the name. Once I finally picked it up and heard Liquid for the first time I got over it. Even though I liked Petra and Stryper (and tons of other Christian bands) Jars Of Clay were the first band I heard playing something unique. They weren’t copying the lasted trend on pop radio. I would suggest that they actually started a trend but that’s just me. In my opinion, this album ranks as one of the best Christian albums ever.

Rush – Hold Your Fire

Before any Rush fans march on my office and have me tarred and feathered, hear me out. I realize that this just might be the least liked album in Rush’s career but it was the first one I ever heard. I was in high school and Time Stand Still had just been released as a single. I knew next to nothing about Rush at the time but I’m pretty sure I had heard Tom Sawyer. I even recognized them as the same band who made the videos for Distant Early Warning (remember the kid riding the missile?) and The Big Money. Unlike many fans, it wasn’t Rush’s music that grabbed my attention. It was the lyrics. I had just started trying to write my own stuff at the time and to hear a rock band writing about important things was different. They sounded like they had something to say. That made a lasting impression on me and the way I try to write. That doesn’t mean I haven’t written some pretty bad stuff. What is does mean is that I try to set the bar high and at least give it my best shot. Rush was the first band to make me realize that rock guys could have something intelligent to say.

 

So…there you have it. If you don’t know some of those artists, go to YouTube and look them up. You may not like them all but you just might get a surprise.

Grace and peace.

 

God Knows Me

1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

Psalm 139:1-6 (NLT)

 

God knows me. That brings me comfort. He knows everything about me and He cares for me and He loves me enough that He died for me. I believe that He sees everything that I am going through and He will never abandon me. That is amazing. I confess, I sometimes struggle with that but I do believe that it is true. He knows when I don’t feel well. He knows when things are are not going well. He is there with me through thick and thing.

God knows me. That frightens me. He knows everything about me. Let that one sink in for a second. Not one wrong deed, one wrong word, or one wrong thought escapes Him. He knows it all. Even when I am able to put on my game face and fool others, God sees it all. There is no fooling Him or pulling the wool over His eyes. He knows everything.

The thing that blows my mind is that both of those are true. That’s the beauty of grace. Even though He does know all the shady stuff in my life, He still loves me and He still watches over me. Verse 6 of this Psalm sums it up perfectly.

It is too wonderful for me. It’s too great for me to understand.

There are some things we have to take on faith. I believe that for many of us, grace is one of them. I have always had trouble grasping it. I know that I am messed up. I know that God knows. How can He still love me? I don’t know but I do believe. It is an awesome (and terrifying) thing to be completely known by the Creator of the universe. I am so grateful that we He does look at me He sees the blood of Jesus instead of who I am without it.

Grace and peace.

This One Has No Title

This will be a short one, sorry. I am still working through the parables and I will be continuing that series. I do have some musical related posts in the works and they will eventually find their way up here as well. However, at the present moment I have a lot on my mind and I can’t seem to focus on any one topic. I have been reading through the Gospels a lot lately and it sometimes feels like I’m seeing Jesus for the very first time in my life. I think that is a good thing. There have been many times in my life when I got too comfortable with him and he became nothing more than a caricature or one of those old school flannelgraph cut-outs from by-gone Sunday School lessons.

I want to be authentic. I want to really live like I believe all those things I say I believe in. If we’re honest, we all have moments when we contradict ourselves. Not one of us is perfect so I guess that it to be expected from time to time. However, I want to me MORE consistent as I get older. I will still have faults but when people look at me I want them to be able to say that I truly have the love of Christ. That can be scary because there are times when really living out that love will offend people, even people who call themselves Christian. I have to get to the point where I don’t care about that. I need to care more about identifying with Jesus than I do anything else in this world. Without his Spirit living within me, that is impossible.

On a different (but slightly related) note, I really want to go on a mission trip somewhere. It has been a few years since I went to Ghana and that wasn’t a true mission trip. I don’t even know where I would like to go but I do know that I want to go somewhere. One of the most amazing things that happened when I went to Africa was seeing believers living out their faith in totally different context. So much of what I understand about Christianity has been informed by the American Church. There are some who actually seem to identify the two as being the same. That frustrates me. It saddens me. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying. I know that the Church in other parts of the world isn’t perfect either.  The Church has humans in it and it will have faults. I just know that it is nice to step out of the familiar every now and then. I would like to do it again.

I was reading the parable of the good Samaritan this morning. That story really resonates with me. Jesus says that we need to love one another. That happens when we look out for the needs of others. I know I have room for improvement there. My prayer is that God will continue to convict me when I am wrong and my heart will soften so that it breaks when His breaks.

Grace and peace.

Torn

14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart.23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Romans 7:14-25 (NLT)

 

I sometimes beat myself up when I slip up and do/say/think something that I shouldn’t. I would guess that I am not alone in this. I have been “in church” my entire life and I have claimed to be a Christian for the majority of it. With me it’s not an issue of not knowing what I believe to be wrong and right. I recognize that there will always be gray areas we disagree over. However, I would venture to say that the overwhelming majority of the things that I do that are wrong do not fall into that category. Usually it’s something that I have done before and I am firmly convinced that it is wrong. If that’s the case, why do I keep doing some of those things? Paul seems to be addressing this very issue in Romans 7.

He describes it as a war between the mind and the body. He says that he knows what is good and wants to do it but he keeps doing the wrong that he knows he shouldn’t. I think the image of a war is perfect. I feel that same tension in my life. I have been listening to a band called All Star United this morning and one of the songs on their first album addresses the same thing.

It’s excruciating
I know you need to know where we stand
Is there harm in waiting?
Is this my only chance to take your hand?

I’m torn in two by what I should or should not do
Torn, I’m torn in two, will you wait for me, if I run from you?

I really must confess
It feels like there’s a war in me
I’m drawn to those who offer less
But is this really where I need to be?

I’m torn in two by what I should or should not do
Torn, I’m torn in two, will you wait for me, if I run from you?

Over this I’m losing rest I can’t bear to turn away
If I try a second guess oh, I gamble it away, I’m torn

Torn, I’m torn in two, will you wait for me, should I run from you?

lyrics by Ian Eskelin

 

I think Eskelin echoes Paul’s words perfectly. It is a war. There are two sides trying to tear us apart. Often times we know that we’re being pulled away from where God wants us and we still go. Our sinful natures (which are weak) give in. May God give us the strength to fight the war and win. The truth is, He already has. Romans 8:1 tells us:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

We will have set backs. We will slip up and stumble sometimes. We will choose to do wrong even when we know we shouldn’t. However, the blood of Jesus has saved us and we find grace, mercy, and forgiveness in him. In our weakness, he is strong.

Grace and peace.

 

The Parables Of Jesus: Salt & Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

 

When I decided I wanted to go through the parables of Jesus, I looked in different sources to see just how many there are. I was surprised to see the lists range from 33 to 60. Some lists only include the teachings that fall clearly in the parable category. Others include every parable and proverbial phrase. The list I’m using has 46 and some of them probably fall into that latter group. Verse 13 of this passage is most likely one of those. However, I believe it ties into verses 14 through 16 so I’ve included it here.

Nearly every commentary I’ve read mentions the two properties of salt when referencing verse 13. Salt is used to season things and it is used to preserve things. This would be especially true in the days before refrigeration. Mark Moore points out two more additional characteristics of salt. In Leviticus 2:13 salt is used to purify sacrifices. Salt also produces thirst. While the latter two are interesting to ponder, Jesus is most likely referring to the first two. What he seems to be telling his audience (a crowd gathered on a mountainside) is that they are to have a positive influence on the world around them. He warns them that if they aren’t “salty” enough then they’ll be thrown out. Salt is useless if it gets wet or is contaminated and cannot produce the expected results. Likewise, we are pretty much useless if we are not making a positive impact on those around us.

Jesus then goes on to say that those who follow him are to be lights shining in such a way that people see and give thanks to God. You don’t light a lamp and then hide it. You light it so that it will penetrate the darkness around you. In this context I believe Jesus is talking about doing good for others. Notice that he says you should put your lamp on a stand so that everyone can benefit from it. When you live in the mountains and are driving at night you can see every little light that is on. They stand out in the darkness. If you are driving along and come up on a city or town you can see the lights before you get there. The beacon of a lighthouse is visible from far away. I believe Jesus is teaching that the good deeds we do (for others) is a flicker of light in the darkness. It only takes a little bit of light to break the darkness. Those who claim to follow him should make sure they are giving off light, not so that people will praise us. We do it so that they will see God.

Grace and peace.

The Parables Of Jesus: Old Versus New

33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”

34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Luke 5:33-39 (NIV)

 

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Matthew 9:14-17 (NIV)

 

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Mark 2:18-22 (NIV)

 

The first recorded parable of Jesus (technically it’s two) is one that I haven’t always understood. I am not claiming to have brilliant insights into it now, but I do think I have a better grasp on what is being taught here. I have been fortunate enough to study under some really good professors at both Mid-Atlantic Christian University and Liberty University. One of the things I was taught is that I should do my best to look at the original context of any given passage. I should make every effort to identify the speaker, the audience, and the purpose for what is being said. I try to do this whenever I study and I have found that some of the more difficult passages don’t seem so difficult when I use this approach.

When you look at this parable (or parables) you see that it is Jesus’ response to a question concerning fasting. There is a comparison made between the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of both John the Baptist and the Pharisees. Apparently, people have noticed that Jesus and his disciples don’t appear to fast as much as the others. The question is simple: Why?

In The Chronological Life Of Christ, Mark Moore suggests that Jesus makes two very important statements here. The first is that it is inappropriate for his disciples to fast while he is still with them. They should be joyful and celebrate while the Lord is there. He even points out that there will come a time when he will be gone and they will mourn and fast. Jesus uses imagery from a Jewish wedding feast. The guests rejoice while the bridegroom is there with them. They have no reason to fast and grieve. For Jesus’ disciples that day was coming.

The second thing Moore points out is the clash between the old and new. The religious leaders of the day were the guardians of the old, legalistic system. Jesus represented a new way of thinking that pointed to authentic worship of God. He spoke of grace and love where the established system was centered around keeping the laws and rules. The result was guilt and oppression. Both the new patch and the new wine represent the true kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish. He wasn’t attempting to patch up the old system or reform it. Either one would have disastrous results. Jesus was bringing something new.

Luke adds an interesting detail in verse 39. He says that people prefer the old wine, even after tasting the new. That definitely seems to be the way many people respond to Jesus. They prefer to cling to the old, familiar, comfortable way of doing things. It doesn’t matter that Jesus is bringing something better. It doesn’t matter that he’s replacing guilt with grace. People are either offended or frightened by what he is teaching. They want no part of it.

My goal for the next several weeks is to look at the parables of Jesus. I may veer off topic some and go down a rabbit trail or two, but I really feel like I can benefit from revisiting these teachings. Some of them are very familiar to me but I find that I see something new each time I dust them off. There are also a few that are puzzling. Hopefully I can gain new insight to those.

Grace and peace.

My One Brush With Fame

Fourteen years ago I was handed a demo for a song that a buddy of mine was working on. His band was writing material that would eventually end up on their debut album and he asked if I would like to try writing some lyrics. I gave it my best shot and handed him a few lines and honestly didn’t think much about it. I was in the process of writing some songs of my own and trying to decided how/if I wanted to keep playing music. I had two young sons at the time and I was trying to work full time, be involved in church, and be the singer in a band. I was somewhat envious of my friends and their band because they were about to get signed and move to Nashville, Tennessee. I believed they were seeing the answers to their dreams come true and I felt as if I was watching mine slowly die.

Fast forward to today. I am doing exactly what I believe God has called me to do. I still write songs for fun and sometimes I’m even brave enough to share them online. My wife and I added a daughter along the way and we have watched all of three of our kids grow up much more quickly than we could have imagined. We’re even grandparents now. Even though I spent a good part of my life thinking I wanted to be a professional musician, I now know that was not what God had in mind for me. I no longer play the “what if” game when it comes to music. I have friends who are still involved in the music business (at different levels) but for the most part, all the guys I played music with and hung out with moved on to different things. It’s all good. I don’t believe that any of us are unhappy with where we have ended up.

However, I do like to look back from time to time. I have fond memories of playing shows to small youth groups and recording demos at our buddy’s house. I have fond memories of all the bands I ever played in and I do sometimes miss it. I have long since gotten over the envy of missing the whole professional musician experience though. Truth is, I probably wasn’t cut out for it in the first place. But, I do have one very minor claim to fame thanks to that offer my buddy made fourteen years ago. Because I took the time to jot down some words and give them to him, I actually ended up a published songwriter (sort of). It didn’t make me any money (although I did actually receive royalty checks early on) and it didn’t open any doors for me, it gave me the satisfaction of seeing my names in the liner notes of an actual album and not just something I printed off at home. I still smile whenever I pull this song up on YouTube and see my name there. I know that no one but me cares. I still get a kick out of though. So, thank to Britt, Mike, Chris, and Trae for letting me be a tiny part of your musical career. I still appreciate it all these years later and I miss hanging out with you guys. God bless.

Grace and peace.

 

Lord Help Us

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. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:7-21 (ESV)

 

Jesus said that the two greatest commands are to love God and love others. That is consistent all throughout Scripture yet so many people continue to miss it. This passage from 1 John says that you cannot love God if you hate others. That seems pretty clear to me. I shared this on Facebook today. I apologize if you have already seen it.

I believe that God created us in His own image. Given that, how can I look on any human being with contempt? To do so would be to show contempt to the God who created him (or her). To devalue the life of another (whether through racism, sexism, classism…pick your prejudice) is to tell Jesus that those he loves (and died for) are not important. If you call yourself a Christian then there is no room for hate in your heart or your vocabulary.

Unfortunately, the Church has not always done a good job of loving others. A quick glance at history will point out many errors that Christians have made. Wars, violence, racism, and abuse have occurred at the hands of those who claimed to follow Christ. There are still those who practice hate in the name of God. I am only one person but I apologize to all of those who have been harmed in the name of Jesus. Please know that Jesus did not encourage or support those who hurt you. He loves you. He died for you. I pray that he forgives those who have misused his name and heals those have have been victimized through it.

May God raise up believers who are willing to stand up for grace, mercy, and love even if others refuse to.

Grace and peace.

It Seems So Simple

8 Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: 9 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.”

Zechariah 7:8-10 (NLT)

 

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1:19-27 (NLT)

 

Why is it so hard to care for those in need? Seriously. I read passages like the two I quoted above and it seems so simple. We are supposed to be genuine. We are supposed to be compassionate. We are supposed to show mercy and kindness to one another. I don’t know a single soul who wants to be mistreated. I suppose I could find someone out there if I looked long enough but the truth is that we all wanted to be treated fairly. We all want that. I know that I sure do.

Here’s the thing, if I want that for my own life, why would I not want the exact same thing for everyone else? Do I really care if others are treated unfairly? My mouth says, “No,” but what does my life say? When asked what the greatest command is Jesus said, “Love God with your entire being.” He then said, “Love others.” I do not see any exception to that. If I love others than I am supposed to offer them grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Once again, I see no exception to that.

I really am praying that God softens my heart in such a way that His love, grace, and mercy become second nature to me. I know that I will still have bad days and that I will sometimes mess things up. We all do. However, I want my life to be characterized by Grace. I saw a wonderful quote today and I share it on Facebook and Twitter. I am going to share it again now.

People may not agree with our theology but they shouldn’t be able to argue with our lives.

John McGowan

 

I do believe that it is important to have sound doctrine. I do believe that we should study so that we can have a better understanding of Scripture. I spend time doing just that. I want to have a firm understanding of what the Bible teaches. That is why I believe I would rather miss some of the finer points of theology and have Christlike love for others. The Pharisees of Jesus day did their best to have all their theological bases covered. They studied the law and made sure others knew what it said. However, Jesus told them they were hypocrites because their hearts were in the wrong place.

I don’t want to be like that. I want people to look at my life and see the love of Jesus. I want them to know that Jesus loves them through the way I treat them. Show mercy and kindness to one another. It seems so simple doesn’t it? Why do we have such trouble doing it? May God give us all the strength to be instruments of His grace.

Grace and peace.

Monday Night Rewind 4/18/16

One of these days I will get back to regular blogging. There are just so many things going on right now that I don’t get the chance every day. Thanks for sticking around anyway.

We (Robin, Chris, Jamie, and I) went to the Newsboys show in Binghamton, NY last night. We had a really good time. It was Jamie’s first concert that she will be old enough to remember. We dragged her to Kingsfest a couple of times but she doesn’t remember. This was also the first time I’ve seen Newsboys since Michael Tait became the lead singer.

There were three other bands/artists: Ryan Stevenson, OBB, and Audio Adrenaline. Ryan Stevenson only got to do three songs and he was having trouble with his guitar. You really couldn’t hear his first song but they got things fixed for the other two. One was Toby Mac’s Speak Life, which Stevenson co-wrote. The other was called Eye Of The Storm and it was pretty good.

OBB (Oswald Brothers Band) was next and even though they were good, they weren’t my cup of tea. I think Jamie liked them though. They were not really a boy band but they were kind of like watered-down Toby Mac. I can see why kids like them.

“Audio Adrenaline” was next. I put that in quotes because there isn’t a single original member in the band. In fact, no one in the current version has been in the band longer than two years. If I’m not mistaken the entire line-up came together in February of 2015. I guess two of the original guys oversee this version. It makes no sense to me but I will say this, they were good. They do new material (which isn’t too bad) and even throw in a medley of three old AA (Mighty Good Leader. Big House, and Get Down) songs into the set. Like I said, I don’t get it, but they were entertaining.

Speaking of entertaining, I have never seen the Newsboys put on a bad show. The current incarnation (which has been together for eight years) is no exception. Unlike AA, three of the four guys in Newsboys have been in the band for a while, over twenty years to be exact. They stick strictly to new material and don’t do anything from the pre-Tait era. The one exception is a cover of DC Talk’s Jesus Freak.

It was a good show to take the family to and it wasn’t expensive. I’m glad we got the chance to go.