Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rock On

Last night I attended a concert featuring Skillet and Creed, two bands who know how to rock the message of God. Each band played their hits, as well as lesser known songs, which the crowd enthusiastically welcomed. It was an awesome concert, with two new-to-me songs standing out. Both songs have a deeper meaning explained by each lead singer.

Skillet’s lead singer John Cooper told the story of a young girl sharing a story of thoughts of suicide with him. John did a great job of storytelling, but I’ll allow the song to tell the story. Listen to The Last Night with lyrics here.

Then Scott Stapp of Creed shared how at age 17 he started running away – from reality, from responsibility, from God. He ran until he was too tired to run. It was at this point he found the inspiration to pen the song Faceless Man. Listen to it with lyrics here.

May each of us find places to share God so clearly with those that need to hear, no matter our profession or skill set.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Sacrifice/Hero

Tonight is the concert I've been waiting to come around for a while now - Creed along with Skillet.  I've been a Creed fan for years - they were a local band from back home in Orlando as they were making it big.  I worked with someone who was good friends with the band, and she introduced me to their music.  As a band they blew up big, blew up, and are putting the pieces back together quite nicely. 

Skillet has been around for as long as Creed (about 15 years), but are recently garnering mainstream national attention.  They are a Grammy nominated and Dove award winning band fronted by a married couple.  You can hear their music on the local hard rock station, on ABC for college football, as well as the World Wrestling Entertainment venues. 

Both bands include Jesus followers who chose to play relevant music vs. focusing on just the Christian crowd.  Creed has been called a Christian band due to some of their lyrics, but they chose to be a band of Christians.  Skillet makes no apologies about being a Christian band, having a loyal following chasing each and every move they make. 

My favorite song from Creed has to be My Sacrifice, while Hero is my fav from Skillet.  Listen to them here and here.  Enjoy your Friday folks.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gone With the Wind

OK - I'll be honest - I enjoy a good movie. My wife Becky and I generally watch 1-2 movies a week, depending on how busy we are at the time. I enjoy unplugging for an hour or two, or being challenged, or made to think, or just being entertained. The beauty of the movie industry is that a well-written and well-produced movie can take you places that in reality you’ll never visit.

This morning it was reported that Gwilym Hughes had passed away. Who was Gwilym? He was the Guinness World Record holder for having viewed more films than anyone else. So how many screenplays did he watch in his lifetime? How about over 28,000! During his lifetime, that translated to two films every 3 days.

Let’s look at the math of that figure. 28,000 flicks, averaging 1.5 hours, totals 42,000 hours, or over 2.5 million minutes spent watching films. That’s a grand total of 1,750 days, or almost a full 5 years of his life spent watching motion pictures. Look at that total again – he spent an estimated 5 years of every minute and every hour of each day watching movies! I guess I have no shot at shattering that record – and I’m ok with that reality.

Let’s read a passage – John 4:31-38. Click here to read. In verse 35 Jesus proclaims that the “Fields….are already white for harvest.” He was not referring to anyone’s garden – He was referring to lives that needed only what He was able to offer. Just a few verses earlier Jesus was conversing with the woman at the well. During this conversation Jesus told her “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

I will be the first to admit I sometimes struggle with balancing everything going on in my life. But I’ve been called to a harvesting party, and it’s a calling I cannot ignore. It’s a calling that strengthens me daily as I live in His power which He so graciously shares with me. I am not the only one called though – if you are a child of Christ, the call is also to you. We as a body of believers are to be reaching out to those who still need to have a living relationship with God our Savior.

So how good of a job are you doing balancing His work vs. your life? What kind of impact could Gwilym have had if he had spent some of that full 5 years sharing Christ with others vs. watching movies? I am all for some down time – it’s even a mandate from God – but too much time spent on me takes away from others around me who need what the Lord has to offer.

Lord may I be diligent with the time You’ve give me each day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Touch of the Master's Hand

As a child growing up, my church would welcome travelling music groups from various Christian colleges.  I always enjoyed these times - mainly because my family would always host a couple of the students overnight.  For some reason, two particular songs sticks out in my mind. 

The first song is a parody of sorts - the funny song each group was required to sing.  This song was called I Hate Liver (I personally love me some liver and onions, but I know I am in the minority)- which was a funny song.  I remember this song because I was a senior in high school, and I would go on to attend the college that this particular group was representing.  I would hear this song several more times while acquiring my undergraduate degree.  "Oh I hate liver, liver makes me quiver, it makes me wanna shrivel up and die...."

The second song was when I was much younger.  If you know me, you probably realize that my memory isn't super sharp.  That this song has stuck with me for 25 years blows me away.  It's called The Touch Of The Masters Hand.  It was based on a poem by Myra Brooks Welch, which goes like this -

It was battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought
It hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.

"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three".

But, No,
From the room far back a grey haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its' bow.
"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
All battered with bourbon and gin,
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.

He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Master's Hand.

2 Corinthians 5:17 shares with us - "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  We are a new person.  One of the greatest testimonies a person can have is a life changed through the power of God alone.  We can claim no power over the new person we've become.  It is the touch of the Master's Hand that creates who we are - no longer a slave to the past, but alive and free to serve Him.  What a might God we serve! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

paul david hewson - rock rebel

I enjoy people who are counter-culture with a purpose. People who are driven to be clear voices for what is right, what is good - but do it in a way that is unconventional. Radical! Have you heard of Shane Claiborne - author of The Irresistible Revolution? While in college, Shane interned at Willow Creek Community Church - one of the 10 largest churches in the US. He would have had a foot in the door in most churches with this pedigree - yet he decided to shun conventional "religious" wisdom. He moved in with the poor and destitute in Philadelphia, because he heeded a call to minister to those people. Not minister from a distance, but in and among those who needed what he had to offer them.

Another radical guy out there is Paul David Hewson. Growing up in Ireland during the 1970's, he eschewed conventional wisdom, rebelled against the religious culture at the time and accepted Christ as his personal Savior. He was a musician, as were 3 of his friends. Together with fellow Christians Larry Mullen, Jr. and David Howell Evans (a.k.a. “The Edge”), Paul (a.k.a. “Bono”) and these guys formed the rock band U2.

I am currently reading a book called Walk On - The Spiritual Journey of U2. The book is written by a Presbyterian minister from Ireland named Steve Stockman. In the book Steve uses quotes and interviews from those who were instrumental in the beginning and development of the band, as well as from the band members themselves, to shine a light on the religious overtones of the works of U2. He pours through twenty years worth of material, and shows that God is absolutely using these musicians to accomplish His work.

One of my favorite songs from U2 is I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Listen to a live version here. In it, one verse reads -

You broke the bonds and
You loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

I know of One who did such things – Jesus! Psalm 116:16 states - O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. And 1 Peter 2:24 reads - He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.

The band receives criticism from the Christian camps, saying that they should be more vocal in their beliefs. And some of that criticism may be true. When they were more vocal in the early days, Bono grew tired of the constant criticism from the religious pundits.  Bono has probably done more to help the destitute, sick, and abused than any single denomination has or will accomplish. His fame brings a voice, a voice to help.

For a recent concert, U2 decided it would be cool to do a show in the Rose Bowl. So as part of their 360 tour in 2009, they sold tickets to the Rose Bowl, as well as streamed that concert live on YouTube. Needless to say, in excess of 97,000 tickets sold, with over 10 millions views on YouTube in the first week alone. Can you name any Contemporary Christian Band doing that today?

I like to think that bands like POD, Creed, Skillet – some examples of whom have crossed over to the mainstream music world - realized from the example set by Bono and company. Maximum impact requires maximum exposure. Be unconventional, be radical. Why not aim to impact the whole world vs. just the Christian community? Shouldn’t that be our goal as Christians – to impact as many as possible?  REBEL!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Produce vs. Consume

I have a simple question for each of us to ponder, and the question is this - Are you a consumer or producer?

Simple enough, right?

At work, do you create new and original thoughts, or live off of the old, crusty ideas from others in the past? As a student, are you constantly looking to increase your knowledge, or just skating by? Is your walk with Christ refreshing and new to you each day, or has it gotten to be "the routine"? When you spend time with Him, is your focus on glorifying Him, or is it a laundry list of ways He can help you?

I recently had a conversation with one of our college graduates. This person shared with me that they are disappointed in not going back to school this fall - not because of the fun times at college and being with friends, but because they are genuinely missing the opportunity to learn new things in the classroom.

Colossians 1:10 reads this way - Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better (emphasis added).

Are you consuming God? Is He consuming you? Is your Christian life all about having an outstretched hand, asking God for your next blessing? The beauty of being overwhelmed in Him is that He through you will produce a variety of fruits. These fruits will be a blessing not just in your life, but in the lives of those around you influenced by the contagiousness of a Christ-like life. If you want to mature in your walk with Him, spend some time today getting to know God better and better.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Last night Becky and I had a friend over to the house for dinner. While we were dining we streamed Pandora through the surround sound. The particular channel we were listening to is my wife's channel, aptly called Becky's Happy Music, with upbeat tunes from mainly the early to mid 1990's (think Mmmbop, Hootie, BackStreet Boys, NSync, etc.) These were songs that each of us knew and loved and we had a blast listening to some great older tunes.

I thoroughly enjoy how a particular song can take me back to a specific time in my life. I have plenty of songs that take me to a place in my past, and generally invoke fond memories. For me, one such song that takes me back is Wipeout.

In 1987 the Beach Boys joined the Fat Boys to collaborate on a hit (it was a hit - on Billboard it reached #12 and #10 on the R&B chart) song named Wipeout. Watch the video here. This song has it all - a familiar tune, great beats, a funny video - this is one of my jams!

I still remember discovering this song for the first time. I believe it was my sophomore year of college, at Pizza Hut for dinner with most of the guys - Paul, Scott, Travis, Neal and Korey and maybe a few others. And at this Pizza Hut they had a jukebox, and on this jukebox was this song Wipeout. I still remember playing it, and playing it like a billion times in a row because I enjoyed it so much.

Oh the memories that flood back from those days at college. And every now and then a song like Wipeout takes me back to some great memories with some amazing people.

So my question to you - what song do you enjoy that takes you back?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bring the Rain

Well, what a roller coaster of a week it has been for me. This past week was one of the difficult ones. Maybe because I was gonna be preaching today, maybe it was just a post vacation let down, or whatever – but this was a rough week. I’d normally think the devil was trying to derail me from being focused on today’s message, but I’m getting away from that train of thought. I think too many times he gets underserved credit. Suffice to say it was an emotionally and physically draining week.

This past Monday morning, a Journey church friend posted on her Facebook page the following brief message: “bring the rain.” Since I am the guy who has a song for almost everything, I quickly posted a link to a video on YouTube for MercyMe’s song also titled Bring the Rain. I probably listened to this song about 30 times this week. (Yeah, I every now and then I get a bit obsessive-compulsive.)

I encourage you to listen here to the song before proceeding. Now look at the chorus –

“Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain.”

You know, my week had more than its fair share of rain, at least in my eyes. But who am I to judge how much rain my life needed this week, or any week? I know for a fact God better understands how much I can handle, and gives me more than that so that I have to rely on Him and not just my own power.

So fast forward back to this morning…. Our final song leading up to me preaching was – surprise, surprise – Bring the Rain. I knew this since Wednesday when our worship leader Andy (read about this great guy here) sent out the schedule for the service. This was not something we spoke about or coordinated – it was a coincidence. Only with God there are no coincidences, only opportunities for Him to be glorified. And as the worship team led us into this song, I wept. Not because of the rain, but because of my opportunity to praise Him.

I then got up and spoke about how God uses people – committed people, courageous people, and common people. I shared how God allowed Gideon and 300 soldiers to kill 120,000 hostiles without raising their swords. We talked about how an 80-year-old guy named Daniel entered a pit with ravenous lions to be punished for not worshipping a false god, only to come out unscathed but covered in lions hair (because I think they really shed, and I know Daniel played with those lions – I would have).

I now get this song – completely. Kinda like -I once was blind, but now I see. It has taken on a whole new meaning after today’s service. It reminds me of a quote I discovered reading the book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson in preparation for my message today: “When you worship, it produces shock waves that register on the Richter scale.”

“Jesus, bring the rain”.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)

So Becky and I spent this past weekend visiting with my family and friends in Central Florida.  What a great time, visiting with most of my immediate family as well as just relaxing and enjoying ourselves.  Last week was my dad's 60th birthday (yes, he was really old when he and mom had me), so we celebrated as a family Saturday night. 

You see, I come from a fairly small family.  All told we had 14 people celebrating my dads birthday - 2 grandmas, my parents, my sister and her husband, my uncle and his wife, my other aunt, my cousin and her husband, my other cousin, and my wife and I.  We had so much fun, watching dad open his presents, reminiscing and catching up, and eating.

Actually eating was a big part of this mini vacation.  For dad's party we had Sonnys BBQ, along with a few additional add-ons from the fam.  Becky and I each had 4 Slurpees from 7-11 - I love those things.  We also had some Publix subs for lunch when we were at the beach.  And Grandma Leah had to make her marvelous homemade chicken and dumplings.  These are all things that I miss about eating in Florida.

We also spent like a quarter of our time in the water - either at New Smyrna Beach or in my parents pool.  The beach was so peaceful - no tourists, just a few locals.   I'm a local - having partaken in it for the better part of 25 years of my life.  The water was freakishly cold considering we were in Florida at the end of July.  And the ocean was freakishly clear - we saw several schools of fish, and a crab.  How funny that we just watched the original Jaws a couple of nights before going to the beach....

But now we are back home in North Carolina.  As the song says, Back To Life, Back To Reality.   The work that I left behind on Thursday and Friday was still there waiting for me.  I am now almost caught up, more or less.  Yet, you see, I would trade it all over again to spend time with my family.  To eat all of the foods that I miss here (I forgot to mention Sweet Tomatoes and Krystals - yummie!).  To spend time relaxing in the fresh and salt water.  It was well worth it.