Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Top 12 Best Christmas music videos!

I love music.  I have a song in my head at all times.  All times.

I listen to almost every genre out, ones that could never mix, my playlists look like 100 different people from teen to 100 years old all threw their favorites together.  Classic rock, alternative, Contemporary Christian, rap, hymns, hiphop, classical, country, rock, barbershop, I can listen to (almost) anything.

Ironically, I was never really a fan of Christmas music ("Gasp!") but once you have kids, everything changes, including my taste in Christmas music!

So, for this Christmas I've compiled my top 12 Christmas music videos.

My parameters were pretty simple, but one important aspect was that it had to have an actual video (lyric 'videos' don't count), and a video that was equally as powerful as the song itself (so be sure to Watch and not just listen!).
Also, if at all possible, it had to be a live performance (9 out of the 12 are live I believe).
Also, the number 1 video is a bonus, of sorts: it's not technically traditional "Christmas" song, but it definitely deserves to be on the list!  Don't miss the spoken-word poem in the middle... it will blow you away!

*Disclaimer:  I could have easily made all 12 Pentatonix or all Lindsey Stirling videos... Love all of them... but I limited them to 2 and 1, respectively!

Here we go (I hope you enjoy!):

12.  Alison Krauss and Robert Plant - "Light of Christmas Day"

11.  Chris Tomlin - "A Christmas Alleluia"

10.  "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"

9.    Christmas Food Court Flash Mob - "Hallelujah Chorus"

8.    Pentatonix - "Silent Night"

7.    Som Sabadell Orchestra Flash Mob - "Ode to Joy"

6.    Lindsey Stirling - "What Child is This?"

5.    Cloverton - "A Hallelujah Christmas"

4.    Pentatonix - "Joy to the World"

3.    Lauren Daigle - "Noel"

2.    CeeLo Green - "Mary Did You Know?"

1.    Kari Jobe - "Forever" 

Friday, October 9, 2015

All Point to Christ (from the beginning)



Jesus didn't come into existence in a manger in Bethlehem.  Jesus wasn't created at Mary's conception.  Jesus has always been.  Jesus is The Word, the Angel of the Lord, and Jesus has no beginning, just as the Father has no beginning, just as the Spirit has no beginning.  Jesus was there at creation.

Don't miss the significance of this nor shortchange the true nature of the Trinity.

Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-5

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why is church the first thing to get "cut"?



Parents: 
We can't say we want our kids around positive role models, that we want them to have a Christian peer group, that we want their influences to be focused on Jesus, and that we want the church family to be important to them - and trade youth group activities for sports, Wed nights for dates and homework, Sunday school for extra sleep, and church for ball tournaments. 

Our lives, as parents, are hard, CRAZY, and over scheduled, but when we use our words to tell our kids that our church family is what's most important and then when things get busy and we get tired church family is the first thing we cut.... believe me, they know. They get the message. 

We as parents are the front line for our kids, but we have to surround our kids with additional Christian influences and role models so they can make meaningful relationships with those people we want mentoring them someday when they "need" someone else to turn to other than us. 
 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Parenting, marriage, Christianity.... they're all Hard.

Parenting is hard. 

Marriage is hard. 

Christianity is hard. 

Truth be told, Anyone who tells you differently is lying or has something to sell.  

The "life is easy", "God just wants you to be Happy", "marriage is always bliss", "parenting is only wonderful", "prosperity gospel" theologies are all lies from the very pit of hell.

You want to know what parenting, marriage, and Christianity all have in common?  They All require selfish, egotistical, self centered people (ie all of humanity) to act in a way completely contrary to their very nature.  In parenting, marriage, and Christianity we are required to put other's thoughts, feelings, emotions, wants, and needs ahead of our own. Period.  

"Yeah, but They deserve" grace.
"They're not even sorry!" forgive them anyway.
"They started it" and you can end it.
"They hurt me so bad" don't pass it on (or back)

I don't know about you (actually... I think I do) but I'm pretty terrible at this. 
Loving those who hate me is not my strong suit.  Showing patience to a disobedient child isn't "blissful".  Putting my wife's feelings ahead of mine when I don't think she's putting mine ahead of her's isn't "bliss" (though I assure you those roles are typically reversed I'm sure).  Being the light in a dark world when my nature is either to throw darkness back or to take my little candle and go huddle up in the corner by myself is not easy.  Or natural.  or easy.  or easy.  or easy.

BUT

God loves you anyway. Love people anyway. People love you anyway. Love yourself anyway.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Retreat:


Sometimes you just need to Retreat... to breathe, to escape, run away, be still, be quiet, hide.  In order to RETREAT one is in dire need of restoration, to gain said restoration one must escape from the world and all the stress and distractions of routine and take time to recharge.  Exalt the Father, give praise to God, cast your worries, your cares, and your fears on Him and allow him to heal you.  Finally, remember that a thankful heart is a joyful heart and thankful soul is a soul at peace.  

Let's explore what it looks like to truly _Retreat_

I.                                      Restore
to bring back into existence; reestablish
to bring back to a former, original, or normal condition
to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor.
to reproduce or reconstruct in the original state.

Psalm 51:10-12
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Isaiah 57:18-19
18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
   I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
 19 creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
   says the LORD. “And I will heal them.” 

II.       Escape

to slip or get away, as from confinement or restraint; gain or gain liberty
to slip away from pursuit or peril; avoid capture, or any threatened evil.
to slip away; fade: The words escaped from memory.

Psalm 55:4-8
 4 My heart is in anguish within me;
   the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
   horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
   I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away
   and stay in the desert;[c]
8 I would hurry my escape to a place of shelter,
   far from the tempest and storm.”


Psalm 71
 1 In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;
   let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness, rescue me and help me escape - deliver me;
   turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge,
   to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
   for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
   from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
 5 For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD,
   my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you;
   you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
   I will ever praise you.
7 I have become a sign to many;
   you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
   declaring your splendor all day long.
 9 Do not cast me away when I am old;
   do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
   those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
   pursue him and seize him,
   for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
   come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
   may those who want to harm me
   be covered with scorn and disgrace.
 14 As for me, I will always have hope;
   I will praise you more and more.
 15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
   of your saving acts all day long—
   though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD;
   I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
   and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
   do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
   your mighty acts to all who are to come.
 19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
   you who have done great things.
   Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
   many and bitter,
   you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
   you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
   and comfort me once more.
 22 I will praise you with the harp
   for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
   Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
   when I sing praise to you—
   I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
   all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
   have been put to shame and confusion.

III.           Time

Psalm 46
 1 God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.
 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”
 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Sounds like meditation, which I do think is important, but this actually Isn’t about meditation as we often think of it.  First off:  is “be still” a suggestion?
“be still” is “rapha” which means –to be weak, or to let go, to release all control- so “be still” says “force yourself to let go” or “make yourselves become weak”
Why?  Well, “and” in this case means “so” or “in order to”.  So, in effect, what we have is “make yourselves become weak in order to know God”
It’s an instructional statement for finding peace.
Exodus 14:14
14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

IV.    Recharge

to revive or restore energy, stamina, enthusiasm; revitalize


Be Still.  Spread out, you can take Bible, pen and paper, or Nothing.  Pray.  Reflect.  Talk.  LISTEN. Thank.

Exodus 14:14
14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”


V.            Exalt

to raise in rank, honor, power, character, quality. elevate:
to praise; extol:
to elate, as with pride or joy.

Psalm 19
14 May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 21:13 Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power
Psalm 34
3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 66
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
4 Everything on earth will worship you;
they will sing your praises,
shouting your name in glorious songs.”

Psalm 96
3 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

Psalm 107
2 Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
Psalm 99
 1 The LORD reigns,
   let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
   let the earth shake.
2 Great is the LORD in Zion;
   he is exalted over all the nations.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name—
   he is holy.
 4 The King is mighty, he loves justice—
   you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
   what is just and right.
5 Exalt the LORD our God
   and worship at his footstool;
   he is holy.
 6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
   Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD
   and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
   they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
 8 LORD our God,
   you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
   though you punished their misdeeds.[a]
9 Exalt the LORD our God
   and worship at his holy mountain,
   for the LORD our God is holy.
Isaiah 25
 1 LORD, you are my God;
   I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
   you have done wonderful things,
   things planned long ago. 
1 corinthians 15:31
31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Galations 2:20
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


Romans 12
A Living Sacrifice
 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

VI.     Allow

Philippians 1:6
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

VII.         Thanks

Psalm 48:1
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised

Psalm 96:4
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

Psalm 107:1
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 145:3
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

1 Chronicles 16:25
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

Isaiah 53
 1 Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?
 2-6The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
   a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
   nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
   a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
   We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
   our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
   that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
   that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
   Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
   We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
   on him, on him.
 7-9He was beaten, he was tortured,
   but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
   and like a sheep being sheared,
   he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
   and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
   beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
   threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
   or said one word that wasn't true.
 10Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
   to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
   so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
   And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.
 11-12Out of that terrible travail of soul,
   he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
   will make many "righteous ones,"
   as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly—
   the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
   because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
   he took up the cause of all the black sheep.
  




Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Christianity: You're doing it wrong.



Find me an example in scripture where Jesus yelled at, chastised, condemned, or even spoke anything but love to a sinner?  Where does Jesus take a nonbeliever doing something wrong and rake them over the coals (a whip, maybe....)?

"Don't emasculate my Jesus!"
On the contrary, Jesus was a formidable figure (you know... God), in your face, stand his ground, and down right antagonistic at times.  But you know who he was that way with?  THE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE for acting like idiots towards everyone else!
It was when disciples wanted to be more important than they were, when they wanted to make things about them, or when religious people started pointing fingers at others, not associating with sinners, condemning people (even when it would seem obvious that they were safe in doing so) that Jesus got angry and "preachy".

The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4)?  This was someone who religious people wouldn't be caught dead talking to.  Jewish people would trek miles out of their way just so they didn't even have to set foot in the same town as "dirty Samaritans".  Jesus makes a point to blow as many social rules away that he can in this encounter and then addresses this woman, who has had 5 husbands and is now living with another man who's not even one of her 5 husbands, with LOVE and grace.
Did you catch the part in the story where Jesus nails her on being an adulterer?  No?  Well, he sure put her on blast for 5 divorces!
No?  Nothing?  Nothing.
He showed her love and another way -- That a new, better life was available was what was important, not punishment for the current or the past.  When one sees love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, and abundant life, they don't need to be condemned for the prison they've been living in, they WANT that new life, they desperately need that Good News.

Then there's the adulteress woman in John 8.  She was caught in the act of adultery.  That would be bad now, I don't have to tell you what it was like 2,000 years ago.  Jesus protects her, points out that everyone in the crowd that's accusing her (religious people) are in the same boat, and then he tells her "hey, where did everybody go?  Is no one going to condemn you?  Then neither do I.  Go and sin no more"  Take the new life!
You see, in this instance, the crowd wanted to condemn her but couldn't, Jesus had had the authority, to condemn her ("he who is without sin cast the first stone") but didn't.

Jesus says "A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so should you love one another.  By this all people will know you are my disciples:  by the way you love one another"

"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"

"What good is it to love those who love you back?  THE WORST OF PEOPLE DO THAT."

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"

"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."

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults - unless, of course, you want the same treatment.  That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.  It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.  Do you have the nerve to say 'let me wash your face for you' when your own face is distorted by contempt?  It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part.  Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to you neighbor"

"blessed are the meek... blessed are the merciful....blessed are the peacemakers"

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful."

On.  And on.  And on.

There seems to be a theme here....

So, if your "Christianity" forces you to hate someone, calls on you to judge someone by pointing out how awful they are, gives you authority to condemn, has you angrily yelling at people of the world, has you praying for ill will or destruction of someone, demands that you not forgive someone because it would compromise your moral obligations as a Christian, frees you to not love Anyone, or makes you a better Christian for not associating with a certain group of people,
then, brothers and sisters, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.

Is there such thing as sin?  Of course.  Are we, as broken, imperfect, sinning Christians called to live differently?  You bet.  That's why Jesus held his disciples to such high standards-because they knew better.  The world, the ones who didn't yet know Christ, can not be held to the standards of Jesus Christ if they don't know Jesus Christ.
The disciples and all who Jesus called didn't give up everything to follow Jesus because his opening conversation with them was a diatribe about their horrible sinful ways, about all the terrible things they had done, the horrible people they were, and how they would Always sin and doubt no matter how much he worked with them - the came because he said "come".  Jesus knew it all.  He knew that woman had already been through 5 husbands, and he pointed it out so she would know he knew, and then never said another word about it.  The point was that he Did know all the horror and wanted her anyway.

Romans 5:8 says (in my words) - you want a definition of love?  Jesus saw me, a sinner who didn't love him, who didn't care about him, who didn't even know he existed.  He knew that I was royally screwed up and no matter what he did, no matter how long I lived, I would Never figure it all out, I would never get it right, and he bought me anyway.  Jesus paid for me, in blood, just so the broken mess I am would have the Chance, the option, the choice to spend eternity with him.

If that's not the message we're sending, if that's not what people learn about Christ from our life, our walk, our stances, our words, then we are doing it wrong.

L1:L2 = Love God:Love Others.

With love, humility, conviction, and as a #Note2Self,

-Levi





Monday, August 31, 2015

5 Points of Faith & Encouragement

  1. God Loves You – 
    “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” – John 3:16 (Message)
  2. God Is On Your Side –  
    “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? ” – Romans 8:31 (Message)
  3. God Is With You – 
    “Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” – Hebrews 13:5 (Message)
  4. God Will be there for You – 
    “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” saysGod, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times” – Psalm 91:14-15 (Message)
  5. God Will Provide – 
    “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19 (Message)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Persecuted Church: What is it, who is it, are we it, and why do we care?

Church.... We, as Christians in the United States of America, are not persecuted.  We aren't.  Period.  We are privileged beyond belief.  We don't even know hardship, let alone "persecution".  But, there are places in the world that do.  Places where being a Christian will get you fired, your possessions seized, you throne in jail, beaten, tortured, or even killed for the case of Jesus Christ.




Most Christians know ISIS most infamously for the 21 Christians in Egypt who were beheaded on the beach in the orange jumpsuits.  A “Message signed in blood to the Nation of the Cross” a “Hostile and offensive” church. 

The 21 walked out, they didn’t run, they didn’t fight, they didn’t beg, they didn’t scream…moments from death They chanted.   “The Lord Jesus Christ” 

In this picture, this man’s dying breath was “Yeshua!” JESUS!

ISIS Said this was a message to all those people “Carrying around the cross illusion in their heads”
It was to sow fear.  To scatter Christians.  To be rid of the message of the Cross.


3 days later, people walked the streets of Egypt with soot crosses marked On their heads because they wanted ISIS to know that the it was no illusion, it wasn’t in their heads, and they weren’t afraid to show it On their heads.

That’s what persecution looks like Church.

We all heard about that,  how many of you heard about this?  These 7 have what looks like rope but it’s actually explosives so that when the terrorists stepped back and detonated it decapitated the men.                          

-- hear about that?—


Or this one where they handcuffed them inside this car, stepped away, and shot the car with an RPG



*SLIDE* Or these, where they locked  men inside a cage and slowly lowered them into the water (they then switched to underwater cameras, then hoisted back up and swapped back to this view to show their demise).


In June of this year they began offering kidnapped Christian girls (GIRLS) sex slaves as “prizes” for those who “mastered the Koran”.  They also sell the girls.  
When funds got low and a price increase was necessary, they posted this (which the UN has verified)
“Islamic State in Iraq.  In the name of Allah most Gracious and Merciful, we have receieved news that the demand in Women and Cattle markets have sharply decreased and that will affect Islamic State revenues as well as the funding of the fighters in the battlefield.  Therefore we have made some changes.  Below are the prices for the Christian women slaves.
40-50: $43    30-40: $75    20-30: $86    10-20: $130 
        1-9: $172
Costumers are allowed to purchase only three items with the exception of customers from Turkey, Syria, and Gulf Countries.  Obey and follow the rules and laws of Islamic State or you be killed.”

You see, originally my sermon was to be about how we were NOT the persecuted church and how we needed to shut up and get over that because of how RICHLY spoiled we, as Christians are in the United States – and we are!
But as I worked my way through the persecution of the world the words of Paul to the church at Corinth broke my heart…  1 Corinthians 12:26 says 

We are one body - 
“If One member suffers, all members suffer”

then you have the words of Paul, and Timothy, Peter, and Silas, all of them asking for Prayer while they were imprisoned and persecuted, saying that they Knew the prayers of the saints were what would save them.
We, the part of the church in the US, are Not persecuted, but our church doesn’t stop at the US, God’s church is worldwide, it is universal, and it is ONE body –
so while I am not persecuted, if my sisters and brothers in North Korea are persecuted, than our Family is persecuted – our Family hurts – our Family weeps for one another – our Family HAS to pray for our brothers and sisters who ARE persecuted. 

Pray that their cup would pass, that there would be another way, but that if it’s not the Father’s will for the cup to pass,
if there is no other way, than we pray strength, and courage, patience, fearlessness, and joy, we pray they are purpose filled and spirit filled.  We pray for them the Peace that passes all understanding.  We pray for them because they are our family.  We Are One With Them.

Tertullian said
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”

I want you to think, what would you do if you knew you only had 21 days left to live?  What would you use your time for?  Who would you talk to?  What would you say – if you had Nothing to fear?

This is a call to Live like we are dying.

That message that ISIS sent out about those 21 Egyptian men on the beach was addressed to “The People of the Cross” = the “hostile and offensive church in Egypt”
Here’s my question I want to leave you with, people of the Cross:

If tomorrow you woke up and the world had magically changed overnight and Christianity was illegal in the USA and you were arrested and put on trial for being a Christian… would there be enough evidence to convict you?

And I’ll tell you, just coming to church on Sunday and plopping down in a pew doesn’t make you “hostile” or “offensive” … or “dangerous” or even “noticeable”.

So, If you were in Egypt when ISIS came looking for Christians to make an example of, would they have known to come for you – would you have been on their radar?




Thursday, August 6, 2015

Millennials, Overscheduling, and the definition of Success


Millennials.  The designation is given to people born during a roughly 20 year span by some (1980-2000), however I think, whatever you want to call them, the real designation is 1980-1987 or so.  What that means is that Millennials are your current parents-of-young-children (age 28-35).  Why does any of that matter?  Well, a little background information is necessary to understand the issue at hand (whether you fall into that age range or not).  I digress.

What you need to know:
More Millennials are working than any other generation in American history.  The number one response in Millennials to the age old question of "how are you?" has changed from "good" (as has been the standard answer for about the last 60 years) to "busy!".  
Research shows that relationships within Millennials (across the board) have taken a hit due to extremely limited face to face time and that that face to face time is then spent in competition.  
The number one thing they are said to (actually) compete over and try to "one-up" on:  being the busiest.  The analogy among business research is that "a full outlook calendar has replaced the sports car as the number one status symbol".  This analogy doesn't just stop at the parents either.  Even when both parents work full time and keep their schedules maxed out (often times the way the competition of being busy is won is judged by who has missed the most planned events/activities), they equally over extend themselves in shuttling multiple children to multiple sports in multiple cities (full well knowing they can't make them all and that it will cause even more stress on all other activities and relationships).  

Speaking of stress, depending on your survey of choice, Millennials report that over 20% of them live in a constant state of "Extreme stress" and 50% self identify as "medium-high stress".  Even with those figures, nearly 70% of those who identify themselves as high stress or above say that their stress increases each passing year and they're being stretched thinner and thinner.

In politics, Millennials don't vote.  Often times they're very passionate about politics, talk politics, listen to politics, even volunteer in the political process and yet statistics show they Still Don't Vote. The reasons?  Non-committal.  Sort of.... they view it as a waste of time (1 match in a forest fire) and that it takes too much time and effort to go vote just to accomplish nothing.

In the business arena, volumes are being written about how to manage Millennials in the workforce.  
The top points coming out of all the research:  
They value relationships and want to work with their friends and want who they work with to be their friends (this is more valued in Millennials than in any other generation of the past).
They are the busiest generation ever, and above anything else they value flexibility (and hate mandatory time slots and will burn out and leave your company if work _schedules_ interfere with their busy schedules outside of work). Right.  

Speaking of schedules...  Schedules are crazy. 
Again, "Success" in business And family is defined by who has the most over-scheduled GoogleCalendar (Outlook... Lawl). "Downtime" is the few isolated weeks a year that you have time to catch a breath between activities. Christmas "break"? Forget about it. Summer "break"? You're kidding.  The first week of back to school? LOL!!!!
The first week back to school, as most are in now or are currently preparing for with the same panic induced voracity of a doomsday prepper on the History Channel, is pure unadulterated pandemonium
Phrases like "be still" and "quiet time" are thrown in the box that includes other equally likely statements such as "fly to Pluto" (is that a planet again or are we still broke up?) and "eat breakfast with a TRex" (and no, the kid you're currently getting ready for back to school doesn't count. Technically). 
So... What do we do?  We're literally too busy to breathe.  So, we perform (daily) scheduling triage.  But... how's that working out for you?  When you lay your activities on the chopping block, (be honest) what gets cut, how do you choose, and why?  

"Be still" before people can get the question out of their lips of 'what does that even mean?' their brain interrupts with 'Yeah, Right!'  "Be still"?  Really?  Still?  

What's at play in these internal wars we wage?  (false) idols of convenience, being good enough, buying time, buying love, success, being the status quo, anxiety and control (oh the damning cycle that control and anxiety perpetuate)

Here are OUR answers
(because like everything else I write and every sermon I deliver, this is a #Note2Self )

Even if you've read these a hundred times, even if you could recite them without clicking on the link to read them, click on the link to Read them in the message and here the imploring love letter from a God who loves you, wants you to have peace, and wants to offer Rest.


  1. Psalm 23
  2. Psalm 46
  3. Isaiah 40 (pay special attention to verses 27-31)
  4. Matthew 6:25-34
  5. Philippians 4:6-7
  6. and **Matthew 11:29-30




Friday, June 19, 2015

Be a doer not a talker (sermon quotes)

Several people have asked for a list of the quotes I used in last Sunday's sermon on being a "Doer!" so I've shared them below.  

Remember that the verse that we started from was James 1:22-27 and then moved on to 

In Matthew 28:19 Jesus gives the great commission of:
 GO, therefore (therefore because the once DEAD Jesus had just appeared to the disciples and said – I’ve Got this!  ALL authority on heaven and earth has been given to me) and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit
Timothy tells us God didn’t give us a spirit of Fear and timidity but of Power – Love – Self Control.
Joshua, long before Timothy, tells us: “have I not COMMANDED you?!   Be strong, be courageous, Don’t be scared, Don’t be dismayed – The Lord is with you EVERYWHERE

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In Business:  
Harry, my boss at Woodstream “’perfect’ is often the enemy of ‘good enough’”

In sports:
 John Wooden said “If you’re not making mistakes, than you’re not doing anything! I’m Positive that a doer makes mistakes”

In outlook:
Arnold Glasow said “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied”

In life:
“It is impossible to get anything made or accomplished without stepping on some toes; enemies are inevitable when one is a doer”

In the church:

A member here:
was once approached about being a part of a planning committee for something and responded with “sure, and here’s my first contribution:  just pull the trigger.  It’d would be better, reach more people, be more beneficial to just DO something, even if it flops, than to just talk about it for 6 months”

And in scripture, Jesus’ brother said (in James 2:15-17):

“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Baltimore protests and the increasing violence of the past 24 months




The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew a thing or 2 about hate, violence, injustice, protests.
He also knew that Love that can not exist without the transcending peace that surpasses All understanding found only Jesus Christ.
With all that he endured, with the evil he was up against, here are his words:

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Gospel Challenge: the book of Mark

We're now starting book 2, Mark, in our Gospel Challenge!

The completion date set for Mark is May 10th (3 weeks)

Now, before we get into the reading, here's some information on Mark:

Mark is the shortest of the 4 Gospels:
·         16 chapters
·         678 verses
·         42 verses a chapter
·         11,304 words

Mark, or “John Mark”, was only a teenager the first time he would have heard Jesus speak (at his mother’s house which was a haven for the apostles).  He later traveled with Paul for a bit before becoming Peter’s disciple – he served as Peter’s translator (oral and written).  Mark’s book could almost be known as “The Gospel according to Peter” and it focuses on Jesus being for the Gentiles-for Everyone.

Where Matthew started out with genealogy and then went into the birth of Jesus, Mark jumps right to when John and Jesus would have been about 30 years old and Jesus is preparing to kick off his ministry (in Mark 1:9).

Mark was, more than likely, penned first of the four Gospels and (presumably therefore) over 90% of what's found in Mark is also referenced in at least 1 of the other Gospels.  

So, with that in mind, here's a little bonus challenge, just for fun:
There are 3 things/events in Mark that are not mentioned in any of the other Gospels - can you find what they are?

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For those looking for a reading plan, here are a few things to think about:

If you started April 19th, you have 21 days to read only 16 chapters.  

For a 33 "moments" reading plan (so Fri, Sat, Sun would have 1 reading and Mon-Thurs would have a morning and an evening reading) would look like this:
1:1-1:34, 1:35-2:12, 2:13-2:22, 2:23-3.19, 3:20-3:35, 4:1-4:34, 4:35-5:43, 6:1-6:13, 6:14-6:29, 6:30-6:56, 7:1-7:23, 7:24-7:30, 7:31-8:21, 8:22-8:33, 8:34-9:13, 9:14, 9:37, 9:38-9:50, 10:1-10:34, 10:35-10:52, 11:1-11:11, 11:12-11:33, 12:1-12:12, 12:13-12:27, 12:28-12:44, 13:1-13:37, 14:1-14:26, 14:27-14:42, 14:43-14:65, 14:66-15:15, 15:16-15:41, 15:42-16:8, 16:9-16:20

For a 21 day reading plan: 
1:1-1:34, 1:35-2:12, 2:13-3:19, 3:20-3:35, 4:1-4:34, 4:35-5:43, 6:1-6:29, 6:30-6:56, 7:1-7:30, 7:31-8:21, 8:22-9:37, 9:38-9:50, 10:1-10:34, 10:35-10:52, 11:1-11:35, 12:1-12:27, 12:28-12:44, 13:1-14:26, 14:27-14:65, 14:66-15:41, 15:42-16:20 

For a 16 day reading plan:  
Pick any 16 days and read 1 chapter each of those days

Example of a 16 day reading plan:  
Read Chapter 1 on April 19th then you could simply read 1 chapter a day, Monday-Friday, taking Sat. & Sun "off" and be done in time.

For a 10 day reading plan:  
1, 2-3, 4, 5-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12, 13-14, 15, 16

For a 6 day reading plan:  
1-3, 4-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-14, 15-16

For a 3 day reading plan:
1-3, 4-10, 11-16

For a 2 day reading plan:
1-10, 11-16