Friday, August 3, 2012

The Ballad of Acceptance and Repentance:

We have reached a time where the Christian church is wrestling through cultural, political, and societal decisions like never before.  While controversial subjects have come and gone, the controversies today are coming in greater volume and with more and more indecision than in years' past.  Christians are being called out and demanded to state where they stand on these hot-topic issues without any permission granted to offer a defense, either scripturally, or philosophically for the answer given. Without being granted permission to offer a defense, Christians are, therefore, choosing to remain silent.  Many sit idly by, holding onto the hope of the gospel, but choosing not to share that hope with others out of fear of being ridiculed and chastised for their beliefs.

In an attempt to counter this onslaught of controversies various Christian church leaders have focused a great deal of time and energy on two various aspects of the teachings of Jesus: 1) Jesus' grace and 2) Jesus' truth.  The purpose behind this type of education is in the "and".  Jesus communicated, lived, and loved others in both grace AND in truth.  Jesus wasn't one-sided.  Nor did Jesus place 80% of His effort and energy into grace and 20% into truth, or vice-versa. He lived and loved others equally through both grace and truth.  The message from these leaders has therefore been, "As Christians we must show a tremendous amount of grace to others AND clearly communicate what the scriptures say".  It's a message focused toward Christians who are one-sided or silent.  Those who have hope, but who may not choose to share that hope with others. 

Unfortunately, these efforts to teach others about grace and truth, as noble and honorable as they have been, have failed.  The reason they have failed, in my opinion, is that the lack of grace AND truth in how Christians communicate, live, and love others is only a symptom of a greater problem.  Are grace AND truth needed?  Absolutely.  But there's a greater problem in the church today than not living our lives equally within the bounds of grace and truth. The problem is this: the Christian church is living completely unbalanced in the areas of Acceptance and Repentance, and this unbalance mainly stems from varying understandings of the greatest four-letter word of them all.  Love.

Indeed, even among Christians today, the word "love" has a variety of meanings.  For some, love remains mostly an emotional feeling.  If one doesn't *feel* loved by others, then others are unloving, or worse, hateful.  For others, the word love isn't a feeling at all, it's about *being* loving toward others.  But once again, being loving toward others also has various interpretations.  And this is where we get into the subject of acceptance.

From my own observations, "acceptance" today has two meanings.  I could dive into this in greater detail, but for the sake of discussion I'll give 2 brief definitions.  One is that acceptance means loving a person, as a person.  Black, white, straight, gay, rich, love the person regardless of any ethnicity, sexuality, or fiances they may have.  Indeed the Bible says not to show favortism toward either rich or poor (James 2:1-4; Leviticus 19:15).  One may befriend them, respect them, and overall accept them as an individual.

However, there is a second meaning of "acceptance" today.  The second is that acceptance means loving a person and their belief system.  This means that if one is truly accepting of one who is rich, they must also accept the way he runs he business.  If one is to truly accept one who is homosexual, they must also accept his position on homosexuality.  If one is to accept one who is white, they must also accept his views on politics.  Some may see this as an exaggeration, but I see it far too often in today's culture.  "Acceptance" means accepting another person AND their belief system.  Tell somebody you disagree.  Tell them you see sin in their life.  Tell them they need to repent.  Say any of these things - whether a minor or major political disagreement, whether it's acknowledgement of sin, whether it's sharing wisdom or offering advice on how to "turn from" something (repentance) - it's seen as unloving.

As I observe this, I must turn to the scriptures to see how Jesus and others handled the subjects of acceptance and repentance.  And what I see is a great deal of Acceptance AND Repentance.  There truly is great power in the AND.  When I read John 8:2-11, I see Jesus firmly see the value in life and accept (love) an adulterous woman.  And she knew it.  The impact He had on her life in that moment was quite profound.  But what did Jesus say next?  "Go, and from now on do not sin anymore."  Yikes.  This doesn't go over well with the 2nd definition of acceptance above, does it?  But there's more.  Through the book of Acts, the first disciples have been called to share the Gospel, and they're called to do it to both Jews and Gentiles.  To the first disciples this meant taking the Gospel message to God's chosen people (the disciples understood this to be the Jews) AND to those who were not God's chosen people (the Gentiles).   What do the disciples say as they take this message onward?

In Acts 2:14-41 Peter gives one of a number of speeches that are located all through the book of Acts.  He concludes by saying, "Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for your sins."   We see it again in Acts 3:19, "...repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out."  And again in 8:22, "...repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that the intent of your heart may be forgiven you."  This one, I believe is crucial, as entails the intent of the heart.  How often today does one say, "I believe you're engaging in sin," and they say it with a true heart of, "I really want what's best for heart is for you," yet they're seen as unloving, unaccepting, or perhaps even hateful.

But this word "repent" never really goes away.  We see it again Acts 18:30-31, "Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent..."  What was that?  God commands all people everywhere to repent?  Yes, that's what it says. God wants people to turn from sin.  All people.  Black, white, straight, gay, rich, poor...all people.  But to ask one to do so today is often considered unloving.  It's often considered unaccepting.  It's often considered flat-out wrong.  Or as modern culture has recently shows, it's intolerant, or hateful.

Outside of the disciples, what exactly did Jesus preach about repentance?  He said, "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near."  (Matthew 4:17).  Additionally,  He said, "The healthy don't need a doctor, but the sick do.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."  (Luke 5:32).    Jesus' words in Luke 10:13-16 are stronger, much stronger.

I could provide additional examples, but the main point is that the scriptures clearly communicate the importance of both acceptance and repentance.  Jesus expressed both acceptance and repentance.  The disciples expressed both acceptance and repentance.  But today, Christians live in a culture that spends much more time, energy, and resources focusing on a faulty understanding of acceptance.  We would do better to fully understand what it means to accept a person.  Black, white, straight, gay, rich, poor...accept them as a person.  Not their beliefs.  Not their political views.  Simply accepting them as a person.  Yet be unafraid and unashamed to ask them to repent and turn to God.  Not out of pride, or arrogance, but out a simple, humble heart that wants God's best for all people.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

LDS Teachings: Part 1

Oh, no.  Another election year in the US.  This means that millions of Americans are and will continue to be up in arms about who to vote for, and why.  Notwithstanding, I'm not writing this post to promote or advocate any individual candidate.  I've simply observed the following in our culture:  1) Barrack Obama is a professing Christian, who (at least in the eyes of some) seems to teach/lead/believe certain things that may stray from Christian doctrine.  2) Mitt Romney is a professing Mormon (LDS).  With Romney pretty much a lock as the Republican candidate, downloads of "The Book of Mormon" have significantly increased, as people in our culture want to know what it is Mormon's teach and believe.  Additionally, this has led a number of people to ask me, "What is it that Mormons believe?"  Therefore, I'm creating this series of post to highlight some certain specifics on Mormon teaching.  After discussing a few of the major differences between Mormonism and Christianity, I'll write my opinion as to why Mormons believe what they believe as well as suggestions on how to converse with them.

Note: When conversing with anybody who is a Mormon, there is one general principle to follow: in the modern world, "Mormon" has become an almost taboo word.  Therefore, throughout this series of post I shall refer to Mormons as LDS (Latter Day Saints), which is the standard by which Mormons identify themselves.

LDS Teaching #1: There are numerous gods.

Ask a Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, etc. how many gods there are, and they are sure to answer, "One!".  Indeed, the Old Testament passage Deut. 6:4 HCSB (known to those of a Jewish background as the Shema) states, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one."  There is One God...One.  Christianity teaches that God is One but found in three separate but equal persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is Christianity 101 type stuff. However, the LDS church teaches something vastly different.

As a part of this discussion it must be noted that the LDS church doesn't only look upon the Bible as a sacred text.  Nor do they acknowledge only the Bible and the Book of Mormon as sacred texts.  They have four.  These include, The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and their Doctrine and Covenants.  For the sake of this conversation on gods, we must look at a book that is part of the Pearl of Great Price, "The Book of Abraham".

In 1835, Joseph Smith and the young LDS church purchased a scroll from ancient Egypt.  Joseph Smith quickly "discovered" that he was able to interpret the scroll, and that it was indeed writings of Abraham (see Genesis 12 onward).  Joseph Smith went on to interpret the scroll which is known today as the Book of Abraham.  This book is of crucial significance to LDS doctrine, as it gives a detailed account of the creation of the earth.  The book describes how a council of the gods comes together to discuss the creation and birth of various spirits, and the differences of the spirits...and so on.

At the time Joseph Smith and the LDS church purchased this Egyptian papyri, nobody on earth could translate Egyptian hieroglyphics, so nobody had any reason to doubt Smith's interpretation. The papyri was determined to have been written by the hand of Abraham himself, and nobody should doubt it's authority as a part of true scripture.  To make a long account short, the papyri was eventually lost, and thought to have been burned The Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  However, two things are of significance here: 1) Smith left facsimile's behind depicting the scrolls, and 2) the scrolls were later discovered to have not been destroyed, with the originals still fully in tact.

Due to the discovery of the Rosetta stone, these papyri have now been translated by scholars dozens of times.  They are certainly not anything written by Abraham, but is instead the writings of ancient Egyptian burial ceremony (much like a funeral service today) known as "The Book of the Dead".

However, this is still a tremendous belief system in the LDS church.  The Book of Abraham is still upheld today as a book written by Abraham himself, and Smith's translation of the document stands.

If discussing this point with an LDS member today, they will likely point to such Bible passages such as, Genesis 1:26 which says, "Let us make mankind in our image."  They defend the counsel of the gods by acknowledging the the Hebrew text of the Old Testament itself using the term "us".  However, the Christian teaching of this passage is that "us" refers to God and his angelic court, or perhaps is an early acknowledgment of the Trinity.  There is much that could be written here, but Christian scholars affirm that it is not an acknowledgment of a plurality of gods.

For more on the Book of Abraham, feel free to check out these resources:
20 Truths About Mormonism

Outside the Book of Abraham, the LDS church teaches that we may become gods ourselves.

The Doctrine & Covenants states:
19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, ...Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; ...and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, ...and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.
22 For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me. (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-22)
This is a drastically different teaching than what one would learn from Catholics or Protestants today.   While there are some differences among denominations as to when believers in Jesus Christ will be in heaven with him (Luke 23:43), it is well taught that 1) We will be with Jesus - Phil 1:23, 2 Timothy 4:6  and 2) God will rule over a new heaven and a new earth (we won't rule or become gods over anything ourselves) - Revelation 19-21.

As you can see, these are not minor differences in a belief system, they are quite significant.  We'll discuss more in future posts, concluding with ideas on how to converse with LDS members today about these differences.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

1st Quarter 2012 Music Guide:

Do to my work on our other blog, I've neglected this one a great deal this year.  My apologies for that, but I believe our ministry will keep me focused on the other one the majority of the time.  Therefore, for the time being this blog will be where I occasionally write about the music I've been enjoying.  And here is a look into what I've purchased thus far in 2012:

All Sons & Daughter album "Season One": 

All Sons & Daughters are a duo worship pair who have released 2 EP's titled, "Brokenness Aside" and "Reason to Sing".  In 2012 they combined the 2 EP's, added a couple extra songs, some videos, chord chards, and voila, "Season One" was born.  If you haven't listened to All Sons & Daughters, they're probably writing and recording the best worship music you can get your hands on today.  It's well layered, yet they do an excellent job of allowing the instrumentation to take a back seat to the beautiful harmonies they create.  "Season One" on itunes contains worship videos and a bunch of extras for $11.99.  Amazon's digital download is $9.99, but they also have a hard copy CD (for the purists out there) that can also be found for about 11.99.  Either one is worth the expense, but the iTunes LP and/or hard copy CD/DVD is probably the best way to go.  As for their sound, I'd like to say AS&D is similar to "The Civil Wars" with more of a worship feel, but honestly, "I believe Season One" to be even better than "Barton Hollow".  Final Take: 4.5/5

Paul Baloche's album "The Same Love":

Paul Baloche is well known for some old worship favorites ("Open the Eyes of My Heart") but he's been putting out albums for a long, long time. His new one, "The Same Love" is brilliant.  Recorded in a few houses with some studio work and mixing going into it, he's delivered an album that's not only theologically solid, but also points the listener directly to the gospel, and he's able to accomplish this in every single song! without sounding mundane.  He worked with "All Sons & Daughters" on the track "Oh, Our Lord" as well.  I would be inclined to give "The Same Love" a 4/5, but Paul Baloche also decided to make the album available in hard-copy form as of March 13, and release it digitally on April 3. This gave bookstores some much needed business (Apple does take a 30% cut from itunes, you know, and I believe Amazon's mp3 store does too - buy directly from artists whenever possible! *rant over*) and those who preordered from this site got a truckload of bonus material, how-to-play videos, chord charts, demo tracks, and more.  Well done, Paul Baloche, well done.  Final Take: 4.5/5

Passion's album "White Flag":

Passion has become a bit too formulaic in my personal opinion.  It seems that all Passion artists/conferences have this mindset of, "If it's worked before, let's just do it again!"  Here me Passion, and understand this isn't a judgment of any one person on this album: You need to add a bit more creativity into in your music.  The lyrics are simplistic and the guitar riffs and effects are getting repetitive. I don't mind hearing a slightly similar sound ever now and then (think "The Edge" from U2) but most artists will mix things up just enough to sound fresh.  While there are a few songs on here with a slightly different sound than albums of the past, the album as a whole still falls short.  Nevertheless, I'm sure we'll be introducing some tracks to our congregation in the near future.  The Deluxe Edition adds 3 tracks, some videos and a Louie Giglio talk making it worth the extra 50 cents on amazon (The 268 Generation store doesn't sell the Deluxe Edition).  Not sure it's worth the extra $2.50 on itunes.  But as stated on Paul Baloche's review above, if you truly want to support Passion, purchase it directly from them.  Final Take: 3.5/5

27 Million: by Matt Redman and LZ7:

Matt Redman and LZ7 combine to bring a modern day hip-hop track in which the sole purpose is to bring awareness to human trafficking and modern day slavery.  It worked. I've heard this song and seen it advertised just about everywhere.  The song itself, isn't great.  It's not bad, but it's not great either.  Nevertheless, the message of the song and the awareness that it continues to bring gives this single track a 4/5.

Robbie Seay Band's album "Rich and Poor": 

Robbie Seay Band continues to remain quiet in the realm of "worship" music these days.  Many of the tracks are not congregational friendly, but the band pulls them off in a way that makes this album a real treat to sit down and listen to.  I've found it's not the kind of album to listen to just 1-2 tracks before moving on.  Instead, listen to the entire album straight through.  Honestly, this album was a surprise to me (I've been playing and leading on worship teams for 12+ years now) and I'll have it in my repertoire for the next several months, if not longer.  Final Take: 4/5

David Crowder* Band's album "Give Us Rest"

David Crowder*Band released their final album in January of this year.  They played their final concert at the Passion Conference and are now all moving in different directions.  "Give Us Rest" is a Requiem Mass, and it's wonderful. While lyrically bland in a number of places, the artistic nature of the music helps to off-set this.  A wonderful way for David Crowder and friends to go out, yet something tells me we'll see a "live" album or two come into play, as DC*B recorded every concert they ever played.  I could be wrong, but I'm hopeful to see a live CD if not DVD make it's way out in the next 12-18 months.  Final Verdict: 4.5/5

Hillsong United Album "Live in Miami": 

What I stated above regarding Passion I can state again for Hillsong United.  I purchased this album thinking they would mix up enough tracks to give various ideas for how to do some of their songs in a live setting. I was wrong. I feel like I've heard this album before. At least 3-4 times before. As much as artists may believe it helps the overall experience, the crowd yelling in the background doesn't help.  Final Verdict: 3/5

Rend Collective Experiment's album "Homemade Worship by Handmade People"

Rend Collective Experience had out one album before this which didn't do too much for me.  The more I listened to it, the more I felt like it was missing something.  I was expecting this to be a "Sophomore Slump" kind of album and sadly watch what could have been fade into obscurity. Thankfully, this didn't happen.  Rend Collective Experiment does a fantastic job writing fresh worship songs with great harmonies and the occasional horn section.  Here's hoping for even better things ahead for Rend Collective Experiment.  Final Take: 4/5

Bon Iver's Youtube video "Live at Air Studio"

Fading away from the "worship" music scene, I'd like to give my 2 cents on the Bon Iver live at Air Studios youtube clip.  Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) is either one of those artists you truly love, or truly don't.  Personally, I love the guy.  I do my best not to fall into the trap of what magazine's tell me I should listen to, but when it comes to Bon Iver, they were right.  The Grammy's Bon Iver won this year were very much deserved and I find these 5 stripped down recordings to be absolute perfection. Last Year's self-titled album and this video will be in my playlist for years to come.  Final Take: 5/5

Of Monsters and Men's EP "Into the Woods

Haven't heard of "Of Monsters and Men"? You will. They currently have a 4-track EP out titled, "Into the Woods" and their full album is due to be released April 3 (though many clips are already available on youtube). RELEVANT Magazine says they may be this year's "Mumford and Sons" and RELEVANT may be right.  Check out the sound clips from the EP and prepare yourself for what may be one of this year's best released.  Final Verdict on the EP: 4/5

Albums I'm looking forward to later this year:

 Of Monsters and Men - My Head is An Animal:

See Above Notes on their EP

Swithfoot's "Vice Re-Verses" Remix Album:

Switchfoot is releasing a Vice Re-verses remix album from their wildly popular Vice Verses album last year.  I get weary of many remix albums, but with artists like Paper Route getting involved, I'm wildly curious and have a slight restrained jubilation vibe (Seinfeld reference) about this album.

Paper Route - "The Peace of Wild Things"

Paper Route's album "Absence" is probably one of my favorite albums over the past 3 years....maybe 5! And they're returning with a new album soon titled, "The Peace of Wild Things".  Oddly, they've mixed up their sound, and not just a little, but a lot.  The two tracks they've released thus far via Noisetrade giveaway's have a lot more of a "pop" music flair to them.  Honestly, I'm not sure what to expect with the album, as what I've heard is very different from their former album.  I'm excited about this one, but I have a few reservations.  Here's hoping they pull out a "Rend Collective Experiment" and send my shallow expectations to the curb.

Mumford & Sons, U2, The Violet Burning, and more:

Word is out that Mumford and Sons very well may have a new album out in 2012, as well as U2.  Additionally, I'm aware that "The Violet Burning" will be releasing some acoustic tracks to last year's "The Story of Our Lives" (to select individuals who supported their last album - me being one of them).  That said, TVB may release some other new material as well.  I'm certain there are a number of albums coming out I've yet to hear about, nevertheless, 2012 has been a great year for music thus far, and here's hoping it only gets better!

What great album(s) am I missing out on?  Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Best Albums of 2011:

As there isn't a whole lot of new music due out the remainder of the year, I thought I'd go ahead and post my "Best Albums of 2011" list.

Having a very wide range of musical taste, I thought I'd post by genre. While there could be much debate as to whether or not each of these albums has been placed into the appropriate genre, I've placed them here per my own personal preference.  Anyway, without any further ado...

Best "Worship" Albums of the Year:
I loathe CCM.  I really do.  Fortunately, however, good worship music (both congregational friendly and non-congregational friendly) continues to thrive, and 2011 was no exception to this.

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman: There probably isn't a better congregational friendly worship album released this year.  Most solid album by Redman since Facedown.  Definitely worth owning.

Economy by John Mark McMillan: Many folks don't know John Mark McMillan, but if I told you he wrote "How He Loves", you'd say, "Oh, I love that song!"  Well, Economy is everything but "How He Loves", however, the album is a great Rock-worship album.  Not congregationally friendly perhaps, but a fantastic listen!

Brokenness Aside by All Sons and Daughters: When I first heard this 7-track EP I was floored.  Tracks such as "All the Poor and Powerless" are as good (if not better) than Gungor's "This is not the End".  Seriously, it's that good.  I cannot wait to hear what they come out with next.

Worship Album of the Year! - Ghosts Upon the Earth by Gungor: RELEVANT Magazine said Gungor's album was an early pick for album of the year.  They were right.  Ghosts Upon the Earth is 12 tracks of pure amazing songwriting and musicianship.  And unlike many other albums released these days, Ghosts requires you to sit and capture the entire project in one sitting.  A true masterpiece.

Best Singer/Songwriter Albums of the Year:
Love & War and The Sea In Between by Josh Garrels: This album is amazing, and Josh decided to give it away free for one year.  If you haven't downloaded it yet, do it.  Seriously.

Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars: The Civil Wars took years to be noticed, but they kept plugging along.  Now they're nominated for a Grammy and rightfully so.  Fantastic songwriting.  Fantastic vocals. Fantastic album.

Invisible Empires by Sara Groves: If you've never heard Sara Groves before, she's got a huge heart for social justice.  This is well seen on her former albums (in fact, she once recorded a live Christmas concert from within a women's prison and released it for free.)  While Invisible Empires may not be her best work, it's still one of the best albums I've heard this year.

Deeper by JJ Heller: JJ's former album was awful, just awful.  Fortunatly, she's gone back to her stripped down acoustic roots.  And there was much rejoicing.

Mission Bell by Amos Lee: A friend of mine turned me on to this album, and I'm really glad he did.  It's one of the finest pieces in my singer/songwriter collection that I'll be going back to for years to come.

Yearbook Collection by Sleeping at Last:I haven't heard a set of EP's this good since Jon Foreman's 4 Seasons EP's released a few years back.  To be honest, this SaL collection may be one I turn to more often in years to come than Foreman's.  Yes, it's that good.  Definitely worth purchasing the entire collection.

Singer/Songwriter Album of the Year! - Bon Iver by Bon Iver.  This album probably won't be your cup of tea.  Justin Vernon sings in a constant falsetto (as he also did on For Emma, Forever Ago) and the music is far from most radio-friendly music heard today.  Nevertheless, this self-titled effort is so musically creative and well layered that it is probably my most listened to album of the year. 

Best Rock Albums of the Year:

Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie: It's really a shame that Death Cab's non-belief in God is so blatantly apparent throughout this album.  Its' a pretty good project for Death Cab, but not one I'll put in regularly.

Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes: Perhaps this album belongs in a "Folk" section, I'm not really sure.  While Fleet Foxes have been compared to a lot of bands of years past, I liken them most to a cross between the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas.  This album has superb songwriting and musicianship

The King is Dead by The Decembersists: Another "folk" album maybe, but The King is Dead is a great project by the Decemberists.  While it's not the quality of Helplessness Blues, it's still worth a good listen.

Nothing is Wrong by Dawes: One of the great mellow southern rock albums of the year.  Dawes may not be your style, but I found this album worth listening to a number of times, and I'm certain I'll hear it a lot more in the months ahead.

The Whole Love by Wilco: Wilco is a very interesting band, but they've been around for years.  And The Whole Love is probably one of the best albums in their career.  If the mood is right, you won't find a better record to listen to than this one.

Vice Verses by Switchfoot: Jon Foreman and Switchfoot do it again! Vice Verses is a great alternative/pop/rock album.  You feel kind of torn as to what genre to place it in (depending on what track you're listening to), but they're able to make it work very well.  If you haven't picked this up, you probably should.

Rock Album of the Year! - The Story of Our Lives by The Violet Burning: It's true.  I could not in good conscious put forth a different "Rock album of the year" than this one.  Michael Pritzl's 34 track - 3 cd - box set compilation is as good as it gets. 

Let me know what I missed in the comments below!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why All Christians Should Love Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

After reading this blog the other day…I figured what the heck.  So without further ado, here are the top reasons as to why all Christians ought to be as excited as all get-out about Modern Warfare 3:

  1. The soldiers speak culturally relevant language.  Sure, the game is rated “M” for mature, but have you really read the bible recently.? People getting hacked to pieces, Jesus calling the Pharisees “Sons of Snakes!”…I mean the list goes on and on.  Not only that, but the language often spoken by the soldiers is clear and direct, often with a one point message, just like the parables of Jesus.
  2. MW3 offers campaigns in which you and your “brothers” must go into battle together.  Isn’t this what the real world is like?  Our battle may not be against flesh and blood, but having Modern Warfare 3 is an excellent training exercise for the real battle that lingers as soon as we leave the confines of our Christian homes.  And since Jesus commanded us to evangelize, we better get in as much brotherly training as possible.
  3. Unlike the crappy binding on many bibles today, CoD: MW3 comes in a plastic case guaranteed to last a lifetime.  While future gaming consoles will come and go, your purchase of MW3 is pretty much guaranteed to last an eternity...which will always remind you of your assurance of salvation.
  4. MW3 is a surefire guarantee to help you instill better character and grow in the Fruit of the Spirit.  You are guaranteed to be placed into difficult situations where you must “love” those who “kill” your friends (or “brothers”), you will experience joy in victory, and will ultimately be put to the test in maintaining self-control.
  5. Like #2 above, our beloved US soldiers always fight “for God and Country”.  Again, this is excellent training for real life.  We should all be putting God first in our lives, and the campaigns offered in MW3 provide excellent insight as to how we can all be putting God first in our lives, even when suffering through the most extreme circumstances possible.
All in all, I’m at least 17% convinced that playing CoD: MW3 is as good or better than reading the Bible itself.  After I engage in some more intense gameplay, there’s at least a 50-50 chance that percentage will go up.  It may not appeal to the masses, but neither does the KJV.  Yet every home has a copy of a KJV somewhere, and CoD: MW3 ought to be sitting directly beside it for generations to come.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ghosts Upon the Earth:

Let me get this out of the way now: if you're looking for a "worship" album that contains a few songs that are easy to sing along while you're driving down the highway, this album is not for you.  However, if you're looking for something to really LISTEN to, something that provides some of the best instrumentation, powerful lyrics, and an overall taste of the best collective songwriting possible, stop reading this right now and go buy Gungor's latest album, "Ghosts Upon the Earth".

Gungor attacks themes such as creation, death, the afterlife, and even wrongful biblical teaching, and accomplishes all of this with lyrics and music that have a "faith like a child" feel to them.  It's beautifully, artistically, and painfully impressive all at once.  It's an album that will have you in deep worship one moment, and in a challenging self-retrospective state the next -- and then back again.  It's almost as if Gungor intentionally set-out to bring the listener into a state of worship, then challenge their perception of God, and bring them to an even greater moment of worship as album closes.  A truly remarkable accomplishment.

"Ghosts Upon the Earth" is truly one of the greatest albums of 2011. Enjoy!

To read all about the album, check out Gungor's blog.  This will give you the opportunity to have all lyrics on-hand as you listen.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Righting Wrongs:

At this time there are approximately 7 Billion people on earth.  That's 7,000,000,000.  It's a lot.  It's much more than most people would care to count.  In fact, if you live to the age of 70, your heart will beat approximately 2.8 Billion times. So if you really want to count that high you'd better be counting faster than your heart will beat.

Currently, I've lived less than 1/2 of that.  But I've discovered something that all people on this earth discover.  Not everybody thinks the same way I do.  Not everybody has the same convictions I do.  If I broke it down to Christians only, there would still be countless numbers of people who have written or said something I disagree with.  And on many, many occasions, I have become frustrated with them, sometimes to the point of anger.

When I listen to someone give a great message via podcast, and then I read a book or blog they write that seems to completely contradict what I heard in the message, I get frustrated.  When a blog writer has an amazing post about loving others and then three days later writes a long verbal assault against someone who has different scriptural or political convictions...I get frustrated.  And sadly, when I read/hear these kinds of things I myself have been greatly tempted to speak against them, because, well....they were wrong!  It was obvious! (I justify to myself).  And strangely, my thought of them being wrong somehow caused me personally to feel wronged by them.

However, over the past 4-6 weeks I've spent some time meditating on two scripture passages in particular.  One is a short passage in the love chapter: 1 Corinthians 13.  As Paul is defining what love looks like he slips something in I don't like very much.  Something I've come to realize I've had a difficult time living out in my own life.  He writes, love "keeps no record of wrongs."

People have wronged me.  A few have wronged me deeply.  And it's so, so easy for me to continue to hold it against them.  But love keeps no record of wrongs.

The second passage is Matthew 6:14-15.  Jesus says, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."  Ouch.

My meditation on these passages has led me to one ultimate conclusion: If Jesus is Love then 1 Cor. 13 is one of the best chapters to meditate on to figure out how to live like Jesus.  Jesus keeps no records of wrongs. If I have wronged him and he is keeping no record of that, should I not be living in the same manner toward others?  Others may cut me, wound me, spread lies about me, and in the end they may really be wrong.  But as a follower of Jesus I am commanded to keep no record of wrongs.  You are commanded the same.

In light of this, I would like to propose a challenge.  Think of somebody who has wronged you.  Maybe recently.  Maybe years ago.  Maybe it's somebody you've never even met.  Nevertheless, take the opportunity to re-read 1 Corinthians 13 many times over, and as you do so, adapt it a little bit for your own situation.

For example:
"If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

Here, Paul focuses on the importance of speech.  Am I truly speaking in love?  Or am I only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal?

"Love is patient, love it kind."

God is patient toward me.  God is kind toward me.

Am I patient toward *person who wronged me*?  Am I kind toward *person who wronged me*?  Do I speak kindly about *person who wronged me*?

"Love does not dishonor others..."

God does not dishonor me.  Am I doing/saying/writing anything that dishonors *person who wronged me*?

Read all of 1 Corinthians 13 this way.  Really reflect on what's written.  Like me, I am certain others have wronged you deeply.  But meditating on this passage may just help you to love them in ways you never thought possible.  And you may just find you're able to truly forgive others who have done nothing truly deserving forgiveness.

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, u but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.