Subscribe in a reader or enter your address to get posts via email: 
Like this blog on Facebook!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Birth of Jesus

My son got the Lego Star Wars game for Christmas. When I ran across this old link in my bookmarks, I knew that I should share it with Christdot, even though it is a few days late for the holiday:

The Birth of Christ

Friday, October 13, 2006

This Little Light Of Mine

I've posted a new document at Scripture Menu, and I'd love to get some feedback on it. Take a look:

The Light of the Lamp

Please post any comments here on Christdot! That is, post comments here if you LIKED it. If you didn't like it, here's something that may put you back in a good mood:

Monday, September 11, 2006

eBible Open for Business (wth ESV!)

As an ESV fan, I was stoked when I tried out, fresh out of beta, and found out that the ESV is one of the translations they offer! For the record, they have these translations: King James Version, New Century Version, The Message, New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version, New King James Version. No idea which edition of the NASB it might be, although I imagine it's probably the 1995 vintage. They also have seven commentaries, four Bible dictionaries, and ten encyclopedias. The Bible translations are all free, but a few of the other study helps have a cost associated with them.

They also have the concept of a "community" built in to the service; apparently you can invite your friends to the service and then share your verse, topic, and note bookmarks with the rest of them. Interesting concept, adding a social component to a Bible study site... but I wonder how well the whole thing will work out without the NIV on the roster.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Anne Rice, Theologian

Recently I listened to the audiobook version of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. What?? you say. A book about Jesus by the author of Interview with the Vampire??? Yep, that's the Anne Rice. It seems she has returned to a long-abandoned Catholic faith, and with a vengeance. The book is well-researched and (mostly) historically accurate; I enjoyed it a lot.

The story starts, as you could deduce from the title, in Egypt where Jesus' family has fled from murderous King Herod. Jesus is I believe about eight years old, and a series of events prompt his family to move back to Nazareth. At the beginning of the story Jesus has no idea who He is or what His mission might be; he discovers and realizes it during the course of the story. Which leads to the interesting question that is central to the novel: when did Jesus figure out His true origin? Obviously infants don't have that kind of knowledge, and the Bible says that Christ "made Himself nothing and took on the nature of a servant" (my off-the-cuff paraphrase). So assuming He did not know He was the Messiah all His life, when and how did He find out?

Anne Rice did a TON of historical research for this novel. She read the canonical Bible, noncanonical books, and some that are kind of in between (such as the book of Tobit, a story from which is actually told in one scene; it is considered part of the Scripture in some but not all modern churches, but it was present in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament in common use in Jesus' day). She found some stories from noncanonical works so fascinating that she included them in the novel; part of what prompts Mary and Joseph to move back to Nazareth is the fact that the child Jesus has "accidentally" been performing miracles, such as making a bird out of clay and then bringing it to life and killing a playmate with His words and then raising him from the dead (these events occur in the Gospel of Thomas, and the clay bird incident is also recorded in the Koran). There are some real Catholic influences, too, sometimes at the expense of common sense; Mary is presented as a virgin for her whole life except for Jesus' birth (she and Joseph never have intercourse ever, even after Jesus is born) so an elaborate backstory about the brothers and sisters of Jesus is constructed (James is a half-brother from Joseph's hypothetical previous marriage, and other "brothers and sisters" are actually cousins taken in after their parents' death). The wildest deviation from probable historical accuracy is that in the novel, it actually snows... in Israel... at Christmas (to be fair, it is presented as a miracle). But other than those quibbles, the book does a good job at presenting the way things probably were in that time period, and also does a good job at fleshing out Jesus as a human person. The story is told from His viewpoint, and He tells us what He is thinking and feeling. He tells us when he cries, and when He wants to but does not because He is being brave (remember, in the book he's a little kid). I enjoyed wondering if that was maybe the kinds of things that really went through the child Jesus' mind as He went about his daily life as a kid in the Middle East.

Oddly, I noticed a couple of grammar errors that I found jarring from a book by such a celebrated author... in Chapter 13 there is a sentence that says that something happened to "James and I" (should be "James and me" in that construction), and there is a sentence that says that ladies were "selling vegetables from their gardens that they didn't need" (they don't need the gardens? Then why do they put in so much hard work on them?) But I found the book engrossing, thought-provoking, and very interesting. Give it a chance. I know it sounds weird, but if you remember that it is a fictionalized account it is a fun read.

By the way... if you have reservations about the author's reason for writing or qualifications for presenting the details of life in the Holy Land in that period, I recommend that you read the epilogue first. It gives a lot of detail about Anne's "reconversion" and research before writing the book. If you'd like the Cliff's Notes instead, take a look at this MSNBC article.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Son In Paul

The ESV translation of Galatians 1:15-16 reads:
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone... [emphasis mine]
There is a footnote on the word "to" that the Greek actually says "in" me. Since I am still reading from The Evengelical Parallel New Testament, I was able to easily check a whole bunch of translations... and the NKJV, NIV, TNIV, and HCSV all say "in." Of all of the translations in the book (NLT and The Message are not what I consider reliable to look at as "translations") only the ESV and the NCV (which is supposed to be one of the more "dynamic" translations) said "to." I can only assume that the idea is that we don't want anyone to think that Christ was in Paul even before he was a believer and was only "revealed" in him later. Seems like the translators of the other versions didn't have too much trouble with that, though. I'd say if the Greek says "in" I'd like to read "in" and settle out any Theological difficulties myself. (Although I understand that articles in Greek are pretty vague, so maybe "to" is just as valid as "in" and the other translations were simply following the traditional rendering; I'm not a Greek scholar so I don't know for positive!)

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

I Am Free

(The director of the choir at my church sends out devos written by the choir members periodically. This is a slightly edited version of the one I wrote for them.)

I Am Free

I am free to run!
I am free to dance!
I am free to live for You!
I am free!
(Jon Egan)

[Jesus said,] "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." (Mark 10:15 ESV)

Most of you were there the first Sunday morning we sang "I Am Free." When my wife Cathy and I are at sound check, we normally leave Mikey, who is six years old, out in the pews... he's old enough to hang loose and not wander around too much (especially if we remember to bring his Game Boy Advance!) That morning Robert's wife was out there too, with their little granddaughter who is about the same age, and the two kids were playing or talking or something out there. I'll never forget what happened when the band started playing the new song. Generally at early-morning sound check I'm feeling just a LITTLE bit draggy... but I'm not six years old! When the music started thumping and we started singing, the two kids started to JUMP!

I think they jumped the whole song! Of course most of us in the choir noticed and were looking at them, mostly because it was just so cute. I was enjoying seeing them excited too, but my first inclination was to kind of discount their performance as just playing around. "They're just kids, after all," I thought. "They're not jumping because of the freedom they have in Christ... they're jumping because the music is loud and it's fun to jump. They're not really worshipping God."

In the Scripture verses just before the one I quoted above, it tells the familiar story about children wanting to come touch Jesus and His disciples trying to shoo them off. My ESV says that Jesus became "indignant." Mikey's NIrV translation says that Jesus was ANGRY! I think Jesus was also a little "indignant" that Sunday morning at my snotty judgment of the two kids' jumping, too, because the Holy Spirit instantly reminded me that Jesus said we are to come to Him as a little child. Right in front of me I was seeing an example of how a little child comes; they don't understand everything all the time, but they are always ready for a celebration! So what if they weren't thinking of the Scriptural basis of the song... so what if they weren't praying under their breath... so what if they weren't even thinking about the words at all. The song is about FREEDOM! Those kids knew where they were. They knew they were in church and not on a playground. They weren't jumping all around and running around out of just adrenaline. Those two kids know what worship means, and in their little kid way, they were participating. Come to Him like a little child!

That's why every time we sing "I Am Free" now, I have to jump. How could I not? I keep thinking about those little children, coming to worship-time not out of intellect, but just celebrating the freedom they know they have to jump for Jesus if they want to. Now I'm not at all implying that it's wrong to be thinking about something from the Word, or something we know about God, or just thinking about Jesus as we worship. That's exactly the right thing to do. We were taught us in our recent choir workshop that worship comes from your heart, from the inside and not from what is going on on the outside. But if you have the Lord Jesus in your heart already, it's also not wrong to celebrate because the music is fun and God loves it LOUD! Why do you think He has TRUMPETS in Heaven?? What part of "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" do we not understand? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." Using your mind is correct. AND using your heart is correct. AND using your soul is correct. But don't forget that sometimes, it's time to love the Lord with ALL YOUR STRENGTH!

You are free to DANCE! And you are free to RUN!

Monday, August 7, 2006

You Can't Beat The Classics

Lately I've been doing my Bible reading from a copy of The Evengelical Parallel New Testament that I borrowed from the library. The layout of the book is really pretty informative for someone who, like me, has read up a bit on the whole literal vs. dynamig translation method debate; the two translations on the far left, the NKJV and the ESV, are the most "literal" translations (close to word-for-word from the originals). The others (NIV and HCSB, TNIV and NCV, NLT and The Message) are arranged that way so that the most "dynamic" of the translations (actually both paraphrases) are on the far right, and the four in between are roughly arranged in sequence from most literal to most dynamic.

Anyway, today I ran across a "classic" example for literal translation advocates: 2 Corinthians 5:21. That link is to a page that displays the renderings from the first five translations in the book: NKJV, ESV, NIV, HCSV, TNIV. They all say something to the effect that Jesus was made "to be" sin, so that we could "become the righteousness of God." Interestingly, when I glanced over at the NCV version of the verse, I had no longer "become" the righteousness of God, but was simply "made righteous." Likewise with the NLT and The Message. Maybe to some people that's a minor, hair-splitting change, but Theologically it's a big difference whether Jesus took a mud-bath in our sin and then he said we were OK, or whether he became the sin and we became the righteousness. Actually, I guess you could say it's the difference in old covenant covering with animal blood vs. new covenant cleansing with Jesus' blood.

I notice that The Good News translation is even worse... in that one Jesus just shares our sin with us, and we get to share God's righteousness with Him. Like he gave us a piece of his Snickers. ARGH!

(Notice that in this case, two of the translations that are often considered dynamic-equivalent "offenders" - the NIV and TNIV - came out with the more literal version of the verse. Fear of what the TNIV update of the NIV would mistranslate was a big part of the reason why the ESV and HCSB were created in the first place!)

"You are the same, You never change..."

How could it possibly be that God never changes, when there are actually areas in Scripture where it is said that He changed his mind about something when approached in prayer? (Genesis 18:20-26 and Exodus 32:7-14, for example) Sunday evening we were singing a song in church about how God never changes, and I was wondering how that could be and how Jesus could have been "slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8 in many translations; ESV renders it differently), and a theory came to me.

A CAT scan is made up of a series of 2-dimensional cross-sections (x-rays) of whatever is being scanned (usually a human). Imagine for a second that there was a being that existed in only two dimensions. His experience of what a human being is would likely be something like one cross-section from a CAT scan. Now remember that God exists in all of time at once, but we humans only perceive a single point in time at once. Maybe the reason we perceive what seems like "changes" in God is that we can only see one snapshot of the CAT scan at once. As we travel through time, we come to different parts of the landscape of what God is. It's like our 2-dimensional guy is traveling slowly across someone's body, just like the CT machine. The body may be lying perfectly still, not moving or changing in position at all, but in the perception of the 2D man, the body looks like a circle which slowly expands and then contracts in size (the head), then an oval (the shoulders), and so on, ending in two circles (the legs) and then two ovals (the feet). The body is not changing at all in ultimate reality, but the way the 2D man experiences it change dramatically.

The analogy breaks down at several points (for example, the body in the CAT scan analogy is inert, and God is characterized in the Bible as very active), but I think it's conceptually useful. We just have to remember that there is far more to God than our human brains are likely to be able to totally comprehend this side of Heaven (maybe even on that side!)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Giving God A Lift

It's always bothered me a little when I'm in a worship service and someone says, "Let's lift up Jesus! He said if He was lifted up He would draw all men to Him!" Do these people realize that when Jesus said that, He was talking about his crucifixion?
[Jesus said,] "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. -John 12:32-33 (ESV)
Jesus may have been quoting from the prophet Isaiah, who in talking about the suffering of the coming Messiah said:
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you-- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind-- -Isaiah 52:13-14 (ESV)
Elsewhere in the Gospel of John Jesus compared His future experience of being "lifted up" on a cross to Moses lifting up a serpent on a pole in Numbers 21:4-9:
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. -John 3:13-15 (ESV)
Also see John 8:21-30 for another incident where Jesus used this "lifted up" phrase to describe his crucifixion. Anyone who read through the book of John with his eyes open and brains switched on should have understood this; it bothers me that people seem to not be paying any better attention than that. It's almost like saying "Let's crucify Jesus this morning! Hooray!" and of course that would be totally unbiblical.

I do realize that people mean "worship Jesus" when they say "lift up Jesus." And granted, there is (kind of weak) Scriptural precedence for this usage as well:
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. -Acts 1:9 (ESV)
But even if you intend "lift up" to mean "exalt," so you're saying that by "lifting Him up" you're exalting and glorifying God, giving Him an honor, then you risk taking credit for something God has already done:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV) (italics mine)
In the long run, worship comes from the heart. You can probably sing "Yankee Doodle" if you want to, and if worship is truly in your heart God would accept it. But it pays to actually know what you're talking about even as a leader of worship, and especially if you are a preacher. There are people out there who listen to you and never actually crack open an honest-to-goodness Bible; if you feed them flawed theological images, it will only lead to confusion in the end.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Why You Aren't Receiving (Even Though You Are Asking)

In the circles I frequent, this is a very familiar verse (all boldface in this post is mine, not the ESV's):
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. - John 15:7 (ESV)
According to just that verse, there are three requirements to getting your prayers answered:

1. Abide in Jesus
2. Have His Word in you
3. Ask in prayer

Of course, the context does a lot to define what it means to "abide in Jesus," so you can read that on your own, but in a nutsheel that's kind of it. At least, I always thought that was it, until last night when I read the passage to my son. Check out verse 16:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. - John 15:16 (ESV)
That presents another requirement: you must be BEARING FRUIT. If you really need proof that bearing fruit is part of the scenario, read verse 7 in context:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. - John 15:1-8 (ESV)
You can't expect to follow some magic formula and somehow make God give you something, of course; sometimes God does things for reasons we don't understand. But it does make sense to live your life in such a way that you are not the cause of something you pray for not happening. If you re-read verse 16 above, it almost sounds like God is really wanting to fulfill your request, if you would just BEAR SOME FRUIT so He could do it! " that... he MAY give it to you." Of course, it could be argued that "bearing fruit" is part of "abiding in Me" (see verses 4-6), so really it's all present in verse 7, but it's illuminating how well it is summed up a few verses later.

Easier to read: NIV or ESV?

A few weeks ago a friend gave me a pen-style hand scanner she bought a year or two ago and became frustrated with (it's kind of tricky to use and requres a steady hand and lots of patience). I finally got around to fiddling with it this weekend, scanning whatever I could find that might be useful to have in my computer. I was hoping to use it to scan Scripture verses during church so I could review them later, so I pulled out my little ESV Trutone and scanned a bit with it, and then I pulled out my wife's NIV Life Application Study Bible and tried it out on that. Here are some of my results of scanning John 3:16:


16"For God so Ioveda the world that he gaye his one and only Sbn,t tii~t~ 4ho-el'er believes in him shall not perish but tiive eternal life.

16"For God so loveda tee world that he gave his one and onl? Song tliat whoever believes in him shall not perish but liave eternal life.


1~s~hr dd~~lo~td'fhe 4-oddl that Cave dis ohli~ Sofi, Flat i~rh~aver beje~ee iR tum 4htJula'~tlt)f'perlsn~idt' haire"et~ih~il He.

i6 aFLY GJCI so liked ~e R?or1d,6 Bat he ~~~e Cis ~iih~~iEiin~'djii i&~ohhir klieg ~i~i him should ~lo~pi~iE~biiti h$tje -et~ihHl;lii~

1e"Fi:)r Gob so l~~?eci ihe World.5 tin_et h_e gave his ~ht~scn.1 dlat jhe~'er believer Ri should uo~ perish but ha~x etcmal lae.

16 AF ,Genii SO Ibved -~i-idiid,~ ~at'he ~a,~ Cis only Son diat whoever be~ew~ hi belau Nm ihoulti net perish bu2 Inane eternal life.

~foi Ehd ? lb&a~ die Se]Ad.6 dint he g@Pit li% Tidy-SLni'dia~'%okiii 'l~l~ehh~s~ait hbii t~~ cut iJer1S[l But- wade-tiffie EJEe

It has been argued that the NIV is easier to read than the ESV. Clearly that is the case (at least it is if you are a handheld pen-style text reader!)

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Filled with the Spirit

Time for a pointless music video entry!

"Filled with the Spirit" rap on YouTube

Apparently this was actually used at a worship conference at Rick Warren's church. (see this blog entry that pointed me to it this morning). It's TOTALLY like the half-cool, half-really-lame Christian Rap stuff you saw in the late 80's/early 90's. If you ever saw a pre-Jesus Freak DC Talk video, you'll laugh 'till you cry. :)

"part the red sea, part the red sea... Do the burning bush, do the burning bush..."

Monday, July 3, 2006

Re: Open Letters to Worship Songwriters

An interview I read recently with recording artist Carolyn Arends pointed me toward an article by Brian McLaren called "An Open Letter to Worship Songwriters" (pdf). Reading this then led to John Mortensen's response to that article (pdf). I found both articles fascinating, and am giving both a much closer read; I do agree with them on many points, but I do not necessarily agree with them on all of the particulars.

I think McLaren has some good points about how we can branch out as songwriters, but my main disagreement with him is that I do not think all of these forms of music particularly belong in a "worship" setting, or in some cases even in a church service at all unless they have a context (for example, a "song of lament" could be kind of a downer if it was just performed during the offering with no explanation!) I do think that exploring new kinds of music in a concert artist kind of setting would really spice up things. CCM could use a little bit of a shakeup, and if more artists would think in terms of "what topics that are Biblical song material have I never looked at as potential material for my songs?" it could stretch them in new ways. Seems like maybe Ms. Arends has been thinking that way.

Because I'm guessing the "Emergent Movement" may be a controversial subject for some out there, I'll take a side track for a second here, and hopefully it won't take over this post too badly. I've been doing a little bit of reading on one of McLaren's books (Adventures in Missing the Point, co-written with Tony Campolo), and I have to say... although this "emerging church" thing is intriguing, to my way of thinking they risk going overboard on some points. My biggest disagreement is that they seem to stress social action more than my instincts say is appropriate. It is true that the Bible talks about social action much more than we may think about it as Christians in this day and age; I agree with that. And there is always something else we can do to show compassion for and help our fellow human being, and that is true also. But in the little bit of reading I've done so far, I get a nervous feeling that we are risking going too far into social action and maybe forgetting the most important thing: Jesus Christ was crucified to pay a price we could not pay, because He loved us and sought to reconcile us to Himself. We couldn't be with Him; He judged that as an unbearable situation, and He reconciled it by sacrificing literally everything. It is very true that we must help the poor in every way we can; that is commanded in the Scripture. And we must not browbeat them with our religious beliefs; that's common sense and frankly, good strategy, not to mention good manners. But we MUST be ready to share the Gospel at every opportunity, and I think McLaren's readers risk being on the wrong side of that line. In my humble opinion, if there is an iffy situation (should I share or should I not?) we should err on the side of sharing. I get a sense that McLaren might choose to err on the other side.

Or maybe I've just read the wrong chapters of the book, and "missed the point" myself! Maybe Emerging Church folks DO share the Gospel at every opportunity; I am ashamed to say that it wouldn't be hard to share it more than an introvert like me. I'm no expert on that movement, and I hope I haven't implied that they deby the divinity of Christ or the importance of His work on the cross or anything like that. They do not deny anything that I believe personally; they seem to just be seeking to extend things a bit, and I'm all for stretching for new horizons. My concern is that we are extremely careful not to leave behind ANY of the good in searching for the "more" good.

Anyway, check out the songwriters articles. Some of the nuts-and-bolts type of stuff about how to use rhymes and that sort of thing more effectively are PRICELESS advice. If you are a songwriter, you may come out a better one at the other end!

Monday, June 5, 2006

I don't believe in atheists.

I don't think atheists exist, and I'll tell you why.

To my understanding, some "god" or "gods" appear in every world religion (actually, I think maybe Buddhism is the exception, although I am not a scholar of Buddhism). God is generally thought of as all-powerful, the creator of everything we see around us, the ultimate source of moral guidelines, etc. I think atheists do believe in a god, and I think each of them knows that god's name. Let's examine those "god" identifiers, which I just came up with off the top of my head, in some detail:

All-powerful: Atheists do not believe in one all-powerful being. However, if you asked 100 atheists who is responsible for what happens to human beings, atheists would answer, "themselves." (Or maybe, "chance.")
Creator of everything: On the subject of origins, there is very little choice for atheists but the rickety contraption we refer to as "evolution."
Ultimate source of moral guidelines: The only choices here would be that each individual is responsible for his own morality, or maybe the laws of government or some other body. I suppose you could say that humans have a sense of morality built in, but if you say that you have to presuppose a builder, which an atheist would not do.

Do you see the common thread here? Who makes everything happen? "Human beings." Who created everything? "The human race created itself through the process of evolution." Who is the source of morality? "Human moral codes." In all cases, the finger that should point at God, points at HUMANITY.

I don't believe in atheists. I do believe in and respect agnostics, who at least are honest and brave enough to say "I don't know," but other than that, everyone believes in a god; you can't be "a-" ("not-") theist. For one thing, it is impossible to disprove an intangible "spirit" entity. But more importantly, "atheists" actually ascribe all of the characteristics of "god" to themselves. What does that make them... "me-theists?"

Update: I don't believe in atheists II

Monday, May 22, 2006

De-Coding the Media

It's interesting to me to notice that news articles like this one are trumpeting that the opening of the The Da Vinci Code movie was "the second-biggest debut ever at the global box office." Facts from a little further down in the article:
  • In the U.S., the enthusiasm was less intense: it "...sold about $77 million worth of tickets at movie theaters in the United States and Canada during its first three days," and "The biggest North American opening this year had been $68 million for 'Ice Age: The Meltdown' seven weeks ago. But 'The Da Vinci Code' numbers were still far from the $115 million record held by 2002's 'Spider-Man.'"

  • The reason it had such a big opening weekend was because of overseas markets: "'The Da Vinci Code' earned about $147 million overseas, the biggest international opening ever."

  • It didn't even do as well in the U.S. as another movie with a religious theme: "The strong sales came despite -- or because of -- an onslaught of protests and publicity not seen since another religious movie, Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ,' earned $84 million domestically during its first weekend in February 2004. It grossed $612 million worldwide."
Seems like another indicator that the world outside the United States tends to not be as likely to reject a movie based on "Christian" religious convictions. Whether this is because they are not Christians, or because they are open-minded, or because their Christianity does not transfer over to their not-at-church lifestyle, or because they do not consider it a movie that has any relevance to their religious convictions at all, I don't know. All I know is that the movie has gotten mainly blah reviews, and although I would not consider it a betrayal of my faith to see it, if it's not even that great of a movie I can't imagine why I would bother. I also have heard that there are many countries in Europe and elsewhere, coughcoughfrancecoughcough, that have become increasingly opposed to Christianity and desperately need our prayers. Hopefully that statement does not make me come off as a USA bigot; I've been to Germany and France and Austria and met many Christians and enjoyed the trip very much. But the figures for this movie do seem to lend a tiny bit of support to what I'm hearing from ministers and missionaries who are in the trenches in other parts of the world. If you live in Europe or elsewhere, please do not be offended, and please do post comments confirming or refuting this post!

Bein' Like Daddy

I'm a songwriter. There are lots of people who write songs or poems, paint, write or tell stories, dance, or do something else that we call "creative." Chances are, you do something like that. Isn't it cool to realize that when you are creating something new, you are in a sense being just like the little kid who walks in Daddy's shoes and wants to use his after-shave? When we use our creative talents for God, we're imitating our Daddy who created everything.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

God's Answer for Broken Relationships

Sunday during our church service we had a brief time of praying for one another... sometimes Pastor has people turn to each other in small groups and pray for each other's needs. This particular time, in the middle of a quick, off-the-cuff list of things we could pray for, he said something about "broken relationships." As I was praying up in the choir loft, I began to thank God that He provided for Salvation by His blood, and healing by His broken body, and on and on... thanking God for everything I could think of that was provided by Jesus' death and resurrection. Then suddenly something occurred to me.

When Jesus was on the cross, all of His closest friends ran away. Only one of them even came back to be with Him as He died. Jesus even gave His own mother away. When He needed them most, almost all the people in Jesus' inner circle had abandoned Him. What I realized was that as Jesus was bearing our sin on Himself, He was also suffering the pain of broken relationships. God's healing and salvation is there for those things too! I guess that just goes to show that there are always more layers to discover as we meditate on what the Word says happened at Calvary!

Monday, May 1, 2006

How Not To Sing

I have a malady which is not good for someone who sings in church. I'm not talking about someone who sings along to the hymns or whatever; I'm in the choir, and from time to time I am even involved in solos and small ensembles. But there's something that gives me problems from time to time, and it causes me concern.

I have a lump in my throat.

It's not a growth or anything like that, though... it only shows up at certain times. For example, I was listening to Christian radio this morning and I started singing along with the Newsboys on a song we sing at my church:

I'm forgiven because You were forsaken
I'm accepted, You were condemned...

BAM. Lump in throat. Can't keep singing with a lump in the way. I didn't even get to "I'm alive and well, Your Spirit is within me because You died and rose again." You can imagine how this could be a problem for someone who sings in church... I don't know if I've EVER made it all the way through the third verse of "In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song." And of course, developing an unscheduled lump in the throat while singing of the goodness of God is touching and all, but doesn't help to provide a stellar vocal performance when you're singing for an audience!

I've heard of people who pull over their cars and raise their hands and have a brief little unplanned worship service right there on the shoulder when they think of something that spiritually moves them. I've even heard preachers talk about getting out and running around the car, they got so excited. Some people probably do stuff like that, but for me, the lump (and maybe a tear or two in my eyes) is basically what happens when gratefulness for God rises up in my heart. I guess I'm not a very showy person... God likes it when we use our bodies to praise Him (and I do sometimes), but when I'm going about my daily business it kind of localizes itself an inch or two below my chin.

Luckily, to date my lump has only appeared when I am singing just for me and God. And actually, in those situations, I'm thinking a lump isn't such a bad thing. It means I'm actually paying attention to what I'm singing, and I'm understanding some tiny bit of what God means to me. In fact, I recommend that everyone who reads this sings a song that gives them a lump today. It doesn't matter if the lump comes from singing "Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee, perfect in power, in love and purity" or "I can hear the trumpets sounding and now His face I see... Praise God, He's coming for me!" or "He reigns in Heaven above with wisdom, power and love" or "We stand and lift up our hands, for the joy of the Lord is our strength." It doesn't really matter what song about your Lord gives you a lump in your throat... and it doesn't matter if it's a lump, a jump, a shout or a prayer... let worship music draw you nearer to Him today.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Christian Radio Polka

Usually I'm pretty serious here, but this is a good one... it's a polka medley of a bunch of Christian pop and rock songs, a la Weird Al:

Highlights: "Kiss Me" (Sixpence NTR), "Fireproof" (Pillar), "You Are So Good To Me" (Third Day), "I Can Only Imagine" (MercyMe), several more.

Make sure you click the "enoshfett" link for a couple of songs from Enosh's band, and this is the link to his main site:

Enosh is a friend of mine. His commentary on the song: "Not too bad for about an hour's work!"