Friday, March 29, 2013

7 Reasons Why Good Friday Is Good

When we think of Good Friday, we think of the torture, agony and punishment of Jesus. How can the cross, such an instrument of pain, suffering, and death, be something good? How can we call Good Friday good? Why don't we call it Bad Friday instead? Or Dark Friday, or Black Friday (instead of the black Friday shopping day that comes after Thanksgiving)? Wouldn't something like Bad Friday be a more representative title than Good Friday? Or would it?

The more we mature, spiritually, the more we begin to see that, although the cross is a terrible thing, it is incredible good news for us. As Christ followers, perhaps the "good" in Good Friday, really stands for Good News - good news for us! It's the good news of the Gospel message - that Christ came to earth, died for our sins, was buried yet rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and is coming back again. And because Jesus willfully died on the cross, symbolically in our place, as the sacrifice for our sins, we are forgiven! And through the sacrificial death of Jesus, we are reconciled to God, and made right with Him. Now, isn't that good news? 

So although the means of our forgiveness, the cross, is brutal, the outcome is victorious. This instrument of death reveals and fulfills the grace, mercy, and love of God for us. That, friends, is good news.

Although I'm sure we can come up with more, below are 7 reasons why Good Friday is Good.

1. The day draws the world's attention to Jesus
Good Friday is set apart by millions and millions as a day of remembrance. This day which commemorates the death of Jesus on the cross is a day of focus - maybe not a day of celebration - but a day of reflection on what Jesus did for us. It serves as a reminder, a rally point, a memorial. To believers and non-believers alike, Good Friday is about no one else but Jesus.

2. The day magnifies the symbol of Christianity - the cross
Look what's on the top of a steeple on a Christian church - it's a cross. Look what's inside a Christian church - you'll see a cross. Look what's around the neck of countless Christians - a cross. When you think of Good Friday, you think of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. And the cross is a powerful reminder of what Jesus did.

3. The day rallies Christians all over the world
Whether it's a small country church or a large mega-church, Good Friday is something all Christian churches recognize. Whether it's a Christian church in America or in Africa, we are all united in our focus on the cross. It's a rally point, and something we all have in common as Christians.
4. The day reminds us that Jesus loves us. 
Good Friday marks the day that Jesus died. He allowed himself to be crucified. He could have called upon the angels of heaven to rescue Him at any time, but instead choose to fulfill his mission - to offer His life as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He did so out of love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) For our sake, Jesus was faithful to His mission. And the motivation was love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

5. The day reminds us that we are redeemed.

The dictionary definition of the word redeem: To recover ownership of by paying a specified sum. The Apostle Paul said, "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." (Galatians 4:4-5) In other words, Jesus paid the price of our salvation. The price?...His life. In a sense, He purchased us with His own blood. We are now therefore one of His. "Through the cross we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace." (Ephesians 1:7)

6. The day reminds us that we are reconciled to God
Without the cross, we cannot be made right with God. We are reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus. To be reconciled means to reestablish a close relationship, to be in harmony, in balance. This describes the relationship we can now have with God because of the cross of Jesus. More than religious customs and rituals, God desires a loving father/child relationship with us. That can now happen because of the cross.

7. The day points us to the Resurrection.
There is something more powerful, more culminating, more climactic than even the cross - it’s the Resurrection. You see, if there was no Resurrection, then Jesus is defeated - and death wins. If there is no Resurrection, then His death on the cross is in vain - if there is no Resurrection, then Jesus is not who He says He is. The Apostle Paul said this, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) 

“But thanks be to God! He WAS raised to life!  And this gives us the victory! - victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, the cross was not in vain. And because Jesus was raised from the dead, and was victorious over death, then we are raised from the dead also - to have eternal life with the Lord our God forever and ever.

On Good Friday, we commemorate the suffering of Jesus - His substitutionary death on the cross. And even though we reflect on such a gruesome event on a Friday, remember one thing...SUNDAY’S COMING!

Monday, March 25, 2013

What's Wrong With The History Channel's "The Bible" Series Part 4 - Botched!

I'm sure you've seen movies that were "based on a true story" - movies that were not an actual "true story" - but "based on a true story". This type of movie takes bits and pieces of the true story, and then rewrites the story. That sums up this series so far. Why in the world didn't they just stick to the true story? It's much better! Instead, apparently for the sake of drama, people and events are misrepresented, changed, taken out of context and altered - all for the sake of making a TV show "based on a true story" but not a TV show that shows the true story. 

Episode 4 is another botched attempt to take the truth of the Bible and put it to video. This episode that aired last night, March 24, reminds me of the way you would use mod-podge to glue a bunch of photos together. Just take a characters and stories, paste them all together, even out of sequence, and you have a Bible mini-series. Yes, it looks good, the HD quality is excellent, the music is well done, the special effects are fantastic,'s a story based on a true story. And when it comes to the Bible, we should not only know the true story, we should defend the truth when it is altered. To any serious Bible believer, altering the truth is offensive, and a show like this throws accuracy of scripture out the window.

Let's look at Episode 4. Actually not a bad start! There are some really good scenes. But as you start watching, you begin to see things that make you say, "Wait a minute, that's not how it is in the Bible!" Parables begin to be mismatched with other parables. Scenes are out of order. Characters say things they never say in scripture. 

In the Bible, Nicodemus is introduced in John chapter 3. In the TV show, Nicodemus is introduced as a character early on, and is weaved in and out throughout the show for drama. But the famous scene where Nicodemus approaches Jesus in John 3, never happens in the TV show until the day before the Lord's Supper! Way out of sequence. 

The Lord's Prayer
Sorry, but I actually laughed out loud on this one! In the show, Jesus is on the mountain, and says, "This is how you should pray." Then, like he's trying to demonstrate the physical stance that you must use, he pauses, puts his hands together at his waist, and bows his head. Then everyone on the mountain puts their hands together and bows their heads. It looked silly. Where do they get this? Certainly not in the Bible!

The Woman Caught In Adultery
In the show, Jesus is shown standing there hold a stone himself! Then challenges them with the idea that whoever has not sinned to throw the first stone. In the Bible, he never holds a stone, but instead writes in the sand. Why not stick with the truth in this scene? It's much better anyway!

Mary Magdalene
In several scenes, there is a woman as part of the twelve chosen disciples. They would occasionally focus in on her. And at first, I would find myself asking, who is that supposed to be anyway? Apparently, this is Mary Magdalene. She's even in the boat during the scene when Jesus walks on water! What?! I guess they wanted to make sure a woman was represented as part of the twelve. 

The Raising of Lazarus
The show never shows Jesus weeping. It shows Jesus and Martha going into the tomb and sitting next to Lazarus! What!? Not in the Bible. And in the TV show, Jesus never addresses Martha or says those important words to her, "Do you believe?" Unlike the Bible, in the show, Jesus does not stand outside the tomb, calling Lazarus to come out. Instead, as Martha and Jesus are together in the tomb, Lazarus is brought back to life. A lousy version. Why not just use the real story!!!!! It's much better anyway!

Hodge-Podge Mismatches
Parables are combined together. Events are out of order. For example, when Jesus feeds the 5000 in the TV show, he combines words like "ask and you will be given", from a parable that is much earlier in the Bible. Or when he turns over the tables in the Temple in the TV show, he says you cannot serve God and money. In the Bible, he didn't say that then, but in another teaching. In the TV show, during the arrest of Jesus, Peter punches Judas - haha. Nice effect, but not in the Bible. In the TV show, as Jesus goes into Jerusalem for his triumphal entry, he encounters Barabbas - again, not in the Bible. In the TV show, at the end of the last supper, Jesus storms out. In the Bible, they sing hymns before leaving. On and on it goes. Drama based on a true story, but not the true story. 

One more thing. In this show, Jesus is portrayed as sort of a meek, sissy type. He is not portrayed as one with authority. Even when he is arrested in the TV show, he appears as one who is defeated. Not as one who is arrested only because he allowed them to arrest him. 

There's much more to this episode that will drive you crazy if you are one that desires the truth of scripture to be told. But how many, who don't know the difference, will take this series as truth? That's the problem. 

Next Sunday is the last episode. The only good thing is that it will be over! Stay tuned for my final review. And if it continues on it's course, it doesn't look good!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What's Wrong With History Channel's "The Bible" Episode 3

Oh - I have an idea! - let's take some Bible characters and Bible stories - and make up our own versions of them! Let's change it up a bit. I think we can improve on some of the characters and stories. People won't know the difference anyway. We can make a really popular TV show, have some nice music in the background, and some really good special effects, and people will love it. We can draw a big audience because all the Bible believers will tune in. Do you realize how many advertisers we could get?

People won't care if we add some drama to the stories to make them more real-life. And there are so many wars and killings in the Old Testament, we can really get this to be graphic and violent - that's what people go for. Blood and guts! 

No one cares if we take a little liberty with the Bible. What harm can it do? After all, how many will check the Bible out anyway to see if our version is accurate? Maybe our show at least can be the only Bible people get to know. And isn't that good even if it's not so accurate? Does God really care about accuracy of His Word as long as we get the big picture? 

This would make some good drama! Remember Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and Daniel, the one who could interpret dreams? This would be a good story - maybe change it up a bit. Nobody's going to read the book of Daniel Chapter 2 anyway. In the Bible, Daniel interprets a dream of Nebuchadnezzar, telling him that after his kingdom, there will be others with God ultimately setting up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. Then King Nebuchadnezzar falls prostrate before Daniel and pays him honor, and then declares that Daniel's God is the "God of gods and the Lord of kings." (Daniel 2:46-47) 

Wait a minute. I've got a better idea. Nobody wants to hear how King Nebuchadnezzar humbles himself, falls prostrate before Daniel, and acknowledges God. Nobody wants to hear how God can change hearts and change lives. Instead, in our show, let's make King Nebuchadnezzar really mad at Daniel and storm out of the scene. That would be much better for TV, don't you think?

Daniel and the Lion's Den
This could really be good with some doctoring. Everybody has heard of this story. Maybe the ending could be better. First of all, let's leave out the part that King Darius was tricked into making an irreversible decree that for 30 days, no one could worship any other gods except King Darius himself. And that he was deeply troubled when he realized that Daniel would be killed. King Darius even tried to think of a way to save Daniel! (Daniel 6:14). Actually, not bad drama, but that's too mushy. It makes the king look too soft. That doesn't make good TV.

Everybody is more interested in seeing ferocious lions and a scared Daniel. And when God spares Daniel's life, and the king comes to find him unharmed, let's not show King Darius' real response - how he decreed that "Everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26-27). 

The king's real response focuses too much on God. And too much on how the king exalted God. And how he was so overjoyed in seeing Daniel alive. Instead, let's just leave out the king's mention of God. What are we after here, anyway? How about we end the scene showing King Darius just being mad at the ones who falsely accused Daniel in the first place, throwing them in the with the lions. Now doesn't that make better drama? Doesn't that make the king much more macho? Actually, let's change that up - let's have the king throwing just one false accuser in with the lions instead of several. Who cares anyway? 

The Birth Of Jesus
Enough Old Testament. How about we skip to the New Testament. The angel's message to Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a great scene. In the Bible, it lacks a little drama though. How about we do this...let's create a scene in Nazareth where there is a lot of fighting and a lot of violence (what people love), and the angel comes to Mary in the midst of all this. Ya - that would be good. And then, how about when Joseph and Mary get to the manger scene in Bethlehem. It's a little too drab in the Bible. Let's add some heavy rain, and let's add some people to the scene. How about adding a mid-wife to deliver baby Jesus? That would be more realistic, wouldn't it? Who cares anyway, if that's really what it was like or not? This is a TV show for Pete's sake!

We can't leave the Wise Men out of our show, can we? Let's just make up our own timeline, twist everything around for dramatic effect, have the Wise Men come to the manger. Nobody cares about what the Bible says anyway. (See my previous post: "The Wise Men: How It Really Went Down")

The Baptism of Jesus
O, and how about the baptism of Jesus? That's pretty dramatic. Let's leave that in. But no need to show the Holy Spirit coming down on Him, descending like a dove. And no need to mention that God the Father actually talks from heaven saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Matthew 3:16-17) It's not that important and nobody would believe it anyway. 

Peter's First Encounter With Jesus
I know - let's just combine a whole bunch of scenes into one here. Forget the Bible's version of how Peter is called by Jesus to be a disciple. Let's just show Jesus approaching Peter's boat - no, how about Jesus wading in the water to Peter's boat - Peter pulling him in and then, how about we have Jesus miraculously helping Peter pull in a big catch of fish. Sounds good to me. Let's just make sure we end the scene with Jesus talking about "fishers of men". Everyone will love it!

There are so many more enhancements and changes to make! Maybe the next time we do the show, we can just make up some different versions of the stories. Who cares anyway?

"And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Best Praise Quotes In The Bible - Part 1

If you want to be better at expressing your words of praise to God, then learn from the best.....from those people whose praises are recorded in the Bible. There are so many great praise statements that we can borrow and use as our own. So I'm putting together some of my favorites. This is Part 1.

Perhaps the greatest and most passionate praise statements come from King David. Actually, he has dozens and dozens of his praises recorded. Just look through the book of Psalms - he wrote most of them.

When King David's reign was nearing its end, and he was ready to pass on the throne to his son, Solomon, David gave the plans for the temple to him. It was God's directive that David was not to build the temple because he was a warrior and had shed blood, but instead, Solomon would be charged with building it.

In preparation, David not only laid out the plans for Solomon, but provided materials.  Using every resource at his command, King David gathered as much as he could for building the Temple of God until there was enough gold, silver, bronze, iron, and wood, as well as great quantities of onyx, other precious stones, costly jewels, and all kinds of fine stone and marble. (1 Chronicles 29:2)

Then David went above and beyond.  

“And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple. I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the building and for the other gold and silver work to be done by the craftsmen. Now then, who will follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today?”

"Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly. For the construction of the Temple of God, they gave about 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron. They also contributed numerous precious stones, which were deposited in the treasury of the house of the Lord under the care of Jehiel, a descendant of Gershon. The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, and King David was filled with joy. Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly." (1 Chronicles 29:3-10)

That's the here is his praise it over and over...say it as a personal praise prayer to God...memorize it if you can.

“Praise be to you, Lord,
    the God of our father Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all. 
 Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name."

(1 Chronicles 29:10-13) 

After David said those words of praise, he realized something....something very important...something that we should realize. Here's what he said.......

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand." (1 Chronicles 29:14)           

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Problem With History Channel's "The Bible"

When I saw that the History Channel was going to be presenting a new mini-series called "The Bible", I immediately thought, "Oh-Oh, here we go again!" That's because time and time again, these type shows are filled with false portrayals and scriptural inaccuracies for drama's sake.

I'm sure the producers of this new show had good intentions. After all, isn't the show bringing to light the Bible? Isn't it good for someone to see these Bible stories - maybe for the first time? Doesn't it bring up discussion? Well, yes, there is some good in it, but if the rest of the series is like the first two episodes, the good comes at the expense of distorting the truth of scripture. And what if this show, or show's like it, are the only Bible someone ever sees, and they base their theology on it? Considering that 13.1 million people viewed the first episode, this is surely the case for many.

The major problem with these type of shows is that someone decides what to enhance, what to leave out, and more detrimentally, what to add and falsify, for the sake of art or drama. Any such videos or movies have lasting impact because their visual images stay with us - they burn into our memory banks, and we recall them long after we see them. And if someone is gullible, or simply ignorant of the scriptures, then these type of shows or movies become their doctrine - their foundation and basis for their concept of Biblical truth.

So why is standing on the truth so important? Why not just water-down the Bible and just generalize everything or just paraphrase the scriptures and put everything in our own words? Well, one illustration of how dangerous this is, comes from the old circle game where one person whispers a story into the next person's ear, and by the time the story gets back to the originator, it is totally changed. It's distorted. That's the problem with straying from truth. The truth becomes distorted, changed, and eventually non-fiction becomes fiction. The truth of scripture is then exchanged for a lie.

"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised." (Romans 1:25)

Having a "standard" is so important. That "standard" is the Bible. If we take the Bible as the Word of God, and we certainly should, then we must stand on it, and even defend it. Do you know what I have realized? The more we read the Bible, and the more we gain faith and mature, spiritually, the more offended we are when the truth of scripture is distorted. It's our responsibility as Christians, to not only know the truth of scripture, but to live by it.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

You may not think any of this is a big deal, but to me it is. If anything, this Bible series should prompt us to do something...... read the Bible! Read the real story! Ask the question, is this story that is portrayed in this mini-series accurate or not? Be like the Bereans who analyzed the words of the Apostle Paul...

"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11)

So, here are just a sampling of the many things that I was disappointed with, in the first two episodes of the History Channel's "The Bible"....

First, in episode one, Noah is shown on the ark with a wife and 2 young children, a young boy and a young girl. This may seem insignificant, but the Bible says that Noah, his wife, and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and their wives were in the ark - eight in all. And they are important figures later on.

Second, Abraham was 100 yrs old when Isaac was born - in the show, Abraham, as well as Sarah, are much younger. His age is significant and shows without a doubt the miraculous birth of Isaac.

Third, Sarah is very upset, and Isaac is very upset when Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac. There's no such drama in the Bible. On the contrary, submission and the trust of Isaac himself are shown instead.

Fourth, the show never clearly shows the real reason God is so upset with Sodom and Gomorrah - the sexual sins that are so tolerated in today's society.

Fifth, when the two angels are fighting in Sodom (not to mention one is some type of ninja), Abraham is shown standing with and talking with Jesus, as they overlook the city. What?!

Sixth, the scene showing the parting of the sea has great visual effects, but read the Bible to get the real scenario.

Seventh, in episode 2, Samson is black! I don't know where they got that, or why - except maybe the actor was the only one they could find with really good dreadlocks.

Eighth, when the prophet Nathan confronts David regarding his sin of killing Uriah, the show misrepresents David's character and portrays David as being angry with Nathan and with God. Just the opposite is true. David admits his sin right away. Then when his son dies, again the show misrepresents David. In the show he is angry. In the Bible, after his son dies, he goes and worships God. Then comforts his wife.

I'm glad this series is on the air. Maybe this can propel more Biblical based, true to the Bible shows. However, distortions of truths concerning who God is, what His commands are, and what His expectations are of us, can be dangerous. Now I'm not saying that this is happening to this degree in the History Channel's show, at least not yet. Hopefully, the future episodes on the New Testament will be true to the scriptures and exalt Christ for who He is and what He's done. Let's wait and see.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The World's Deadliest Killer Sinkhole

By now you've heard about the terrible story that's been on the news. Near Tampa, Florida, a sinkhole swallowed a man, Jeff Bush, 36, while he was sleeping in his own bedroom!

According to CNN, the family's nightmare began Thursday night, just as everyone was about to go to sleep. A deafening noise shattered the peace in the house in the Tampa suburb of Seffner. Jeremy Bush heard his brother scream and ran toward Jeff's bedroom. "Everything was gone. My brother's bed, my brother's dresser, my brother's TV. My brother was gone," Jeremy Bush said.

Jeremy Bush jumped into the hole and frantically shoveled away rubble. But as the house's floor further collapsed, a sheriff's deputy pulled him to safety and his brother remained trapped below. "I couldn't get him out," Jeremy Bush said, weeping. "I tried so hard. I tried everything I could.'"

It turns out they never did find the man's body. They tried looking for him, but it was unsafe to continue because the hole was unstable, and getting deeper and deeper. First they said it was thirty feet deep, then sixty feet deep, and who know's how deep it is now! Obviously, Jeff Bush is presumed dead and his body could not be recovered.

I've heard of sinkholes before, but I hadn't remembered one that swallowed a man, that is, until I recalled the famous one that occurred in ancient times,  back around 1400 or 1500 BC. This is when the nation of Israel, led by Moses, was freed from the slavery of Egypt, and spent years in the desert before finally reaching the land of Canaan where they settled.

While they were still in the desert, three men named Korah, Dathan and Abiram, incited a rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Moses' brother). Korah was from the tribe of Levi, and  claimed that he had just as much right to serve as a priest and lead the people. Wrong!!!

The situation escalated as Dathan and Abiram, from the tribe of Reuben, outright defied the commands of Moses, God's appointed leaders. This insurrection not only made Moses angry, it made God angry as well. God told Moses to tell the people to get back from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, because they were going to be punished.

Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrances of their tents, together with their wives and children and little ones. Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things that I have done—for I have not done them on my own. If these men die a natural death, or if nothing unusual happens, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord does something entirely new and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them and all their belongings, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have shown contempt for the Lord.”

"He had hardly finished speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed the men, along with their households and all their followers who were standing with them, and everything they owned. So they went down alive into the grave, along with all their belongings. The earth closed over them, and they all vanished from among the people of Israel." (Numbers 16:31-33)

So that's the true story of the world's deadliest killer sinkhole. When comparing it to the sinkhole in Florida, the main thing they have in common is that they were both killer sinkholes. We cannot say that the man's death in Florida was because of God's punishment for something He did, or because God was mad at him. As for me, I take the side of compassion and feel sorry for the family, and do not have the opinion that this sinkhole happened because God caused it to happen. I think the sinkhole, unlike the one in Moses' day, happened by chance. 

But so many say that "everything happens for a reason". However, is this really true, or is this just a way to comfort ourselves when bad times occur? Does everything happen for a reason? I believe that some things COULD happen for a reason, but some things could also happen as a result of our own free-will decisions or actions. In other words, if we made a decision based on poor or foolish judgment, bad things are going to happen as a consequence. Or, bad things can happen just by coincidence or random chance.

Although bad things could happen because of God's discipline upon us, bad things could also happen simply because we live in a world that has been tainted and corrupted by sin. Disease, death, and evil entered this world at the fall of man, and continues to this day.

Here's the bottom line:  God either makes things happen, or allows things to happen.

In either case, this shows His sovereignty. In other words, God has the ability and the power to choose whether to intervene or not. If He wants to alter events or if He wants to let events play out, it's His decision. That's why when our time is up, it's up, or God would choose to intervene and prevent our death. What's comforting to know is that regardless of His decision to make things happen or allow things to happen, He is aware of what is happening at all times, and therefore is sovereign, is in control, and His providence prevails.

So, God either makes things happen, or allows things to happen. The perplexing question is this.....why would God allow bad things to happen, if He could intervene at any time to stop it? We know why bad things happened to Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and all their followers. However, for the man in Florida, why did God allow this to happen?

Assuming it's not His discipline or punishment, perhaps He allows bad things to happen, including this death in Florida, because He knows something good is going to come out of it somewhere down the road. Or perhaps He allows bad things to happen because He knows it will ultimately make us stronger as individuals. Or perhaps He allows bad things to happen because the consequences of Adam and Eve's sin, and Satan's influence on the world, must be played out! Yes, the fall man has great consequences.

This world will never attain paradise status on its own, where there is no more pain, no more sickness, and no more death. God will not make every single bad situation good and thus turn this world into a perfect world. He will not stop every bad thing from happening. Sin has its consequences. There is only one way to be rescued from sin and from this sinful world. There's only one way to live in this world, to defeat Satan, defeat death itself, and to overcome this world. That way is through the cross of Christ. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Top 10: Best Contemporary Christian Songs

I've been involved in leading and playing Christian worship music for over twenty years, and have witnessed how worship music has changed and developed over the years. And the changes have been fantastic. No doubt, I've changed and developed along with it, musically and spiritually.

We are in a wonderful era when it comes to contemporary praise and worship music. Because of the internet, there is now more availability, more access, and more exposure to Christian music than ever before. And because of technology, the development of mp3 players, phones, computers, and music software has made tons of music available at the touch of our fingertips. There are so many great bands and song writers today.

The style of worship music has changed radically over recent years. Even the chord progressions have changed. So many churches, including the one where I lead music, have decided to keep pace with the current Christian music culture. Musically, this keeps a church relevant and fresh. After all, if your church isn't playing at least some of the songs that your members are purchasing and listening to during the week, isn't there a disconnect? 

What I do to keep relevant to our immediate demographic, is to monitor what is being played on local radio. Also, I monitor the iTunes top 25 Christian music downloads. I also check things like YouTube music videos for popularity. 

I like to classify Christian songs into 3 categories, somewhat based on Colossians 3:16, which separates songs in 3 categories, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

My 3 categories are somewhat different, they are: Spiritual, Praise and Worship songs. Spiritual songs are songs whose lyrics are mainly about Christians. Praise songs are songs about God, but not addressed directly to Him. Worship songs are songs whose lyrics are addressed directly to God. Worship songs, if they are sung with sincere hearts, are what I call "melodic prayers", and are the most intimate. (Note that some songs combine the 3 categories.)

Here are examples of all three categories, using Chris Tomlin songs as examples. 
1. A Spiritual song: "Amazing Grace - My Chains Are Gone" - (a song in the first person, mainly about one's condition, and uses "I" and "me" a lot)
2. A Praise song: "How Great Is Our God" -  ( a song mainly boasting about God, addressed to each other, uses "He" and "God" a lot)
3. A Worship song: "Your Grace Is Enough" -  (a song addressed directly to God, uses "You" and "Your" a lot)

Each of these 3 categories can be used strategically in developing the flow of a worship service. For example, a spiritual song can be one to start the service. Praise songs can then be used to deliver energy and conviction. Worship songs can be used in intimate settings, such as Communion or Prayer times. Spiritual or Praise songs make great endings to a service.

Below is my top ten list of "congregational songs" for the first quarter of 2013 - those which seem to be currently working effectively in prompting our congregation to participate in singing and worshiping God. This list doesn't include songs that are used for "solo specials', which are meant to deliver a particular message in song, without the congregation necessarily singing along.

Realize that this is my list, for my church. Your lists are probably different than mine - that's ok, because each person and each church is different. Also realize that this list will change as time goes on - and as new songs are written - and probably change every few months. And one of these days, I'll post my top ten "personal listening list", but for now.........

My Top Ten List (First Quarter 2013)
Current Best Contemporary Christian Songs in a Congregational Setting.....

1. "Our God" - Chris Tomlin  (Spiritual/Praise/Worship combined)
2. "One Thing Remains" - Kristian Stanfill (Worship)
3. "Whom Shall I Fear" - Chris Tomlin (Praise/Worship combined)
4. "10000 Reasons" - Matt Redman (Praise/Worship combined)
5. "You Never Let Go" - Matt Redman (Worship)
6. "Revelation Song" - Hillsongs (Praise/Worship combined)
7. "Your Grace Is Enough" - Chris Tomlin (Worship)
8. "I Give You My Heart" - Hillsongs version (Worship)
9. "Amazing Grace - My Chains Are Gone" - Chris Tomlin (Spiritual/Praise combined)
10. "How Great Is Our God" - Chris Tomlin (Praise)