Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Not your parents' worship--and that's okay

     This was a difficult book for me to read, because it is a book that I needed to read. And even though I like to think that I'm eclectic in my tastes, and that I'm as contemporary as the next guy, I definitely have my biases.  What's wrong with the hymns written 200 years ago? Who says we need to update the contemporary worship music from the 70's?  Why do we need a worship leader instead of a choir director? What's wrong with piano and organ, with the occasional trumpet fanfare on Easter morning?
     Yes, I'm being facetious.
      My friend and co-laborer Fred Lopez of Ogden's Hope Resurrected Church has just released Rising Soundz: From Pain to Purpose. Several of his worship leader/music minister friends have corroborated with him and in addition to the book you can also buy a CD and/or DVD.

     Pastor Fred identifies the need for a sound that this generation can identify with, much as my parents liked centuries old hymns, and I could relate to Maranatha. But things have changed. More and more people in this country (USA) are not identifying as Christian; yes there are Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, but there is a huge increase in the group that identifies as no religious preference. How does the Christian community reach out to them?
     Lopez paints a picture of the pain that exists in all generations, but is especially visible in a certain element within our culture. But pain doesn't have to end there. God has a plan for all of us, and in many cases our pain can lead to creativity, which in some ways defines our purpose. And that purpose just might be to join God on his redemptive, restorative mission.
     As a strategist, Pastor Fred is able to develop a plan for the worship leaders of this generation to be able to connect with others in their context and culture. He identifies biblical precepts and precedents for the role of worship leader, and just as, if not more, importantly, offers the encouragement that is so sorely needed if a musician is to put forth something 'new'--that is different from what we've been doing in church for a very long time. How do we become a part of the body when we don't fit in? (It's hard to believe that a church would be so picky about who's up in front of the congregation, but there you have it).

     Unity, leadership, creativity come together to make a major impact on those who wish to minister to the least and the lost. And that combination comes together in a number of ways, most of which don't look like your parent's Sunday morning worship experience. Worship is pleasing to God; we are created to worship. You're unique, and your worship is too. Don't let the pain of your past drag you down, allow it to help your soar into the worshiper that God has always intended you to be.

head to this site to order your book.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lean into the Whisper

Sometimes you have to yell to get my attention, but sometime a whisper is even more effective. And sometimes the voice of God is best heard in that still small whisper.  And Mark Batterson talks about that whisper in his latest book: Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God. (Multnomah, 2017). 

                I think I’ve read most, if not all, of Mark’s books, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed them all. Whisper is no exception. When you start reading a book and sense the passion of the author, you know you’re in for a good read.
                So why do we have to wait for God to whisper? The same reason we wait for others to whisper: we are prone to being so used to the noise and raucous clamor, that we become immune to it.  It might be that we lose our hearing in a certain range, or as is the case with many married couples that selective hearing sets in. Maybe it’s that everyone yells, so when someone is intentionally quiet, we take notice, and lean forward to better hear what is being said. So, God whispers with the hope that we’ll lean forward to hear what He has to say.
                One of the things I like about Mark’s books is the amount of detail he provides. He takes the most (seemingly) random things and puts them into the context of his prayer life and the story line.  I guess we all do it to some extent, but I have a hard time connecting the dots like he does.
                This is another book that I would love to lend to my friends, but I have underlined so many things, that I can’t bear to part with it.
                Simple prayers work. And we learn one in Whisper that is repeated throughout the book: “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening. It’s short, sweet, simple, and scriptural (1 Samuel 3:9)
                Batterson talks about the power of a whisper, and puts the power and the whisper in the context of seven languages: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings and Pain. God declares His love for us in so many different ways. And all we have to do is learn to listen. 
                I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for my review. There was no expectation that I was required to write a positive review. This book will release soon!


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Is God Loving or Angry

For years I’ve heard about Jonathan Edwards famous sermon “sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. I probably even read a manuscript of it at one time or another, so I jumped at the opportunity to read Brian Zahnd’s book Sinners if the Hands of a Loving God: the Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News. (Waterbrook, 2017)

The title intrigued me. I go to the local Rescue Mission on a regular basis, and while there are others who go there to preach fire and brimstone, I think what’s needed is love, mercy and grace. Most of the clients there know that they have a sin issue. They don’t need to be reminded of that, what they do need to know it that God loves them.
Brian makes some good points about Jesus being the fulfillment of the law and the prophets—He didn’t come to abolish them. And I liked how he used Old Testament examples and then showed how thanks to Jesus fulfilling, completing, perfecting the law, we no longer have to stone people to death, or exact an eye for eye. We can show compassion, and point people to Jesus. We can love them into the kingdom, instead of trying to scare them into it.
And then we have to talk about Hell. I saw some of the same tracks that Zahnd talks about. People burning in everlasting eternal fires. I didn’t like them when I was a teenager, and I don’t like them now. They’re creepy.  I believe that Hell is real, and I like to remember that hell is the eternal state of being out of God's presence. Is it a big room, very hot, flames licking at the edges and little demons with tails running around in red suits, jabbing people with their pitchforks? I think that is an artist’s rendering.  Regardless of what Hell is really like, it’ real, and if we listen to Jesus, the only way to avoid is to go, through Him, to the Father. And here’s where it seems like Zahnd may be straying a little from traditional Christian thought.
As I read through the chapter on Hell (Chap 6: “Hell…and Hoe to Get There”) it seems that Zahnd is suggesting that you can avoid Hell even without professing belief in Jesus. I hate to think that some really God-fearing people, people who worship God, will not be enjoying eternity in God's presence because they stayed true to their religious roots, but I can’t reconcile Jesus’ Words with desired, or aspirational belief system.  Having said that, Zahnd makes a strong case that our version of Hell is probably quite different than the biblical version.
Except for that one area, I enjoyed the book.
I received a copy of the book from the Publisher (WaterBrook) in exchange for a review.

4/5 because of some theological questions. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How Charles Dickens met Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge

    Christmas is just a few months away....(I know some of you are already counting down the days), and for many families, reading a Christmas Carol is a favorite tradition.  This year you can add to the fun by planning on making time to watch "The Man Who Invented Christmas" starring Dan Stevens, Jonathan Pryce and Christopher Plummer.

We all know the story of Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge, but other than his knack for taking life as he saw it in London, we know little of how Charles Dickens came up with his classic literature. All right, let's be real, after watching this movie, due in theaters on Nov 22nd, we still won't know for sure; but this is a whimsical idea of how it might have happened. Watch as Dickens 'meets' the characters that he brings to life in the pages of the novel that has brought so much joy to so many people since it was written in 1843.

It's brought joy, and inspired people to become the new and improved Mr Scrooge.  For the last 8 years, the 6th graders at a local Jr High read  A Christmas Carol each year, and then do a Tiny Tim project on the last day of school before Christmas break.  For most of those years they've collected socks and hygiene items which are donated to the local Rescue Mission.   

Where did Dickens get his inspiration? Why did he write this book? we may never know, but thanks to a writer from 175 years ago, homeless people today are a little better off than they might otherwise have been.
watch the trailer here