Wednesday, January 30, 2013

For the Sake of the World

The presence of God is palpable on this album. Bethel Church consistently publishes worship albums of high caliber and this is no exception. For the past month it has been on repeat in my car. In addition to planned songs, there are also several tracks of spontaneous worship. Brian & Jenn Johnson and Jeremy Riddle anchor the roster with contributions from William Matthews and Stephanie Frizzell. Frizzell is very emotive in her singing and on the song "Closer" you can feel her heart as she engages with God.

The album has a mixture of songs of praise and adoration, declarations of truth, and heart cries to God. Musically the style is primarily rock oriented with a few tender songs and lots of vamping in the spontaneous worship moments. Towards the end of the album, songs such as "In Your Light," "Freedom," and "This is What You Do" taking on a more pop sound oriented towards opening a set at church rather than the deeper engaging songs in other parts of the album. Personal favorites on album are: "For the Sake of the World," "Closer," "Forgiven," "To Our God," "Everything to You," "Who You Are," and "Our Father" which is a great version of the Lord's Prayer put to music.

I highly recommend the album whether you're looking for something to facilitate personal worship time or just enjoy really good music. Check it out on Amazon at: For the Sake of the World.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Time at Boot Camp (or Church)

Last week I attended a boot camp fitness class after a co-worker invited me and pointed out a free trial week offer. I'd heard of it from a number of people, was curious, and I'll try almost anything once. The workout was pretty intense and caused almost every muscle group to be sore at some point during the week.

The more that I thought about it, I realized that the experience had some parallels to inviting someone to church who doesn't normally go. The first day, my friend was not able to make it so I decided not to go. "You should come to my church. It's great but I won't be there this Sunday." 

When I did attend there was the uncertainty of going somewhere new for the first time. (Not to mention that it was dark, raining, on the cool side of the thermometer, and I'm not a morning person) "Where do I park at the church? What do I wear? Where do I sit? Where’s someone I know?" Nevertheless, I found the meeting spot and got down to business with the other worker-outers. 

Then there was the terminology. Words like Tabata, AMRAP, Plank, Burpee. "Baptism, tithe, sermon, discipleship, apologetics, communion" Being the new guy, it helps to have encouragement both from the coach and if others are friendly. (i.e. pastor is friendly, others at church are welcoming) 

When you grow up in church you just natively understand certain terminology and how things work. It can be easy to forget what it’s like to be the new person or even to try something completely new and all the uncertainty that comes along with it.

Next time someone invites you to do something you’ve never done before, don’t be afraid to try it out. It might even give you a better perspective on what it’s like to go to church for the first time.

In pursuit of His best,


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?

Would you become a follower of Jesus if he personally came to visit you? That is exactly what is happening to many in the Muslim world. In DREAMS AND VISIONS: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? Tom Doyle recounts the experiences of many Muslims whom Jesus has appeared to in dreams. This often creates curiosity and the desire to know more about Jesus which is much more easily facilitated with internet access and online resources available to read the Bible and learn more about who Jesus is.

It is extremely dangerous for a Muslim to become a follower of Jesus due to the potential for "honor killings" performed by family members or others against the new believer. However, the overwhelming love and peace that Jesus offers to them when juxtaposed with the sometimes controlling and fear oriented culture they live in overcomes concern of potential repercussions.

In one especially interesting story, a man becomes a follower of Jesus while on a business trip to Mecca during the Hajj. Christianity is illegal in Mecca and can be punished by death. However, he starts to explore the different places in Mecca and pray for the Muslims there. He's very surprised to meet another follower of Jesus who helps him get out of a very dangerous spot. The author also tells of others living in Mecca who study and bring Bibles into the city to give away though it is not allowed.

In another account, a woman named Dina works as a Female Secret Police agent, a group who hunts down and punishes any slips in modesty by women that go outside of Sharia law. She began watching a call in satellite TV show called Iran Alive! in which the host, Hormoz Shariat, a former Muslim encourages Muslims to follow Jesus. When she calls, she goes into diatribes against Christianity.

Hormoz says, "Dina, whenever you call me, you sound angry and filled with hatred. I think your religion produces that in you." She responds, "I can never have a better life than I have had in Islam." Hormoz says, "Oh? Has Islam brought you any particular happiness that you can point to?" She admits that she does have problems in life and says that she is going to kill herself on his show. Hormoz challenges her to give Jesus a week to answer her prayers. She reluctantly agrees but is amazed to find that her mother is healed of a very bad illness and as a result becomes a follower of Jesus and experiences incredible peace.

It is not only casual Muslims who are coming to follow Jesus, the book also tells of multiple accounts of imams believing in and following Jesus, some of whom have training from the most prestigious Islamic seminaries in the world.

Each chapter tells the story of a new Muslim and their experience with Jesus and many read like a high action thriller novel even though they are true. In addition to the personal accounts, there is also lots of information about Islam. For example, the book says that two of the countries with the most growth in followers of Christ is in Iran and Afghanistan which For example, Afghanistan and Iran have exploded in growth of new followers of Jesus within the past 10 years and is estimated to have some of the highest growth in the world.

Jesus says, Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." -Luke 9:23-24 For the Muslim who decides to follow Jesus this is no small thing; they may very literally pay with their life.

I recommend this book if you would like to learn more about the exciting work of God and how He's started a revival among Muslims. It also helps soften one's heart for Muslims and encourages prayer for them. Check it out on Amazon at this link: DREAMS AND VISIONS: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Nothing I Want

Nothing I Want by: Andrew Allen

I'll open my heart and prepare
a quiet and simple prayer
take all of my life every part of me
Let nothing be held back from You
in all that I say and do
make idols fall down till only you remain

Jesus Christ Lord of my Life
Nothing I want can ever compare to you
Jesus Christ Lord of my Life
Nothing I want can ever compare to you

Fixing my eyes on you
the One that my heart pursues
take every distraction and let it be swept away
Heal brokenness come make me whole
Lord fill up my heart and soul
in joy let me sing forever in praise of You

Jesus Christ Lord of my Life
Nothing I want can ever compare to you
Jesus Christ Lord of my Life
Nothing I want can ever compare to you

When there's loneliness let my heart find rest
hold me so closely to you
When temptation calls and my faith feels small
help me to lean on you

Jesus Christ Lord of my Life
Nothing I want can ever compare to you
Jesus Christ Lord of my Life
Nothing I want can ever compare to you
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