December 19, 2007

I now wear no-line bifocals. What a bummer. No one stays young forever right? When I read, I must look through the bottom part of my glasses. Otherwise, the words are blurry. When I look in the distance I must gaze through the top half of my glasses. It is interesting that a small adjustment in how I view things can radically change how I see things.

Advent helps my perspective. It is easy to view life as a glass half empty. We focus so much on the negative things going on in our lives that we lose sight of the great things in our lives. All of us have struggles and deal with difficult issues. However, I feel pretty certain that if we examine our lives, we all have much to be thankful for. The good probably far outweighs the bad!

Advent is a time to focus on God’s goodness. When we do joy erupts! Use this Advent season to change your perspective. A slight adjustment in how you view life will make a huge difference in how you see life and live life. Joy to the world the Lord has come!



December 17, 2007

I can still remember the feelings of excitement, anticipation, and to be honest, absolute fear, as I awaited the birth of my sons. The first birth was the most emotional simply because it was the first. At the second birth I thought I was a pro (I talk like I had the hard job) until the actual event was nigh. The second quickly became as wonderful as the first. Even though my sons are 21 (almost) and 18 now, the emotion of those births are as fresh today as if they happened yesterday.

Joy is a great word to express my emotions during the births. Overwhelming, uncontainable joy. The birth of my two sons changed my life forever. So it is with the birth of Christ. Advent is about joy. “Joy to the world!” The birth of Christ changed the world forever. The important question however, is has it changed yours? As you experience Advent, as you expectantly wait for Christmas, may you reflect on the joy that Christ gives those who follow him. May the joy given you through Christ be as real to you today as it was when you first met him.

EXP Music Lineup – 12.15.07

December 16, 2007

God continues to bless His people.  He is moving through lives, drawing people to Him.

Song (Artist/CD)

Let the Praises Ring (Lincoln Brewster/Amazed)
(Note: This song is on several Lincoln Brewster CDs)
All Because of Jesus (Casting Crowns/The Altar and the Door)
Freedom (Darrell Evans/Trading My Sorrows: The Best of Darrell Evans)
At the Cross (Terry Butler/25 Top Vineyard Worship Songs: Refiner’s Fire)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (MercyMe/The Christmas Sessions)
O Holy Night  (MercyMe/The Christmas Sessions)
This is Our God (Chris Tomlin/The Noise We Make)
(Note: This song is also on Chris Tomlin/Live from Austin Music Hall)

God bless you!  Have a blessed week!

Behold the Lamb of God

December 14, 2007

I’m the kind of person who, by the time we get to the first couple days in December, is ready to listen to Christmas music…until I get tired of it by, oh, the next weekend. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the old hymns and carols — in terms of sheer beauty and lyricism, few songs compare (Christmas or otherwise) to “O Holy Night” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I can’t hear either of those songs without getting chills. No, my Christmas music fatigue is due to the fact that it’s just the same songs over and over again. And since every musician feels the need to do a Christmas album, we’re overrun with these songs in hundreds of mostly uninspired arrangements. Seriously, do we really need to hear your sugary interpretation of “Away In a Manger”? Or even worse: “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”? I lose patience for that kind of thing pretty quickly. (The exception: Sufjan Stevens. His versions of your favorite Christmas songs, along with traditional hymns like “Come Thou Fount,” are pretty much brilliant.)

BeholdAnyway, off the Grinchy soapbox. My aversion to the same old carols means I’m always looking for good, ORIGINAL Christmas music. And it’s hard to find, Sufjan notwithstanding. But one of my favorite Christmas albums is brimming over with original music, and you need to listen to it. It’s by Andrew Peterson and is a full-length record called Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. It’s a conceptual folk album with a rich, storytelling style. Peterson is an excellent songwriter and this is probably his best work. Listen to it online or buy the CD here.

To further entice you, watch this concert video of one of the songs — a really fun one called “Matthew’s Begats” — from the album:

Advent: Peace passages

December 12, 2007

The second Advent candle is the Bethlehem candle which focuses on the peace we have through Christ. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the giver of the peace that passes all understanding. May you experience His peace this Advent season. As you continue your celebration of Advent, below are verses you can read as you focus on the element of Peace.

Read: Isaiah 11:1-6; Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7; Isaiah 40:1-11; Isaiah 48:17-19; Colossians 3:15; Colossians 1:20; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 57:2; Romans 12:18-21

The Frog Prince

December 11, 2007

Are you familiar with the fairy tale The Frog Prince? It is best known through the Brothers Grimm’s written version. It is a classic story that has been retold and adapted in various versions. However, the main idea of the fairy tale is that a handsome prince (soon to be king) has been turned into a frog by a wicked witch. A lovely daughter of a king meets up with this frog, dialogues with the frog not knowing it to be a prince. The frog does a favor for the daughter and eventually winds up in the daughter’s bedroom where it returns to a prince. You can read the story to fill in the details.

Reading through the story, I felt for the frog prince. Can you imagine being a prince and all of a sudden you are a frog? Consider how his alteration affected him. He is really a prince, but no one recognizes him as a prince. No crown only warts. Once he lived in the palace but now he resides in a algae-invested pond. He ate from the king’s table, now he dines on frog food. He is suddenly confined to the limitations of “frogness” unable to do simple human endeavors. What a bummer!

Is Jesus’ experience not unlike this fairy tale prince but a million times more dramatic! The King of Kings becomes a servant. The one who knows no time and space is now confined to both. God becomes man! Once living in Glory, surrounded by angels who worship Him unceasingly, he now resides in a fallen world surrounded by those who will reject him and despise him. The infinite takes upon himself finiteness! One difference (among others-don’t take this analogy to far) between the frog prince and the Son of God: the prince became a frog by a wicked act, against his wishes. It was not something he chose. Jesus however, became a man freely, by his choice, a selfless, loving act. Another difference, the story of Jesus is no fairy tale!

Advent is about the coming of God to us! With us! For us! During Advent season reflect on the sacrifice Christ made for you. He is not a Frog Prince. He is the God-man!

The Advent Conspiracy

December 10, 2007

To follow up on last week’s post about Christmas giving and spending and how our gift-focus this time of year doesn’t really match up to the tradition’s origins, I wanted to point you to an interesting evangelical movement: The Advent Conspiracy.

Last year, an Oregon pastor named Rick McKinley — if you’re familiar with Blue Like Jazz, you’ll recognize him as Donald Miller’s pastor at Imago Dei in Portland — challenged his church to spend less money buying gifts and try to give relational gifts at Christmas. So his congregation spent the season making presents for each other, then donated the money they would have otherwise spent to organizations serving the poor. A great idea, and now it’s grown into a widespread international movement with lots of different churches participating this year.

Something to think about. Here you can read more of the back story behind the Advent Conspiracy. Or just go to the Advent Conspiracy website.

The quote to remember: “We’re not asking that you don’t spend money on Christmas, just that you do it with the poor in mind.”