Great Christian Songs You May Never Hear

There are certainly many Christian radio stations one can listen to. Visit most cities and you’re bound to find at least one. I do enjoy listening to these stations from time to time. The problem I have with them is the tend to play the same few songs over and over again. Those who know me best know I enjoy variety in my music. Even if I’m listening to a particular genre, I want to hear various styles and mix things up a bit. There are so many different styles of Christian music to enjoy. However, mainstream Christian radio tends to stay away from many of these. With that in mind, I want to share with you some of the great Christian songs out there that you may never otherwise hear.

The first is by the band Ascend the Hill. Their music is a bit different, and I love their sound. They have so many great songs, but this is one of my favorites. It is So Good to Us from their album O Ransomed Son.

 

I love these words from the song.

Instead of repaying us what we deserve, or according to our sin and the wrath that we’ve earned, He lifted it and He put it on His Son. So down came Love, the right hand of God, the man called Christ and He swallowed it up. Let all men taste and see.  

The Lord is gracious, slow to anger, rich in love, He’s good, so good to us. 

 

The next song may not appeal to everyone. It is Christian rap. I’ll admit I’ve never really been into rap. However, working with students at church I’ve been exposed to Christian rap and love it! There is a lot of truth contained in the lyrics of these songs. I could share many here, but I chose this one because of the story behind it. The artist is Tedashii, and this song is from his newest album, Below Paradise. The song is Dark Days, Darker Nights. Please take the time to visit YouTube and read the info contained below the video. In it, Tedashii reveals his dark days and darker nights after the loss of his son. Read that, then listen to the lyrics of this song with his story in mind.

Worst day of my life and it’s just gettin’ badder, askin’ Him why and lookin’ for answers. Wonderin’ if He’s goin ever come back, if He is then man can you pick up the slack, cause this place that I’m in I might never come back, feelin’ so lost I don’t know where I’m at. 

 

Changing gears now I’ll share one more. This one is a great praise song that is gaining popularity, however you still won’t hear it on mainstream Christian radio. It is called All the Poor and Powerless by All Sons & Daughters. The first time I heard this song was at DNOW, a student event I’m honored to work. The worship leader sang this song, and I fell in love with it. I think you will, too.

 

Shout it! Go on and scream it from the mountains. Go on and tell it to the masses, that He is God. 

 

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Stay tuned. I might be sharing some other favorites soon. God bless!

The Prayers of a Friend

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I’ve heard it said that the three most important words a person can hear are, “I love you”. I’ll agree that, if they are from the heart, those are important words. However, I think there are four words a person can hear that are more powerful and more meaningful. In fact, I personally feel very special when I hear these words – especially when they come from a trusted friend. What are those words?

I’M PRAYING FOR YOU

I’ve recently had conversations with a friend about some things she has dealt with. In the midst of this, I had some things arise in my life and I asked her to pray for me. She told me she prays for me daily. Wow! I was blown away. I actually almost cried when I read those words from her. Here she is in the middle of her own crisis, yet she is taking the time to pray for her friend. Words simply cannot describe the feelings that this stirs inside me.

I won’t sit here and tell you my prayer life is the best it could be. There are certainly times I could pray more, but I do try to pray for my friends. I know how important that is to someone. Hearing my friend say she is praying for me means the world to me, and I want others to know that feeling – the feeling of being prayed for.

To my friend who made me feel so very special (you know who you are) – THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

For all of my friends out there reading this…How can I pray for you?

And, would you pray for me?

So Much on my Mind

thoughts

 

The past couple of days have been a mixed bag of emotions. There is just so much on my mind right now I’m not even sure where to start. Much of this is personal, but I felt the need to write it down and share…so here we go.

This week has been very busy as I’ve been catching up from being off work for a week. In the midst of that several things have come my way that have occupied my thoughts. Yesterday morning I received a message from a good friend asking me to pray for her. This is someone I care about very much, so of course I wanted to pray for her. But, I was also concerned about her, and she has been on my mind and in my thoughts since.

Also, yesterday would have been my friend Rick’s 56th birthday. Rick was one of those guys everyone liked, and he just had a way of making your day. He was like a brother to me. Sadly, Rick passed away suddenly and unexpectedly nearly 5 years ago. I think of my friend often, and especially miss him when his birthday rolls around. Of course the question is also once again raised – Why? Why was he taken so soon? I know God has a plan for everything, but that doesn’t make the loss any easier.

Today would have been my mother’s 64th birthday. Just like my friend Rick, my mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She too was taken too soon. It has been nearly 7 years since she has been gone, and I still miss her so much. She was a great lady! Again, the same question creeps into my mind – Why?

Finally, this morning a friend from church shared on Facebook that her 14-year old daughter was hospitalized with pneumonia. I work with the middle school ministry at church, and those kids are near and dear to my heart. Hearing this sweet girl was in the hospital brought worry and concern to my mind. She is doing well and is in good spirits according to her mom, so that is a relief. I’ve prayed for this girl and her family all day.

There is just so much on my mind!

I’m also dealing with some personal decisions to be made. I’m not ready to share any details publicly at this time, but let me just say these aren’t easy decisions. I would appreciate some prayers for clarity and peace.

As I type I’m reminded that when life seems out of control, God is most in control. Regardless of the circumstances – personal problems, illness, death – He is in control. It isn’t easy to let go and turn situations over to Him, but that is what we should do. That is what I’m trying to do. I’ll pray for my friends and will be there for them, but I can’t solve problems or heal anyone. Thankfully, He can!

Mission Trip 2014: Atlanta, GA

Mission Trip Team

I spent the past week in Atlanta, GA (East Atlanta, to be precise) with this amazing group of students and leaders. To be completely honest, I had some doubts about going on the trip. I wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing, and I just wasn’t sure I was using my vacation time wisely. After all, aren’t vacations supposed to be a time to get away and relax? Even with the doubts, I knew this was where God wanted me. And, it didn’t take long for me to realize I had made the right decision. My first thought for this post was to recap everything we did each day. However, the more I reflected on the week, the more I realized the details aren’t really the story. So, instead I’m going to give you a quick recap of the week, then share some personal thoughts, lessons and reflections.

I didn’t learn what we would be doing until the day we left. Even then, there was still some confusion and questions, but I knew God had a purpose for this trip. I just needed to wait and see it unfold. Upon our arrival we met with Pastor Jean Ward, the church planter and pastor of the church we would be serving – East Atlanta Church. After hearing what he had in mind for the week, I had more clarity on our mission and was ready to get started. We spent the first 2 days helping Pastor Jean film a video promoting the core values (love, peace, integrity, discipleship, community and faithfulness) of East Atlanta Church. During that time we were able to interact with people in the community, and our students stepped up in grand fashion. The last 2 days were spent working in a middle school in the community and involved much physical labor. Following the first day of working in the school, some of the team didn’t really understand why we were doing the work. It just didn’t seem much like missions work. That night during our devotion time, our middle school pastor (Nathan) shared his thoughts on this. He told the group that while we may not see the results, others do. In fact, several teachers in the school stopped him and thanked him for what we did. Our work, he explained, is helping Pastor Jean build relationships in the community. The following morning, before we began our second day of work in the school, Nathan shared Scripture from 1 Corinthians 3:6…

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth

Pastor Jean had planted by plugging into the community and partnering with our church. We were watering by coming alongside him and East Atlanta Church to do the work. In the end, God will grow what was planted and watered. What great motivation and perspective to begin the work day! Following that day of hard work, I think everyone felt better about what we had done.

For more detailed information on the work we did, please visit http://www.clearview.org/news/atlanta-mission-team-update

As I end this week of Kingdom work,  I wanted to share some personal thought, lessons and reflections. I kept a journal throughout the week, and wrote these words on the bus ride home.

It was a great week! The team accomplished what Pastor Jean wanted, and we bonded. The students all worked well together, and I feel that everyone grew closer. Relationships were developed this week. I see most of these kids week after week at church, but I really didn’t know some of them that well. After this week, that is no longer the case. I am thankful for the relationships I built with the students this week. They are great kids, and I am honored to serve them and serve with them. Since I plan to continue serving in the middle school ministry, I especially appreciate the bonds I made with the rising 8th graders. I can’t wait to see how God is going to use them. I was reminded this week of why I serve my church, specifically in the student ministry. I absolutely love those kids!!

There are 3 important lessons I learned from the week.

1. It isn’t about me, my comfort or my plans.

  • As I said at the beginning of the post, I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing by using my vacation time for this. God taught me that it isn’t about me. The purpose of the trip was Him – it always had been. Regardless of what we would be doing, the goal was to point to Him and give Him the glory.

2. You may not always see the results of Kingdom work (1 Corinthians 3:6), but God does! Keep working!

  • Although we didn’t directly see the results of what we did, God has a plan for it and will see the results. I needed to learn this lesson, because there are other areas where I can use this. Sometimes I question why I serve in certain areas at church, but the lesson learned this week puts it into perspective. I may not see the results, but He does.

3. We are developing leaders. 

  • Today’s middle and high school students are tomorrow’s leaders. We, as leaders in the student ministry, are developing the next generation of leaders. It hit me as I watched these kids work. A couple of them in particular stood out. Every time the team was given an assignment, I saw these couple of students step up and quickly get to work. They were genuinely excited about accomplishing the task set before them, and they were motivators to those around them. I saw tomorrow’s leaders developing before my eyes.

Reflecting now on the week, I can honestly say I can’t believe I had any doubts. I was blessed this week by the work that was done and by the students and leaders I served with. I’m thankful for new friendships and closer relationships. God taught me some valuable lessons and gave me some clarity on why I serve. Mission trips should be memorable, and this one certainly was for me. Thank you to each student and leader who served on this trip, and thank you to all who prayed for us. We watered what was planted, and I can’t wait to see what God will grow!

Sold Out

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “selling out” as betraying ones cause or associates especially for personal gain. Most people would probably agree with that. When we think of someone selling out, it usually isn’t a good thing. But, I’m looking at it differently. I want to sell out in a positive way. Allow me to explain.

I recently had a conversation with someone who is sold out. He is on fire for the Gospel, and is a sold out follower of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? Simply that he no longer lives for himself – everything he does is to advance the Gospel. He has flipped selling our around and redefined it. Instead of betraying a cause for personal gain, he is betraying personal gain for a cause. That is how I want to be – sold out for Jesus!

Listen to this song, then continue reading.

Break me, shake me, mold me, I’d rather die like Christ than live unholy

I love this song, and it speaks to exactly what I described above. The Bible calls us to be holy, just as Christ is holy. Of course we’ll never live up to His standard, but the goal should be to daily become more like Him. That’s what I want. I fail – daily (sometimes hourly) – but, I’m growing in His grace and mercy. Every day, I’m selling out a little more.

I’ve been a Christ follower for a long time, but I’m far from good. I’ve had conversations recently with a couple of guys about forgiveness, and that is an area of struggle for me. I know I need to overcome that area before I can be completely sold out. A discussion with someone this morning helped me look at forgiveness in a new way. There may be a post on that subject coming soon. Until then, I press on, just at the apostle Paul, toward the goal that calls me heavenward. My goal – to know Him more and make Him known…to be completely sold out for Jesus Christ!

What is a Holiday?

I had to go out yesterday evening and do some shopping for some items I needed. I wasn’t thinking about it being Good Friday, which should not have made a difference. However, I was surprised at how many people were out shopping. It looked more like Christmas than Easter. After walking through the store and feeling disgusted by what I was seeing, I left without purchasing anything. Allow me to explain.

You see, I grew up in a time when most retail stores were closed on most holidays. In fact, many stores were closed EVERY Sunday. I fully expect crowded stores near Christmas, but I wasn’t expecting what I saw yesterday. The crowds and traffic everywhere I looked were ridiculous. Plus, once inside the one store I attempted, it was unsettling to see throngs of people frantically shopping for Easter candy and toys. By the way, as a side note, when did Easter become a time for giving kids a bunch of toys they don’t need? When I was a kid we got candy (usually chocolate bunnies and jelly beans), but no toys. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Back to the crazed shoppers. The store I visited had 3 aisles of Easter items, and I would guess about 100 people were crammed into those aisles. I saw one woman start down an aisle, stop and say “Oh wow!”, then shake her head and walk away.

This spectacle raised a question in my mind. What is a holiday? According to dictionary.com, a holiday is:

a day fixed by law or custom on which ordinary business is suspended in commemoration of some event or in honor of some person.

Read that carefully. “Ordinary business is suspended”. Hmmm…that can’t be right. It seems to me that holiday in the United States has been re-defined. Holiday in this country now seems to be a reason for retail stores to stay open extended hours and have a sale. Americans use holidays as an excuse to go out and feed their ever-growing greedy appetite for more stuff. What ever happened to closing up shop, spending time with family and friends, and celebrating the true meaning of the holiday? Take Easter, for example. It isn’t about shopping for more junk we don’t need. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sure, it is fun for kids to hunt for eggs and eat chocolate bunnies, but let us not fall victim to retailers during this time. Easter would exist even if we closed ALL of the retail establishments and take away the candy and eggs.

It is time for America to wake up and realize that life is about more than collecting crap we don’t need! We need to get back to celebrating the TRUE meaning of holidays and not using them as an excuse to shop.

But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.

Matthew 6:20 (HCSB)

Time is Short: What Are You Doing?

We are just over halfway through January and I have already known of 8 people who have passed away this year. Of those, I personally knew 3 of them. Each of these deaths have affected me or someone I know. The purpose of this post isn’t to talk about these deaths or the grief that each family is feeling. I certainly don’t want to discount that. Believe me, I know what it means to lose someone very close to me. Instead, I want to focus on the thoughts that have been floating around in my head in the wake of these events.

There is nothing like death to make you take a step back and examine your own life. This is especially true when someone close to you passes away, or they die at a rather young age. One thing that has been on my mind after the recent deaths of family and friends is this:

Time is short.

Really, when you think about it our time here on this earth is very short. Even if one lives to be 100, that 100 years in comparison to eternity is short. No one knows who long he/she has. That isn’t for us to decide. No doubt everyone wants to live as long as they can. We want as much time as possible with those we love and care about. I don’t know of a single person who longs for death to overtake them. Rather, they plan for the future with the expectation that they will be around for a while. The reality, however, is that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. That leads me to a question.

What are you doing?

I guess I should really say, “What am I doing?”. Hearing of others passing away has made me stop and wonder what I am doing with what God has given me. Am I investing in His kingdom, or am I living for myself? Do I love others the way Christ loved, or do I select those I want to love? Am I serving Him or man? God has given us a short time, so what are we doing with that time?

I’ve been thinking about my life in recent weeks. I’m no different from most who will read this. I want to live as long as I can to be with those I love. I’ll say that I know my future in Him is secure, so death doesn’t scare me. When He calls me home, I’ll be ready to go. But, I hope that isn’t soon. So, while I’m here and have breath, I need to be about Kingdom work. How can I serve Christ and others every day? Am I doing His work?

In the age of social media when someone dies there are many posts about them on various social networks. Some speak of how good that person was. Others tell how deeply saddened they are by the death. Still others post remembrances of good times. While reading these I can’t help but wonder what people would say about me. I would hope people would say I was a good guy who loved and cared for his kids. But, more than anything I want to be remembered in this way.

He was a man of faith who served his savior Jesus Christ daily!

I hope we all have lots more time to be with our loved ones. Remember, however, there is no guarantee of tomorrow and time is short. What are you doing?

New Year – Blank Pages

Blank Page

Happy New Year!!

Today is January 1, 2014. It is the beginning of another year. For many that means resolutions…promises to make changes, usually. For most, those resolutions will soon be broken and forgotten. I don’t make any new year’s resolutions. I know I, like most, would fail to see them through. So instead, I look at the new year as a tablet of blank pages…a clean slate, if you will.

The beginning of a new year, to me, is a new beginning. Time to say goodbye to the past year…the heartache…the strife…the grief…the ______ (fill in the blank). I’ll confess 2013 wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. But, I won’t dwell on the past. I choose to look ahead to 2014 with optimism. The year lies before me (each of us) as blank pages. How will we fill those pages? Will they be filled with fear, anger, disappointment, depression? Or, will we choose to fill them with friends, happiness, fun, love, good times? I don’t know…yet. The year ahead is being written. Each of us has a blank page waiting to be filled with the story of our lives in 2014. It is another chapter in the book called Your Life.

As I said, I don’t make resolutions. I do try to set some goals for myself, and I’ve done that. Many are very personal, and I’m not ready to share those here in a public format. Maybe at some point, but not yet. I do, however, plan to share much via this blog. I wasn’t very motivated to write extensively in 2013, but I hope to change that in 2014. This is my outlet to share some of what I will write on my blank pages this year.

So here  we are. A new year and a book of blank pages lies before each of us. I invite you to begin writing this chapter of your life. I’ll share some of mine, and I hope you will comment and share some of yours. Let’s welcome 2014 with open arms and open minds and see where it takes us. I wish you blessings, peace, love and happiness and look forward to seeing the writing that will fill the blank pages.

Making Time

 

time

Ever notice how people tend to say they never have enough time? Time is a valuable commodity. There are 24 hours in a day, yet we don’t seem to have enough time to do everything life demands.

Work…kids…social life…dating…etc.

What occupies your time?

I find it is often difficult to achieve a good balance of how much time I need to devote to everything that demands my time. I spend many hours running my kids to and from events, appointments, practices each week, then I don’t have the time to go to dinner with friends. Or, I make the time to go on a date and don’t get something else done. I go to lunch with a buddy and work piles up. Some days I find myself asking where the time went and wonder how I’ll get caught up on everything that wasn’t done.

Sometimes I just have to take a step back and look at the many demands on my schedule. I have to ask, “What is important?”. I’ve realized something…

If something (or someone) is important to you, then you MUST make time for that thing (or person). 

Let me explain. We spend so much time on activities or people who aren’t really important to us. Think about how much time you devote to pleasing people at work while you are neglecting your family. Or, maybe you devote time to a friend when your significant other needs that time and attention. We all do this…and each of us could list several things here. The point is this. We spend more time on things that aren’t important than we do on the most important things in life.

I’m not saying we should neglect work or friends or hobbies, but if there are more important things and people in our lives then the less important things should naturally receive less time. It’s all about what we choose to make time for. If it is important to us, we MUST make time for it.

If your kids are important…MAKE TIME FOR THEM!

If your faith is important…MAKE TIME TO SPEND WITH GOD!

If your significant other is important…MAKE TIME FOR THEM!

The list could go on, but I think you get the idea. We’re all busy, but that’s just an excuse. Stop making time for things that don’t matter, and begin making time for those that do. The decisions you make with your time could change your life…and the lives of those that matter to you.

Turning to God

 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28,

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Today in church we sang a song titled Come to Me

Come to me, I’m all you need. Come to me, I’m your everything. 

Christ followers know this. I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church where we read the King James Bible and sang from hymnals. I remember reading that Bible verse with the words “Come unto me“. We sang the old hymn by the same name. “Come unto me, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, hear me and be blessed”. (OK, how many of you have that one stuck in your head now?) My point is that this is common knowledge for Christians. We are to cast our burdens before the Lord. He invites us to lay the load at His feet and find rest. Yet we don’t. Why???

While thinking of this post I realized a couple of things. First it has been over 3 months since my last post. Second, I have not be heeding the advice of Christ. I think a big reason for the lack of content on this blog is due to the fact that I have struggled with some things and not have not laid them before the throne. Instead of running to Him, I’ve been pushing Him away and going at it on my own. (Just as a side note, I don’t recommend taking that path.)

The sermon this morning in church further reminded me of my need to run to God. One point in particular stuck out for me…so much so that I took a screen shot of it and posted it on social media.

Intention of God

 

I love this and so needed to hear it. God’s intention is that every detail in my life should push me back toward Him. Again, I know this, but knowing and doing are totally different things. The message and songs today hit me like a ton of bricks. Why am I getting nowhere in dealing with my struggles and issues? Because I’m dealing with them and not turning to God.

Sometimes it takes something like the right message or song at the right time to make you stop and think about things. I’m so thankful for God sending me the message I needed to hear, and I’m thankful for a church that delivers His Word week after week. I know what I need to do and will heed the words of today’s message and the words of Christ. Come to Me