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Here at Connections, we measure everything we do against the Bible. From how our leadership is organized to the way we allocate our money, from the songs that we sing to our VBS celebrations, everything is checked against the Bible. That doesn’t mean that we are restricted to only what is in there. Romans doesn’t mention inflatable bouncy houses, and James doesn’t include snow cones. But those things are tied to evangelism, and a snow cone isn’t too far from a cup of cold water.

The songs we sing are biblical, too, whether they include scripture or only include scriptural ideas. The hymn I’m going to read to you, “When I survey the wondrous cross”, was one of the first ones to have a biblical outlook without using only Bible verses. It doesn’t directly use Bible verses, but it is undeniably biblical. And it is true.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Let’s pray. Father God, we are remembering the sacrifice of Your only begotten Son Jesus. We are commemorating His death on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins. His perfect and sinless blood – as the song says, “Sorrow and love flow mingled down” – does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. As we take the wafer and the juice, representing Jesus’ body and blood, help us to remember, constantly and continually. In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.


Offering meditation

That song has another verse, one that is still biblical without using Bible verses. And it is appropriate for the time when we collect the offering. The thing is, though, that it isn’t just about dropping money into a plate. It’s about a mindset, about how you live and how you see the world. The offering plate is a part of it, but it goes so much farther.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Again, there isn’t a Bible verse in there, but that is so biblical in its ideas and implications that there is support for it throughout the whole Bible.

Let’s pray. Lord God, we don’t own the world. You have made us stewards, caretakers, of some little part of it. And no matter how fat our wallet is, how many entries in our bank account, it isn’t our money that You want – it’s us, wholly and completely. And when we have given ourselves to You, what we put in the plate is a reflection of that amazing love Jesus has for us. Bless this offering, I pray, the envelopes, the givers, and the donation of lives to You.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Today marks the 500th anniversary of a Catholic monk rebelling.  I don’t know if the door of the church at Wittenberg was red, black, natural, or “other”.  It was capable of accepting Luther’s 95 Theses, and that’s what kicked off the whole Protestant Reformation.

I don’t have a lot to say about it (the Reformation, not the door).  I’m glad it happened, and I’m pretty sure that Brother Luther wouldn’t recognize what the church has become.

Rather than spend a lot of words saying nothing, I’ll point to Wes King’s commentary.

At my church, I am in charge of the sound ministry.  I run sound during the services, record the sound, split out the songs, and then burn CDs to hand out to people.  I’m in charge of supplies as well – buying new microphones, buying blank CDs.  I try to be frugal with the money involved.  For sound equipment, that means I deal with Sweetwater Sound (specifically, Tharon Jones).

For consumables like blank CDs, though, I try to find the cheapest quality ones I can get.  Sometimes that is at Micro Center. and sometimes it comes down to browsing the web for a half-hour, finding and comparing qualities, prices, and quantities.  This last time, I found the best price at MeritLine.

double your money

And then I started wondering if I should save money by buying in bulk – a couple hundred instead of one hundred.  They say right on the ad that I can “Buy More Save More”.  But then again, if I read the fine print, I can spend an extra nickel per CD by “saving more”.

double your money2

It’s tempting, but I think I’ll pass.  Try me again next time, though, okay?

“It’ s not really automatic – you still have to press the button.”

In a similar vein, I can say that this music isn’t really free – you still have to provide your email address.

Page CXVI (I think one-sixteen, but I have heard them say see ecks vee eye) is giving away their whole music catalog to celebrate their Year of Jubilee.  Pop over to here and grab it during the month of March.

These are the folks who make Hymns, a reworking of old classics into something modern.  They do it well.  I have blogged about them before, f o u r different times.  I’m quite happy to accept and promote their music, and I would pay to go see a show of theirs.

The only other caveat I need to include is that to give their server some breathing space, they limit you to a single album download every five minutes.  That’s not a terrible burden – grab one while you’re in the midst of something else, come back when you’re finished.

Recommended, and you can’t beat the price.

My grandmother had manic depression. Oh, wait, by the time she was diagnosed, it had been renamed to “bipolar disorder”.

I’m not sure whether my Dad suffers from this, but I seem to have caught a hint of it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Rafferty died yesterday.  The official cause seems to be liver and kidney problems, brought on by alcoholism, brought on by depression.

I enjoyed listening to him.  I have City to City (featuring Baker Street) and a “Best of” recording, the first on vinyl and the second on cassette.

City to City came out in 1978.  I was in college and probably bought the album at K-mart, using money I earned mowing the lawn at K-mart.  That would have been the summer after my freshman year, and I got (if I remember right) $125 a week for mowing the lawn all around the store.  I ended up getting really fast at doing it, and I think I got my hourly rate up to a hundred bucks an hour.  I’d get my pay inside, and then spend it all on music.  I didn’t even have a record player at the time.  And that was my highest hourly rate until I agreed to do a job for a flat rate of $75, then wrote up the bill for thirty minutes’ work at $150 per hour.  But that’s a different story.

The seventies were a different time.  Gerry Rafferty was a fresh voice.  Baker Street transported me to another place, when I was a bit of a rebel and thought I had the world figured out.

This city desert makes you feel so cold.
It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul
And it’s taking you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it had everything.

The college town had 14,000 people in it at the time, and that was a big place to me.  I had come from living outside a village of five thousand.  Now Cincinnati, with a couple million people in its SMSA, seems a bit provincial.  Times change.

You can buy the whole City to City album for under four dollars, if you don’t want to drop a buck on one song. Gerry Rafferty still pulled in $125,000 a year on royalties for Baker Street.

I don’t say this for the money aspect.  He stopped recording much too soon.

Tomorrow at church, we will be singing The Revelation Song.  It’s a neat praise song, worshipful and Biblical.  The lyrics come straight out of Revelation, the last book of the Bible.  That’s where I’m still reading.

The chorus of the song starts off

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come

This comes straight from Rev 4:8, where the adoration of God the Father is described.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”

I’m not sure why I didn’t recognize it before, but the commentary I am reading along-side the Bible mentioned that the holies match up to the timeframes: one holy for God who was, one holy for God who is, and one holy for God who is to come.

God isn’t simply eternal and good, He is eternally good.  He alone deserves our praise and worship and devotion and effort and attention.  Not our jobs, not our hobbies, not our spouse and family, not the back yard where that crabgrass keeps growing by the fence.  Those things are all worthy of attention, in the proper place.  Psalm 127:1 says

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.

It’s all His, all the time.  Past, present, and future.

Amen, and amen.  So be it.

I don’t understand “free”.  I like it, sure, but I don’t always know how it works.

Google does free searches.  But they are pushing their own agenda – advertising.  Food and beverage companies give out free samples, in the hope that you will want to buy their product, so they can make money.

And then there’s Page CXVI, whom I have mentioned before.  They are now streaming their first two albums for free, in hopes of potentially selling more albums, sure, but also in hope of reaching more people for God.  And it’s hard to fault that reasoning.

The biggest freebie, though, is the gift of salvation.  We are sinners, condemned to hell by our choices.  And yet God gives us grace, inviting us to be His sons and daughters.  And this is offered to us, free.

Of course it’s not free.  A mighty price had to be paid.  But not by us.

Grace is an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Jesus Christ paid the price for the greatest free offer that you will ever read about.  Unfortunately, it’s a limited-time offer.  You can only accept it while you are alive.

Don’t be late!  And remember: one offer per person.

There’s a proverb – reportedly Russian – that goes like this:

The church is near, but the road is icy.
The tavern is far, but I’ll walk carefully.

It may or may not be real, but the sentiment surely is.  People do what they want to do.  We found ourselves in a close-but-not-exact situation.

Friday night, we went to Lake Isabella to hear a local blues band, 46 Long.  They had a keyboardist sitting in for the guitar player, and both are accomplished musicians.  The music was great, and the lyrics were terrible.  You done me wrong, you left me for another, I left you for another, I tried to leave you but I couldn’t.  Not exact quotes, but those were the threads throughout the songs.

Bettie mentioned that when she was in high school, she listened to secular music and was depressed because of that.  She said she wished there were Christian blues.  I told her that the two didn’t mix – Christianity and the blues are opposing concepts.  That would be like “dry water” or something.

I was wrong. is “the Internet’s first and largest source of blues music by Christian artists”.  They offer groups like the Victory in Heaven Blues Band, and have some free downloads.  I grabbed the tracks and will give them a listen.

On the “roads are icy” side of the proverb, we had planned to go to a hymnfest.  New Richmond is a river town about 40 minutes away, and as part of their River Days celebration, some churches were having a festival of hymns.  We had planned on going to it, but incoming bad weather helped us decide against the outdoor event.  In comparison to the blues songs, the songs for this include How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, and Victory in Jesus.  Bit of a difference, and much more conducive to a proper worldview.

Sunday, after supporting our church, we’re heading to see Holly Spears at the Elizabeth Ann Seton festival.  Holly is a Christian artist who has been through a lot and is joyously holding on to Christ.  She sang at our church last year, showing some of her art work and explaining how God is working in her life.

I’m standing at a crossroads
I am patiently waiting
And praying for light to be shown
Lord, which way should I go
I’ve been seeking out the answers
I’m still patiently waiting for God to say
Go down this road
It will lead you home
Don’t be scared, just go
I am with you
I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life;
I am the lamp that will guide your way always
I bring you love; I bring you peace; I give you strength;
I take away all your worries Give them all to Me

But God you see
I’ve been standing at this crossroads
For some time I have been praying and patiently waiting for you
Lord, please I beg what should I do
He said, I see your heart is in the right place
Yes, you’ve been patiently waiting
Now I say child go down this road
I have plans for you
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you
There is hope

I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life;
I am the lamp that will guide your way always
I bring you love; I bring you peace; I give you strength;
I take away all your worries Give them all to me
Lay your burdens down; have faith and then you’ll see
I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life;
I am the lamp that will guide your way always
I bring you love; I bring you peace; I give you strength;
I take away all your worries Give them all to me
Lay your burdens down just leave them at my feet
Then, follow me

(from Crossroads on Holly Spears’ Redemption Road album)

We are called generally to be in the world, but not it.  We are called specifically to be salt and light.  We attend a blues concert, plan on singing hymns, and celebrate somebody’s victory over darkness.  And we go live and shine.

Whether the church is near or far, we do have to walk carefully.

I’m always on the lookout for free stuff, and I just rediscovered the Free Music Archive.  Tons of music, and their categorizations

have subcategories

And no, I don’t know an IDM from a Skweee, and may never know.  I have been enjoying American Green’s She Goes to France, which is recorded and produced by Japanese musician Takafumi Shirai in his bedroom.  Mellow-sounding.  I’d like to hear a whole album of his stuff.

Because that music isn’t, you know, Glitch or Breakcore – Hard.  And it’s distributed through Bad Panda Records.  Anybody who has this as their logo can’t be all bad.

Regardless of their name.

(Panda art copyright © Julien Fanton d’Andon/Kulte)