Gladdest Noel

I’ve been posting the best unheard of Christmas songs. But this one deserves to have a post all its own. If for some reason, you’re unable to listen to this lyrical song by Evelyn Brush featured on the Christmas CD “Ring the Bells” I have taken it upon myself to write the lyrics out for you below the video.

In a lowly, lonely corner of a dark and dismal earth

What man once lost was found again – hope was given birth.

Calamitous our condition under judgment from the fall

‘Til the gladdest brightest Miracle came down to save us all.

He heard us crying in the night, dying in our sins

So in unblemished love, God slipped into our common skin.

And the Word became flesh and the greatest became least

And swaddling clothes were wrapped around Heaven’s highest Priest.

In teeny, tiny fingers, and teeny, tiny toes

Baby soft and sweet to kiss lay Sharon’s tender Rose.

Desire of all nations, spreading His rich perfume

As morning sheds her glory across the shimmering dew.

Oh, holy night! God of virgin born, prophecy fulfilled! Fathomless… alone.

But the serpent of Eden hissed heinously and groaned!

For the Savior had returned to claim back His rightful own.

The snake, he slid and slithered in reviling rant and rave

For men’s life was not his purpose… he was hellbent on their grave.

So, besniveling from the manger in green-eyed insanity, he crawled off to hew a rugged Cross

From just the perfect tree in search surpassing sinister, yet sovereignly allowed.

He also plucked the perfect thorns  for Rose of Sharon’s brow.

And in these things he had his way but only ’til the stain

Of Jesus’ blood had washed away our sins ’til none remained.

And the wrath of God was violent, and the terror cruel and raw

Not at all the thing we want to see while looking in the straw

At an Infant pure and innocent.

But we must reconcile with this Truth:

The price to set men free was held within this child,

The Lion of Judah, who died for us our death.

Whose throne can be our very hearts whose breath can be our breath

Whose Life can be our life for all eternity.

If we will but accept the gift He sent for you and me

Jesus is His name

Noel!

Noel!

Messiah, Deliverer, Emmanuel, Holy One of Israel!

The Prince of Peace!

Almighty Counselor!

Our sinless high Priest!

God of all gods!

Light of all light!

Joy in our sorrow, rest in our nights.

Blessed Redeemer.

Bright Morningstar!

Wonder of wonders,

What a wonder you are!

Comforter, Helper, faithful friend,

Promise keeper of Bethlehem.

King of all kings!

Lord of all lords!

Ancient of days!

Forevermore!

Immortal, invisible, merciful One.

Forgiver of every vile thing we have done!

Righteous, victorious, our all in all.

And yet… His eye sees when a wee sparrow falls

And when are weak,

He is Strong.

And when we are wandering, His arms are long.

And when pain runs deep

His love’s deeper still.

If we will but ask Him, He’ll save us, He will.

Beautiful Savior!

Bethlehem’s bloom

Hope for the tiniest forms within the wombs!

Loving, kind rescuer of helpless man,

No one can steal us out of Your hands!

Noel

Noel

Gladdest Noel

Jesus is born

All is well!

Win a free autographed copy of my book, The Man in the Box. Click here for details.

Check Out Singer/Songwriter Andrew Peterson

11921230-largeMay I be a little unorthodox?

Christian music can get on my nerves. Sometimes I have to take a hiatus from listening to it. And a lot of times, other music – *gasp* secular music – speaks to my soul. Sometimes the right note from Sister Hazel lifts me up. A piano solo from Elton John awakens me. A chorus from Fun. inspires me.

One reason is because they’re all different. They all sound different from each other. They’re all unique in their own way. And that’s a big reason why Christian music can get on my nerves – because you can’t tell one band from another. And oftentimes it’s hard to tell the lyrics of one song written in 1995 apart from the lyrics of another song released last week.

Check out this 5-minute video that proves my point in a humorous way at some point when you have the time. Regular churchgoers will love this video.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have my favorite Christian musicians lined up on my itunes playlist. The reason they’re on my playlist to begin with is because they’ve really tapped into their musical gifts and they stretch themselves out and go against the tired Christian sound.

Andrew Peterson is one such Christian artist who has dared to break out of the conventional Christian barrier. His lyrics alone are sheer poetry that speak to the heart  of any person in any walk of life.

Sarabeth and I had the privilege of attending his concert last night which was put on to support our church’s orphanage program, Rosalynn’s Hope.

Not since Keith and Kristyn Getty have I been so moved by the sound of music. Now, I’m not you’re typical music-listener. I tend to ignore the lyrics in many songs and am moved by the tune. This can oftentimes be to my disadvantage because Sarabeth has been known to ask, out of sheer shock, “What in the world are you listening to??”

My case of “It’s beautiful music” is often shattered when I look up the lyrics to that particular song and see that it’s all about young girls sunbathing on the beach and booty calls.

Oops.

But with Andrew Peterson, the real magic of his music lies in the lyrics, so I have to actually work at enjoying his art – but it’s so worth it! Each song tells a story, or captures a snapshot of an ofttimes overlooked Bible passage, and brings it to life.

His songs encircle the themes of paradise lost, and our longing for hope and redemption and a savior to come and finally rescue us from this hell we call earth. (Much like the themes in my book, The Man in the Box. I feel like he and I would get along.)

Just look over the opening lyrics capturing Abraham and Sarah’s sojourn to Canaan taken out of the book of Genesis:

Sarah, take me by my arm
Tomorrow we are Canaan bound
Where westward sails the golden sun
And Hebron’s hills are amber crowned

So bid your troubled heart be still
The grass, they say, is soft and green
The trees are tall and honey-filled
So, Sarah, come and walk with me

An artist with a paintbrush could do the scene no better. (The song is “Canaan Bound” if you want to look it up on itunes.)

And really, most, if not all of his songs are like this. Beautiful. Emotional. Flawless. I would also like to pay special tribute to his backup guys, who each performed just as well as Peterson. Look up Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn on itunes and enjoy their music as well.

Check out Andrew Peterson’s tour schedule and be sure to book your ticket if he’s coming to your town. Otherwise, get his music on itunes or through his website (he also writes awesome fantasy books!). Listen to it. Love it. And let it open up your mind and heart to the Creator of all that’s good and wonderful.

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Irish Christmas Music

Getty Joy An Irish Christmas Cover copyLast night, Sarabeth and I had the privilege of attending a beautiful concert by new Hymn writers and performers Keith and Kristyn Getty at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Pay attention to this post because they might be coming to your town, and you would be remiss in missing such a great opportunity.

You know that beautiful song, “In Christ Alone” that you sing at church? This is the couple that wrote that song (along with Stuart Townend), and a handful of other world-renowned hymns.

The Getty’s music is unique in that it even has its own genre: singable theology. And to make it even better, they tie their Irish roots in the sounds, blending it beautifully and seamlessly with a tinge of our ol’ country ring. (Their newest album, “Hymns for the Christian Life” features Alison Krauss, one of my personal favorite U.S. performers.) I mean, really – where else will you find a banjo and an accordion on the same stage?

I have posted a link to their Christmas tour below. If you see that they’re headed your way, jump on it in a heartbeat. Cancel anything else you have planned and go to this concert. It tells the Christmas story beautifully through new and traditional Christmas hymns. In fact, there were many times when I got choked up because of the audience participation they encouraged. At one point they had just the children join them in a new Christmas carol and soon everyone was caught up in the magic and purity of the moment.

Fans of the Brave soundtrack will be delighted and will recognize the beautiful uilleann pipes throughout the entire evening (played by Patrick D’Arcy). Never mind that I can’t pronounce it, it’s my favorite instrument! Though there are some tender and intimate moments, you’ll be rooting and dancing and cheering throughout the concert, begging, along with everyone else, for an encore. Oh, and did I mention that most of the songs are accompanied by a vocal choir that tends to steal the show?

Regardless, whether you can make it to the concert or not, you absolutely have to check out their music on itunes, and in particular, “Joy: An Irish Christmas.” It’s the perfect CD to get you in that old-time Christmas spirit.

I’d share more of the band’s impressive resume (including playing for former president George W. Bush at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville), but I’d rather you hear it for yourself to believe it.

Christmas Tour Schedule 

If you go to this concert or listen to the Getty’s music, please comment below to help spread the word about their ministry.

Also, my book, The Man in the Box premiers today! I know several people have already received their copies from Amazon. Make sure to get yours today by clicking here. It’s the perfect gift for the bookworms in your life! You can also get it for your Kindle here.

Also, they promote a great cause to help get children out of poverty. Visit Compassion to sponsor a child today.

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Union with Christ

The following is a passage taken from The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennett:

O Father.

Thou hast made man for the glory of thyself, and when not an instrument of that glory, he is a thing of nought;

No sin is greater than the sin of unbelief, for if union with Christ is the greatest good, unbelief is the greatest sin, as being cross to thy command;

I see that whatever my sin is, yet no sin is like disunion from Christ by unbelief.

Lord, keep me from committing the greatest sin in departing from him, for I can never in this life perfectly obey and cleave to Christ.

When thou takest away my outward blessings, it is for sin, in no acknowledging that all that I have is of thee, in not serving thee through what I have, in making myself secure and hardened.

Lawful blessings are the secret idols, and do most hurt; the greatest injury is in the heaving, the greatest good isn the taking away.

In love divest me of blessings that I may glorify thee the more; remove the fuel of my sin, and may I prize the gain of a little holiness as overbalancing all my losses.

The more I love thee with a truly gracious love the more I desire to love thee, and the more miserable I am at my want of love;

The more I hunger and thirst after thee, the more I faint and fail in finding thee,

The more my heart is broken for sin, the more I pray it may be far more broken.

My great evil is that I do not remember the sins of my youth, nay, the sins of one day I forget the next. Keep me from all things that turn to unbelief or lack of felt union with Christ.

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Family Friendly “Halloween” Movies

We don’t celebrate Halloween in the traditional sense in our home. But I still like the flavor of the season, without celebrating death and all its accompaniments. (I’ll post soon how we celebrate October 31st.) I don’t think it’s wrong to seek out thrills for entertainment. After all, isn’t that what we see most movies for? So I’ve put together “safe” movies for families with older kids to enjoy this time of year. I’m sure you’ve seen many of them, if not all. So take a walk down memory lane and let the haunts of movies past delight you…

E.T.

This is a classic that I think every kid should still see. Some Christians might have a fit with me recommending this sci-fi fantasy because we shouldn’t promote the possibility of an alien life-force floating around out there in our universe somewhere. Well, a lot of kids have seen The Lion King, and I’ve never heard of an incident where a child tried to jump out of a safari ride to talk with a lion. With the exception of the foul playground language, E.T. is perfectly acceptable for kids who don’t scare easily, and it’s great imagination booster. I drew off of this movie all the time as a kid when developing stories and creating imaginary characters. Plus, I hear it’s coming out on Blu-Ray soon… Brief, strong language, scary moments.

Snow White

You might be asking how Snow White made it to the list of Halloween movies. If you watch it, even today as an adult, you’ll see that it’s a pretty freaky movie, even for being the first animated film ever made. It’s seamless in its storytelling, and perfectly pure in its artistic form, and it contains probably some of the greatest Disney music ever. The whole queen transforming into the witch scene… you’ll feel like it’s Halloween, alright. I watch this every year around the end of October. A great benefit to it is that you can talk to your kids about the beauty of redemption and the great resurrection of souls when God destroys all the evil in this world forever. Scary moments.

 

Bewitched (2005) 

Yes, this movie makes light of witchcraft. And so does Harry Potter, and dare I say it? – Narnia. Making light isn’t just making fun, it’s downplaying. Even our best efforts of demonizing witchcraft fall short of capturing its vile existence. This movie is actually pretty clean, considering it’s Will Ferrell. Good time for laughs, but a good opportunity to talk with your kids afterwards about how Hollywood distorts the truth in exchange for entertainment. This one’s PG-13. Check out Pluggedin.com to determine if this movie is safe for your family. 

 

 

 

Signs

M. Night Shyamalan. You either love him (because of Sixth Sense) or you hate him (post-Sixth Sense). Or you’ve heard of him, but don’t exactly know why. Shyamalan is mostly known for doing “safe” horror movies. In other words, people like me who don’t tolerate useless blood-and-guts and slasher/killer movies, can appreciate this writer/director’s movies because he tampers more with suspense and fantasy. No sex, very minimal blood, and, especially in Signs, he tends to handle topics of faith and hope quite well. The lead character in this one (Mel Gibson), is an ex-priest who has given up on God. Even in fantasy movies, “God” works in mysterious ways to draw His children back to Him. Good form. PG-13 for frightening moments, mild language, and intensity. 

There are some others we watch for Halloween, but now it’s your turn. What are some clean movies you and your family watch this time of year? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Remember Colby or Psalty?

All right, all of you who grew up in church listening to Psalty the Psalm Book or Colby the Computer – you might enjoy this. For those of you who don’t know, Psalty and Colby were famous characters that a lot of churches showcased to kids, kindergarten -6th grade. Keep in mind, this took place around the turn of the decade from the 80’s-90’s. I remember our church would have our music director play the part of the famed characters – painted face and costumes and all – and the middle-school kids would play the ensemble cast, singing and dancing out Bible lessons and putting on “the church even of the year” for the little kids. Christian book stores also sold a lot of merchandise featuring these two separate characters.

I asked Sarabeth the other day, “If they brought back Psalty or Colby, do you think they’d be just as popular today?”

Her response?

“No. But maybe if they made a Timothy the Tablet.” She’s right. Kids today couldn’t relate to a giant psalm book or a desktop computer. So then we started throwing out some other ideas just for laughs.

Like Nikki the Nook.

Or Kit the Kindle.

So we want to invite you guys in on the fun. What are some fun ideas that would be popular with kids today that would be relevant to today’s young culture? Also, if you happen to have some personal photos of your days with Psalty or Colby, show your age and send them to me to adoptingjames@aol.com and I’ll post them in about a month. Voters will vote on the best picture and that person will win a free advanced reader’s copy of my book THE MAN IN THE BOX (totally unrelated, but I just wanted a reason to give one out). Have fun!

If Only

John 4:10

Jesus answered her, “If [only] you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

-Jesus to the woman at the well

If only we’d have known how faithful God is, would we have done things differently? Think about it: If we knew God in His truest essence from the day we were born, wouldn’t we be in a completely different place than we are now?

Would you have made the same decisions? These are provoking thoughts. The what-ifs tend to pile up and the if-onlys begin to take shape. “If only I had waited.” “If only I had done something.” “If only I could’ve known what would happen.”

Eleven disciples knew how to walk on the water, but only one actually did it. Ten disciples knew not to abandon Jesus during His final hours, but only one didn’t. Sure, we know how to live spiritual lives, we know how to keep from sinning – really, we do. James is even big on this point: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).

A very wise friend of mine once told me that if we really believed that Jesus died for us, and cut us loose from the chains of sin, we wouldn’t sin anymore. If we really believe that God is faithful to fulfill all of our needs, we would not have any problems with petty temptations. The truth is, Christians, we don’t always believe. We sin due to disbelief that God has something better for us! (In essence, we will continue to sin as long as we are in the flesh.)

God has provided the paved road, but we prefer the path with potholes.

Jesus has cut our chains, but we prefer to stay in the cellar.

All of this because of our disbelief.

A reason for our reoccurring disbelief in God is our pasts. We see how far we’ve fallen, and we talk ourselves into thinking that it’s going to happen again. Like the old saying goes, “It happened once, it’ll happen again.” And that becomes the standard that we live by.

Think about the instances that changed your life over time. Were they mediocre occurrences that happen every day, but one day just clicked? Or are they more extreme? What tips your mind to start getting you to think differently? What places your heart in the chambers of the divine? A lost child? a death? an illness? an early pregnancy? What does it for you?

For the woman at the well, it was a thirsty messiah. She saw that He was not the One in need – but rather, she was. The woman was in need of clarity, as well as compassion. But she was still a little uncertain, and perhaps a little frightened. “If only you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (emphasis added).

There it is: If only.

The terrible two.

This is not a phrase that contains enough space for hope like what if does. This is a phrase that can only reflect and regret. And what’s worse yet, Jesus is saying this! Why is Jesus using such a phrase with someone who is in such need of redemption? What’s going on here?

“If only” are no words I want to hear from Jesus – ever. But you know what? I think if only comes with a territory of being a Christian. The Bible is filled with if onlys.

If only Moses hadn’t talked back to God.

If only Jonah had obeyed God the first time.

If only David hadn’t lusted.

If only Paul didn’t murder.

If only the thief on His right could see.

But without those if onlys, we would be left with a very skinny Bible. We would be left with very few lessons to be learned, and very little examples of God’s love and patience for mankind.

I wonder if the woman at the well would have seen Jesus for who He was if she was a “righteous” woman.

If she had remained married to the same man for a number of years, would she have even met Jesus? Remember that it was her shame that forced her to fetch water during the heat of the day in the first place. And if not for her mistakes, she would have no shame, therefore she would not have met Jesus at that divine moment in time.

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