Wednesday, October 05, 2011

New Music and LSU

New Favorite Song

I have a new favorite song, and it has one of the best lines I've ever heard.  The song is by Shaun Groves, and it's on his new release, Third World Symphony.  The entire album is really good, blending a mix of edgy yet rich writing, passionately low key vocals, and lots of interesting instrumental combinations (like the piano, banjo, electric guitar, flute and triangle on All Is Grace).  The song that has me so captivated is called No Better, and it's a strain to those of us who realize that we are truly and wholly saved by grace alone, and that we are absolutely no better than anyone else.  The line that drives this point home so wonderfully says:

There's no justice here
It's just as well, you know
We've all got Hell to pay
And grace pays all we owe.

Man, that's good stuff!

Here's a video of Shaun singing the song.  It's rough, but you get the picture.

No Better (Demo) from Shaun Groves on Vimeo.

LSU Looking Good

I knew LSU was going to be tough this year, but with all the off-field distractions before the season began, I thought they'd be lucky to win 9 games.  That may still be, but this team looks poised to make a run at the National Championship.  LSU has what many teams like to act like they have, but few actually possess: Swagger!  This team is tough, mean, and plays like the other team called their Mama a bad name.

Defensive back, Tyrann Mathieu (aka: Honey Badger, TM7, Tryannasaurus, Mayhem Mathieu, Little Ball of Hate, etc), is one of the most dynamic players I've ever seen.  He's a tiny guy - about 5'9", 175lbs - but he's fearless and nasty, and he's like a magnet for the football.  It's rare that you have that sense of expectation - like anything can happen when he's on the field - when watching a defensive player, but that's exactly the way it is when Mathieu's playing.

Here's a video of Mathieu's body of work.  Heisman candidate?  You bet!!

 Watch out for the Tigers!!

Mark's Jesus is Awesome!!

I started a new sermon series two weeks ago on the book of Mark, and have been struck by the no nonsense, in-your-face style of this Gospel. Matthew, who wrote to a Jewish audience, begins his book with a genealogy, underscoring Jesus' Jewish lineage. Luke focused more on the ministry of the "Son of Man", and highlighted the birth of Christ. His emphasis was on the humanity of Christ, because he knew that his Greek readers would have related to the idea of a perfect Son sent down from the heavens to live a perfect life on earth. John wrote to a very general audience of both Jews and Gentiles, and his message was largely about Jesus' deity, emphasized by the incredible gift of eternal life for all who believed.

But Mark wrote to a different audience altogether. Mark wrote to the busy Romans, a culture know for innovation, progress and greed. Of all the cultures represented in Scripture, perhaps none more closely mimic the values of modern day America more than that of Rome. Though thousands of years of cultural advancement separate us, Rome would be proud of what we've become. Jesus came from the line of David, but we have come from the line of Rome.

In Mark, I have been surprised to see a different Jesus emerge than the one I've grown accustomed to. This Jesus isn't the sanitary and seemingly harmless figure I grew up with. The Jesus of Mark wouldn't dare stick to a flannel board. This guy was on a mission!!  Mark's Jesus probably looked more like Pigpen of Charlie Brown fame than the halo'd peacemaker pictured in Titan's Salvator Mundi.

Mark begins with a bang, and without the labored details of Matthew.  It opens with John the Baptist coming on the scene in a way that was shocking and probably quite unexpected.  This is what I love about the Christian story, and about the Bible in particular.  If you were trying to fabricate a convincing story of the coming of the Messiah - The Savior of the World - would you do it like this?  Would you basically find the craziest looking dude you could imagine – a guy who lives in the woods (cue banjo music) eats giant grasshoppers and fights bees for wild honey - and make him the one who would handle the Messiah’s PR campaign? 

I've always pictured John the Baptist to be a cross between Chewbacca, the Big Foot look alike in the Star Wars films, and Bear Grylls, the go-for-broke survivalist star of Discovery’s Man vs. Wild.  He was a big, hairy woodsman, and he’d eat anything!  This is the guy who ushers in the Savior of the world!  I think that’s pretty incredible.  You just can’t invent this stuff!

This man, whom I imagine with a beard that would make ZZ Top jealous, develops quite a following in Jewish circles.  People are coming to him in droves to be baptized, and the picture here, as N.T. Wright aptly describes it, is of a man who is rudely awakening the world by “splashing cold water all over them and telling them to get ready for the greatest moment in Jewish history, in world history.” (Mark for Everyone, p. 3)

Mark’s primary audience is Roman, and the idea of a messenger who would go before the emperor to announce his coming and “prepare the way” would have been a familiar one.  Roman royalty typically sent messengers ahead to repair roads and announce the King’s coming so that those awaiting his presence would have ample time to adequately prepare for such an event.  As the old British joke says, “Wherever the Queen goes she smells fresh paint.”  

In the case of John the Baptist, rather than fixing roads and sprucing up homes, his primary concern was to turn hearts away from the deception of the world and toward the fulfillment of the prophecies.  The One spoken of in Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1 (among other places) was coming, and the waters of baptism served as a tangible expression of both spiritual awakening and spiritual cleansing.  This was the kind of pre-royalty preparation that John was tasked with.  Instead of building roads, he was preparing hearts.

So, what we learn from verses 1-8 is that God is up to something new here.  As Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in her wonderful book, The Jesus Storybook Bible, “Everything bad is coming undone!”  The vast silence since God’s manifest presence left the Old Testament temple was finally breaking.  The restless and feverish slumber of a sin-sick people was rather shockingly coming to an end.  The Messiah was coming, and a mad man was alerting the world to this jarring fact.

I'll keep you posted on the Mark series, and I'll update my blog as I continue to be surprised by Jesus.  Funny how you can be a Christian for most of your life and still stumble on God's surprising truth.  And by "funny", I mean "awesome"!! 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Light Up the Sky, Upward, New Music and Twitter

Light up the Sky

Some storms blew through North Texas last night, and the lightning was pretty intense in certain areas. This video was shot in Fort Worth during a 30 minute period when a whole bunch of transformers exploded, leaving about 5,000 people without power. As I watched this, I was reminded of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Lots of colorful light bursts!

If you can't see the video, click here to view it.


We're starting a new series at church on May 22nd, and I'm pretty excited about it. It will last the entire Summer, and we're going to look at selected chapters from the book of Psalms. The series is called "Upward", and I'm hoping it will generate a lot of excitement during the Summer months. Here's the promotional video for the series:

If you can't see this video, click here to view it.

New Music

I've kind of grown tired of the over-produced, super slick style of worship music that everyone's playing these days. Some of it's good, but it's everywhere, and it's all starting to feel the same. Well, recently I stumbled onto something called High Street Hymns, and I really like it. Check out the song below. How have I never heard this before?


Finally, I am going to make a bold proclamation... I like Twitter better than Facebook. There, I said it. On Twitter, I can follow who I want to follow, and I don't get any annoying friend requests from people I don't know or don't remember. People can follow me too, but I don't have to ever post anything if I don't want to. For some reason, I just like to browse people's tweets, and then I'm done. I can simply be a spectator, with no fear of commitment. I like that. What does that say about me?

Some of my favorite people to follow are:
  • Tim Keller - Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan. Dr. Keller's posts always make me thankful for the grace of God.
  • Jim Gaffigan - This guy is one of my favorite comedians, and his tweets are pretty hilarious.
  • Bill Simmons - He's a writer and analyst for ESPN, and his hot sports opinions are unique and clever.
  • The Quotable Les Miles - Mesmerizing quotes from the head coach at LSU. Miles is awesome, but he often makes no sense.
  • CS Lewis - Brilliant, bite-sized commentary from one of the smartest Christians in modern history. I know he's dead, but that's the great thing about reading his tweets!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Worship Like a Rock Star

OK, I don't even know what to say about this. I deeply long to have this man come and perform at my church. Amazing moves... Killer voice... Mystifying stage presence... This guy's the total package. I'm pretty sure he's the secret child of Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson. I found myself breathless while watching this performance. Undoubtedly you will too!

If this video is not displayed correctly, click here to watch.

OK, here's another video of the same song. The intro on this one is mind-boggling!!! The moves, man! The moves!!! And I love the oh so subtle way he tells the sound man to turn up the track volume. Two thumbs way up!!!

Again, if you can't see the video (and, trust me, you want to see this!), click here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

iBand - Amazing!!

This is the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. Two observations: 1) These guys had a lot of time on their hands to figure this out, and 2) This was done by a church. Good to see a church on the cutting edge. Stick around until the 5:02 mark. It's awesome!!

If you can't see the embedded video, click here

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Love My Small Group!

In addition to pastoring Grace Community Church, I also lead a small group (aka Life Group) which meets at our house every Sunday at 5:30pm. Our group is pretty new, but we have some folks who are very committed to meeting every week and going about the business of sharing life together. Last Sunday we gathered for one of the best group times I can remember.

Several people shared freely about the various struggles they faced, and I was struck by just how difficult life is. There were deep and painful struggles with children, heart wrenching stories of illness, and life altering tales of hardship. Simply listening to these accounts was, for lack of a better word, hard. So stunning were some of these stories that we stopped down and paused for prayer three times just so we could make it through the night.

As some shared and others prayed, I was blown away by a unique and exciting thought: We were actually opening up about the gory details of our lives without fear or remorse. There were no shallow bushes to hide behind. All that stood before us were the open, revealing and deep waters of true Christian brother and sisterhood. We didn't gather for a dinner party or an ice breaker or a game night. Instead, we coalesced for the dual purposes of bearing our souls and seeking our Savior. What other venue can offer this? What other setting would dare?

This is why I love my Life Group: It's the only place something like this can happen. It's deep and real and good. It's not even always fun, but there's not a single post-Life Group discussion that doesn't contain this sentiment: "I'm so glad I went to Life Group tonight!"

Even if you have an aversion to sharing your "junk" with a small group, do me a favor and try it anyway. You may discover that there's really no reason to avoid the risky proposition of consistently attending a small group.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

It's been a really long time since I've tried to crank this bad boy up to see if it still runs. Life is busy, I guess, and I just haven't felt inspired to update my blog in a while. I'm not really sure I feel all that inspired to update it today, but I've been sick all week, and the thought of melting into the couch one more day is killing me! So I guess this is what you can expect from my blog from now on: When I'm not sick, I won't post. When I am sick enough to be really tired of being sick, I'll post something. Deal? Deal.

  • Joining me in sickness today are my son's Pierce and Quinn. There's not much worse than taking care of sick children when you are also sick. There's going to be trouble if we all have to throw up at the same time. This town's not big enough for the three of us!
  • Where's my wife, you ask? Well, she works at Navarro College, and school started this week, so she's pretty out of pocket. I think she's really happy that she doesn't have to be here. I would be!
  • I saw this picture at, and it made me laugh:

  • We went to Roanoke, TX on Sunday night and spent the night with our old neighbors, who also happen to be some of our closest friends. They have 4 kids, and we have 5. They also have some other kids who are staying at their house because they are very wonderful people who do that sort of thing. There were 13 kids and 4 adults in their house Sunday night. It was a free-for-all!
  • We had a blast with our friends!! We stayed up until 3am and talked and played games and talked some more. You can't do that kind of thing with just anyone. Only special friendships with special people can give you that kind of freedom. Either that, of we're all insane. Not sure which.
  • We ate at Cowboy Chow in downtown Roanoke, and if you haven't either been to Cowboy Chow or downtown Roanoke, you're missing out. Cowboy Chow is, as its name suggests, a restaurant which features the type of food you might have eaten on the Old Chisholm Trail, or something like that. I had the "Tater Parfait", which was a layer of mashed potatoes on top of a layer of black beans on top of a layer of brisket... Twice! It was served in a mason jar, and it was absolutely delicious!! Kim had the "Ranch Cigars", which is brisket and cheddar cheese rolled tightly in 4 flour tortillas, and flash fried. It was served with mashed potatoes and a delicious three cheese ranch . Kim's meal was better than mine, and mine was dang good! There's another Cowboy Chow location in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas.
  • Downtown Roanoke, TX has become one of my favorite locations in the Metroplex. It's changed a lot since we lived there, when the wonderful Babe's was the only real attraction. Now it's loaded with good restaurants, including Cowboy Chow and Twisted Root (a great place to get an awesome hamburger), and they've redone the roads to give it a quaint, old main street vibe. You should visit sometime!
  • There's been a lot of LSU buzz since the Tiger's whipped the Aggie's in the Cotton Bowl. Coach Les Miles turned down the Michigan job in favor of staying in Baton Rouge, and even though Miles is extremely goofy, you can't really argue with his record. Four 11-win seasons in 6 years is pretty impressive, and he's also 5-1 in bowl games. And, oh yeah, there was that National Championship in 2007. I'm happy he stayed. If you don't think he's goofy, check out this web page, which offers a compilation of Miles' quotes. It's oddly addictive.
  • There are tons of reports today that Steve Kragthorpe has been hired as LSU's new Offensive Coordinator. Kragthorpe is known for his offenses at Tulsa and Louisville. Seems like a solid hire.
  • LSU is also garnering a lot of hype for next season. So far, at least two "experts" have picked the Tigers to win the National Championship (This guy, and this guy). It's good to know there aren't any high expectations for next year! No place to go but down!!
Ok, well, that's all I got! Until the next time I fall deathly ill....