Christian Blogger and Communicator Jon Acuff launched the #emptyshelf challenge last week. He want to encourage people to set up a visual reminder of what books they have read and hopes it will encourage them to read more. I was looking at what I wanted to do in 2014 and knew reading needed to be a better part of it. I had picked up my reading this year, but it is nowhere near the level I want it to be at.
I was a nerdy reader as a kid, plowing through Hardy Boys books and anything involving Bigfoot I could find. I kicked it back up in college when I started working in a book store. I continue to read now because I think reading is essential to moving forward. The moment anyone quits wanting to learn more, they shrivel up and die. They can’t grow and they can’t help others grow.
I am jumping headlong into the #emptyshelf project. I won’t bother you to much here about it. The instagram channel might fill up though! If you are wanting 2014 to be an awesome year, I highly encourage you to become part of the #emptyshelf community. All it takes is a book and a hashtag!
There will also probably be a few other goodies thrown in.
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This episode of the Productive Pastor Podcast will be just a little different. Since it is the holiday season and many of us will be taking some time off, I decided it was time to have a conversation about Sabbath. For this topic…I know only one person who could share with us.
JD Walt is the sower-in-chief for Seedbed. This is fancy language for chief executive officer. I spent several years working with JD and it was one of the best working relationships and friendships I have ever had. JD is a practical theologian with an amazing command of scripture and the Christian life. He is also the first Sabbath keeper I have ever met.
JD shares with us a conversation about Sabbath, peace and chaos and what the sabbath keeping life is like. He gives some practical rhythms of keeping Sabbath as a family.
Many people know I am a big fan of classic country music. If I had to name my favorite artist, I would say Johnny Cash. Hands down. I don’t think anyone has a better handle on the human condition than Cash.
When I was younger I played music. Traveled around the world leading worship and played my share of rock and roll around North Louisiana. Once I was part of an event at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. For years this stage was the home of the Louisiana Hayride. The coolest thing about this…Cash played the hayride plenty of times.
You could stand in the middle of the stage and imagine all of the stars standing right there. Elvis was on the list…but he doesn’t matter to me that much. Cash matters. I stood there. He stood there.
Any connection I have to Johnny Cash is sketchy at best and only exists in my own mind.
I think many times we act about God like I think about Cash. We have a mild connection with no real relationship. We know there is an exchange of facts, but no real relationship.
It isn’t supposed to be like this.
Our scripture this week is from Matthew 1. Joseph is visited by an angel and told the real story behind this baby his knocked up future wife is carrying.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
The angel reminds Joseph of the prophecy about the future Messiah. The basic identity of this person will be the incarnated presence of God. God bends down to humanity and offers himself up, in incarnation for the sins of all and as the man named Jesus for the sins of the individual.
God came to save us. Plain and simple. What he desires out of us is a personal recognition of this. It isn’t an intellectual recognition, but an experiential one. He wants to really know us.
Have you ever stood at a crossroads? Understanding the possibility of the unknown can frighten all of us.
The good news is throughout the story of God and his people, God has been in the middle of transitions. He leads us to understanding our preferred future.
What is a sermon preview? Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.
Lightly Instrumented First Verse
BIG Sing Along Chorus
Second (and 3rd) verses get more anthmatic each time.
Key Change to Make Final Chorus Even Bigger
You could call this a template for the modern worship song. Pull out a live version of “How Great Is Our God” or “Mighty To Save” and you will easily find it. But the worship writers in Brentwood, Tennessee didn’t figure this out first. It wasn’t planned out at a design meeting for the Passion conferences. Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin didn’t dream it up during the early stages of One Day.
My friends….this template comes from New Jersey and was perfected (and somewhat invented) by Jon Bon Jovi. That’s right, 1980’s hair metal drives modern worship. I first thought about this a few years ago and brought it up to a few people. We couldn’t find an earlier of example to describe what now is considered normal in worship songwriting.
Bon Jovi created Modern Worship
If you add the template above with another HUGE 1980’s influence, you can easily describe most worship that you find at big conferences and many churches. Here is my equation.
Bon Jovi (Livin On A Prayer) + U2 (Where the streets have no name)= Your Grace is Enough.
Culture drives how worship is delivered. Our bodies are tuned to accept and acknowledge certain types of music as appropriate to draw a response. “Pop” worship works just like pop music. It provides a vehicle that is accessible to a large amount of people. While I don’t prefer this type of worship, I can worship through it. As much as I claimed to despise Bon Jovi in the early 90’s (I was more of a Soundgarden guy), you will catch me rolling down the window to a few songs now. It appeals to the senses.
The context of pop worship allows for it to be consumed by a cumulative mass of people. We can get into a discussion of if this is actually good, but we have to acknowledge the cultural appeal. You can theoretically enjoy Worship Music as a genre if you are not a Christian. Aesthetics matters in worship design, because the musical vehicle needs to make sense for who the worship is designed for. Consumption strategy is both a blessing and a curse.
These songs provide a place for human involvement. U2 writes songs people’s spirits want to sing. It isn’t an overindulgent rock star singing about women or substances, but a body of people acting out hope together. These songs were meant to get people singing.
Chad Brooks is a United Methodist Pastor serving in Louisiana. Married to Meredith, he is currently starting a new church in northeast Louisiana. Host of the Productive Pastor Podcast and lover of motorcycles, Chad would love to find Bigfoot one day.