I was putting around during lunch and found this neat program on wordle.com. They take words from any document and lay them out according to how many times they appear. So words that appear more are bigger, and ones that appear less are smaller. Here’s an example of the book of Romans.  Check it out, very neat!

“O For That Day” by Enfield

One of the highlights of this past weekend at the Resolved conference was definitely the times of worship. The worship was led by a group that they brought together for this conference and named “Enfield”. They are named after the town in Massachusetts where Jonathan Edwards preached the message “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. Since the theme was ‘Heaven and Hell’, they wrote a series of songs that are centered around the topic of Heaven.

This album is mostly a product of two young men at The Master’s College. David Zimmer and Ryan Foglesong are not only extremely gifted musicians (drums and bass respectively), but incredible lyricists. Together, they penned many of the songs. For a little background, this past summer they played in a band “Chasing Cadence” at the Jr High Camp at Hume Lake along with a friend that used to be on our youth staff. Then, in the fall, they played at our Battle of the Bands and ended up winning the thing in what turned to be somewhat of an unbalanced competition. That week, I also got the privilege to get to know David, who was a part of the missions team from TMC’s Outreach Week that came to our church and helped out.

One of the things I especially appreciated about these two, along with the rest of the band (including Paul Hoover filling in on electric guitar for the weekend) was their obvious passion for worship. It was such a blessing to see a stage full of passionate, gifted musicians, focusing their talents and gifts to lead others before the throne of God. Because they worked so hard at their respective gifts, God blessed that in an amazing weekend and they were able to minister to over 3,000 college aged students.

It’s contemporary worship, without the 7-11 lyrics. They are carefully crafted lyrics, desiring to propel believer’s minds towards Heaven and the things that are above. They contemplate Heaven itself, and the tiring battle of living a life in exile. They also include adapted songs, such as “Finally Home”, adapted from “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand”. One of my favorites is their version of “Wayfaring Stranger”. I’ve been thinking of a way to describe it, and it’s a bit blues, country, and folk rock. Lead singer John Martin does a great job on this track. There are also a few hymns given face lifts, “Wondrous Love” and “Fairest Lord Jesus”.

Together, the album is one that lifts the spirits, drags the mind to Heaven, and inspires the heart to long for the day when we will see our Savior and live for Him forever. The music is exceptionally well done musically, whether it be percussion, strings, piano, or guitars. John Martin’s wife, Lisa, provides back up vocals reminiscent of Danielle Young in Caedmon’s Call, which is high praise coming from a huge Caedmon’s fan. I would say that this cd is a must buy for believers longing to long for Heaven. It can be purchased on I-Tunes for $9.99, as well as Amazon’s mp3 section for $8.99. If you’d like the actual cd and case (which I have to confess is very well done), you can purchase that at the Resolved website along with charts for the music.

Update: link fixed

Resolved 2008: Session 2 & 6

I’m combining the two sessions by Randy Alcorn since they were mostly the same type of message.  Alcorn was asked to come, partly because he is the author of “Heaven”, an amazing read that I recommend to everyone.  The sad thing in the church today is that far too many people are far too ignorant when it comes to the topic of Heaven.  He pointed out that many people feel overwhelmed and apprehensive when it comes to thinking about spending eternity in Heaven.  Sadly, all they think is sitting around on a cloud all day with nothing to do.

Alcorn started by saying that we, as believers, are commanded to set your mind on things above.  “When you have your happiness in Heaven, God supplies you a down payment here on earth.”  From there, he really launched into a ton of different observations about Heaven.  I didn’t really track much of a flow, so I think I’ll just provide a list of observations:

  • The present Heaven is the layover, until the resurrection.  While they are still in the presence of Christ, they are still longing for their resurrected bodies and the new heavens and new earth.
  • The future Heaven is where believers will have resurrected bodies, tasks to serve God, and life on earth as God intended it to be.
  • There is more continuity between life here and and eternity is more than we’d think.  Something he mentioned multiple times was that the new earth will very much resemble ours, but in perfection.
  • “Don’t try to be more loving than Christ and not tell people about Hell.”
  • God will be with His people and dwell with them.  The reward for believers will be God Himself, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t appreciate things that he’s created.  We can appreciate things that He’s created because whatever is good in them reflects the Creator.
  • The eternal state will be much more like the present life than we realize.

Resolved Conference 2008- Session 1

Right now, I’m in Palm Springs and it’s been averaging over 110 degrees each day.  There would have to be a pretty good reason why I would subject myself to that kind of heat.  This weekend I’ve come out to Palm Springs with students from our college group to be fed at the Resolved Conference.  It’s a college conference put on by Grace Community Church in the spirit of the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.  I have wanted to go in the past, but never had the opportunity due to schooling.  This year, though, I resolved to go.

The speakers are John MacArthur, John Piper (my plane friend), CJ Mahaney, Steve Lawson, Randy Alcorn, and Rick Holland. The theme this year is “Heaven and Hell”.  It sort of feels like you are trying to continually take a sip from a fire hydrant.  It’s coming fast, furious, and powerfully.  All you can do is try to process a small amount and leave encouraged and fed.  I realize that there are many who read this who desire to be here, so with you in mind, I thought I would provide a summary of each message.

The first evening was kicked off by Rick Holland who spoke on the topic of death.  Obviously, that isn’t really a message that sells and attracts the right kind of attention.  Our culture does everything we can to avoid dwelling on the subject of death, from being reminded of the immanent nature of it, to being confronted with those that that find themselves on death’s threshold.  Holland traced Edwards’ own thoughts on death and his commitment to constantly remind himself of his own frailty and every possible way he could die.

The point on focusing on your own death is because if you are ready to die, you will then know how to live.  If you are at peace with where you are going, then you will know how you should act in the present.  The text that Holland chose was Hebrews 9:27-28, and he set out to point out the three most important facts of life.

The first fact is that death is unavoidable.  It comes to everyone.  Other than two men (Elijah and Enoch) every single person has died.  We are the only ones in creation who have not died, but we will soon enough join the rest of humanity.  Our time to pass is appointed.  We are passively involved in the end of our lives.  We can think that we will last 70-80 years on earth, but no one is guaranteed that.  Death exists to communicate the seriousness of sin, to convince us of the true penalty of our rebellion against God. No one can deny the reality of death.

The second most important fact of life is that judgment is certain.  All will stand before a holy, righteous, and just God who will judge.  Not only is death a reality, but so is Hell.  Hell exists for those that are condemned at the judgment that is certain.  Hell is such an unpopular subject to speak and dwell on, but it cannot be avoided.  R.C. Sproul said “If you think of Hell rightly, you’ll get saved or go mad.”

The third and final fact of life is that salvation is possible.  Were the first two points left alone, the future would seem bleak.  But the great news is that salvation is possible for those that face an eternal death apart from God.  For those that are saved, they should be characterized by eagerly awaiting and anticipating Christ’s return.  We generally fail in this world because we find our hearts longing more for the present world than the future world.  The believer is to long for the future fulfillment of salvation in such a way that it demands a life that lives for that world alone.

More sessions to come!

Graduating Seniors

Here’s a video/slide show I made for our graduating seniors.  It goes back to their first year in Jr High through being seniors.  You’ll see some pics of a much thinner me, too.

This weekend I’ll be heading to Palm Springs with some college students for the Resolved conference.  The speakers are John MacArthur, John Piper, CJ Mahaney, Randy Alcorn, Steve Lawson, and Rick Holland.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to post some thoughts from the conference for those that aren’t able to be there.

“Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Josh Harris ruined my summer by writing “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and my girlfriend subsequently broke up with me, but now his little twin brothers have gotten in on the book writing scene.  Their first offering is a branch of their ministry “The Rebelution” (link on the bar to the right).   It’s a book for teens, written by teens.  The main argument of the book is that teens are to rebel against the low expectations that the world has for them.

It wasn’t until 1941 that the term ‘teenager’ was coined, and the Harris brothers do a wonderful job at explaining that the idea of ‘adolescence’ is really a myth, not a biological truth.  Our culture has communicated to teenagers that nothing is really expected of them, and that the teen years are meant for wasting and ‘having fun’.  This mindset leads to what they call ‘kidults’, people of adult age, but not adults that offer anything to society.  We’ve raised a generation of consumers who are not ready to become providers.

One sad things, is that if there are any expectations given to teens, it generally is a negative expectation.  We expect them to get in trouble.  We expect them to fail, to mess up, to get drunk, to party, to do drugs.  We expect them to waste their teen years, and if we find someone that actually stays out of trouble, we praise them, even if they actually haven’t done anything positive.  They’ve just managed to stay out of trouble.  Wherever you place the expectations is where you are most likely going to find the teen.  If you keep them low, then you aren’t pushing them to accomplish anything.

I was speaking with the father of one of my Jr Highers, and he was echoing this idea.  He said that he’ll see parents really push their children to excel athletically.  They’ll drive them to practices at 6am, push them to work out, to prepare, and to give their full effort to succeed in sports.  But then they have no expectations when it comes to their spiritual development.  They put the cookies on the low shelf and say, “You can’t get or don’t want the cookies on the higher shelf.”  There’s no encouragement to stretch them when it comes to studying theology, reading their Bible, or becoming comfortable with praying.

The call is simple:  to encourage teenagers to do big, hard things.  Do things out of your comfort zone.  Do things you don’t think you are capable of.  Do things that seem too big for you to do on your own.  Things that challenge the cultural norm, and things that don’t earn an immediate pay off.  I Timothy 4:12 says that youths are to strive to be examples to others in conduct, speech, love, life, faith, and purity.  Paul encourages the believers to stop acting like children, to give themselves to strict training, and compete as one would to receive the crown at the end of the race.  (I Cor. 9:24-25)

The book is part autobiographical, as the twins write quite a bit about what God has done in their own lives.  It is also biographical, in that they write about many of the teens that they have met/inspired/or inspired them throughout the last few years.  They provide many examples of ordinary teens doing extraordinary things.  These small examples serve as encouragement to the students to do hard things themselves.  To follow the footsteps of those who have gone before.

If there is a weakness in the book, it would be that it, at some points, lacks an awareness of a sovereign God who makes us capable of doing these things.  There is a chapter where they deal with the truth of God working through our weaknesses, but I think it could stand to have a more biblically founded view.  Nothing presented was unbiblical, but as the book went on, it seemed to be less dependent on that.  The reason for that was somewhat cleared up in the Epilogue, where they said that the book isn’t just for Christians, but for any teen.  They do go one to share the Gospel to those that may not be Christians, but its at the very end.

Overall, I recommend this book to any teen that you would like encourage to take a step up in their lives.  It makes a great graduation gift (I gave it to our seniors), and it’s a great book to encourage teens to read this summer.  I’m very excited about going through this book with my students.  I’ve told them about it and previewed them a little about what’s in it, and we’ll be going through it at our Coffee Talks this summer.  Every student at our Servant’s Retreat next weekend will receive a copy for themselves.  I can’t wait to see what God inspires them to do!