God’s mercy revealed in John the Baptist

John the Baptist shined a light for others in preparation for Jesus' birth. Photo from St John the Baptist, Crondall Street, Hoxton

John the Baptist shined a light for others in preparation for Jesus’ birth. Photo from St John the Baptist, Crondall Street, Hoxton

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, we see Zechariah’s mouth open and his tongue free after he wrote “John” on a tablet when asked what name to give his new born son. Immediately after Zechariah’s mouth was open, he praised the Lord, blessing and giving thanks to God.

Just as Zechariah, we too should praise God with blessings and thanksgivings when we awake in the morning before anything else can exit our mouths. Remember Zechariah’s mouth was sealed when he questioned God’s messenger, the Angel Gabriel, who proclaimed the good news of Elizabeth’s birth of John the Baptist. So before negative thoughts of that big math test that awaits or the commute in the snow enter our minds, we should stop and contemplate Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”

Further in the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesize about the Lord’s promise of deliverance to the Jewish people.

“Thus He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all of our days.” Luke 1:72-76.

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79.

Like the people of God in the Old Testament, and through our faith, we too share with the Jewish people the legacy of being called, the heirs of God’s promise of salvation. We believe that this promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. God the Father promises to shine a light on our path to guide us in peace.

So when you are in a place of darkness, why be anxious? God promises to watch over us and to grant mercy and grace in the time of need.

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Angel Gabriel’s message: Are you ready to accept blessings?

The Virgin Mary accepts the blessings Archangel Gabriel reveals to her.

The Virgin Mary accepts the blessings Archangel Gabriel reveals to her. Painting by Philippe de Champaigne

When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, some of the first words from the Archangel were, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Just as the Virgin Mary was a bit perplexed by Angel Gabriel’s greeting, are you perplexed by what the Lord has in store for your life? Are you afraid of the favor in which God wants to bestow on you? Are you afraid of failure or even success? What is holding you back from achieving God’s will in your life?

Don’t let those voices in your head stop you from God’s graces. “I will never be good enough,” you say. “You don’t know my past.” “I’m not strong enough.”

God has a whole storehouse of blessings for you just waiting to be tapped. “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus said. (John 10:10). Don’t let Satan steal what God wants to do in your life.

But we have to do our part. First we have to accept God’s graces into our lives. We don’t have to do anything except to open our arms and accept the gift of grace. “If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17) Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have right standing with God and an abundance of grace. This is a gift; all we have to do is accept it.

And we have to show our faith, because faith without action/works is dead. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.  You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” (James 2:17-19). It’s time to release our faith, and by putting it in action we release God’s favor.

So what is holding you back? Stop making excuses, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” the Angel Gabriel said. (Luke 1:37)

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Power of words: Story of Zechariah

Archangel Gabriel made sure Zechariah would not speak defeat by sealing his mouth shut until John the Baptist was born.

Archangel Gabriel made sure Zechariah would not speak defeat by sealing his mouth shut until John the Baptist was born. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

As we begin the Season of the Glorious Birth of Our Lord there is a powerful lesson about the words we speak in Luke’s Gospel about the visit of the Angel Gabriel to the priest Zechariah.

The Angel Gabriel proclaimed good news to Zechariah, telling the priest that his prayers had been answered and his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a child. This child, John the Baptist, would be filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother’s womb and would return many sons of Israel back to God.

But instead of rejoicing Zechariah doubted, saying, “How can this be? I am an old man and my wife is barren.” Because of his doubt, Zechariah was made mute until the words spoken by the angel were fulfilled.

Words are powerful and that is the reason Zechariah’s mouth was sealed. Instead of telling his family and friends about the glorious miracle about to take place, Zechariah would have been saying, “This angel came to me, and said Elizabeth would bear a son, but that is impossible because we are too old.” If Zechariah declared those words of doubt he would have missed the miracle God wanted to bestow upon him.

How powerful are words? God made the world by speaking words. Jesus tells us that if we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains by our words. “You are snared by the utterance of your lips (words),” proclaims Proverbs 6:2. St. Paul writes in Ephesians, “Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

By speaking words of doubt or defeat we stop the miracles that God wants to place in our lives. We also tear down others by what comes out of our mouths. So next time you want to speak defeat or gossip, remember words are powerful. Stop, and speak words of belief, victory and love, and be prepared to see miracles happen in your life.

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TobyMac still pushing Christian music’s boundaries

By Eliza Marie Somers

TobyMac sheds the image of someone who is approaching 50 by continuing to speak life into his music. One of today’s most influential contemporary Christian musicians, TMac brings his high-energy sold-out show to Red Rocks Amphitheater this Sunday, May 4, with support from Lecrae and Skillet.

TobyMac turned Christian music on its ear as a founding member of the groundbreaking group dcTalk with Michael Tait and Kevin Max in the late 1980s when they stretched the genre with hip-hop beats encompassed in a hard rock wrapper. But instead of resting on past accomplishments, TMac remains focused on the task ahead, and that’s creating music that speaks to the listener’s heart.

“I feel like I’m just pushing the music,” said TobyMac, a six-time Grammy Award winner. “I’m climbing the mountain with my team. I don’t look back too often. I’m enjoying the climb, and focusing our energy on reaching the top. That’s what moves me. I’ve been with the same group of (musicians) longer than when I was with Michael and Kevin.

“But when I do look back it was very fast paced. I see three young guys with a lot of vision, who liked to debate and argue and dream and explore creativity. It was a nice mix. We all came from different backgrounds musically. It was the perfect storm. We stretched the boundaries of what was considered the frame of music with God and faith. It was an interesting sort of blend.”

That blend is a mixture of hip-hop, hard rock with a pop melody. It may be hard to describe, but it’s a combination that has unlocked doors for many genres to the Christian music scene.

“It’s still what I do,” TobyMac said. “I’m hip-hop with a hard guitar base combined with melodic pop. By no means am I doing true hip-hop like Lecrae or hard rock like Skillet.”

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TobyMac out takes

I interviewed TobyMac earlier this week and I’m set to speak to Lecrae in the next hour. Keep you eye on this site at The Denver Post Hark Blog for my story on TobyMac and Lecrae as they bring their live show to Red Rocks on Sunday, May 4.

Some Quotes from TobyMac about his tour with Lecrae and Skillet

“This is my wish list tour. They are two of my favorite live performers.”

“Music is like a river. … haven’t pulled my canoe out of the water just yet. I know people who do that, who stay in the music that resonated with them when they were kids.”

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Advent starts early in Maronite Catholic Rite

Advent started on Dec. 1, 2013, in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, but in the Maronite Rite the preparation for Christmas began on Nov. 17 with the start of Season of the Glorious Birth of Our Lord. The Sunday of November 17 was the Announcement to Zechariah, followed by the Announcement to the Virgin Mary on Nov. 24 and the Visitation of the Virgin to Elizabeth on Dec. 1 and continues through the New Year.

There is a powerful lesson to learn in the story of Zechariah in that we need to watch our tongue and the words that come out of it because death and life are in the power of the tongue. Below is my contribution to St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church’s bulletin and website.

As we begin the Season of the Glorious Birth of Our Lord there is a powerful lesson about the words we speak in Luke’s Gospel about the visit of the Angel Gabriel to the priest Zechariah.

The Angel Gabriel proclaimed good news to Zechariah, telling the priest that his prayers had been answered and that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a child. This child, John the Baptist, would be filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother’s womb and would return many sons of Israel back to God.

But instead of rejoicing Zechariah doubted, saying, “How can this be? I am an old man and my wife is barren.” Because of his doubt, Zechariah was made mute until the words spoken by the Angel were fulfilled.

Words are powerful and that is the reason Zechariah’s mouth was sealed. Instead of telling his family and friends about the glorious miracle about to take place, Zechariah would have been saying, “This angel came to me, and said Elizabeth would bear a son, but that is impossible because we are too old.” If Zechariah declared those words of doubt he would have missed the miracle God wanted to bestow upon him.

How powerful are words? God made the world by speaking words. Jesus tells us that if we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains by our words. “You are snared by the utterance of your lips (words),” proclaims Proverbs 6:2.  St. Paul writes in Ephesians, “Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

By speaking words of doubt or defeat we stop the miracles that God wants to place in our lives. We also tear down others by what comes out of our mouths. So next time you want to speak defeat or gossip, remember words are powerful. Stop, and speak words of belief, victory and love, and be prepared to see miracles happen in your life.

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Don’t put away Christmas decorations just yet

Americans have it all wrong. This is the Christmas season — the time after Jesus Christ’s birth. A time to enjoy and rewind from all the hustle and bustle of the season of Advent.

Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of the Savior of the world, but after Dec. 25 we hurry to take down the lights that signify the shining star of Bethlehem, along with the evergreens and all the trimmings. Even my friends from England have told me that they were amazed that come Dec. 26  the majority of U.S. radio stations quit playing Christmas music.

So this year, I ask you to take in the time after Christmas. Listen to carols that recall the birth of Jesus, such as “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Joy to the World.”  Look at the lights on the tree, think of the shining star and the shepherds in the field that received a visit from the angels in heaven to sing the praises of the birth. Indulge in those “leftover” cookies, cakes and chocolates. Sweets to signify the sweet gift we received from God. Recall the reason we celebrate Christmas. You get the picture.

Being brought up Catholic, we did not take down the Christmas decorations until after Jan. 6, the day the three wise men came and paid homage to Jesus. My mom’s family did not exchange gifts until this day, also called the Epiphany.

It is a tradition that I still try to keep, and I find the Christmas season very peaceful, especially after all the stress of getting everything ready for Dec. 25. I find time to reflect and be grateful for what I have. It’s also a time to reflect on the past year and get ready for a new beginning.

So enjoy, find peace and comfort in knowing that the maker of universe loved us so much that he sent his only son to teach us how to live and to save us from sin.

-30-

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Switchfoot shuns Christian rock band moniker

Jon Foreman of Switchfoot

Switchfoot and frontman Jon Foreman perform at Red Rocks in Colorado.

 

Here’s a piece I wrote a few years  back about Switchfoot and how the band came about its name and why the band shuns labels, including “Christian rock band.”

Finding the right band name is paramount to musicians. A good moniker can draw listeners who are just curious or if the name hits the wrong chord it can turn off scores of people.

Just as crucial is being labeled — be it a hip-hop, rock, indie or rap band. These labels are why Switchfoot shuns the Christian rock tag.

“Christianity is faith, it’s not a genre of music,” said Switchfoot lead guitarist Drew Shirley. “We want to be music for all people. We’ve played, campuses, bars, clubs. … When you have this labeling it closes the doors to our music instead of people just listening to it to see if they like it.

“Yes, we all have a strong Christian faith,” Shirley added. “It influences everything we do, and our view of the world. And as musicians, we write about what we are dealing with — our experiences, what we are going through.”

Switchfoot, which got its name from the band members’ surfing background, scored new fans when its song “This is Home” was featured on the “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” soundtrack.

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Life at crux of Tenth Avenue North’s “The Struggle”

Mike Donehey

Mike Donehey, lead vocals of Tenth Avenue North, performs at Crossroads Church in Wheat Ridge, Colorado on Wednesday night. | Photo by Eliza Marie Somers

“The Struggle” is the third studio release from the band, which has been making music since its inception a dozen years ago when Mike Donehey and Jason Jamison were worship leaders at Palm Beach Atlantic College.

“You wouldn’t want to hear the stuff we did 12 years ago,” said Jamison, who along with Donehey are the two remaining original members. “Like anything else the longer you do it the better you get at it. We’ve all have gotten older and experienced life. We are married with kids. And we base our lyrics and music off of life and what we are going through. We want to be honest with what we’ve been going through. And as Christians we are trying to wrestle with what God’s word says is truth and what I feel. God’s word is truth, and we have to bend ourselves around that.

“Our content is more mature as we have grown as believers and have experienced the Gospel.”

Singer/songwriter and producer Jason Ingram once again joined the band in making the record, but this time he is the sole producer.

“On the first two records we also worked with Phil Larue and Rusty Varenkemp, so we already had five cooks in the kitchen,” Jamison explained. “This time we decided to try one producer to have him 100 percent committed to the project. Somewhere down the line you have to let someone else take the reins. … Jason wrote three songs on record, so it’s just as much a part of him as it is us.”

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Tenth Avenue North shares “Struggles” with fans


Many pastors and their flocks embrace a prosperity-based message, but Tenth Avenue North is bursting their bubbles with its newest CD release, “The Struggle.”

“The prosperity Gospel teaches us if we do the right thing God will bless you, but God also promises us trouble and trials,” Tenth Avenue North drummer James Jamison said. “In our lives, every day there is something to struggle through.”

The first release off the album, “Losing” is a prime example of life’s struggles and was composed after a station asked the band to write a song from stories provided by its listeners.

“The station sent us the top-10 stories, and they were all very grandiose stories, but they all had this one common thread — difficult times and of letting go and forgiving something or someone in your past, “ Jameson said. “Well, when you forgive someone you feel like you are losing, and that you should seeking revenge instead. But God doesn’t call us to seek justice, we are called to forgive. And that is a struggle of letting go, but ultimately a weight is lifted off your shoulders.”

Jamison’s favorite song on the CD is “Don’t Stop the Madness,” which asks God. “Don’t be afraid Lord to break my heart if it brings me down to my knees.”

“It slaps the prosperity Gospel in the face,” he said. “Sometimes difficulties draw us closer to Him. During struggles, at times you don’t have an answer. Did I so something wrong to deserve this? What is God teaching me, and do I need to be here? Why do I want to rush through this? If God promised us pain then it can’t be meaningless. Sometimes we bring glory to Him by falling on our knees. The song shows that we need to be dependent on God and to lose sight of our comfort and put our eyes on Jesus.”

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Third Day gets jolt with Brendan O’Brien, ‘Miracle’

Third Day Mac Powell 2012 at Coors Field

Third Day lead singer Mac Powell is releasing a solo country CD, but the band is not breaking up. The band entertained a Faith Day crowd of 25,000 after a Rockies' game in August. | Photos by Eliza Marie Somers

With Third Day lead singer Mac Powell set to release his first solo project, a self-titled country CD, many fans might be wondering if the four-time Grammy-winning band is breaking up. Well, don’t fret. Third Day is alive and well, and putting the finishing touches on the group’s newest release, “Miracle.”

The band teamed with legendary rock producer Brendan O’Brien, who has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Denver’s The Fray, to cull a new vibe from the Atlanta-based band.

“I thought with us working with Brendan O’Brien, this rock producer, that (the new record) would be more of a rock sound,” Third Day guitarist Mark Lee explained, “And we are a rock band, so there are those kind of elements, but I think Brendan really helped pull out some more pop sensibilities that we haven’t really tapped into lot … more hooky background vocals, keyboards and different things like that.

Third Day Mark Lee guitarits

Third Day's Mark Lee says the band's new CD gives listeners "new textures" under producer Brendan O'Brien.

“It totally sounds like us, but there’s just some textures that you haven’t heard from Third Day before. It’s very fresh sounding.”

With O’Brien’s help, fans will recognize Third Day in “Miracle,” but as bassist Tai Anderson explains, it’s a new chapter to the band’s story as the guys try to keep things fresh.

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Joel Osteen: Don’t settle for a C life, God promises more

Joel Osteen Night of Hope Denver

Joel Osteen's Night of Hope opens with a rendition of the national anthem. | Photo by Eliza Marie somers

You’ve heard the saying: Good enough for government work. You’ve probably even said it a few times. Well, “good enough” might just be the reason for this country’s current state of affairs andyour current state of affairs. Well, enough of that.

That was the central theme of Joel Osteen’s message when he was in Denver this summer for A Night of Hope at the Pepsi Center –Don’t settle for good enough.

“Good enough” is only a “C” – that’s just average, but God did not put you here to live a “C” life. God has plans for you, and they are “A” plans. You don’t have to scourer the Bible to find that God wants you to live an abundant life. But it’s not going to fall from the sky like manna, you have to work for it and not settle for “C” or get too comfortable with “C.” (Interesting how comfort starts with a C.) That’s a quick synopsis of Osteen’s message.

Joel Osteen says settling for C's in life is not what God has planned for you. | Photo courtesy of Joel Osteen Ministires

John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance. – Amplified Bible

“The most powerful source in the universe is with you,” Osteen said. “Stir up your greatness.”

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Downhere’s Marc Martel as Queen’s Freddie Mercury

If you’re a Queen fan then check out this video by Marc Martel, the lead singer of Downhere. And fans recognize it also as he was voted the winner of Best Fan Cover at the MTV 02 Awards this week.

Here’s a link to Downhere’s website

Funny, I’ve written in the past that he reminds me of Freddie Mercury and sure enuff here’s proof. Amazing. Here he is on Ellen.

http://youtu.be/NyC77mlkyXA

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Jason Crabb to play Ridgway, Colorado

Jason Crabb, who recently won male vocalist of the year and artist of the year at The Dove Awards, will be at the Ridgway Christian Center in September. There’s not much more information about this event on the Ridgway website or on Crabb’s site, but keep checking back and I will post the information as I am aware of it.

 

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Thanks for all your support and interest

Today is my last day at The Denver Post because of staff reductions. I will still be covering Christian music but in a different “platform” at www.highernoteblog.com

I’ve enjoyed my time at The Post as a sports copy editor and the opportunity the company gave me to expand my horizons by covering Christian music.

I can now spend 40 hours a week in this new venture and I hope you will follow me at my website on Twitter.

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