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.”

Con­tin­ue read­ing

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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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