Monthly Archives: August 2007

16 Blocks; Can people change?

Earlier this week I watched a movie I’ve wanted to see since I missed it at the theater. The movie is “16 Blocks” and stars Bruce Willis. I have enjoyed most of Willis’ movies so I wanted to see this one. The character Willis plays in this movie is not like any other leading role I have ever seen him in. His character is basically a drunk, shiftless, cop. His make up makes him look like he lives from bottle to bottle, and older than he has looked in any of his previous movies. The movie ended up being very good and caused me to think about the quote “good” in people and can they really change? The plot goes something like this:

Jack, a cop (played by Willis) is given a last minute task for the day to transport a black, nobody, criminal (Eddie) from jail to the courthouse. Eddie has to be at the courthouse, 16 blocks away (thus the title of the movie) in three hours to testify for the district attorney. When Jack stops the car along the way to purchase a bottle of booze, they encounter two thugs who were obviously paid to execute Eddie. Jack kills one of them and they escape from the other. They elude the thug by ducking into a bar known by Jack. He calls for backup and his ex-partner (Frank) and two other cops show up at the bar. Through conversation with his ex-partner, Jack learns that this kid he is transporting is going to testify against some cops that his ex-partner wants to protect. As one of the cops is about to kill Eddie, Jack makes a split second decision and pulls an old shotgun out from under the bar and shoots the cop. Jack and the kid Eddie back their way out of the bar and escape. This sets off a long series of events with Jack and Eddie trying to avoid all the other cops trying to kill them and stop Eddie from getting to the courthouse to testify.

Through these series of events Jack and Eddie get to know each other. This happens mostly because of the constant talking by Eddie. One of the subplots to the movie is Jack trying to rationalize the worth of this nobody, black kid, and risking his own life to get him to the courthouse. During a conversation as they are trying to avoid being seen by other cops Eddie tells Jack that he can change from his past criminal behavior, and that he wants to be a baker. The cynical Jack states “Times change, seasons change, but people don’t change.” Later in another scene, Eddie has eluded the bad cops and is on his way to the courthouse but changes his mind and goes back to help Jack. When he finds Jack he says “Chuck Berry has served time in jail and he changed, Barry White spent four months in jail and he changed, I can change.” I am going to pose a question in the text below but for now I will leave the rest for those who haven’t seen the movie.

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Posted by on August 31, 2007 in 16 Blocks, born again, The gospel


John and Ligon Duncan rap, sort of…

Presented for your viewing pleasure is Ligon Duncan and his brother John rapping at the 2006 Ligonier Ministries National Conference.

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Posted by on August 30, 2007 in humor, Ligon Duncan


Music review Tuesday

It is once again music review Tuesday and today I am going to review an album by a Christian rock band again. As anRed - End of Silence Amazon reviewer put it “every year or so a new band or CD comes along that somehow stands out among the rest”. “For Red, End of Silence is one of those CD’s.” This is their debut album and it was released over a year ago but it has been making it’s footprint among rock music fans everywhere. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album” at the 49th Grammy Awards. The album’s first single “Breathe Into Me” peaked at #15 on the US mainstream rock charts. The song won the “Rock Recorded Song of the Year” award at the 38th annual GMA Dove Awards in 2007. The reason for the band name Red is that it symbolizes the blood of Christ. Mike Barnes who is the lead singer also says that it “represents passion and pain, but ultimately it represents redemption.”

Since the release of “End of Silence” the band has toured extensively through February of 2007. They have gained many fans with over 21,000 MySpace friends in just over a year of having the site. The album itself is a combination of gnashing guitars, and passionate vocals. Many reviewers have said that their album contains potent lyrics, and I would have to say that they sing about some deeper things than most Christian rock bands but I would love to see more theology in the lyrics. I guess I may be expecting too much. I have not seen them perform live but from what I’ve read in more than one other review they get pretty excitable and rowdy on stage. At one point in their tour the guitarist Anthony Armstrong swung his guitar and it smashed into Mike the singers head causing him to require seven stitches. They say that they really want to connect with their fans. That may be true but they sound like they are definitely connecting with each other.

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Posted by on August 28, 2007 in End of Silence, Music Review, Red


The Wonderful, Awful Motivation For Ministry

If you were asked to describe God, what words would you use? You might use several such words as omnipresent,Isaiah before the Holy God omniscient, creator, sovereign, or holy. Based on the sermon series I just listened to by Mike Abendroth I would contend that the best way to describe God is Holy, Holy, Holy. The sermon series is based in Isaiah 6 and verses 1 – 13. Pastor Mike takes you through this passage as he lays out the experience of Isaiah the prophet as he encounters the holy God, and his response to the holy God. I would encourage you to read through this passage and imagine yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of Isaiah. He lived in an age where no one who truly knew God would ever think to approach Him in any way but prostrate and head bowed to the earth. The only way to approach the holy God of Israel was through sacrifice and with fear and trembling. I think we have (I know at least I had) forgotten how God was approached prior to the ultimate sacrifice of His Christ. I would also encourage you to listen to the four part series entitled “The Wonderful, Awful Motivation For Ministry”. Take the time and effort to listen to all parts. Pastor Mike does such a wonderful job of building the imagery of Isaiah’s encounter with God in the first two parts and then he takes two more parts to bring home the ultimate point. There was more accomplished at the cross of Calvary than just the redemption of God’s elect. See if you can see the awesomeness of the cross more clearly after this. The audio links to the series can be found at the link below. Soli Deo Gloria!

The Wonderful, Awful Motivation For Ministry

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Posted by on August 28, 2007 in God, Holy, Isaiah 6, Ministry


Another puritan quote

Today I found a great quote from puritan William B. Sprague.

Impress the young convert from the very beginning with the conviction that God has called him into His kingdom to struggle with the corruptions of his heart.


Posted by on August 24, 2007 in Puritan, quotes, William B. Sprague


Music review Tuesday

“Marilyn Manson Ate My Girlfriend”, “May The Horse Be With You”, and “Chapstick,Relient K - Five Score and Seven Years Ago Chapped Lips and Things Like Chemistry” are a few of the silly song titles this Tuesday’s band has used over the years. If you aren’t a fan of some form, then you have no idea who I am referring to. The band is Relient K. Yep, just like the old Plymouth K car only spelled with an “e” instead of “a”. Relient K is a Christian rock band and has forever been known for their tongue in cheek songs and lyrics, as a matter of fact one of my favorite older albums from them is called “The Anatomy Of The Tongue In Cheek”. Their form of music would be called tongue in cheek pop/punk. The band Relient K named for guitar player Matt Hoopes’ Plymouth Reliant K car, is also Matt Thiessen who is the lead vocalist, guitar and piano, David Douglas on drums, John Warne on bass, and Jon Schneck who also plays guitar and other stringed instruments. I have liked almost everything they have ever done, and the new album is no exception.

The new album is titled “Five Score And Seven Years Ago” released March 6th, 2007 is a masterpiece of modern rock music. The first track playfully starts things off in an acappella/doo wap styled song in “Plead The Fifth”. The next track “Come Right Out And Say It” is a very mature song about telling the truth no matter if the recipient is going to like hearing it or not. This is followed by guitar bonanza called “I Need You” about the hole in our lives and hearts that can only be filled with Christ, and not the many things that we try to fill it up with. “The Best Thing” is the next song on the album and is their newest video release as well. The song is driven by Matt Thiessen on piano and is about relationships and the way they are give and take and most times the best thing. The next two songs “Forgiven” about, guess, forgiveness and “Must Have Done Something Right” are a couple of my favorite songs on the album. The rest of the songs are very good as well. Then at the end comes their album-ending, 11-minute musical and lyrical masterpiece: “Deathbed” (which features the voice of Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman). This is a masterful ballad about regret and forgiveness that brought me to tears the first time I heard it.

Exceptional album highlights are : “Come Right Out And Say It”, “Forgiven”, “Must Have Done Something Right”, “I’m Taking You With Me”, “Faking My Own Suicide”, “Bite My Tongue”, and “Deathbed”. The boys K have indeed created a musical product to enjoy and turn our friends on to. If you are a fan and, excuse me, don’t own it yet, what are you waiting for? I definitely give this album 5 out of 5 stars.

Please check the video below of their new single release “The Best Thing” and check out one of their other video’s for “Must Have Done Something Right” which I posted earlier this year.


Bob, Cap, and Stan

I am posting this story about life evangelism because my fellow saint at Reformission In Progress posted something similar and it triggered me to recall something similar thatthree friends God actually allowed me to witness for over the course of my early life. This is what I witnessed and desire to write about today. After you read this story, please go read his edifying story.

The story involves my dad (Stan), and two mutual friends of his (Bob and Cap). Bob was a test pilot and colonel in the US Air Force and a very influencial person in the lives of his two other friends. Our families lived in the same small Ohio town and together visited a few of the upstart local churches in the area. As was the nature of Bob and Stan they wasted no time getting involved in ministries in those churches. After getting to know the pastor and learning about his direction they would often disagree with him and have to move on. Cap was an unbeliever at the time and mostly attended church out of love for his wife Dorthy. Cap had shared many bitter stories of attending other churches with his wife and having the pastor or deacon come around to their home the following few days to speak to him about salvation. He did not appreciate the emotional manipulation they would all try on him to get him to repent and acknowledge Christ as his savior. Most of the churches these three families visited were much like that.

Bob and Stan had many bible studies together and through these studies they had developed a desire to grow spiritually and find a church like the one described in the New Testament. But every church they visited down played the sovereignty of God and salvation only through His grace. Cap would attend these bible studies and had also become quite curious about this different God Bob and Stan were discussing and worshiping. This God who chose who He wanted to save. Not through the manipulation of men and the emotional arm twisting. Through Bob’s many connections he discovered a new church a few miles away in Columbus and the three families drove the 20 miles or so to visit this newly started church. The church was meeting in a home at the time and the pastor was not a full time pastor. He also worked full time as an engineer with Ford motor company. As a younger man this pastor had also worked with Albert Einstein’s team to develop what eventually became the atomic bomb. This must’ve been how Bob got connected to the church.

This pastor was not a graduate from any seminary school but he taught the bible as he interpreted it, basically as it was written. He knew enough about the Greek language to help interpretation in the more difficult texts but for the most part he was not what you would look for in a pastor in many churches today. He taught about the doctrines of grace, the sovereignty of God, election, and predestination. For most of these three families the spiritual light bulb flashed on that day. Eventually it would come on for all, even Cap.

Cap learned about a sovereign God who chose those who He would save through the blood of His Son. He learned about love through the lives of two other men who dared to look for the truthful teaching in a local church. He learned that only through the act of God opening his eyes and changing his heart could he ever have peace and restoration with a righteous God. He learned that he needed a savior and only God can save. I believe Cap has encountered such a God and was saved. Cap learned a lot from Bob and Stan, but most of all he learned about real love and real friendships. Friendships that are eternal.

My dad passed away a few years later. Bob and Cap were both pallbearers and I will never forget Cap looking at me on the day of the funeral and telling me not to worry or be anxious that God was still in control. I was just beginning what would later become my rebellious teenage years so it did not dawn on me the awesome story behind that proclamation until later in my life.

I thank God each and every day that He drew me once again to a church much like the one of my childhood. Although I am not perfect and still have a long way to go in my spiritual maturity I pray that God would use me much like he did with Bob, Stan, and Cap.

Thank you Cap.

Thank you Jacob.


The struggle is as easy as dropping the nut

For a couple of months I have been a participant, along with about six other men, in aFist in the jar bible study joined by a book written by John Piper called “Future Grace“. I have written about this book in a previous posting and I would imagine I will be posting something else about the book before we are finished with the study. It is such a great book. The study is usually led by one of our church elders but this week he will be absent, so he asked me to put together some questions and lead the study. I am excited that he asked me to do this. I am praying for God to graciously provide His wisdom as I prepare. Like most folks who have prepared to teach something, I certainly learn the most from a subject by teaching or leading it.

As has been our task in previous weeks, we are covering a couple of chapters in the book. This week it is chapters 24 and 25. Chapter 24 is titled “Faith in Future Grace vs. Despondency”. There is a particular sub-section in this chapter called “The Struggle is As Easy As Dropping a Nut”. In this section Piper writes about the narrow gate that Jesus refers to in Matthew 7:14 as a description of the struggle or difficulty in following Christ. This same depiction is used by Luke in 13:24:

Strive to enter by the narrow door.

This word strive in the Greek text means to struggle or contend for victory like an athlete. The New Testament teaches the believer that keeping the faith is a rigorous undertaking and yet Jesus also teaches us in Matthew 11:28-30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Piper asks the reader if these two teachings are contradictions? He asserts that they are not, and he does this by using a simple but awesome illustration. Piper states:

It is like the monkey with his hand caught in the jar. It would be easy for him to slip his hand out of the opening except that he has his fist clenched around a nut. If he loves the nut more than he loves freedom from the jar, then getting his hand out will be hard, even impossible (as Jesus said to the young man who had his fist clenched around his wealth). But what could be easier than dropping a nut? The battle we have is the struggle to love the freedom of faith more than the nut of sin.

Jesus teaches us in scripture that His yoke or burden is easy if we will trust in Him for future grace. If we do not, we will surely continue to struggle against our old self and sin. Are we holding onto something or trusting in something or someone to fulfill our needs? Has this something shackled us much like the monkey fist in the jar illustration? Do we continue to struggle with hanging on to it. When we let go of it, does the burden lighten and the struggle fall away? Trust in Christ for He alone is worthy of that trust.

Sola Gratia.


Posted by on August 17, 2007 in Christian struggles, future grace, John Piper


Music review Tuesday

This Tuesday’s band was found late one night while I was searching for newParadise Lost music. Since I like the progressive metal genre I was searching through this category and came across this band of intense musicians called Symphony X. The majority of band members are from New York and New Jersey. The lead singer is from Long Beach, California. Symphony X is known for it’s symphonic style of progressive metal. They use a choir type effects throughout many of their songs. I like this morphing of classical styles and buzzing guitars.

The newest release from Symphony X is called “Paradise Lost”. According to the author of the Wikipedia page for “Paradise Lost”, the album is named for the the classic John Milton epic poem. “Paradise Lost” was released on June 26th, 2007. It had been five years since their last album and from what I have read the following (which I may be included now) of Symphony X has been anticipating this release for almost a year. The first track, “Oculus Ex Inferni”, is typical symphonic brilliance with classic choir effects and a deep foreboding feel . The album picks up with break metal speed on the next track “Set The World On Fire” with it’s intense guitar riffs and pick harmonics. The title track, “Paradise Lost” slows it down a bit with a piano intro and ballad feel throughout the song. I really like the way the song is composed. The vocal talents of Russell Allen come out well in this track. It reminds me of some of the slower tracks from the progressive band Dream Theater. The guitarist Michael Romeo is the main composer and lyricist for Symphony X and he does an excellent job of creating this attractive sound. Each of the band members are very proficient on their instruments. The musicianship is indeed evident on all tracks.

Album highlights are “Set The World On Fire”, “Paradise Lost”, “The Serpent Kiss, “Walls Of Babylon” especially with it’s middle eastern feel in the opening and the various rhythm speeds through it. “Seven” reminds me of classic Yngwie Malmsteen, classic speed metal. This is a great album to bang yer head on and still enjoy it’s obvious brilliant musical composition. The BarryDean meter gives this album 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. Rock On!

Check out the video for “Set The World On Fire”.


Posted by on August 14, 2007 in Music Review, Paradise Lost, Symphony X


Worship God with the Psalms

Our local church Omaha Bible Church recently went through a sermon series on worship. The series culminated with the final two sermons focusing on music in worship. While we were in the middle of the final two sermons I happened upon this little group from “down under” called Sons of Korah. They record and perform songs with lyrics that are straight out of the biblical Psalms. I found this live performance of them doing Psalm 117. Enjoy!


Posted by on August 12, 2007 in Omaha Bible Church, Praise, Sons of Korah, worship