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Why We Practice Religion

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Psalm 51:17 NASB

What God truly wants from us, more than external ritual, is for our hearts and our spirits to be broken over our sin, for us to be truly sorrowful because we understand that our sin is an affront to, a rebellion against, an attack on God Himself. He won’t turn away from someone who is truly sorrowful over their sin.

Outward religious ritual, while commanded by God, is not the point. He wants us to understand why we practice the religion, why the sacrifices were necessary. He desires hearts that recognize Him for who He is and sin for what it is. He desires authentic recognition and true contrition.

Christ-followers are sinners saved by grace. When we sin, we break His heart, so our hearts should be broken. Perhaps you regret your sin, but you are still far from being sorrowful, contrite, broken-hearted over it.

God desires true contrition over our sin because a broken spirit and a contrite heart lead to true repentance.

We treat sin lightly, glibly. This, in turn, means that we don’t give Christ’s sacrifice on the cross the respect, the seriousness that it deserves. We don’t give God Himself the respect He deserves.

I need a broken spirits, hearts that are broken and contrite over our sin.

But this is not within our human nature. Christ must change not only our understanding of sin but our very nature, so that we see sin as the rebellion against God that it truly is. God wants to change us into the image of Christ. To be so, we need to be sorrowful and contrite over the things that make us unlike Him.

Pray simply this: “God, please break my heart over my sin.”

My Favorite Christmas Albums – 2016

I was planning on updating this post today, but I realized nothing had really changed. So here, for your reading and listening pleasure, are my favorite Christmas albums.

Worship = Life

Back in 2010, I wrote about my favorite Christmas songs and albums. (You can check it out here.)

Six years is long enough! So, today, I’m updating you on some of my favorite Christmas albums. I’d love to hear what your favorites are, so leave some comments! And even better, I put together a Spotify playlist so you can enjoy them too.

  1. Christmas… From the Realms of Glory by Bebo Norman – Bebo Norman may be retired, but he remains one of the absolute best songwriters in CCM (just give a listen to the cut “Deeper Still” from his album Ten Thousand Days). If you listened to Bebo back in his indie days, you may understand this: Christmas… From the Realms of Glory sounds like it came from his heart more than anything else I’ve heard from him.  With simple instrumentation – acoustic guitar, piano, melodica, hammer dulcimer – the record…

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God Protects His Children

I have become estranged from my brothers
And an alien to my mother’s sons.
For zeal for Your house has consumed me,
And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.
When I wept in my soul with fasting,
It became my reproach.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
Those who sit in the gate talk about me,
And I am the song of the drunkards.
But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD, at an acceptable time;
O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness,
Answer me with Your saving truth.
(‭Psalm 69‬:‭8-13‬ NASB)

God protects His children. The obedience He expects is enough to make us the objects of ridicule, reproach, and persecution. If we are His children, if we obey Him, we are under the protection of His great lovingkindness. But we must we willing to trust Him enough to truly be obedient.

Have you ever trusted God enough or been obedient enough to Him to be the object of ridicule, reproach, or persecution. Or have you always been disobedient?

He protects us. We can trust Him.

When we forget this, we become afraid and hopeless when facing ridicule, reproach, or persecution. Or perhaps, if we are not obedient, we feel falsely confident and comfortable. We are called to obedience. We are called to zeal. We are called to faith.

The grace of Jesus is the source of faith, and His lovingkindness is the source of our protection.

10 Pounds Down!

As of today, I’ve lost 10 pounds! Didn’t know I was trying to lose weight? Check out my weight loss blog at

Jud's a Loser

It’s been a great week, and it’s not over yet!  Today, I weighed in at 249.6 pounds – 10.4 pounds below my starting weight!  That puts me at 1/8 or about 13% of the way to my goal weight of 180 pounds.

Just to give you a refresher, on Feb. 11, I weighed in at 260 pounds – the most I’ve ever weighed. And that’s the second time in my life I’ve been that heavy. After losing 52 pounds a couple of years ago, I regained it all.

This time around, I’m running, walking, and working out at home using Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 for Xbox 360, which I’ll review later. This week is the most active I’ve had in the last few years, possibly in my life. I’ve gone 14 miles running and walking. I’m working hard. I feel energetic. I’m excited about exercise and losing weight.


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“Entrenched”, my first blog from 2008, is still relevant for us today. What do the attitudes and values of the Church in America spell for future generations?

Worship = Life

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father.”
Genesis 19:30-32

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, burned and smashed to rubble by the wrath of God. The inhabitants of those two cities had become so warped by sin that He apparently felt they needed a fresh start.

Lot and his daughters had escaped the firestorm by mere moments. They were the only ones. And they, in fact, hadn’t wanted to leave. The angels who came to destroy the…

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Osama bin Laden | Celebrating Death?

Osama bin Laden is dead. That’s the big news this morning.

I believe justice has been done. I believe he deserved what he got. I believe this creates closure for a lot of people whose loved ones were murdered by this man.

I also believe that this is not something to celebrate. As a friend of mine pointed out this morning, God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11) This morning another wicked man is in hell. His death does nothing to reverse the horrible fate of the 3,000 people he murdered on September 11, 2001.

Only once in history has the death of one man reversed the horrible fate of others. That man was Jesus Christ. He – the Son of God – died on the cross because God loves all the world. Jesus died for you, for me, and for Osama bin Laden.

Let’s be thankful that justice has been served today but be mindful of the fact that, without faith in Christ, we deserve no better fate than bin Laden.

Favorite Christmas Songs, Albums

In honor of the season, I thought I’d post of a few of my favorite Christmas songs.

  • Favorite Traditional Christmas Song: “O, Holy Night” – Yes, every artist has to record it, and somebody at church has to sing it every year, but there’s a reason for that! The song remains beautiful – one of the best worship songs ever written!
  • Favorite Modern Christmas Song: “Born to Die” by Bebo Norman – A beautiful, moving pop song. It captures the truth of the season in a way that’s hard to do in under four minutes.
  • Favorite Novelty Christmas Song: “‘Zat You, Santa Claus? by Louis Armstrong – Let’s be honest. This is much closer to how we would actually react if some dude showed up at our houses on Christmas Eve. Plus, the song is just plain fun.
  • Favorite Reworking of a Classic Christmas Song: “Jingle Bells” by James Taylor – “Jingle Bells” as blues! Brilliant!

Favorite Christmas Albums:

  1. Christmas… From the Realms of Glory by Bebo Norman – Songs we know, and some we don’t. Some are done in the Bebo Norman style CCM listeners have to come to know. Most are done in a style much more reminiscent of his indie music: simple instrumentation – acoustic guitar, piano, melodica, hammer dulcimer. It’s a warm, folksy, introspective, beautiful album. Plus, the brave inclusion of Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus.” Highlights: “Born to Die,” “Come and Worship,” “The Rebel Jesus”
  2. Christmas by Michael W. Smith – Remember when Michael W. Smith used to be a songwriter? This album is odd for 80s CCM. It’s a high-church, classical Christmas album with a couple of classic Smitty touches, and it’s pretty flippin’ amazing. Of course, he had to to include the radio-friendly “Gloria,” a pop rendition of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Highlights: “First Snowfall,” “All Is Well,” “Gloria”
  3. Home for Christmas by Amy Grant – I am not, nor have I ever been, an Amy Grant fan, but I love this album. I even went to one of her Christmas concerts years ago. There are a couple of blemishes (“Grown Up Christmas List” and her insistence on singing along with the choir on Handel’s “For Unto Us a Child is Born”), but there are so many classic renditions of so many classic Christmas songs, if you don’t like it, you have no Christmas spirit! Highlights: “Breath of Heaven,” “The Night Before Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

Christmas album honorable mention: Christmastime by Michael W. Smith, Music of Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman

Worst Christmas Song Ever: “Grown Up Christmas List” – I do not need to defend this choice.

Introverts in Ministry?

Here’s an unofficial poll. I’d like your comments. I’ll respond via blog later.

Unofficial Poll: In your opinion, can an introvert be effective in ministry and remain an introvert?

Let me clarify a couple of things.

1) I’m speaking of a real introvert – someone who processes internally rather than externally, someone who draws their energy from solitude and/or being with a small group of close friends or family. Not someone who has low self-esteem.

2) I’m speaking of pastoral staff ministry.

A Good, Good God

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!”

But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.

“But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”

Genesis 17:17-21 (NASB)

As I was reading through Genesis 17, I was struck deeply by this passage.

God made Abram and promise, one that Abram and Sarai almost immediately sought to fulfill on their own rather than trust God. Their action resulted in the birth of Abram’s son Ishmael, and the tension – to put it mildly – between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac continues to this day.

God answers Abram’s act of faithlessness with… a covenant. It’s like He’s saying, “You didn’t believe me, but I’m serious!”

God changes his name, spells out the blessing, then Abraham responds with… laughter! He absolutely does not believe that God can or will do what He’s promising. “Oh,” he pleads, “that Ishmael might live before You!”

At this point, if I’m God, I’m thinking, “Forget you pal. I’ll just wipe you and your family off the face of the earth and start over with somebody else.” Thankfully, I’m not Him.

Look at verse 20: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him…”

I am overwhelmed by the goodness of my God. He chooses Abraham and holds onto him through all his failings and faithless acts and sin. He blesses the child of that sin. And he blesses the sinner.

Just as God blessed Abraham and his sons – all of whom were as undeserving as we are – God blesses me daily. And he blesses you.

Our God is so good!