Friday, December 24, 2010

Do You Love Me?

Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)Image via Wikipedia
OK - Baby boomers, be honest now. How many of you immediately thought of the song (subtitled Now That I Can Dance) by the same title - a 1962 hit single recorded by The Contours for Motown's Gordy Records label. Written and produced by Motown CEO Berry Gordy, Jr., "Do You Love Me?" was the Contours' only Top 40 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. Notably, the record achieved this feat twice, once in 1962 and again in 1988. The song names the Mashed Potato and The Twist, two fad dances of the 1960s.
Some of you might be thinking just where did I hear that song...what movie was that??? Well, that answer was Dirty Dancing.

This post, however, is not about the song, but about a specific verse from the gospel of John - chapter 21, verse 15 to be specific.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

Before we dig into the reason for this question, let me paint a few background strokes to fill in the details of how we get here.
Three years ago, Peter and his brother Andrew were content to live out their lives as fishermen. They realized they would never be immortalized for being great fishermen, but they were sure that they could provide for their families by following in the family trade. One morning, while practicing their craft, they suddenly hear a voice calling to them - Jesus. Oh, and what a strange call- "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men."
What a compelling call that must have been. We are provided with no information as to whether or not these three had previously met, yet the response from these brothers is stunning. These two brothers didn't ask a single question. There was no conversation following this fascinating invitation. There was a momentous movement though that would prove to be a life altering decision for all the characters in this scene.
  • Peter experiences Jesus healing his mother-in-law from a fever,
  • Peter hears Jesus preach the Beatitudes to the people,
  • Peter sees Jesus heal lots of people,
  • Peter feels the tension as Jesus confronts the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day,
  • Peter watches Jesus deliver many people of demons by the raw power of God,
  • Peter is one of 3 who see Jesus bring life back into a dead girl’s body,
  • Peter testifies "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." ,
  • Peter walked on water - holds the Guiness record for distance travelled,
  • Peter is 1 of 3 that ascends the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus,
  • Peter declares, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.",
  • Peter blows it – Sleep overcomes him in the Garden of Gethsemene,
  • Peter blows it again - He cuts off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest,
  • Peter blows it again - He denies Christ three times during his arrest and trial

Getting back to our story, Christ has been crucified and has risen. He has shown himself to his followers on several occasions. Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. "Come and have breakfast. I've got a fish fry going on over here."

It is at this point that Christ asks Peter the magic question - "Do you love me?" The most interesting part of this question is that, even after the seemingly proper response is given by Peter, Christ would ask this question twice more. Why? Surely this resurrection ordeal had not compromised his hearing or comprehension. For what purpose would the King of Kings badger Peter over a question about Love?

This is one of those times where a Greek dictionary is vital to complete understanding of the Holy Scriptures. In the first two questions, the word used for "love" is αγαπάω , transliterated as agapaō. You may have heard of "agape love". You may have heard the expression, "Standing with mouth agape". Both of these are related through this word agape. Simply put, it means, wide open, or unrestrained. C. S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, used agape to describe what he believed was the highest level of love known to humanity—a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other. Christian writers have generally described agape as a form of love which is both unconditional and voluntary. Tertullian, in his 2nd century defense of Christians, remarks how Christian love attracted pagan notice: "What marks us in the eyes of our enemies is our loving kindness. 'Only look,' they say, 'look how they love one another.'"

Now we start to understand what Christ was really asking Peter. "Peter, is there anything keeping you from an unconstrained love of me? Can you love me with all that is within you?" Peter responds twice, "Of course I do! Pass the fish, please! Got any ketchup for these hush puppies?" The impetuous Peter was starting to surface. He was focused on eating. Why did he have to answer that question twice? And what did He mean by "Let my sheep graze?"

A third time, Christ challenges this dithering disciple.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

This time, there is a different Greek word used for "love" - φιλέω, transliterated as phileō. This word serves as the root for the U.S. city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. Funny thing is that Peter's previous two answers that he loved Christ used this word, phileo. Twice, Christ has asked Peter about unconditional, unconstrained love. Twice, Peter has responded, "C'mon, man! You know I love ya like a brother!"

Phileo love is the kind of love that makes agape love enjoyable. Phileo love is having tender affection toward your mate. Most friendships are built on phileo love. Phileo love is that "something" that you see in another person that draws you to be their friend. It's one thing to unconditionally love (agape) someone who you don't like to be around because they irritate you. It's quite another thing to unconditionally love someone who is tenderly affectionate (phileo) toward you. THE TENDER AFFECTION OF PHILEO LOVE MAKES THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE OF AGAPE ENJOYABLE. It's the joy of the friendship!

Just imagine - the King of Kings acting like Mr. Rogers and asking Peter, "Won't you be my neighbor?" Do you love me like a brother? Can I call you friend? Wow! The majesty of this moment, shared over the fellowship of food, cannot be understated. The risen Messiah is hosting a fish fry and asking these disciples to PROVE their love to him by offering themselves in service to Him. Each affirmative response by Peter is met with "Feed my sheep". Christ had offered himself in the most perfect apotheosis of agape love:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Yes, that love word is agape. He gave his best. He was born for this. His life consisted of preparation to become the ultimate sacrifice for us. Like He did to Peter, He will tell us, "If you love me, feed my sheep!" How are we supposed to feed His sheep? Simply by telling them the truth - there is One who loves them. There is one who cares for them and wants to see them prosper. There is one who died for them to procure permanent, perpetual peace. He wants us to spread the Good News! Back to that song we started with - perhaps there are hints in the limited lyrics to His wishes. Did you know that the word "work" appears 37 times in that song?

On this Christmas day, Christ is asking, "Do you love me?"

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A Great Reference Tool

"Nelson's Biblical Cyclopedic Index, the Best Bible Subject Index Ever" by Thomas Nelson inc. is a great Bible resource to have on hand when studying the Bible, preparing sermons or Bible studies. It has over 8,000 subjects, names, places, etc. plus it has 300 word studies throughout including phrases from the Bible which are all listed in the first few pages and placed in alphabetical order. The word studies go in depth with info such as the pronunciation, where the word came from, different usage or translation of the word. They give the topic then the book, chapter, and verse of where to find what you're looking for. I enjoyed the subject references that provided more than just a word about the passage you were to look up. In the Ten Commandments section, listed are references “divine origin, Christ sums up, love fulfills” (110). These references give you a fuller grasp of the passage you are going to look up before you begin your search.

The word study sections provided in the text are immensely helpful giving a basic definition of the word but also leading you into a broader contextual understanding of the word through both testaments.

I can see this index being of value to small group bible studies, large group studies, sermon preparation, research writing, and in other contexts. This book is a great addition if you already a scholar or just starting out and want a book that is well organized and not threatening in any way. I will use this book often and look forward to it be a great addition to my library.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers for an advance reading as part of their Booksneeze bloggers program . I was not required to write a positive review and therefore, the book review is 100% my own opinion.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, "Merry...Image via Wikipedia
Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter. The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as ("I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g., kerchief and cap.

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e., the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co- conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010


A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via Wikipedia

1. Bleached Yule
2. Castaneous-colored Seed Vesicated in a Conflagration
3. Singular Yearning for the Twin Anterior Incisors
4. Righteous Darkness
5. Arrival Time: 2400 hrs - Weather: Cloudless
6. Loyal Followers Advance
7. Far Off in a Feeder
8. Array the Corridor
9. Bantam Male Percussionist
10. Monarchial Triad
11. Nocturnal Noiselessness
12. Jehovah Deactivate Blithe Chevaliers
13. Red Man En Route to Borough
14. Frozen Precipitation Commence
15. Proceed and Enlighten on the Pinnacle
16. The Quadruped with the Vermillion Probiscis
17. Query Regarding Identity of Descendant
18. Delight for this Planet
19. Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings
20. The Dozen Festive 24 Hour Intervals

answers are listed below!



make sure you guess before looking down here!

No Peeking!



1. White Christmas
2. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
3. All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
4. O Holy Night
5. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
6. O Come, All Ye Faithful
7. Away in a Manger
8. Deck the Hall
9. Little Drummer Boy
10. We Three Kings
11. Silent Night
12. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
13. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
14. Let it Snow
15. Go, Tell It on the Mountain
16. Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer
17. What Child is This?
18. Joy to the World
19. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
20. The Twelve Days of Christmas

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Tell me your problem again?

Nick VujicicImage by Yeh Designs via Flickr I was first introduced to the inspiration of Nick Vujicic by the CEO of our company. During our annual goal setting meetings, one of Nick’s videos was played for us with the theme, It Matters How you Finish. Since that viewing I set out to learn a little more about this most inspiring of individuals and each discovery has proven to be incrementally more amazing.
With an unabashedly optimistic outlook on life, Nick puts many of us to shame who face no physical limitations. Gifted with insight and empathy, his trials with his disability have been turned around and used as a gift to motivate and help others. He explains on page one that he found happiness when he learned that despite his imperfections and disability that he is perfect in God's eyes and that he is part of God's creation "designed according to His plan". He perceives himself as enabled instead of disabled, counting him blessed amidst a world where many experience all kinds of pain and suffering. His book new 238 page, Life Without Limits, published by Doubleday publishers, harnesses Nick's gift of empowerment to motivate the reader no matter what challenges he may face in life.
There are uncomfortable passages in this book, even though at times they are presented from a humorous tangent. Nick recalls the story of facing down the taunts of the schoolyard bully, finally agreeing to face him in a “fight”, even though he admits to wondering at the time about how he could engage the bully – how in the world could he fight this guy? Well, he does, and there is much to be learned from this encounter – for both of the combatants.
This book is sure to provide any reader an inspirational lift, no matter what his or her circumstances may be.
As a blogger for Water Book publishers I received a copy of this book for the purposes of review. The opinions expressed are my own.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Ask for Unanimous Consent

Unofficial seal of the United States CongressImage via Wikipedia Allow me to propose a rule change for all of Congress. I know, there are several that need to be modified, but let's start with this one. Have you ever been watching C-Span and heard this, "Mr. (or Madame) Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks."? This request is always followed by, "without exception, so ordered."

Ever wonder why?

Politics, my friend!

In the environment of today's Congressional Rules, actually codified by the Committee on Rules, members are instructed that this phrase is to be the first one they utter after being recognized by the chair.

But again, I ask why?

Bait and switch my friend, pure and simple. In today's technological environment, we have the ability to watch the proceedings of our Senators and Representatives via C-Span. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook provide us with contemporaneous updates on the activities of our legislators - what they say on the floor of their respective houses. Unlike any other time in history, we have the ability to stay abreast of the actions of both houses.

By implementing this rule to allow for revision and extension of their remarks, the people we elected can say one thing on the floor, and then have the ability to go back and totally change, remove, embellish, or otherwise edit their floor remarks. Don't that give you a warm and fuzzy?

If we were to eliminate this ability, the guys and gals we send to Washington would have to say what they mean and mean what they say - as they could no longer hide behind revisions.

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Looking for application of Biblical Truths?

This is not my first study Bible. I have several in my library and I refer to them periodically in the preparation of weekly teaching presentations and sermons. Being very familiar with Max Lucado, I was very interested in reviewing his newest study Bible. Much of this book is a rewrite of his earlier Devotional Bible. In this edition, the devotionals have been given their own pages as opposed to previously these were put into side notes, alongside the Biblical text.
I was impressed with this Bible. There are copious study notes to help make sense of difficult passages, as well as many devotionals to help guide one's quiet time. The typeface is clean and while small, it is easy to read. I especially appreciated the introductions to each book. These help set the historical context and explain the key themes. This is especially useful with some of the Old Testament books which are not as frequently read by Christians today as their New Testament counterparts.
The studies for New Believers, a two year devotional reading plan, and a devotional index make this a very nice addition to your study materials.I found the application notes in this Bible were presented in typical Lucado style. The life lessons present a practical application of the Biblical principle in our life, and provide the catalyst to foment action in our daily walk.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Gray Matter - the intersection of medicine and faith

Gray Matter by David Levy, MD with Joel Kilpatrick is a testimonial autobiography of a neurosurgeon's spiritual journey and discovery of the power of prayer, peace, faith, forgiveness, and joy. As he prayed for each patient who so desired, there was a transformation in the surgical department as nurses also requested to join him. Praying for patients also brought forgiveness in his own life as well as resolution of the past in the hearts of Dr. Levy's patients. The author's words paint pictures of medical procedures with terminology the reader can easily understand. Gray Matter can be read in one sitting or each chapter could be read separately to enhance and accompany personal daily devotions. Gray Matter will inspire you to begin or continue your life of prayer. As David Levy so accurately wrote, we pray, "not because I lack confidence but because I am realistic about what I am able to do and confident about what God is able to do."

Through fascinating accounts, we are introduced in these 12 chapters to both medical drama and spiritual insight. As Dr. Levy asks his patients if he can pray for them before surgery we see a varied level of response. Some are taken aback, some welcome the approach, and some are quite literally transformed by the request. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially someone who is facing medical issues and possible surgery.

I received this book free from Tyndale for an advance reading as part of their bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review and therefore, the book review is 100% my own opinion.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hymn Histories

I confess I LOVE old time hymns! These are the songs I grew up with in church. These are the songs I can remember my grandfather standing in front of the congregation leading the congregation, “beating time” (fundamental for conducting) in a passionate display of worship. These hymns "reveal the faith of those who lived throughout history. In this book, Then Sings My Soul, Rev. Robert Morgan explored the stories behind some of the best-loved hymns and was fascinated by the accounts of tribulations, triumphs, struggles and hope - ordinary people who connected with God in amazing ways, sharing their experiences through song."

Of the 150 songs explored in this offering, most are somewhat familiar if you've got a little history with traditional church music. Many of the songs that were unfamiliar to me still had intriguing stories that I enjoyed. For each hymn, there was one page of the actual music and lyrics and then a second page with a story about the author and the song. To actually be able to play from this book, however, it would be better if it was spiral bound and could stand open.
Overall I found this book to be inspiring as I was given a window into some of the most powerful hymns of the Christian faith. As a songwriter I really enjoyed reading the back-story of what led these writers to create and craft songs that have had a lasting impact on our world.
As a fledgling pianist, I also love the fact that every song whose story was portrayed also had sheet music available within the book. So, not only was I able to read this book, but I was able to play the songs within it as well! I was in Heaven! =)

I really like that there are complete indices by hymn title, first line and songwriter at the back of the book. This is very valuable when doing a quick search for a particular hymn or carol. I like the special soft cover, French flap cover design, jagged edged paper, which gives it a classic feel. I loved the write-ups on each hymn whether about the writer of the lyrics or the composer of the melody. There are helpful teaching illustrations and introductory remarks for song leaders, music ministers, volunteers and lay leaders. These hymns have stood the test of time!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It would make an excellent Christmas gift for pastors, music ministers, musicians and Christians in general as a personal or family devotional. One hymn and its story for each new day!

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers for an advance reading as part of their Booksneeze bloggers program . I was not required to write a positive review and therefore, the book review is 100% my own opinion.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Paradox of Christianity

'Cover It seems a fair question, doesn't it? If God is truly good, as Christians insist, then how can there be so much suffering in the world? Since ancient times this question has led skeptics to believe that God cannot, must not, exist. Even today's so-called New Atheists show how little is really knew when they use the existence of suffering and evil as a linchpin of their arguments against God's existence. Quite simply, they say, if suffering and evil exist, then God must not. Yet though people have wrestled with this question and allowed it to drive them from the faith, many more have wrestled with it and have come to the conclusion that God does exist despite suffering. They have found that suffering is God's invitation to trust in him and to hold out hope for a better world to come.

In the Introduction, aptly titled The Search We All Share, we read this:
A Barna Research poll asked, “If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask?” The most common response was,”Why is there pain and suffering in the world?” This isn’t merely a problem, it’s the problem. As for the culture at large, it appears to pose a greater difficulty now than ever.
If God Is Good is the latest book from Randy Alcorn's who is probably best-known for his last major release, Heaven, which has sold well over a half million copies in hardcover. Weighing in at 512 pages, this is a good-sized hardcover that offers a thorough examination and defense of faith in the midst of suffering and evil.

The topic Alcorn deals with in this book is a particularly difficult one. Humility and practicality, trademarks of his ministry, are evident in the books earliest pages. "If I thought I had no helpful perspectives on the problem, it would be pointless for me to write this book. If I imagined I had all the answers neatly lined up, it would be pointless for you to read it." He seeks to get right to the bottom of the subject and, as we learn, a sound theology of suffering touches upon many different areas. I found this book to be a great resource. I really enjoyed that Alcorn took the space necessary to delve deep into some of these areas. As a consequence, this is a big book – almost 500 pages, with both a topic and scripture index at the end.

Read Chapter 1

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