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Happy Birthday, Beethoven!

December 17, 2013

You were born on this day, December 16, in the year 1770 in Bonn, Germany.  Your name has become synomous with excellency in musical achievement.  And no acheivement more excellent than your Ninth Symphony.

The symphony was first presented on the evening of May 7, 1824 in the city of Vienna, Austria. It had been a much anticipated production. Beethoven was a senior citizen by 19th century standards and had not performed an orchestral academy in 10 years. Though he was widely regarded as the greatest composer in the known world, Beethoven was anxious about the performance and wondered if it would be received well enough to pay the overhead cost. Yet, from that night forward, the world of music would never be the same.

As Beethoven co-lead the orchestra and set the tempo, the audience frequently broke forth in rapturous applause. One eyewitness wrote: “Never in my life did I hear such frenetic and yet cordial applause.” In fact, the symphony was interrupted no less than four times by the audience’s exuberance.

And yet for all of the thunderous applauding, Beethoven was unmoved. You see, by this time in his life he was completely deaf. In fact one of the young soloist had to gently grab him by the arm and point him around to the audience, that he might see them applauding so voraciously, “Well done!, Maestro. Well done!” Completely deaf, Beethoven composed and conducted what I believe is the greatest music composition ever conceived by human mind and heart.

Beethoven’s Ninth has served as the inspiration and backdrop to much in popular history. It has been the inspiration of music and musicians from classical to rap, from country to jazz. Its influence has almost been unparalleled, including serving as the score for countless movies, television shows and commercials. Besides, if you have heard the hymn, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, you have heard part of the 4th Movement of the Ninth symphony. Once you hear it played rightly, you never forget it.

Lastly, the length of the modern CD was initially developed at 75 minutes because those who invented the CD wanted to make sure Beethoven’s 9th could fit on it. I can think of some great music that has found its way onto compact disc, but none greater than Beethoven’s ninth. Apparently those who created the CD in the first place, echo my sentiments.  Enjoy!

Why Thanksgiving Was So Good For Us

December 2, 2013

Timothy and Naia Byrd are missionaries with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg South Africa. They are a great encouragement to us at East Point Church. We pray we are of some encouragement to them as well. Recently, Tim and Naia shared their thoughts on Thanksgiving.  After reading and reflecting on their words, I am moved to share them with you.  Thanks Tim and Naia! 

Giving thanks for more than cornbread alone….

Byrd_s_thanksgiving_day_picf0ffb12e7006Being on the mission field for 9 years we have rarely been back to the states for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  But that does not mean we don’t celebrate it!  In fact, last year we had Thanksgiving dinner with our South African friends and they loved it.  Not just the food, but the idea of taking an entire day to say thank you.  However, with Thanksgiving not being a traditional holiday in South Africa they quickly asked, “who are we thanking and what are we thankful for?”  These are great questions.

This Thanksgiving we were reminded of the many blessings given to us from the Lord.  Blessings like a roof over our head, good health, food on the table and family and friends who love us!  These things are such a blessing in our lives.  We would be remiss and blind to the greatness of God if we don’t rejoice in God’s faithfulness toward our physical needs.  However, the greatest blessing the Lord has given us is the person Jesus Christ.  There is no greater blessing or joy than seeing, delighting and knowing Jesus Christ in a personal way.  Look at what David says about not forgetting all the benefits of knowing God…

Psalm 103  Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.

It is through Christ that God shows his greatest compassion and graciousness toward us.  In John 15:13 Jesus is speaking to His disciples and says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  In Jesus we experience God’s abounding love through the cross.  By God pouring out his wrath on Jesus for our sins, he does not treat us like we deserve.  So now by grace, thieves are treated like sons.  By His love, murderers have been given a front row seat next to the throne of grace.  By the power of the gospel, broken people, like me or you, are invited to taste of the Lords goodness.  And when we taste of His goodness we drink of a fountain that never runs dry.  When we feast on his word it leads us to the bread of life that satisfies our hungry souls. This Thanksgiving was good for us and we pray it was good for you too.  For in it we are reminded God cares for both our physical and especially our spiritual needs.

Reminded of His goodness with you,

The Byrds

Men Ought Always to Pray

November 14, 2013

One of the most popular daily devotional books is Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Last evening the reading for November 13 was particularly inspiring. May we understand again the importance and blessing that is prayer.

“Men ought always to pray.” –Luke 18:1 

If men ought always to pray and not to faint, much more Christian men. Jesus has sent His church into the world on the same errand upon which He Himself came, and this mission includes intercession. What if I say that the church is the world’s priest? Creation is dumb, but the church is to find a mouth for it. It is the church’s high privilege to pray with acceptance. The door of grace is always open for her petitions, and they never return empty-handed. The veil was rent for her, the blood was sprinkled upon the altar for her, God constantly invites her to ask what she wills. Will she refuse the privilege which angels might envy her? Is she not the bride of Christ? May she not go in unto her King at every hour? Shall she allow the precious privilege to be unused? The church always has need for prayer. There are always some in her midst who are declining, or falling into open sin. There are lambs to be prayed for, that they may be carried in Christ’s bosom? the strong, lest they grow presumptuous; and the weak, lest they become despairing. If we kept up prayer-meetings four-and-twenty hours in the day, all the days in the year, we might never be without a special subject for supplication. Are we ever without the sick and the poor, the afflicted and the wavering? Are we ever without those who seek the conversion of relatives, the reclaiming of back-sliders, or the salvation of the depraved? Nay, with congregations constantly gathering, with ministers always preaching, with millions of sinners lying dead in trespasses and sins; in a country over which the darkness of Romanism is certainly descending; in a world full of idols, cruelties, devilries, if the church doth not pray, how shall she excuse her base neglect of the commission of her loving Lord? Let the church be constant in supplication, let every private believer cast his mite of prayer into the treasury.

Restoration Day

October 9, 2013

Like many pastors, Monday tends to be what we call our “day off.” Though there are really no days off from the cares and prayers  of the church, Mondays do allow me to put my phone away, not answer emails, not go to the office, and catch up on household and family projects. This past Monday was “Restoration Day.”   The project was the restoration of a dining room table.  I don’t claim any expertise in such things, except the joy of accomplishing something that reflects the design of God in the restoration of all things (Rev. 21:5).

 The Before…

The Meanwhile…

Sand Table

The After….

Finish Table

In case you were wondering – no, I am not a carpenter.  But my Master is!  And he bids his disciples, “Come, and follow me.”  :)

C’mon The Front Porch

September 24, 2013

Over the years God has granted me the privilege of making many encouraging and mutually edifying friendships in the ministry.  Two of my best are Louis Love and Thabiti Anyabwile. I have been blessed to share ministry and life with these men through prayer, fellowship, and the Word of God. Their wives have ministered to my wife in meaningful ways, and our lives have been blessed as a result.  I love these guys and that is why it is joy to join with them on what we are calling The Front Porch.

The Front Porch is a website with various forms of media hoping to spur conversations of biblical faithfulness in African-American churches and beyond. Lou, Thabiti, and I are sons of the black church experience. We continue to love that portion of God’s vineyard and desire to see her faithful to the Christ she declares she worships.

On The Front Porch we want to celebrate God’s faithfulness to his church and the glory of the multi-ethnic expressions he has designed. Yet, we also want to call that church to biblical faithfulness in preaching and practice. We don’t portend to be the only voices or the final voices on these issues. We only want to add our voices and encourage you to add yours as we seek to understand better what God’s word says.

So, if you have time, c’mon on up and join the conversation.  Your seat on the porch is waiting.

Fall Football Reading

September 10, 2013

At the onset of the fall college football season, it is my general practice to read a book on my favorite team The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I am often asked why I pull for the Fighting Irish. Well, when it comes to rooting for Notre Dame, those who understand don’t need an explanation. And those who need an explanation, probably will never understand.

This year the offering is a good one. Written by a Notre Dame grad, Jerry Barca, the book is Unbeatable: Notre Dame’s 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season. I remember well the 1988 season. Led by Coach Lou Holtz, the 1988 team went undefeated, including a dramatic victory against the seemingly invincible University of Miami Hurricanes. The names and faces are familiar as most of the players are the same age I am.  Yet, Barca’s behind the scene info and biographical sketches of the players and coaches give an added dimension to one of the greatest football teams in Notre Dame history. This is a book any true Notre Dame fan would not want to put down.

While Unbeatable is my favorite book right now, I am reading a couple of others. For example. I recently received the book Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration by Matthew Barrett.  It is a biblical, historical, and theological look at the doctrines of regeneration and calling and particularly how regeneration is the sovereign and gracious work of God in our lives. I find well written reformed theology a joy to read. I am enjoying reading this book with a young man in our church. We meet weekly to discuss it. If you are interested in joining us, get a copy and let me know.

I am always interested in manhood issues, and I have read my share of books on the subject. Still, I was made aware of one by a guy named Xan Hood (with a name like that, I had to look into it) titled, Sweat, Blood, and Tears: What God Uses to Make a Man. It is a book about Xan’s journey from privileged suburbanite in Nashville TN to outdoor adventure man discovering manhood and God along the way. It won’t make my top 5 books on manhood.  But, it has its moments.

Lastly, I have just begun listening to 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.  Soon to be released as a feature film, this is the autobiographical account of Northup and the twelve tortuous years he spent as a slave, though he was actually a freeman. Living in New York as a freeman, Northrup was deceived and taken captive while in Washington DC in 1841 and served as a slave on a plantation in Louisiana until his rescue in 1853.  From all accounts this movie promises to be a winner. I thought it would be good to learn of Northup from his book before I expose myself to Hollywood’s interpretation.

Well, that’s pretty much the current list of books I am reading. Unfortunately, Unbeatable will soon be rotating off the list, and I will need to find a replacement. However, I doubt it will be as unbeatable.

 

Reaching Out Through Campus Outreach

September 3, 2013

One of the blessings that has been East Point Church over the years has been our relationship with the parachurch ministry Campus Outreach.  Early in our vision as a church, we established the desire to support and grow with missions, both local and abroad. Consequently, it has been our pleasure to partner with and support Campus Outreach at the Atlanta University Center through the Johnsons (Mwamba and Nyema) and the Thedfords (Pascual and Sharon).  They not only serve on the campus, but are also faithful servants in the local church. We are blessed and benefit greatly from what God has done and is doing through them.

Abroad, we also partner with and support Campus Outreach in Johannesburg, South Africa through the Byrds (Timothy and Naia). In fact, Tim and Naia were with us this past Sunday and once again shared the vision of Campus Outreach Johannesburg with us. It was great hearing Tim talk about the vision and impact the ministry is having on students at the universities and as they leave and enter the workplace. Campus Outreach seeks to glorify God by building laborers on the campus for the lost world. Timothy and Naia are doing just that. In the video is a brief update on recent happenings in their life and ministry.

I want to encourage you to consider giving to Tim and Naia Byrd. They are doing a good work in South Africa. Your prayerful support of them will allow them to continue their mission and bless you as you actively participate in what God is doing in the world.  You can learn more about the Byrds and how you can pray for and financially support them by going to www.missionalmindset.com.

Thank you.

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