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Awesome Easter Songs

13 Apr

Every year around Christmas, there’s a bunch of songs we don’t normally hear that start hitting the radio. Silent Night, What Child Is This, & Away in a Manger for example. These songs tell parts of the Christmas story. They remind us of the events that occurred around Jesus’ birth.

Unfortunately, there’s not too many songs that are about the Easter season. Yes, there’s lots of awesome songs thanking Jesus for what He did, but unlike the Christmas songs, there’s really not many that are actually songs about the season, the Passion week.

So partly inspired by this post, and wishing the Easter season was something we got more into as it approached, the following are some fantastic “Easter season” songs that tell parts of the story. Enjoy them this week, and if you want, do like I do and add them to an Easter playlist for every April.

Glorious Day – Casting Crowns

Big picture overview of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Secret Ambition – Michael W. Smith

Great lyrics that overview the life and miracles of Christ, and his “secret ambition” to die for our sins. I love this version by David Crowder Band.

Good Friday – Josh Garrels

About someone telling the story of Jesus’ sacrifice to another person who is struggling and looking for God. Ends with the quote that Jesus said on the cross from Psalm 22. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Via Dolorosa – Sandi Patti

The story of Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary.  Hard not to cry to these lyrics. Check out this version by Tatiana as well.

New Again – Brad Paisley & Sara Evans

Another tear jerker that tells of the pain and suffering that Jesus went through. It is told as if a conversation between Mary and Jesus.

Thief – Third Day

The story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus. (I like their live version better.)

Answered – Josh Garrels

A rendition of much of Psalm 22, specifically the portions which foretell of the crucifixion.


The following songs tell little, if any, of the narrative story, but they are other favorite Easter songs of mine because they speak of the sacrifice of Jesus. Mercy Tree and Jesus Paid it All are probably my two favorite Easter songs overall.

Mercy Tree – Lacey Sturm (original singer of Flyleaf) The CD version is way more powerful than the video version.

In Christ Alone – Owl City version is great, but he left out a key stanza which weakens the song. The version by Kristian Stanfill is great too. (original by Stewart Townend)

By His Wounds – Mac Powell & others

Jesus Paid it All – Kristian Stanfill

All Because of Jesus – Casting Crowns

He Rose – Deluge

How Deep the Father’s Love – Kendall Payne (original by Stewart Townend & Keith Getty)


I hope you enjoy these songs this Easter season.

He is Risen!

Psalms by Modern Artists

28 Sep

When I was younger, I was never really drawn to the Psalms, but over the last few years, they have come so much more alive for me. Beautiful hymns to God.  My favorite translations to read devotionally are The Message and the NCV, and they are great for the Psalms. (For study, I still prefer the NASB or ESV.) The audio Bible Word of Promise is also awesome for listening to the Psalms, especially in the quite of night with my eyes closed and headphones on.

psalmsI do wish there were more contemporary artists that made the Psalms into music. Not just a reinterpretation of the Psalm, but an actual rendition of the Psalm. Changing the words a bit to fit a song better is not a big deal, but when its just about the same theme, it isn’t really the Psalm any more. There are a fair amount of gospel versions, and choir versions, but I wish there were more alternative artists, folk artists, rock artists, etc. that did versions of the Psalms.

So for a while, I’ve been on a quest to find my favorite Psalms by modern artists and I’ve developed a top 10. To make the list the song has to (a) have lyrics directly from the Psalm (not necessarily word for word from a certain translation, but true to the original words) and (b) be at least a couple of stanzas from the Psalm. A one line quote doesn’t cut it.

While you may not share my musical tastes, some of these are absolutely worthy of your playlist.

First, some honorable mentions:

White as Snow (Psalm 51) by Jon Foreman
Psalm 145 by Shane & Shane
Psalm 121 by the Insyderz
Psalm 139 by the Insyderz
Psalm 150 by Daniel Markoya
Psalm 3 by Salvador
Answered (Psalm 23) by Josh Garrels

Now the Top 10:

10. Psalm 4 (When I Call) by The Psalms Project (feat. Melissa Breems)

9. Psalm 86 by Jenny & Tyler

8. My Hope is You (Psalm 25) by Third Day

7. I Shall Not Be Afraid (Psalm 56:3-4; Psalm 121) by Sherri Youngward

6. Psalm 46 by Jenny & Tyler

5. “40” (the first lines of Psalm 40, with chorus based on Psalm 6:3b) by U2
[Note: I think this edgier (pun intended) cover by Starfield is just as good]

4. Your Love Oh Lord (Psalm 36) by Third Day

3. Revive Me (Psalm 119, the latter part of it) by Jeremy Camp

2. 107 by Josh Garrels

1. The House of God Forever (Psalm 23) by Jon Foreman and Sarah Masen

Top 10 Bible movies

2 Apr

Updated October 2014.

Considering all the material in the Bible, there are surprisingly few Bible movies. Of those that have been made, a significant number of them are “made for television” or other low budget works. With the success of the History Channel’s The Bible, more movies are being proposed for the future. I was cautiously excited about 2014’s Noah. Russell Crowe as Noah sounded awesome! The producers even stated that they planned to remain true to the Biblical account, but unfortunately, that’s not what we ended up with. Parts of it were epic, but other parts seriously drifted from the truth.

Below I’ve put together my opinion of the all time ten best Bible themed movies or short mini-series. My criteria, like the list below, is subjective. But for consideration on the list the movie must be primarily about Bible events or primarily about Bible characters. So that means a movie like Barabbas makes it in, while Ben-Hur does not. Accuracy certainly plays a role in how much I like the movies (higher accuracy generally equals a higher rating) but I didn’t have an “accuracy minimum standard” to make the list. Still, if I felt the movie was heretical, such as The Last Temptation of Christ, you won’t see it included here. Also, no animated films are included either. Sorry Veggietales fans.

Finally, just a note about the History Channel’s The Bible. It doesn’t quite make my top 10. While much of the production was very good, and some of the segments were excellent, I felt that overall there was too much monkeying with significant parts of the story in ways that were important theologically. You can read more about my thoughts here.


10. Jeremiah. A fairly accurate portrait of the prophet Jeremiah. Like almost all Bible movies, there’s made up material including a silly and unnecessary subplot about a girl. But overall, this is a good account of Jeremiah in a film format. McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) delivers the warnings to Israel in a passionate performance that will likely cause the viewer to question their own commitment to God.


9. Joseph. One of the most important stories left out of “The Bible” on The History Channel is that of Joseph. It details how Israel wound up in Egypt and foreshadows God’s forgiveness to us in sending Christ to die for our sins. Joseph is one of the greatest examples of Godly character in the Bible and it comes through in this film (though I didn’t particularly care for the actor who played Joseph). A word of caution: while it is not rated, it certainly deserves at minimum a TV-14. You can read more about the sexual content here.


8. Esther.  This made for TV version is slightly better than the higher budget theater release One Night with the King. Some may not be familiar with the story of Esther, so I’d recommend reading the book either before watching or following up the viewing. Like other Bible movies, its easy to get caught up in the story of the people on the screen. On a human level, Esther is a great story about stepping up and doing what God desires when we have the opportunity. And although this is a good lesson, we need to remember this story comes from within the grand story Bible and it isn’t primarily about Esther, but its the story of God. The big picture of the book of Esther is about God’s providence. Again, read the book. Always better than the movie.

Nativity Story

7. The Nativity Story. I like this movie even though, like all the other nativity movies and generally American stories of the nativity, it gets two key events wrong. Without going into too much detail, the two events I’m referring to are [1] the journey to Bethlehem, both the timing and the way they are shown to be by themselves (though this is debatable), and [2] the wise men present at the birth. No big deal, but it just gets tiring seeing the same errors over and over. At least the actors aren’t WASPs. Again, the producers of this movie do a lot of speculating, especially with the thoughts and actions of both Mary and Joseph as the events unfold, but they are certainly reasonable and I think they enhance the story well in a movie format. A terrific movie to watch during the Holiday season.

NOTE: Between movies 6 and 7, I find a big gap. The top 6 I think are all really good movies. 7 through 10 are kind of like the best of the rest, but 1-6 are in my mind, in a different class.

Peter and Paul

6. Peter and Paul. I’ve seen some people criticize this film saying that Paul was much more loving than Anthony Hopkins portrays him, but just reading through Galatians, you can see that sometimes Paul gets ticked off. I actually really like Hopkins portrayal of Paul. He does a great job delivering Paul’s introspective thoughts (much of which we know from his letters). My disappointment with this movie was Peter’s character. He seems a bit too wimpy. Also, I felt they rushed his story too much at the end. Overall though, this is the best presentation of the Acts of the Apostles on film (though one that I haven’t seen is the complete 12 hour version of A.D.).

Jesus of Nazareth

5. Jesus of Nazareth. Seeing this as a kid made this the movie that shaped my original thoughts of what Jesus was like. But having experienced Jesus more now through reading the Bible, I think this portrayal makes Jesus seem a bit too solemn. He also sometimes seems like he’s in another world, disassociated with his humanity. I think the actor overplayed that part a little. Still, I really enjoy the sequences of Jesus teaching the people. There was a command in his performance as well that makes you feel like you are watching someone special. And without a doubt, James Earl Jones is my favorite wise man ever! While there are many variances and some created material in this movie, overall it stays closer to the Biblical narrative of Jesus than the History Channel version.

Ten Commandments

4. The Ten Commandments. The classic story of Moses and the Exodus. There’s a lot of extra-Biblical material added and in fact, I found that this movie is so popular that occasionally people I speak to are surprised that “facts” from this movie about Moses and Joshua aren’t in the Bible. Still, it will be hard for any actor to make a better Moses, even Christian Bale. And no one will ever make a better Pharaoh than Yul Brynner. “So let it be written; so let it be done!


3. Barabbas. The fictional tale of what happened to the man who was freed when Jesus was crucified. Its a fantastic story of the struggles so many of us face when God chases after us, but we run away. If you like old epic films, this one won’t disappoint. But of all the films on this list it certainly takes the most creative license.

Gospel of John

2. The Gospel of John. Like the Visual Bible movies Matthew and Acts, this film is based on a word for word presentation of the Bible. However, it is far better. It uses the more functional translation The Good News Bible which makes the dialog flow better in a film format. The acting and production are both very good for a Bible movie that stays so true to Scripture. Highly recommended!

Passion1. The Passion of the Christ

Wow. If you’ve seen it, you know.

Summer reading – books for diving deeper

24 May

While summer won’t officially be here for another few weeks, many of us are already in vacation mode, especially with the 3 day weekend upon us. So, here’s my Top 10 list of recommended theology reading for this summer.

First, let me be clear, this is not my top 10 favorite books. That list would certainly include more books by C.S. Lewis and Alexandre Dumas, and less books that make my head hurt. Instead, this list is for the person who wants to dig deeper into theology. All these books are a bit challenging, but none of them are too difficult to work through. Each one has been extremely beneficial to me and I encourage you to read them all if you are interested in the topic they cover. In my opinion, these are all just about as close as you can get to must reads for any student of Christian theology. Not that I agree with everything in all of them, I don’t; but they do help you get your mind around the issues they discuss. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen

2. Should the Church Teach Tithing? by Russell Earl Kelly

3. Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

4. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views edited by James K. Beilby & Paul R. Eddy

5. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Fee & Stewart

6. Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Beckwith & Koukl

7. Heaven by Randy Alcorn

8. Science & Faith by C. John Collins

9. Love God with All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland

10. The Forgotten Trinity by White

11. Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright

Ok, it goes to 11, but that just makes it 1 better.

My favorite albums of 2011 – top 5

17 Feb

I wanted to wait a bit before posting my top albums of 2011 because there were a couple I got late in the year and I wanted to be sure to give myself time to listen to them. So here they are:

5. Jamie Grace – One Song at a Time
David Crowder Band – Oh for Joy would have probably been my fifth choice if it wasn’t for how much fun I saw my daughter having listening to this album. If you’ve got a little girl, this is a must. Fun, upbeat, enjoyable music. I even found myself singing “I’m a God girl” on one occasion!

4. Kassidy – Hope St.
Great album. A couple songs I don’t care for, mainly because of the lyrics, but overall I’m a fan of this new folk band out of Scotland. Favorite songs: That Old Song, I Don’t Know, Waking Up Sideways and Hope St.

3. Switchfoot – Vice Verses
I’ve always liked Switchfoot, but never enough to just listen to one of their albums, more to just buy a few songs for mixes. But Wow, this album blew me away. IMO, they reached new levels vocally and musically with this release. Favorite songs: The War Inside, Dark Horses and Thrive.

2. Burlap to Cashmere – Burlap to Cashmere
This CD is one of the best pieces of music writing in years. Anyone who’s ever studied music will be impressed with their ability to change timing in songs, and in fact to have some songs which don’t even have timing. Awesome music writers.

1. Josh Garrels – Love & War & the Sea in Between
The B2C album is fantastic, but unfortunately for them Josh Garrels put out another album in 2011. This guy is just a modern day Psalmist! While musically it may not reach the level of some other artists, it’s still very good. But his lyrics and emotion singing them put his work so far over anything else I’ve heard, not just for 2011, but ever. Again, just my opinion, but you should definitely check him out if you haven’t heard him. And by the way, this album is available as a free download from his website (at least for now).