December 2017


The Effect of Music

By Mike Woolley

I’m a person of habit. So, when I go to the gym to workout I grab my headphones, plug into my phone and begin listening to some music that fits my mood for the next hour. There are also TV monitors mounted all around that have no sound, but have closed captioning being typed out along with most programs.

The other day I ended up watching the last hour of the classic movie Titanic. If you are not familiar with the movie, it is a 1997 American romance-disaster film. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack) and Kate Winslet (Rose) as members of different social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage (Spoiler alert: the boat sinks).

Anyway, towards the end of the movie, with the ship sinking, the lifeboats have departed and passengers are falling to their deaths as the stern rises out of the water. The ship breaks in half, lifting the stern into the air. Jack and Rose ride it into the ocean and he helps her onto a wooden panel only buoyant enough for one person. He assures her that she will die an old woman, warm in her bed. Jack dies of hypothermia but Rose is saved. I remember in the theater, as the music in the background accompanied the scene, I found myself choking back tears and looking around to see if anyone was watching me cry over Jack and Rose. But in the gym the sound was turned off and I was fine. It was the music that penetrated into the area of my heart that holds my tears of sorrow and my tears of joy.

If you have ever wondered why we have music to accompany worship at church, this is the reason. The songs we play at the beginning of the service aren’t intended to be a long prelude to take up time before the sermon. The music is intended to reach into the part of your heart that holds your tears of sorrow and your tears of joy. Sorrow that comes from the pain you have felt and the pain you have caused. Joy from being loved and being found beautiful by the only One who really sees you for who you really are.

Words are wonderful. I love words and work with words all the time. But words by themselves can be limited. Even words that tell great stories and create images of wonder and delight can only go so far. But music and words can take you to a place you only visit once in a while. A place where the deepest and most intimate you lives, but the you that desperately needs to connect with the God who loves you.

So the next time you come to church and stand to sing, let the music do its work. Let the joy and sorrow flow, and don’t worry about who is watching. Let the worship connect God to the tears that fill your heart and long to get out.


The Coming of the Light 
By Taylor Roche

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
John 1:4-5, 9

Did you know that Christmas wasn’t always December 25th? In fact, many of the first Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas at all. The truth is we don’t exactly know how we came to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th. We do know that over the years following Jesus’ death and resurrection generally two dates were proposed and debated as the day Jesus was born. December 25th, and January 6th. Ultimately December 25th won out largely for reasons unknown, but there is some speculation that I find fascinating. Long before it was Jesus’ birthday, December 25th was a pagan holiday. It celebrated the Nativity of the Sun, or the “birth” of the sun. Ancient pagans celebrated the Nativity of the Sun December 25th because, as you probably know, that is the day that the days begin to lengthen and the power of the sun seemingly begins to increase. Now we really don’t know if the early Christians simply Christianized an ancient pagan holiday, or if they really and truly believed this was the day Jesus was born. Some clearly thought it was merely a coincidence. But even if it was just a coincidence, isn’t thinking of Jesus’ arrival as a kind of “coming of the light” a great way to think about Christmas? It’s clearly exactly how the Apostle John thought of Jesus’ birth.
In John 1, the Apostle John describes Jesus not just as the Word, but also as the Light. He came bearing life, and it was this life that lit the hearts of mankind. Even in the darkest night this light of Jesus shone. And it was not extinguished. This light came into the world, and that is what we celebrate December 25th. I want to draw your attention to one little line at the end of John 1:5, “and the darkness has not overcome it.” This year, in this season I am choosing to celebrate that line. As darkness seems to abound, as darkness seems to claim victory, I am choosing to find hope in the promise of John 1:5. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Finishing Well

By Brenda Woolley

“Finishing well”…I have heard this many times over the course of my walk with Christ.  I have begun many endeavors in my life and one thing has been common in all, starting well has been easy.  Finishing well has been another story.
 Running has always been hard for me, even when I was in great shape and playing volleyball in college, I have always been a slow runner.  I always began my run strong and confident, and then towards the end, or on a massive hill, I am practically walking I am going so slow…I call it a slog…my “slow jog”…sad but true!  I am working on finishing strong at Bootcamp, and it has been successful.
Most, if not all of us can relate to this.  I have been to many weddings, and again, getting married is the easy part, staying married through the struggles, losses, and adjustments is more difficult. That is just one example.
The same can be said of the Christian life.  Becoming a Christian is easy.  Acknowledging to God that you are a sinner and receive by faith the free gift of eternal life is easy.  Nothing we do earns it, and nothing in us qualifies us for it.  God freely gives it to all that recognize their need and who trust in Jesus alone. But then comes the hard part.  Living day to day in this harsh world that is in such opposition to Christ.   In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul says,
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul spent his life running this race well.  He is a great example to me on the days I want to quit, or am depressed and tired of it all.  I truly make myself dig into scripture and fall on my knees before God, and He never leaves me there in that place.  He never leaves me on the side of the road while everyone else is running by me.  He keeps me in this race, and encourages me to run it well.  If you read any of Paul’s writings in the Bible, he is constantly encouraging those around him to persevere, endure, and run this race and finish well. 
I am not a marathoner, but I am married to one.  I am constantly amazed and intrigued by him.  It takes more than just the physical strength, it involves a mental challenge and strategy as well.  There is no such thing as an easy marathon, just as there is no such thing as an easy Christian life.  So make up your mind to hang in with the Lord through the tough times, so that you can look back at the end an say with Paul, “I have finished the course” and in that finish well.

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