As of yesterday, I have officially been using the Lose It App for one year. In that time, I’ve lost and kept off 42 lbs. I’ve also wanted to throw my phone into Lake Pontchartrain 27 times, not because the app has done something wrong or malfunctioned, but because I get tired of being disciplined.
Weight loss is hard work and I’m not talking about entering the foods I eat. I mean the decision after decision to not eat something when I really want it. I mean the decision to exercise at least three times each week. I mean the extra steps I take when I really want to veg out in front of the tv. I mean the decisions to skip dinner when I’ve already used up my calories for the day.
It’s been a long year of hard work (with a little bit of cheating) but all in all, I’m glad I decided to use Lose It. It’s been a disciplined route to weight loss without pills, without shots, without surgery, and without anything weird. Just tracking diet and exercise with a longterm goal in mind.
It works, so I renewed it yesterday for another year.
Each year on Good Friday at Celebration Church in New Orleans, we do a more interactive type of service with various dramatic elements. I typically share the outline on my blog after the service happens for reference by others. I hope you find it helpful, or at least interesting.
Communion Introduction: How many of you are thankful that the Lord has made a way that we could be brought out of darkness into glorious light? When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he cried, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) We’re about to observe a special time of worship where we remember how Jesus, as the Lamb of God, paid the price for our sin on the cross. Some people call this observance communion. Some people call it the Lord’s Supper. Some people call it the Lord’s Table. Whatever you call it, one thing is certain. It’s about Him. It’s His communion. It’s His Supper. It’s His communion. He instituted it at the Last Supper while He was observing Passover with His disciples the night before He was betrayed.
The Bible says that “When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, ‘I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins” (Luke 22:14-15)
Jesus had been with His disciples for three years so He must have celebrated Passover with them before. But this time, Jesus took it further. Instead of a sacrificed animal being the focus of remembrance, He was the focus of remembrance.
The Bible says, “He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:14-15)
(Lead the people to take the bread)
After supper he took another cup of wine and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people – an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out for you.” Do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19-20)
(Lead the people to take the juice – give them instructions about their cups)
Speaker: The Bible teaches us that “Accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There He told them, ‘Pray that you will not give in to temptation.’ He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him. He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. (Luke 22:39-44)
Is it possible for someone to sweat blood? It’s very rare, but it is possible. The condition is called hematidrosis. It happens when extreme physical or emotional stress causes blood vessels that surround the sweat glands to rupture and blood is lost through the sweat glands. That’s the type of anguish Jesus was going through.
Can you imagine the type of anguish Jesus was going through? He knew what was about to happen if everything continued. He knew He was the sinless Lamb of God. He knew He was about to be betrayed and denied by His closest friends. He knew He was about to be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. If it would have been us, we would have run away. But He didn’t. Instead, He submitted to His Father’s will.
GARDEN TO THE CROSS SECTION
What happened next must have seemed like a hurricane of activity:
(Read through the next section, only expounding when necessary)
While Jesus was in agony, His disciples were asleep.
Except for Judas, who appeared with a mob and betrayed Jesus with a kiss
Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest’s house where Peter, the Rock, denied Him three times before the rooster crowed.
Then Jesus was blindfolded and was mocked and beaten by the guards who cried out, “Prophesy! Who hit you?”
He was given a mockery of a trial before Pilate who said, “I find no basis for your charges against Him.
But when given the choice to release Him, the crowd shouted “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
He was whipped, He was beaten
A Crown of Thorns was shoved on His head.
He was forced to carry the very cross on which He was to be crucified.
The Bible says that, “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals – one on His right, the other on His left.” (Luke 23:32)
Crucifixion often meant binding or nailing someone to a cross and letting them die slowly. This is what they did with Jesus. They took three nails (hold the nails out), possibly like this, and nailed Him to the cross.
They drove a nail through one hand into the cross (hit the nails together three times)
They drove another nail through his other hand into the cross (hit the nails together three times)
Finally, they drove a final nail through his feet into the cross (hit the nails together three times)
The cross was raised and Jesus hung there for the world to see.
The Bible says, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When He had said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 22:44-46 ESV)
Jesus was dead. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was sacrificed there for you and for me. He lived a totally sinless life and was a sacrifice worthy of eternal forgiveness. So, come to the cross and behold the Lamb.
The Cross Video (Video created by Passion City Church – linked to the left)
From the time of the first Passover, the Israelites understood God can deliver us from judgment for our sin through the sacrifice of a substitute, even though no animal sacrifice was sufficient for eternal forgiveness. Over 1200 years later, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross so we could be forgiven of our sins and live with Him forever. We all have a need to come to the cross and behold the Lamb.
We all have a need for Him – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23)
We all deserve punishment for our sin, but God has made a way for us – “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
He gave His Son for us because He loves us – “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8)
Admit to God that you are a sinner – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
We must confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts – “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him for the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
We must surrender ourselves to the Lord, making Him Lord of our lives – “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus surrendered Himself for you. What will you surrender of yourself for Him?
Will you give your life to Him as Savior and Lord?
Will you finally surrender those sinful habits to Him?
Will you start tithing or giving to the Lord?
Will you be willing to serve Him however He might ask?
Will you honor Him with your relationships?
Will you surrender to Him by finally sharing His love with your family?
Will you be honest at work, or with your taxes, or with your spouse?
Will you surrender yourself to vocational Christian service?
Is there something else you are willing to surrender to the Lord today? While the music plays, take time to pray, thanking the Lord for His sacrifice and asking Him what you should give to Him. Then, if you’re willing, write it out on your special Good Friday Communication Card you received when you entered tonight.
At this year’s Academy Awards, the movie Everything, Everywhere, All At Once won lots of Oscars. I know nothing about the movie, but I can relate to the title. It seems like now, more than ever, everything comes at us from all sides all at the same time. We try to balance marriage, family, work, home, finances, and multiple crisis situations all at once. It’s like comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “Just imagine you’re drowning and then someone hands you a baby.”
Life today really does seem like Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.
When I feel this way, when I think no one understands, I remember the Lord Jesus. He had days when He was so exhausted from speaking, healing, ministering, and teaching, that He literally fell asleep and stayed asleep in a boat as a storm was raging around Him.
The Thursday and Friday before He was crucified was certainly like this for Jesus. He went from washing feet to breaking bread to betrayal to sweat drops of blood to arrest to denial to trial to mockery to beating to carrying His cross to nails in His hands and feet to crying out “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsake Me?”
It must have been so stressful for Jesus to truly experience Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, especially when He was sacrificing Himself for Everyone, Everywhere, All At Once. We learn from the Bible that He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24). His death was sufficient to cover the sins of the world. His sacrifice was done once for all and will never have to be repeated.
On this Good Friday, let’s remember the price our Lord and Savior paid, once for all, as he experienced the weight of our sin, every one, everything, of people from everywhere, all at once.
I went to the doctor the other day. My nose was running, my eyes were watering, I had a headache, and I was losing my voice. My doctor wasn’t available, so I visited another one suggested at the clinic. During my exam, he asked me what I did for a living. Even though I could barely talk, I said, “I work at a church.” He smiled and said, “Oh, ok. We’ll get you fixed up and feeling better so you can get back to yelling at people.”
I should have asked him what he meant by that, but he was busy writing out my prescription and I didn’t have much of a voice.
But now, upon reflection, I think, “What an indictment that is against people in the ministry.”
I didn’t tell him what church I served or what my position was, so as far as he was concerned, I could have worked Our Lady of Prompt Succor, First Baptist Church, Celebration Church, or the Holy Ghost Healing and Deliverance Center. He had no idea. All he probably knew is what he’s seeing on social media and in the news. Being a part of the medical community, he probably saw hatred come through the eyes of Christians arguing for or against masks or the vaccine. He’s probably heard the rants of hopeful YouTubers against the methods of the Asbury Revival. He’s probably seen and heard the arguments of denominations about women in ministry. He’s probably also seen the confessions of former pastors, leaders, and Christians who have left the church because of hurt and abuse. Maybe he’s listened to one to many sermons of pastors going off on other people. Maybe he grew up in a church where his pastor, Sunday school teacher, small group leader, or youth minister was simply a jerk.
Who knows, maybe he ran into me on a bad day.
Maybe he heard me griping about church stuff or saw me being ugly to restaurant wait staff.
Maybe he saw a post I made at the expense of others.
Maybe I caught him off in traffic or maybe I yelled at him when he cut me off in traffic.
I didn’t say anything that day at the doctor’s office. Maybe that was part of the problem.
Regardless, I know one thing. I’m going to try to be more loving. I’m going to try to speak life into those around me. I’m going to start lifting more people up and stop pulling so many others down. I’m going to try to remember the words of Jesus, who said “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)
I want to change this doctor’s opinion of Christians, even if I never see him again.
On March 25, 433, St. Patrick stepped onto the shores of Slane, Ireland. He immediately demanded the opportunity to speak. His speech went something like this:
“Good people of the Emerald Isle! Henceforth on March 17th, or upon the weekend closest to that date, the rivers of at least one major city should be dyed green in my honor. People without the knowledge that the 3 leafed shamrock represents the Holy Trinity should wear them proudly, along with shiny green top hats. I decree that everyone should skip church in order to attend parades where green beads and cabbages will be thrown to the massive crowds who have gathered to celebrate the anniversary of my death! Oh, and children not wearing green shall be pinched unmercilessly. Ok, that’s it. Where’s the Guinness? Let’s all get sloshed!”
Ok, so that’s not exactly what happened. Here’s a more accurate account:
St. Patrick was born to Italian parents, residing in Scotland, in the year 387. When he was 14 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates, taken to Ireland, and forced to serve as a shepherd. While there, he learned the language and the customs of the people. He also spent much time in prayer and dedicated to Jesus. Six years after his capture, he escaped captivity and begged a ship captain to give him passage. Even as he was escaping, he had a dream where the people of Ireland were calling out to him, saying, “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”
Upon his return to England, Patrick began his studies for the priesthood and was later named as Bishop Patrick. He was then given the task of converting Ireland for the glory of God. He did arrive in Slane, Ireland in 433, and set about sharing the gospel with everyone he met. One legend says one Chief named Dichu tried to kill Patrick, but discovered that his arm was unable to move. Once he prayed to Patrick to give his life to Jesus, his arm relaxed and could move again.
Patrick preached the Gospel across Ireland, living the life of a missionary and converting thousands. He planted churches across the entire island, training priests and overseers to lead them. St. Patrick served for the remainder of his life in Ireland, living most of them in poverty and finally passing away on March 17, 461.
The following unselfish prayer is attributed to St. Patrick:
I arise today through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth, firmness of the rock.
I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me afar and anear,Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today against wounding.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today through the mighty strength of the Lord of creation.
May we all be so focused on Christ as was St. Patrick.
A few years ago, I was at a worship ministry conference with some friends. The speakers were great. The breakouts were informative. The worship music was amazing. But I was conflicted in my thoughts, in my heart, and in my spirit. I found the picture above, taken during that conference. That’s me, front and center, in the midst of a thousand worshipers, with my hands in my pockets and my head down.
I think my introspection during that conference happened when I attended a post session gathering at a nearby hotel. I met one of the breakout speakers and spoke some about the topic on which he would be sharing. Then, he asked the question that I haven’t been able to forget.
He asked me, “Hey, what’s your vibe?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “What?”
“What’s your church vibe?” he asked.
“I’m not sure I understand your question,” I replied.
He chuckled and said, “I mean, do you have a Hillsongs vibe, a Bethel vibe, an old Willow type vibe, a Vous Church vibe, or someone else? I mean, who are you trying to be like?”
Now, I don’t live in the dark ages. I know and admire all of those churches, but I’m not trying to be “like” any of them.
I guess I drifted off in thought some so he asked once again, “Come on, man. Who are you trying to be like?”
I smiled nervously and answered, “Jesus.”
He chuckled and quickly moved on to someone else with a different vibe.
As I write this, I’m at another conference. Once again, I’m conflicted and distant. Not because of the conference. It’s great and I’m learning a lot. But I can’t stop thinking about that conference a few years ago. I can’t help but wonder if I’m living up to my answer.
My prayer today is, “Lord, help me to always strive to be like You. Forgive me if I’ve ever reduced You or Your church to a vibe, a musical style, or a brand. You are my Lord. Help me die to myself daily, take up my cross, and follow You.”
Six months ago, I started using the paid version of the Lose It App.
As of this month (December 2022), I’ve lost 34 lbs with no surgery, no medication, and no supplements.
Here’s how it works:
First – I track my food intake. I type in my food or scan its barcode. If the food is not included in the app, I can add it using its real, or estimated, caloric information.
Second – I stick to my calorie budget (mostly). When I started my account, I entered my height, age, current weight, and goal weight. The app shared how long it will take for me to reach my goal weight IF I follow my personalized daily calorie budget. Currently, I’m scheduled to reach my goal weight by mid-March 2023. (We’ll see)
Third – I enter my daily exercise. When I exercise, not only am I raising my metabolism, but I earn extra calories which are added to my daily budget. My steps app is connected to my Lose It App. After 7500 steps, I can earn extra calories.
With the Lose It App, I can eat whatever I want as long as I enter my calories. I’ve discovered that when I track my calories that I tend to eat rather than drink my calories, drink more water, and make healthier choices simply because I have to enter what I eat. Also, when I make healthier choices, I get to eat more (which I like). Fortunately for my weight loss and unfortunately for my taste buds, as I lose more weight, my daily caloric allowance lessens. At first, I was upset about this, but now I understand because I’ve continued to lose weight.
I usually weigh once a week on Friday morning. Then, sometime during that day, I give myself a weekly treat (but I still keep track of its caloric information).
Have you had success using Lose It or another weight loss system?
If so, good for you. Let me knowabout your journey in the comments section.
Being a song that was passed down orally, The First Noel may date to the 13th or 14th century. Some believe the song was inspired by a dramatization of the Christmas Story where actors would act out vignettes as they sang. The song does tell the story of Jesus’ birth from Matthew 2 and Luke 2, and would have worked well as a dramatized song with a repeating chorus.
The word “Noel” is French for “Christmas” which is derived from the Latin word “Natalis,” meaning “Birthday.” Even though “Noel” works well for the chorus of The First Noel, it’s strange to consider that when the ancient singers arrived at the chorus of each verse that they were simply singing, “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas….”
The First Noel was first published by Davies Gilbert in 1823 in Some Ancient Christmas Carols. Ten years later, William Sandys published the song in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern increased the popularity and prominence of the carol. The song originally had nine stanzas, but five are most commonly used today. In most recordings, artists rarely perform more than two or three verses which is a shame because it causes people to miss out on the story of the song. Though the angels appear to the shepherds in the first verse, most of the carol focuses on the journey of the wise men, giving the carol an Epiphany focus. The fourth verse is one of my favorites:
“This Star drew nigh to the Northwest; O’er Bethlehem it took its rest.
And there it did both stop and stay, Right over the place where Jesus lay.”
Click here to read all nine verses of The First Noel.
Click here to hear Claire Crosby and Family sing The First Noel
Pastor Phillips Brooks was a staunch abolitionist, which was probably why he was asked to speak at the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln. However, he is most remembered for writing the lyrics for the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem.
Shortly after the American Civil War, Brooks took a sabbatical to the Holy Land which extended through the Christmas holidays. On Christmas Eve, Brooks traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on horseback so he could attend a service in Constantine’s ancient basilica, built over the potential site of the Nativity. Of his journey, Brooks reported: “Before dark we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it, in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds…Somewhere in those fields we rode through, the shepherds must have been.”
It was here, in the fields outside Bethlehem that Brooks first conceived the line: “O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.” Several years later, Brooks finally completed the song and asked Lewis Redner, his organist, to write the music. The song was first performed by the children’s choir of their church. It wasn’t long before the song was included in hymnals worldwide.
Even though Phillips Brooks and his wife never had children of their own, they had a great love for children. Later in life, they met and ministered to young Helen Keller, who was born blind and deaf. Brooks explained the gospel of Jesus to Keller for the first time. Keller, through her teacher and translator Anne Sullivan, said, “I’ve always known there was a God, but until now I’ve never known His name.”
Even though the third verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem waswritten long before Helen Keller met Phillips Brooks, it shares what the joy of salvation might have felt like to her:
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessing of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Click here to hear O Little Town of Bethlehem performed by Chris Tomlin.
The Advent Hymn, Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming was originally a German Catholic hymn titled Gebetbuchlein des Frater Conradus (Say that 3 times fast). The manuscript containing the song was found in St. Alban’s Carthusian monastery in Trier, Germany, so its original authorship is anonymous. The song was focused on Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is compared to the rose mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:1 – “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.” The story is told that one Christmas Eve, a monk found a rose blooming in the woods. He placed the rose in a vase and placed it before the altar of Mary. Whether that is true or not, the song was published somewhere around 1582. This first version had 19 verses.
By 1609, Protestants had adopted the song and changed its focus from Mary to Jesus citing Isaiah 11:1 – “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot, yes, a new branch bearing fruit from the old root.” Not to be outdone by the Catholics, the 1599 Cologne, Germany Protestant version of the song was published with 23 verses in Alte Katholische Geistliche Kirchengesang,which is a hymnal of sorts. I can just see the preacher now saying, “Ok, we’re going to sing all 23 verses unless someone makes a decision before the second verse.”
The version most known today was given a new tune by Michael Praetorius in 1609. Most collections today ironically contain only 2-3 verses.
Click here to hear a version of Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming by Reawaken Hymns