My blog has moved to http://www.SaintLewisMusic.com/ – for a direct link visit FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH.

I’ve gotten a few messages of late asking where I’ve been and why I’m not blogging…

…fact is, I am still blogging, but now my blog is HERE.  It’s still ‘under construction’, but coming along nicely… please stop by and subscribe.  As soon as I get the glitches worked out I’ll be moving the entirety of FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH to the Hope Farm site.

blessings, and thanks for reading!

Wisdom Moon – who’s podcasts have been an encouragement to me on many occasions – was kind enough to include Saint Lewis‘s song “All in All (You’re all I Need)” as the closer for the 10/8/08 edition of the ALL ABOUT WORSHIP podcast.  Why don’t you hop on over and subscribe today?

If you’d like to use “All in All (You’re all I Need)” in your own worship service I’ve attached the pdf files below… thanks!

All in All chord chart
All in All chord chart capo

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty much a perfectionist when it comes to the musical aspect of worship, or for that matter, anything musical.  When it comes to concerts I’ve performed, very few live up to my expectations.  That’s to say, when the band does not feel like it’s really ‘gelling’, I can become very frustrated.  Apparently, worship happened last night, according to others.  Here, however, is the worship-confessional I cut with our Tech guy, Chris, immediately after walking off stage.  This one is being dual-posted at both Chris & I’s sites.  Enjoy.

Inside Out Worship/Tech Confessional – October 8, 2008

It was late Spring/early Summer, sometime near my 9th grade year, not long after the locust plague, when walking outside was always crunchy, and our cars slip-sided from side to side on the pavement because we were continually hydroplaning on swarms of living insect carcasses.  It had been a dry Summer, so the numerous hummingbirds were clinging to our many feeders for survival.

Looking back, it probably wasn’t fair to the local avian life that our garage was painted sky-blue, and had so many windows.  It makes perfect sense how it had gotten trapped: garage door open wide, & a feeder hanging feet from the door filled with bright red sweetness.  

When I walked into the garage from the house, I immediately flinched, thinking it full of bumble-bees.  My recent encounter with a Bumble Bee nest, armed with nothing more than my younger cousin, and two baseball bats, had left a burning impression – many burning impressions – upon me, to say the least.  “Buzzzzzz – THWAK!”  It smacked HARD against the ceiling.  “Bzzzzz – THUMP!”  Against the window.  “Bzzzzzz – BOINK!”  Against the raised garage door.  That poor hummingbird was so disorientated by the color of our garage that it thwaked itself against everything but the wide-open garage door.  No matter how hard I tried to shoe it out the open door, if resisted my movements.  After almost an hour of struggle, it eventually landed in the middle of our empty Garage and simply gave up.

Its tiny body heaved with enormous breaths – it had clearly given up, and was giving itself over to me, likely convinced – or even, at this point, hoping – I would eat him up immediately and end this misery. 

I walked slowly up to the tiny bird, and scooped him up very gently in my hands: so small – so fragile & delicate.  It was like holding a rose petal, except that I could feel it’s breath, and it’s heart pitter-pattering like a tiny, infinitely fast motor whirring along within.  I walked outside the garage and held the tiny thing towards the sun.  It sat still for a time, simply resting in my palm, then buzzed away.

How hard we fight and struggle to make things happen, when usually the most important step is to “be still” – to sit back and let that mighty hand carry us, as we catch our breath.  Human effort can only take us so far, but the most important step towards freedom is always trusting one greater than ourselves to take the next step. Yes, often it looks and feels like death – it seems like ‘the end’, but that hand is good, lifting us towards the brightest Son, and releasing us to fly.

Ants

October 6, 2008

Some while back Cyle bought a “bounce-house” (a 10×10 ‘building’, filled with air?) for a measly $10, which I recently set up in our back yard for one of Kenimer’s (my 3 year old) play-dates.  Looking as though it may rain, this morning I zipped outside, and began folding it up to store it in our building.  While laying across the folded bounce-house, to speed it’s  release of air, a number of tiny ants caught my eye.  Moving my face closer to the ground, and straining to seem them clearly, I noted how the zipped this directly and that, as though they somehow held the fate of the universe in their ‘hands’.  For at least fifteen minutes I watched these ridiculous busy-bodies zip to and fro, accomplishing nothing of note, yet running as fast as they can to do it.  At one point I just wanted to shout, “Dude – you’re just an Ant! RELAX!”

Part of me admires the stupid bug for being so self-convinced of his own importance – for working with such passion and intensity.  Another part of me wonders how often God looks down upon us and whispers, “Dude – slow down, you’re just a human.  Relax.”

Don’t tell me it’s not possible.

Okay, gotta run – I’m really important and have a lot of really important things to do, which all must be done very quickly so I can get to all of my other important things.

;-)

Yo! I’m down wit it!

October 3, 2008

I ain’t black (but two of my nieces are), and I don’t listen to much rap, but I must say:
THIS IS DA BOMB! 

Probably the best rap record I’ve heard since High School, and it’s totally God-centered, & Christ-exalting!

Yesterday via my iPod one of my favorite Bible teachers/authors – Rich Nathan of the Columbus Vineyard – reminded me of a passage I hadn’t looked at in quite a while: “…the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes… Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said ‘Oh that we had meet to eat!  We remember the fish we at in Egypt that cost nothing…” (excerpts from Numbers 11:1a, 4-5a)

Part of me just wants to slap them – those fish didn’t cost anything BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANY MONEY TO SPEND – YOU WERE SOMEONE’S PROPERTY!!!  My lawnmower doesn’t pay for it’s own gas, either – surprised?  I buy the gas, then fill it up, then USE IT.  It’s MY lawnmower – my property – so I take care of it’s needs. Idiots.  Then, I think – been there, done that.

The whole time I was an ultra-conservative, politically, that was my motivation: return to the “Good Ole’ Days”.  Too many Christians, in fact, lack a ‘Kingdom mindset’ and even their evangelism is not based on love for others and a desire for them to meet Jesus, so much as to save culture and protect what they’ve got – to keep the status quo of comfort for themselves and their families.  Sadly, the “Good Ole’ Days” weren’t “good” – they were just “ole'”, er, I mean, OLD.  

That means “past”, and let me tell you – my    memory   is   selective when remembering that stuff.  In fact, I began many years ago (still not finished, though) writing an autobiographical book which recounts some particular moments in my past which I know for an absolute fact did not occur exactly as I remember them.  My mind has dreamed about these events, I’ve daydreamed what might have been, I’ve told the stories in different fashions to different friends so many times that not even I remember precisely what really happened.  Sure, if I wanted to be ‘historical’ about them, I can pretty much piece together the solid bits with a little “critical realism” applied to my memories, but that’s no fun, so I’m writing these stories with all the extra little oddities left in – call it a study of dreams and memories, cloaked in dramatic biography.  Blah blah blah – whatever I was talking about, though…

That was all the long-winded ‘Shannon’-way of saying, if you asked yourself DURING what you now consider the “Good Ole’ Days”, you probably would complain to point to another bit of “Good Ole’ Days” even further in the past, or – if you’re a political liberal (I did that for a while, too), you point to some imagined idyllic utopia in the future, which any historian worth his weight in butter will tell you will result in something that looks like Communist China or Nazi Germany.  The road to destruction is paved with great intentions, huh?

What we have is NOW.  The only “Good Ole’ Days” that ever existed were at some point in the way distant past visualized for us as a Garden where God walked with us in unbroken relationship, and the only idyllic utopia in the future we have to look forward to is the Garden-ic moment reworked in us through God’s Kingdom come – and coming – which happens NOW, before it happens any other time – and right HERE, in our hearts, first and foremost – before it happens any place else.  It’s not a ‘return’ to what life was like 10 or 20 years ago, because the sin in people’s hearts was just as hell-bent then as it is now – the only difference was which sins were publicly acceptable (those have always changed) and which were condemned and frowned upon.

So, there you go: the “Good Ole’ Days” probably sucked too.  Stop complaining before the Lord and trying to RETURN to something that never was, and in the NOW step forward with God into His Kingdom, which begins inside of each of us – that starts with ME.

Let Your Kingdom come… let Your will be done… so that everyone might know Your name.
(Let Your Kingdom Come – Bob Kauflin)

This has been a good week.  I call it a good week because it was a week chock full of me doing what I was made to do: worship.  Yes, that should happen ALWAYS – we should all live there – but I, personally, find a heightened sense of God’s presence when I’m worshiping in community and with song.  

First, My wife & I led our church’s Wednesday noon prayer meeting.  Pulling from an assortment of old favorites like “Consuming Fire” & “Give us clean Hands“, a few newer ‘prophetic’ songs from IHOP, and an original chorus by my wife, we spontaneously led various numbers interspersed with and flowing from the prayers being offered up in the room.  I’ll be honest – I find that degree of spontaneity personally challenging (though, I’ll admit it: my wife LIVES THERE), & I was a bit unsure of whether or not we really ‘connected’ to those in the room.  I found hope in the fact that, at least from my own heart, God was worshiped, and I received a number of kind remarks about it later in the week.  That’s an area I’d like to grow in, but God graciously showed His face to us in spite of my weakness.

Later than night, we had a special INSIDE OUT Sr. High service with an extended time of worship, which I co-led with one of my youth leaders, Aaron.  His worship leading is energetic and infectious and most definitely connects with his peers, and I love to see younger leaders stepping up to the plate.  Though it wasn’t the single most passionate/expressive Wednesday night we’ve had so far this school year (there have been weeks that I wondered if we’d go ‘pentecostal’), the Holy Spirit was clearly present, and hearts were changed.  First, Aaron led the opening set of “My Glorious” (Delirious), “One Way” (Hillsong United), and a powerful song he introduced to our youth the week before – which, I might add, I’ve been pulling for since I heard the demo – “Glorious One” (Fee).  What’s more interesting, HE LED FROM THE BASS – and did it very well.  My personal favorite from his set is Steve Fee’s “Glorious One“, as it’s such a good balance of Biblical truth and personal response, packaged in a powerfully melodic chorus, yet at the same time it’s very easy to pull off (unlike his other awesome, but nearly unreplicable, “All because of Jesus”).  Later, following a time of sharing & testimonies, I continued our corporate singing by re-introducing our youth to the infamous “Healer” (which I love even more BECAUSE of the controversy: the song feels even deeper knowing the real story behind it), “Jesus Paid it All” (a favorite at our church, especially among our youth), and sent them home with a challenge, much like Fred delivered on SSCC’s night of worship, to reach our community, with “God of this City“.  Overall, it was a truly exciting night as I looked out over the room and saw a mix of indifferent (dudes who are merely there to pick up chics – at least they’re coming and hearing the Word and seeing authentic worship) and those truly moved (at least 4 groups were huddled up, praying, and in tears).  I love Inside Out and am proud of what goes on there week by week.

 

And this portion is ‘participating’ in Fred’s Sunday Setlist blog.

Lastly, I was in the rotation to lead for this past Sunday morning as well, which is always a joy.  Our Sunday AM musicians are professional, friendly, and a pleasure to work with, so rehearsal is rarely a chore (though even the best band has their moments, I admit it).  I was particularly excited to have my wife on both keys and singing alto for this morning!  Thursday night’s rehearsal was one of the smoothest I’ve ever had to date, and seemed to zip right by, and Sunday morning – apart from me forgetting lyrical phrase (along with EVERYONE ELSE) from one song – went spectacularly.  The band played almost flawlessly, the congregation was fairly responsive and seemed to be connecting with the songs (pockets folks stood and raised their hands of their own initiative), I personal felt ‘connected’ to God and our congregation as a leader.  Our set started off with Tim Hughes’ “Happy Day” – one of my personal favorites – after which I welcomed everyone to church, and dove into a 2 song set of “Your Grace is Enough” (Maher/Tomlin) and “Mighty to Save” (Hillsong).  Though I am by no means a servant of Hillsong – there is particularly much in their lyrics that I question at times – this song in particular deserves recognition and use among churches of every flavor: the lyrics are powerful proclamation and intimate response all wrapped up into one, and the melody is infectious.  I wouldn’t mind singing this song every week, personally.  After an far-more-intense-than-usual sermon by David mostly about trusting God in our current financial climate, we had communion, during which we sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” and Tomlin/Redman’s classic reworking of a great hymn, “The Wonderful Cross“.  Sadly, we ran short on time during our first service and had to cut our closing song, but for the 2nd service we responded with “Though I Will Trust You“.  If anything were to have gone better on Sunday, I think I should have considered my words more carefully – somehow, I had given what I was going to say that morning little thought, and found myself digging for the right turn of phrase at times, but I don’t think that was too distracting, thankfully.

All in all, it was a wonderful week.  Thank You, Father!

Worship Leading Marathon Week!

September 24, 2008

Yes, these are my favorites.

With Fred on vacation, I was asked to lead worship for our mid-week prayer service – my wife is joining me on keys.  That night we’re having a special night of extended worship with the INSIDE OUT BAND, then Thursday evening rehearsal for “Big Church”, then sliding into home-plate on Sunday morning!  Add in all the planning, extra home rehearsal, and minor arranging, and you’ve got a whole week of working on both of my favorite things: God & music.

This is going to be a GOOD WEEK.

Thank you, Jesus!

Pride & Phone Theft…

September 23, 2008

Sounds like a powerful new book title, doesn’t it?

This past Saturday I bought my wife’s phone back.  I got a phone call on my cell phone from my wife, Cyle, which was only odd because she appeared to be calling me from her cell phone, and yet we were both home and she was JUST outside – I could’ve heard her just as well if she just called my name a little more loudly than would be normal under not-in-the-middle-of-an-argument-like circumstances.  The voice, however, is what really threw me; “Hey, do you know this number?

Immediately I wanted to kick his… um… rear.  No, I wanted to do far worse than that.  My first impression was that Cyle was being held at knife-point in the back-yard, and I was immediately trying to figure out how to kill him, while not harming her.  Yes, I went there that quickly.

I was absolutely trashed last night and I bought this cell-phone at the gas station on Gloucester“, he said next – not even realizing that I had been planning my wife’s rescue, and his demise.

He was now off the hook, to a large degree, but I still wanted to beat him down.  I got the details of the story from him, and his tale had some merit.  I asked some facts of my wife and it appears she left her phone in our car – which was parked on the street – and forgot to lock it.  She talked to him for a few minutes, and it came to the point that he asked for his money back, at least in part.  We said ‘yes‘, sorta.

We TOLD HIM, verbally, “yes” – but what we meant was, “I’m not quite sure yet – I want my phone back, and I can’t get a new one for $20, but I’m considering all sorts of things to protect my pride in this matter, including just sending a cop over to pry it from your fingers.”  So, we called the cops, and talked through all of our options, including the possibility that he was some sort of evil conspirator, and that I would be taken hostage or jumped/mugged/killed in broad daylight in a busy parking lot when I drive to meet him with my $20 to get my wife’s cell phone back.

At the climax of this story, I drove to his mama’s house – where he was recovering from his hang-over – handed him a $20 in his yard, and got my wife’s cell-phone.  He was clearly a nice fellow, and it would’ve made a rather boring scene in an action/suspense movie.  Then I drove home, still carrying the gnawing sense that I wanted to woop on someone viciously.

Of course, this was the power of my internal sense of justice and right-doing, right?  Probably not.  It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t believe someone stole a cell phone out of a car right in front of a home.  It was that someone stole MY wife’s cell phone, out of MY car, in front of MY home!  How could they do that TO ME?!?!

Ah, world – bow to the mighty Shannon!  Recognize his greatness, and humble yourself before him, lest ye pay!

Pride is a real jerk.  You think your doing pretty good spiritually (there’s the first mistake, actually), and the next thing you know, you’re your god – the al-wussy judge of the universe, to whom all must pay their dues if they attempt to hinder – or complex-ify – your way whatsoever.

The good thing about this discover is that now I know who’s tail to kick.  Mine (some would call it the flesh).

I’m diggin’ you a shallow grave
An’ to the sun your face I’ll raise
I’m diggin you a shallow grave
One hundred buzzards a’buzzin’

 

I’m diggin’ you a shallow grave
An’ on your rotten bones I’ll raise
Yellow daisies For my true loves hair
One hundred buzzards buzzin’

I see death runnin from his Majesty
O Lord, where is the fear in me?
In between your praying hands
You hold the skeleton key

(Lyrics from “Heal on the Shovel” by Sixteen Horsepower)

When have you found pride slip in on you when most would feel your actions were justified?  
How do you personally war against the flesh?  What techniques word best for you?
Why wasn’t Sixteen Horsepower world-famous when they were still a band?

Important questions to consider – discuss…

Hello.  My name is Shannon, and I use a capo.”

*GROUP RESPONDS: “Hello Shannon!

I admit it – I’ve thought that before about “Capo Users”.  I’ve gotten hand-cramps for the sake of my glorious anti-capo-dom.  I’ve forced complex songs into simpler keys, far outside my sweet-spot vocally, to massage my ego and not use a capo.  I’ve played chord-shapes that don’t ideally befit the riff/hook for the sake of being that guy who’s “better than the capo users”.  Yes, on rare occasions I used a capo, but only on open tuned guitars – the fact that I had 4 guitars on stage, 3 of which were in alternate tunings, gave me enough “cool points” to counteract the evil capo – sorta like buying “Carbon Credits”.

In ’03, however, I saw Shane & Shane live.  That dude MASTERED the guitar, and he was a capo maniac: capos upon capos – cut capos inserted at odd angles into other cut capos.  I think at one point he had to be using a capo on his vocal chords, too – Mr. Bernard’s range is pretty …well… “pretty” – in the “female” sense of the word.  Is it normal for a guy to sing soprano?  In all seriousness, I love Shane & Shane, and that show was where I realize that a capo is a tool (and not in the sense that some people may consider me one at times – oh no!  Did I just go Mark-Driscoll on you?!!).  Just like any tool, it has it’s purpose, and can also be misused.

So here’s my theory of Capo: please don’t use it as a crutch to hide the fact that you only know 3 chords – that’s sad.  Granted, if you DO only know 3 chords, and you’re asked to lead worship somewhere, I’d rather you used a capo and play well than not use one and be an obnoxious distraction.  However, let your goal be to learn the real chords, and use them when it sounds good.  However, some songs only sound ‘right’ with certain chord shapes on the guitar, and a capo is how you get those shapes.  “Marvelous Light” is the greatest example: the song is most singable, and in my opinion, grooves best in ‘B’, however if you play a ‘B’ chord shape (any of them) on an acoustic guitar to drive the song you really loose the bright, ‘jangly-ness’ of the song.  Playing a B, E, G#m, F#, & etc. on an acoustic has ‘thump’ on the low-end (which is why I don’t capo “Sweetly Broken”, though it’s the same chord progression – the ‘bottom end’ of the chord progression helps keep the song ‘weighty’), but capo to the 4th fret, and play a G-shape, C9, Em7, & etc – their is a brightness, and a continuity in the changes (particularly on the high end) that carries the song.

Therefore, I repent – or rather, I repented some time ago.  Use a capo, but not as a crutch – use it as a tool.  Use it to open up your guitar to tones that help you blend into an overall band setting, give brightness or weight to a progression, depending on the song’s ‘mood’, or even – as Shane & Shane do with cut capos – to significantly alter your guitar’s tuning in a flash (not just up a step, but from Standard, to open G, or drop D).  Used this way a capo can really open up the breadth of what your guitar is capable of.

So, “Hello.  My name is Shannon, and I use a capo.”

Goodbye Rick…

September 21, 2008

He was the quiet one – the fellow in the background.  Sure, folks debated continually on who was more important to “the Pink Floyd sound” – Syd, Roger, or Dave – but I’ve never heard Rick mentioned.  Most aren’t aware that, like George Harrison’s impact on the song-writing of the Beatles, Richard Wright was a cornerstone for the success of Pink Floyd, not only as one of the world’s most creative keyboardists, but also as a writer, having penned – to a large extent – many of the most important songs on my very favorite Pink Floyd albums; ECHOES, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, & WISH YOU WERE HERE.

Wish you were still here, Rick

(Rick wrote most of, and sings the chorus’s of “Time”)

and one of my very favorites of all-time, which Rick co-wrote & co-sings lead on…

In one sense, I’ve not always been a musician, but in that sense, no one has.  However, my very earliest memories – sitting on an old couch in my living room in South Western Ohio listening to “Abbey Road” by the Beatles with my folks – have left me ruined for much thought of a life without it.  My lonely years as the awkward child in elementary school were comforted by the Beatles, and eventually the Police and Tears for Fears, singing to myself while swinging, often alone, on the swings at recess.  Those led to my ‘suicidal years’ – and who doesn’t want to kill themselves at least some time between 7th & 10th grade – when I was comforted and befriended by Pink Floyd, and their vast catalogue of psychedelia.  Sure, I did the ‘piano lessons’ thing for a time, but I think I dropped those by the 3rd grade.  Through it all, I wrote – I have probably a hundred pages of songs I had written – melody & lyrics – during those formidable years.  When I first turned 15, however, I was thrown into the fire…

My grandfather had been in a mental institution since forever.  I never met him.  Not too long after my grandmother’s best friend died, her widowed husband moved in with her – they lived right next door.  He played guitar – WELL!  Late one evening after I had finished my homework I took to the path behind our house and went to grandma’s.  That’s when I held my first guitar…this one:

A Chet Atkins Gretch – one of the first electric guitars to have a tremelo bar.  Even better, this was CHET ATKINS OWN GUITAR, now owned by his brother, Buddy, who was my grandma’s live-in’s jammin’ partner!  For the next year or more I ran next door nightly to learn the basics from someone of his generation: “Wabash Canonball” & “Blue moon of Kentucky”, for starters.  The infatuation with guitars took hold of me so deep that I volunteered to take over as songwriter/manager/background vocalist for a local highschool metal band with a lot of turn-over.  It wasn’t long until it was my band, and I was the lead singer and primary songwriter, when weren’t covering Bon Jovi (remember, they rocked once), Scorpions, Irons Maiden, Motley Cru, or Slayer.  Eventually we all ended up Christians, and the lyrical content changed significantly, but that’s another story.  Next, I bought my own guitar…

Mine was actually far uglier: pink snakeskin, with gold accessories.  A true glam-metal axe if there ever were one.  What I find even more interesting is the sales associate who sold me on it: at the time he was on break from his primary gig, and was simply working at a guitar shop & singing lead for the local band The Bears (who rocked, I should add).  However, his name was Adrian, and his primary ‘gig’ was as a world-famous producer, and the lead singer/guitarist of King Crimson.  Oddly enough, my musical tastes would soon shift, and that guitar played far more music by the Cure, U2, and the Church (bring on the delay!) than it ever did metal.  Odd.

Of course, this was still only the beginning…  more to come.

“Worthy” again…

September 17, 2008

Thanks in great part (in total?) to Fred, my article “WORTHY” has now been re-published online at ChristianPost.com.  Thanks Fred!  Please show some love, and drop by there and leave some comments!

I’m sorry for the lack of real content as of late.  One would think that being without a full-time job would amount to having a great deal of free time.  One would be WRONG!  Between catching up on my honey-do list from the Summer (having pulled 80+ hours a week this Summer, I didn’t do much around the house), entirely redesignig my home studio (Dear Jesus, please let me finish it up today!), and trying to start a new ministry, I’ve been surprisingly busy.  The bummer is, that leaves me not only little to no time to blog, but even less time to, well, make money.  I’m open to creative suggestions, particularly ones that involve me doing what I’m passionate about, and gettting paid to do it – namely, various combinations of God & music.

blessings!

I’ve made a mix of some of our favorite corporate worship songs at INSIDE OUT & RUSH HOUR over the past few years.  There’s some good stuff here.

“Best” Reading…

September 15, 2008

So, I did the ‘swap’ with Fred today, and reluctantly handed off Kauflin‘s amazing WORSHIP MATTERS book in trade for UNCEASING WORSHIP by Harold Best.  I devoured the intro & first chapter at church (don’t tell!!!) this morning (I’m a very fast reader) and really liked the taste of it.  Anyone else read this?  If so, what did you think?

Earlier today I responded to Fred’s blog on DISTRACTING WORSHIP, and it led me to want to ask the positive side of the question:  WHAT (corporately) ENCOURAGES YOU TO WORSHIP GOD? That could mean; what leads you to recognize God’s greatness?  What pushes you to want to live all-out for Him?  What actions, places, environment, physical expressions, phrases, etc. encourage you to focus upon God during times where the body is gathered and praising Him, and increases your personal passion to pursue Him more fully?  Okay, I’m sure you’ve got some… WHAT ARE THEY?!??

Time to get a clue…

September 9, 2008

If you haven’t yet awoken from your CCM induced stupor, it’s time to buy this, and wake up.

It’s about time we all got a clue… what a great c.d.! Creative, original, refreshing worship, indeed.,

I wouldn’t be lying if I said – which I will, and am about to – that I have checked iTunes at least weekly since I discovered it (about 4 years ago now) for literally ANYTHING by the great Australian alternative rock band, Midnight Oil.  Known best for their 80s mega-hit “Beds are Burning“, most do not know, however, that lead singer Peter Garrett is not only a former surfer, and a social activist, but also a Christian, and currently serving full-time in the various areas of the political sphere down-under.  As some have asked; “Do you remember what it was like to listen to music with a message?”  Midnight Oil were like the Australian U2 – and fans of the Cure, the Church, the Clash, or the formerly mentioned kings of Anthemic Brit-rock should most definitely explore their catalog.

A great place to start is their compilation, 20,000 WATT RSL, but my personal favorites are BLUE SKY MINING, and DIESEL AND DUST.

If you’re going to be scanning singles, check out; “Beds are Burning”, “Blue Sky Mine”, “Dreamworld”, “Underwater”, “Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers”, “King of the Mountain”, “Golden Age”, & “Forgotten Years”.  Here’s hoping that Midnight Oil return to the music business soon!  ENJOY!

So, not a dissertation today – just a question:

What ‘current’ (defined as you see fit) corporate worship songs move you to worship God the most passionately right now?  Do you have a gem that’s just ‘ripping you up’ currently?  I know that for me, “Let Your Kingdom Come” by Bob Kauflin has been my anthem for quite sometime, the Vineyard’s “All I Have“, & Sov. Grace Music’s “Out of the Depths” have really turned my eyes upward, and I can still – after over a year of using it – hardly get through John Mark McMillian’s “How He Loves” without crying, even if we sing it two services back to back!

What about you?  What songs are really moving you at the moment?

THANKS FOR LISTENING!

September 3, 2008

I just wanted to give a shout-out to all who came and and all who listened to us on 89.3FM, WECC The Lighthouse last night, either in person, on the air, or online.  We recieved many encouraging words, and – I must say – we were really blessed to have been there and hope to return again soon in the coming months!

In the meanwhile, they’ve added our song “All in All (You’re all I Need)” to their rotation, so be encouraged to give them a call (800-577-WECC) and request it when you’re in the mood.

Lastly, we were asked by a few people for chordcharts of our originals last night.  Though they’ll be on CCLI and on our own website soon, just drop me an email at saintlewis@bellsouth.net and I’ll get them to you right away.  Thanks for listening, and for the encouragement – blessings to you and yours!

appearing live on the air – tonight – on the Lighthouse, WECC 89.3 @ 6:30PM!

I’ve published a full review of Sovereign Grace Music’s “COME WEARY SAINTS” over at theWorshipCommunity.com.  Stop by and take a read!

This one is a bit different… hope you like.

John Stott on Worship

August 25, 2008

All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his Name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the Name of the Lord, and worship is praising the Name of the Lord made known. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced. Indeed, it is their unnatural divorce which account for the low level of so much contemporary worship.

Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor, and our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fullness, and the congregation begin to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before his throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God.

-John Stott, Between Two Worlds

Believe it or not, this is not from a book on worship, but a book on how to teach the Word of God.  Powerful, convicting stuff, huh?!

Do you go to the Inside Out / Rush Hour youth groups at St. Simons Community Church and are looking for recordings on the songs we sing?  Are you a worship leader looking for a few proven new songs to add to your set?  Do you just enjoy worship music and are always looking for something new?.  This iMix is for you:

INSIDE OUT/RUSH HOUR – greatest hits

And now for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

My stack of c.d.s to review has grown taller than is manageable, so in a desperate attempt to knock out some reviews, and promote a few dear friends, here’s is my ‘Triple Play’ review special!


McKendree Augustas
A View for Opened Eyes
(c)2008 

My brother-n-law – and one of my best friends – has accomplished quite a lot since he moved to Nashville a few of years back.  He’s toured with Jeff Deyo,  Britt Nicole, and is currently on tour with SonicFlood, and in the midst of the madness he still made time to write and record a debut cd worth being very proud of.

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what to compare McKendree’s sound to.  He’s got the ghostly electronics of Radiohead, the wide open atmosphere of Coldplay, with the pounding piano of Ben Folds, and the worshipful lyrics of John Mark McMillan, and at least a peripheral awareness of emo-guitar, all mixed into a creative, original, & refreshing debut.

By far the stand-out is “Beautiful“.  The melody line is original enough to keep you guessing, but still has hook.  The chorus is simple and singable.  The music builds slowly, with the addition and subtraction of instruments sometimes from one line to the next.  With the right people behind it, combined with a good music video, I’m convinced it could be a hit single – not only in ‘Christian’ radio, but a ‘cross-over’ hit.  Yes, it’s that good.

A few other stand-outs are are the two corporate worship songs; “Attention“, & “Strength to Carry On“.  Though the first verse of “Attention” is a bit hard to grasp at first, the rest of the song is the sort that a whole room of people can quickly latch onto, as is all of “Strength to Carry On“, which I’ve already led at our youth service.

There are some places that may lose the casual listener.  For one, the intro song – “Proemial” – is likely going to turn away some, particularly those not already familiar with McKendree’s more accessible songs.  That said, this c.d. is only a glimmer of what he is capable of (I’ve heard it ALL), and is a shimmering sign of what is to come.  

A View…” is well worth picking up, and will leave you wanting to hear more from McKendree in the future.

 


David Herndon
Into Danger / Out of Rescue
(c)2008

I would be lying if I said that I expected to be blown away from David’s 2nd c.d.  David & I have been friends for a few years now – we’ve sung on worship teams together, & I’ve long been familiar with his music.  Though there were a few good songs on his debut c.d., nothing there really moved me.  In comes “Into Danger / Out of Rescue“, and I must confess: my jaw was wide open during the whole first listen.  This was David Herndon?!

The melodies were memorable, the song-writing catching, his vocal delivery is absolutely convincing, and most of all, the lyrics CUT DEEP.  I was already nearly in tears before finishing track one.  “Into Danger…” is David’s “Time out of Mind” (Bob Dylan) or “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel” (Wilco) – production-wise, an alt-country masterpiece, and as far as songs are concerned, a very solid, and challenging collection that makes me proud to say “I know that guy“. 

The most note-worthy song is “Church or a Brothel“, which – by title alone – brings up issues many will be uncomfortable with, and asks questions which society as a whole often shy away from.  My personal favorite, however, is “Reflection” – an alt-country performance that, oddly enough, rings with subtle shades of mid-80s Tears for Fears, and the Police.  It’s that sort of genre-bending creativity, and the strong production value, that makes “Into Danger…” so worthwhile.

Personally, I hope to hear David pursue this direction even further, but until then “Into Danger…” has been – and will be – a permanent fixture in my car’s c.d. collection.  That’s where I keep my favorites.

 


Matthew Perryman Jones
Swallow the Sea
(c)2008 

As I’ve written about before in this blog, there was a time a few years back when Matthew & I used to occasionally play out together in the Athens/Atlanta area at places like Eddie’s Attic & the Bean’ry, and he’s the fellow who introduced me to Indelible Grace’s music (he appears on most – if not all – of their cds).  He’s a gentle spoken man, a strong songwriter, and has an absolutely beautiful voice.  

I was excited to discover earlier this week the release of his 3rd studio full-length, “Swallow the Ocean“, and though the whole c.d. has not yet grabbed me, it holds promise, and a few singles which have already probably made it into my ‘favorite new music of ’08’ list.

The first song of note, which I’ve featured on this site before,  is “Save You“, which has already enjoyed some popularity as an iTunes single, after appearing in a number of popular prime-time television shows.  The song is simple, and lovely, bringing to mind what Coldplay might have sounded like if Chris Martin had been raised in the southern USA.  My personal favorite is “Without a Clue“, which show-cases a nice piano hook, and great lyrics that look back on the romantic naivete’ of youth.  With it’s anthemic chorus, it’s hard not to note U2’s influence on Matthew’s otherwise southern acoustic folk style.

Though I’m not yet sold on the whole disc – his debut was so fantastic that it’s hard not to judge all his later releases by that standard – it definitely contains a few ‘must-download’ singles, and if my guess is right, will prove to be a worthy investment as a full-length as well.

Here’s hoping I get to gig again with Matthew in the future.

That’s all… I hope I’ve been of service to direct you towards some great new music that will move your soul.

(originally delivered at the University of Georgia WDA campus ministry)

Let me first admit to all of you — this is not an easy subject for me to write on. God’s love is a many sided thing, and as of late I have been receiving His hard love — discipline, correction, and rebuke. I have built up over the years a number of bad habits, which He is busy stripping me of at the moment, and I’m finding that rather hard to deal with. So, right off the bat, I don’t want you to think that the image of God’s love that I’m painting it all rosy, pie-in-the-sky by-and-by. Yet God’s love is real.

And yet again, I feel I have bit off FAR more than I can chew. I feel like St. Augustine when, it is rumored, he encountered a young boy on the beach that compared Augustine’s attempts to write books about God to the boy’s own attempt to pour the sea, bucket by bucket, into a small hole in the sand. This has led me to acknowledge outright that if I say ANYTHING tonight that speaks to you, it is not I. This is my attempt to pale the entirety of the Pacific into a small hole in the sand.

But seriously, I approached this subject asking myself, “How do I make this material new?” knowing that many of you will have grown up in the church, and may have heard it so many times that, sadly enough, you’ve grown cold to it. But I don’t know that it’s my job to make the truth new, so much as to remind you of it, so apart from a few new angles, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

As the third part in a series on God’s love, I thought I might quickly summarize. First, we talked about how God has shown His love for us in giving the law. He illustrated God’s love using his own fatherhood as an example. We saw that like a good father sets rules in place for my child for his protection and well being, that he might enjoy life within the boundaries that it was meant to be enjoyed, God did the same in his law. Next, we were spoken to about God’s love expressed through the prophets. We saw how again and again God’s people have played the prostitute, leaving our groom to chase after our lusts, and yet we saw how God has been faithful, working continually to call us back unto Himself.

Tonight as I speak to you, I hope along with Paul in Ephesians 3:14; “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” And in light of that, let me add — if you think you’ve got a grip on this “love that surpasses knowledge”, you REALLY haven’t yet even begun to understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Man, I do love Louie!  His preaching is passionate, God-centered, & Biblically solid, and his vision is HUGE!  For those of you who agree, I really do suggest watching this official video from the Buckhead (Northpoint) Church blog.  May God inspire you to deeper faith (and acts of faith) as watching this did in me!

Before I post my final review, I’d love to point out a few of my friend’s takes on the event:
Nate Fancher on REDISCOVERING THE PSALMS
Brad Loser’s WORSHIPGOD08 DEBRIEF
and conference host/speaker/dude, Bob Kauflin’s overviews of Craig & Thabiti’s talks, and Mark & David’s.
I think you’ll find we were in significant agreement about the conference.

If the other electives available were even half as helpful/enjoyable/awesome as those I signed up for, then this may have been the greatest conference in history.

My first elective was THE TASK OF THE WORSHIP LEADER led by none other that Bob Kauflin himself.  And our task?  To be diligent in connecting individuals, where they are, to WHO HE IS, not to encourage people’s faith to be placed in a song, an emotion, or even a worship leader, but in Christ, as revealed in His Word.  He encouraged all of us worship leaders to:
1.) value the content of a worship song more than it’s hook,
2.) adjust our arrangements & volumes to serve & showcase the lyrical content of worship songs, &
3.) use instrumental solos wisely, in order to be careful to not turn ‘worship’ into mere performance.
 
Yes – it was challenging AND convicting.  His closing statement challenged us to “never settle for having a good meeting”, because meeting with God should be far more than that.  Amen.

My second elective was WRITING SONGS PEOPLE WILL WANT TO SING by Craig Dunnagan.  Craig is an old friend of our Worship Director, Fred McKinnon, and I can see why – they have historically shared a common vision, and interests.  This was, according to Craig, the first time he’s taught specifically on this issue – I wouldn’t have known.  He shared on the priestly, pastoral, and practical heart of Psalmists, told fascinating stories about other songs & artists we’re all familiar with, and best of all encouraged us in writing corporate worship songs that are both theologically correct AND accessible.  My favorite quote from his session: “a great worship song sounds like ANYBODY COULD have written it, but only one person DID.”  O, Holy Spirit, birth at least one of those songs in me.

Next I sat in on a mass guitar lesson with Drew Shirley of Switchfoot, who is a member at a Sovereign Grace church in Cali.  He was humble, approachable, and hardly – if it weren’t for his clothes – would strike you as a rock-star at all.  Sadly, he had JUST arrived as the session began, and was a bit scattered, actually hooking up equipment WHILE teaching.  He gave some fairly simple tips, likely more helpful to the beginning guitarist than the more experienced.  I, personally, was far more blessed by his presence and his heart than by his actual lessons.  That says a lot, I think.  

Next was the most horrifying session of the whole conference: the SONG EVALUATION led by experienced successful worship songwriter, Mark Altrogge.  I entered the room to see my own song, All in All, front & center, loaded up in iTunes and projected onto the screen in the front of the whole room, which was A PACKED HOUSE! Ack!  Even with Brad & Lowell behind me cheering me on, I felt my stomach in my throat, expected it to be shredded.  Thankfully, it wasn’t – in fact, the critique was overall very positive.  Whew!

Sadly, I only attended the first part of Todd Twining’s excellent VOCAL BLENDING elective.  The content was fabulous, but I couldn’t stay awake – coffee couldn’t do a thing…I simply needed a nap.  That said, I stayed for 3/4s of the session, and took a lot home, but it would be hard to share in a blog – very practical stuff.

Lastly, the only session I found somewhat disappointing was TRAINING UP THE NEXT GENERATION OF WORSHIP LEADERS.  I suspect that was because it really was different than I suspected, and they were following so many days of great material.  One thing that struck me was something they said that echoed one of my own beliefs: “encourage all guitarist TO SING”, that way they not only are able to demonstrate worship on stage, but they are able to engage with God through the content and not simply perform, which is the temptation.

Overall, they were some excellent sessions.  Honestly, I’d love to attend another Sovereign Grace conference someday.  Kudos to them for making this one so impactful.

I present to you… my first worship confessional… well, actually my second.  I deleted the whole first draft.  I came across as an arrogant, self-centered idiot in it, which rendered me entirely incapable of editing it in iMovie.  This one is better, but still I wonder – will anyone want to watch a 13 minute worship confessional?  I can taste the sinking blog stats now…

By the way, in order to participate in Fred’s ‘Sunday Set-Lists’, the set-list for Sunday was:

WALK IN: Tell the World – Hillsong United
1.  My Savior Lives – New Life Church/Desperation Band
2.  Marvelous Light – Charlie Hall
3.  Lead me to the Cross – Hillsong United
4.  How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin (w/ How Great Thou Art)
CLOSING: Hosanna – Hillsong United 

Now, I’ll admit right off that though I’ve gotten a great deal out of his blog, and have also profited greatly from reading his books, I’ve never found Mark Dever to be a very engaging speaker.  Add to that the fact that he was given the monumental task of showing how the Psalms related to Jesus in “GLORIFYING CHRIST WITH THE PSALMIST“, I’m sad to admit that this was the session I got the least out of.  It was much closer to an “introductory overview” than a sermon, and was almost more content than I could take in during a session.  I did find one reminder encouraging, and that is that the example that the Psalms give of simultaneously acknowleging our sadness in the midst of times of suffering, while showing us how to remember God’s past goodness, and resting in the work he has done in the saints who have come before us.

David Powlison, who spoke on “ENDURING TRIALS WITH THE PSALMIST”, was almost the opposite.  I have read Powlison twice now – first, one of his own books, which I gave away before I was finished, and second in a chapter in “Suffering & the Sovereignty of God“: his is the only chapter I take exception to, in what is otherwise one of my favorite books of all-time.  That’s just to say, I was primed for disappointment.  I was wrong.  Powlison is a compassionate communicator, and easy to follow, and I took so many notes that it would be very hard to cover them all.  His teaching was laced with gems, as he taught through Psalm 28, eventually bringing three very helpful applications for us as worship leaders:
1.)  Remember the Minor Key
2.)  Slower tempos allow time to process
3.)  Allow for silence – a time for rest

The final main session I missed in order to catch my flight on time, sadly.  It was given by Bob Kauflin, and given my experience listening to him on other occasions during this conference, I have no doubt it was powerful.  My wife heard some of it online and said to me, “Who is this guy?!  He’s GREAT!”  I love the fact that Bob would most certainly take issue with that, pointing the glory back to God and saying “HE IS GREAT!

In review of the main sessions, of those I attended, be sure to not miss KNOWING GOD…, EXPRESSING EMOTION…, & ENDURING TRIALS.

Next, the electives…

One thing that made Worship God ’08 unique from many worship conferences is the content of the main sessions.  Apart from the fact that the Psalms are the Old Testament hymn-book, none of the sessions were necessarily directly related to worship as it is commonly understood: corporate singing.  Likewise, only one of the sessions was taught by an individual others would consider a “worship leader”, and that was Bob Kauflin, the organizer of the whole event.  Instead, the speakers were  primarily Bible teachers, Pastors, & even Seminary professors, all of whom were solidly evangelical, and who took their time applying serious scholarship to the text before reaching into the various areas of application.  It was like a 4 day seminary for worship pastors, and much akin to drinking from a fire hydrant.  In fact, I will likely be going over my notes for several weeks in order to process it all.

The Wednesday night main session was KNOWING GOD WITH THE PSALMIST by Craig Cabaniss, a pastor in Frisco, TX.  “Where do we get our ideas about God?” Craig asked at the outset, noting that “…our perception of God will shape our response to God.”  Focusing his attention on Psalm 33, he drew attention to the WHY of worship, and challenged us to “…respond to GOD, who He IS and what He has DONE, and not to whether or not we are familiar with or like a song“.  Craig taught with great passion, and began the conference on the right step.

Thursday morning’s session was EXPRESSING EMOTION WITH THE PSALMIST by Thabiti Anyabwile, a jovial yet passionate pastor currently serving in the Grand Camman Islands, and the author of the excellent new book “What is a Healthy Church Member?” in the IX Marks series.  Taking apart Psalm 73, and teaching through it piece by piece, Thabiti pointed out that “…we as humans are terrible at predicting the source of joy…“, later adding that all “man-centered emotions ultimately lead to despair“.  The 73rd Psalm, it turns out, is a helpful reminder that believers may be experiencing a wide range of emotions.  Thabiti challenged us “too often we lead from ‘happy’ to ‘great joy’“, not addressing the fact that much of our congregation are simply not there.  Emotions are real, and important, but we – as pastors and worship leaders – need to address our congregations, and lead worship, in a way that directs our emotions God-ward, and guides and trains people’s hearts to respond to the right things.  Emotions for emotions’ sake will lead to despair, but “when I see Him, I will be satisfied“.  I found Thabiti’s applications particularly helpful, as he encouraged us to:
1.) Avoid shallow ways of triggering emotions
2.) Address the full range of emotions in our corporate worship
3.) Teach about and address suffereing
4.) Help our people see God in  way that draws them from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

In many ways what I drew from these first two main sessions is quite similar: to lead passionately, doing all I can to put together worship sets, and lead in a way, that meets our people where they are, and merely where I think they should be.  I was also challenged to better address our congregation in a way that leads them to see God, and aspects of God, and leading songs that give them an opportunity to respond to revelation genuinely, rather than merely encouraging emotion and excitement for the sake of emotion itself.  Though it may be exciting for me to see a whole room ‘stirred up’, doing so when the emotion isn’t genuine may actually be training our people to lead the ‘train by the caboose’ to use the old Campus Crusade for Christ illustration of FACT (the engine), FAITH (the cars), & FEELING (caboose).  These were helpful reminders, indeed.

Next up, Mark Dever, & David Powlison’s main sessions…

At the very outset of the conference Bob Kauflin noted that there were, usually, two different sorts of conferences, as far as worship goes.  There were those where the worship teams pulled together sets of all the most popular, and familiar new tunes, which everyone would be familiar with, or there was THIS CONFERENCE, where they would predominantly do all brand-new, original music, so we’d have fresh, new, Scripture-drench songs to bring back to our own congregations.  In all honesty, given that the great majority of those in attendance were worship leaders themselves, we grabbed hold of even the entirely unfamiliar songs and sang them with every ounce we had within us.  I must say, it was very refreshing to be in a room full to the brim of folks who’s hearts were just overflowing with passion for God every time the corporate singing began.

Though I’ve not yet grown familiar enough with these songs to know which one’s I will choose to introduce in the various corporate worship environments that I’m blessed to lead in, here are a number of the new songs we sang this weekend that have at least become a part of my personal worship time:


From the brand-new Sovereign Grace Music c.d. “Psalms” (you can listen to these songs at this link) these songs really moved me:
“Praise the Lord”, “God Shall Arise”, & “Blessed be the One”.

From the NA Band release “Looked Upon” I was really touched by:
“God over All”, & “Nail My Glory”.  I must say that I am VERY interested in seeing Devon & Jordan Kauflin continue on as songwriters.

And lastly, from Pat & Joel Sczebel’s independently recorded “You and You Alone“:
“Trust in You”, & “You are Good”.  I’ll admit it, these recordings could be better, but those are two POWERFUL songs, and seeing them lead (with Pat’s other son, Joel’s brother, Josh) brought tears to my eyes, not only because they demonstrated how music can be both simple and excellent, but also thinking of my own two sons, and looking towards the future, and what a blessing it would be to have my boys writing, recording, and leading worship with me one day.

More reporting on the actual sessions still to come…

Though I did indeed miss my lovely wife and family, I am in a bit of conference withdrawal!

Anyone who’s been following me on Twitter, BeenUp2, or Facebook is likely well aware that I have been in Gaithersburg, MD at the Worship God ’08 Conference hosted by Covenant Life Church/Sovereign Grace Ministries, and what an experience it has been so far!

I’ve been blessed to hook up face-to-face and get to know some fellow TheWorshipCommunity members, like Brad & Lowell from Clear Creek Community Church (who have taken me in like a member of their own church family), and other gifted and friendly worship leaders like Nate from Grace Church in Chapel Hill, Tim & Joel from Mars Hill Seattle, and Ryan & Jonathan from West Coast Revival, as well as the whole Sovereign Grace Music crew, who are incredibly friendly (when Bob Kauflin glanced at my name-tag and recognized my name he proclaimed “I AM SO GLAD YOU COULD MAKE IT!” then gave me a monster bear-hug… that definitely made me feel more than welcome).

One thing that really stands out about this conference is that, in spite of the foremention list of folks, this has really been a conference for the ‘average’ worship leader: very little ‘flash & bang’ or big production.  Worship has been led by real worship teams that lead on Sundays at various churches, leading mostly original songs written in-house at their specific church.  We’ve also been exposed to a WIDE variety of musical forms: bluegrass, jazz, rock, gospel, and combinations I don’t dare label, but which worked wonderfully (one team consisted of a Coldplay-esque rock worship band, accompanied by a violin & viola, drum-loops, record scratching, a black gospel singer, and a soulful blue harmonica player – oh, and they led almost soley old hymns… and for some reason, it wasn’t even that weird, in the moment).

I’ve got a great deal of content to share, but that will have to come later.  Needless to say, this conference has already been of great benefit to me, and I encourage any who have a chance to go in the future to do so.  More to come…

SOLD OUT

July 27, 2008

Haven’t blogged much this last week.  I’m trying to emotionally, intellectually & spiritually make the transition from my stable 8 to 5 week sitting in an office (ie – answering phone calls, counting large sums of money, transcribing minutes from various meetings, & mailing out fund-raising letters) & being confident that my bills will be paid from this week to next, to scheduling important future-shaping (mine & my families, and hopefully OTHERS as well… I’m trusting the impact will be that far reaching) meetings, and trusting that God can indeed work in and through our passions to accomplish awesome things, all while providing for our needs as well!  I can say this much for sure: I am beginning to truly feel ALIVE again!  Apart from developing a vision for the business/ministry I am founding, I’ve spent most of this week mixing down Saint Lewis‘ debut worship e.p., & either leading worship, preparing to lead worship, or rehearsing future musicians to help lead worship for; the Gathering Place, Team Effort, Inside Out/Rush Hour, & St. Simons Community Church.  Walking in your passions & giftings sure feels INCREDIBLE.  It’s been too long coming.

So, I ask myself… why have I put this off so long?  Why do I so seek comfort, without risk – without steps of courage?  I admit it: I am – I have been – afraid.  Today, however, I choose to walk in FAITH… sold out … committed to Him.  It feels great, and somehow even more secure than ever…

Thank You, God!

Amen…

Hold on… I’m throwing everything AND the kitchen sink at you today!

I’m cleaning off my old office computer, here are all the most interesting links I’d forgotten to share over the past few years…

A NEW SONG FOR THE NATIONS – by Fundamentally Reformed

BECOMING A BETTER WORSHIP SONGWRITER – by Bobby Giles, from the Worship Community

AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB KAUFLIN – from Mars Hill/Resurgence

IMPORTANT VALUES FOR CHRISTIAN ARTISTS – by Andy Farmer by Way of Justin Taylor

A STUDY OF PRAISE & WORSHIP – by William Duane Clark

LEADING IN THE VINEYARD – Vineyard UK

WORSHIP, THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HEDONISM – John Piper

On that day I married my lovely wife, Cyle Augustas.

I personally think it was a change for the better!

Thank you for marrying me, and changing my life – I love you.

Happy anniversary!

As it won’t be long before this blog moves over to SaintLewisMusic.com (in development), I thought I’d do a quick overview of some of the more popular, and more important blogs I’ve posted here over the past couple of years. Dig around, comment, link, and just have an all-around great time. Unquestionably, my number one blog has consistently been the text of a sermon I preached last year at our Youth Group, Inside Out. It’s called A GOD WORTHY OF WORSHIP, which has now been shortened into an article called WORTHY, featured at TheWorshipCommunity.com. More recently, I have added to this ‘series’ of worship sermons; WORSHIP [IS NOT ABOUT SINGING] part 1, & WORSHIP [IS ALL ABOUT SINGING] part 2.

My second most popular post here is related to the first – another message to Inside Out. It’s called THE MEANING OF LIFE, and is a teaching on our created-in-the-image-of-God-ness. Yes, that’s a word – I just said it, so it has to be!

Next in line were a few posts that are also some of my personal favorites. MISSING THE MARK addresses how one’s spiritual gifts can change the way in which they fulfill certain ministry responsibilities, in particular how one event re-shaped how I think of my own. LOOKING FOR POTENTIAL is a reminder to keep an open eye for certain signs of giftedness within your circles of ministry, and to encourage those gifts. Lastly, a few posts which, though they are not yet in the ‘top 5′ as far as popularity goes, mean a great deal to me. A FEW LESSONS LEARNED is a collection of things I’ve learned about leading worship over the past few years. DOING WHAT I WAS MADE TO DO is my reflection on a nearly perfect day. Lastly, ON BEING A WORSHIP CRITIC touches upon the temptation to trash those who don’t do it the way we do. In short, we should avoid that temptation. In long…well, you should read the blog! I also did a series on Apologetics as Worship, which began with UNBELIEF: ROADBLOCK TO TRUE WORSHIP. I address the faux CHRISTIAN VS. SECULAR MUSIC distinction, a phrase I find heartbreaking (THAT’S NOT WORSHIP), and EXCELLENCE & CREATIVITY.  Some more recent favorites include WELCOMED INTO HIS JOY, FINDING YOUR VOICE, and THE MAN BORN BLIND: GOD, EVIL & SUFFERING, which seems a very appropriate read, given recent events.

If you’ve missed any of those, be encouraged to play catch up, and jump in on the discussions – comments are still open. Let’s sharpen one another.

So be it!

In all seriousness, it’ s been a strange week. Though I never knew her personally (I had seen her before, but I don’t believe we’d ever met), we had a number of friends in common, and as it has many others, her music moved me deeply. Having followed her battle against cancer this past year or so, it really hit me hard yesterday to learn of the loss of Katie Reider. Apparently, there were many others her life and music touched as well, for it was the highest number of blog readers I’ve had since I started publishing my thoughts online several years ago (on Xanga – does anyone use Xanga anymore?). My prayers go out to her closest friends and family.

On the other side of the coin, I guess you’d call yesterday “bittersweet” – the source of my new-found “fame” (though I hope, in fact, that it expresses God’s fame): I’m excited to announce that my article “WORTHY” is being featured at TheWorshipCommunity.com, an new online Worship ‘magazine’ which facilitates discussion and community among worship leaders & worship musicians who are “in the trenches”, as some have said – those who are leading their congregations in worship in churches around the world every Sunday. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and new friends, during the time that TWC was merely an online forum, and I’m excited to see it grow, and take the obvious next step into a full-blown online publication. I’m also honored to have the featured article this week. Please swing by, read it, and be encouraged to comment!

Lastly, it was a good evening because I can see the release of Saint Lewis’ “Songs from the Hope Farm” e.p. immediately on the horizon. Very late last night my wife & I were putting the finishing touches on one of her originals, and it just excites me to see this small sampler (all of these songs – albeit more professionally mixed versions – will also be featured on our full-length c.d. expected early next year) of original worship material come together, and I’ve been really blessed by the positive feedback we’ve received on many of our songs these past few months. A very limited edition printing of the e.p. will be ready very soon, but until then please stop by our website-in-the-making: Saint Lewis Music.

May God’s blessings be evident, & His Spirit be near…

Today is a sad day for earth, and a happy day for Katie.  Please pray for her family & close friends.  She is indeed a voice that will be missed.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”–these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

Wisdom is knowledge lived out. The last quality of the mature Christian is this: they walk out the fruit of the Spirit – they put into practice the words of Christ – they practice what Jesus preached. When we know God intimately, meeting Him “in the secret place” – when we have that depth of relationship, the natural outworking of that is wisdom: living the life of Christ in a broken world. The mature Christian looks ever more like Christ – his life is conspicuously like Jesus, who was the Word made flesh – wisdom embodied, and lived. Read the rest of this entry »

My Bloody Valentine have reunited, are playing live, and working on releasing another c.d. Though they may not openly recognize God as the source, the depth of creativity with which they work almost single-handedly reshaped the rock scene in the late ’80s & early ’90s. I wonder if they’re up for trying that again? I hope so!

Here’s a sample of them in the ‘olden days’:

(originally delivered to WDA campus ministry at the University of Georgia)

“Lucky mud?” Is that all we are? Many of you, as college student, have likely encountered the innumerable unbiblical opinions expressed concerning who we are and what we are doing here. Richard Pratt, in his book Designed for Dignity tells the true story of a young woman who had left her husband and two children for another lover. The lover had recently thrown her out of his place, so alone in a hotel room, despairing the events that had led her to where she now was, she shot herself in the head with a .38 caliber pistol. The note she left on the nightstand simply stated, “Don’t cry for me – I’m not even human anymore. Ironically, just two floors down in that very hotel was a New Age convention. The gunshot couldn’t even be heard above the din of the crowd, who were all chanting, “I am God! …I am God! …I am God!

Sometimes we hear such rhetoric from the very same individual, such as when a non-Christian professor pokes fun of traditional religion and proclaims us masters of our own fate, yet at the same time believes that we are no more than the product of chance and law, so called “lucky mud.”

Even as Christians many of us have accepted the subtle lies of the culture around us, rather than the words of the very God who created us. We believe that we are entirely sovereign over our own destiny. We believe that work is merely a chore to be put up with and is only for the sake of sustenance. We believe that sensuality is the end all of everything, and that a marriage relationship that doesn’t bring us happiness is one to be abandoned, for surely our own happiness is God’s highest priority. In some cases, Christians even believe that we can abandon the Biblical story of Adam and Eve altogether, the very story that serves as a corrective of the many things we tempted to believe concerning who we are and what we are here for, and on which Christ’s very work as our redeemer, the second Adam, stands. Read the rest of this entry »

So far we have looked at four character traits of the ‘Mature’ believer, according to the Word; becoming a ‘self-feeder’, growing to be ‘skilled in the Word’, growing in ‘discernment’, and growing ‘beyond’ the basics. Now we’ll shift over to look at the ‘attitudes’ of a mature believer, or rather, how we are to think about some important Biblical issues.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

Philippians 3:7-16

Philippians 3 holds another key to Christian maturity, which I will call “attitude”, or rather the way we think about spiritual things. Earlier on in the book of Philippians Paul has already called us to put on the “mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5). Part of becoming more like Jesus and growing in maturity involves humbly learning from Him, and learning from others, like Paul, as they learn from him (1 Corinthians 11:1). Here we are hearing from Paul some of the thoughts and attitudes that Christ would have us to learn. As Paul clearly states, Let those of us who are mature think THIS way.” Read the rest of this entry »

What can I say?  I’ve been busy, and many of my favorite worship bloggers have gone post happy, and most of it contains GREAT content!

For instance, Milestone Worship brought us an excellent series called THE REDEMPTIVE WORK OF WORSHIP PART 1, PART 2, & PART 3, as well as another thought provoking addition to the SONGWRITING FOR WORSHIP series.

I am an Offering brought us a 2 parter on worship production that I found interesting; THE IMPORTANCE OF A PRODUCER, & PRODUCING FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH.  They also added another post in the PRACTICAL MUSIC THEORY series, which I’ve found very helpful in the past few months.  Lastly, they recently reviewed a book which I am currently reading, and encourage you all to pick up as well: WORSHIP GOD.

Rich Kirkpatrick just added two more to his Worship Mythbusters series, which I read faithfully; THE ROLE OF THE WORSHIP LEADER, & EXPRESSIVENESS IN WORSHIP VERSES LEGALISM.  Both of these really challenged me.

Adrian Warnock posted some interesting content from a multi-part interview with Phatfish’s Nathan Fellingham; THE THEOLOGY OF WORSHIP SONGS, & WRITING SONGS FOR WORSHIP.

And lastly (I warned you that there was a LOT, didn’t I?!), a whole slew of other excellent blogs and resources I’ve come across since my last ‘blog-love’ post:
BETRAYING GOD IN WORSHIP
FREE SOFTWARE FOR SONGWRITERS
A FEW THOUGHTS FOR THE WORSHIP LEADER
MUSICAL QUALITY IN WORSHIP SETTINGS
and an ONLINE SONGWRITING COURSE FROM VINEYARD UK.

That’s about it for now.  I hope these encourage, challenge, and build you up!

So be it!

I first preached the following sermon at a WDA Campus Ministry meeting at the University of Georgia in 2002. I have been hoping to edit it into essay form to blog for some time now. My interest was rekindled after reading Fred’s fascinating blog on Sickness yesterday, hoping to balance some of the other writing I’ve been doing on the subject in my lengthy dialogue with the text of SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD over at my other blog. It is a healthy reminder to myself, and hopefully many others, that all-to-often we ask the wrong questions. I hope this blesses, challenges, and encourages you…

____________________________________________________________

Let me set the stage. You’re in the backyard of a single-story brick home on a hilly eight acres of spring-green grass. One acre is a garden, freshly planted, and needing rain. Downhill, East of the house is a small creek-bed lined with maple, white oak, and buckeye trees that seem to form a wall protecting a patch of newly planted evergreens nearly hidden behind them. All around edge the yard are log fence-posts, with fields of wheat, tobacco, and corn crops on the other side. This particular day was dark, and it looked as though it may storm. In the backyard among all that beauty stood an 8 year-old boy who was lonely, angry, and alienated, and just wanted a friend. He had been teased a lot at school for being weird, and many of his “friends” only kept him around as a scapegoat. Though his parents were not believers, his mom had taken him to Vacation Bible School at a local church to help teach him “right and wrong.” There he learned enough about God to come to the conclusion that it was God who was to blame for all his pain. That day, as a storm was fast approaching, that young boy held a pocketknife to the sky and screamed, “Come down here because I’m going to kill you. He waited around for a few minutes, in tears, and when he decided God wasn’t going to show he returned inside. That day he lost what little faith he might have had and began to live his life as though God did not exist. Read the rest of this entry »

1.

There are days that blow by like wind
– thick wind –
wind heavy with some lovely smell
like honeysuckle or berries in the late Spring.

And it has weight;
– it pushes and pulls,
though fast and still air-ish.
But strong air.

2.

Some days pass by like strong air;
A single man blinks
and he is called Father
and blinking in amazement,
they’ve left home.
Blinking,
his wife lies down and rests,
and he is halved by time’s quick finish.

3.

I have fought against it —
pushing, pulling, tearing at my own,
heaving against the wind as it directs,
shapes, and. . .  comforts?
And it comforts — it even brings comfort,
and I must submit to it;
arms stretched wide and fearful,
eyes closed —
I teeter on the edge of something tall
and I will be fell
and proudly so
into the arms of a strong wind
lifted and tossed about;
child, husband, father, widower, and Christ.
And I will live like strong wind
taking no thought for breathing.

As I’ve written before, I think film is a powerful medium, and we need to think deeply about what films, and what types of film, we take in, as well as be careful to think deeply about what we watch, even discuss it afterwards. As a result of my personal convictions about movie-viewing, my personal taste in movies is quite different than most.

My friend Heather has blogged two very interesting and throught-provoking discussions on movie viewing over at her blog, which I’ve been entirely unsuccessful and keeping myself out of. If you are at all interested in movies, drop by her site and dive on in!

DISCUSSION? (on Horror films)
ANOTHER DISCUSSION (on Chick Flicks)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

Lastly, from this passage, the mature should be beyond the following: 1.) dead works (trying to earn one’s salvation through works rather than by faith), 2.) instruction about washings (the mature should already be baptized and have a clear understanding of the nature of baptism, both physical and spiritual), 3.) laying on of hands (the mature should understand the transference of gifts and authority within the church), 4.) resurrection (Jesus was raised bodily, and we will be too), and 5.) eternal life. Basically, these should no longer be stumbling blocks or issues for the mature – they should be beyond these 5 issues, and if they are not, they should be addressed now, so they may move on to more important matters of discipling and laying these foundational truths and practices in other’s lives. We should, as believers seeking to ‘grow up’ in Christ, solidify what we believe on these matters – seeking the Scriptures, and Godly counsel – in order to move beyond these basics, so we don’t feel the need to continually ‘debate’ or ‘discuss’ them again. These are simple teachings – things that are foundational to the Christian life, according the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »

Now, to be entirely honest and fair, I must mention that neither Matt Redman nor Eoghan Heaslip (my two  favorite songwriters) have released new c.d.’s yet this year, so the playing field is pretty much wide open.  However, if I were pressured to pick my favorite CD of new music produced for use as corporate worship so far this year, it would be Sovereign Grace Music‘s COME WEARY SAINTS, hands down.

After their powerful 2006 release, VALLEY OF VISION (from which I used no less than 4 songs in various corporate venues), I had truly resolved that they could surely do no better.  Apparently I was wrong.

It’s not that the production hits me square between the eyes – in fact, there are even a few moments where a synth sound strikes me as a bit ‘cheesy’.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good sounding c.d., but I would have done things differently in several places, given my personal tastes.  And it’s not so much that the performances stand out, though everyone on the disc performs to the top of their ability, and I’m more than happy to hear Jonathan Baird of West Coast Revival take the lead more often here.  It’s not the edgiest worship release of the year, nor the catchiest (though, there are a few tunes that indeed have the hooks), nor the loudest, or even the hippest.

What sets Come Weary Saints apart is the lyrics.  And oh, what lyrics!  Here’s the deal, this is an entire worship c.d. written to a very good and sovereign God from various depths and experiences of brokenness and pain.  How does that settle with you?  The lyrics are doctrinally precise, yet still felt rather than thought – which is an accomplishment, indeed!  Some songs are cries of the heart – psalm-like it their honesty – and others are songs of rejoicing, even from the depths near despair, where trusting God is the only option left.  Even as I write this tears are welling up in my eyes – my mind grabbing themes which have given me much comfort in the passing months since I first listened to this disc.

Sure, not every song will connect with every listener.  The musical styles are varied, and there are one or two that I still have not connected with.  That said, this is not only an important c.d. for 2008, but in my book, an essential one.  Please pick it up, for your own sake.

For a good cross-section of what’s in store, check out the following samples on iTunes:
Hide Away in the Love of Jesus
Every Day
Through the Precious Blood
Healing in Your Wings

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

The mature practice discernment. Notice; they don’t merely HAVE it – they put it into practice, and this discernment is sharpened by being continually put to good use. The discernment spoken of here is no spiritual gift, but simply something every mature believer, by encountering and knowing and growing up into Christ-like-ness, should have. And what does discernment in practice look like? Godly wisdom – nothing less. What is Godly wisdom? Applying the truth that we discover by “rightly handling the Word”.

It’s easy to let other’s consciences guide us, as seems to be the practice for far too many Evangelical Christians, which results in us, when trying to be ‘Biblical’ on secondary matters, teaching as truth – as law – things that the Scriptures are not actually clear on. Though many think they’re doing other believers a service, too often this acts as an ‘adding to the Gospel’, and usually results in ultimately enslaving genuine believers to the law – emphasizing law over grace, a grave error for believers, which ultimately leads to death, rather than eternal life.

We need to each approach the Word to discern for ourselves how God wants us to apply His Word, and be careful to not bind other believer’s by our own consciences on secondary matters. As each of us matures, we will discern how God is leading.

Finding your Voice…

June 25, 2008

I can sing.  I’ve always been able to sing.  I know it sounds cocky, but I’m just saying – I can’t remember a time when I’ve heard a song I liked and not been able to pick out most every part.  My mom has a beautiful voice – she used to walk the house while cleaning up in the late Summer afternoon singing “The wind they call Muriah” – my dad sang along to the oldies on long vacations, and late nights driving home from playing cards at our cousins nearly every weekend.  Even my grandmother, I discovered after she died, used to play autoharp in her family’s mountain bluegrass band growing up.  It’s in my blood, and though I have worked on it (any muscle needs to be exercised, ya know?), it’s came fairly naturally to me.

I’m very close to someone, however, for whom it has not been so easy.  Imagine your biggest dream being to sing – sometimes your ONLY dream – yet the voice just wasn’t there, and being reminded of it at every turn?  Whenever you sing, those present afterward compliment everyone on stage but you.  Some aren’t even so kind, commenting that so-n-so “sings so much better than you do“, and you wonder if they even have a clue.  So take every opportunity to improve yourself, but it comes in slow, small increments.  You take lessons, and you learn more about your inner life – your heart – than you do about how to command your voice to do what you hear inside your head.  Then one day, you give up – you pray: “God, teach me to sing.”  And not immediately, but almost immediately, something ‘cracks’ when you are worshiping – volume swells up, and faith rises up in you saying “SING!”  It’s a voice you only barely recognize, and though not yet polished, it’s the voice you’ve always heard in your heart – raw, and in need of ‘shaping’, but it’s the voice, none-the-less:  YOUR VOICE.

It’s been a beautiful story for me to see beginning to unfold, but it goes one step further to convince me of something I’ve always known deep in my soul.  EVERYONE CAN SING.  God made us for it, and though your voice may not win on American Idol, you have one – it’s strong, it changes a room when you open it, it says things that were made only for your mouth, expressing ideas that can come only from your heart.  God gave you that voice – it is especially for you: IT IS YOURS.

Never give up – USE IT.  I’ve absolutely no doubt about it: that is what you must do!

amen.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

Since the one still needing milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, the mature believer should be the opposite. What does it mean to be “skilled in the word”? As 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” To “rightly handle” the word is to be “skilled in the word”: treating God’s revealed Word with reverence, and respect, and interpreting and applying to one’s life (AND the life of others) with care and even fear, given how important it is to apply and understand them correctly (see 2 Peter 3:16). One does this by knowing and understanding the Word in context – historical & literary – so we truly understand what the original authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, intended to say. In ‘big words’, we call this “exegesis” – in day to day language it simply means, we should be willing to understand what God is actually saying in His Word, and careful not to read our own ideas into it. As we mature in Christ, this should become more and more natural to us.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

I see my calling as not only that of a ‘worship leader’, but rather a ‘worship discipler’.  In fact, I think the call of every believer is to ‘make disciples’, but it’s a hard road for many because we don’t understand what we’re working towards.  This current series of blogs will examine the 3 primary goals which amount to Maturity in Christ: Character, Attitude, & Lifestyle.  I hope you stick with me for the long-haul, and be encouraged to discuss!

There is a time by which a believer is no longer in need of discipleship, but should be given responsibility to disciple others – a time where he or she is no longer a student, but a teacher. This does not mean we/they stop learning, just as an adult does not stop eating food when he or she is no longer a child. If any of us stopped eating we would die, but an adult does – under normal circumstances – no longer need to be spoon fed like a child. He is equipped to feed himself. Biblically, we should each grow up to feed ourselves – to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This doesn’t mean we’re encouraged to separate ourselves from fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), but only that there is a point at which we should no longer need the spiritual attention of a newborn – when we should then be giving, rather than merely receiving. We need to seek Biblical relationships which can encourage this growth to happen – to put ourselves in situations and environments where we can become self-feeders.

I’m sad to have not known this until now, and I’ve even sadder to know it at all.

Please visit the link below, and do whatever you can to help…

I have been reading though Bob Kauflin‘s excellent book, WORSHIP MATTERS: LEADING OTHERS TO ENCOUNTER THE GREATNESS OF GOD, and though I don’t have the book on hand immediately to quote from directly, one idea in particular has hung with me for weeks now and I simply have to share it.

Worship is an invitation to enter into the joy that the Trinity has experienced from eternity past.

It’s Edwards-ian in it’s depth and profundity, meaning that I may never entirely understand the concept, but it rings true on so many levels: it’s as though an idea comes at my feeble mind in so many directions at once that I can’t possibly see it from enough angles to wrap myself around it.

It all goes back to the Biblical truth that God did not create us out of loneliness or want, but out of an overflow of joy. God needs nothing, particularly relationally, as God is a perfect community – an unbroken fellowship – three who are actually one. When we are converted, we are adopted as His child through Jesus, and filled with God’s Spirit, and likewise when we LIVE worship, we are living in our Creator’s presence, through our Savior’s work, drawn in by the indwelling Counselor within, and we are stepping in the midst of that perfect eternal relationship – participating in the fellowship between Father, Son, & Spirit – which overflowed into the creation itself, and from which our own life-story flows. And even our bit in this grand story is all about Him, as I’ve written in my song ‘All in All‘; “You made me – sustained me. You saved and showed mercy to me. You called me, and sent me, but all in all it’s been all about You.

And that’s the wonder of it all: we benefit from the love God has for God – we find eternal security because the Father loves the Son, and the Son eternally stands to intercede for us – because we are filled with the good deposit of the Holy Spirit, and God can never be ‘against’ God. We can experience deep joy walking a life of worship, because when we do we – albeit in some limited, imperfect sense – feel the love a perfect eternal Father has for His Son (whom we are ‘in’) and His Spirit (whom is ‘in’ us).

Lord, let me grow deeper in that eternal joy!

So be it!

So I don’t forget to let you know, my talented bro-n-law has released a c.d. The official release is this Friday. It should really be incredible, and better yet, it’s free. On top of that, my band is opening, and debuting some brand new material. Doors open at 7:30 PM. We do hope to see you there!

…this is what I did on May 31st with ‘the Tucker Family’. Even played a couple of SAINT LEWIS originals, AND it was for a good cause! Drop by his site, and donate some of your resources to bless our brother in Christ!

Every once in a while I have a week were I get to live my dreams (like here, here, & here, for instance): this week is one of them.

On this past Sunday night I got to lead worship at the Gathering Place for the first time.  This has been a dream of mine since my first visit to Brunswick and the Golden Isles.  Now, as the Worship Leader for the Gathering Place this Summer, I will be leading multiple teams of High School Musicians – a first in the 28 years the GP has existed – in leading the 1,000+ youth who come from all over to hear the Word taught by some excellent speakers, and worship together in an atmosphere that can be called nothing short of “EXCITING”!  This past Sunday was our first of the Summer, and it was CRAZY!

On Monday night I rehearsed with next week’s team for this coming Sunday.  The two guitarists working with us this week are Freshman in Highschool, but you wouldn’t know it to hear them.  Rehearsal was not only fun, but also a great encouragement to even the adults present.  To see High School kids worshiping God with passion, learning to work together as a team – to see them GET the BIG PICTURE is just exciting!

Last night I spent recording my wife’s vocals, and putting some final touches on a high energy corporate worship song we wrote called “All in All”.  An early demo of it can be heard on our Virb site.  We hope to mix it this weekend, to make it available for free at my brother-n-law’s c.d. release party on the 20th.  More on that in a few days.

Today – in just a few minutes – I will be heading over to St. Simons Community Church to lead spontaneous worship during a corporate prayer time we have there weekly.  I won’t say I’m not a little nervous, as spontaneity is not one of my gifts, but I’m more than willing to step out in faith and give it a try.  God will catch me.

Tonight, a highlight of every week, is Inside Out.  I’ve been leading the worship team there for a few years now: I love the kids – I love the energy – I love the ministry that takes place there.  Honestly, I look forward to Wednesdays the same way most people look towards Friday.

On Thursday night I’ll be rehearsing with Harriet Jones, preparing for Sunday morning at SSCC.  Friday night I will be mixing “All in All”.  Saturday morning I will be rehearsing with Saint Lewis to prepare for next week’s concert.  Sunday morning, singing tenor & playing a little guitar for both services at SSCC, and then I’ll be back at the GP for the 2nd main event.

I’m sure to some it sounds exhausting, and physically, it is.  But I feel so blessed with opportunity during weeks like this – I get to live my dream of playing music, & worshiping God.  It gets no better than this.

Consider this your coursework for today. Become familiar with the more popular side of Dean Wareham, through his bands’ Galaxy 500 & Luna. These tunes are a happy step back into college for me. Yay.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed because of doubt?  Not so much doubt OF ‘the faith’, but LACKING faith and/or trust in God?  Tonight I am aware of my numbing doubts, and repent.  God is good – no, GREAT – and He has our – no, MY – best in mind.  A picture in one’s heart of God’s greatness – His sovereignty & power – does us little good if our heart’s forget that those are tempered with, and shaped by, His goodness and loving-kindness towards us: towards ME.  That is my temptation: not so much to doubt in my mind that He IS, but to doubt in my heart that He is GOOD.  So tonight I lay before him, taking thoughts captive, pushing hard the oars of my heart – directing my eyes towards things for which to be THANKFUL, and stepping back to see what bits of the big picture He has allowed me.  And worship… in Spirit & Truth.

so be it…

So, how many of you guys recording tunes with Logic have ever had it stop mid-session and the words of doom pop onto your screen: CORE AUDIO: DISK TOO SLOW!?  I’m running Logic on a Mac Mini, so I’ve been encountering this problem often as of late, which is terribly given that I’m in a crunch on finishing a few tunes.  Well, apart from purchasing a Western Digital external fire-wire drive, which took a bit of the load off of my system, I discovered another simple fix.  If you’re like me and love using the plug-ins, that can apparently really suck the CPU dry.  So, once you’ve got those tracks pretty much as you want them, click on the little ‘snowflake’ besides the ‘solo’, ‘mute’, & ‘record’ buttons, and freeze the tracks you aren’t going to be messing with for a while.  It takes all of the info in those tracks and creates an aif file for each track freezed, which it refers to until you ‘thaw’ it to make changes to later, which frees up a ton of memory.  In my case, it gave me my ‘recording studio’ back.  So, just a little tip for those interested.

Blessings…

In case you didn’t know about this, if you haven’t followed their career very well, it’s worth checking out:

Honestly, production-wise their earlier work doesn’t have the ‘teeth’ I wish it did, in hind-sight – I actually prefer live versions of many of those songs off of their debut. And yes, if you have at any time in your life been a Jars of Clay fan, the consistent quality of their output means that there are surely fan favorites that are not included (I’m still in shock that the songs “Good Monsters”, “The Eleventh Hour”, “Collide” aren’t on here). However, if you’re already a bit more familiar with their work, and want a wee bit more ‘bang’ for just a little more ‘buck’, you may want to look here:

No, not ALL of these songs are ‘essential’, but it is a very solid collection.

That’s enough ‘reviews’, though.

I remember the Summer after my Junio year in college when a friend of mine (who was also their good friend – I think he was in the studio at some point with the band for all of their first 3 or 4 cds) pulled out a little demo called “Frail e.p.” and asked us to listen. At the time it didn’t really strike me as fantastic – we had been working in the studio on our first c.d., so we were feeling pretty over-confident about ourselves – but they were a good band, and pursuing some of the same ‘edge’ that my band at the time, Set on Edge, were toying with. We (both bands) were still playing coffee-house style venus (shortly there-after we would move up to ‘bars’ – they would move up to ‘stadiums’), so we talked on numerous occasions about doing shows together. In fact, at one point our drummer told them they might consider “opening for us sometime”. In hindsight, that’s quite funny. Through a strange set of circumstances involving one of the their sisters, two singles on their debut full-length ended up being produced by Adrian Belew, the lead singer and one of the guitarists of King Crimson, from whom – oddly enough – I had purchased an electric guitar just a couple years before (he lived in Cincinnati at the time). Belew’s touch took Jars of Clay’s sound into top 40 land, and one moment we were making phone calls to still try to finalize pulling together an elusive gig together, the next minute Jars of Clay were the opening act for Sting (you may have heard of him?), and totally in a league of their own.

Since then I’ve bought all of their c.d.’s, and I’m proud to say that they’ve done some really fine work. On occasion I’ve slipped back stage – some of them vaguely remember me. I’m fascinated also by how – in spite of how different our ‘careers’ have been, how our ‘theological journeys’ parallel each other very closely: the signs of that in their songwriting may be one of the reasons I’m still drawn to them, as they always seem to speak to me where I am. As it goes, the world moves on – times change. The largest audience Set on Edge ever had in one room was 3,000, and we only sold a little over 4,000 cd’s in our time – Jars, let’s just say, has done far better.

Sometimes it’s odd to look back over your life – not bad, but most definitely odd. That said, pick up one of these two discs. I think you’ll be very glad that you did.

So, it turns out the rumor is true. One of the world’s greatest communicators of the Gospel (if you have any doubts, just watch this dvd some day) and the most successful (ie – his songs are more widely sung than any one else living) contemporary worship singer/songwriter planting a church together. It seems, having read about Austin Stone Community Church, that they are looking at this as an opportunity for them to refocus as a church, as having Chris Tomlin as their worship pastor, who helped to plant the church years before, may have been a distraction at times (I personally have a hard time imagining having such a high profile staff-person), given the immense success he’s undergone in the past few years. Though I haven’t yet read any comments yet, I imagine that North Point Community Church is blessing this step by Giglio, as well, given their emphasis on planting new churches and campuses around the country, and his long-term friendship with Andy Stanley, North Point’s pastor.

How odd to think of planting a church that would be immediately ‘successful’, at least as far as numbers are concerned (let’s just say that the first tithe should cover the pastors salary, which is unusual in church planting). It seems like a blessing, in some sense, but in another would have immense drawbacks. For instance, most of the folks who would flood to a church plant such as this would be primarily coming from either name recognition and the sheer ‘talent’ of those planting the church – that does not assure a very ‘spiritually mature’ core congregation, and discipleship may be a chore. There will probably be a good deal of ‘flux’ for a while – people who come, must like we experienced the first couple weeks that our new building was open, just to see what’s up – to experience the ‘new thing’.

God knows I love both Louie & Chris, their gifts, and how God has used them. I think we all need to be in prayer for them, their former churches, and all this move will affect – that God blesses all involved, that the Gospel will be center, that God will be glorified, and even more people will meet Jesus as a result of this move.

So be it. Amen…

In part one, I explained in detail how worship was, ultimately, not about singing, but about a whole life – heart, mind, soul, and strength – given over to God. I explained how, in the most important sense, I was not a worship leader – that at least I was unable to actually lead anyone into the presence of God, for that is Christ’s job, and was accomplished by his work on the cross on our behalf. Lastly, our personal response to what Christ has done is simple: draw near.

However, If you are ‘in Christ’, you are in God’s presence, and part of God’s kingdom. And if that’s you, I’ve got an important, but possibly confusing message for you, if you’ll allow me a direct contradiction from my last teaching: Worship is all about Singing. Give me a few paragraphs to explain.

Last Sunday morning I led worship for the 11 AM service at church. Oddly enough, I was no where on stage. I had no microphone, never address the congregation verbally from stage, and played no instrument. I didn’t pick songs. I didn’t rehearse the band. I did absolutely nothing that would make you think that I was leading worship, but I was a worship leader, none-the-less.

Who of you is a ‘worship leader’? Not in the sense that Jesus is, by bringing us into the Holy of Holies, but in the sense in which we usually use the word? Which of you are called to lead others in corporately worshiping God? Read the rest of this entry »

Formerly Uncle Jed’s Oil, The Local Story’s full-length is a clean, upbeat, straightforward modern rock record. Falling near Caedmon’s Call, early Counting Crows, and sharing Weezer’s knack for melody, Closer… contains few surprises but is so incredibly catchy that one can’t complain.

Starting strong, track one screams for radio-play. “The Theatre Downtown” is an ironic number about a man who ignores his hard-to-win dream-date to watch a mediocre movie – she merely inches away. “Quicksand Catastrophe”, another potential single, proudly wears Weezer on its sleeve. Showcasing punchy piano and heavy guitars, the music screeches to a near-halt for its mostly a’cappella chorus; “Please excuse me as I take my life for granted.” There are many other standouts, and there are no duds.

My only criticism: the c.d. loses some of its punch midway though because the first few songs are so memorable. Overall, however, Athens should be proud to welcome another entertaining rock band to its ranks.

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Where are they now? See:
Ryan Dean
the Goodfight
the Wydelles

“That’s not worship” or “They are not really worshipers” – there are few phrases which can come from someone’s mouth that sinks my heart deeper. Not that it might not be true: it is possible that there are people in any worship gathering whose heart is not turned towards God – in fact, given the nature of the flesh, there may be many of them. It may even, though I hate to think it, be whole congregations where few if any of the people gathered are worshiping the God of the Bible, as people tend towards worshiping a god of their imagination, instead of the God of revelation.

But how would you really know? Sure, there are outward signs, I guess – Biblical guidelines for what worship should look like, but those are broad and varied, and the Biblical descriptions no where say that it explains every aspect of what worship can or should look like. On top of that, there are Biblical examples of folks who may have done everything our accepted form of worship might expect to seem a ‘genuine worshiper’, yet their hearts were far from God – the worship was false.

I wrote a blog some time back on another aspect entirely of being a ‘worship critic’, but while thinking on this one I remembered one situation in particular that still stands out to me though it happened over 10 years ago. At the time I was attending a fairly conservative reformed church, and our corporate worship consisted of hymns played on piano, and singing – any song less that 150 years old there would be considered ‘that new one’ (and I only partially jest). I remember one occasion when a Pentecostal friend of mine visited on Sunday, and by the end of the service he was in tears. He said, “I’d never felt such a deep sense of the Spirit during worship before!” We sand songs like ‘And can it be’, ‘On Christ the Solid Rock’, ‘Be Thou my Vision’ (and those were the ‘rockers’!), off pitch and accompanied by a tiny upright – and there weren’t more than 100 of us in the room, and the Holy Spirit ruined that man in our midst.

You see, worship is about the heart, and it’s hard to discern the deep things of people’s hearts. Some of my deepest times of worship I seem outwardly expressionless, and sometimes when I’m totally ‘into it’, I’m actually TRYING to move my heart towards God, and my expression is pure will – not heart. That’s just to say, be very careful when judging other’s worship. It’s likely a far better project to judge the intention of our own hearts instead of the hearts of others.

amen…

I’m going to start a new series today. Given that I have written so many reviews over the years, at least half of which were for publications that are no longer available online, I’m going to reprint some of the highlights. Today’s is of my old friends in Jaspergate. I loved their music so much that I eventually asked them to join my own band. Patrick ended up being responsible for a large part of the lead guitar work on A Story to Cling To. He’s awesome.

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Patrick and Dawn Davis, the creative and musical core of Jasper Gate, are no strangers to their trade. Patrick, a local guitar instructor and a DJ for NPR, graduated from UGA with a degree in music, and can be heard playing on such productions as MTV’s The Real World. His playing is professional and restrained, a far cry from the oft “wanking” of the young upstarts. Dawn, a local voice instructor and a part-time model, has been singing live for over 10 years. Since ’92 they have released two full-lengths CDs together, an unknown number of cassette EPs and songs for compilations, and have performed nationally with such varied acts as the Dead Milkmen and Sixpence None the Richer. Jasper Gate have been around the musical block a time or two, and it shows. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently on one of the ‘lists’ I subscribe to online a fellow subscriber forwarded yet another email (this one from one of her personal friends) on the evils of secular music, and the blessings of Christian music. Though I admit that the heart behind her message was good, to draw such a line in the sand is nothing short of legalism.

You see, there is really no Christian/Secular distinction – at least I have yet to see a valid way for one to make such a distinction. For one, there is no Scriptural definition by which one can define music as ‘Christian’. A song can’t be ‘saved’, just because it’s written by a Christian doesn’t mean it’s content is necessarily Biblical, just because the content of a song is Biblical doesn’t mean it was necessarily written and/or performed by a Christian – the list goes on & on & on. Honestly, over the years I have known a good number of CCM musicians – and I know people who know a lot more than I do. Some of the ones who sing the most blatantly Jesus-centered middle-of-the-road ‘dear God please don’t offend a single soul‘ bland CCM, that mention Jesus every other line, and clone melodies and styles of music that were popular no more recently than 20 years ago, are – when not on stage – the most cursing, partying, and absolutely un-Jesus-like people you could ever meet. Likewise, some who don’t sing about Jesus WHATSOEVER (I have one in mind who’s released about 15 c.d.’s yet have never mentioned Jesus once in the lyrics, and has no openly Biblical themes), and rock so loud they’d scare your older siblings, let alone you grandma, are humble, Bible-believing, family men/women who are faithful believers in Christ.
So tell me, WHAT is a ‘Christian song’? Does Bach’s classical work count, particularly the stuff with no lyrics?
The only valid dinstinction I can think of is between music written explicitly for the Glory of the Biblical God, and that written for the Glory of another. Yet, with the former, sometimes an individual intent may be to glorify the Biblical God, but their theology is so askew that the results is actually the worship of a false God (since the song sings to Jesus, but not a Jesus that is actually written about in the Bible), and when considering the latter, which may have been intended to glorify someone other than God, such songs still glorify God in some sense as all creative acts point back to the creator. In fact, even something written explicitly to glorify God may not work to uplift my spirits and draw me closer to him, so in that case, it may be best that I avoid it.
What it really comes down to is “What do I personally feel edified by?“, which is an almost entirely subjective question, about which there are few very clear rules. Yeah, you PROBABLY shouldn’t listen to music with excessive cursing (though – to be honest – I have very rarely heard very powerful songs written by Christians, and about Biblical themes that have contained language some might find offensive, in order to drive home their point), and you PROBABLY shouldn’t listen to too much music written by people who’s overt intent is to undermine your faith through music. Other than that, I think the decision is yours…
What this means for me personally, as someone who deeply loves music, is that I need to stay in touch with my thoughts and emotions.  If I’ve had a rough day at work, and am tempted to be angry with God, I will likely need to ‘conform my mind’ by listening to explicitly God-glorifying corporate worship music, even though I may not want to.  However, if it’s a wonderful summer day, and all is well, I may just as easily worship God in my heart & mind while listening to some non-believers rockin’ out in French (okay, so I’m thinking particularly of Stereolab’s excellent song “Metronomic Underground”, which has accompanied me during many a wonderful Summer day).  There may be days that I need to mourn a loss, and I put on Vigilantes of Love’s Resplendent, but I need to remember not to stay there, for there is also a time to rejoice!
So, that’s it folks – there is no ‘Christian music’. Likewise, there is no ‘Secular music’. That said, be careful of what you take in, because music is powerful, and has the power to change your mind and move your heart. I suggest you make of point of evaluating where you mind and heart go when listening to music, and choose to listen to what moves you towards Christ.

If you want to keep up, please first read the INTRO, PART 1, & PART 2.

Even if you aren’t yet convinced that the Gospels are entirely trustworthy, the core of Jesus’ life can still be show reliable. Several historical facts must be accounted for by any attempted explanation of the origins of Christianity and, unless a person refuses to be open to the possibility of a God, the traditional Biblical understanding of Jesus’ life fits the ‘data’ well.

First, what took place which led a substantial number of the first century Jews to believe on Jesus as the Jewish Messiah in spite of the fact that he fulfilled very few of the Old Testament prophecies they expected the messiah to fulfill? Since none of us are first century Jews, this require a bit of background in order to recognize it’s full significance.

Prior to being, essentially, ‘enslaved’ by the Roman Empire, Jewish Rabbi’s expected not one messiah, but two; the first, “Messiah, son of Joseph”, was the suffering servant messiah prophesied of in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, who would suffer and die for his people; the second, “Messiah, son of David”, was the warrior-king of Isaiah 11:1-10, who would raise the Messiah Son of Joseph from the dead, and re-establish the Kingdom of God, and thus everlasting peace and justice, with His people, Israel. If you’d like more information concerning Jewish Messianic hope, please check out Arnold Fruchtenbaum and N. T. Wright‘s work on the subject. Anyway, due to the Roman occupation of Jerusalem beginning in A.D. 63, the Jews began to focus their primary attention of the second, Davidic Messiah (the warrior/king who would free them), and had largely forgotten the former. The Jews had had quite enough of captivity and desired a deliverer who would “…raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel…”, who would “…assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.” Israel wanted vindication, and awaited a messiah who would “vanquish the oppressors of God’s people.” Honestly, who sees their need for a suffering & dying messiah when one’s already under oppression? They wanted ‘saved’, and to them that meant that they wanted to be freed from Rome! Heres one that’ll shock many Christians; several came claiming to be this very messiah prior to, and even some after, Jesus. We have written records that mention, if not document the movements of several of these; Athronges, Simeon ben Kosiba (also Bar Kockbar), Simon ben Giora, John of Gischala, Theudas, Jesus ben Ananias, Judas the Galilean, his son (or grandson), Menahem (the leader of the Sicarii), and Eleazar ben Simon. {see Theissen and Merz} The basic story in each case is the same; a prophet would gather a band of revolutionaries, which would proclaim him king, then stage a revolt against Roman rule. In every recorded case this revolt was subsequently crushed by Roman armies and ended with the crucifixion of their so-called “messiah” (and often the crucifixion of anyone the could catch who was involved with the movement), thus ending the revolt. {Wright, “the Original Jesus”, pg.68-70} Like Numbers 24:18 states, “…his enemy will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong”, the Davidic Messiah will be a conqueror. Combined with Deuteronomy 21:23, “…anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse,” one can see that, from the perspective of a first century Jew, not only is a dead messiah no messiah at all, but a crucified messiah is a false prophet and under God’s curse. So, when a movement’s leader was crucified, the survivors knew that he was false messiah and either disbanded, or found another messiah to lead the next revolt, eventually to the same end. Why was this not the case with Jesus and his movement?

To begin with, Jesus’ self-understanding was seemingly more in line with the priestly role of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, the Messiah son of Joseph, than the Davidic Messiah of Isaiah 11, which is most likely why Jesus’ is often portrayed in the Gospels as having a “messianic secret.” Though his actions were often symbolic and overtly messianic in nature, verbally Jesus seemed to keep his identity, for the most part, secret until it was too late for people to misunderstand his goals and still force a violent revolution upon him. For instance, in Matthew 16:13-20 (see also Mark 8:27-30, & Luke 9:18-21) Jesus and the disciples are gathered in Caesarea Philippi (the known hiding place of several other messianic-led revolutionary groups, consequently), and Jesus asks the disciples their opinions concerning his identity. Peter responds, “You are the Christ…“, and the first part of Jesus’ response is of the sort one would expect from a 2000-year-old religious tract; “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah (Peter)…” What comes next though, for the modern Christian, is often quite shocking; “Then he (Jesus) warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ (or Messiah).” Only in light of what the 1st century Jews hoped for does this make sense; Jesus accepted the role of the Jewish Messiah, but not in the sense that even his own disciples completely understood, and, in some cases (Judas Iscariot, most likely), even hoped for. In fact, Jesus almost always tells people to remain quiet in predominantly Jewish cities, most likely due to misunderstood messianic expectations, and only told individuals to spread the news concerning his miracles in the predominantly Gentile cities, where, since they had NO clear messianic expectations, he knew he wouldn’t be misunderstood. Peter himself showed threads of the Davidic hope when he rebuked Jesus for predicting his death (again – a dead messiah was no messiah at all!), and pulled a sword and attacked those who came to arrest Jesus, cutting the ear off of one of the High Priest’s servants. Eventually Jesus did verbalize his messianic claims publicly, but, to his disciple’s confusion and distress, not until he was in chains before Pontius Pilate and about to be sent to his death. Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew 27:11; “Yes, it is as you say.” Quickly, his disciples disbanded. Believing their messiah to have been proven a fraud, and, having wasted possibly as much as three years of their lives, they go into hiding for fear that they too might be killed. But, unlike other messianic movements before (and after) them, Christianity continued, and in spite of immense persecution, and within four Centuries Christianity was the official religion of Rome. What can account for this?

History shows that the tomb in which Christ was laid was discovered empty, which is the foundation from which the early church argues for Jesus miraculous physical resurrection from the dead. On the Sunday after Jesus’ Crucifixion some of his women followers went to his tomb in hopes of anointing his body, but on arrival they discovered it empty. “Well,” one might say, “the early Christians just made this up to validate their developing religion!” For a few fairly simple reasons the empty tomb is not quite so easy to dismiss.

First, one would suppose that if the early Christians had been so quick to make up stories to justify their beliefs that they’d make them a bit more credible. If the authors of the Gospels we have in our Bibles were so inclined to play fast and loose with the evidence, why would they undermine their argument by having the empty tomb discovered by women if it were not true? You see, In first century Palestine women were not only considered second-class citizens, but, as William Lane Craig states in REASONABLE FAITH, “If a man committed a crime and was observed in the very act by some women, he could not be convicted on the basis of their testimony, since their testimony was regarded as so worthless that it could not even be admitted into court.” [Craig RF pg.276] That women were generally regarded as untrustworthy and not considered reliable witnesses would also likely explain why the church’s earliest creeds, particularly the one quoted by Paul in chapter 15 of his letter to the church in Corinth, mentions by name only the Apostle Peter and Jesus’ brother James. [Craig, Assessing the…pg52] If the story were fabricated by the early church one would not expect women to be the first to discover the empty tomb, for that would undermine the story’s intent: to convince people that Jesus was the Christ. The fact that it is reported that women discovered an empty tomb is unquestionable. That Jesus’ tomb was empty is also attested to the fact that we see no evidence of the veneration of his burial site, an ancient Jewish custom, except that of the women when they shockingly discover that Jesus wasnt there. [Wright.Original Jesus…pg.70] Though some have argued that people in general had merely forgotten where Jesus had been laid, given Jewish culture at the time of Christ this just seems unlikely. Even if one distrusts the Gospels’ story of Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathia, in spite of other ancient evidence to the contraire [The Historical Jesus – Theissen & Merz pg.500], one still must understand the degree of veneration the Jews had for their dead, especially those who had great followings and died heroically. In chapter 6 of Jesus Under Fire, Craig explains; “During Jesus’ time there was an extraordinary interest in the graves of Jewish martyrs and holy men, and these were scrupulously cared for and honored. This suggests that the grave of Jesus would have also been noted.” [Jesus Under Fire, Craig pg.148] Combined with the observation that the burial story is judged by many scholars to be from a fairly early source, that Jesus was buried in a known tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, or that at the least it is quite likely that many people knew the location of that tomb, is well attested. With that in mind, it must be mentioned that the Jewish or Roman authorities only had to produce the body of Jesus to stop the early church in it’s tracks — they didn’t, and couldn’t. In fact, they argued that the disciples had stolen the body, which at least implies that they knew of the tomb’s whereabouts and validates that that very tomb no longer contained the body of Jesus.

This raises a valid question, though; was it possible that Jesus’ body was stolen? First, if we allow the Gospels any credit historically, let us note that they record that a Roman guard (a group of men) were posted to keep watch over the tomb of Jesus, to make sure nothing of the sort happened. Also, since they would’ve been killed for not doing their jobs, it’s unlikely they could be snuck-by, or even bribed.

Secondly, though, let us ask ourselves – what had anyone of them to gain by the act? The disciples, or any Jews for that matter, had no expectation of an individual resurrection occurring outside the context of the general resurrection, and the sect known as the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, period. The Jews that did expect a resurrection, expected it to take place as a part of the ushering in of the kingdom in the end-times by the Davidic Messiah, and in THAT resurrection ALL who had ever died would be physically reassembled into new bodies in which they would live out the rest of eternity. An individual resurrection, even of the messiah, apart from the general resurrection was an unheard-of idea, and not a likely one to have been thought up by what would otherwise be just another band of revolutionaries mourning, what to them now would seem, another dead, God-judged, false messiah. Also, as William Lane Craig argues that it the theory that the disciples stole the body of Jesus is morally implausible, for the disciples seem to be generally moral individuals (not the type who would steal a body from a grave with the sole intent of deceiving others). It seems psychologically implausible, for the disciples were broken — they had given up on Christ, and were in fear for their own lives (not likely to pull off such a conspiracy), and lastly, the disciples sincerity is rarely doubted for they were all willing to die (and all but one did) for this messiah whom they claimed was raised from the dead. For these reasons, very few modern scholars argue that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. It is simply not believable.

Lastly, what could cause devout mono-theists, such as the Jews, to worship a man? Now, rather than go too in-depth with this, Im just going to skim the surface. The Romans took over Jerusalem in 63 B.C., and commanded that all who were under them worship their king. However, the Jewish people refused to worship anything but God, so they were killed in hordes. Finally, however, the Romans realized that at this rate they would have no one to RULE over if this practice continued so they made an exception but ONLY for the Jewish people no others. So, the determination of the Jews to not worship anything but God was so extreme as to exempt them from worshiping the Roman Emperor! Fast forward to a letter written by Pliny the Younger before 111 A.D. in it he refers to Christians chanting to Christ as if to a God. This may seem insignificant to some, but to a religion steeped in tradition, under conditions where, in order to retain their identity they would be forced to stand strong for their faith, it seems unlikely that, apart from a significant miracle of God, a people who would die rather than worship a man, were worshiping a man.

What could account for these three things?

  • 1.) What single event could account for a significant group of devout Jews, seemingly ignoring an important declaration of Old Testament law that anyone who is hung from a tree is cursed of God, continuing to uphold Jesus as the Messiah even after his crucifixion?
  • 2.) What could account for a significant group of devout Jews who were longing for a Kingly messiah to change their deep-set beliefs in who the Messiah was to be – a dead man?
  • 3.) What could make a significant group of devout Jews seemingly turn from their monotheism and worship a MAN?

The resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection attests to the truth of who Jesus was and what he did on the cross. It’s the only way I can make sense of it, and it brings me back to this person, Jesus, again and again.

And, as a result of seeing that there is good reason to trust in Christ, then there is also good reason to trust Christ’s word, and trust in the God who is revealed through Him. It takes a mind convinced that Christ is real, and that God showed his goodness & grace to us through Christ, to worship God whole-heartedly – with our whole heart, mind, soul, & strength. Trust in Christ, and trust in God, His father, and trust in His Holy Spirit, and WORSHIP with your whole life.

Amen…

Heads up, fellas! The gals are trying to surpass us with great new music! Right now, I think they may be winning!

First, Rita Springer released a ‘best of’ record that’s been a long-time coming…

Secondly, though I find myself far less excited than most by Jesus Culture’s c.d.’s (I have to admit it – I don’t like ‘covers’ very much – give me original music, please?), I am absolutely floored by the power & passion of Jesus Culture’s lead singer, Kim Walker. This may be right up there with Brian & Jenn Johnson’s WE BELIEVE c.d.


Thirdly, who knew that Hillsong United vocalist & songwriter, Brooke Fraser, had solo records out? I think someone’s been holding out on me.

And lastly, one of Vineyard’s better songwriters & voices – nearly a local, being from the ATL – has just released her debut full-length, which features her versions of some of her original Vineyard worship material, and much more. My favs are “I am Changed” and the title track, currently.

Guys, we need to get on it, already! Actually, I just got 5 rockin’ tracks of stereo electric guitar goodness back from Saint Lewis‘s lead guitarist earlier today, and my rhythm guitarist is in his home studio today adding some vibe to another song, so I hope to add to the ‘male’ contribution of rockin’ new worship tunes very soon.

blessings…

Blog Lovin’, that is…

First and foremost, kudos to Fred McKinnon for directing my eyes towards the excellent discussion over at the Worship Community Forums on WHO IS WORSHIP FOR? This is one worth jumping into!  And if you’re involved in any aspect of leading worship at your church, I encourage you to join – it’s a great place to network, discuss issues, and find helpful resources that have worked for other worship leaders.

Also, more helpful resources on songwriting:
I AM AN OFFERING offers up Practical Music Theory Tips on Key Signatures
DESIRING GOD MINISTRIES posted Creativity is Imitation
CHRIS FROM CANADA posted a 2 parter on recent Songwriter’s Forums they’ve been hosting at their church
MILESTONE WORSHIP added another installment to his Songwriting for Worship series
ADRIAN WARNOCK interviewed excellent songwriter Stuart Townend
& Mark Altrogge let us know How God Gave Him a Song.

Speaking of Mark, the latest c.d. from Sovereign Grace Music has been getting RAVE REVIEWS (one coming from me VERY soon, too).  See what what BLUE FISH had to say about it, and then read Bob Kauflin & Stephen Altrogge‘s own thoughts on the project.

Have a great weekend!

My friend, Mandy, posted a good question recently, and I wanted to post my response, and ask you all for yours…

What if you didn’t have to ‘work’ another day in your life…what would you do?

My response was a no-brainer…

I would:
1. Write & Record Original Worship Music & other music to touch & move hearts…
2. Teach & Train up others to do the same…(start a Worship training school?)
3. Finish writing one of my many half-finished books…likely publish a few under a pseudonym in order to not cause too much friction with #s 1 & 2 above! (some of my writing is a bit odd)
4. Visit Israel, Greece, Italy, England, & Ireland…
5. Top of the list: enjoy more time with my family!
6. Continue leading others in worship – that’s not ‘work’, that’s a PRIVILEGE!

What about you? What would you do?

For the first 2 parts of this series, see the INTRO, and PART 1.

Due to the incredibly huge nature of this next subject, I’m merely going to touch on this briefly, but when discussing the historical reliability of the Gospels, the time-frame in which they were written is an important factor to consider. Liberal ‘scholars’ often date the Gospels’ earliest manuscripts from 70 A.D., as with the Gospel of Mark, to 95 A.D., in the case of John’s Gospel; 40 to 60 years after the events recorded. Many argue that this is a long period of time, and that many facts could be distorted between the events being written about, and the act of writing them down.  But the fact is that at that time Israel was still an “Oral Community” — people were still reciting the entire Torah from memory. Combining that with the fact that many of Jesus’ teachings were formulated to encourage oral transmission by being spoken in essentially poetic form, in spite of what seems to us moderns like anything but up-to-the-minute breaking news, we can still be confident, even apart from any divine intervention, that the main body of the Jesus story would be rightly transmitted orally, even if those dates were valid.

But accepting such dates is even problematic. Methods for dating the Gospels are often spurious a grasping at straws. What one scholar uses to claim an early date another uses to declare an older one. For example, people using Liberal dating methods often date Mark’s Gospel after 70 A.D., primarily because of Mark 13:2; ‘”Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”‘ This is often interpreted to be a veiled reference to the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish-Roman war, and is used as evidence that Mark’s Gospel had been written after that event. It is assumed that any prophecy of an event that actually took place must have been read back into the mouth of Jesus after the even had taken place. Now the assertation that no one could under any circumstances predict the future in and of itself is very problematic. If any one of you were in the same situation as a person like Jesus, living in such a volatile age you could’ve likely seen the destruction of Jerusalem on the horizon. Given the political climate nearly anyone could have “prophesied” such an event rather accurately; it was obvious that something like the Jewish-Roman war was on the horizon — it took no miracle to figure that out. However, Mark 13:2, rightly understood cannot be a reference to the Jewish-Roman war because only the Temple was destroyed, not the entire city, as is implied by the verse. And even then, if that was intended to be a reference to the Temple’s destruction, that was what many Jews desired, so they could rebuild a VALID temple, because many viewed the current temple as less than perfect because it was built by a Roman and not a Jew. So, if this verse referred to a Temple destruction, it was more a THREAT than prophecy!

Another passage that is used to place a late date on the Gospels, yet again a Temple reference, is John 2:19-21; “Jesus answered them,”Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. Jews replied, It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are to raise it in three days? But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” Here, it seems, this reference to the Temple again had little to do with the Temple on the Mount of Olives, but rather was a reference to Christ’s own body and his future death and resurrection. Since none of these are references to the Temple destruction that occurred around A.D. 70, then using these references to date the Gospels post-70 is unjustifiable.

That is just to say this: the gospels were written in a community that was trained to pass along large bodies of tradition orally, the message of Jesus fit into the larger story of Israel in a way that made sense and would be easy to pass along, the individual sayings of Jesus were originally given in a fashion that encouraged memorization within that culture, and the dates between the events of Jesus life and their being written down were not nearly as long as many doubters would like us to believe.  That adds up to yet another very good reason to believe what was written about Jesus in the Bible.

Many blessings, and stay tuned for part 3!

Catch me if you can!

April 29, 2008

Apparently I’m absolute ADDICTED to the various ‘social networking’ thingees.

Most recently, I’ve joined TWITTER (which I now update regularly) and BEEN UP 2 (which, though not updated as regularly, if far more interesting to look at).

For the ‘old schoolers’ among us, I’m also on VIRB, MYSPACE, FACEBOOK, & FRIENDSTER, among others (a few lame Christian sites I won’t bother telling you about because I don’t check them anymore).

If you really need another ‘friend’ at one of those sites, come by an see me.

What makes you feel valued – of worth? Gifts? A phone call? Has anyone ever sung a song for you (Happy Birthday, per chance)? Better yet, has anyone ever WRITTEN a song for you? Music is powerful – SINGING IS POWERFUL. I’m serious: guys, if you know you are ugly, and you want to get married one day, buy an instrument NOW! But, music – and singing – is not enough. What if someone wrote you a song, but then hit on your best friend? Wouldn’t be quite as cool, would it? In fact, you’d probably despise that song, and turn the radio station any time it came on. There is more to feeling loved – to being praised- than simply being sung about, or to. This is an important point: WORSHIP IS NOT – at least not in any ‘ultimate’ sense – ABOUT SINGING, and, in the most important sense of the term, I am not your “worship leader”.

Sure, I may lead people in song, and on my best days (or, hopefully, MOST days) I encourage then to sing to God, but that’s not necessarily ‘worship’, and at best that makes me a ‘lead worshiper’ or a ‘song-leader’, not a worship leader. My ‘official title’ here at the church, at least the one on my job description, says “Associate Music Director”, which is very appropriate, I think, and Biblical.

I know what some people THINK we worship leaders are trying to do. I’ve heard it. Haven’t you ever heard someone who was really into a corporate worship service say of the so-called ‘worship leader’; “he really led me into the presence of God”? Or were you the one who said it? Now, I think I understand their heart, and what they’re TRYING to convey, but they were absolutely wrong because NO worship leader today can do that! I can’t do that – I was never MEANT to do that! But, someone else was, and DID! Read the rest of this entry »

God has really blessed me of late. Though I’ve been very busy, I’ve had many opportunities to worship and to lead worship, and have seen significant steps towards ‘freedom’ take place both within myself and in the environments I lead. The last couple of weeks, though not ‘break-through’ weeks, we have seen significant signs that our youth at INSIDE OUT are beginning to really recognize their dryness and desperation for God. To see the faces of High School student stepping out in faith, expressing their worship in ways that may draw ridicule from others – that’s indeed priceless. Last week, during our time of praising God, our Associate Youth Pastor stepped up to the mic and preached/prophesied a spontaneous message on Christ that was so powerful and passionate that a spontaneous song just jumped up out of me. It was a humorous moment, as the other vocalists on stage were looking around trying to figure out what I was singing, and the folks responsible for running pro-presenter sat in the back speed-typing – hoping to put the lyrics of this out-of-the-blue worship song up so everyone else could join in. It’s not so much that the song was GREAT, but it welled up from my heart, and that was something special. God, be welcomed to give me those whenever it is appropriate.

Coming soon:

New Blogs:
Recent sermon essays, including a 2 part series on Worship.

Full music reviews of:
Sovereign Grace Music – COME WEARY SAINTS (in short: Life-Giving!)
After Edmund – HELLO (in short: Mute Math + Switchfoot + ROCKS!)

Full book reviews of:
GOD SONGS
– Paul Baloche (in short: a must have for songwriters)
THE NINTH GENERATION – John Owens (in short: I helped edit it, so
I must have liked it!)

Thank you for sticking around, and thank you for reading…

be blessed!

I leave to celebrate my Dad’s 60th in Ohio for the weekend, and blogging goes into a fury, apparently…  there are many goodies to report, and I do hope you follow all of them!

I AM AN OFFERING offered up a whole series of excellent blogs related to getting ‘back to the basics’ on a number of instruments used for corporate worship: Drums, Bass, Guitar, & Keys.  Each are short & easy to read, but have some very helpful tips.

ALL ABOUT WORSHIP reported on a Memorable Moment at a recent IHOP conference.

MILESTONE WORSHIP published one more in the Songwriting for Worship series on the importance of MELODY.

THE GOSPEL-DRIVEN CHURCH dropped a bomb entitle “Worship as Turning to God’s Agenda“.  Let’s just say: WOW.

And lastly, related to my recent “Apologetics as Worship” series, I offer two excellent reviews of the recent movie release, EXPELLED!  Breaking Down the Wall; & Evolution vs. Intelligence.

Be blessed!

A couple of weeks ago I explained the Biblical importance of Apologetics – ultimately to be obedient to two particular Scriptural mandates: first, to take our own thoughts captive, according to 2 Corinthians 10:5, in order to do battle with the things that cause us to doubt God, and secondly, to be prepared at all times, according to 1 Peter 3:15, to make a case for – to make a defense – to give an ‘apologetic’ for the faith we have in Christ. Combined, these two are one aspect of what it means to “Love the Lord your God with all your…mind” (Luke 10:27), which IS part of, and essential to, true worship.

The world is interested in Jesus. In fact, Jesus has probably never been more popular than He is now. People wear “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts, movies about Jesus abound (many which not only verge on – but party in being – entirely sacrilegious), and nearly every major network has aired some ‘documentary’ on the historical Jesus over the past few years – some days I think PBS and the History Channel air a new one weekly, all of which interview almost soley liberal scholars who have long lost their faith, and work to cast doubt over not only the resurrection of Jesus, but even his mere existence. The next three blogs in the ‘Apologetics as Worship’ series will deal specifically with the questions I asked myself, and the answers I discovered, which both help me deal with doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, and help me “give a reason for the hope” that I have in Christ.

To begin with one of the most important pieces of evidence showing that Jesus was physically raised from the dead is the Gospels overall historical reliability. Reliable tradition holds that all of the writers of the canonical gospels were either apostles, or authorized to write their gospels by an apostle. An apostle was a person who not only knew Jesus first hand, but was personally sent out by Jesus to continue His work. That is just to say this: the writings of other early Christians seem to all recognize that the gospels we have in our New Testament were written by people close to Jesus, or by people who were writing down the stories of those close to Jesus.

The apostle Peter, who was likely behind the writing of Marks Gospel, stated, “We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” This has recently been challenged by some in contemporary scholarship, but these critiques are largely unfounded, based on little more than elaborate counter-intuitive theories – not hard evidence. If you’d like to read a few good critiques of these works, be sure to read Emory University professor Luke Timothy Johnson’s THE REAL JESUS – by no means a ‘conservative’, but who has a good grasp on history – or if you’d like to dive in head-first, devour N.T. Wright‘s entire catalogue.  Also, the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel is a great overview, and fairly easy to read.  I list those books because it can take so much time to look into every argument raised, but to show that there are good responses to most,  I’d like to look quickly to one generalization that I believe can easily be shown to be unlikely.

Example; Many of those who hold a revisionist view of Jesus, believe that the Gospels were all written under false names – in other words, some say that the names associated with the Gospel are not those of the actual authors, and that the real authors are unknown. Now, they will point out – and truly – that many Gnostic texts were written this way, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocryphon of James for instance (which, I might add, may be one of the many reasons that they were hardly even considered for inclusion in the New Testament when the church gathered to decide on that). It is entirely believable that over time some Jesus myths might develop and even take written form under a false name in order to honor a deceased apostle – this was actually practiced from the late 200s through the 400s. However, these Gospels, if they may be called ‘gospels’, were obviously sensationalist, and mythological in nature – an obvious attempt to fill in the parts of Jesus life that either did not concern the authors of the canonical gospels (those included in the Bible), or where information was simply not available to them. If you don’t believe me, take some time and read a few: the portrait of Jesus contained in those is more akin to a modern-day superhero we’d find in a comic book than like the person of Jesus we encounter in the Biblical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  In other cases, Gospels published under false names were developed by Gnostic sects (Greek cults who tried to hi-jack Jesus to fit into their own religious system) to lend authority to their interpretations of the Christ-story with the intentions of influencing the church at large with their so-called ‘secret truths’ about Jesus.  Often, the reason, then, for publishing later mythological books on the life of Jesus, and naming them after well-known apostles, was to give authority to what was written in these books.

Consider, then, how counter-authoritative it would be to name a hopefully influential work after those so unprestigious, as is the case with John-Mark and Luke, who are only remembered BECAUSE of the gospels named after them.  That’s just to say that, apart from John’s gospels, the canonical Gospels are not named after ‘famous apostles’ what-so-ever.  Why do that, if your trying to make your book look important?

Also, it also would seem that the titles were early additions to the text because, to quote Gregory Boyd, “If the titles…were added in the mid to late second century, we should expect a diversity of suggestions as to who authored them. Instead…we find absolutely no variants”

Last but not least, their authorship is unaniminously testified to by 2nd century writers and historians. For example, the historian, Eusebius, who preserved the writings of Papias, a disciple of the apostle John, testifies to the authorship of the gospels. What should be even more troubling to liberal scholars is recorded by the Bishop Irenaeus, a former student of Polycarp and also a disciple of John’s, who was martyred for his Christian faith in 156 A.D. Iranaeus reported that Polycarp, in the moments before his death, claimed to have been a Christian for 86 years. If this is true, it places Polycarp’s conversion at around 70 A.D., causing significant problems for the fore-mentioned scholars, since this not only places him in the general geographic location that the gospels were being written, and, according to them, at about the right time, but also as a student of one of the authors, the apostle John. Granting authority to Irenaeus testimony concerning the authorship of the Gospels, this essentially means that the gospels are not only sources of theology, which Jesus very character commands that anything written of him would be, but also reliable sources of history, even if one doesn’t hold to the doctrines of inspiration and/or inerrancy (i.e., even if one doesn’t believe that the Bible was written by God through man, and is therefore without error in the original manuscripts).

With the authority of eyewitnesses, each author wrote to a different audience from a different perspective. Matthew, a well-off Jew and former tax collector for the Romans (understood more accurately in modern terms as an official in charge of customs), probably well skilled in keeping records, is believed to have written his Gospel to the Jews. Because of this he accented Christ’s kingship and His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John Mark, Peter’s disciple, kept record of Peter’s preaching concerning Jesus while in Rome, and seems to have often accented Christ’s servant-hood. We can make a fairly good guess that Marks Gospel was written for the Romans, due to his regular use of Latin terminology, and his frequent explanations of theological concepts with which Jewish believers would be readily familiar. Luke, a well-studied physician, and disciple of Paul wrote his Gospel, including Acts, from Paul’s teachings, as well as from eyewitness’s testimonies, and older written records on the life of Christ (see Luke 1:1-3). Acting as both historian and theologian, Luke wrote as an apologeticist to the Gentiles for Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles. John, a close friend of Christ’s (”the one Jesus loved”) most likely wrote his Gospel in his later years while in Ephesus, and often directed his insightful writings toward exposing Jesus as God incarnate.

To make their writings relevant, each author focused on his individual audience’s needs, arranging material topically or thematically rather than strictly chronological (the Greek words sometimes translated as “now” and “then” can also be understood as “and”), in order that they might convey Jesus’ importance to people of various walks of life; Jew or gentile, male or female, slave or free. One or more of the Gospels speaks the language of one or all of these; from the common Greek, to the scripturally studied Jew; from the historian to the mystic, and even those in-between. Because of this, by combining the four Gospels, we can get an accurate and fairly complete portrait of who Jesus was and what he did.

Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon…

till then, love the Lord with all of your heart, MIND, soul, & strength…

As I prepare my second official post in the “Apologetics as Worship” series, I have a special announcement which is highly relevant to all interested in apologetics.

The movie EXPELLED will open in movie theaters around the country this Friday, April 18th!

Don’t be confused: Expelled is NOT a ‘Christian movie’, though it is being ‘marketed’ to people of faith (not just Christians) because the subject matter affects us, particularly in the academy.

The issue: Darwinism has become so entrenched at the University level that as a scientist to even QUESTION Darwinistic Evolution can cost you your job. Note: these scholars are NOT Biblical creationists, though most are ‘theists’ (many believe in God), but their doubt of Darwinism is on Scientific principles, not religious ones. Well, EXPELLED is a light-hearted (as much as one can be light-hearted about such an issue) look at the problem through the eyes of none other than the infamous Ben Stein! I’ve heard they’ve made it as un-academic and accessible as possible, given the subject matter, and that it’s actually an entertaining view that makes you think.

Personally, I’ve gone to conferences with, and met most of the scholars interviewed in this film – they are brilliant men who’s theories are turning the Scientific community on it’s head! I have one whole half of a book-shelf dedicated to their published work. I am thankful these ‘darwin-doubters’ are doing such dangerous work.

If you’re local to St. Simons Island, I’ve heard Island Cinema’s will be showing the film this Friday on its’ debut! Folks, this is an important film – I encourage you ALL to see it.

It’s official…I have a new favorite corporate worship song…

“EVERY DAY” from Sovereign Grace Music’s forthcoming c.d. COME WEARY SAINTS

Thing is…there are a few more from that same c.d. competing for the #1 spot!

I’m also LOVING “HEALING IN YOUR WINGS” & “THROUGH THE PRECIOUS BLOOD” – they are tied for a close 2nd…

What fantastic melodies…creative chord progressions…powerful, Biblical lyrics!

I’m a happy man!

What’s also interesting is how closely this c.d. follows the book I’ve been blogging again – SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.  It’s almost as though this c.d. could be it’s soundtrack.  Strange.

For those of you who enjoy deep thinking and in-depth Bible study on tough theological issues, I’ve been engaging the excellent book (one of my favorites) over at my other blog, SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, a collection of challenging essays by solid Christian thinkers who have each suffered uniquely, who came together to speak to the Desiring God National Conference in 2005.  I’m finding my own thoughts on these subjects challenged, and deepened, and hope to continue ‘reflecting’ on this book chapter-by-chapter all the way to the end.

If you’d like to dive in, here are the posts to date:

INTRO & CHAPTER 1 (10 aspects of God’s Sovereignty over Suffering & Satan’s hand in It)

CHAPTER 2, PART 1 (All the Good that is ours in Christ)

CHAPTER 2, PART 2 (All the Good that is ours in Christ continued)

Be encouraged to discuss…

blessings!

Copies are shipping!   I want one!

A review is here.

In related news, I’ve added a new title to my “to read” list:

and lastly, the REST of my current “to read” list:

Looks like I’ve got a LOT of reading to do!

As I prepare to teach on Worship in a few weeks at INSIDE OUT, our Senior High Youth Group at St. Simons Community Church, I picked back up Greg Scheer’s wonderful book “The Art of Worship”. Towards the book’s end he talks about a few of the different ‘styles’ of worship leading – or ‘worship leader personality types’, if you will.

the CONDUCTOR – Leading the congregation almost like a choir, even beating the tempo through songs – often going hand in hand with churches which use primarily hymns during their corporate worship times.

the CHEERLEADER – Great at pumping up the energy of the congregation, a born encourager with an upbeat demeanor, often associated with celebratory praise style of corporate worship.

the ENTERTAINER – Most ‘popular’ worship leaders, like those in the CCM market: a ‘winsome lead-worshiper’ who can encourage those in the pews to follow their example.  These are often skilled vocalists or musicians, and would probably do just as well fronting a rock-band in a club as they would leading worship on Sunday Morning, and some even do both.

the ENLIVENER – Not necessarily the most skilled musician or vocalist in his or her congregation, but is quite effective at drawing others in to participate.  These are most common in ‘communal cultures’, particularly Africa & South America, but there are good examples of them here in the states as well.

Of course, an individual’s spiritual gifts will add other layers to any of these categories (for instance, one of my more prominent spiritual gifts is preaching/teaching, so though I am mostly ‘the ENTERTAINER’ with a little bit of ‘the CHEERLEADER’ mixed in, my preaching/teaching gift makes that look much different from someone else who may fit in the same styles, but have other primary spiritual giftings).

So, I’m just wondering – what type of worship leader are YOU?!

Let me start by saying – I LOVE MY CHURCH! I am happy and proud to be plugged into a church body that is Christ-Centered, Gospel-Driven, Grace-Filled, & Doctrinally Sound, with relevant teaching, wonderful times of corporate worship, and friendly people. Maybe that is why is saddens me to see so-called ‘Christians’ who are, as Josh Harris says, “dating the church”, rather than plugged in somewhere, serving and fellowshipping, committed first & foremost to one local body. Just this week Tim Challies wrote an excellent, powerful, and encouraging post called THEY WENT TO THEIR OWN about his commitment to a local body of believers. Adrian Warnock commented on Challies’ post in LOVE YOUR LOCAL CHURCH. One of my current favorite Worship songwriters, Stephen Altrogge, posted an very humorous excerpt of one of Josh Harris’ sermons, and the full sermon by Harris is available here: COMMITMENT TO THE CHURCH.

In other great church news, apparently there are many signs of revival occurring at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.   200 baptisms in ONE DAY alone!  God is on the move!

As it relates to music, Wisdom Moon posted a great new music theory resource, Milestone Worship added another helpful blog on Worship Songwriting, and a challenging post on SKILL LIDS was blogged over at I am an Offering.

And lastly, back to my church, Fred McKinnon, our music director, posted his thoughts on our Easter Service this past Sunday.

Blessings, and have a GREAT weekend!

Why music?

March 28, 2008

“…virtually all external expressions of worship ‘can be of no further use, than as they have some tendency to affect our own hearts, or the hearts of others.’ Consider, for example, the singing of praises to God, which seem to be ‘appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than prose, and do it with music, but only that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.'”Jonathan Edwards, modernized by Sam Storms, from the book SIGNS OF THE SPIRIT: an interpretation of Jonathan Edward’s RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS.

I’ve just listened to Nick Cave‘s new single, “Dig, Lazarus, Dig”, 4 times in a row, and I still want more.  Note: I NEVER listen to songs on repeat – NEVER.  Like a bad accident – it’s horrifying, but you can’t help but look – this tune is Cave’s attempt to intertwine the Biblical story of the raising of Lazarus with the various legends surrounding the life of the late Harry Houdini.  Why? – I have no idea, BUT IT ROCKS with such swagger and groove that I was instantly sucked in!

And for any of the other worship leaders who actually might enjoy Cave’s music at times, I found this 2004 article on his bizarre – but apparently ‘Christian’ faith – quite interesting.  Be sure to read the whole thing, as the highlights are all on page 3.

Enjoy…I think I’m going to spin the song again. ;-)

Man, what a GREAT last couple weeks for blogging!

First, Sovereign Grace Music has announced their newest c.d., COME WEARY SAINTS.  They’ve put complete audio online to sample, and though it’s quite a bit darker than most of their material (the theme of the c.d. relates to God being sovereign in our adversity), I am particularly excited about the new songs “Every Day” & “You have always been Faithful”.

Milestone Worship has added two more installments in their Songwriting for Worship series: Reci-Tativ & Aria, & The Singability Quotient.

In a similar vein, I was excited to find an entire teaching series on Worship Songwriting from the IWarSchool.  There’s definitely some good stuff there.

Rich Kirkpatrick dispels the common myth that “Worship with hymns is more theologically rich than with modern music” as part of his excellent WORSHIP MYTHBUSTERS series.

Speaking of hymns, Tim Challies reviewed a number of great new resources for those worship leaders looking for a fresh take on hymnody.

And lastly – entirely off the subject of music/corporate worship (though the author of this blog is an EXCELLENT songwriter, himself) – Stephen Altrogge posted a very convicting blog called WHAT ARE WE REALLY TALKING ABOUT? – it’s all about calling sin ‘sin’, and not candy coating it and making it sound acceptable.  Good stuff.

Amen.

Having been raised an Atheist, I understand the power of unbelief – it can act as a religion unto itself, and can be as much a world-view shaping belief system as the most controlling cult. Now, as a Christian, and a worship leader, I have recently recognized one of the hindrances to passionate, full-personed (heart, mind, soul, & strength) worship: unbelief. All too often our personal faith is based merely on experience, and though our personal experiences can supplement a deep, intellectual wrestling with facts to find the truth, even the Bible is FULL of individuals who had radical experiences of God, who later – sometimes quickly – turned from that very God whom they experienced. To truly worship God, we must KNOW HIM (experience) with our Heart, KNOW ABOUT HIM (apologetics/theology/doctrine) with our Minds, HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM ON A SPIRITUAL LEVEL (it is not enough just to have a spiritual experience once, and to like the IDEA of God – we must have a soul-level on-going spiritual relationship with Him), and actively WALK WITH HIM (walking out what we know is true). We must love the One we know about in an on-going relationship that results in living differently – that is loving God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And we can only do this if our mind is on board, which is why there are such a thing as ‘apologetics’.

I once told a former house-mate of mine that I was speaking at an apologetics conference – he said that he was very sorry. Maybe that’s you – but seriously, since I’m going to start this on-going series on apologetics I feel it only right that I should AT LEAST touch upon what apologetics are and why we should even bother, before attempting to DO apologetics. William Lane Craig, author of Reasonable Faith, defines apologetics as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification of the truth claims of the Christian faith.” So, for the uninitiated among us, “apologetics” is basically a “Case for Christ” – giving a “Reason for God”. Apologetics makes us ask the question, “How can I rationally defend my faith?” Though there are many passages we could look at concerning this, I’d like to glance quickly at just a few verses that I believe should encourage every one of us to recognize the importance of a having a good, personal apologetic, not primarily for the sake of sharing your faith, but MAINLY in order to make you a better worshiper.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Notice that at first this verse seems to encourage argument, which seems to be in conflict with much of the wisdom of the Old Testament Proverbs – after a closer look I believe the second half of this verse clarifies it’s intended meaning – the arguments and pretensions that we are to demolish are ‘thoughts’ – ideas that take root in our minds, planted there by life in this fallen world. This verse encourages us to develop our critical thinking skills, so we can grapple with the ideas we encounter, and sift them like wheat – literally demolishing anything that acts to hinder our faith. This is truly what it means to “love the Lord with all of your mind” – giving all your thoughts to Him, and seeing which stand true — studying that we might know the truth, and seeking to think more “Christian-ly” about the world in which we live.

Secondly, let’s look at a handful of passages from Luke’s sequel; the book of Acts 17:2, 17, 18:4, 19 say as follows; “Paul…reasoned with them from the Scriptures”, “…he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day…”, “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks”, and lastly, “He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” In every one of these verses, Paul is recorded as not giving just a simplistic Gospel message followed by an alter-call. Instead Paul put great time and effort into REASONING with non-believers. In Athens, in fact, he even uses a local “alter to an unknown god” to make a case for the truth of the Christian God. Another significant thing to note, however, is the centrality of the Bible to good apologetics; Paul didn’t just use fancy philosophy to convince people of the truth of Christ, but “he reasoned from the Scriptures.” It is important to remember that, even in apologetics, the Scriptures are central to what we do – if it is indeed true that “the word does not return void”, then we’d be foolish to begin elsewhere. Often, one of the things that leads us to doubt is that we are not in the Scriptures regularly, and when we are there, we do it merely as a chore – not expecting to meet God within its pages.

If God requires of us as believers to love Him with all of our “heart, mind, soul, and strength”, we should recognize the true Gospel appeals to the whole person AS A PERSON – not as merely a ‘sales pitch’, which is what has too often occurred. Though the Scriptures require of us to “always be prepared to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15)our intent is not to merely win arguments – even with our own doubts – it is to lead ourselves and others to further see the greatness (and TRUTH) of God, so we can better worship Him, and be better ‘worship leaders’ (in the broadest sense of the word) to a world that grows continually more skeptical by the minute.

Thinking back to not only my own walk, but looking around at the spiritual walks of so many others, I think of the fire that so many of us had when we first met Jesus, which grows dim as personal tragedy and heartbreak hit, and we let ourselves grow skeptical. How can I expect to be used of God to set a room of worshipers aflame with passion for Him, if I, myself, am not on fire for Him? For that reason – both for my own soul, for other worship leaders with whom I have contact, and for the sake of those I am blessed to lead, I am going to begin a weekly blog entitled “Unbelief: roadblock to true worship”, which I hope to publish every Tuesday. I hope that in the process of your mind growing more convinced, that our hearts with grow more passionate, our spiritual lives will flourish, and that the reality of Christ will be undeniable in our lives – which IS worship lived out.

I hope you will go on this journey with me.

So be it.

Mid-March Blog Love

March 12, 2008

There have been some goodies as of late!

First, my “superior” Fred McKinnon posted a CONVICTING leadership nugget on “Vision Casting”.  As I told him at lunch on Monday – guilty as charged!  It’s a healthy reminder of the need to be pro-active in making sure your team is on the same team.  Read it and weep.

Chris (from Canada) posted a very helpful brainstorming tool which could be helpful in songwriting – at least I’ve often approached songwriting this way.  Be sure to check out his post New Online Brainstorming Tool.

Milestone Worship has recently posted a few helpful tips on Songwriting for Worship.

My friend, David Herndon, was interviewed by ABOUT CHRISTIAN MUSIC regarding his new c.d., Out of Danger/Into Rescue.  Not only is it a good disc, and an interesting interview, but David’s band, and I, will be playing at our church on Friday, March 21st at 8 PM.  Free Show.  More info forthcoming.

Lastly, most anyone who knows me or reads anything I write knows how influencial John Piper’s writing has been on my life.  Well, John has recently put his Kingdom-of-God-centered “God is the Gospel” ONLINE in it’s entirety!  Yes, it’s a hard read in places, but it will probably change your life.  Make sure you have enough paper in your printer, and get to reading!

Amen.

Musical Flashbacks

March 11, 2008

So, I was eating with my family at Outback this past weekend, when I suddenly noticed a powerfully catching riff quickly above me coming from the speakers – I quickly excused myself from the table and moved around the room until I could better hear it. I was not wrong! It was “It’s a shame about Ray” by the Lemonheads – a song I used to have in regular rotation on one of my 3 different college radio shows back in the early 90s! As soon as we got home I went on an iTunes surfing fest from my early college days, and was engulfed by so many original, and fabulous melodies that I just had to share them, especially in light of my recent blog on Excellence & Creativity in Worship. Read the rest of this entry »

Blog Love Quickie

March 4, 2008

First, more on the opening of our new Church facility from Travis, Chris, & Justin.

In other news:
Stuart Townend on  How to Write Hymns
Bob Kauflin responds in For Music

Lastly…I’ve been doing a LOT of songwriting recently.  In fact, it is my goal this year to finish writing at least 12 new corporate worship songs this year – given that I’ve finished one so far, and have at least 3 more started, I think I’ll meet my ‘quota’.  Well, while rehearsing for this Wednesday’s INSIDE OUT meeting, we were going to play “Meant to Live” by Switchfoot as our walk-in music – a song many of us like.  Right as we began to rehearse, the whole band basically mass-vetoed the song, and suggested playing my newest, “Call me to Life“, instead.  THAT made my day!   Hopefully I can get a live-recording of it soon and pop it up online.

Thank you, Jesus.

Amen.

Wow.

March 3, 2008

Wow.

Read the rest of this entry »

So far this week I’ve left my house every day by 7:50 A.M. and haven’t yet been home before 10 P.M. Who knew when I scheduled my Dad & step-mom to visit from Thursday (today) till Sunday that it would turn out to be the same week as the GP fundraiser, Worship Night, and our new church facility’s grand opening?! Buy hey – who needs sleep?


1. TONIGHT: The Gathering Place‘s annual fundraiser at the Jekyll Convention Center is tonight, and I’M LEADING WORSHIP for it with a rockin’ inter-church youth band! The GP is what originally brought me to the Golden Isles and is, as a result, how I met my lovely wife, so we’ve got ‘history’, and I am very excited to be a part of this evening’s event. The speaker is Darrell Scott, and the event starts at 7 P.M.


2. TOMORROW: My church, St. Simons Community Church, is hosting a special ‘night of worship’ at 7 P.M. For most, it’ll be the ‘first taste’ of our new auditorium, and the first time corporate worship will take place in our new facility. We’ve been rehearsing all week, and Fred has not only picked a good set-list, but the new in-ear system takes things to a whole new level for us musicians – I can hear things I’ve NEVER noticed before, and it’s super cool. Tech aside, however, God is going to show up, and we want you to be there too!

Lastly, get your iTunes gift-card ready, and purchase THESE – it’s for your own good:

So, it turns out that Kenimer was in the Georgia Times Union on Wednesday…

Friday Blog Love

February 22, 2008

Happy Friday! Just thought I’d spread some blog-love around before the weekend.

My friend (and one of my ‘bosses’, though that sounds so harsh & authoritarian), Fred McKinnon, has posted a pic of our new auditorium. It doesn’t represent the full room, but you can get a feel for it. I’m EXCITED!

I just discovered a very cool older post over at Fundamentally Reformed called THE RISE OF THE MODERN HYMN MOVEMENT, as well as a newer follow up post; MODERN HYMN WRITERS. Mandy, you should enjoy this. Being in a songwriting kick, myself, I found it fascinating.

One of my few living heroes, Tim Keller, has finished his new book THE REASON FOR GOD. Along with N.T. Wright‘s SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, this may be one of the best apologetics for the Biblical faith for post-moderns written to date. Good stuff.

Rich Kirkpatrick recently posted a very though provoking blog in his ‘Worship Mythbusters’ series entitled WORSHIP IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT.

I’ll be taking a much-needed blogging break until March 3rd.  Until we meet again!

Amen…and OUT.

Given how many ‘secular’ (I don’t actually BELIEVE in a Christian/Secular distinction, but I sometimes use it for the sake of simplicity) artists I talk about here, you may wonder why I mention them so often on a ‘Worship Blog’. Two words:

1. EXCELLENCE

2. CREATIVITY

God is great. He deserves our best – the ‘first fruit’. That is worship: giving God our best. Worship music – and all music made by Christians, which should be an act of bringing glory to God – should be original, inspiring, and – at least in some sense – cutting edge. This is one of the reasons I have been so convicted as of late to write new songs for worship, and to develop my craft as a writer: God deserves it.

God is also the creator, which is to say, He is the most creative being in the universe. We’re created in His image. Jesus is restoring us to that perfect image of God – our creator God: the creative God. Though there has been great headway made in this are the past few years, it should be the NORM, not the exception, that Christian be leading the pack in making music that is both excellent & creative, rather than creating more mediocre rip-offs of musical genres that are long passe to the culture at large.

Believe it or not, I listen to about 90% music that would be considered ‘Christian’ (as in, the artists either profess faith, and/or are on a ‘Christian label’ – whatever that means, and/or sing songs with messages primarily about Christian things – don’t fool yourself into thinking that all 3 of those must be in place in order for an artist to be labeled ‘Christian’ for marketing purposes, though), most of which is what would be called ‘worship music.’ Artists like Matt Redman, Eoghan Heaslip, Steve Jones, Jeremy Riddle, & the Sovereign Grace team encourage and inspire me: their songs are fresh, Biblical, challenging, and frankly I NEED that – I need to drink from that well. But they have their influences, and I only receive those musical influences distilled – watered-down – when I step into the stream at it’s end. I find it FAR more helpful, and far more challenging for me as a musician and a writer, to wander up-stream to it’s sources.

For instance, if you want to be the next Delirious stop sitting in your room trying to play “My Glorious”, and don’t even bother thinking you’re cutting edge by learning a U2 song – pick up My Bloody Valentine‘s LOVELESS (yes, those are GUITARS). Learn “Only Shallow” or “Loomer”, which inspired U2 to make their classic “Achtung Baby”, which then inspired 1,000s of clones in both Christian and Secular markets, even many ‘worship artists’. Besides, if you can work your effects and manipulate your guitar to sound like My Bloody Valentine, you will have no problems pulling off tunes that could tie Delirious in knots if you worked at it.

Similarly, if you want to explore the dreamier side of Brit-pop as a songwriter or musician, you may want to pick up “Serene Velocity” – an anthology by Stereolab, even though you’ll understand less than half the words (much of it is in France), and what little you’ll understand will primarily be political pro-socialism garbage. Yes, ahh – the music: a blend of Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, Chamber Pop, 50’s Lounge, Vintage Electronica, and ‘Krautrock’ – I THINK it fits somewhere in the ‘Rock’ category, but that’s debatable. I personally discovered a few of their early EPs as I was discovering the whole 4AD & Shoegazer music scenes in the 90s, and they had a long-term influence on my use of counter-melody and syncopation in many of my own songs. Here’s a good, balanced compilation of their tunes from the beginning until now. It might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking to expand your palette, here’s a good place to start.

And please, let’s not be derivative – good music should open our mind to the almost endless possibilities we have as songwriters and musicians…push yourselves. Remember: He deserves our BEST.

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