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 »

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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…