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.

Advertisements

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’:

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.

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!

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…

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.

Yesterday was one of those ‘highlights’ for me – a day where, from morning till sundown, I felt as though my every step was perfect.

In the morning I went to church and led the Rush Hour (Jr. High Youth Group) band, including a brand new guitarist who had never played with us before (apart from a rehearsal), and it was GREAT. Not only was the worship time intimate – the youth in the room seemed engaged, and during the quiet moments I could hear voices from every corner of the room, but the band sounded great, especially the new guitarist. I love leading worship, but even more-so, I love seeing young musicians ‘get it’, both spiritually and musically. It just lights me up to see a kid step up and DO IT, and do it well, even! It was a good morning.

After church, I spent the afternoon in the studio with my wife singing background vocals for my brother-n-law’s forthcoming c.d. (for whom my wife is the booking agent, so if you’d like him to play somewhere LET ME KNOW). He’s working under the name McKendree Augustas, and the new tunes are sweet. I’m excited to hear the final product, which should be mixed later this week.

Finally, in the evening, I got to open for David Herndon at his c.d. release party. Given the nature of the songs he was playing that night, I decided to be ‘Set on Edge‘ for the evening, instead of ‘Saint Lewis‘. I usually rely upon a group of excellent musicians, but instead focused on spicing up my acoustic parts a bit and did it solo. I not only felt very good about the performance (there was a great audience there – I’d guess 300+ showed), got many compliments, and sold a few cds, but also got in a number of great conversations, and for me those conversations/relationships is what good music really comes down to: a conversation between me, the listener, and God.

Yesterday was one more day that makes me consider doing some really crazy things to enable every day to be like that. The thought of one day leading others in worship, training musicians and worship leaders and seeing them step into their own, writing songs that move people’s hearts and the heart of God, playing live, and recording – well, that just sounds like Heaven on Earth to me and leaves my head spinning.

Yesterday was a good day. 😉

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” —1 Peter 5:5

What a wonderful night! First, God had been convicting a number of us leaders on the importance of humility and unity among our team, and we – in our prayer meeting before INSIDE OUT – leaders began to set forth a vision for the evening: humble dependence, desperate thirst and hunger for God’s Spirit, and repentance. Then we prayed, with the call to not leave the prayer room until we’re really ready. God showed up. Heather, our ‘Vocal Coordinator’, went into much greater detail in her latest blog: Broken Things. I think the key for this night was that ‘worship’ began long before the music or singing – an important lesson for all of us. Read the rest of this entry »

Here we go with part 3 (look here for one and two), and I’m finally getting around to discussing some ‘Christian’ songwriters: Read the rest of this entry »

For those who missed it, please read part 1 first – at least the intro – before diving into this blog. Otherwise, here are 3 more:

The One I LoveREM
Blood & RosesSmithereens
Prayers for Rain
The Cure Read the rest of this entry »

After re-watching the REM video from yesterday’s blog, and due to recently starting to record a new c.d. with my wife as Saint Lewis, it really made me step-back and personally reflect on the songs that have really had a long-term impact on my songwriting Read the rest of this entry »

Sojourn Community Church

Holy smokes, where in the WORLD did THIS Worship c.d. COME FROM? Read the rest of this entry »

BLOG TAG (courtesy of elBen)

September 12, 2007

So I don’t usually do these things. I barely can find time to blog as it is, and usually my blogs are pieced together and saved repeatedly over the course of a week, until my thoughts are together enough to unleash upon the world. However, not one to pass on a challenge, I took up elBen on his.

“Ten Things, Random or Significant (mostly very significant) that have happened in my Life.” Read the rest of this entry »