Links I like

Why is Church Exhausting When Grace is Exhilarating?

Mike Leake:

While I believe doing life together isn’t a thornless rose, I also believe that it ought to be life-giving rather than draining. When church is cancelled we shouldn’t celebrate because our stupidly busy schedules are now a little more relaxed. We should be saddened because we now have to do without a life-giving resource until we meet together again.

So why is it that we view church as fatiguing when it out to be energizing?I’ll try to answer this from the pew and from the pulpit.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Errors of the Prosperity Gospel

David W. Jones:

No matter what name is used, the essence of this new gospel is the same. Simply put, this egocentric “prosperity gospel” teaches that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of the prosperity gospel’s best-known spokesmen: “I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word, not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.”[2]  Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray for and even demand material flourishing from God.

Why Switchfoot won’t sing “Christian” songs

The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.

Solve your retention problem with contextual reading

Jacob Abshire:

Our environment triggers thoughts and emotions. These put our mind in certain contexts we can easily enter and exit at times. Take advantage of this. Designate contexts for book reading.

Does God Listen to Rap? by Curtis Allen

RAP cover big

I’m not a fan of rap music. I’ve never had a particular moral objection to it; it’s just that, outside of a song here and there, it really doesn’t appeal to me all that much. So it’s been fascinating for me to learn some Christian folks have got their britches in a bunch over whether or not rap is inherently immoral. Honestly, I’d never given it much thought beyond “I don’t really dig it.” Maybe you’re the same way.

I’m glad, though, not everyone’s like me when it comes to thinking carefully about rap music. Curtis Allen, a pastor at Solid Rock Church, Prince Georges County, Maryland (who also raps under the monikers of Voice and Curt Kennedy), wants us to think deeply about rap music—to think about it theologically and philosophically. He shows us how in his new book from Cruciform Press, Does God Listen to Rap?: Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music.

Personal stakes and submission to the Lord

To say Allen’s got skin in the game is an understatement. Not only is he a rapper, but he’s the first one to have been invited to rap at Bethlehem Baptist Church in 2006—an event that revealed to him how serious a debate was raging over Christian rap. His performance was immediately picked apart online, his lyrics dissected, and his salvation questioned. And although he spent a great deal of time defending rap in song, online and in the media, he eventually found his own answers were shallow.

I realized I needed something a little deeper to hold onto. I could relate to what the critics were saying. I understood how you could take the position that rap can’t glorify God.… I understood where rap came from and why so much secular rap is what it is. I knew all about rap’s entanglements with sin and rebellion. I’m from that. I get it. But I really wanted to know how rap—or any music, for that matter—can glorify God. Realizing my position was actually biblificial (biblically superficial), I decided to start from scratch.… Rap’s critics make a strong case that most of its cultural origins and connections are far from godly, and I needed to see what those criticisms really mean for this art form I love so much.

Allen shows a great deal of humility in his desire to “start from scratch” when addressing rap, something I suspect few of us would have. As I wrote above, I’d never gone past thinking about preference. Developing a biblical view on something like rap music—or music in general—that takes guts. It takes courage to put your convictions on the table and say, “If the Bible genuinely says this is wrong—either in precept or principle—then I must obey.”

So what did his examination find? How much guidance does the Bible offer when addressing a subject like rap music? A great deal more than you’d expect.

Learning to think biblically about music

To show readers what Scripture says, Allen takes us through a number of what he calls theomethodosophical exercises. “This is a method that starts with and remains grounded in good theology but throws in some basic logic and philosophy where needed,” he writes. “It’s not too different from what somebody else might call common-sense speculation.” [Read more…]

Cultivating a culture of worship: four practical suggestions

nathan-clark-george

Today’s post is by Nathan Clark George. Nathan is an award winning singer/songwriter, and serves as Chief Musician at Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN.


As God called Adam to tend and care for His creation, God calls the church musician to name, distinguish, care for and cultivate musical settings and compositions that enable and promote biblical, meaningful and vibrant congregational worship. Over the years I have done my best to stay out of the worship wars, but from my experience and what others have taught I do have practical suggestions that I hope are useful when considering music in the context of worship:

1. Focus. Our focus must be on God’s Word, for our singing is, in almost all cases, prayer. In prayer we usually spend less time talking about how we feel, and more time speaking about how God feels about a subject. Therefore, most of our music and its text should be God oriented, much like our spoken prayer.

2. Congregational vs. Individualistic. I have had several people ask if they can use my older settings of the Psalms, which were written for the purpose of presentation and performance and personal meditation, in congregational worship. My response is usually “good luck.” Now, there is certainly room to train, learn parts, practice, and get better, and we should do so, but there is also a reason Come Thou Fount is going nowhere soon. It’s singable. It’s not individualistic pop music. The rhythm and melodic movement employed is predictable, simple without being simplistic, and is accessible to the folks – it is true folk music. It is congregational.

3. Style. If we get sidetracked into thinking about how someone may or may not like our style, we will have gotten off track already. Remember, as John Frame pointed out, it’s less about style than content. I would add to that it’s less about style than purpose. Is our purpose to impress? Is our purpose to sound like Bach or Vaughn Williams? Then we have miss God’s purpose.

4. Sing the Psalms. Though I do not fall in the exclusive Psalmody camp, the importance of singing Psalms can barely be over emphasized. I would challenge us to look hard at our song choices and see how often we are singing the Psalms. Is it once a month? Once a week? Never? I would humbly and forcefully suggest that we begin to sing and write with the Psalms as fixtures before our eyes.

Above all, the Word of God and the worship of God must be the fertile soil in and out of which a musician cultivates a culture of worship that reflects God’s nature and glory.


NCG_ToLiveIsChrist_cover_600px

Nathan’s new album, To Live is Christ, is now available. You can download “Calm Content” free here.

Meet My Friend Deni

I met Deni Gauthier a few days back during a visit with fellow blogger Michael Krahn. Deni’s a funny and very personable guy who isn’t afraid to share a few embarrassing stories (I, however, will leave those for him to share sometime :)).

He’s also an extremely talented musician who has spent the last several years touring the world and has just released a new EP, Man About Town.

I’ve spent the last couple days listening to the record and I really enjoy it.

(This might come as a shock to some of my friends—I don’t listen to a lot of music these days.)

Deni’s new record is a really solid set of folk pop/rock songs. Thoughtful and unpretentious lyrics along with music that reminds me of some of the best elements of Derek Webb (particularly his Mockingbird record) and Wilco.

So, I’ve got a favor to ask you all. Give the video above a watch. If you like what you hear, share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. You can also buy Man About Town on Deni’s website or at iTunes and follow Deni on Facebook or Twitter.

I hope you like the record!

Who are you listening to that you’d recommend?

Around the Interweb

The Tucson Tragedy and God’s Gift of Moral Language

Kevin DeYoung:

On Saturday a young man opened fire outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people, a 9-year old girl among them, and wounding 14 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This is a tragedy. Twenty persons made in the image of God with a right to life and liberty have been killed or wounded by the attack. May God grant healing to those whose lives can still be saved and comfort to all those mourning their dead.

Most of you know all this already. And most of you know all about the political jabs going back and forth whether this attack was made more likely because of a “climate of hate” (to use Paul Krugman’s phrase describing the rhetoric of the right) or whether those who posit such theories (like Krugman on the left) are themselves the indecent ones. Personally I think Ross Douthat’s op-ed piece in the New York Times gets it just about right: “Chances are that [Jared] Loughner’s motives will prove as irreducibly complex as those of most of his predecessors in assassination.” And later, “There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.” Thankfully this is true.

But I noticed in Douthat’s article what I notice in every other write-up on the shooting: a reflexive reluctance to speak of the killer’s inner workings–his motivations, his make-up, his soul if you will–with moral categories. Douthat does better than most in speaking of Loughner’s “darkness,” but even here there is the subtle use of passive imagery. “Politicians and media loudmouths,” Douthat writes, “shouldn’t be held responsible for the darkness that always waits to swallow up the unstable and the lost.” True enough, but who should be held responsible? My vote is for Loughner who, by all accounts, appears to be not only the accused killer but also the real killer. Certainly darkness is appropriate imagery, but I’d argue it’s more appropriate to say he committed a dark deed rather than to imply darkness swallowed up an unstable young man.

Read the whole article.

Also Worth Reading

Music: WorshipRises just released a new song, “Maker of My Heart”

Theology: What’s the Message of the Bible in One Sentence?

Parenting: It’s Never an Interruption

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: By Grace Alone by Sinclair B. Ferguson

A Movement of Personalities

Cliff Notes from the Xchange

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 1:12-18

C.S. Lewis: “A Faith Destroyed by War Cannot Really Have Been Worth the Trouble of Destroying

Dear Song Leader

Dear Song Leader,

You have a tough job. You’ve been tasked with leading the congregation in song, choosing music that flows with the sermon to be preached and is actually enjoyable.

And everybody has an opinion on what “enjoyable” means.

Including me.

There are some songs that are just offensive to my taste. There are some songs that are just impossible for me to sing because I’m a guy and the key is just too high (and I can’t pull off the skinny jeans that could make it possible to hit those high notes). I don’t like songs that go on for seven minutes when they have six words.

And I don’t like Hillsong United.

Truthfully, I could go the rest of my days without ever hearing another one of their songs and die a happy man. Because honestly, I doubt we’ll be singing any of their material in Heaven—not even “Mighty to Save.”

That’s my taste—and it’s something I am trying to get over every time I hear one of their songs. My taste is not what’s important. What’s important is that our songs are pleasing to Christ and communicating truth about Him and praise to Him.

Song leaders, I have a request:

Challenge us when we sing.

I’m not saying that you need to start rocking the classic hymns. (Although you could. They communicate the truths of the gospel in a way that many modern songs simply don’t even come close.)

I’m not saying put Romans 8 to music, or write a song that goes through the doctrines of grace or advocates for the free will of man in salvation (if such is your theological position).

I’m asking you to make us think deeply when we sing. Make us think deeply about what we’re singing. Confront us with our sin.

Help us rejoice in our salvation.

Sincerely,

Aaron

Bowlin'

Everything old is new again… including bowl cuts:

I have new respect for Chris Tomlin.

HT: Tyler

Lay Your Burden Down

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Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Music Review: Meet the Rizers

It’s hard to find great kid’s music that’s both fun to listen to and has rich content. (Parents reading this, can you back me up on this?)

Then I heard about Meet the Rizers, a new release from RE:Sound.

When I learned about this record, I was intrigued. We’ve got very little children’s music that I’d consider great, especially that provides us with opportunities to talk about faith with our kids (which is a fun thing to do with a three-year-old; the baby doesn’t have much to say yet). With a family vacation on the horizon, I listened to a couple of samples (see below) and decided to give it a shot.

What was the verdict?

Meet the Rizers blew me away. Seriously.

Tyson Paoletti of Tooth & Nail Records and Greg Lutze (both members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle) had an idea for an album of Scripture-based, guitar-pop worship songs for kids. As parents, they were also looking for a way to teach Scripture memorization as a value in their homes.

This desire led them, ultimately, to create this record.

By taking nine passages from the Bible and setting them to music, Meet the Rizers allows children (and parents) to not only listen to some catchy, head bopping music, but to learn to memorize Scripture.

The idea is very clever and the execution is top-notch. And honestly, I can’t imagine how challenging it must have been to arrange the music for each verse. It’s evident that a great deal of care has been taken with each song to make sure the integrity of the Scripture is maintained while not sacrificing musical quality. While all the songs are catchy, a particular favorite of is Psalm 8:1. Because the psalms are mostly songs, it was fascinating for me to hear one set to music. And the arrangement works so well—it’s fun to listen to and easy to memorize.

So what was our oldest daughter’s reaction?

When I put the record on for the first time, Abigail saw the picture and immediately assumed that it was a cartoon. After I explained to her that it there was only audio, she still insisted on having the large image on the screen. (She continues to ask for the big picture when we’re at the iMac.)

On the drive to our vacation, she gleefully bopped along to the music in the backseat. This was after listening to it three times in the house before we left.

Now, every time I take her anywhere, her first question is, “Can we listen to Meet the Rizers?!”

This is a good problem to have, but it also means I need to find more children’s music of this caliber.

Meet the Rizers sets the bar high for future releases from the group and for kid-friendly music in general.

If you’re looking for something for your next road trip or to put on while you’re hanging around the house, don’t pass up this record.

Around the Interweb (07/18)

The Problem with Pastor as Rock Star

Ed Stetzer recently produced this challenging piece over at Challies dot com:

You can just check the headlines. When a rock star pastor falls, the church rarely recovers. When they do, it is through extricating their identity from that of the pastor’s abilities and personality. No pastor is indispensable. It’s good for pastors to remind themselves, “Others filled the role before you were born and others will fill it after you’re gone.”

But the rock star pastor constantly needs more attendees, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers. In a twisted bit of logic, they work to make the gospel well-known through their own fame.

Some have pointed to the multi-site movement as an illustration of how the church has sold out to make rock star pastors famous. Personally, I am not anti-multi-site. When partnered with church planting, it has great potential. Nevertheless, while I’m not “anti,” I do urge caution. At times, I’ve joked about “rock star celebrity pastors beaming their graven image all over the country.” If you are a rock star pastor, perhaps you believe that the church can simply not go on without you. You would be wrong.

Pride was inherent in the fall of Adam and it rears its head whenever one person deems the church’s future to ride on their shoulders or voice. Multi-site, or any program, as a necessity derived from the attention needed by a rock star pastor, is idolatry.

Read the whole thing here.

In Other News

Jared C. Wilson: Your Church might not be a Church if…

Michael Krahn: How I discovered Chris Tomlin

Don’t Waste Your Life Sentence: A new film from Desiring God. Here’s the trailer:

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

True and False Worship, the sermon I preached at Poplar Hill Christian Church on July 11, 2010

A review of Mike McKinley’s new book Church Planting is for Wimps

People are imitating you; are you worth imitating?

Around the Interweb (07/11)

Matt Chandler on Realigning Your Church to the Gospel

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HT: The Resurgence

In Other News

My friend Matt Svoboda made an exciting announcement this week: He’s replanting a church in Kearney, Nebraska! I’m very excited about this opportunity for him; I hope you’ll join in prayer for much fruit in this ministry.

Tim Smith at the Resurgence offers some practical ideas for family worship.

Meet the Rizers: Got kids? Want to give them something that’s actually pretty decent to listen to? Try Meet the Rizers; check out the sample or buy the whole record:

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Meet the Rizers, posted with vodpod

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Who are the real heroes of social justice?

Book review: Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian

Preaching is not Speeching

John Calvin: Self-Ignorance Deceives, but Knowledge Humbles

How to Build a God

All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Remember these things, O Jacob,
     and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
     O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
     and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.

— Isaiah 44:9-22

HT: The Resurgence

Signing Bibles and Sweating to Avril Lavigne: An interview with Matthew Paul Turner

Matthew Paul Turner is a blogger, speaker, and author of Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, The Christian Culture Survival Guide, and several other popular books. His latest, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost, was officially released yesterday by Waterbrook Press (read the review here). Turner attended Nashville’s Belmont University, where he received a BBA in music business, and is the former editor of CCM magazine. Turner has written for Relevant, HomeLife, Christian Single, and other magazines.  

Online, he’s perhaps best known for his blog, “Jesus Needs New PR,” where he regularly pokes fun at some of the more silly aspects of the Christian subculture, as well as his running commentary on shows like The Bachelor and American Idol on Twitter. Love him or loathe him, Turner gets people’s attention (and a laugh while he’s at it).  

Today’s a special day, because he’s joining us over here for an interview, and I’m giving away a copy of Hear No Evil (provided by Waterbrook Press)! The giveaway details follow the interview. Enjoy!  


 AA: I’m not from a Christian background, so it’s been interesting/bizarre to read about your experiences in such a conservative setting. Because you’ve quite obviously gotten out of the bubble, how do you navigate the tendency to “overcorrect” that can happen?  

MPT: Though it might come across this way to some, I don’t write in hopes of “pro-actively” correcting my past (though it has helped me heal), I write to simply tell my story. Of course, that’s not to say that some people don’t read what I write and “see” that written in the context. I suppose if I’m tempted to “over correct,” it’s in my desire to not exclude anybody from God’s story. And to protect and defend those who most often get excluded. I spent years hating a lot of people and excluding them from God’s story, and I’m certain I probably go too far once in a while in hopes of making that right.  

Did you seriously have people sign your Bible?  

Yes. Mostly evangelists. After they would speak, there’d be long lines of people waiting to get their Bibles signed.  

Have you ever found an answer to why Dylan has a career?  

Sure. He’s a fantastic thinker, poet, and champion of ideas… but I still don’t think he’s a good singer. :)  

What’s the weirdest song you have ever seen co-opted for a church service?  

Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”– to make it worse, there was a guy who was interpreting the song with sign language. And I am not lying, when the girl finished singing and he finished signing, HE was covered in sweat. Forehead, shirt, armpits–all wet from attempting to translate a Christianized version of Avril’s song to the three hearing impaired people who were at church that day. [Read more…]

Book Review: Hear No Evil

Title: Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost
Author: Matthew Paul Turner
Publisher: Waterbrook Press

“Should I know who Dylan is?”

This question (and the scorn that followed) taught Matthew Paul Turner, author of Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost, an important lesson: He couldn’t continue to shy away from music and movies. Raised in an “ultraconservative Baptist church where emotion and honesty were even less compatible than Christian fundamentalism and self-worth” (p. 8), Turner had some hangups about music—if it sounds good, it must be bad for you.

Alternate Reality Living

Reading Hear No Evil was, in some respects, like reading a sociological study. Turner’s descriptions of his childhood life read like an alternate reality. I wasn’t raised in a Christian family nor have I ever been a part of a church that is particularly restrictive in terms of entertainment (aside from use wisdom and don’t violate your conscience). No doubt we’ve all seen news stories relating to “fundamentalist” churches that seem to lack joy and hope in Christ, but it’s another thing to read the story of a man who grew up in the middle of it.

Particularly fascinating is this idea that music with good rhythm was of the devil, and if you were caught listening to Sandi Patty or Amy Grant, there’d be hell to pay. (Now, to be fair, when I was growing up, if I was listening to Amy Grant there’d have been some trouble in my home, too, just for different reasons.) [Read more…]