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...]

Help Haiti Live Feb 27 – Benefit Concert for Earthquake Relief

One month following the 7.1 earthquake that struck Haiti, an all-star cast of musicians is gathering for Help Haiti Live, a two-city ticketed concert event taking place on February 27th, 2010 to benefit Compassion International ’s Haiti disaster relief fund. The concerts are sponsored by Gaylord Entertainment Company, They will be ticketed and also streamed live at HelpHaitiLive.com.

With extraordinary need still existing in the devastated country, Alison Krauss & Union Station (featuring Jerry Douglas), Amy Grant, Big Kenny, Mat Kearney, Jars of Clay, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE, Brandon Heath, and a to-be-announced special headliner will participate in two concert events, live from Los Angeles at the historic Wiltern Theater and at Nashville’s famed and Gaylord-owned Ryman Auditorium. Produced to inspire live concert and on-line audiences to financially support the relief work of Compassion International in Haiti, all talent and production fees have been donated, along with streaming services (Livestream.com), allowing proceeds to go toward Compassion’s disaster relief fund.

“This cause has been something our employees have taken very close to heart in recent weeks, and they’re thrilled for Gaylord to be involved in such an inspiring event. We’re also proud to support the generous efforts of all the artists who are donating their time and talent to make this concert a success,” said Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment Company.

Tickets for each event will range in price from $25-75 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and all Ticketmaster locations beginning Monday, February 15th, as well as through The Ryman box office: 800-745-3000 or ryman.com, and through Live Nation for The Wiltern at http://www.livenation.com/venue/the-wiltern-tickets

Nashville/Ryman Auditorium, 7:30pm cst:

Hosted by Big Kenny. Performances by Alison Krauss & Union Station (featuring Jerry Douglas), Jars of Clay, Mat Kearney, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, Brandon Heath.

Los Angeles/Wiltern Theater, 7:30pm pst:
Message from pastor Francis Chan. Performances by Special Guest headliner, Amy Grant, Leann Rimes, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE

All money raised in response to the Haiti earthquake will be used immediately to re-equip Compassion’s local support structure and to provide for the immediate needs of Compassion-assisted children and families. Compassion has been meeting the physical and spiritual needs of Haitians for more than forty years and will continue to serve them in this time of extreme need. Already Compassion International has supplied more than 15,000 families with clean water, food, blankets, temporary shelter, medical supplies and counseling.  Donations will lay bricks, feed, educate, clothe, heal and rebuild Haiti for many months to come in Jesus’ name.

Amazing Grace for a New Year

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more about “Amazing Grace“, posted with vodpod

Amazing Grace is perhaps the best known hymn by English poet and pastor, John Newton (1725-1807). Although first published in 1779, the hymn was written as an illustration for Newton’s New Year’s Day, 1773, sermon. Its lyrics are a powerful reminder of the mercy of God, who alone offers salvation to ill-deserving sinners—to a wretch like me.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
We have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

We have already come;
And grace will lead me home.
His word my hope secures;
As long as life endures.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Happy New Year, everyone.

This is War (A Christmas Carol)

Last Christmas, Dustin Kensrue of Thrice released a Christmas album, This Good Night is Still Everywhere. A particularly thought provoking song on the record is called This is War. Kensrue describes it as a different take on the Christmas story—God declaring war on sin, death and Satan. In a way, it’s seeing Jesus’ incarnation for what it really was.

During the introduction to the video, he reminds us that Christmas is a unique opportunity for us, as Christians, to talk about things that are otherwise considered taboo in our society.

Like Jesus.

Even if you don’t believe what Christians would claim about Him, you have to step back and ask why is this man the most famous person who ever lived? This Galilean peasant who was killed in the most dishonoring and awful of ways. Why still is he the person that a large part of the world still thinks is God in Flesh and why is his impact so large?

Enjoy the video. The song is tremendous:

You can also watch the video without the intro here:

If you’re looking for some great Christmas music, buy the album at iTunes and Amazon.

HT: Ransom.tv

Friday Funnies: Ted Kluck's Day-long Rock Bender

Ted Kluck, author or The Reason for Sports: A Christian Fanifesto and coauthor of Why We’re Not Emergent & Why We Love the Church, is working on a new book!

This time, Kluck is delving into the seedy underbelly of Christian music with To Hell With the Devil: 365 Days of Christian Music, from Al Denson to Alice Cooper

“The idea is that I’ll listen to nothing but Christian music (concerts, CD’s, videos) for a whole year.  This will be especially challenging for me since I haven’t listened to Christian music since 1991, when I was 15,” he wrote back in June when announcing the project.

Three months into the project, he succumbed to the siren’s call of rock and/or roll:

It’s October 21 and I just fell off the wagon.  Hard.  If this were a movie I would be Tony Montana falling face-first into a giant pile of blow in Scarface. It’s taken me almost three months into my fast, but I’ve discovered a very troubling, simple truth:  Christian artists can’t write love songs.  There are a few who get close (like Anberlin, “A Day Late,” and Paramore, “crushcrushcrush” and even Stryper, “Honestly”) but for the most part, Christian bands either suck at ballad writing or don’t even try (more likely).  And perhaps the fact that it’s more exciting to hear Sebastian Bach (Skid Row, not the other one) sing about lost love in “I Remember You” than my church’s praise band singing about “Amazing Love,” (about Jesus) says something incriminating about me.  Check that, I know it does.

But here’s the thing:  When I hear “I Remember You,” I think about things, places and people that I actually remember.  I do remember yesterday, walking hand in hand, love letters in the sand, and all of the stuff that Bach sings about.  It’s cheesy, yes, but it’s also the kind of thing that evokes – that makes a person feel.  Ditto for Warrant’s ballad, Heaven, which they probably intended to be less about the real heaven, and more about sleeping with some chick.  (Keep in mind, this is the band that brought us such lyrical poetry as “Cherry Pie.”)  But still, I love it.  It reminds me of driving my tan GMC pickup truck around Hartford City in 1993, wishing I had the courage to talk to girls.  Is there much that’s more romantic than having a “picture of your house, and you’re standing by the door, it’s black and white and faded, and it’s looking pretty worn”…and later, “I’ve got nowhere left to go, and no-one really cares…I don’t know what to do (cue guitar riff), but I’m never giving up on you.”

So I spent the majority of the day in my office with huge, cushy headphones on, belting out the lyrics to ballads that I should have waited until next year to dust off.  And it’s as good as I’ve felt in a long time.

You can click through to read a detailed account of Ted’s rock bender.

Nothing but Christian music for a year? That’s more than I suspect most could endure.

Pray that he survives.

Ripe for Co-opting

Today’s post contains no serious content. It does, however, contain rock music videos. Reader discretion is advised.

Have you ever noticed that there are certain songs that just seem ripe for co-opting? Songs that have something that sound vaguely spiritual—like they could be talking about God, but could just as easily be talking about a girl.

 

U2 is an obvious (and easy) example, particularly with their new record. Check this song out:

 

Now, in all fairness, Bono and the band do profess faith in Christ (true story), and many songs do have some pretty overt spiritual content. There are even a lot of churches that are already playing their stuff during their corporate worship (including some Anglican ones, I believe). But, it just seems, I don’t know, a bit weird to me. Maybe it’s just me.

While listening to the radio this week, I found that there are actually quite a few songs that, if you thought about it hard enough, you could probably co-opt for a Christian worship service.

And I was even more surprised when I realized that one is the newest Our Lady Peace single, All You Did Was Save My Life: [Read more...]