Monday, June 29, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

A classic from the King of Pop.

A Review - Jimmy Needham's Speak

Album Release Date: August 15, 2006

Rating: 4.5/5

Jimmy Needham has somehow managed to stay fairly below radar since his debut album Speak back in 2006. He has since released his sophomore follow-up which completed the sentence: “Speak,” but “Not Without Love.” Both albums have been met with a decent amount of critical acclaim; even so, Needham’s name is not extremely well known.

This is a tragedy.

Beginning with this little masterpiece of pop/soul, Jimmy Needham has positioned himself as a breath of fresh air in the Christian music scene. With a style that borrows somewhat from Jason Mraz, Gavin DeGraw, and others, he’s created a refreshing sound that blends multiple styles together beautifully.

The true appeal of this album to me, however, is the shear strength of the poetic and potent lyrics. Needham has described this album as “full of challenges to the Church in regards to living holy, sharing the gospel, etc.” Avoiding clich├ęs entirely, he does just this.

The album opens with the upbeat “I Am New,” which begins with these lines:

I cling to the veil to no avail without fail Reaching for the God if Israel in man's jail Wailing on my knees and hands to draw the curtain and stand Thank God for bloody feet and pierced hands

This is not just another Christian album. He follows with “Lost At Sea,” evoking Jason Mraz comparisons while spitting lines such as: "And now I will diligently and not religiously but affectionately come / Before the throne of your grace in this place and seek your face / For all eternity and then some." Don’t gloss over those. There is some serious substance there.

Showing he also has some versatility, Needham also delivers some great slower tunes such as “Dearly Loved” and “Stand On Grace,” which both highlight a strong, unique voice that functions as the platform for the powerful truth of songs perfectly. Other highlights include “For Freedom” and “You Make Me Sing,” which demonstrate the impact of some of Needham’s bluesy influences.

There really isn’t a weak song here. The album closes with an interesting slice of truth called “The Bendiction,” a spoken word track that essentially presents the gospel to religious, self-righteous, modern-day Pharisees and calls them to acknowledge their numerous sins as well as continual and ongoing need for Christ. This guy can bring it:

The front pages of papers of children raped by rapist Iraqi torture chambers and we the blame claim we're blameless Wrong. All. And swelling up inside of us there's this pride in us this arrogance And our only line of defense is the sense that I’m not as half as bad as this friend of mine so I must be fine We mean well don't we? Yet I've never seen good intentions set a man free from hurt. All.

If you’re looking for something fresh, daring, and straying from the status-quo in Christian music, look no further.

Track Listing:

1. I Am New

2. Lost At Sea

3. Fence Riders

4. Dearly Loved

5. For Freedom

6. Speak

7. You Make Me Sing

8. Wake Up

9.We Cry Holy

10. Stand On Grace

11. The Gospel

12. The Benediction
___________________________________

You can also read this review at The Christian Manifesto.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Believe (and Like) What The Bible Says

Excellent post from Kevin DeYoung this morning. Here's a sample:

Christians should not only believe what the Bible teaches, they should like what the Bible teaches. All Scripture is not just tolerable, but profitable and breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16).The law should be our delight (Psalm 1:2; 119:77; Rom. 7:2). We should love the commandments of God (Psalm 119:47; 1 John 5:3).

This means perfunctory obedience is not the goal. We don't want to submit to our husbands out of duty, or sacrifice for our wives because we have to do, or refrain from sex because God's a meanie and he must be listened to, but because we want to. God wants more than begrudging obedience or external conformity, he wants us to delight in the law of God in our inner being. So pay attention not just to your wills, but to your affections...

...The Bible is true and the Bible is good. When we accept its truth without actually liking it, we have only come half way to mature faith. We are like kids saying "I'm sorry" while rolling our eyes, like a husband getting flowers so his wife won't be ticked, like a lover skimming through a letter from her beloved when she should be cherishing every word and every truth in her heart. Read the Bible. Believe the Bible. Delight in all that it affirms. Anything less is not good for your soul.

Read the whole post. Really good stuff.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's God's "Call" on My Life?

I've given the above question a lot of thought over the past few years. I recently read the book, Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. His main point was to quit waiting for some miraculous sign to show me what to do with my life. My job is to love the Lord, seek his Kingdom, and pursue Christ-likeness. With that in mind, I also found the following from The Resurgence very helpful.

Christians don't need to be specially "called" to live missionally; it is inherent in being a disciple. To become a disciple of Jesus means that you evaluate your passions and talents in terms of how they can best be used to spread God's kingdom. The call has already been issued: "Glorify me in all that you do. Love and serve your neighbor. Go into the world and preach the gospel to every person." That's it.

Each person must evaluate how they have best been suited to fulfill that call, but the call is clear. If you are a businessman, you are to do excellent work to the glory of God, to the benefit of humanity, and to the testimony of Christ in your community. You don't have to wait on a special call to begin to do so—you've already received that call as a Christian. We talk about finding God's will; it's not lost...

...I say this because we have so many people sitting around waiting on a warm, fuzzy, and goose-bump-inducing vision from God before they embark on some ministry. Maybe we've invented the whole language of calling to mask the fact that most Christians don't want to live missionally.

They're going to have more on this topic. I'll be on the lookout for it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Accidental Guide to Fatherhood

Picked up an interesting book for my trip to Denver this week -- Home Game - An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis. Managed to read 155 pages of it on the plane out here, as it's extremely fascinating. I'll write more about it later when I do a full review, but it's basically Lewis' thoughts (in a journal-like style) about fatherhood following the birth of each of his 3 children.

Some parts are a little difficult to read because of the language, and Lewis does many things with his children I hope I'm able to avoid, but watching him work through the issues of new fatherhood is very intriguing. Having a 6-month-old myself, I can relate to many of the stories he shares (funny as well as frustrating).

He also has some poignant and insightful moments. Like this passage from pages 78-79:

"The simple act of taking care of a living creature, even when you don't want to, maybe especially when you don't want to, is transformative. A friend of mine who adopted his two children was asked by a friend of his how he could ever hope to love them as much as if they were his own. "Have you ever owned a dog?" he said. And that's the nub of the matter: All the little things that you must do for a helpless creature to keep it alive cause you to love it. Most people know this instinctively. For someone like me, who has heretofore displayed a nearly superhuman gift for avoiding unpleasant tasks, it comes as a revelation. It's because you want to hurl it off the balcony and don't that you come to love it."

And this from pages 75-76:

"Maternal love may be instinctive, but paternal love is learned behavior...A month after Quinn was born, I would have felt only an obligatory sadness if she had been rolled over by a truck. Six months or so later, I'd have thrown myself if front of the truck to save her from harm."

A little extreme, but I think most new dads understand his point. More to come on this book.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Review - Glory Revealed II

Album Release Date: July 14, 2009

Rating: 3/5

When the first Glory Revealed project came out back in 2007, I was very impressed by the way in which Mac Powell and company were able to take words straight from scripture, a folk/bluegrass style, and combine them to make a very solid worship album. In fact, the album was hailed by many critics and picked up 2 Dove Awards that year (Special Event Album and Inspirational Recorded Song for “By His Wounds”). I absolutely loved that the songs on that album were almost entirely from God’s Word. When I heard Powell was gathering another all-star cast of artists for Glory Revealed II, I was excited to hear the fruits of that labor.

While this album is good and will no doubt delight the fans of many of the artists involved, I was left slightly disappointed by the effort. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I think we’ve come to expect more from the likes of Powell, Mark Hall, Brandon Heath, Matt Maher, Trevor Morgan, Amy Grant, Shane & Shane…well, you get the point. The cast is top notch. The words are obviously amazing and alive. The music, although not bad by any means, just falls short of the caliber of artists involved.

Not that the album is without its highlights. The opener, “How Great,” was my favorite. This is how I wish the entire album had been, actually. Flavored by more of a southern rock feel than the album’s more pronounced folk/bluegrass/country sound, this upbeat song conjured up images of sitting on the porch of a cabin or around a campfire singing about the greatness of God. “Wake Up, Oh Sleeper” had a similar overall feel as well. The first single off the album, “Since The World Began,” with Maher, Grant, Ed Cash, and Powell singing of God’s supremacy over all things, combines the voices beautifully within the melody, and will no doubt be a favorite of many.

Other than these songs, however, there was not much to love about the album. The overall songwriting is lacking when compared the first edition, which produced almost no filler tracks. There are no “By His Wounds” here that take your breath away, and unfortunately there are quite a few forgettable songs. As I said, the folksy/bluegrass/country style is even more pronounced on this album. If you like that style of music, you may really like this album. It’s certainly a biblically-solid album as well. The songs aren’t bad, but after numerous listens, I just couldn’t get passed the feeling that they just missed with this one. I do hope the album does well enough to warrant a third project. I think Powell and friends are capable of much more, and I hope we get the chance to hear it.

Track Listing (Note, this list is from their website, gloryrevealed.com. The order and artists are slightly different from what I received.):

1. How Great – Mac Powell (Third Day), Shane Everett (Shane and Shane), Jonathan Shelton, Brian Littrell

2. Rejoice in The Lord – Trevor Morgan, Mark Hall (Casting Crowns)

3. Wake Up, Oh Sleeper – Jason Crabb, Jonathan Shelton, Bear Rinehard (NEEDTOBREATHE)

4. Since The World Began – Matt Maher, Amy Grant, Ed Cash, Mac Powell

5. Psalm 23 – Trevor Morgan, Geoff Moore

6. Praise The Lord – Natalie Grant, Laura Story

7. What We Proclaim – Brandon Heath, Mike Donehey (Tenth Avenue North), Aaron Shust

8. Blessed Hope – Mac Powell, Shawn Lewis (Hyper Static Union)

9. There Is A City – Sara Evans, Bethany Olds

10. Cup of Salvation – Shane & Shane

11. Never – Shawn Lewis, Bethany Dillon

12. To You Be The Glory – Matt Maher, Kari Jobe
___________________________________

You can also read this review at The Christian Manifesto.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Couple Sues in "Wrongful Birth" Case

It's amazing the way some people think. A couple in Portland, Oregon is suing their doctor because he failed to conclude their unborn child may have Down Syndrome, and the child was born. Now, the couple is suing for $14 Million for the healthcare, education, speech and physical therapy that will be involved in raising their now 2-year-old daughter.

From OregonLive.com:

In addition to seeking money for the child's future care, the couple ask compensation for the depression and emotional distress Deborah Levy has suffered and for her inability to go back to work as a dental hygienist. Ariel Levy, a civil engineer, also seeks compensation for the effect his daughter has had on his relationship with his wife.

This is scary to me. People are suing, in part, because their daughter has had an adverse effect on their marriage? And this is the doctor's fault for not letting them know they should kill the child or their lives will be harder?

Wow.

It's sad to think about, but I hope the child isn't able to comprehend all this when she's older. "So, we have all this money because you guys would have rather killed me than deal with me, and the doctor didn't tell you to, so you're rich because I'm not dead."

HT : Challies

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Go Buy This CD!

Amazon's MP3 Daily Deal today is The End is Not the End by House of Heroes. You can get the MP3 album for only $1.99. Go buy this...right now.


This is one of my favorite albums, and the fact you can get it today for only $1.99 is ridiculous. Straight-up amazing rock songs. If you like rock, you will like this CD. Go buy it.

HT : Z

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Review - Re:Sound's Rain City Hymnal, Vol 1

(Please note: You can also read this review at The Christian Manifesto, where I'll be contributing reviews of music and books, starting with this one.)
_______________________

There is a trend right now among younger Christian musicians to update the music to old hymns by dead guys and release albums with these “new” songs (see albums by Passion, Sovereign Grace Music, Na Band, Soujourn, etc.). This trend can be attributed to multiple reasons, but I think two prominent reasons are: 1) The songs are good and have stuck around for a reason, and 2) In reaction to the gushy-love-song type of worship of the past decade or two, there is a renewed interest among young people for theologically robust worship songs and a connection to the church's history.

The need for deeper theology among young people can be seen in the success of websites like TheResurgence.com, a ministry of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and headed up by Mark Driscoll, a growing favorite among Christians in their 20s and 30s. The Resurgence has already branched out into publishing with Re:Lit, and now, with Re:Sound, Mars Hill worship pastor Tim Smith is taking them into the arena of music production. The first full-length album to be released is Rain City Hymnal, which takes 12 old hymns and transitions the songs into the 21st century beautifully. Producers Brian Eichelberger and Joel Brown bring together 5 different bands (The Northern Conspiracy, Ex Nihilo, Team Strike Force, E-pop, and The BCG) and create an album that has a palpable cohesiveness amidst the diversity. The album is available for a limited time for free (by giving them email addresses) or for whatever price you choose to pay at NoiseTrade.com. After that, it will be available for purchase through more “traditional” avenues.

The album kicks off with “Doxology,” a brooding, atmospheric version of a song I grew up singing as the offering was collected every Sunday in church. The driving baseline throughout the song sets the tone for a lot of the rest of the album, and the song builds to a great crescendo. Needless to say, this version would not have gone over well in that extremely conservative setting, but I really enjoyed it in this setting.

Other favorites on the album include “We Have Not Known Thee,” which laments our tendency to neglect God while asking for the grace and strength to do so better. The back and forth of a female voice on the verses and male on the chorus works extremely well, and the melody is almost haunting. “I’ll Fly Away,” with its acoustic-piano rendition of a classic is also a standout. The album closer, “Man of Sorrows,” took me to another place and made me feel as though I was sitting at Mars Hill Church, having just heard a sermon of the cross of Christ, and was now singing my heart’s response. The song hits just the right tone to match lyrics such as, “Bearing shame and scoffing rude / In my place condemned He stood / Sealed my pardon with His blood / Hallelujah! What a Savior!” The song slowly builds and makes you want to raise your hands in praise to Christ for what he’s done for us. Stunning.

With so many trying to update old hymns, an album has to be really good to stand out, and this one does. The music is great, but not distracting from the truth to which it points. While the style of the songs might not appeal to everyone (and the mood of the music is quite somber on a number of the songs), I would definitely recommend this offering.

Tim Smith states in the liner notes, “Our goal in all this is first, to make Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, look great.” Mission accomplished, Tim.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, June 15, 2009

Music Video of the Week

Going old school this week....

Burlap to Cashmere - "Eileen's Song"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Julian Gets His Mac On With iPhone 3GS

Julian Smith is awesome. Seriously. His videos are something else. I posted his Facebook video a while back, but he's outdone himself this time. Check out his newest video, a tribute to Apple's new iPhone 3GS, just announced this week. And check out Julian's site. Great stuff.

John Piper Sermon Jam - Treasuring Him

Another amazing video from the guys over at Desiring God.

A m a z i n g.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who Do YOU Say That He Is?

Kevin DeYoung posted an excerpt from his talk at the Next Conference a few weeks ago. He was talking about Jesus' question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

There’s the Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, for family values and owning firearms.

There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.

There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.

There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.

There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.

There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.

There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him

There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks very German.

There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.

There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.

There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; and would rather have people out in nature, finding the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.

There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.

There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on the “system.”

There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.

There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.

And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.

Read the whole post. You can also listen to the talk over at the Next page.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Zack Morris on Jimmy Fallon

Ok, had to share this for everyone around my age who grew up watching Saved by the Bell. Mark-Paul Gosselaar was on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon last night...sort of.

Check it out.

Tedashii - Make War

Picked up Tedashii's newest album, Identity Crisis, yesterday. I've been meaning to check it out for a couple weeks, but things have been crazy. I'd heard great things about it, especially one song in particular. The song, "Make War," based off a John Piper sermon (of which a clip is included at the beginning), is simply amazing. I found the video below of a sample of the song with a sweet video. Check it out.

And if you're interested in a full review of the album, check out this one from The Christian Manifesto for a thorough and balanced opinion.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Zac Sunderland - Doing Hard Things

Amazing story on the cover of ESPN The Magazine this week. Zac Sunderland, a 17-year-old Christian, is attempting to be the youngest man ever to circumnavigate the globe by himself. He plans on finishing his journey this month, which will beat the record. The title of the story, "Do Hard Things," comes from Zac's t-shirts, which were inspired by the Harris brothers over at The Rebelution, who wrote a book by the same title. The book talks about young people overcoming the low expectations placed on them today by achieving great things.

Head over to ESPN to read the story, and check out the video below of Zac talking about his trip so far.

Also, you can check out Zac's website, where he has a blog, an FAQ, and a video with him and his parents talking about his decision to try this.



HT : The Rebelution

Music Video of the Week

The Fray - "Heartless (Cover)"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Re:Sound Sampler EP

The guys over at the Resurgence are about to launch their music label, Re:Sound. Their website, resound.org is going live June 11th, but from today until then, they are giving away an 8-song EP sampler. Sounds great so far.

Here's what Mars Hill Church worship pastor Tim Smith had to say about Re:Sound at the Resurgence blog a couple weeks ago:

I am pleased to finally announce the official launch of Re:Sound (ReSound.org) on June 4th at the Advance 09 conference in Raleigh, NC. After a great deal of blood, sweat, and legal fees, I could not be more excited to bring you the musical wing of The Resurgence. Just as Pastor Mark has established Re:Lit to make available culturally accessible, biblically faithful resources in print, we will do the same with music. Re:Sound music will be a consistent stream of music that is theologically unified, stylistically diverse, and musically excellent. Better yet, these resources will be FREE for any non-commercial or ministry use. (editors note: By free Pastor Tim is saying that once you buy the music, you can use it for ministry or non-commercial use without needing to acquire licenses or get individual permission.)

Happy Trails, Tom

Tom Glavine was released by the Atlanta Braves yesterday. The 43-year-old lefty was just ready to come back from injury after making his last rehab start, only to be shocked by his release. I concur with Chipper Jones who said, "Sentimentally, [the day] stunk. But if you look at it in terms of this organization going forward, you have to hope it’s a step in the right direction."

We'll miss you, Tom.

In his honor, I wanted to bring back something from his glory days, the immortal Nike commercial with him and Greg Maddux, "Chicks Dig The Long Ball."

This is still hysterical.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spreading A Passion for God on Twitter

John Piper is on Twitter (...but obviously not during church).
I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.

So I am not inclined to tweet that at 10AM the cat pulled the curtains down. But it might remind me that the Lion of Judah will roll up the heavens like a garment, and blow out the sun like a candle, because he just turned the light on. That tweet might distract someone from pornography and make them look up.

I’ve been tweeting anonymously for a month mainly to test its spiritual and family effects on me. In spite of all the dangers, it seems like a risk worth taking. “All things were created through Christ and for Christ” (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I Tweet.
Read the rest of Piper's take on Twitter.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Al Mohler on George Tiller's Murder

Al Mohler on the cowardly shooting of George Tiller:

The cold-blooded murder of Dr. George Tiller on Sunday morning presents the pro-life movement in America with a crucial moral test -- will we condemn this murder in unqualified terms?

For many years, Dr. George Tiller has represented the horrific reality of the abortion industry in this nation...

...Proponents of abortion rights often charge that the rhetoric of the pro-life movement leads to violence. After all, we describe abortion as murder and point to the business of abortion as the murder of the unborn. We make clear that abortion is the taking of innocent human life and that what goes on in abortion clinics is the business of death.

We make these arguments because we know they are true. Abortion is murder. What goes on in those clinics is institutionalized homicide, often for financial profit. Abortion is a moral scandal and a national tragedy and a blight upon the American conscience.

But violence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause....

...We have no right to take the law into our own hands in an act of criminal violence. We are not given the right to take this power into our own hands, for God has granted this power to governing authorities. The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law and lawful means of remedy. This is not merely a legal technicality -- it is a vital test of the morality of the pro-life movement.

Read the whole article.

Music Video of the Week

John Mayer - "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room (Live)"

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