In view of John Piper’s newest book, Desiring God has produced a short documentary cataloguing his growth from a full-fledged racist to the father of an African-American daughter. It is worth your time to watch because it very concretely details the implications of the gospel in all areas.
I came across this band and album via the Relevant Magazine podcast. I was immediately drawn to the indie folk blend. However, the creative use of story and narrative captured my attention fully.
Something happened when Eve accepted the fruit from the serpent. Something more than the proverbial fall, something more than the rift between God & man. The bliss of the garden spiraled into accusation, desire, and heartbreak. Written to Eve from Adam’s perspective, the seven songs that make up Neulore’s “Apples & Eve” explore that fractured space between the original man and woman.
I’ve been a fan of James Tealy since the first time I met him in Denver, CO in the summer of 2004 (back when he was James Thiele!). I spent a summer learning from him as he taught about the mission of God to students at an M-Fuge camp. We hiked around Rocky Mountain National park and talked about life and faith. He is a talented communicator and a more talented musician.
Over the years I’ve followed his music career with great joy. His newest album, “Only Love” (featuring The Citizens Oath) is of particular interest to me. It is no secret that CCM lost its appeal to me back in college. However, there are a growing number of musicians and bands that write quality music that embraces all aspects of life. As such, the songs touch on themes of love, faith, adventure, and more. I place a much higher value on creativity and authenticity than polish contents that fit in a pre-packaged genre.
Only Love is definitely the kind of album that you’ll put on repeat. You’ll feel the tug toward adventure in songs such as “Before This Moment Dies.” A track like “In Jesus” provides a somber moment to reflect on your faith and “The Language of Our Heart” has the overtones of eternity woven throughout. The entire album has the tone of honesty and sincerity that I’ve come to love about James’ music. The folksy pop sound makes it easy to listen to and you’ll be surprised by the musical twists and turns.
I first heard about “All Sons and Daughters” in a Relevant Magazine spotlight. I see this band as falling into an emerging category of Christian worship that emphasizes creativity, artistry, authenticity, and honesty. In the vain of John Mark McMillan, Gungor, and others, their songs lend themselves toward careful reflection rather than a peppy sing-a-long.
The style and tone of their music is simple without being simplistic. It is lyrically rich without unnecessary ambiguity. Because of the lyrical content and the careful musical craftsmanship the songs have a sense of movement that bring the listener along. There is a feeling of life when the snare drum, guitars, and vocals mix on the track “Alive”:
We are soaked in all the grace that we’ve been given
Unchained from all that we have done
Your mercy’s rising like the sun on the horizon
We’re coming home
Below is a music video for another great track: “All the Poor and Powerless”
This is one of the best and most creative presentations of the gospel I have ever seen. It is both memorable and theologically rich. It manages to take complex concepts and present them in a simple way without devolving into naïve simplicity.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this video, please do not pirate it but, rather, support those who made it and purchase it from Dare2Share ministries.
I have again been reminded of a way to functionally undermine the authority of the Scriptures. Bible teachers or Christians frequently proclaim their allegiance to the Scripture and its truth yet often only vaguely reference its contents out of context or (worst) (mis-)use the text to suit their own ends; in these moments they demonstrate that all the talk about authority and sufficiency is smoke and mirrors, propaganda, and hypocrisy. I also see people consistently elevate and emphasize secondary material in the text above things of greater importance. Sometimes, wholesale theological fabrications are held in higher esteem than the gospel.
All of this reminded me of an excellent message by David Nelson delivered at SEBTS during convocation a few years ago. His message (“How to Undermine the Authority of Scripture”) gave four ways to functionally undermine the authority of the Bible:
1. Make loud claims about the inerrancy of the Bible and then fail to teach it all.
2. Insist that what is not in the Scripture is in the Scripture.
3. Neglect to teach what is in the Scripture or fail to give it the proper emphasis given by the Bible.
4. Make loud claims of the authority of Scripture and then fail to live a truly Christian way of life.
I would highly recommend listening to the entire message.
This book is not some sort of self-help manual but a reminder of how the gospel can change us:
I want to be like Jesus. I can observe him in action as I read the Gospels. I can study the life he lived and the love he showed. I could try very hard to imitate him. But at best that would lead only to a small, short-lived improvement, and indeed even that small improvement would probably only make me proud.
I need more than an example. I need help. I need someone to change me. Trying to imitate Jesus on its own only leaves me feeling like a failure. I can’t be like him. I can’t match up. I need sorting out. I need rescuing. I need forgiveness.
The great news is that Jesus is not only my example but also my Redeemer.
I could tell that Chester was on to something, particularly in Chapter 2, when he described three wrong reasons to change: 1) to prove myself to God, 2) to prove myself to other people, or 3) to prove myself to myself.
At the heart of any advice that Chester gives is the theological reality of God and the gospel. For example, he talks about some “reminder phrases” that he uses to help others stay focused on the gospel in the midst of fear:
God is greater than your thought.
Not what if? but what is, and what is, is that God is in control.
The reality of the gospel is that behavior does not justify us before God and, therefore, only changing behavior will always be short-lived and misguided. At the heart of behavior are the affections that motivate those behaviors. To overcome sin I not only have to purge it from my life, I have to replace it with an affection for Jesus alone.
When a grown man is weeping uncontrollably by himself watching ESPN on his lunch break then you know something unique is happening. Such is the situation I found myself while watching the story of Josiah Vierra. When the doctor cried, I almost lost it. Doctors aren’t supposed to cry. His life just might be a miracle. I also felt there was a lot to learn from Josiah’s understanding of heaven. What is heaven like? Jesus.
It’s been a crazy couple of months. Whitney and I just got back from Harrisonburg where we spent the weekend ministering to high school students from Immanuel Bible Church. We had a lot of fun talking about the book of Jonah and asking tough questions about our own commitment to the call of God.
I think I have a chance to breath in the coming weeks, so I hope to get back on a regular blogging schedule. There are a lot of things to discuss!
Just browsing through the contents I’m excited to see the feature on Shad (one of my favorite hip-hop artists). I’m over Rob Bell and all of his pseudo-spirituality (“God is the God of the groove. We need rhythm in our time. It gives shape and color and form to all of life.” What does that even mean?!?) but I’ll see what he has to say (or not say) about advent.
The article I am most anticipating is “Deck the Halls (Not Your Family)” by my fellow Greenbrier Christian Academy alumnus, Jesse Carey. His article walks through the art of greeting (hug, handshake, fist bump, cheek kiss) and helps you avoid the passive-aggressive dinner table questions (so, when are you guys gonna have kids?). Most importantly it claims to help you “avoid the Clark Griswold meltdown.”
I have a lot to read for my classes this semester. Most of it is very important and informative and some of it is very interesting.
I also try to mix in some books of interest amid my required reading. I just got two books that look very intriguing.
I have heard a lot about Same Kind of Different as Me. Not only does it come highly recommended, the description is riveting.
Switching back and forth in short segments, two narrators portray authors Hall and Moore in memoirs that begin in distant walks of life and intersect in a homeless shelter. In the charming accent of an unschooled black man with a deep, scratchy voice, narrator Barry Scott recounts Denver Moore’s life of hardship and misfortune, starting on a Louisiana plantation. In contrast, the subtle Southern accent of Dan Butler speaks for co-author Ron Hall, an educated white gentleman of comfortable means. The narrators play their parts of the drama so well that listeners will believe they are hearing the men who lived the story. In the end, the two individuals form an unlikely friendship resulting from charity and challenged by tragedy.
I loved reading Tim Chester’s Total Church and I highly anticipate his newest work, You Can Change. Chester has a readable and interesting style. He is able to communicate in a straightforward and clever fashion. Because of his single-minded focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ, Chester is able to tackle many topics with the big picture in mind. I am looking forward to reading a book about sanctification and victory over sin that focuses on Christ rather than faddish avoidance strategies.