Category Archives: recommend

Now Playing at Renrutkram

I have been a serious fan of James Tealy since I worked alongside him in ministry during the Summer of 2004 (back when he was still James Thiele).  We were on a M-Fuge team that helped students learn about God and minister in the city of Denver.  James proved to be one of the most talented men I have ever been around.  He is a gifted speaker and a talented musician.  Above all, he has a great heart for the mission of God among the nations.  His heart will not be missed on this new album, Open Hands.

I also picked up (i.e., downloaded digitally from a copy of Matt Papa’s newest Scripture Songs and Hymns. It is always refreshing to find Scripture songs performed in an honest and artistic way.  I find Papa’s music to be saturated with the truths of Scripture without falling into the usual CCM clichés.

I am also eagerly anticipated the newest releases from Arcade Fire (The Suburbs) and The Weepies (Be My Thrill).

Amazon MP3 vs. iTunes

As my friends will tell you, I am quite the “mac-vangelist.”  When it comes to design, functionality, and overall coolness all other computer companies are trying to keep up with Apple.  If there was ever a flaw in the Apple plan to take over the computer world, it would be there attempt to control everything from hardware to software.  This sort of control provides unparalleled integration but also leads to problems when one’s personal creative endeavors hit an Apple imposed roadblock.

Apple controls apps for iphone/ipad and much of the content released in iTunes.  As a result, when it comes to buying music online I almost exclusively turn to’s mp3 service.

First, Amazon allows you to purchase music in a DRM free (unrestricted) mp3 format.  I don’t have to worry about how I will use my music on various computers and media devices.

Second, Amazon has seamlessly integrated purchasing with my iTunes player.  As soon as I purchase music it is immediately downloaded and moved to my iTunes folder.

Third, Amazon is almost always cheaper per album and often has sales of entire albums for less than $5.  The other day they had almost 20 albums they were giving away!

Finally, despite the expected seamlessness of the iTunes music store with iTunes, I find Amazon’s more traditional website easier to navigate.

The Idolatry of Patriotism

I just read an article by Gregory Boyd in the most recent issue of Relevant Magazine.  I think this is one of the most well-written and concise treatments of the issues of nationalism and Christianity.  Of course, Boyd would be no stranger to this topic as the author of Myth of a Christian Nation. I recommend everyone read what he has to say in preparation for this July 4 holiday.

Below are some cogent excerpts from the article:

The danger of idolatrous patriotism is not just about how we compromise our love for enemies.  If we become too invested in our nation, we can forget our real citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 1:27) and our job is to live as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)…

I appreciate that America recognizes my rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but there is nothing distinctly Kingdom about these rights.  They’re nowhere to be found in the Bible.  To the contrary, as a follower of Jesus I’m called to surrender my rights to life, liberty and happiness, and instead submit to the will of God.  These rights are noble on a political level, but they can get in the way of my call to seek first the Kingdom.  I’m grateful America extends these rights to people, for most countries throughout history have not.  But my sole allegiance is to the heavenly Kingdom that calls me to surrender my rights.  If I get too concerned with an earthly country that frees me to pursue my rights, my healthy patriotism becomes idolatrous.  I’ve put my country’s ideals before God.

Despite the fact that He lived in an age when plenty of political and nationalist issues were being hotly debated, Jesus never displayed the slightest interest in such matters.  He didn’t come to bring us a “new and improved” version of the Kingdom of the world.  He came to inaugurate a Kingdom that is “not of this world.”  It’s a Kingdom that is no more Israeli than it is Palestinian; no more American than it is Iraqi; and no more socialist than it is democratic.  Instead, it’s a Kingdom that encompasses people from every nation and political persuasion, for it puts on display the “one new humanity” Jesus died to create (Eph. 2:15).  In this Kingdom, Paul declares, there is no longer any Jew or Greek (Gal. 3:27-29).  In our Kingdom, all national, tribal, ethnic, gender, social and economic distinctions are insignificant.

So over the Fourth of July weekend – and all year – be appreciative of your country.  Be patriotic.  But make sure your patriotism pales in comparison to your sacrifice, commitment and allegiance to the Kingdom of God.

Schmorgesborg of Reading Recommendations

Right now I am reading through several books.  I am finishing up Brevard Childs’ interesting study of the book of Isaiah in which he explores The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture.  This book is part touches on issues of Biblical theology, hermeneutics, patristic theology, history, philology, exegesis, and much more.

On a more practical level, I picked up Michael Lawrence’s newest publication, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church:  A Guide for Ministry. Due to my current course of study, Iam interested to see just how Lawrence treats this important subject.  Further, I am planning on attending The IX Marks conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on this very topic in the fall.

I am also getting a chance to sit down with Dave Black’s The Jesus Paradigm. He is one of my favorite professors and bloggers and I expect to be thoroughly challenged as I read this work.  While I’m at it, I’d encourage you to pray for Dave and his wife, BeckyLynn, as they travel to Ethiopia.  You can read more about their work in Ethiopia at his website.

New Music at Renrutkram

Recently I’ve been listening to a few new albums.  One of my favorite is Shad’s newest venture, TSOL.  Shad is for those that are fans of intelligent, musically inspired hip-hop.

Here is a sample from this recording entitled “At the Same Time”:

Another artist that is quickly rising the ranks of my musical tastes is Deas Vail.  There newest album (Birds & Cages) is worth a listen.  They recently toured with Owl City and have thoughtful lyrics with diverse and whimsical music.  A few of the songs have the feeling of a soundtrack for a smash hit independent film.

Gungor Interview and CD Giveaway #freestuff #GungorGiveaway

Gungor has been kind enough to supply me with a few copies of their newest release Beautiful Things to give away on this blog.  There are several ways to enter the contest (one entry per method – comment, subscribe, or tweet – can be entered).  To enter the giveaway you may  1) leave a comment on this blog with a valid e-mail address, (2) subscribe to this blog via the e-mail subscription button in the column on the right, or (3) include #GungorGiveaway in a“tweet.”  The winners will be announced on this blog and will be contacted on June 14.

The album Beautiful Things by the more t-shirt friendly glossed “Gungor” (formerly “The Michael Gungor Band”) has been a genuine bright spot in the often trite and contrived “Christian” music market (notice I didn’t say “genre” as there are only Christian topics/lyrics and not Christian music/melodies).

One of the things I find fascinating about the album Beautiful Things is the range of musical style; this album is an eclectic mix.  Classically inspired guitar solos morph into genuine Hard Rock anthems (“Dry Bones”).   “Heaven” is introduced by a funk-styled bass run mixed with the gospel vocals.  “Brighter Day” will convince you that you picked up a vintage Switchfoot album.  Some tracks hint of Iron and Wine’s folk style (“Please Be My Strength”) or the experimentation of Arcade Fire (“We Will Run”) while others feel more like “church songs.”  All of them, however, come across with honest artistry.  The title track most clearly evidences the poetry, ability, and breadth of style that Gungor possesses.  This album provides opportunities to shout and to weep, to sing and to be silent, to dance and to meditate.  Gungor manifests genuine artistic freedom to make beautiful music that stands on its own without feeling an obligation to cater to a particular style, genre, or audience.

I recently spoke to Michael Gungor about music, art, Christianity, and community.  He felt it important to play honest, creative, and organic music.

Sometimes part of our downfall in Christian is that the message becomes of such central importance (which of course the message is important) that the music becomes secondary to the point where it almost becomes propaganda, something to carry a message.  I think there’s something sacred about art itself.

Throughout the album you hear an honest description of the Band’s journey.  Beautiful Things could be described as a “journal entry from [Gungor’s] first two years living in Denver.”  The song “We Will Run to You” was written for their faith community (Bloom Church) in Denver as they were struggling to express the need for repentance.  As you listen to Michael Gungor, you hear the growth and change that has come with the move to Denver and the organic creation of a new church.

When asked how such deeply Scriptural pleadings with God can be used to reach out to non-Christians, Gungor explains how honest art and the human need to worship God come together.

[Our music is] definitely church music and most of it is written to God.  There is something about [a song written to God] that unbelievers are drawn to, when it is done in a pure and honest way, when it is not manipulative.

As a Christian, when I hear Gungor I hear “praise” music as it should be:  honest, artistic, Scriptural, and confessional.  Within this CD you can marvel at the beauty of the creative process and, in turn, the beauty of the creator.

Gungor has been kind enough to supply me with a few copies of their newest release Beautiful Things to give away on this blog. There are several ways to enter the contest (one entry per method – comment, subscribe, or tweet – can be entered).  To enter the giveaway you may  1) leave a comment on this blog with a valid e-mail address, (2) subscribe to this blog via the e-mail subscription button in the column on the right, or (3) include #GungorGiveaway in a“tweet.”  The winners will be announced on this blog and will be contacted on June 14.

Renrutkram’s New Music — “Gungor”

After hearing a Relevant Magazine podcast feature on the band “Gungor” (formerly the “Michael Gungor Band”) I was immediately hooked (you can listen to the live performances or download them for free… I particularly recommend the riveting guitar version of “Doxology”).

I am rarely impressed by the musical depth of a band that sings almost exclusively “Christian” music.  Gungor’s music, however, has all of the range and experimentation of an Arcade Fire while managing simple folk interludes and classical guitar flourishes.  I was pleased to find variety and meaning with Scripturally deep and redemptive songs.  Michael Gungor and his bandmates manage to explore moving and creative musical and lyrical content while avoiding any hint of kitschy or trivial “contemporary Christian music.”

I am quickly becoming a fan of this band’s church planter/pastor/guitar prodigy front man.  Check out their new album, “Beautiful Things.” “Beautiful Things (Live)”

“Doxology (Live)”

Sermonic A.D.D.

What kinds of ministers does such a culture produce?  Ministers who are not at home with what is significant; ministers whose attention span is less than that of a four-year-old in the 1940s, who race around like the rest of us, constantly distracted by sounds and images of inconsequential trivialities, and out of touch with what is weighty.  It is not surprising that their sermons, and the alleged worship that surrounds them, are often trifling, thoughtless, uninspiring, and mundane.  It is not surprising that their sermons are mindlessly practical, in the “how-to” sense.  It is also not surprising that their sermons tend to be moralistic, sentimentalistic, or slavishly drafted into the so-called culture wars.  The great seriousness of the coming judgment of God, the sheer insignificcance of the present in light of eternity — realities that once were the subtext of virtually every sermon — have now disappeared, and have been replaced by one triviality after another.

— T. David Gordon

This is reading I can recommend… @RELEVANTmag

I just sat down with the latest issue of Relevant Magazine, a fresh brewed cup of coffee, and some new music (all while the moving picture box displays the hockey game).

One of my favorite days every two months is receiving the newest Relevant Mag.  This one has stories on Bear Grylls, The Avett Brothers, Craig Ferguson, and Jennifer Knapp.

It discusses interesting issues such as the rise of urban gardening and “The Philosophy of E-Readers.”

A few article titles that catch my attention include:

“At the Root of It:  Why Knowing What You Believe Matters.”

“Stuff Christians Like:  Sometimes Faith is Funny.”