The Weekly Town Crier: Coming Soon

January 30, 2009 at 6:49 am

Lord willing, our friend The Weekly Town Crier will return next week, along with Music Friday. Thanks for your patience.

Putting Christ Back Into American Christianity

January 29, 2009 at 6:35 am

hortonI recommend Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Baker Books, 2008). The first chapter is disappointing because Horton merely repeats the chorus of criticism already leveled at Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller, and the like: Unless you are unfamiliar with their theological shortcomings, I would skip it. Starting in chapter two, the book gets good. Of note is the way that Horton emphasizes the Gospel as God’s provision for us. The Gospel as provision is illustrated in the ordinances (i.e. the sacraments). Horton says that the church in America is giving priority to their actions for God rather than God’s redemptive work for man. But this misses the point of the Gospel, according to Horton. The church is a body established by Christ through His Word and by His Spirit. We do not baptize ourselves but are baptized and in baptism we see God’s promise to us; not to abandon us to the grave. In the Supper, Christ serves us a meal that He has prepared. Christ gives Himself for us as our food and drink for eternal life. We eat by faith and consume His promise with thanksgiving. Christ even provides ministers to serve His meal to us! I take Horton’s point to be that the Gospel is about what God has done for us. I conclude with a line from page 218, where speaking of the worship of the church in preaching, baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper: “We are fed, our filthy rags removed, we are bathed and clothed with Christ and fed for our pilgrimage to the City of God.”

  • Read Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton

Rest For Your Souls

January 28, 2009 at 9:35 am

Jesus says in Matthew 11:25-30:

“At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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.”

Despite the teaching of some, life repeatedly proves that Jesus didn’t mean that everything would go the way we want. In fact it’s often in the heaviest times of life that this truth is most made known to us. How does this truth shine light into your dark times? How has Jesus demonstrated this in your life?

Convictions

January 27, 2009 at 7:34 pm

How strong are your convictions? What would cause you to reconsider your convictions? What would be willing to walk away from because of your convictions?

How Far Do You Drive To Church? How Far Is Too Far?

January 27, 2009 at 9:13 am

We are still in the very early stages of planting Church of the Cross. One of the biggest challenges we face is finding a permanent location. The school district in our original “target” area is simply too expensive. I cannot justify paying such a significant amount for three hours of space a week. The next school district over is much cheaper but has no schools ideally located for our church. We have looked at renting storefront property but there is a significant renovation cost with everything affordable (not to mention the cost of chairs, etc.).

In the process of praying and searching, a possibility has come up that is about 10 miles from our original “target” area. In Phoenix, 10 miles is more significant than it might be in other cities. Since we are so heavily suburban, 10 miles literally puts you several “worlds” away.

But as we search for the right location, I can’t help but wonder: how far do you drive to church? How far is too far? If you drive a distance, how does your church facilitate living on mission in your neighborhood?

An Interview With Randall Goodgame

January 27, 2009 at 6:48 am

picture-1His website describes him as a “young artist with an old soul.” It’s been four years since the release of Randall’s last album War and Peace. I recently caught up with Randall to discuss his new EP bluebird among other things.

 

  • Were you raised in a “Christian” home?

Yes. I was raised in the Baptist Church by committed Christian parents.

  • Were you raised in a musical home/when did you take up music/when did you realize it was your life’s calling?

My parents were not musicians, but they enjoyed music and encouraged me to play once they realized my affinity for it. I started piano lessons at around 8 years old, and I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of it as my life’s calling. I’ve just walked through doors that God has opened for me, sometimes even with prayerful consideration. However, I have recently begun to recognize music as the vehicle God has allowed me to travel in as I live out my life’s calling… which I now know is seeking him and his will.

  • Would you mind sharing a bit about your salvation experience?

I remember praying “the sinners prayer” as we called it back then, during my 5th grade science class. But God had been working in my heart long before that. It was probably just a really hard day with friends or school that brought me to the place of saying those words. But they are powerful words, and I think that was the beginning of conscious faith for me.

  • Did salvation change your view of music?

I don’t think so. We didn’t talk about music much in my house. We kids just listened to whatever was on the radio, which at the time was Van Halen, Madonna, Phil Collins… and my parents listened to stuff like John Denver and The Gatlin Brothers. I do remember a time in high school, though, when I realized that God was the giver of this gift. That’s when I began to consider him and wrestle with the question of what honors him and what does not.

  • Is expressing your faith through your music something you consciously focus on?

This is going to sound like I’m channeling Hank Williams Sr., but really, I just focus on expressing the truth. It is hard to do, because I spend much of my life keeping the truth at arms length. But when I am most honest with myself about how I feel and how I see the world, the best songs are born. At the end of King Lear, one of Edgar’s famous last lines are “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.” That makes the best art, and the best people. I think that’s why Shakespeare gives the line such prime real estate.

  • If possible, please describe your creative process? Do you begin with lyrics or music? Do you primarily write with pen & paper or computer?

There’s no set way for me. Right now, I’ve got 2 unfinished songs that have fully finished choruses. For those, the music and lyrics came simultaneously, but now I’ve got to write verses for both of them. Sometimes I’ll write on scraps of paper at traffic lights, and sometimes I’m sitting at my computer writing late into the night in my office at home.

  • What are your thoughts about the growing trend of artists moving away from larger record labels?

It is so exciting. The whole industry is changing and I believe the model that will rise to the top will be one like Brite Entertainment that acknowledges the value of good music and the people’s desire to support the creation of good music.

  • How do you balance the business and creative sides of music?

It is hard for me. I have good business-minded people around me, and I need them to push me toward good business decisions as I work on my craft. I think artists need people around them speaking the language of smart business, so that it sinks into their sub-conscious. Issues from interactions with promoters, to what the record sounds like, to wardrobe choices all benefit from frank business discussion. In the end, though, the artist must be able to move forward fully confident in himself (or herself) and his decisions.

  • Are you much of a reader? If so, who are some of your favorite authors/books:

Yes, I read quite a bit. I love historical fiction, I love good stories with great characters… everything from Hemingway and Graham Green to J.K. Rowling. Right now, I am reading a ton on healthy eating and healthy living. We have had some health issues at home that have opened our eyes to the problems with the typical American diet. Then there’s writers like Ian Thomas and Jean Guyon and Friedrich Buechner and C.S. Lewis that write so thoughtfully about the Gospel. I couldn’t do without that stuff.

  • Who are some of the artists who have influenced you?

There are so many. Billy Joel and Elton John, Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan, David Wilcox, Patty Griffin, The Band, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and then all of my friends who are musicians. They are a big influence, I’m sure – because I’m always listening to their records!

  • What are you currently listening to?

I got on the Coldplay train very late. So I’ve been catching up on them and other bands my friends tell me I should hear. And friends like Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves stay in the rotation a lot, which is fun because my kids listen to it and love it as well. My kids assume that I must be friends with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson because I know Andrew Peterson and Ginny Owens. It’s pretty hilarious.

  • What’s next for you?

Well, I’ve spent the last 4 years working as the worship pastor for my church and writing songs for congregational worship. During that time, I’ve thought and prayed an awful lot about the Church. When I began thinking about touring in 2009, the vision God gave me combines my traditional concert with a time of congregational worship. The Church is great at compartmentalizing faith (I know that because I am great at it too). But the Gospel reaches into every corner of our lives, and I am passionate about inspiring the Church toward a deeper awareness of Jesus in every aspect of life. By beginning the evening with songs that deal frankly with the journey of human experience, and ending the evening with a call to sing together and worship our King, we will together acknowledge his presence in every detail of our lives. I’m pretty excited about fleshing that out.

  • Visit Randall Goodgame’s official website

Anathallo: Hymns

January 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm

hymnsepSo, I’ve transferred from my blog and the first thing I hear from people is not “where are all the insightful posts,” but “where’s the Anathallo Hymns EP?! Well, here it is. For those not familiar, this was a (very) limited release EP put out by Anathallo. All proceeds went to a charity, but when it was gone, it was gone. There were no reprints. But the band has graciously allowed me to host mp3 versions of the EP. If you download it an enjoy it, please contact the band and thank them for their kindness. In the meantime, download it for yourself and see what all the fuss is about. Trust me, it’s good and worth your time downloading.