Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rend Collective: Homemade Worship by Handmade People

Rend Collective Experiment’s new album is an interesting and exciting look into the heart of the core group of the Collective. We find them pursuing a course that walks the line between the hymns of old and contemporary worship music. While listening to the album this becomes evident almost immediately. Some songs are more conducive for quiet moments reflecting on the enormity and beauty of the God we serve and draw us into His peace and love. Others are perfectly suited for the worship services at church and combine powerful, thought provoking lyrics with catchy melody, rhythm, and vocal harmonies that speak to Rend Collective’s professionalism and talent as a group of musicians as well as lyricists.

One highlight from the album includes the powerful message of the cross and is found in the song “Second Chance.” The lyrics are what caught my attention. 
Oh Your cross it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart”

It serves as a timely reminder of the purpose of Christ’s coming to Earth during the hustle and bustle surrounding the holiday season. Tim Hughes mentions in the promotional video for the new album, “His hands made worlds and stars and also chose the pain of human scars.” The cross changes everything and while we celebrate the birth of our Savior lets keep our focus where it belongs, on the freedom and mercy that drove the Son of God to visit Earth, begin His life in the lowest place possible, and eventually suffer the “pain of human scars” so you and I don’t have to.

(Here’s a link to the promotional video for the new album: click.)

Musically, the talent displayed by the five core members of the collective is impressive to say the least. Styles range from a folksy, almost bluegrass feel in some parts to guitar driven worship music is sure to provide enough variety to keep even the most seasoned critic from finding too much similarity from song to song.

Despite the incredible musicianship, tight vocal harmonies, and moving lyrics found throughout this album, the most touching and exciting part of the Rend Collective is their heart. Their goal is to make the kingdom of God greater on this Earth and to do so without elevating one single person over another. Their call to God is not one that is based on a life of ease and simply paying lip service to a greater power. To borrow another quote from the video, “God is not safe or small…He’s got a wild imagination.” That sums up this album. It’s not “safe.” It doesn’t necessarily stick to what sells and it pays homage to the imagination and boundless creativity of our God and the expression of that creativity that the Rend Collective is able to capture in their recordings. It’s a call to worship and deeper relationship with God…Will you listen and respond?

-Reviewed by Michael Henson

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bethel Music: The Loft Sessions

To imagine a group with such great talent and seemingly endless creativity seems to be the essence of this new Bethel project. Bundle this in with a laid back atmosphere of what I think of as a “loft” implied by “The Loft Project” and what do you get; an excellent blend of worship music. Music suited for a more intimate search of the One who created all things is what this project inspires me to do.

If a laid-back yet engaging worship album is what you are looking for, here it is.  The Loft sessions has more of an organic feeling to it in general compared to the more electronic feel that some of their other albums include. I love hearing the incorporation of the banjo and such bluegrass-like and even classical instruments into today’s worship music. I have noticed many such instruments being used by groups such as Gungor and the Rend Collective. Hearing the sounds of undiluted instruments and organic sounds being mixed in with unadulterated worship music make my soul happy.

Hearing undefiled worship, and even just looking on worship music with the most pure mindset may also help with that. I suppose this is part of what the Lord meant when He said, “…unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV). Without this childlike mentality, I believe it is impossible to receive the full worship experience of the God and Creator of all things.

The most favored track of mine on this album would be Fall Afresh. I found it particularly easy to enter into the atmosphere of worship with this song. The line “…Pour through the caverns of my soul, pouring me to overflow…” particularly struck a chord in my soul. Letting His Spirit move through every fiber of my life is my hearts desire. To hear that echoed by other writers brings me great joy.

I am happy to hear these sincere messages of hope being published in this topsy-turvy  world in which we live. To have the message of the Gospel being spread through music, give the church of today a breath of fresh air so to speak. Knowing that His truth is being carried to all nations through the art of music is amazing and with groups such as Bethel leading the way, I look to a brighter future.

-Reviewed by Tyler Cummings

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Switchfoot: Vice Verses Hits St. Louis

Switchfoot hit the Pageant in St. Louis on December 6, 2011 for the latest stop on their “Vice Verses” tour. This is a band that feeds on the crowd and I’m not quite sure “St. Louie,” as frontman Jon Foreman refers to us locals, was energetic enough on this Tuesday night to create greatness (whereas their February 15, 2010 show did), but the band always comes through in an energetic, uplifting manner and they did it again here.

Somehow this group has navigated that difficult middle course of remaining unapologetically Christian without alienating non-believers. This could not be proven any truer than the St. Louis show—the concert was sponsored by the local alternative radio station (where “Dark Horses” is their Current No. 1 Song on the playlist), while the audience was shot-through with T-shirts advertising the local family-oriented Christian station (which doesn’t play their music).

The Concert

It will be interesting how this tour is received, because musically the new album is a clear departure from most of their past efforts, with songs featuring almost hyper literate lyrics (“Selling the News,” “the War Inside”) against the backdrop of solid, guitar driven rock and roll that continues to mature. This is obvious when listening to the new CD, but—interestingly enough—not during the concert, where the band blends in the new songs seamlessly.

This is a band confident of their talent and full potential. They’re never slaves to the CD versions of their songs, often adding fresh interpretations to the set list without revinventing the song. When not overtly critiquing American culture, their songs are almost invariably laced with hope, faith, and challenges. It’s no surprise they’ve found a sizable audience, inclusion on the late night talk show circuit (Kimmel, Leno, Conan), covers sung during concerts by the likes of Taylor Swift and the Jonas brothers, and songs regularly embedded into movie soundtracks.

Live concerts always include surprises. They’ll lull you into a fresh dose of Switchfoot before busting out “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. Later, it is “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction with a guest soloist. (Sorry, I didn’t get his name.). These aren’t tributes, but fun interpretations that keep everyone alert. (During the Hello Hurricane tour, they covered Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.”)

They’re always highly interactive, with Foreman regularly wading into the crowd, and bassist Tim Foreman and lead guitarist Drew Shirley often leaning into the screaming, reaching fans. At this show, as 16-year-old named Tyler got a chance to play “Hello Hurricane” with the band during the Encore set because he held up a sign saying, “All I want for Christmas is to play Hello Hurricane with you.” He got the star treatment he wanted.

It’s an uplifting, energizing night that often includes songs ending with the band pointing to heaven via hands or guitars, as if they want to keep everyone’s eyes where they belong.

Can There Be More?

After a bevy of GMA Dove Awards, the band scored their first Grammy with “Hello Hurricane” in 2010. Every new album consistently adds to a catalog of songs that most bands south of U2 would envy. This is a band that’s still arcing into full maturity. While you might quibble that the venues might get larger, if they don’t, that won’t indicate failure. This is a band marking out a middle course almost no one has taken before, one that reaches believers and non, without sacrificing quality or energy. The real question is why more people don’t recognize that.

-Reviewed by Kent d Curry

NOTE: Susan Loyd shot some amazing pix from earlier in the tour.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Internet: 1996 vs. 2011

Here are some fascinating comparisons between what the internet looked like in its infancy and what it looks like now. Check out the differences between MapQuest & Travelocity, as well as the most popular web sites then (where have you gone AOL?) and now.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Grammy Nomination: Royal Tailor

If you haven't heard, IBC grads Royal Tailor Band received a Grammy nomination for "Black & White."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Switchfoot: Dark Horses Live

The guys from San Diego offer the same type of show on Jay Leno they offer live -- high energy, positive, clear. Enjoy

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jesus Culture: Awakening

In an effort to convey the love of God to the world, Jesus Culture is releasing a new live album entitled The Awakening. Recorded in Chicago by the California-based band as the group hosted Awakening 2011 conference in August. If you are a fan of Jesus Culture’s previous albums, this one is a must! I am especially partial to live albums so this one hits home for me quite a bit.

Their combined effort at catchy chord patterns, lively licks and driving passion in worship alone make for a great combination. Couple that with great lyrics and a longing to worship our Lord and Savior and you come us with a recipe for success. This is exactly what Jesus Culture is and has done for the past several years.

By impacting their local community and reaching beyond themselves for a greater purpose, they have grown into a great worship culture. I believe their true desire as well as the desire echoed by our generation can be defined in the song “We Are Hungry.” As I was listening to this, I realized that this is my desire as well.

“..I will not be silent,

I will not be quiet anymore,

I will not be silent…

I will raise my voice,

I will raise my voice,

I will raise my voice to You to You...

It is about time we started stepping out and sharing this good news, which we have been so blessed to have been given. That exactly, through exuberant worship, is what Jesus Culture is doing and all the while not being a bit ashamed.

Be looking forward to this new album released November 29, 2011.

Kudos to Jesus Culture for taking the stand.

Reviewed by Tyler Cummings

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Leigh Nash: Hymns and Sacred Songs

Leigh Nash’s new release, Hymns and Sacred Songs, is a collection of the singer’s favorite old hymns as well as newly released hymns by such writers as Graham Kendrick, Stuart Townend, Aaron Keyes, Katie Gustafson and Nash, herself. Seeking lyrics cherished for their depth of meaning as well as poetic beauty, the hymns are given a fresh, new look with the combination of Nash’s light and easy voice and updated instrumentation.

Nash, who has been performing since her high school days, became known through her collaboration with Matt Slocum in forming the band Sixpence None The Richer. Following her time with the band, she continued to sing on projects with artists such as Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, Matthew West and others. Her latest project is a celebration and homage to the hymns she grew up singing in church and which she cherished from a child.

It is refreshing to hear the rich lyrics of old hymns such as “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above.” Writers such as Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley and Dorothy Thrupp wrote Biblical truths and profound life experiences into their lyrics. As more and more artists rediscover these musical gems their message is once again being heard. Nash’s arrangements are simple, using keyboard, bass, drums and guitars, but they uniquely allow the lyric to take center stage. The overarching theme is that of hope restored, of finding deliverance and restoration in the work that Christ has done one the Cross. My personal favorite is Fanny Crosby’s “O Heart Bereaved and Lonely.”

O heart bereaved and lonely

Whose brightest dreams have fled.

Whose hopes like summer roses

Are withered, crushed and dead.

Though link by link be broken

And tears unseen may fall.

Look up amid they sorrow

To Him who knows it all…..

Take a stroll through beloved hymns, or, discover them for the first time. Their message is timeless, and you won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Ann Ahrens

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Switchfoot . . . and Taylor Swift?

So, because I have a taste for the perverse... Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman sang alongside Taylor Swift in Glendale, Arizona on Oct. 21, 2011. They shared a duet of Switchfoot’s breakout hit “Meant to Live” before an arena full of little girls, who - judging from all three angles of the same concert - knew the lyrics.

Swift proclaims Switchfoot "one of her favorite bands" and she has included their "Dare You to Move" in her acoustic shows (top video), so . . . maybe there's hope for the younger generation after all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Science vs. Religion Again? No, just common sense...

So we got another one of those weird "Teacher fired for teaching creationism and hating Evolution" cases...

Link? LINK!

While I hear of reprimands to such teachers and slapping on the wrists.... But termination of a teacher's position regarding such a matter seems to be the first that I come across (though I am sure it's happened elsewhere)....

But they had a whole trial for this man's removal as a teacher...

6,000 pages of transcripts and 350 exhibits later, the court agreed that the man was right to be fired....

Sounds a tad similar to the Scopes Monkey Trial at the beginning of the century where a man decided to teacher his beliefs in evolution and was removed from his teacher post, and later went to trial, which, is kind of a big deal in history books....

I have really no spin on this trial. I agree with the decision of the court... If you can gather 350 pieces of evidence demonstrating that a teacher was continuously refusing to teach the material that the curriculum asked him to teach then he should be fired.

Teachers like the rest of us are hired to do a job. And like most of us would get in trouble for spouting our religious beliefs in the workplace, I don't think the teachers themselves should be exempt just because they disagree with the curriculum. If the man didn't want to teach it, he could have resigned.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Words to Live By: The Bible

"Many Christians expect the world to respect the book they neglect." -Quoted by E.C. McKenzie (via David Jeremiah Ministries)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Review: The City Harmonic's "I Have a Dream"

To Be Released October 18, 2011

From our friends north of the border comes a band full of energy, inspiration and a contemporary take on traditional spiritual values. They portray the Christian messages intended clearly while adding in certain folk/contemporary flairs.

As their name implies, The City Harmonic offers close-knit harmonies with the message of hope and forgiveness thrown in. With the Canadian foursome’s creativity, they combine to create a rather interesting style of music. If you were to mix a Coldplay-style piano with some of Need to Breath’s acoustic and Hillsong’s synth and vocal style, The City Harmonic is what you would get.

I must admit the first band I thought of was Kings of Leon as soon as the first few chords of the first song Yours was played. The way in which they incorporated catchy melodies and upright piano sounds, along with great lyrics, into their music immediately caught my attention:

All hopes, all my dreams, all my hopes all my thoughts.

All the things I’ve loved,

All my sin, all my fear, all my sorrow for the things I’ve done.

You can have it all, it’s Yours, all of it! Yours! All of it! Yours!

Songs such as Be Still, O My Soul evoke a solitary figure sitting at the piano, singing introspectively to the Lord in a very devotional style.

I enjoyed the CD very much. Their sound, in my opinion, could be a bit more unique. It sounded a bit generic, but with today’s contemporary Christian music industry, everything is beginning to sound the same to me. New inspiration, vision and diversity is definitely needed for artists today and I believe that these young men have the makings of something spectacular. I wish them only the best in their years to come and I cannot wait to hear more and to see where God will lead them in the future.

-Reviewed by Tyler Cummings

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Food for Though: Forgiveness Requires . . .

“Forgiveness requires healing grief. Forgiveness hurts, as all grief must, and if it hurts to forgive, it hurts equally to be forgiven. We can feel magnanimous when we forgive – in which case it isn’t real forgiveness because it does not involve grief. True forgiveness involves fellow-feeling with the one forgiven. When we accept forgiveness we accept ourselves as sinners, which is not popular today, even in the church.” - Madeleine L’Engle

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vote! An Accredited UPCI College?

If you've heard, Gateway College of Evangelism (in St. Louis) approached UGST (Urshan Graduate School of Theology) about the possibility of being acquired so UGST could start an undergraduate program--essentially giving the UPCI a Christian college (not strictly a Bible college but not strictly a liberal arts college).

UPCI General Superintendent David K. Bernard put together a task force to consider this opportunity. The task force is gathering feedback to do a presentation and proposal to the General Board at General Conference in mid-October.

Care to voice your opinion? Vote here to be heard.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Switchfoot: Dark Horses

Switchfoot's new Vice Verses album releases on Tuesday. It's quite different--not in a bad way, just different--from their usual heavy guitar, sunny California sound. Here's the first release & i s a good sample for the entire album:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quick Thinker? You probably believe in God. Situation Analyzer? You probably don't believe in God

An interesting report published by some cognitive science researchers at Harvard reveals that people who are more intuitive in their thinking are more likely to believe in God. In contrast, more reflexive people are less likely to believe in God. Intuition in the study was defined as instinctive and "as the tendency to rely on first instincts and to reach decisions quickly and then stick by them. Reflection, on the other hand, is a slower process that involves questioning initial instincts and looking at a wider range of alternatives."

 The head of the research is adamant that there is no bias in the study and I tend to agree because if someone was doing a polemic against people who believed in God, there are several other more degrading words than intuition.

 Nonetheless, for me, the topic touches on an all too awkward issue.... that people's brain capacity and the way certain people think has a correlation with whether they believe or not... or in other words, heaven is that much easier to attain for those who are more intuitive whereas, if the study is accurate, reflexive thinks are less likely to believe by way of how their brain functions...

 It's these scientific arguments that make me sympathetic to the predestination arguments. However, the fact that what we are dealing with here is correlation, or an association between intuition/reflection, belief/unbelief reminds me that we are not dealing with a fact of causation where if one is intuitive in their thinking, they will definitely believe in God
  The article is here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Words to Live By: Finding God

“If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever will find him must go to the foot of the Cross.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today's Teens are Amoral, not Immoral

David Brooks of the New York Times reports on a book that reveals how young people today are incapable of defining morality. While that's hardly news, it does make you wonder how hard we Pentecostals are working to make sure the next generation is learning how to define the great truths in their own words.

Say Brooks:

“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Alzheimers = Death = Divorce

Apparently Pat Robertson said that Alzheimer's is equivalent to death, so a Christian spouse could divorce their loved one with Alzheimer's. Really? That's a pretty interesting reading from the Gospels.

Like Jessie Jackson on politics and race, Pat Robertson has long, long ago stopped speaking for Christianity, but lazy members of the media just can't stop quoting them as if they're authorities. Still, it's the latest example of how society will paint us (or allow ourselves to be painted) if we don't work hard to counter stereotypes through love.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Facebook Church?

The link of the day is an article in the ever illustrious New York Times.... 

Which continues with our theme of from last week about the difficulties/advantages of church oriented activities happening online and more specifically on Facebook (Last week we had an evangelist "Type in tongues" on her Facebook posts),,,

At the surface the article is about the popularity of a "Jesus page" on Facebook which is more popular than Justin Bieber's Facebook page (I don't understand why the New York Times would think that would be such a shocking fact)....

But the more interesting issue which the article seems to be really getting at is the validity of church communities that not only interact with members online, but also exist as a church community through online alone.

The most open to such a viable "online-only" community was a rabbi...

"There are some people who will always prefer the in-person, face-to-face experience, who love being in a room with other Jews and smelling the freshly baked challah. And some people will prefer being online,” said Rabbi Baum, 31, who is one of the leaders of “There are those people who prefer to check out our tweets on their phone or listen to our podcast. I don’t think the use of technology needs to be for everybody. But we have found a community online. Many of them have never felt a connection to Judaism before."

The Rabbi gets to a very important question.... It's not about real or virtual in terms of church. Rather, it's simply about what about those who would never go to real church in the first place? Do we draw the line of where Christianity is active/inactive and just choose to not reach out to those who will only go to church online?

Words to Live By: True Love

"The native language of love is lavishness." -William Hendriksen

Which is true, you know. Don't tell me you love someone. Show me how generous you are to them with your time, money, and willingness to change for them and I'll know how much you love them.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Women preacher types in tongues

So I initially came here to post one thing. And now I am no longer posting that one thing and instead posting on another thing. And by another thing, the source can be found here. Basically a big time Pentecostal Televangelist, Juanita Bynum has taken to typing tonges within her own Facebook status...

Normally, I probably wouldn't blink twice about such things, but I stumbled upon the story on a secular "pop news" website which usually could care less about religious matters. And sure enough, other secular websites seem to be picking up on the story......

I don't know what to think yet. Really, I'm dumbfounded. Not that I would ever judge the authenticity of someone's Pentecostal experience, but I'm more so confused about what this implicitly says about social media (Facebook) and it's accommodation of church matters..... I honestly had thought that in many respects Pentecostalism was completely unique in many ways that it could never be imitated online. And the case of "typing in tongues" puts up a challenge to that notion....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Snapshot: 100 Most Powerful Women in the World

Forbes magazine offers their list of the World's Most Powerful Women. After the usual politicians, there are business leaders, philanthropists, and even Lady Gaga (who saw that coming?), but no religious leaders. Should religion = power, though?

Anyway, it's worth a scan.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who Has More Fun: Atheists or Us?

An interesting take (rated PG-13) at RealClearReligion on whether Atheists have more fun in life than believers - and if it's worth it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rick Warren Storms Europe!

The Financial Times takes a look-see at the movement that is Rick Warren, and his current attempts to spread the Gospel in Europe.

It's always interesting to see a reporter who doesn't have a religious background try to find the right vocabulary to accurately describe a believer trying to make a difference. Almost always, they fall back on political language.

Monday, August 08, 2011

NAYC 2011: Videos Galore!

Check out all the NAYC 2011 video clips on YouTube!

"WE ARE . . . "


Sunday, August 07, 2011

NAYC Quotes: Paul Pamer

Barberton, OH's Paul Pamer offered these 2 gems at the mid-Friday General Session:

  • "If the only thing you do is go to church then someday you won't."
  • On cell phones (& technology in general): "It's time we stopped using them as toys and started using them as tools."

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Youth Congress 2011

Just returned from the spectacular North American Youth Congress 2011 in Columbus, OH. While attendance probably didn't break the 15,500 mark any night (and honestly, since when is 15,000 teenagers worshiping God a negative?) there was always an overabundance of the move of the Spirit.

All 3 night speakers were spot on, but so was Music Coordinator Kristin Keller. On both Wednesday and Friday nights, she ended the evenings on amazing worship highs. She was pitch perfect in music and Spirit, and - at the risk of being accused of overstatement (or carnality) - held the crowd in her hands as masterfully as Bono. Except God received all the glory.

Didn't see the usual Youth Congress article from the local paper of record, but they did cover the North American Bible Quiz Tournament. (Make sure you read the comments at the bottom.)

While I'm sure there were disappointments and frustrations, congratulations to all who contributed. It was spectacular (again).

Creativity Magnifico!

So this artist put a gigantic statue into the middle of a Hamburg lake with amazing success. I love it!

Sadly, it'll only stay public through August 12, 2011.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Facebook Embarrassment

You don't have to have kids to ROFL at this one! AllFacebook has an inspired "10 Ways to Embarrass Your Kids on Facebook" that you can easily adapt to siblings or others.

Don't miss it.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Writing Time with Some Greats

Wow! The Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College will be featuring Pulitzer-Prize winner Marilynne Robinson, National Book Award winner Walter Wangerin, young turks like Tony Earley and Jonathan Safron Foer, Newberry Award winners, respected poets and so much more!

$175 registration is slated for early November, for April 19-21 Festival. Don't think you can't afford it until you've poked through their website, as it continues to get more robust.

It's not to be missed if you want to discover what's happening in the world of letters and the world of Christian letters, especially. There's a lot of brave writing around faith these days and this festival captures it all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New CD:William Matthews--Hope's Anthem

Hope’s Anthem is the debut release by singer/songwriter William Matthews. With a combination of styles such as R&B, soul, pop and a bit of bluegrass, Matthews original compositions take the listener through a range of worship styles from joyful and carefree to introspective and contemplative.

Beginning with his participation leading worship at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO, Matthews then moved on to Bethel Church in Redding, CA, where he currently lives, writes and continues to lead worship. Additionally, Matthews will be conducting a tour of California churches, featuring songs from his debut album.

The album opens with the unconventional sound of banjo and mandolin in the upbeat I’m Free. This is followed by a range of styles from slow to driving tempo tunes such as Deep Cries Out. Matthews brings a fresh version of Psalm 40 in the upbeat So Good To Me, as well as a remake of Psalm 23 in The Lord Is My Shepherd.

Echoing Bluetree’s God Of This City is the fourth song on the album, We Believe:

You hear us Lord when we lift our voice, here in one accord,

Father we ask, may your kingdom come and your will be done here across this land

Father we stand in your truth,

We believe that our nation will be saved, that our cities will be free,

Every promise that you give God,

We believe that your love will never end and your mercy cover sin.

Every promise that you give, God, we believe.

My pick from the album is This One Thing

My heart and flesh cry out, O living God,

You’re where I wanna be.

This song I sing, this prayer and offering, to you, beautiful King.

And all I want is just your heart. Yes, I am living just to see your glory

You’re where I wanna be, you’re where I wanna be

My heart it beats for this one thin

I’m so in love with you, I’m so in love with you,

My heart is singing this one thing…..

With solid, Biblically based lyrics, Hope’s Anthem is just that – a call to renewed confidence in the power and promise of God’s word and calling in us.

-Ann Ahrens

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Campus Crusade for Christ starts working out, loses weight, changes name.

To get an unbiased scoop of today's story, go here.

To get an idea to what caused me to write this, go here.

What you need to know: The leading Christian Evangelical network for college students, "Campus Crusade for Christ" has changed it's name to, "Cru."

The reason being that the word crusade has a pitiful historical resume as thousands have been unjustly murdered in the name of the Christian God during the crusades. For more on the history of this word click here.

The removal of the word Crusade is not what is drawing the fire of many Christians however. Rather, the word "Christ" is gone too....

And this seems to be a really really big deal.

Christians are angry. Outraged even.

 There could even be pitchforks.

The people up in arms about this name change argue that Campus Crusade for Christ's name change to Cru is indicative of the hopelessness of today's age apparently. It seems that the secular monster of the land is at it again, trying to stricken the mention of Christ from any public representation. This is the same monster that is trying to take the Christ out of Christmas and he just won't stop until no one knows what Christianity is anymore! Or so that seems to be the consensus among the Christians against the name change to Cru....

And I couldn't disagree more. While I am certain that they Christians against Cru really have good intentions, and really believe that the name change is proof that we live in such a secular age even Christians are compromising their very name for the sake of acceptance within the secular culture...and they may certainly be right. I may even be a symptom of this secular age.

But I also went away to college for four years, where a big part of Cru's battle is fought. One of those four years I was a confessed agnostic/atheist hybrid. Another year I was almost Jewish. The last two years I became Christian  again. And I can easily say that sadly the most offensive thing about Christianity on secular college campuses is hearing the name Christ preached openly. This isn't Christ's fault though.

I would watch "Christians" stand at the heart of campus and preach with a red-faced hatred that "fags are going to hell" and that everyone who was not Christian would have the same result. These sermons happened monthly from different people. I can't recall a mention of the Holy Ghost or the Cross once. If I were to tell you what Christianity was about based on the campus sermons I heard, I would tell you it was about a God who wanted you to say you were a terrible sinner, and if you did not say you were a sinner he was going to condemn you to an eternal furnace. These loud mouthed fundamentalists were representing Christianity to people who may have never actually read the Bible before. And I'm sure they were all proud to call themselves Christian (unlike Cru apparently).

During my agnostic/atheist days, the campus preachers would make me laugh to myself because their hate confirmed why I wasn't one of them. I liked Judaism because they were never preaching condemnation to the roving masses. They were quiet and unassuming. I liked that. But when I came back to Jesus, walking past the Christian campus preachers was never a pleasant experience. I would bow my head and walk swiftly by, ashamed for my brothers and how they were representing my Jesus. How could I witness to my college peers when Christianity to them meant a God who looks forward to throwing you in hell?

My point is simple....  in a secular environment, Christianity ain't the best brand to display. Like the crusades misrepresented Christianity, I really believe the Bible thumping, hell condemning Christians (who may be the same ones who were upset at Cru for changing their name) give us a bad rep. I'm not saying having conviction is a bad thing. And I am definitely not one of those postmodern, "tolerate all religions" kind of guy. Really, I'm not. Because if there is one thing that irks me more than fire breathing preachers in the middle of campus, it's "tolerant secular liberals" who only are intolerant to Christianity.

All I am simply saying is that when it comes to being a campus evangelical group, having a name called Campus Crusade for Christ or "Cru," I whole-heartily would tell people that for today, Cru will get the message across much better. We can stick up for our Christian title and in the process offend many people away from ever giving us a chance to tell them about the Good News, or we can not put our faith in the names of our organizations, and hope that secular people will see the Christianity in us and through our words instead of in name alone...

Paul did this on Mars Hill. He was subtle with his message. He started off preaching in the context of the Greek culture and then introduced Jesus.  Hell wasn't the first word for Paul. And sadly many Christians have made hell the first thing that comes to a lost soul's mind when they hear "Christian."

And while it's sad that Christianity can't be all public like it used to, is today's situation not more similar to the context that Christianity was first born in, where persecution of Christianity abounded and thus Christians had to be creative on how to get their message to spread a midst a predominately secular society?

"Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."      I Corinthians 9:19-23

Monday, July 25, 2011

New CD: Stuart Townend--The Journey

Modern hymn writer Stuart Townend’s new release, The Journey, is a modern folk-style offering of new hymns, modern psalms and introspective tunes. Townend attends and regularly leads worship at Church of Christ the King (CCK) in Brighton, UK.

Departing from the usual electric guitar and drum based tracks of most modern worship bands, Townend pulls out what one might expect on a folk album – slide guitar, mandolin, drums, guitar, fiddle, flutes, whistles and banjo. It is a mixture of bluegrass, Celtic and mountain music, not in the usual mold of worship music. But Townend is convinced that this, too, pleases God. He states, “So I hope that this album might provoke some of us to broaden the musical and thematic horizons of what we do week to week in our local churches. But most of all, I hope it causes us to see the providential grace and love of God in our lives and to respond in worship and obedience to Christ.”

Tracks include the upbeat and dance-like Vagabonds, a new bluegrass take on the hymn It Is Well With My Soul, and a new take on the traditional chant, Kyrie Eleison.

Purposefully departing from the norm of the modern praise and worship style, The Journey by Stuart Townend is just that – a “journey” down a new a fresh path of worship and contemplation.

-Ann Ahrens

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New CD: Jake Hamilton--Freedom Calling

Jesus Culture worship artist Jake Hamilton releases his new album, Freedom Calling, this summer. Following on the heels of his debut album, Marked By Heaven, Hamilton continues in the same straight-forward rock style. Seeking to reach a “new generation of worshipers,” Hamilton’s lyrics are honest, thought-provoking and geared to the youth culture. “I long to give the Body of Christ a language for reformation and revival through melodies that will be carried on for generations,” states Hamilton.

Raw, rock style vocals, coupled with driving drums and guitars, set the stage for this message. Beginning with the driving War Drums, Hamilton sets the stage for a musical journey through themes of surrender, intimate worship and that of surrender to God’s purpose – a “leaning” away from one’s own purposes and into the calling and plan of God.

While the entire album is lyrically rich and musically diverse, my pick tune has to be “Looking For One.” Hamilton acknowledges,

Jesus came to save the world, then he let us give it a whirl

And we messed it up, but I’m not givin’ up.

Cause far as I know mercy still remains, judgment only comes if I don’t remain

Faithful. You’ll find me faithful

You’re looking for one who can feel your heart beat

Can feel when you lead, the time and the season,

You’re looking for one who’ll stand in the gap

Never look back, find your heart in their freedom,

You’re looking for one.

Sure to be a hit with those who like their music hard, loud and “in your face,” Jake Hamilton’s Freedom Calling brings the challenge we all need to hear.

-Ann Ahrens

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New CD: Aaron Keyes--Dwell

The sophomore release by Aaron Keys entitled Dwell is a collection of worship and devotional songs. Keyes is the worship pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Snellville, GA where, for the past eight years, he has not only lead in worship but, along with wife Megan, has opened his home to a discipleship program for young worship leaders.

Although the collection contains a variety of styles with unique instrumental tracks, Keyes has made certain that one element is constant among all the songs – that of the Word of God. In an interview with Melissa Riddle Chalos, Keyes states, “It doesn’t seem right that I can go to some of the biggest worship conferences in the world and see some of the biggest worship leaders in the world and no one’s saying anything about the Bible. It makes me nervous because if the Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, if we’re leading without it, we’re leading people into darkness.”

Born out of personal spiritual warfare, the songs on Dwell were written to place the listener in the presence of God, the only place spiritual wars are truly won. Keyes places high priority on putting listeners in a place of worship and surrender so that God can fight the battle and bring authentic victory.

Evoking images of Psalm 91, the title track, Dwell, reminds the listener that we cannot escape from God’s presence, nor can we be blocked from it for God is with us always.

I will dwell in the shelter of the most High God

I will rest in the beauty of your presence.

Your faithfulness is a shield and my great reward

I will not be afraid, I will trust in the Lord.

From the upbeat Lavish, to slow and meditative tracks such as In The Name of God, Aaron Keyes new release Dwell is a call to return to pure, Bible centered worship – a truly enriching experience.

-Ann Ahrens

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sneak Peek Music Video: Sanctus Real's Hammitt

Multiple Grammy-nominated, Dove Award-winning Sanctus Real lead vocalist Matt Hammitt’s first solo album, Every Falling Tear, comes out September 13.

Here's the first video from the new album.

Friday, July 08, 2011


More thoughts from the news.

(1) Tired. I'm tired of hearing about people talk about Casey Anthony. I was never interested in the proceedings. I didn't follow the OJ saga either. If you know little or nothing of either, God bless you. I know less than most, probably, but more than I would like. I wish that my knowledge of Casey Anthony was zero. Our collective national interest, or, should I say morbid fascination, reminds me for some strange reason of the scripture "have pleasure in them that do." Taken out of context, of course, and not really directly relevant, but oddly interesting nonetheless. I'm not accusing anyone of taking pleasure in watching the brutally painful ordeal that Casey Anthony is undergoing, but why does it have to be so public? And why are people so fascinated by it? This article explores that question in thoughtful detail. I passed by the lunch room one day a few weeks ago, where the TV is always on, and I was completely disgusted that it was on. I watched it for maybe 90 seconds, but it was about 88 seconds too long. I am relieved that the trial is over.

(2) Surprised. The Supreme Court ruled against violent video games for youth. For a while I wasn't sure where I stood on this issue. Then I realized it's a no-brainer. If they can rate movies with an "R" for violence, why isn't there an analogous rating system for violent video games? There should be.

(3) Angry. Outraged. I was listening to NPR one morning last week and caught this segment. While well-reported and informative, there was an audio clip of gunshots, and a man crying out for help in another language. As the narrator described watching the video and seeing the person's life ebb away, I was unable to bear it. I've seen people get shot on film. But film and real life are very different hings. I don't know what the editors were thinking when they allowed that to run. We have a ratings system for film that precludes certain images from being seen by certain people. NPR will often preface reports such as this with a warning (and it did in this case). However, I usually disregard the warnings anyway as I simply turn the dial if I can't tolerate what's being aired. In this instance, I turned the dial, but it was too little too late. I am now stuck with the audio image in my brain.

(4) Intrigued. Witness the increasing number of high profile athletes using some form of elimination diets. David Zabriskie is riding the Tour de France on a nearly vegan diet. Novak Djokovic just became the first gluten-free person to win Wimbledon. I find this all very exciting. Living in a household that avidly promotes gluten-free living (in addition to other nutritional trials to numerous to count) any promotion of a greater awareness of the importance of diet is fabulous news.

(5) Bored. I absolutely hate it when I hear someone say that he or she is bored. It should be illegal to be bored. There is so much to do, so much to read, so much to experience. And yet . . . "I'm bored" is the hallmark cry of youth. But if there's one thing that bores me it's things like the upcoming Roger Clemens trial. The author of the aforelinked article thinks it's a good thing. I think it's a shame. Who cares?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Civilization Brightens

I'm always on the lookout for trends that maybe tell us happier news about our society. This article in USA Today is one of those about where families are living today (hint: parents are moving in with grandparents).

Among other 2009 findings for children under 18:

— 69 percent lived with two parents.

— 4 percent lived with both a mother and father not married to each other.

— 59 percent who didn’t live with a parent lived with a grandparent.

— 7 percent lived with an unmarried parent who was cohabiting.

— 16 percent lived with a stepparent, stepsibling or half

Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday Round Up

Friday Round Up. Or Week in Review. Or basically a handful of interesting bits I caught in the news in the last week or two.

(1) They found James Bulger. Finally. I caught the segment on NPR last week and thought to myself, "Huh. I guess if part of the Pakistanis excuse for not knowing the whereabouts of OBL rested on our inability to find certain criminal elements in our country, someone in the DOJ decided to 'clean house,' as it were." Well done, guys. I heard one segment in which an ignoramus of the highest magnitude called for leniency in the case because he had been so many years on the lam and was presumably now a model citizen. C'mon. The guy was wicked evil. I believe in forgiveness but Whitey's gotta do some time, preferably, the rest of his life.

(2) There's been a lot of sex in the news in recent weeks. Maybe this isn't anything new. But consider: that wicked French guy. Wienergate. And now Bristol Palin comes out with a tell-all in which she intimates she was date-raped. She doesn't quite come right out and say it that way, but if you read the plain account as she tells it, it's certainly the plainest reading of the text. And now, let me see if I can parse out the 'news-worthiness' of any of the foregoing. (A) Dominique Strauss-Kahn: if guilty, needs to do some jail time, definitely news (late-breaking questions of her credibility aside). (B) Anthony Wiener: behaving badly member of congress involved in scandal not even to the point of an extra-marital affair? not really news. In fact, I'm surprised he didn't hold to his guns and stay in office. Although I was glad to hear he was planning on getting some counseling. and (C) Bristol Palin: Who Cares? Why do people continue to pore over a feeding frenzy over nothing substantive. Please don't get me wrong. I am not demeaning her nor do I take lightly her claim, but why is this national news?

(3) Is the incidence of autism in kids today climbing slowly, skyrocketing, or maintaining at a steady pace? Is it just being diagnosed more frequently or is there something wrong with our environment where an enormous quantity of toxins are being introduced with devastating results? I'd like to draw your attention to a recent study from South Korea where it is estimated that 1 in 38 kids are affected with some form of autism. Startling? Unbelievable? While there may be some methodological issues or some exaggerative hype, I am concerned that autism will be the next pandemic. Okay, well pandemic isn't quite the right word because it isn't "infectious," but it does adequately express my alarm.

(4) A recent Harvard study shows that eating potatoes makes you gain weight while eating nuts and yogurt makes you lose weight. If only losing weight could actually be that simple. I first encountered the story in the aforelinked Post article. I actually think this is much better summary.

(5) Jose Antonio Vargas. Perhaps one of the most compelling news stories last week in a week full of news was that a renowned journalist came clean and admitted that for the last many years he has been working in the U.S. illegally. I'm not sure what side of the fence you all are on, but I have to say that I am on Jose's side. I think they should give him a free pass. Good work, guy. And way to bring a critical issue to the forefront of our national discussion. Having said that let me return to point #1. There are crimes and then there are Crimes. Bulger certainly belongs behind bars. But while I am a strong believer in the rule of law, I don't think Vargas deserves to be excoriated. He broke the law. Surely there should be some kind of punishment or restitution. But don't deport him. Let his story be the catalyst for passing some version of the Dream Act.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Week in Review

A couple interesting tidbits in the news this week.

(1) I have lately been quasi-following the question of the nation's debt and looming debt ceiling deadline. I like how this video outlines the issues very plainly. There is, unfortunately, little or no commentary as to the ramifications. These are precarious times for the U.S. economy. I'm more than a little concerned. I wish I had suggestions. I don't.

(2) Which brings us to the question of spending. Does the government spend too much? Undoubtedly. But can other folks pick up the slack? Not likely. I don't think most conservatives fully appreciate how many needs are out there.

(3) I'm sad that I now work too far away (20+ miles) from my home to conveniently bike to work. I really enjoyed my 13.2 mile commute home from downtown Minneapolis before we went to Africa. I know I was happier when I was riding my bike home from work. This article highlights some additional facts and figures surrounding cycling commuters and their relative state of happiness.

(4) Jon Huntsman, or Mormon-in-Chief #2, will vie for the top spot for the Republican Party in 2012. I appreciated this tidbit. I hope you do, too. Huntsman's website has a veiled nonsensical allusion to a biblical passage to which Joshua Green amusingly comments, "political consultants, like reporters, are so ignorant of religion that the allusion probably would not even have occurred to them."

(5) "Life moves pretty fast." This is a bit older piece but it was new to me this week so I present it to you in that vein (there's been a lot of additional commentary, see also this one for a contrarian view. I grew up in the 80s and so this movie was close to my heart as a 16 year old high school student wishing I, too, could be Ferris Bueller. While the author of this article has put a great deal of thought into the film, I am unable to devote that much time to thinking about it. For me, 25 years ago, it was simply a joy. While I have never had much fascination in the way of fancy cars, I'm sure it was the premise of skipping school with my favorite "War Games" movie star and cute girl that held such great appeal for me back then. I don't really know what I'd get out of it now. Can't say's I'll be watching it again, unfortunately. Oh, and the Charlie Sheen bit, prescient.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Website gets hacked. Ugly People Celebrate. Then they Cry.

I wish I had a long cultural commentary for today's link which can be found here: Link!

Basically, there's this dating website... for only "really really goodlooking people." 

I'm serious too. This website would evaluate whether or not you were "beautiful" or "ugly" and then only allow the beautiful applicants membership in the website.

Now, I really don't have a problem with this....niche websites should not be criticized for who they do and do not allow on their website. Of course, good looking people have it harder because preference for looks alone is quite a taboo subject these days (although I would argue the law of preference for beautiful or tall people is still operative throughout our society today, but it's just not spoken).

But the reason the website is considered news is because someone hacked the website and uploaded a virus that accepted 30,000 ugly people as members of the site. The virus itself was one thing. But the website operators went and removed those "ugly" people from their website even though they technically had memberships.

30,000 ugly people thought they were beautiful and lived the beautiful life for an entire weekend after being accepted as members. Only to have their hearts torn out from within after being told they really were "ugly" the whole time and their acceptance was a mistake.

Luckily, all the ugly people were refunded their membership fees and were even set up with a phone number to a crisis hotline as a means to cope with the rejection.

While the intricacies of this story are many, and quite laughable (for instance, what kind of world are we living in where 30,000 people are actually applying for this website?) one concern is for those thousands of actually good looking people who were previously accepted into the website?

Think about it....these beautiful people paying their hard earned dollar to be members of such an exclusive website, just so they don't have to deal with looking at the profiles of "ugly people"  when they are trying to find someone to date. And then one day  they log into the website, and find 30,000 ugly people roaming around that dating website! Can you imagine the trauma of the beautiful person that weekend? 

I just hope the site operators had some kind of recompense set up for those who were forced to look at the profile pictures of those mistakenly accepted ugly people.

(The above is sarcasm)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Twitter Feed acting up off our blogs, as we're not getting picked up. Joel opines on Kafka and Derrida, thoughts on the (Pentecostal) teens being all right in Word, while Momo has some good stuff on the NBA Finals.

So we're posting, but there's a feed disconnect. Running a test now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Germans vs. The Zionists vs. The Capitalists (with the Winner obtaining the rights to claim Kafka as their own)

Franz Kafka, author of Metamorphosis, one of the weirdest, most compelling books I read in high school  is up for grabs.

Sure, he's been dead for nearly 90 years, but Kafka still matters man.

Basically, before Kafka died, he told his friend, Max Brod to burn all his papers upon his death.

Brod, thankfully did not burn said papers. Instead, Brod took papers and moved to Palestine (which became Israel). Out of these papers, many letters and books by Kafka were published posthumously. 

And today, those papers that Kafka requested to be burned but never were burned are still around. 

And we are talking about Millions of dollars worth of papers, some of them have never been read....(one manuscript from the pile of papers went for 2 million back in the 60's).

The paper's currently reside in Israel in a vault under "ownership" by two sisters.

The Battle:

The Two sisters who inherited the papers from Max Brod want to sell the papers outright. (Claiming private ownership, desiring money, capitalism, blah blah blah).

But here's the debate....The Israeli Library  is claiming the papers are rightfully theirs on behalf of all Jewish people, in consideration that Kafka was Jewish.

The German Library  is claiming that the papers should be theirs arguing that Kafka wrote in German and that it can better protect the papers (in consideration that it's archives are carefully maintained and that it already possesses one of Kafka's manuscripts).

But this trial is far more fascinating than I just described it as...

if you have time, read Judith Butler's article on the topic which includes some brilliant can be read here: LINK

Here is one of the more fascinating bits Butler picks up:

If Kafka is claimed as a primarily Jewish writer, he comes to belong primarily to the Jewish people, and his writing to the cultural assets of the Jewish people. This claim... becomes all the more (controversial) when we realise that the legal case rests on the presumption that it is the state of Israel that represents the Jewish people.... 

 First, the claim overcomes the distinction between Jews who are Zionist and Jews who are not, for example Jews in the diaspora for whom the homeland is not a place of inevitable return or a final destination...

The implicit understanding is that all Jews and Jewish cultural assets – whatever that might mean – outside Israel eventually and properly belong to Israel, since Israel represents not only all Jews but all significant Jewish cultural production.... 

and now through claiming significant works by those who happen to be  Jews as  Jewish cultural capital that, as such, rightly belongs to the Israeli state.

In summary, when the National Library of Israel claims Kafka's paper on behalf of all the Jewish people, and because Kafka is Jewish, Israel is in a sense saying that as a State, Israel defines Jewishness, and also speaks on behalf of all Jews, even those who don't live in Israel.  AKA even though Kafka Never stepped foot in Palestine (which would become Israel), and was entirely a European citizen, Israel is claiming that He was really one of their own.....even when he didn't know it. 

As a  Jew by ethnicity, I don't like this. I am not a Zionist.