Fear of Death

Most people say that the biblical definition of death is separation. Hebrews says that Jesus would “… free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” If we are held in slavery by our fear of death, what does that mean? What does that look like? Is it separation? Separation from what or whom?



Good News for the Shepherds

Our lead pastor here at The Austin Stone Community church is Kevin Peck.  He shared with us at staff meeting today, reading out of Luke 2.  The shepherds in Luke 2 are in charge of the lambs, who will eventually be taken to the temple to be sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins.  They spent long hours of every day walking right next to God’s plan to forgive His people.  And yet, we don’t know how much that affected them.  In all likelihood, it was just like any other job.  They were probably bored and tired of their job.  Even on good days, they just focused on getting the sheep from one place to another.

Sometimes that can be what we, as Christians, experience at Christmas.  We may work hard as parents to make sure our kids understand what Christmas is really about.  We try to dispel the glitz of the lights and plastic lawn elves and help them see Jesus.  We may work hard as staff members to make sure our congregations receive the gift of Christ this season.  We may do many things ensuring that the good news of Christmas reaches others.  But the angels said to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11 ESV).  The good news is for the shepherds.  The Savior is for the shepherds.  And for all the people.  The good news of great joy this Christmas is for you.  And for everyone else.

Just as the shepherds could spend all day next to the sacrificial lamb and never taste God’s forgiveness, we can spend all season next to the gospel.  We can touch it.  We can explain it.  We can share it.  And yet there is a chance we could never taste its goodness.  The good news is for you this Christmas.  Make sure you receive it.





Chosen, pt. 2

I hope someday I can apologize to Melissa Whitson.

Some of my favorite memories as a young teenager come from youth camp.  I remember amazing times of worship.  I remember being floored by the truth of God.  I remember the competition between cabins, in sports and everything else.  I remember taking a Japanese cooking class.  I don’t know why I took that or why I remember it.  But I do remember coming home and attempting to make my sister a stir-fry lunch of pepperoni, other assorted lunchmeat, a few vegetables I found in the frig, and soy sauce.  That’s all you really need to make it Japanese, right?

But one of my biggest memories was Sadie Hawkins.  It always happened on Thursday at camp.  Some time during the day a horn would go off, and then whichever girl tagged a boy, that boy had to take her to dinner that night.  And the horn always went off when we were in a big group.  It was a beautiful and terrible thing.  I had made it all the way through my junior high years without being tagged.  I was quite proud.  Looking back on it, I know I took off running, but I doubt I was ever actually being chased.  Being proud of escaping was much easier than being ashamed of not being wanted.  And then we entered high school.

One of the first days of camp that year I had injured my ankle, probably doing something stupid.  So I was on crutches all week.  There’s something to boost the confidence of an already awkward young man. And there was a new girl there.  Her name was Melissa.  I was quite taken with her. Somehow word got out that I was interested in her and my friend Brandon came back with the news that she might be interested in me as well.  In fact, he had it on good authority that she was planning on tagging me for Sadie Hawkins.  The cute girl I liked was going to choose me!

That afternoon we were in the middle of rec, in the middle of a field, when the horn sounded.  I was standing there leaning on my crutches, which unbeknownst to the world, I no longer actually needed.  I had been mostly recovered for about half a day already.  As the horn sounded, I handed the crutches to Brandon and took off running.  After all, I had a reputation to uphold.  I made it back to my dorm safe and sound with my Sadie Hawkins record still intact.

Only now, years later, can I look back and wonder what it might have been like for Melissa.  You’ve been told this boy likes you.  He’s obviously injured.  But when you go to tag him, he ignores the pain and runs away.  It was that important to get away.

I was such an idiot.  I only thought of me and not of the damage I could cause.  I didn’t think of how it could have hurt her feelings.  Mel and I stayed friends through all of high school.  Which is better than I deserved.  I guess she was both stronger and kinder than I knew.

But looking back on that day, I see a couple of things.  One, we long to be pursued.  I think we were made that way.  We were created to be chased.  We want someone to choose us.  But I also see another thing: we don’t feel worthy of that pursuit and find it hard to accept.

I was comfortable in the fictitious role I had created.  I saw myself as pursued but too fast for the competition.  It was a safe place for me.  But it was not a good place.  Because the whole reason I had created this safe zone was because I had a deep inner desire to be chosen.

I think many of us respond to God in the same way.  We have so many reasons why He shouldn’t choose us.  Oddly enough, our reasons don’t actually affect God at all.  He chooses who He desires.  We don’t get to explain it away.  Of course, you do have the option of running.  But why would you run from the One who loves you perfectly?  I think we run because we don’t know how we will change if chosen.  We don’t know how to act when we are chosen.  We are afraid.  Afraid we could do something to screw it up.  Afraid that it will turn out not to be true.  And so, we keep things the way they were, because at least we know what to do then.

So, someday I hope to apologize to my childhood friend for any hurt I may have caused her.  I have to apologize to God daily for how I attempt to escape His pursuit.  I know you may be afraid.  You have worked so hard to discover your identity, and you don’t know how this will change it.  But I have good news.  It is better to be caught than to be fast.



Flesh + Blood

Hey guys, I have an immensely talented friend named Jason Poe. He has a brand new record out called Flesh + Blood. He is giving all the proceeds from this record to really cool cause, so I wanted to share it with you. Plus he’s an awesome songwriter, and you’ll get to hear some great songs for just $6. I’ll let you hear about the project in his own words.

“With the release of my new album Flesh + Blood, I am attempting to purchase 10 braille typewriters for the Buhangija School in Tanzania. These typewriters will help the 200 children suffering from vision problems at the school gain a better education. 100% of each album sale will go towards helping these children.

Would you consider purchasing Flesh + Blood on my website, on iTunes, or help me spread the word by sharing jasonpoemusic.com/flesh-and-blood with your friends?

Thank you for joining me in this mission to provide for these children. I hope you enjoy Flesh + Blood!”

Hope you check it out.  Thanks.



I recently noticed a theme among the videogames I enjoy playing.  Not death or destruction, not sports, not Mario.  I like to play games where you are chosen.  I enjoy playing NCAA Football because you are constantly recruiting players, hoping the best ones will attend your school.  I like to play Mass Effect, because every conversation determines how loyal that teammate will be to me.  I like to play FIFA because you play through a season as a player and see which teams will bid for your services.  And honestly it’s probably why I don’t play huge role-playing games or the Sims, because it would be too addictive.

Being chosen is incredibly important to us.  And I have found a false way to feed that need. When the truth is, being married, I was chosen as a husband by an amazingly loving and beautiful woman. And being adopted, I was chosen as a son by a loving godly family. And being a Christian, I was chosen by the God of the universe.

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5 ESV)

I have been chosen by God.  That should end any question of value on my part.  It’s is better than being chosen for any pickup game of basketball.  It is better than any girl’s affection.  It is better than having a hit radio song (in which case, you have to be chosen both by the music director at the radio station and by the people listening!).  And yet, I still doubt my worth.  I still wonder.  But Paul says here to the Thessalonians that we can know we are chosen.  There are three things we can look for in our lives, and in honor of preachers, they all start with C.

Change: When we are chosen, the gospel comes to us in power.  Power causes change.  So any good change in our lives is witness to the power of God moving in the ones He has chosen.

Connection: When we are chosen, the gospel comes to us in the Holy Spirit.  God connects us to Himself by putting part of Himself in us.  So any relationship we have with the Spirit, praying through Him, hearing from Him, is proof that we have been chosen.

Conviction: When we are chosen, the gospel comes to us in conviction.  God desires to see His chosen be perfected.  He is not satisfied to stand by and allow us to live mediocre lives.  One of the ways He affects our growth is conviction.  The Spirit cries out when we are choosing something apart from Him.  It is a cry of grief.  It is a call for change.  And it is God speaking into our lives.

So I am chosen.  Because I can look at my life and see how I have changed.  I couldn’t have accomplished that; God must have done it.  I can see that I have a connection with Him, which I obviously couldn’t have created or even earned.  And I definitely feel His conviction.  All these are signs to remind me that I am chosen.  And that is enough for me.





Gray/Agnew Fall Tour Weekend #6

Well, it’s over. If you missed it, then you missed out on one of the best tours I’ve ever been a part of. If we didn’t make it to you, then I wish we could have. It has really been a wonderful tour. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very glad to be home. That’s way better than tour. But I’m still a little sad that it’s over. Jason is a wonderful artist and a good friend. Spencer and Nate also grew into friends during our time together and I am so grateful for all the work they did as a part of this tour.

The weekend started in Wilmington, NC. I’ve played there a number of times, but I had no idea that Jason owns that town! I was just riding on his coattails, but it was a lot of fun. We met some great families, and were very thankful both for the Hartsells and the church. It was a great night.

Then we jumped in the van to head to Fredericksburg, VA. We had another good night with Positive Hits radio and their great listeners. We did have the most awkward moment of the tour, which I could try to explain, but honestly, you just had to be there.  Jason was pretty sick that night, but he pushed through, and did a great job.

Saturday we were in Bethalto, IL. Another wonderful night. Spencer’s family got to come out and we enjoyed seeing them. Since it was almost the end of the tour, I busted out When Love Comes To Town for Jason. It’s one of his favorites. I hadn’t played it in a long time, and I remembered why it’s such a great song.

We finished Sunday night in Smithfield, PA. Jason was under the weather again, but he made it through. I felt it was a really honest night. We were quite obviously engaged and giving our all, but also weary.

And then we went home. Sad to see it go, glad to be home. Maybe we can do it again sometime.

Anyone want to share thoughts from the tour?


A Day of Glory

My church, Austin Stone Community Church, released our first Christmas record today. Most of it is live with three new songs we wrote at the end. I really hope that it blesses your family this Christmas. I led one song live (Hallelujah, What A Savior) and wrote another (How Great Is Our Joy). God is doing some wonderful things at our church and I’m so glad we get to share the Christmas season with you. It’s a worship album, not just popular Christmas songs with sleigh bells. Not that there’s anything wrong with sleigh bells. Anyway, I’ll include a link below so you can find it easily.


If you get the record and listen to it, please comment below and let us know what you think. Thanks,


Gray/Agnew Fall Tour Weekend #5

What a unique weekend!  We started in Henryville, IN, a little north of Louisville, KY.  This town had really been torn up by a tornado this spring, and the church brought us in as an encouragement to their people.  We had a really great night. Wonderful pastor and great people.

The next day we were in Wabash IN at the Eagles Theater. Cool theater, wonderful hotel across the street.  Good night, slightly overshadowed by this strange moment near the end of the night. Jason and I had gotten off on this weird tangent (which, of course, is very rare), and we were talking about recording vocals when you’re sick.  At which point, someone in the audience yells out, “Kiss him!” I’m not exactly sure who she was talking to, but regardless, that did not happen.  It did win the award for most awkward moment of the tour.

Saturday, we were supposed to play an outdoor show after dark, and it was going to get down into the 30’s. Fortunately they chose to move it indoors, which also helped with the Inferno 2012 theme.  Not that it was hot inside, just hotter than freezing.  Still, we had a good night with some great people.  We got to have dinner with our friend Brenda who was celebrating her birthday.

And Sunday was easily the best night of the tour.  We had a sold out show in Liberty Township, Ohio.  And the people were wonderful.  It was a safe place full of people who had come to encounter Jesus and worship Him.  I played a few songs everyone knew and then switched gears and taught them “You Are Good” off H2BL.  They jumped in and we had a powerful evening.  I also included Sometimes By Step, an old favorite from Rich Mullins.  Jason and I both played some really vulnerable songs in the second half of the night.  It was a really amazing evening and I am very grateful for all who came, not only that night but all weekend.

We only have one more weekend, but it’s a big one.  Five shows, across North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and ending in Texas.  I will be sad to see this tour end, but I’m sure we will have a great weekend.  Thanks to everyone who has been a part, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of you this weekend.