We had a really great weekend. It takes a few days to settle in to tour, to the rhythm of travel, to remembering how to play your songs, to develop relationships within the group. But this weekend, we really found our groove. I hope you get to see this tour because it’s already one of my favorite tours I’ve ever done. It’s really intimate, but still quality. And Jason just has wonderful songs. You really need to hear them.
We started the weekend in Lombard, IL, which is a suburb of Chicago. I’d love to say the highlight was our show, but… we talked our driver into taking us to Portillo’s to get hot dogs. Awesome! But the night was good as well. I tried something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while, and used my whole first set to look at the concept of heaven. How that hope affects our lives here. I don’t know if anyone else liked it, but I enjoyed trying it. Then we headed to Salt Lake City for a great show. We had a great Q&A beforehand that kind of altered the approach to the show. It was a very intimate, almost confidential show, although it was the biggest show of the tour so far. Then we were on to Phoenix, playing at Grand Canyon University. It was my first time to play in a bowling alley. But again the vibe of the show was really cool. I took a different approach again and let my whole first set be corporate worship. It really set the stage for the rest of the night. I must admit being a little distracted because the Longhorns were playing WV on the TV in the bowling alley. Oh well. We finished up the weekend in Midway NM, which is right outside of Roswell. You may be asking yourself, “I wonder if Jason Gray talked everyone into going to the UFO museum?” And you would be correct. Pictures can be found on Jason’s instagram account. But it was a cool show too. Really relaxed and a lot of fun. I really love the guys we’re traveling with and I think that’s obvious from the stage.
Anyway, thanks to all who joined us this weekend. Hope to see the rest of you soon. Check the tour page to see if we’re coming near you.
Well, we got to go to two of my favorite states for the first weekend of fall tour, Oregon and Texas. Because they’re so close to each other.
I love Oregon. It is so beautiful. It is one of the places that just looking around causes me to worship. And the people are wonderful too. Thanks to everyone who came out to the shows in Bend and Philomath. And it’s always good to be in Texas. Had to take Jason to Whataburger. Didn’t have time for mexican food. And what a great crowd in Weatherford! Thanks so much for worshipping with us.
Well, it was a typical first week of a tour. God did what He wanted to, and I tried to remember how to do what I’m supposed to. Played a different set each night. It’s a really unique tour. I play a short set, then Jason plays a short set. Then we take a break and come back and play all together for a while. That second set has been great every night so far. I’m just trying to figure out my first one. I haven’t played a short set in a long time, and it’s slow to come back to me.
We build the second set by what seems to go well together. So that means for the first set, I can either just quickly run through the rest of the hits, or I can play stuff from the new record, or I can just see what story can be told well and quickly and risk everyone being upset because I didn’t play their favorite song. So it’s a bit of a strange conundrum. But it’s been better each night. Sorry, Bend. You were first so you were the guinea pig. We really should apologize to the first and last show of each tour. Because the first night, we have no idea what we’re doing. And the last night of tour is usually prank night, which also affects the quality of the show, just for different reasons.
Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun so far. Really looking forward to being in Illinois, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico this weekend. Because they’re close together. If you’re nearby, come and join us. If you want to see if we’re coming near you, check out: http://toddagnew.com/tour-dates/.
See you soon.
Well, we’ve made it. We have made a cursory beginner’s dive into Paul’s letter to the Romans. And we arrive at chapter 16, as Paul instructs us to greet all his friends that we do not know, and that died almost 2,000 years ago. Which makes greeting them difficult at best. But as we move through the chapter one simple verse stood out to me.
“For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” Romans 16:19 ESV
Be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. This is a statement we have almost flipped in the current era. In an effort to be relevant, we have attempted to be wise about what is evil. We express and explore things that are not good for us. We walk along the edge of evil, calling it an exercise in freedom. We try things that are unnecessary. Are we free to do so? Most of the time, yes. But is it wise? That’s another question. We have seen how close we can get to the edge, rather than pursuing innocence and holiness. Purity has become something we are more comfortable making fun of, than encouraging. People are embarrassed that they are a virgin, or that they’ve never had alcohol, or that they haven’t done something else. And others are embarrassed that they know too many Bible answers, or have too many verses memorized.
But Paul says to be wise about what is good. And to be innocent of evil. It’s fairly simple and it sounds like a good plan. Maybe even a starting point. Know more about good than evil. When I was in college, I was a philosophy major (well, technically I was a music composition and philosophy double major, neither of which I finished which in the end makes me a dropout. But for the purpose of this story, I was a philosophy major). I studied what many different thinkers had written about life and our world. As I sat in my car one morning, waiting for class to start, God challenged me. I realized that I was spending way more time learning what people thought than I did pursuing what God thought. I was spending way more time studying the lie, than I was the truth. But I justified it by saying, “Yeah, but it’s homework.” That doesn’t matter. So, I had to start studying my Bible more than I studied philosophy. To spend more time in the word than I spent on my homework. It turned out to be a lot. And it helped.
I’m not telling you what you have to do in your life. I’m just noting that Paul said to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil. It’s a simple two-pronged goal for the end of a really complicated letter. But it’s a place to start. And that’s what I need. Because otherwise, learning becomes stagnant, if it does not affect how we live. So I’ll start here.
“Raw” and “honest” are strange words to use when describing a record written from the viewpoint of an imaginary science fiction character. But that’s exactly how Leonard the Lonely Astronaut feels. Leonard is the new record from my friend Andrew Osenga. If you are not familiar with Andrew’s work in The Normals or his later amazing solo efforts, you might know him as the co-writer of two songs on my latest project, Don’t You Think and House of Boxes. The idea of a sci-fi epic may or may not appeal to you as a listener but I promise you will connect with these songs. Because they aren’t songs about spaceships and aliens, they are songs from the point of view of a guy who has left everything that ever meant “home” and has been alone for a long time. And loneliness and distance are concepts we all understand. But this isn’t just an introspective moody record either. Andrew explores multiple musical styles as he explores the heart and soul of this lonely astronaut. To be honest, I’m finding it hard to put this record into words. It’s something you need to listen to. It’s a record you need to carve an afternoon out of your life and to just sit with it. Because otherwise, I think you might miss it. I know, I know. You don’t have that kind of time. Because you’re so busy. Which is why you’re never lonely and won’t relate to this record. Oh wait, you’re still lonely in the midst of all your busyness? Right. I think we all are. And I think that’s why Leonard hits home. And that’s why I’m so glad Andrew Osenga made it.
That’s all before we get to the fact that Andy built a spaceship. And recorded the whole record inside it. In a spacesuit. And I’m not even kidding. Awesome. Not as awesome as the songs, Out of Time and Hold On Boy. But awesome. I hope you get the chance to check it out.
If you’ve already listened, thoughts?
“For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name….’ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:8, 9, 13
Hope is hard. Some days it is difficult to look at the future and see positive things, much less to see great things. But this passage says we can hope because of what Christ has done. He came to show God’s truthfulness. In His life, He showed what God’s truth really is. He is the Truth. He came to confirm His promises. He fulfilled all the prophecies in the old testament. And in doing so, He showed that we can trust every single thing He promises to us. And He came to show His mercy. The Gentiles get to glorify God for the mercy He has shown them. Christ died for us all. If He has paid for our past, then we have hope for our future.
I think many times hope is hard to come by, because we look at the days ahead through the lens of our own abilities. I don’t have the ability to make tomorrow any better than today, so why would it be? We see tomorrow through the lens of today’s troubles. Today they seem insurmountable. And if I can’t get past this, then how could tomorrow have any value? But just like the story of David and Goliath, when we stare at the giant, we are impressed by His strength and in fear of His power. But David looked not at the giant, but at God. He saw a God whose power is immeasurable, beside whom the giant is nothing. That gave him hope. And we have the same opportunity. We can look at Jesus. We can see how He showed God’s truthfulness, so we can believe. We can see how He fulfilled God’s promises, so we can trust. We can see how He showed mercy, how He gave good where none was deserved, and we can hope.
“The iPod is the greatest invention known to man for screening out the suffering of the world around us.”. – Brian Scott McFadden
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1-4 ESV)
Apparently, in the Roman church, there were some confident in their freedom in Christ who ate all foods. And there were others who still maintained a dietary regimen. Paul is merely encouraging them not to despise each other. We get so passionate about issues that it can divide the church. While I may disagree with you on an issue, I can see that you are passionately pursuing obedience to Christ. Each group was doing their best to obey God in the way they understood. And yet, they weren’t happy with that; they wanted the other group to change. We see this so much in the modern church. Where it’s an issue of worship styles, or Armenian vs. Calvinist, or anything else, we would rather hate and disagree than love and appreciate that we all are trying to know and love God the best we can. God did not make the members of the church the same; He asked us to live in unity. There is no need for unity when all is conformity. There is need for unity when we are different. That is one of the things that makes the church of Jesus beautiful. It is artwork with many differing pieces with different looks, shapes, and purposes, but together make a lovely whole.
Hey guys, the youth ministry series ended last week, and the end of Romans is upon us. Are there any other things you think we should tackle in a blog series? What would you like to read about and discuss? I’d love to hear from you and then I’ll write about whatever I want to anyway. Just kidding. Well, partly kidding. I’ll always write about what I want to, but I’d love to know what you’d like to read about as well.
All right, we’re going to go ahead and close down the youth ministry thread with these last two nuggets. But they are incredibly important nuggets, so read on and join the conversation.
Youth Ministry Nugget #12: Be a husband and father first.
I’m sorry, I realize this is sexist. But it’s how I heard the advice, coming from a man to another man. For you ladies in youth ministry, please receive it as “Be a wife and mother first.”
The main idea behind this is that your family comes before your ministry. I’ve heard the argument that you are doing God’s work. But in that, we fail to see that loving our spouses and raising our kids IS God’s work. They have to come first in our lives. I can say a lot more, but I don’t think I need to. I think you get it. You just have to live it.
Youth Ministry Nugget #13: Finish well.
I wish this was taught to every youth minister in the world. Once God is drawing our time at a church to a close, we know we are moving on, maybe even have the next job already, and are just finishing our time at this current church, we have a horrible tendency to quit. We stop connecting and loving these kids because we are preparing for the next group. We stop trying as hard; we stop investing for the future because we know there is not a future. But for these students, this is still the only present they have. And we waste it. Many times I’ve talked to guys who have told me that they no longer have a vision for their current ministry, that God is moving them on to their next church. That may or may not be so. But if you don’t have a new vision, then at least follow the old vision. Continue loving students. Continue teaching the Bible. Continue to take kids to lunch. Continue to build relationships. Continue to connect them to each other. This is still the work of the kingdom. You are still a leader and lover of God’s children. Do it well. Sprint to the end of the race. And when you move on, be able to say, I gave it everything. Finish well.
I hope some of these have been beneficial. Pass them along to your youth leaders. Start conversations in your church. Join the conversation here.
“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Romans 13:7 (ESV)
Does this chapter mean you should pay your taxes? Yes. Does this chapter mean you should respect the government, even if you happen to support an opposing party? Yes. Does it mean something even more? Yes.
I’ve always loved this passage from Matthew 22. The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus with a question about taxes, and He answers this way: ” ‘Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them,’Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’” (Matthew 22:19-21 NIV).
Money, debt, and taxes are of this world. They should be paid and settled in an honorable way in this world. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He didn’t just say “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” He continued, saying, “…and to God what is God’s.” How did He determine what things are Caesar’s? The things made in his image. So, is Jesus talking about taxes? Yes. But He is also making a huge statement about our lives. Genesis 1:26a says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'” So when Jesus says give to God what is God’s, He is speaking about us. We are made in His image; we are His. And we must give ourselves back to Him.
Paul is doing the same thing here in Romans 13. Should we pay taxes? Yes. Should we pay our debts? Yes. But in the same way, we should give respect and honor to those who deserve it. Does this mean we should respect and honor our government officials? Yes. But no one deserves our respect and honor more than God. And we must purpose to do that today as well. We must give ourselves to Him. We must give Him respect and honor.