Book Club, pt. 2 – The Hole In Our Gospel

If you’re just joining us, we’re reading through a book together. It’s called The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. We’re on Part Two, Chapters 4-7, but you’re welcome to jump in and join us. Here are some questions for discussion this time. To those of you who have been with us, I apologize for the delay during my 3 straight weeks at camp. I didn’t have as much free time as I’d hoped. But let’s get to it.

1. In the seventh century B.C., God criticized the Israelites’ attempts to get back into His good graces through prayers and religious ceremonies (chapter 4, pgs. 54-55). Think about the priorities of your church and compare them with the focus of the Israelites. How would your church stand up to Isaiah’s criticisms?

2. Think about your experience of working with the poor and marginalized in your community — or anyone you have helped through a tough time. Have there been moments when you, like Mother Teresa,saw “Christ, in his most distressing disguise” (chapter 4, pg. 60)? Describe that situation and what it’s teaching you upon reflection. Pray that God will show you what He requires, and that you will have an open heart as He shows you His will throughout this book.

3. Is it possible to love God and not love your neighbor (chap. 5, pgs. 65-67)? Why are the two commandments so inextricably connected?

4. What are the ways in which you and your church have taken on the “mission of God” by showing your love to your neighbors (chap. 5, pg. 69)? Which is more important: telling people about Christ or demonstrating HIs love through acts of kindness, compassion, and justice? Why do you believe this? Are there times when we should do one but not the other?

5. Do you see a connection between Rich’s difficult childhood and his later resistance to believing in Christ (chap. 6, pg. 74-76)? What was it? In what ways do your childhood experiences and relationship with your parents affect your openness to or resistance to God?

6. People like Rich need intellectually rigorous books to help them move from agnosticism to faith (chap. 6, pgs. 80-82). Why might people like him be offended to be told that you — or others — were praying for them? What are better ways to share your faith?

7. Do you believe it’s true that every follower of Christ was made for a purpose (chap. 7, pg. 92)? Even you? Explain why or why not. What would you say God’s purpose for your life is? What are you currently doing to live out that purpose? What could you begin to do this week to move in that direction?

Looking forward to hearing what you think.


What’s on the Playlist? (7/18/09)

Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome

Definitely the most lyrically and musically aggressive album to date from Derek Webb, who has long been one of my favorite songwriters. A much more electronic album than any of his efforts so far, well, I guess not more electronic than the remix record. But just about. And it gives a very different backdrop to the intense songwriting we expect from him. You listen to the Opening Credits, and if you’re anything like me, you think Derek is doing an electronica intro to his new record. But he’s not. That’s really what the record sounds like. It’s really a brave record, both musically and lyrically. I probably should have guessed that from the title, which is named after a psychological response in hostages, when they develop an attachment to those who have abducted them. Kind of like our relationship with our sin. I’m not sure if that is where Derek is going. I’ll have to listen more. I just downloaded the record, but I plan to listen to it a lot in the days and weeks to come.

Aaron Ivey – Between the Beauty & Chaos

Formerly known as the singer at the head of worship leaders Spur58, Aaron has moved to Austin TX and has now released a new solo record. Aaron is still a great worship leader. I know. He is one of the worship leaders at my church in Austin. We sing many of these songs in our Sunday worship services. The record starts with Found, a powerful worship song I’m planning on learning myself. Didn’t have time this summer, but it’s on the list. The Name is another favorite from church along with Let Your Kingdom Come. How Great Thou Art adds a simple but powerful chorus to the amazing hymn. It’s just a great piano-driven worship record from an awesome worship leader.

Toad the Wet Sprocket – Dulcinea

I introduced Sam to this record on our drive back from Colorado. Listening to it again reminds me just how incredible a record it is. The songwriting is amazing. The whole record holds together sonically, yet each song is just a little different. The band’s approach to instrumentation on this record is fairly simple. But they are great versions of great songs. And you know what, that’s really the idea. I still love the transition from intro to full band in Something’s Always Wrong. I have always adored Fly From Heaven and still wonder if it’s about Paul the apostle. They’re not a Christian band but the song applies so closely. Anyway, the whole record is incredible. Still.

Charlie Peacock – West Coast Diaries, vol. 2

Anyone who has seen us lately may remember a song everyone seems to be asking about. It’s called Down In the Lowlands. And no, it’s not on the new record. It is on this record by Charlie Peacock. He is one of my musical heroes, and this record is incredible. It’s an acoustic project with Charlie joined by an amazing singer Vince Ebo and Jimmy A on acoustic guitar. From the acoustic groove of Nobody’s Gonna Bring Me Down to the funk of Big Man’s Hat, it’s all incredible. And of course, it goes into some great piano stuff on Don’t Have The Power. But Unchain My Soul might be even better. Check it out. He’s got a cool Twitter as well where he talks about what he’s working on in the studio, usually as a producer and songwriter, along with some interesting commentary on good music you may or may not have heard of.

It’s hard to pick the last one. I’ve been listening to Andrew Peterson’s Appendix C a lot. And Kari Jobe’s self-titled record. But probably my favorite is:

Brooke Fraser – Albertine

If you think you recognize the voice, it’s because she’s one of the worship leaders with Hillsong United. So your recording of Hosanna, yeah that’s her. And Lead Me To The Cross. And other great worship songs. But this record features her as a songwriter and she really shines. It’s hard to explain it to you. Let’s just say I wish I could write like this. This whole record is incredible.

Okay, there’s mine. Comment back and let me know what you’re listening to.


Camp Durango

Man, what a great week. Thanks to all of you for worshipping with us this week. Thanks to Ben Stuart for teaching us amazing stuff. Thanks to Student Life for always doing such a great job of doing camp. And thanks to God for meeting us there.

Here’s where you can find the songs we did at camp this week. So you can go buy the CDs or get them on iTunes.

Song Title Artist CD Title
Your Great Name Michael Neale (The People’s Church) Shine On
Healer Kari Jobe Kari Jobe
Hosanna Hillsong United All of the Above
Reign In Us Starfield I Will Go
Solution Hillsong United All of the Above
Open The Eyes of My Heart Paul Baloche Open The Eyes of My Heart.

Well, that should about do it. Thanks for a great week. We’d love for you to comment below and tell us what God did in your life this week. And you can follow on Twitter, etc., by clicking the icons to the right. Well, I’d better get to this last session of camp. See you there.


Joy Unspeakable

With the release of NEED on October 6th, I thought it would be cool to give you a sneak preview of each song on the new record. So every Tuesday from now till October, check back here on my site to watch the latest preview video. I’ll explain the story behind each song, plus you’ll be able to hear a clip of it. Hopefully this will give you some insight into the sound and the heart of the new record. This week we’ll be previewing the first single, “Joy Unspeakable”. I hope this song encourages you. I’d love to get your comments and feedback.



Hey to everyone, especially all you from Area One camp this week. Thanks for spending a great week at the beach with me. Well, I wasn’t at the beach, too busy getting my talks together. You know, that’s kind of sad.
I’ve spent two weeks at beach camp this summer and literally did not touch the beach at all. Anyway, it was a great week. I’m going to fill everyone else in on what we talked about this morning, so you campers can skip ahead a little bit if you want to.

The theme of camp this week was Unstoppable. We spent the week digging into the life of Paul (Acts) and its reflection in his theology (Romans, mostly). So this morning was the big last talk of camp session which we usually turn into a big pep rally to go change the world. But this time we took a different approach to it. We looked at Paul’s shipwreck. He was already the powerful man of God changing the world, but it did not put him above pain and struggle in this life. We talked about how being unstoppable doesn’t mean you never get hurt or you never fail, it just means you trust God and get up and keep going. God can forgive our failures and heal our hurts. But they are going to come. Especially when you have really tuned in to God this week at camp. The assault is going to come. Maybe on the ride home. Maybe when you get home. Maybe next week. But to quote one of my faves, “there’s bound to come some trouble in your life.”

So today I left camp definitely on a high, excited about what God had done this week. I immediately got stuck behind slow 2-lane S. Alabama traffic. Then a log truck attempted a 37 point turn in the middle of the highway. That took about half an hour. Then I hit some kind of traffic in Montgomery. Then again south of Alabama. So I get to the airport with maybe 30 minutes before my flight. The 5 hour drive took 6.5 hours. Then I turn in my rental car and they think they need to check something out. So they won’t check me in. Finally after I filled them in on my time constraint they let me go now with less than 20 minutes to go. I run up to the counter, and of course it’s too close to use the kiosk. And everyone else is busy. One lady was refilling the little folders you put your ticket in. Apparently that was urgent. So someone let’s me tell them what I need and they say it’s too late. They finally start helping me after my plane has taken off. So they get me on the next plane to Atlanta, but I will miss my connection to Albuquerque. And that’s the last flight today. The first flight out of Atlanta is tomorrow at 11. So I’m going to miss the first session of camp. But we’ll figure it out. Of course all the guys are flying in tonight and I have the only keys to the van which is sitting in the ABQ airport parking lot. But I figure, well, I’ll stay in Birmingham tonight with good friends and start in the morning. But she says no, I have to get on the next flight to ATL tonight. So I flew to ATL. But she couldn’t check my bags all the way through. So they charged me $25 for my first bag, and $15 for my second or vice versa. And now I have to check them again tomorrow and pay them another $40. So I finally get to Atlanta and reserve a hotel room online. I wait an hour for the hotel shuttle and finally call the hotel. So they don’t have a reservation for me. Or a shuttle. Despite what it says online. So apparently there’s a conference here or something because everything is booked. I finally find a room. And a shuttle. And get to the hotel 2.5 hours after I landed. And I haven’t had dinner.

Talk about a shipwreck. And I wonder how Paul would have handled it. He reassured the centurion on the boat. He comforted his captor. He had utmost confidence in his God. He knew exactly what was going on.
Unfortunately I don’t. I’m tired. I preached all week. It was my second week of camp in a row and I’m headed to another. All the deadlines for the record are right now. So much is going on, and you have a day like this. Accident? I doubt it. We even talked about it this morning. But how will I respond? Can I trust God to work good out of all this? What good could possibly come out of all this? Can I somehow get to camp with something to give? Can I be the husband, father, friend, artist, worship leader, customer that people need me to be? That God needs me to be.

Only by grace. Only by faith, completely leaning on and depending upon God. So, Romans. This grace by which I stand. And I rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Really? No, not completely. I believe, help me in my unbelief. I rejoice, help me in my lack of joy.


JTIndie Interview

It is just a fact, some days are just better than others. Today was one of the better days. Today I get to Sit down and Virtually Interview one of my favorite Artists. A while back I was lucky enough to make some connections at ardent records and they were nice enough to send me several CD’s two of which were Todd Agnew, “Grace like Rain” and “Better Questions”. At that time I had a passing knowledge of Todd’s work, after all, who hasn’t sung “Grace Like Rain” or “My Jesus” So when I got the chance to Interview Todd Agnew I was more than happy to do it. So I’ll Quit Stalling and get right to the Interview

[JT] – How would you describe your sound?
[TA] – I think it’s kind of a compilation. It’s usually hard to describe. I guess maybe a songwriter willing to try all genres, but still try to say something.

[JT] – Who are some of your musical influences?
[TA] – A little bit of everything. Definitely CCM and Christian Rock guys: Rich Mullins and Charlie Peacock being the foremost of those. Oh and definitely Michael W. Smith, growing up. Outside of that, songwriters, like David Wilcox. The old blues guys, Stevie Ray, Lightning Hopkins, Albert King, and the newer guys like Doyle Bramhall II. And then definitely some gospel, old r&b, older country, and of course, rock. I mean, don’t all of us wish we could be in Journey anyway.

[JT] – can you tell me a little about your (individual) musical upbringing?
[TA] – I wasn’t a normal kid cutting my teeth on pop radio. My earliest memories are of listening to classical music in the house and hanging out with my dad in the garage listening to NPR. So I grew up on all different kinds of music. Blues, folk, jazz. A little of everything.

[JT] – Could you tell me about your spiritual Upbringing?
[TA] – I’m one of those fortunate kids who grew up in a strong Christian home. I learned about God and the truths of the Bible at a very young age. That really laid a foundation for all that was to come.

Read More…

Camp Songs – FUGE

I just want to say Hi to everyone who spent the week at Glorieta with us. It was a great week. It’s actually not over yet. You guys are at breakfast, and I’m writing this before we head to the last session. But anyway, thanks for worshipping with us this week. I wanted you to know where all the songs came from this week in case you wanted to go buy the CDs or get them on iTunes.

Song Title    –    Artist    –    Album Title
Meet With Me (Cleft of the Mountain) – Ross King – To Make God Famous
Dare You To Move – Switchfoot – The Beautiful Letdown
Solution – Hillsong United – All of the Above
Reign In Us – Starfield – I Will Go
Your Great Name – The People’s Church – Shine Out
Hosanna – Hillsong United – All of the Above
Open The Eyes of my Heart – Paul Baloche – Open the Eyes of my Heart
Healer – Kari Jobe – Kari Jobe
One Thing – Charlie Hall – Porch and Altar
I Need No Other – Todd Agnew – Need (coming in Oct 09)
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Chris Tomlin – See The Morning
Here I Am To Worship – Tim Hughes – Here I Am To Worship

Well, that should about do it. Thanks for a great week. We’d love for you
to stay a part of our community here on the site. And you can follow on
Twitter, etc. by clicking the icons to the right. Well, I gotta go or I’m
going to miss the session. See you soon. Keep worshipping.


Your Thoughts on a Quote

Hey everyone, sorry for being out of touch recently. It’s summer so we are in the middle of camp season. It’s hard to break away for blogging. Anyway, this quote is rocking me so I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.

“I believe (in Jesus) because He fulfills none of my dreams, because He is in every respect the opposite of what He would be if I could have made Him in my own image.”
-W.H. Auden

And… discuss.


Restaurant Review: George’s

To all of you who are new, you may not know that we do restaurant reviews. But we do. Because I like food. Now there haven’t been any for quite a while because honestly I haven’t been that impressed. But did we eat somewhere great this week. We were playing a show in Tuscumbia, AL, not the center of any known universe, but important to me because it is near Muscle Shoals, AL, birthplace of W.C. Handy and great music town. So our new friends in town took us to George’s which is a local steakhouse. I must confess I’m not the biggest steak fan. I usually choose something else, my personal fave usually being the pork tenderloin. But I do enjoy a good steak once in a while, and I always enjoy a great steak, but those are few and far between. So I was quite surprised to find a home of the great steak right there in the little town of Tuscumbia. I ordered the steak and chicken, thinking I could try a little filet of their specialty while getting something I liked more as well. Well, it turned out that the chicken was good, but the steak was amazing! I don’t even like using exclamation points, but you just have to. The steak was that good. Salad, fine. Veggies, fine. Chicken, fine. But the steak was incredible. Even the appetizer rare beef that you dip in the wasabi was awesome. I know you’re probably not going to jump in your car and drive across the country for a steak. And I wouldn’t advise you to. But if you’re already going through there and you have time, run over to George’s. You won’t be disappointed. Unless you’re a vegetarian. And then it’s not my fault.