Thursday, July 30, 2009

We're Moving to Tulsa...

This morning I accepted the position of Director of Worship Ministries at Redeemer Covenant Church in Tulsa, OK. We are so grateful to God for His clear direction, and we are excited to enter into our new faith community - to love and serve and grow and learn and lead. It's been quite a trip; thank you for your prayers and support.

What It Really Means To Be A Christian

How is it that we've come to imagine that Christianity consists primarily of what we do for God? How has this come to be the good news of Jesus? Is the kingdom that He proclaimed to be nothing more than a community of men and women who go to church on Sunday, take an annual spiritual retreat, read their Bibles every now and then, vigorously oppose abortion, don't watch x-rated movies, never use vulgar language, smile a lot, hold doors open for people, root for the favorite team, and get along with everybody? Is that why Jesus went through the bleak and bloody horror of Calvary? Is that why He emerged in shattering glory from the tomb? Is that why He poured out His Holy Spirit on the church? To make nicer men and women with better morals?

The gospel is absurd nd the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations. Not make people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friends, is what it really means to be a Christian. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.

- Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Today Is the Day

I'm writing from a hotel in Jenks, OK. We flew into Tulsa last night and headed for a fantastic dinner with members of the search team, staff and leadership team of Redeemer Covenant Church. Today I'll be interviewing with staff and leadership team and working with the choir and band/praise team.

I'm encouraged by the lyrics of one of the songs we'll be working on today, and I'm making them my all-day prayer:

Today Is the Day
Lincoln Brewster & Paul Baloche

I'm casting my cares aside
I'm leaving my past behind
I'm setting my heart and mind on You, Jesus
I'm reaching my hand to Yours
Believing they're so much more
Knowing that all You have in store for me is good - It's good!

Today is the day You have made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
Today is the day You have made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
I won't worry about tomorrow
I'm trusting in what You say...
Today is the day

I'm putting my fears aside
I'm leaving my doubts behind
I'm giving my hopes and dreams to You, Jesus
I'm reaching my hand to Yours
Believing they're so much more
Knowing that all You have in store for me is good - It's good!

Today is the day You have made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
Today is the day You have made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
I won't worry about tomorrow
I'm trusting in what You say...
Today is the day

I will stand upon Your truth
And all my days I'll live for You...

Today is the day You have made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
Today is the day You have made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
I won't worry about tomorrow
I'm trusting in what You say...
Today is the day

In other words, "If you steal something, you'll pay for it."

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

Dear Guest,

Due to the popularity of our guest room Amenities, our Housekeeping Department now offers these items for sale:

Irons - $15
Ironing Boards - $30
Blow Dryer - $30
Bath Sheets - $20
Bath Towels - $15
Hand Towels - $10
Face Cloths - $5

Each Guest Room attendant is responsible for maintaining the guest room items. Should you decide to take these articles from your room, instead of obtaining them from the Executive Housekeeper, we will assume you approve a corresponding charge to your account.

Thank You

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Great New Music from OtR & Derek

Two of my favorites are back, with excellent new music. And if you pre-order now, you get immediate downloads of each record.

First, Over the Rhine. My favorite band. The reason my blog is called "Faithfully Dangerous." They're back with the fourth in an annual series of live recordings. Live from Nowhere, Volume Four was recorded at last December's historic Decade One Reunion Concert at The Taft Theatre in Cincinnati. To celebrate twenty years of making music, they had two concerts, each one covering a decade of music. Friday night, they welcomed back Ric Hordinski (lead guitar) and played the best of the early years. This is the stuff the fans have been waiting for, and I was really excited to learn that it was going to be released - in a double album with a 20-page commemorative book. Pre-order here.

Second, Derek Webb. Founding and occasional member of Caedmon's Call. Husband of the brilliant Sandra McCracken. Prophet and provocateur. His new one, Stockholm Syndrome, is finally here, and it's a doozy. I mean that in a good way. Including the controversial track "What Matters More." Apprently INO Records couldn't release the album with that song because of some... uh, salty language. But that didn't stop Derek from marketing and releasing the album in a really cool, unique way. You can read all about it here and purchase "Stockholm Syndrome" here.

Enjoy! I know I am...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Scattered... Again

Back in May of 2008, I wrote about the crazy journey my family was on. We felt very scattered, but we were excited to be "on mission" with Jesus, even though we didn't know where we'd end up.

We spent the summer in Seattle and the school year in Houston. Little did we know we'd still be on our sojourn in July of 2009.

I'm writing from Simi Valley, where we're living with Luanne's parents. Our stuff is all in storage in Houston. Luanne is in Redwood City for the week, staying with a friend. Thanks to Simi Covenant Church (again), Jacob is at Alpine Camp for the week with his friend, Nate Bartoshuk. (After spending two weeks with Nate up in Redwood City.) This last weekend, I traveled to Kansas City for a great weekend with a prospective church there. And Friday Luanne and I will travel to Redeemer Covenant Church in Tulsa again for an interview and working with their choir and band.

Our lives are full and certainly exciting. But man, are we ready to settle down and be home, wherever home may be. We trust in God and eagerly await His plans to be revealed, and we are grateful for your prayers and support as we walk this road.

Friday, July 10, 2009

No Not One

Getting ready to rehearse with the worship band at First Baptist Church of Los Altos tonight. It'll be a good Sunday... We're still not sure where we're going to end up, but I know we're in good hands. And I know wherever we land, I'm gonna be introducing this song... I love it.

Christy Nockels has been recording with her husband Nathan as Watermark for a long time, and she has been a huge part of the Passion conferences and recordings. She just released her first solo record, "Life Light Up." I listened to it a lot as we drove from Houston to Simi Valley last month... For whatever reason, it's becoming a big part of the soundtrack of my summer. You can download the record here and purchase the CD here.

Listen to this song and see if it doesn't bring some joy into your day as you remember the amazing love God has for us.

No Not One

Christy Nockels & Brandon Heath

No better word than from Your lips
No perfect life than what You lived
No greater gift, no not one
No brighter star has ever shined
No better hope for all mankind
No higher mind, no not one
And no one has ever known
This kind of love You've shown

There has never been a greater love
Than Your Son
No, not one
And there will never be a name above
No, not one
And with His life You have forgiven us
Hope has come
Hope has come
And there will never be a greater love
No, not one

No image true or sweeter frame
No simple word can match Your name
No greater fame, no not one
And no one has ever seen
The depth of Your majesty

No greater call - You gave us all a reason to live
No greater love - You gave us all a reason to give
No greater life - You gave us all a reason to shine
No greater love - forever mine!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity

The American Church is dying. Christianity in the West is dead. Our major cities are quickly becoming more and more secular. We hear statements like these all the time. Whether it's on the covers of major news magazines or from the pulpits of suburban churches, we hear the prophets of doom and gloom lamenting the death of Christianity.

Soong-Chan Rah begs to differ. In fact, Rah asserts, American Christianity "may actually be growing, but in unexpected and surprising ways." His new book, "The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity," is full of surprises. It is well-documented, thought-provoking and eye-opening. And it is deliberately designed to provoke.

Christianity is, in fact, growing... Cities are teeming with new churches and spiritual vitality. But not everyone notices, because it is in the immigrant, multi-ethnic and minority churches that this growth is occurring. The USA is rapidly becoming a multi-ethnic country. In fact, many experts believe that by 2050, the majority of US citizens will be non-white. The Church is simply reflecting this reality. So why, then, is the "face" of Christianity in the US still white? Why are the majority of Evangelical "leaders" white? Why are the "experts" white? Why - if white evangelicalism is in decline - are we still looking to the white guys for leadership? Is there something inherently unjust and racist in this? Could it be that we NEED the voices and leadership of non-white, non-Western Christ-followers to lead us into this next season of American Evangelicalism?

These are the types of questions that form the foundation for Rah's book. He divides it up into three sections: the western, white captivity of the church; the pervasiveness of that captivity; and how the Church can begin to free herself from this captivity.

I think the most compelling and convicting section of the book for me was the middle section. Chapter five in particular drew my attention to the way in which the so-called Emergent Church is bound to Western, white culture. It's true: Almost every "Emergent" leader is white. Why is this? Rah offers some disturbing thoughts... and goes so far as to say that he is offended by the name "emerging" itself! He says that it is an arrogant name... Perhaps the real "emerging" church is not in America at all... Latin-American, African, Asian Christians... These are the emerging Christ-followers of 2009.

The final third of the book challenges the American Church to listen to and learn from Native Americans, African Americans, the Immigrant Church and Second Generation folks. There is great value in these voices and perspectives.

This book is an important addition to the conversation on the Church in America. It raised many thoughts and questions in me that I had not encountered before, and it has challenged me to listen more carefully and learn from people who are not like me.

Soong-Chan Rah

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah is the Milton B. Engebretson Assistant Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, and prior to joining the NPTS faculty in 2006, he was the founding pastor of the Cambridge Community Fellowship Church in Cambridge, MA. He has been active in urban ministry, mostly in Cambridge and Boston, and has also worked with Intervarsity and been part of four church planting efforts. Dr. Rah has extensive experience in cross-cultural preaching and currently serves on the boards of Sojourners and the Catalyst Leadership Center.

I remember hearing him speak for the first time at the Pacific Southwest Conference's Celebration 2007 in Simi Valley, CA. He was provocative, compelling and funny all at the same time, and I definitely felt uncomfortable as I began to look again at the reality of white privilege and my role in sustaining unjust systems. (It was at that same conference that I spoke for the first time with Sherwood Carthen, pastor of BOSS, about his vision for a multi-ethnic church community.)

I was impressed enough with Soong-Chan's preaching and convicted enough by his message to look him up online and check out his blog. As I read about him and some of his past work, I was astounded by the racism and insensitivity that he had been dealing with for a long time. The first article I found had to do with a Lifeway VBS curriculum called "Rickshaw Rally." Soong-Chan had drawn attention to this racially offensive and stereotype-perpetuating material. The "Vacation Bible School Wars" really heated up in the spring and summer of 2004. You can read about the controversy at Christianity Today's website and find out more information at the "Reconsidering Rickshaw Rally" website.

(A much more encouraging article can be found here. In 2007, Soong-Chan confronted another publisher about some racially insensitive material, and it turned into a redemptive experience for all involved.)

This past February, he was a speaker at the Connection 2009 for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Again, I was challenged and encouraged. I ran into him again that week at a dinner. I can't remember why, but we started talking about our mutual love for Mike Roe and The 77s. Any professor/prophet/preacher who challenges and encourages me IN ADDITION TO being able to converse in fluent 77s automatically goes up several points on the coolness scale.

I just finished reading his new book, "The Next Evanglicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity." I'll post a separate review in a bit.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Little Taste of Heaven at the Greek

A couple weeks ago, thanks to the connectedness and generosity of our friend David Greco, Luanne and I found ourselves at the Greek Theatre to witness the "Three Girls and Their Buddy" Tour. Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin are the "three girls," and you couldn't ask for a sweeter trio of Americana angels. Buddy Miller is the "buddy," and while sweet isn't exactly the word I'd use to describe him, he is perhaps the hardest-working man in music. The guy is everywhere - producing, playing, singing, writing... He doesn't look or act like a star, but he's one of the most talented musicians I've ever had the pleasure of seeing live.

The format for the show was simple: Four singer/songwriters sitting around swapping songs and playing together. They took turns choosing songs and singing lead. The highlight for me was hearing Shawn Colvin perform "Trouble" - It's a brooding, dark song with a percolating guitar part and disturbing lines... "You don't have to drag me down: I descend."

Emmylou was the unofficial hostess of the evening, holding court with a kind of regal majesty, crown of silver hair and all. She kicked things off with "To Know Him Is To Love Him," from the original "Trio" album. Shawn and Patty filled in nicely for Dolly and Linda, and the spell was cast. She followed with "Red Dirt Girl," one of her lesser-known recent gems. Shawn sang "Twilight" at the perfect dusky moment. Buddy and Patty ripped it up with "Gasoline and Matches." I missed Julie, but Patty rocked.

Patty is coming out with a gospel album produced by Buddy, and she sang a few of those tunes. She said it's a "lapsed Catholic gospel record." I look forward to it. Her original song - not sure of the title - was lovely.

When we arrived and went to will call, we were told that our tickets were at the Redwood Room entrance. Turns out David had gotten us VIP passes through some of his awesome friends, and we got to mingle in the hospitality room with the important industry people! You gotta love free beer, wine, cheese, fruit... oh, and meeting Patty Griffin. I was close to talking to Shawn Colvin, but thought better of it as I watched her try in vain to get away from an annoying fan.

It was a great night. Thanks, David and Ben!

Some cool reviews of the show:

Los Angeles Times


Sunday, July 5, 2009

40 Years

Happy Anniversary to my mom and dad. 40 years is a long time to love each other and live together in commitment and unity. I value that. I honor that. I want that for my own life and marriage. I wish I could celebrate with them in Indiana today.

I love you, Mom and Dad!

Friday, July 3, 2009

What I Want to Blog About

So much to say, so little time...

I'll get to blogging again at some point. I want to talk about our week at Mission Springs, my time last weekend at BOSS, the amazing concert Luanne and I went to last week and the amazing book I'm reading by Soong-Chan Rah. I want to talk about the upside-down earth. And maybe, just maybe I'll say something about Michael Jackson.

By the way, has anyone ever lived in Kansas?
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