Archive for March, 2012

March 29, 2012

TIM CHALLIES Guest Post: REAL MARRIAGE Mark Driscoll Review

 

 

It must be intimidating to write a book on marriage. Store shelves are groaning under the weight of titles that claim to have the key to a happy marriage, or a biblical marriage or a gospel-centered marriage. To rise above such a crowded field a book needs to offer something different, something unique, something that distinguishes it from the pack. Mark and Grace Driscoll have jumped into the fray with their new book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together and the distinguishing feature of their book is its gut honesty, its sheer vulnerability. The Driscolls invite the reader deep into their own marriage and attempt to answer difficult, intimate questions — what they say are the questions you’d be too embarrassed to ask your pastor.

What Book Is It?

Before I look at the book’s content, I feel that I need to speak briefly about the book as a book. What quickly becomes clear is that Real Marriage suffers from a lack of clear identity, a problem that may stem from what appears to be rushed or otherwise ineffective editing. I point these things out not to be petty but because they effect the final product.

In the first place, there is a kind of sloppiness and inconsistency to the book. One example of this is the way the chapters vary so much in style, some being very personal with others being abstract and coldly statistical; even the inline subheadings can vary from chapter-to-chapter (e.g. italics in one chapter, all caps in the next). There are also factual errors, like when the Driscolls state that Solomon was the child born of David and Bathsheba’s adultery (when, in fact, that child died and Solomon was born later); there are errors in footnoting, like when a footnote contains no reference to what they have stated; there are errors in punctuation where a statement ends with a question mark, and errors in flow where a chapter references things to come that do not actually come.

Added to the editorial sloppiness is the fact that there is little internal cohesion to the book. Real Marriage reads more like a series of seminars than a cohesive introduction-to-conclusion look at a subject.

Finally, the fact that half of the book focuses on marriage and the other half on sex leads to some confusion as to the nature of the book. Is it a book on marriage or a book on sex? How do these things relate to one another in such a way that they merit equal attention? Obviously marriage is not less than sex, but is the sexual relationship fully half of marriage? Why does it receive such emphasis?

All these things together lead to a book that is disjointed and somewhat frustrating.

Such critiques aside, what about the book’s content?

Marriage

Real Marriage is divided into 11 chapters and three parts. Part 1, which spans the first five chapters, is titled “Marriage.” Chapter 1 is biographical; the Driscolls share many of the challenges they have faced through their marriage and reveal that until very recently their marriage and their sexual relationship were sources of great difficulty. They stayed faithful to one another, but faced great challenges that they’ve only recently learned to overcome. This introduces the kind of transparency and vulnerability that marks the book. Chapter 2 looks at the importance of friendship within marriage while in chapter 3 Mark writes primarily to men and challenges them to take seriously their roles as leaders and providers and to learn to honor their wives. Chapter 4 is geared toward women and Grace focuses on respect, telling women of the importance of obeying the biblical command to respect their husbands. Here and in many other places we see the Driscolls firmly defending a complementarian understanding of gender roles within marriage. The fifth and final chapter in this section looks at the inevitable disagreements within marriage and seeks to model fighting well — moving past disagreement toward peace and reconciliation.

The highlight of what the Driscolls teach on marriage is probably the importance of friendship. This is, indeed, an overlooked topic and experience shows that many of the best marriages are the ones in which the spouses are fast friends. A strange mis-step in this chapter is Mark’s statement that he has asked Grace to be his “functional pastor;” because he is a pastor and he does not have anyone to pastor him, he has asked Grace to fill that role. This must speak as much to his church’s leadership structure as to the Driscolls’ marriage; it is an unusual position and not one I would want others to emulate.

Noticeably absent in this section is a firm and robust gospel grounding for marriage. Ephesians 5 is referenced only in passing; the marriage relationship as a mystery, a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church, is never clearly offered as the big picture or ultimate purpose of marriage. That gospel foundation is utterly, absolutely critical to an understanding of marriage and it is missing from Real Marriage. This is a tragic oversight. And I say “tragic” because the biblical understanding of marriage influences everything else — everything they discuss from chapter 1 to chapter 11.

Sex

Just about 100 pages into the book, Part 2, “Sex,” begins. Chapter 6 is titled “Sex: God, Gross or Gift?” and teaches that sex is a good gift of God given for pleasure, procreation, oneness, knowledge, protection and comfort. Chapter 7, “Disgrace and Grace,” looks at sexual abuse and shares Grace’s story of being a victim of such abuse. Chapter 8 turns to pornography, showing the danger it poses. Servanthood and selfishness in the sexual relationship is the subject of chapter 9. Sections on “Ways We Are Selfish Lovers” and “Reasons Why We Are Selfish Lovers” introduce good questions for discussion between a husband and wife, but somehow the chapter veers into an act-by-act exposition of Song of Solomon, ultimately encouraging a wife to be “visually generous” (i.e. strip) for her husband.

Chapter 10 is easily the most controversial chapter and the place that the Driscolls ask and answer the “Can We _______?” questions within the sexual relationship. They cover a long list of specific sexual acts and introduce a grid from 1 Corinthians 6:12. I have already discussed the shortcomings of this grid elsewhere and would encourage you not to use it in the way they teach. (Click here to find those articles) Here’s the thing: The greatest, most enduring, most ultimate purpose of marriage is that it is meant to draw our eyes and hearts and minds to what Christ has done. Thus when faced with the “Can We _______?” questions we do not go first to law and ask, “Does the Bible forbid this?” Instead we go straight to the gospel and ask: “Is this a reflection of Christ and his church? Does this come from a heart that has been radically altered by the gospel?” This gospel focus is missing from their evaluation.

Allow me to make a few observations about these chapters.

The first is that in at least two places the Driscolls refer to a man’s sexual desire as a “need.” This is a difficult term that begs further definition and one that needs to be understood in reference to the gospel, the message that proclaims our deepest needs have already been met in Christ. A man does not “need” to have sex — not in the sense he needs to eat or sleep or have Christ as his Savior. At one point Mark writes about “testosterone-induced depression,” a condition that can arise when sexual needs are not met. That form of depression may exist and there is a sense in which a man’s body craves sex. But these things cannot be properly understood without the wider context of the gospel. This context is absent and it’s a significant oversight.

Another observation is that the book is graphic. In the “Can We _______?” chapter the Driscolls look at a long list of very intimate sexual acts. A chapter earlier they look to Song of Solomon and state that each verse points to a very specific sexual act. There is no subtlety in describing sexual deeds and misdeeds; rather, everything is explained in detail. Some of these acts are so intimate (perhaps invasive is also an appropriate word) that many readers will never have considered that they even exist. As a husband I would not want my wife to read some of what this chapter contains. This is not prudishness, but protection. It is one thing to address specific questions that have arisen within the marriage relationship; it’s another thing altogether to introduce those questions to the marriage relationship.

Finally, Mark’s abuse of The Song of Solomon has been widely noted and discussed, but he continues to treat it as a graphic sex manual. To treat it this way is to utterly miss the point. As Carl Trueman says, turning the Song of Solomon “primarily into a sex manual is arguably a greater act of reductionism than jumping straight from the text to Christ and the church.” (See John MacArthur and Carl Trueman for more.)

There is much more I could say. On the one level I appreciate what the Driscolls were trying to accomplish here. They were seeking to build credibility with the reader by opening up their marriage and they were seeking to answer the kinds of questions people have asked them. I get that. But the result is a disjointed effort that misses the mark because it is not firmly and sufficiently grounded in the gospel. The section culminates in the “Can We _______?” questions, but answers to these questions will inevitably miss the mark if we don’t begin with the heart of marriage. How can we evaluate any action in marriage if we haven’t first talked at length about the actions of our Savior and our desire to model him?

The Rest

Part 3 is a single chapter titled “Reverse-Engineering Your Life and Marriage.” The stuff of marriage seminars, this is a long homework assignment for a husband and wife to complete together to help them understand their marriage, put together goals, and finish well.

It is worth mentioning that the e-book version of Real Marriage also contains five appendices. The most notable of them may be the one that speaks of divorce. The Driscolls teach that there are six legitimate grounds for divorce: 1) Death (Rom. 7:2-4; 1 Cor. 7:39); 2) Adultery (Deut. 22:22; Matt. 5:32); 3) Non-Christian files for divorce and leaves (1 Cor. 7:10-24) 4) Sexual immorality/porneia (Matt. 5:32; 19:9); 5) Treachery or treasonous betrayal (Mal. 2:14-16); 6) Hardness of heart (Matt. 19:8; Mark 10:5). They then give the example of an abusive husband saying that if he is unrepentant for his abuse, a woman could divorce him using grounds 5 and 6. I know of no legitimate theologians who teach that these are all legitimate grounds for divorce and very few that would allow divorce under the circumstances given.

Conclusion

I said from the outset that in order to distinguish itself in a crowded field, a book on marriage needs an angle, something unique. The Driscolls chose to make their angle vulnerability and answers to the toughest questions. What they haven’t done is laid a solid gospel foundation for marriage; they haven’t looked at these questions in the fullest context of gospel-centeredness and the rich biblical theology of marriage. This is near-fatal because it leads to a book that is not firmly rooted in what matters most.

Having read the book through two times, I’ve found myself wondering how to best measure or evaluate it, but perhaps these criteria are useful: Would I want to read it with my wife or would I encourage her to read it on her own? Would I recommend it to the people in my church? In both cases the answer is no. This is not to say that the book is entirely without merit; Real Marriage does have things to commend it. But in my assessment the negatives far outweigh the positives. Its disjointed nature, the way it is unhinged from the gospel, the way it evaluates sexual acts through an improper grid — in all these ways and more it inadvertently lowers marriage rather than elevates it. With so many good books on marriage available to us, I see no reason to recommend this one.

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March 28, 2012

DAVID CROWDER To Start New Band Called CROWDER!

Creation Festival Northeast has just announced that David Crowder, formerly of the David Crowder Band, will start a new band simply called ‘Crowder,’ with all new band members.  And the new band will makes its debut on the prestigious Creation stage in June 2012.  No details were released about who the new band members will be, but this is awesome news for all us die hard DC*B fans.  Now we can continue to enjoy the creative genius, energy and searching lyrics David Crowder has been known for.  Words can’t express the excitement of all of us here at Awaken Generation at this terrific news.  Incidentally all the ex-DC*B band members are also making new music as part of their new outfit simply called, The Digital Age.  Let the merriment continue and turn up the volume!

March 28, 2012

JARS OF CLAY Announce Spring 2012 Tour With Special Guests Leagues and Matthew Perryman Jones And Release Free Album Via NOISETRADE

 

 

Jars of Clay has announced the initial nine dates on their highly anticipated 2012 Spring Tour, with additional dates to follow. The tour will feature special guests Leagues, an emerging band comprised of Tyler Burkum, Thad Cockrell, and Jeremy Lutito; and singer/songwriter Matthew Perryman Jones.

Launching Apr. 12 in Minneapolis, the Jars of Clay Spring Tour will travel to Dallas; Milwaukee; St. Louis; Des Moines, IA; and Monroe, LA, among other markets. Dates are slated to include such esteemed venues as The Door in Dallas; Fine Line Music Café in Minneapolis; and The Old Rock House in St. Louis.

In conjunction with the tour, a special Jars of Clay Spring Tour 2012 Sampler is currently available viawww.noisetrade.com/jarsofclayspringtour2012. The sampler features “Small Rebellions” and “Body and Wine” from Jars of Clay; “Mind Games” and “Haunted” from LEAGUES; and “O, Theo” and “Until The Dawn Appears” (featuring Thad Cockrell of LEAGUES) from Matthew Perryman Jones. All selections are available for free download, with tips being collected for Blood:Water Mission (www.bloodwatermission.com).

During each performance, concert attendees will have the opportunity to learn about Blood:Water Mission, a non-profit organization founded by Jars of Clay in 2005 to empower communities to work against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in sub-Saharan Africa through creative grassroots efforts. Those enlisting as Community:Builder monthly donors at the shows will receive $25 in Jars of Clay merchandise of their choice.

For a complete listing of tour dates, visit www.jarsofclay.com.

March 20, 2012

FRANCIS CHAN Passion 2012 Full Talk (VIDEO)

March 20, 2012

The Latest Christian News Featuring Andy Stanley, Donald Miller, Tim Tebow, Matt Redman, Fireflight, Paul Baloche, Ed Young

See full size imageSee full size imageSee full size image

Christian Rock Band FIREFLIGHT’s New Album Now Sells 8,000 Copies In Its First Week

With Peyton Manning Reportedly Choosing The Denver Broncos Tim Tebow’s Future Uncertain

Matt Redman And Christian Rapper LZ7 Release New Single 27 Million To Shine A Light On Modern-Day Slavery And Human Trafficking (VIDEO)

PAUL BALOCHE THE SAME LOVE Album Review

ED YOUNG Guest Post: Why Integrity Should Matter So Much To Christian Leaders

March 19, 2012

Christian Rock Band FIREFLIGHT’s New Album Now Sells 8,000 Copies In Its First Week

 

 

Christian rock band Fireflight topped the sales charts recently with its most recent studio release, NOW (that dropped on March 6, 2012).  And the band boasted their highest sales debut to date, beating out previous first week numbers. Coming in at No. 1 on multiple sales charts, including SoundScan’s Current Contemporary Christian Overall Chart, the Rock Alternative Chart as well as the iTunes Christian & Gospel Albums chart, Fireflight latest offering sold more than 8,000 units in its debut week. This is a career best for the group, who is enjoying success at radio as well with current single “Stay Close,” also No. 1 at Christian Rock radio currently.

Fireflight supported NOW’s release amid a flurry of positive reviews from outlets including:

iTunes: “…Fireflight proves masterful at delivering sanctified anthems with shout-along choruses.”

Crosswalk.com: “…the quintet continues to bring excellence to its Evanescence-meets-Skillet sound while making subtle stylistic tweaks that move Fireflight closer to an even broader appeal.”

CCM Magazine: “Fireflight’s latest is as powerful and abbreviated as its title: NOW. Dawn Michele and company are back…”

Christianity Today: “…their [Fireflight’s] fourth full-length doesn’t stray from the tried and true: blistering guitar anthems garnished with electronics, all edged toward the epic via the massive vocals of Dawn Michele.”

JesusFreakHideout.com: “…if you’re looking for a diverse rock record with a softer side, NOW is well worth a listen.”

During street week, Fireflight also made an appearance on LeSEA Broadcasting’s original 30-minute music program “Live From Studio B.”

Asserting a new direction from the group’s previous record For Those Who Wait (2010), NOW calls listeners to move beyond their circumstances and take action. Produced by Jasen Rauch, NOW displays a new sonic focus for the band as well, built on lush electronic textures, futuristic moods and a more finely honed grasp of tender-to-titanic dynamics. Together the project’s hard-hitting message and sound make for an anthemic album.

The band’s music has been featured on E! Entertainment’s “Style Network” and in music-video reels at both American Eagle and Journey’s stores across the country. For nearly a decade, the band has remained tireless road warriors on the concert circuit averaging 140 shows a year.

Most recently, Fireflight wrapped the initial 20-city leg of its “Stay Close” tour, featuring BEC Recordings artist Rapture Ruckus and Delvin Williams. The band will pick up a second run of the tour, this time with Ashes Remain and 7eventh Time Down, mid-April. For a complete list of tour dates, visit www.fireflightrock.com.

 

 

 

March 19, 2012

Matt Redman And Christian Rapper LZ7 Release New Single 27 Million To Shine A Light On Modern-Day Slavery And Human Trafficking (VIDEO)

 

 

Celebrated worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman teamed up with British rapper LZ7 for a new song called “Twenty Million” to bring international attention to the scourge of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.  The single is released in support of the A21 Campaign which aims to combat human trafficking and slavery, with all proceeds from the single going to rehabilitating victims of sex trafficking. During it’s first day of release the single reached number 6 on the iTunes UK Singles Chart and number 1 on the Amazon MP3 Bestsellers Chart.

Written by Matt and Beth Redman with Lindz and Lucy West (LZ7), Willie Weeks and Jorge Mhondera, ‘Twenty Seven Million‘ tells the true story of a girl trafficked from Eastern Europe into London’s sex trade. The artists involved with the single hope that by getting the song into the mainstream charts they can raise awareness of the global issue of slavery.

“Every movement needs an anthem and my hope is that this single will help people pray, to give money or time,” Beth said, according to Cross Rhythms UK. “The ultimate dream is if everyone does something that figure of 27 million could be eradicated in our lifetime.”

Matt Redman shared on his website, “Society is waking up to the fact that there are twenty seven million slaves on the earth today. They are the voiceless, but we could be their voice. Please buy the single at iTunes…if we all move as one on this, together we could make some big noise about this important issue.”

Responding to the cause, people worldwide have shown overwhelming support and love for the new single.

According to A21, there are currently 1.39 million victims of commercial sexual servitude worldwide.

Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime today, generating approximately $31.6 billion a year. Specifically, trafficking for sexual exploitation generates $27.8 billion per year.

Additionally, 90 percent of victims trafficked into the European Union member states will end up in the sex industry. Only 1 to 2 percent of victims are rescued, and only 1 in 100,000 Europeans involved in trafficking are convicted.

“We don’t need to be overwhelmed by the statistics, but rather outraged enough to do what we can,” Beth said.

By working with A21, the Redmans and LZ7 hope to awaken the church to “rise up” and bring awareness to the issue.

 An E-Card (see right) has been released to promote the single, which contains facts on the problem of trafficking, a clip of the song, details of all that’s going on around the single release as well as option for people to become a Twenty Seven Million Ambassador: using their influence to spread the word and help raise awareness about the fight against human trafficking.

To listen and buy the new single, click here.

Read more about The A21 Campaign by visiting http://www.thea21campaign.org.

 

Watch The Official Music Video Below:

 

 

March 19, 2012

ED YOUNG Guest Post: Why Integrity Should Matter So Much To Christian Leaders

 

 

We sometimes need to be reminded of why we do ministry.  The calling on my life was given to me when I was 21 years of age. There were no words that any individual could have given me to persuade me to enter the ministry, or to stay out of the ministry. When God tugged at my heart to follow Him into full time service for His kingdom, it was only because of His call.

To this day, I look back over the 28 years of ministry, and without a doubt, if my ministry work was for anyone one or anything other than God, I would not do it.  I serve an audience of One. With that being said, I want to share with you some recent media attention that Lisa and I have received.

A local reporter has spent what seems to be a great deal of time investigating me concerning my integrity as the leader of Fellowship Church.  We have not seen the piece that was aired, nor will we give credence to it by watching.  We do know that the report is scathing and creates the idea that I, along with my wife Lisa, have been dishonest in our business dealings and with our use of Fellowship Church as a means of obtaining personal wealth.

The reporter sent an email request for information, but refused to give us any details or information that he obtained from an anonymous source.  He only said that he has spoken with former staff members about us. But we have no verification of who he has spoken with.  We do not know his source(s) and it is irrelevant to us.  What we do know is that this report was made based on fragments of information gathered out of context and anonymously, and that it disregarded documented information that the Board of Directors for Fellowship Church is privy to and that is known by legal counsel and accounting audits.

The piece insinuates that I keep secrets from the congregation of Fellowship Church and that I use Fellowship Church to create personal wealth. Let me say very clearly, Lisa and I have no secrets.

My life is lived in an aquarium, and I am not ashamed of that fact.  Do I share every detail of my life with the congregation of Fellowship Church?  No.  But it isn’t because my life is secretive.  It is because there are details that the proper people know, hold me accountable to and make the decisions based on what is best for Fellowship Church and its ministries.

I have never claimed to have lived a perfect life. I do, however, claim to live a life of integrity. I don’t make that claim lightly.

Before God, the Board of Directors and the legal and financial accountants have governed the workings of Fellowship Church and its staff.  We operate in a manner that is “worthy of the calling of Christ Jesus” and have no apologies, nor would we change anything that we have done on behalf of the unbelievable ministry of Fellowship Church.

Ironically, the reporter told a Public Relations spokesperson for Fellowship Church that this story was set to air during sweeps week, as it will be of high interest.

Well, every week is sweeps week for Fellowship Church. And we will continue to do ministry with those who are far away from God in mind, and we will work tirelessly to make sure that the message of Jesus is at the forefront of everything we do.

The past 20 years have exceeded anything we could have ever imagined. Yet, at the same time, we truly believe the best is yet to come!

March 19, 2012

With Peyton Manning Reportedly Choosing The Denver Broncos Tim Tebow’s Future Uncertain

 

 

Tim Tebow’s future took an unexpected turn today when news broke that Peyton Manning had reportedly chose the Denver Broncos to be his next time.  These recent developments have caused some to pronounce that the clock has likely struck midnight on Tebow Time.

With Peyton Manning in discussions to sign a blockbuster deal with the Denver Broncos, the NFL future of incumbent quarterback Tim Tebow is in serious doubt. The crossover football star will almost certainly be traded by the team, ridding coach John Fox and John Elway of a player whose popularity and penchant for comebacks made him an albatross on their plans to mold the franchise in their own image.

Multiple outlets report that the Broncos will try to trade Tebow once the deal with Manning is finalized. He should have no shortage of suitors. He’ll never be a Manning or a Tom Brady, but in the right system, Tebow could flourish as a change-of-pace quarterback or hybrid player.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to show interest. Bringing in Tebow would create buzz and sell tickets to a stadium that’s often littered with empty seats. He grew up in the state and starred in nearby Gainesville with the Florida Gators.

Another possible destination could be the New England Patriots. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drafted Tebow to the Broncos in 2010, the team has a surplus of draft picks and Bill Belichick has that “crazy as a fox” reputation that would enjoy the hoopla of trying to make Tebow fit into an offense with Tom Brady. The coach was complimentary of Tebow before New England’s blowout playoff win over the Broncos. Of course, that praise could have been a Belichickian power play — praise the guy who stinks and nobody will accuse you of underestimating the opponent.

And it wouldn’t be a quarterback derby if the Miami Dolphins didn’t get involved, then fail to land their target.

Denver could also choose to keep Tebow, though that seems to be an untenable stance. The Manning circus will be big, but not big enough to keep Tebow under its tent.

March 19, 2012

Louie Giglio, Andy Stanley, Perry Noble And Other Pastors Share How They Prepare Their Messages

 

 

How do preachers, particularly megachurch pastors, prepare for sermons every week? Where do they get their ideas? Do they ever get nervous? And how do they deal with both criticism and praise?

Those are some of the questions that a group of well-known pastors responded to during a webcast Thursday that was designed to help pastors across the country preach better sermons.

According to Casey Graham, founder of PreachingRocket.com, which led the event, 90 percent of unchurched people choose a church based on the pastor or preaching. And 92 percent of people return to a church because of a sermon.

With that, the preachbettersermons.com event was launched to provide insights into the way some of the country’s most influential pastors do what they do and to provide a community in the lonely world of preparing and preaching sermons.

Ideas and Sermon Preparation

NewSpring Church Pastor Perry Noble advised the thousands of pastors watching online to begin with the Word of God and not a VH1 video or popular song.

“Let the text, the Bible drive the sermon. Don’t say I saw a video on VH1 and I want to establish a sermon around that,” the South Carolina megachurch pastor exhorted. “The Word of God has to be where it starts. I’m so passionate about that.”

Noble, whose church is getting ready to launch its eighth campus, said nearly every idea that he has preached on for the past five years came out of his quiet time. He made it clear, however, that his quiet time with the Lord is not sermon prep time.

“But while I’m reading the Bible to try my best to hear the voice of God, if something pops in my mind, I write it down,” he explained.

“A preacher preaches best when he preaches out of the overflow of his heart. I really want to try my best to communicate that idea that God set my heart on fire with.”

Already, he has enough thoughts written down that he can create sermons for the next year and a half, he said.

For Charles Stanley, who has been preaching for 55 years, his ideas come from asking “What’s the need of the people who are going to be listening?”

The veteran pastor, whose sermons are broadcast around the world through In Touch Ministries, developed a little saying that some, including his son Andy Stanley, cite: “Until a preacher has as burden for the message, he’s not ready to preach.”

“I realized I needed to have on my shoulder – spiritually – the weight of what God has in mind. What does He want to accomplish in this message? … I’m preaching for an impact, not to impress anybody but just impact. I want to see their life change,” he explained.

Essentially, the feeling a pastor should have is: “I must preach this message, I have to preach it, I can’t wait to preach it,” he described.

While Stanley typically begins preparing for his sermon a week ahead and makes sure that is the only thing on his mind between Saturday and Sunday, Noble likes to plan much farther ahead – by several months.

With his sermons consisting not only of preaching but also of videos, illustrations and other elements, Noble likes to give his Creative Team time to prepare.

“One of the things I’ve discovered about preaching is … preaching is relatively easy if all I’ve got to do is read a text and apply it. But today … there’s so many creative elements around it,” he said during the “Preach Better Sermons” webcast.

“We all serve each other. The way I serve our Creative Team, Worship Team, and Video Team, is try my best to plan as far ahead as possible … Then everybody can give their best effort possible. They don’t serve me, we serve each other.”

Andy Stanley, lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., also chooses to prepare his sermons more than a week in advance.

“I can’t live that way,” he said of last-minute preparations.

Do Megachurch Pastors Get Nervous?

When it comes to getting up in front of thousands of people on a large stage every week, Stanley of North Point doesn’t believe nerves should be in play.

“When a preacher or teacher is nervous, it’s all about them,” he stated. “I can’t be concerned about me … and be concerned about them. I’m going to walk out there concerned about that group … or about me. [It] can’t be both.”

“If you’re nervous … you’re really not ready,” he stressed.

Rather than evaluating success based on how well the congregation applies what is preached, the pastor who is concerned and nervous ends up basing success on how well he or she did, Stanley noted.

“Don’t get up there so you can feel like you did a good job … don’t just cover the material,” he advised. “Walk out there with that person in mind.”

That person may be a teen who’s giving church a try one last time or (for Stanley) a middle-aged man who was dragged to church by his wife.

“Make sure it’s about them and not about you,” he exhorted.

The elder Stanley, Charles, also said he never gets nervous on Sunday morning. Rather, he’s more excited to preach what God wants him to say.

Dealing With Criticism

Citing Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, Noble said pastors have many foes, fans and then very few friends.

“He said you’ve got people that think you’re worse than you really are, [those who think] you’re better than you really are, and some people who will tell you the truth.”

Noble chooses not to listen to the “foes.”

He also doesn’t listen to the “fans” – who will always tell the pastor “great job.”

Instead, he listens to friends – who love Jesus first, the church second and the pastor third.

“They’re willing to speak the truth to you so … ultimately it’ll edify the church,” he noted.

Other speakers featured in the webcast included Louie Giglio of the Passion movement, Judd Wilhite of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Dan Cathy, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, and Pastor Vanable H. Moody II of The Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham, Ala.

March 17, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Christian Author DONALD MILLER Weighs In On Invisible Children Co-Founder Jason Russell’s Arrest

 

 

Popular Christian author Donald Miller, of Blue Like Jazz fame weighed in on his blog on the unfortunate news about Jason Russell.  In a heartfelt blog post Miller counseled his readers:

There aren’t many things harder in life than dealing with fame. And dealing with sudden, explosive fame is harder than anything most of us can imagine. The news about Jason Russell is unfortunate.

What he and the organization needs is compassion. This can either be the worse thing that has happened to them or work out fine. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Don’t gossip. Whatever you hear doesn’t really matter. Lets just not spread anything.

2. Admit this is an unfortunate situation but also that people are human and flawed and we all have our crap. It would be a mistake to demonize anybody.

3. Pray that those who need help get help.

4. Move on. Don’t dwell on this story because this story is a distraction. Keep working for great causes.

God works in the world the way crops are grown. He works slowly, with teams of people, quietly and through relationships. For all of us hoping for an explosive, sudden jolt, just know it isn’t natural and it jacks with your mind. Keep working, daily, digging our rows and harvesting our crops. Play your small part in the grand epic. Keep your head down, and don’t enjoy anybody else’s mistakes.

Much love to all those who have supported Invisible Children. You’ve done and will continue to do good work. Keep your chin up.

 

Our thoughts and prayers are with Jason and his family during this difficult time.  Please join us in praying for him.

March 14, 2012

PAUL BALOCHE THE SAME LOVE Album Review

 

 

Renowned for his live albums capturing his heart for Jesus, Paul Baloche has been in the Christian music industry for the past 20 years. Most of his albums are in a live setting, apart from his re recordings on ‘The Writers Collection’; which makes ‘The Same Love’ all the more special. I cannot remember the last studio album Paul Baloche recorded. This change is one I will gladly welcome, as every single song on this album can literally be sung in the church. With more collaborations, co-writes and guest vocals on this album than any other he has done, for me Paul has raised the bar higher than ever on ‘The Same Love’, which I am sure has the potential to be a classic worship album in 10 or so years.

Starting off with the guitar driven ballad ‘The Same Love’, written with producer Michael Rossback, Paul dives into the fact that the same God who died and rose again 2000 + years ago is calling out to us, asking us to draw near to Him and follow Him. This fact boggles the mind, yet Paul sings this song in a way that is reassuring, and tells us that God thinks the world of us so much that he is calling each one of us, by our own names! He knows us all, and wants us all. What a welcomed privilege that ‘… The same God that spread the heavens wide, the same God that was crucified, is calling us all by name…’

‘We Are Saved’ has a Hillsong United type of feel, and I am sure the song will be a hit in churches in the near future. A declaration and proclamation that God has saved us from sin by conquering the grave, Paul has crafted, with Jason Ingram and Ben Fielding, a piece of art that is sure to be around for a very long time. Ben Fielding even lends his vocals in the second verse, and with Paul and Ben praising Jesus and singing ‘…all the honour, forever, Jesus be lifted higher, we owe it all to You…’; I would be surprised if this doesn’t make radio airplay!

3rd is ‘King of Heaven’, a vertical worship song co written with Jason Ingram, and Paul is joined by All Sons and Daughters duo David Leonard and Leslie Jordan. To hear these three talented vocalists harmonise and sing together to praise Jesus, and to also hear the banjo riff and the spontaneous worship in the bridge, followed by the bridge proclamation ‘…King of Heaven come…’ is quite magical. This spirit anointed song gave me chills the first time listening to it. Paul has done a fantastic job!

‘All Because of the Cross’ is a rendition of ‘Nothing But The Blood’, and explicitly tells of the gospel, where Jesus died and rose again. It’s because of the Cross and Jesus rising from the Grave that we are now set free in Him. A prayer to thank Jesus for what he has done, Paul expertly creates a 5 minute track in which anyone can lay down their burdens and just worship God for who He is and what He has done, for ‘… on the cross our sin erased, in your death our life was raised…’.

‘Your Blood Ran Down’ is segued next, and is a simple piano based track, describing the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity. An honest and moving track in which Paul Baloche repeatedly sings ‘…Your blood ran down…’, this song captures the ultimate moment and sacrifice that Jesus must’ve felt on the cross when he died to save the world. He chose to sacrifice Himself for humanity, and for that, we as Christians should be ever grateful and offering our worship and praise to Him.

‘My Hope’ is one of my favourites on the album. A worship ballad heavily emphasising the guitars and sung with Kathryn Scott, Paul deftly explores how sometimes we as Christians sometimes ask God where He is in the midst of all of our troubles. However God is right there, and we know that all things will work out for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Even when ‘… I don’t know where You’ll take me…’ we still ‘…know You’re always good…’ as God is God. Only He can truly be our hope.

‘Oh Our Lord’ reunites Paul with All Sons and Daughters, a song co written with them as well. A song in which God is praised throughout despite the circumstances in our lives; David, Leslie and Paul proclaim that God’s name has power, over all others. The name of Jesus can be used for comfort, and also for a reminder that He is on our side. ‘…Oh Your name is a light in the darkness, oh Your name is the word of truth, oh Your name, oh Your name…’. The song then breaks out into an all praise anthem in the bridge. Such a powerful song, this song is even re-recorded on All Sons and Daughters’ new album. A well deserve end to the first half of the album.

Following on is ‘Christ the Lord’, Paul’s own version of the song ‘Risen Today’ by Charles Wesley. Paul has perfected this masterpiece of a hymn and turned it into his own, never compromising on the message. A song about how Jesus has overcome the Grave and now we are free, I cannot stop dancing and celebrating in this song! Jesus has risen, and we are free!! That IS something to be happy about every single day! ‘… Raise your voice! The King has overcome, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…’

Jason Ingram then lends his vocals on the 9th track ‘Reign In Me’. A song reminiscent of one from One Sonic Society, Jason and Paul expertly sing together in harmony, a song of rededication of our lives to Jesus, asking him to ‘…reign in me…’. A song full of raw emotion and utter devotion to Jesus, how can we not be the same once we listen to this spirit anointed track? You cannot help but be changed by what Jesus has done for us! Well done Paul and Jason for an inspiring track.

The next couple of tracks ‘Just Say’ and ‘Loved By You’, both with guest vocal Angela Krusi, are piano based songs exploring the intricacies of the mind and will of God. Paul delves into how God has the power to heal with his words ‘…just say the word, I’ll be made whole…’ (Just Say); as well as one of mankind’s purposes on Earth ‘…I was made to be loved by You…to be loved by you Jesus…’ (Loved By You). A complete 180 from the upbeat songs earlier, Paul is equally effective in the reflective moments, the moments that make the listener more aware of the meaning of the lyrics. These tracks, while not as upbeat as the majority of this album, are still part of Paul’s heart for God, and I commend his efforts!

‘Look Upon the Lord’ is next, with guest vocal Kari Jobe, and is one of the most moving and worshipful tracks. With Kari and Paul harmonising well and singing in unison Jesus’ praises ‘…You are good and your mercy will endure, You are good and forever we are yours…’, this track blows my mind. I can truly say that this song will be timeless; one for the ages. As the song progresses, the piano base is added to, with guitars, strings, drums, and soon in the bridge, as Kari and Paul proclaim ‘…Holy, Holy, Holy, with one voice, heaven and earth are singing…’, and you can tell this song is something special. This song, the 12th on Paul’s near flawless album, is one to truly remember!

The album closer ‘Shout For Joy’, co-written with Lincoln Brewster, finishes off a well written and sung worship album. Similar in style to Lincoln Brewster’s (on his 2010 album), Paul makes the song his own, utilising the instruments and praising Jesus effectively. Singing out ‘…shout for joy for the Son of God is the Saving One, He’s the Saving One…’, it is evident that throughout the past 20 years, Paul’s faith has not wavered, in fact it has only strengthened. Well done Paul on an album that I’m sure will stand the test of time, maybe receive a Dove Award!

To sum up, these 13 songs that Paul has recorded (some of these in his house!) are truly a magnificent masterpiece! A work of art, nothing short of amazing! I’m not sure how many more years Paul will keep making music for, but let me tell you that his quality of his work, of his God-praising songs have only increased over time. I am eagerly anticipating your next album Paul, and I’m sure it will be full of treasures!

Score: 4.75/5

Track Listing:

  1. The Same Love
  2. We Are Saved (featuring Ben Fielding)
  3. King of Heaven (featuring David Leonard and Leslie Jordan)
  4. All Because of the Cross
  5. Your Blood Ran Down
  6. My Hope (featuring Kathryn Scott)
  7. Oh Our Lord (featuring David Leonard and Leslie Jordan)
  8. Christ the Lord
  9. Reign in Me (featuring Jason Ingram)
  10. Just Say (featuring Angela Krusi & Brothers McClurg)
  11. Loved By You (featuring Angela Krusi)
  12. Look Upon the Lord (featuring Kari Jobe)
  13. Shout for Joy

Favorite Tracks: We Are Saved, Shout For Joy, Reign In Me, My Hope, All Because of the Cross, Christ the Lord, Look Upon the Lord, The Same Love

March 11, 2012

JOHN PIPER Passion 2012 Full Talk (VIDEO)

March 6, 2012

CHRISTINE CAINE Passion 2012 Full Talk (VIDEO)

March 4, 2012

Recent Blog Posts You May Have Missed Featuring Donald Miller, Jeremy Lin, John Piper, Lecrae, Kirk Franklin, Lindsay Mccaul

Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz Movie Signs With Major Hollywood Distributor.

Hachett Book Group’s  Center Street to publish Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity.

Kirk Franklin’s Hello Fear certified Gold by RIAA For Shipments Of 500,000 Copies

PROVIDENT’S LINDSAY MCCAUL Talks About Songwriting, How She Got Her Start In Christian Music And Her New Album

JEREMY LIN Talks About His Favorite Music: I’m A Huge Lecrae And Hillsong United Fan! (VIDEO)

John Piper Interviews Lecrae At PASSION 2012 

GEOFF SURRATT Guest Post: I Felt Alone And Disconnected At Almost Every Church I Visited With My Wife

March 4, 2012

The Latest Christian News Featuring Joel Houston, Louie Giglio, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong Live, David Platt

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March 4, 2012

RADICAL By DAVID PLATT Reaches 1 Million Copies In Print

 

 

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (Multnomah Books), the 2010 breakout debut book by pastor David Platt, has reached a major milestone with 1 million copies in print and continues to appear on best-seller lists: 81 weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller List (Paperback Advice & Misc.) and 20 months on the CBA Top 50 Best-Seller List, including 17 months in the top 10.

Called the youngest mega-church pastor in history when he took the senior pastor position at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, Platt says that we’ve allowed our cultural preferences to manipulate the gospel of Jesus Christ. Citing several examples from the Bible, Platt explains that Jesus asked his followers for nothing less than radical abandonment, telling them to leave their jobs, families and all they had. But in our American Dream culture, we say that He couldn’t possibly mean that for us. “We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives,” says Platt. “So we rationalize these passages away. We are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and begin twisting him into a version of Jesus that we are more comfortable with.”

Platt and his church committed to “The Radical Experiment,” a one-year journey in authentic discipleship, and the results are astounding: Over 100 families began the process to become foster parents in hopes of making sure every child in Birmingham has a family; 40 households committed to move to an inner-city neighborhood in Birmingham in an effort to serve and love others; the church evaluated their 2010 budget and freed up $500,000 dollars to sponsor 21 Compassion International projects in India, providing food, clean water and health care to women and children in one of the most impoverished nations in the world.

Reflecting on the success of Radical, WaterBrook Multnomah President and Publisher Steve Cobb says, “When the manuscript first came in, folks here in the office were buzzing about it. I hadn’t seen such enthusiasm for a book in quite some time, and it’s been a real pleasure to see that enthusiasm carry over to retailers and consumers. Everyone on staff has worked hard on this title because they believe that the message can change lives, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to publish such a book.”

“God is gracious, and His mercy extends far beyond what we could ever deserve or imagine. I am thankful for what He has chosen to do with Radical – for the lives of men and women who have decided that Jesus is more satisfying than every pursuit and pleasure in this world, and for the stories of how His glory is being passionately and sacrificially proclaimed to the ends of the earth,” says David Platt.

“On top of this, all of the author royalties from the book are being used to spread the gospel amidst a world of urgent spiritual and physical need. May God continue to raise up men and women who are not content to waste their lives on anything but uncompromising, unconditional abandonment to a gracious, loving Savior who invites us to take radical risk and promises us radical reward.”

A smartphone app is also available for iPhones and Androids, and contains video of David Platt speaking, podcasts from The Church at Brook Hills, excerpts, and links for more info on the book. The app is available at http://mobileroadie.com/apps/radical.

 

March 4, 2012

LOUIE GIGLIO Releases Trailer For New AND IF OUR GOD IS FOR US Tour Talk Called Symphony, I Lift My Hands

 

 

As we reported earlier Louie Giglio is set to release a new talk DVD called “Symphony, I Lift My Hands.”  The talk was heard by thousands on the recent “And If Our God Is For Us” Tour headlined by Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio.  This week sixstepsrecords released a trailer for the new talk DVD set to release on March 13, 2012, the same day as the latest Passion album is set to drop.

WATCH:

March 4, 2012

Hillsong Live Releases Title And Cover Of New July 2012 Album Cornerstone

 

 

Hillsong Live announced this week that the title of the twenty-first album, set to be released later this year will be Cornerstone.”  Based on Ephesians 2:20 “‘Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself’  (NLT).

The latest album was recorded last year at Allphones Arena in Sydney with Hillsong worship leaders including Reuben Morgan, Darlene Zschech, Joel Houston and Ben Fielding.

In addition to the title, Hillsong Live also released the cover art as well as a tentative track listing of 14 songs, which includes the song ‘Your Love So High‘ co-written by Reuben Morgan, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin.

The new album releases July 2, 2012.

‘Cornerstone’ Track Listing (Not Final):
01 Endless Light
02 Running
03 Under Your Name
04 I Desire Jesus
05 Your Grace Abounds
06 Surrender
07 Your Love So High
08 Praise Him
09 My Soul Sings
10 All My Hope
11 Better Than Life
12 All Of The Praise
13 Greater Than All
14 Cornerstone

March 4, 2012

JOEL HOUSTON OF HILLSONG UNITED GETS MARRIED !!! (PICTURES)

All of us here at Awaken Generation wanted to give a massive congratulations to our friend; worship leader and songwriter extraordinaire Joel Houston who tied the knot just a few days ago.  Details about the nuptials have been sparse, with the only real mention coming from a cryptic tweet by Houston himself.  So far all we know about the new Mrs Houston is that she is a Brazilian native and her name is Esther De Lima.  (Now Esther Houston we’re guessing).

We do know that the entire Hillsong United gang was in attendance.

Below are some pictures of the happy day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 3, 2012

CHRIS TOMLIN Shares New Picture Of Baby Ashlyn Alexandra Tomlin! (PICTURES)

 

Chris Tomlin took to twitter recently to talk about his recent grammy award, also posting a new updated picture of their adorable baby Ashlyn.

The popular songwriter tweeted:

“My dad received a Grammy!:) Love, Ashlyn.http://lockerz.com/s/18 ”

Too adorable for words.