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JFH Staff Blog | December 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

We Recommend - House Of Heroes, 'The End Is Not The End'

This week marks the end of 2008 and the beginning of another new year. As we look ahead to another promising year for new music, we look back at another catalog of releases. Incidentally, JFH staff picked House Of Heroes' The End Is Not The End as their favorite album of 2008, which should finally hit stores nationwide early '09 (possibly February 24th). The End Is Not The End is a solid collection of indie rock songs that are as accessible and catchy as they are fresh and deep. From lighter subject matter ("If," "Leave You Now,") to much deeper fare ("Voices," "Field Of Daggers," "In The Valley Of The Dying Sun"), The End Is Not The End has a little for everyone as well as plenty of food for thought. If you haven't picked it up because you're waiting for a physical copy (and haven't seen them live to get one or been able to find a copy online), this will certainly be worth the wait to pick it up in a couple months when it finally hits streets!

Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!


House Of Heroes
The End Is Not The End (2008)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "The fusion of music and written word of this caliber is so rare these days, but House of Heroes has succeeded where most have tried and failed. Easily the best record of 2008." (Recommended by JFH's Josh Taylor)
Perfect For: Relationships, Spiritual life, fun
Song Highlights: "If," "Out Of Control," "Leave You Now," "Field Of Daggers," "In The Valley Of The Dying Sun"... all of it, really!

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The End Is Not The End? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Monday, December 22, 2008

We Recommend - Sixpence None The Richer, 'The Dawn of Grace'

Only a couple more days 'til it's Christmas -- a time of giving and receiving as we celebrates God's gift of His Son to us once again! This also a time of year filled with all kinds of emotions - from joy to sadness, sentimental thoughts to melancholy musings, it can be pretty up and down. This year, the newly reunited Sixpence None The Richer returned to music with a full-length Christmas album titled The Dawn Of Grace. Now, while I admit it's not quite the quintessential Sixpence Christmas album we've all been waiting for, The Dawn Of Grace is a decent and unique Christmas offering that successfully covers a wide array of emotions, born out of the artists' own happiness and sorrow. Leigh Nash's silky smooth vocals make this one especially worth a listen. Personal favorites include the traditionals, like "Silent Night" featuring Jars of Clay's Dan Haseltine and an added verse the singer wrote himself, as well as "Angels We Have Heard On High" and "Carol Of The Bells."

Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!


Sixpence None The Richer
The Dawn Of Grace (2008)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A little rough around the edges, but this unique and daring Christmas venture from Sixpence captures the joy and sadness of the holiday season." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase)
Perfect For: Sitting by the fireplace with a cup of cocoa and a pensive heart.
Song Highlights: "Silent Night," "Christmas For Two," "Carol Of The Bells"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album The Dawn Of Grace? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

JESUS AUGUSTUS?

“Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken . . . .”  Luke 2:1

Caesar Augustus was the Roman Emperor at the time of Jesus’ birth.  The Latin meaning for Augustus is “exalted one.”  Literally his name was “Caesar the exalted one.” 

A few verses back an angel declared to Mary that she would name her son, Jesus.  Just Jesus... not Jesus Augustus, or even Jesus “the exalted One," although He is the exalted and most High Savior and Lord.  I thought that was interesting. Jesus, God, the babe, not the Exalted one.

But I, we, know that Caesar “the exalted one” doesn’t take center stage at Christmas.  We don’t sing Caesar carols, or say “Merry Caesar-mas.”  But my Christmas’ do tend to lean in the direction of Target-mas, or Gap-mas, or Wii-mas, instead of CHRISTmas?  I catch myself wondering if I'm really focused on Jesus Christ or Stressed Augustus?  Know what I'm saying?

Just pondering....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We Recommend - Rebecca St. James, 'Christmas'

Man... Christmas '08 is next week?! Where in the world did this year go?? Well, it's tradition to be cranking the holiday tunes more fervently by this time of the year, and as I'm typing this, my Christmas iTunes playlist is rolling (I love the work of composer Percy Faith... amazing!!!). There have been some solid Christmas offerings from CCM artists over the years. Among them is Rebecca St. James' 1997 project, simply titled Christmas. Rebecca was just 20 years old when her Christmas debut released and it features a nice mix of electronic pop and rock to offer some fresh updates of familiar traditional and modern Christmas tunes. It's still a great listen 11 years later!  ~ John

Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!


Rebecca St. James
Christmas (1997)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A very unique sound that can only be found in a Rebecca Christmas project. An annual favorite!." (Recommended by JFH's Wayne Myatt)
Perfect For: Worship during the Christmas season!
Song Highlights: "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," "One Small Child," "Happy Christmas," and "Silent Night"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Christmas? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

THE SNOW GLOBE LIFE

The previous blog that mentioned Relient K's "Let it Snow Baby... Let it Reindeer" inspired me to post this blog.

A while back I was taking a walk down a street by my house (yes walking, not running or jogging in any form, shape, or fashion) reflecting on snow globes. I’m serious. Snow globes with no swirling snow are just boring. To give them life you gotta shake up’em up a bit.  I thought of how my life, particularly my walk with Jesus, gets a lot like a boring, snowless snow globe. I get lazy, detached, and complacent.  My prayers get shallow and monotonous. My walk with Jesus becomes routine and religious. Worship becomes a duty instead of a delight. My joy, my peace, my passion for Christ just sort of settles to the bottom, if you know what I mean.

Then God comes along and sees my snow-globe life.  A life that has settled for attending Church, golf-clapping the birth of Jesus, cheering for my presents, keeping my quiet times, praying on the run, and not cussing.  It's a life that hasn't been stirred up in a while. Bored, and boring to God.  

So God takes my life and shakes it up a bit  (sometimes a shake, other times a jolt).  He does it through a crisis, a challenge, a concern, or a miracle.  And just as a snow-globe becomes alive inside when shaken, so do I.  Boredom becomes passion again.  Prayers become pleas again.  Laziness becomes neediness again. Worship becomes WORSHIP again.  Jesus becomes relationship instead of religion again. The adventure, beauty, and joy of our salvation is best seen before God and others when things get shaky and we trust the One doing the shaking.

So let it snow baby!

FYI: Sometimes I post the same blogs on JFH as I do on my personal site. Sometimes I don't. I share more personal stories and experiences on my personal site (such as having violent hiccups, the art of splitting wood, traumatizing my four year old's pre-kindergarten class, and so forth). These stories and experiences are usually weird and funny (at least that's what I'm told). Would love for you to check it out.  www.jarrodjones.com

Monday, December 08, 2008

We Recommend - Relient K, 'Let It Snow, Baby...'

This week, it seems only appropriate to recommend another Christmas album. In 2003, pop punk rockers Relient K produced a Christmas EP, creatively titled, Deck The Halls, Bruise Your Hand, and packaged it with their third studio album, Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do, later the same year. The EP was a success and after being re-released the following year, the band expanded the 10-song EP into a delicious 17-track project last year, entitled Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer. Now, the 2003 Relient K is light years different than the 2007 (and even the 2008) Relient K, so the record is a bit all over the place having the past and present mixed together. Arguably, the newer stuff is the strongest and the most timeless, but the original EP still possesses a unique energy and charm. This year, the band releases three MORE (?!) Christmas tunes to add to this release and posted them on iTunes with a fun little video for "Sleigh Bells," making the latest 20-track version of this project the quintessential must-have. I've never personally considered myself a fan of Relient K, but I admit you'd be hard pressed to find a better rock Christmas album than Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer.

Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it and what your thoughts are on it!

(Remember, we want YOUR comments on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind, this is NOT for your own reviews.)

Relient K
Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer (2007)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "Relient K build upon a strong 2003 EP with this full-length 2007 Christmas release that blends traditional and modern with alt rock and pop punk flavors chock-full of fun and heart." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase... and Josh Taylor)
Perfect For: A rockin' fun record at Christmas time, Christmas cheer, remembering the reason for the season.
Song Highlights: "Sleigh Bells," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "O Holy Night" (2008 download), "I Celebrate The Day," "Merry Christmas, Here's To Many More."

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Performing for God

I lived so many years in religious chains. I lived mainly a "sin-avoidance" gospel. In other words, my Christian walk was mainly about not sinning (no cussing, no lying, no drinking, and so forth), doing Christian duties to keep me from sinning (Church, Bible, Prayer, Bible Studies), and finding Christian techniques to help me avoid sinning (wear Christian T-shirts, listen to Michael W. Smith, and wear a Cross necklace).
I also viewed God as a Daddy who was hard to please.  I always had to prove to myself, and to God, that I really loved Him. My thinking was like this:  "I'm going to change my life.  I'm going to quit cussing. I'm going to quit looking at porn. I'm going to read my Bible more, pray more, put the Fish on my car, and get a Christian tattoo).  I failed to truly believe and rest in the reality that in Christ I am completely accepted and loved. The Apostle John said, "This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin" (1 John 4:10).  He also wrote, "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). God loved when I didn't love Him. He sent His son even while I flipped Him off.  He first loved me and then i loved Him. But still I had it all wrong. I was living as if He loved me because i first loved Him. I didn't get it. I was chained to religion.
I realized that religion is performance.  Religion is living for God's acceptance and love. Relationship is living from his acceptance and love. Religion is trying to get God to respond in love. Relationship is living in response to God's love.  And with that I learned that I don't obey God to get accepted. Rather I obey because I'm already accepted by God. I don't serve Christ to get loved, I serve Christ because I'm loved. See it?
Spoke at a conference a couple of years ago. In the front row, to my right, was a girl who looked like she hated being there and hated me (or the message, or both).  After the second day, and the third and last session, a lady approached me with tears in her eyes. She said, "I brought a group of girls here this weekend. They are from a foster home. They are hardened, bitter, and angry. Well, one of those girls gave her life to Jesus. She was sitting in the seats in front of you yesterday."  It was that same girl.  The lady continued, "Her heart broke for Christ because of something you said. She heard you say, 'God loves you.'  It was the first time she ever heard a male say that God loved her.'"
"God loves you." I'm sure you've heard those words before from many people. Those three jaw-dropping words are so cliche' now.  They make for cute coffee mugs and colorful calendars. But have you truly paused, opened your Bible to 1 John 4:10 & 1 John 4:19, Romans 8:14-16, and savored that   G-O-D  L-O-V-E-S  YOU!
Staggering.
Are you living a "sin-avoidance" gospel? Is your walk with Christ more about modifying your behavior to look more Christian? Or do you believe with all of your DNA that you are ferociously loved by God, and because of that love you want to live for His glory? His first love for you changes everything. Who wants to be religious with a ruthlessly loving God who wants relationship?  This God, our God, who would give His Son so that we might have that relationship.  Stop living for His love. Start living from His love.  Don't obey so that you might feel accepted and loved by God. Obey because you are accepted and loved by God. 
Chains be gone! Be free.

Monday, December 01, 2008

God Knows Better Than We Do...

I'm not a parent, so when it comes to learning some of the lessons that parents learn, it's usually through being a pet owner. For those who don't know, my wife and I are the proud caretakers of a little guinea pig named Chewie who's three and a half years old. He's a spunky little spoiled furrball, but more loveable than any pet I've ever had or known before him. My most recent lesson was experienced during the revisitation of a favorite activity of little Chewie's...

I believe it was earlier this year when we began occasionally letting the little guy run around on our carpeted office floor. It's good exercise for him, he has a blast, and it's ridiculously cute to watch him running and skipping around joyfully, all the while chattering to himself about only God knows what. But to keep him out of trouble, we have a small little fence that we use to keep him away from small spaces and wires he could nibble on. The funny thing is, early on in this new world exploration of his, he managed to get behind my desk to where a wealth of random, unorganized wires were well out in the open and free for the chewing. I caught him just in time before he could do any damage to himself or the appliances and returned him to his safe caged-in area. Since this incident, however, Chewie has become completely fascinated with this area of the room -- often trying desperately to find a way outside of his little pen to get back there. Perhaps he thinks it's some kind of magical haven - a guinea pig eutopia (haha!), but he has no idea that it's not the best place for him to venture to. Sadly, it's often the same way with us and God.

Many times in life, we'll be told -- whether by parents, God, superiors, etc -- where we should not go or what we should not do in attempts to keep us out of trouble and/or out of harm's way. However, we either don't believe the intentions are pure, or we just become so fixated by what we cannot have -- this forbidden fruit, so to speak -- that we want it simply because we want to know why we can't have it.  It's a problem that has plagued mankind since the dawn of time.

It's unfortunate, really. God calls us to be holy -- not just because sin goes against everything God IS... hence the reason for His Son dying in our place for our sins so we can commune with Him and eventually each spend eternity with Him -- but because it's for our own good and we were created in His likeness! Just as a parent wants the best for their child and to protect them by asking them to wear a coat in cold or rainy weather, drive safely, buckle up, not run with scissors, eat healthy food (or for a pet owner not to allow a little furrball to run into an area where it could be harmed), God wants to keep us safe... and righteous. He calls us to be obedient first and foremost to His will and instruction (and He's given us an entire book to go on). So... have you been trying desperately to venture into territories God is trying to keep you from for your own good?

We Recommend - Jars Of Clay, 'Christmas Songs'

December 1st! Omigoodness, where did 2008 go?! Well, the end of the year is inevitably approaching, and with its approach comes CHRISTMAS! It's my favorite holiday and time of the year, which is due in part to the season's music! I grew up with the music that my grandfather passed down to my mother, so any modern music that can even slightly capture the Christmas mood and sound great scores points in my book. The best modern Christmas album to come along in quite some time is arguably Jars of Clay's 2007 release, Christmas Songs. It's modern and classic in places where appropriate, and upbeat, unique, and pensive. It's a deep collection that also knows it's okay to have a little fun, like on the duet "Hibernation Day."

So now that the turkey has digested and Black Friday has passed (but this week is... Cyber Monday?! Just what we need -- TWO shopping frenzy days! *shakes head*), it's time to dust off the Christmas records and get in the Christmas mood!

Anyone else have this one? Let us know if you recommend it!

(Remember, we want YOUR comments on how the record has affected you. But please keep in mind, this is NOT for your own reviews.)

Jars of Clay
Christmas Songs (2007)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "Jars' Christmas Songs  was THE Christmas album of 2007. As Christmas '08 approaches, grab this one for getting into the holiday spirit!" (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase)
Perfect For: Christmas cheer, remembering the reason for the season, and music to cozy up to someone with.
Song Highlights: "Wonderful Christmas Time," "Hibernation Day," "Winter Skin," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and "Peace Is Here."

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Christmas Songs? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

 


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