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JFH Staff Blog | February 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Keeping God Absent

I want more of God's presence.  But how? What do I need to do?  Where do I need to go?  How do I need to pray? On what Scriptures must I meditate? What books do I read?  What Christian band must I follow? What preacher do I follow? What conference must I attend?  What Church must I join? What type music must I listen to? To what podcasts must I subscribe?  How do I get more of God's presence into my life?

My struggles. You? 

I'm still learning that God does His own thing. The Psalmist put it this way, He "does whatever pleases Him."  This sets the terms of my relationship with God. He is not my personal assistant. He doesn't grace me with His presence at my every beck and call. Though I wish He would. Faith would be easier then.

God intervenes when He wants to intervene. He moves when He wants to move. He provides on the timetable in which He wants to provide, according to His glory and for my greater good, not for my comfort and convenience.

I like C.S. Lewis' approach.  But he reveals the best way to assure God's absence. "Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances.  Keep the radio on [and TV, and Computer, and Ipod, and Iphone]. Live in a crowd Use plenty of sedation.  If you must read books, select them carefully. But you'd be safer to stick to the papers.  You'll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or snobbish appeal."

Touché.

Monday, February 23, 2009

We Recommend - Staple, 'Of Truth and Reconciliation'

It was just recently announced here on JfH that Staple is getting back together.  This was exciting news to me.  And due to that news, I thought it appropriate to recommend their final album before the break up, Of Truth and Reconciliation.  Lots of straight up rock bands are boring nowadays.  Just bland and formulaic.  Staple uses rock music and mixes in bits and pieces of hard rock and even a dash of hardcore here and there and makes it beautiful.  They know how to make good, heavy songs like "Circles We Run" and "Final Night," while also being able to be intricate and insightful, as in "Black, Blue and Gold" and "The Best of Times."  And they always had something to say.  "Gavels From Gun Barrels" speaks of our need for mercy, and "Do or Die" proclaims non-conformity to the world and sticking to faith in Jesus.  Of Truth and Reconciliation is a great album for someone looking for good rock music without having to suffer the blah offerings of bands like Red and Kutless. ~ Scott

Staple
Of Truth and Reconciliation (2005)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A great hard rock album that is spiritually relevant and will keep your ears' attention." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger)
Perfect For: Non-conformity and spiritual strength
Song Highlights: "Do or Die," "Honor and Integrity," "Gavels From Gun Barrels," "Black, Blue and Gold," "The Best of Times," "Final Night"

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

Going Through The Motions

I don’t always feel it.  Sometimes my faith seems stale.  Numb.  Sometimes I pray but I don’t feel connected.  I sing, but my song sounds empty.  I write, but my words sound cliché.  I ask God questions, but I don’t hear answers.  I could try and act like I am always so spiritually refreshed, and thriving in my relationship with God.  But that wouldn’t be honest.  That wouldn’t be me. 

 Does your faith journey ever have these desert seasons?  I think one of the greatest challenges in actively living out a relationship with Christ on earth is to avoid the trap of simply going through the motions.  I grew up in a Christian home.  My dad is a preacher.  And over the years, I’ve mastered the art of learning what “Christian” should say to make everyone thing I’ve got it all figured out.  I know how to act.  I know how to put up a spiritual front, even if I’m not passionately seeking God, and make everyone around me think I’m doing alright.

That’s why I wrote the song, “The Motions."  I was frustrated and tired of that constantly settling for a stale faith.  God is a God of passion.  His true plan for our lives is anything but boring.  “For I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full! (John 10:10, emphasis mine.) Every day, The God of adventure beckons his sons and daughters to quit going through the motions, and walk into a life filled with passion and wonder.  The last line of the chorus strikes me every time I sing it.

I DON’T WANNA SPEND MY WHOLE LIFE ASKING

WHAT IF I HAD GIVEN EVERYTHING

INSTEAD OF GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS

Those words are hard for me to hear sometimes.  I find it so ironic that I now have to face those words every night when I sing them on stage or when “The Motions” plays on the radio.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I believe God new I needed a daily reminder of this haunting question.  A not-so-gentle nudge saying, “don’t hold anything back, give it all, everything you have.”  Some days, my actions are as though my answer to that call is, “No thanks, I think I’m just going to keep this here area of my life to myself.  But God, you can have this and, um, this…” Then I hear another call, “Take up your cross and follow me (Matt 16:24) This invitation from a Savior is a daily one.  This is the only way to finding life to the fullest: Hold nothing back from the One who gave you everything. 

Maybe you are stuck in a rut right now, that you know you need to break out of.  A relationship that you know isn’t what God wants for you.  A bad habit that you keep meaning to break.  An addiction that won’t let go.  Maybe you’re not the dad you know you could be to your kids, or the spouse you know you should be to your husband or wife.  Well, can you hear it?  The question lingers, “What if YOU had given everything instead of going through the motions?”  Life is short.  But God’s plan for your life is bigger than you can imagine.  Give everything to Him today, hold nothing back, and kiss the motions goodbye.

~ Matthew West
www.matthewwest.com/motions

Monday, February 16, 2009

We Recommend - Audio Adrenaline, 'LIFT'

Late last week, while my iTunes library was on shuffle, a selection from Audio Adrenaline's catalog came on, and it caused me to stop the random play and just listen to one Audio A album after another. When I got to the pop/rock band's more mature 2001 effort, LIFT, I was reminded not only of why this band is one of my top favorites, but of what worship music seems to have strayed from. Even back in 2001, LIFT was a refreshing worship experience. The record isn't specifically a "worship album" by definition, and there are some weaker moments (the hit "Beautiful" may actually be my least favorite track on the record), but the album contains my favorite worship song -- and what may be my favorite song of all-time -- "Tremble." The heart of worship and reference is here on LIFT with a wonderful pop/rock/alternative mixture that separates the album from other "worship" projects and offers worship anthems that aren't mundane, hopelessly repetitive, or commonplace. In addition to "Tremble," there are a couple other mellow, reverent tracks like "This Is Everything" and "Speak To Me," while the beautiful "Glory" gives us a glimpse at what worshipping our Father some day in Heaven might be like. I just love the heart on this record. I wish there were more worship albums that sounded and felt like this one.

Audio Adrenaline
LIFT (2001)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A wonderful pop/rock album that pushes the boundaries of what defines modern worship." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase)
Perfect For: Broken hearts, Spiritual Droughts, Worship
Song Highlights: "Tremble," "Glory," "Speak To Me," "Lift," "This is Everything," "You Still Amaze Me"

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A word for the impatiently waiting...

hello everyone.  it's been a while since i last blogged, and i've almost blogged about 4 times since the last one, but i always get this nervous feeling and then i don't write one.  but today, it just seemed like it was the day.  you see, i'm going through a pretty different (but special, i guess) time in my life and i think i should talk about it.  i'm sure there have been times where others have been through what i'm going through, and maybe together we can share some ideas, and our ideas will become a little stream, and we can pan out some nuggets of wisdom from that little stream....and that was a old time california gold digging metaphor.  FAIL.
have you ever had to sit around and wait for something?  i'm talking about a situation where you know that you have to wait...every bone in your body screams at you that you must wait and you know it's the only way that you'll stay sane.  at the same time, the waiting itself is driving you insane.  being an impatient person like myself, waiting on anything does not always bode well with me.  but i tell you my friends, some things in this life are just worth waiting for.  for some it's a door opening to pursue a calling or a new step in a calling, for others its waiting for a person that you know you could love more than anything else in this world, and still for others its a chance to get out of a situation that has been slowing rotting away at your joy for a long time.  no matter what it is that you must wait for, the only step (and ironically the hardest step ever) is to wait for the right time to move forward.  this whole waiting business is something that we are not used to in the society of today, seeing as how we can have pretty much whatever we want right when we want it.  this might cause anything that you have to wait for to seem like a wasted endeavor...after all, if you're meant to have it, you should have it right then...right??  NOPE.  
EPIC FAIL.  
i am learning that the things that are really worth it in this life are worth waiting for.  there is no other way to fully give God control of something.  we say that we give God control...I say that i'm giving God control, and then i do every thing in my power to make it happen right now.  is that really giving God control of something?  of course its not.  it's just me playing the game and then having to have what i want right when i want it.  all throughout the Bible we are given examples of people and situations where God blessed someone (and blessed them immensely), but they had to wait for it.  not just hours, not just days, not just weeks, not just months...sometimes years and decades.  can you imagine waiting years for something?  DECADES for something?  i almost cannot.  but some things, some opportunities, some very special people are just plain worth the wait.  Romans 8:24 and 25 say: "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it."  This verse is talking about salvation, the redemption of our bodies and souls, but i think that it can be applied to anything.  sometimes God gives us glimpses into what we can accomplish and be a part of through Him, and these things are almost always so awesome and incredible that they seem impossible...as if only God Himself could accomplish them.  i think that's exactly why He puts these situations and opportunities in our lives; so that we will know that through Him is the only way they can happen.  that's the thing about trusting God (well, when it comes to me): i know that i can trust Him, and everything in my life has always worked out for the best (even in the worst times), but i always get scared when these times come around.  it's not that i don't think He's going to do the right thing, its just that i'm not in control of what is happening so i start thinking that i'm not going to get my way.  man, i'm just very, very selfish sometimes.  it's true though, i'm struggling with this very thing right now in my life.  i know that all i have to do is wait for Him and His perfect timing, and i'm having a fit about it because i want it to work out now so that i know it's done.
what now?
well, it's time to grow up and just trust God.  no more fits, and no more controlling of this thing.  besides, every time i've tried to control something in the past it has gone ca-put and i've always ended up feeling like i should've just let God do what he wanted instead of me going after whatever it was like a crazy person.  

Hebrews 12: 3 says, "Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." 

no matter how much i can't stand waiting, if i remember that what i'm having to go through is nothing compared to what He went through while He was here with us and waiting on the time to act on His own calling, it doesn't seem so bad.  maybe even Jesus had days where He was tempted with being impatient (matt. 37b?).  but what did He do?  He waited.  
we've got to wait during these times.  we don't know how things will turn out, but we know that God wants us to wait on Him.  pray that His will be done and just wait.  
so, whatever you're going through out there, whatever you're waiting on, how's about we just band together and pray for each other and wait?  it'll be a big 'ol group experiment, and whenever something awesome happens, whenever the vision, glimpse, or idea that God has given you comes to pass in His time we can share it with each other.
please pray for me, that i'll be patient, and you don't lose heart.  we can all do this because God is great and His will is perfect.  and worth the wait.

Monday, February 09, 2009

We Recommend - Five Iron Frenzy, 'All The Hype...'

I hated this CD the first time I heard it.  I became a Christian in late 2000, and for Christmas that year, a family in my church that knew of my recent conversion got me a Christian music sampler called Simply Impossible, containing bands like Philmore, The Normals, The Elms and Five Iron Frenzy's song "Solidarity".  An odd choice from the album, because being new to Christian music, I initially thought FIF might have been a salsa band.  A friend of mine let me borrow All The Hype..., and I learned they were ska.  I loved ska, but I hated that CD for some reason.  After some time (and a few more listens to it on a road trip one night), I discoverd the brilliance of Five Iron Frenzy.  Almost every song on All The Hype... is a gem.  From the worshipful skacore jam "World Without End" to the anti-hatred anthem "Fahrenheit," there's not much to not like here.  The band may have passed on, but the music is still golden.  If you haven't checked this one out, it's not too late.  Just look on eBay or Amazon.  Even iTunes has it now.  And while you're there, it wouldn't hurt to buy all their other albums too, you know. - Scott F.

Five Iron Frenzy
All the Hype That Money Can Buy (2000)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A disc full of fun songs, mixed with songs of faith and love as well, all set to a genre that died before it should have." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger)
Perfect For: Godly love, humor and mullets
Song Highlights: "The Greatest Story Ever Told," "The Phantom Mullet," "Ugly Day," "Fahrenheit," "Giants," "All The Hype," "World Without End"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album All the Hype That Money Can Buy? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

God's Will For YOU

Blog 3

Hey,

There’s been a lot on my mind lately, but there is one thing I really wanted to share with you today:

I realized the most “life-changing” thing I’ve learned the last 5 years is “thankfulness.”  Every good day, week, or sometimes an entire month, has been a result of a thankful heart. Of course I have A LOT of things to be thankful for- friends, family, health, an amazing church, mentors, food in my belly, clothes on my back, and of course a lot of fun (vain) temporary things as well.

I’m almost ashamed to tell people how good life has been for me the last 5-6 years, even long before I starting playing music full time.  And it’s not because I’m an American/ suburb/ spoiled/ consumer. The good life all started when I said to God, “I want to be satisfied with simply knowing Jesus and nothing else”.  Thus, I’ll testify that it’s His “fault” or doing, not my own.  I live “under His mercy” every second.  That’s for certain!

To give you some background, this all started during prayer a long time ago when we first launched the church (Solid Rock) here in Portland, Oregon.  My pastors would start every gathering, big or small, with prayers of “thankfulness,” So before asking God for anything, we’d just thank Him for what He’d already given us, quoting the Psalms “enter His gates with thanksgiving”. 

Now eventually this mindset seeped not only into my prayers, but my entire day.  Life became as simple as enjoying God’s goodness and knowing Jesus!  Uh… perfect?

I dare you to try it!

I’m NOT saying life is easy, or that this is your “best life now,” but I am saying that God is GOOD! 

I believe if we could simply understand fully the gift we’ve been given in God’s son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit alone, we’d be more than stoked on life.

On a similar note, I frequently hear on the road, and at home, people talking about God’s “will” for there life.  Is it any wonder that God tells us EXACTLY what it is?
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the WILL of God in Christ Jesus FOR YOU.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Pff!  There’s nothing else to say.

Stick that on your “facepage” and poke it!

Your thoughts?

Ok random stuff now:

Reading - The Brothers Karamazov, Psalms and Acts.

Listening -  Fiction Family, Longwave, Nickel Creek, Tingsek, Ratatat, TV On The Radio, The Bird and The Bee, Noah and The Whale, Anathallo, and the new Bon Iver EP.

Watching – Sportscenter.

Eating – Lots of oranges for some reason.  I got a humongous bag and I need to finish them before I go on tour.

Playing – Wii golf and indoor soccer.

Running – A LOT, and exercising.  2009 = year of body!

-Michael

 

Monday, February 02, 2009

We Recommend - The Glorious Unseen, 'Tonight The Stars Speak'

Let's face it: if you're familiar with JesusfreakHideout, you may know that most of us are not huge fans of the modern praise & worship scene. It's not anything to do with the fact that it's praise & worship, cause we all sing those very songs from our hearts at church and in our devotional times. It's simply from a musical perspective. And musically, groups like Hillsong and Michael Gungor Band are just bland and run-of-the-mill. Then, in 2007, Tooth & Nail treated us to a new signing, the label's first praise & worship band, The Glorious Unseen. Tonight The Stars Speak is refreshing. The production value helps so much, especially to bring somewhat of a raw feeling to it, not the overproduced and way-too-polished sounds that are all too common in the AC world anymore. Vocalist Ben Crist has some vocals that are a little hard to handle, but they also add so much to the ambience and rawness of it. This a great album for anyone who wants something new in their praise & worship album repertoir. Go ahead, give it a listen and see what you think. - Scott

The Glorious Unseen
Tonight The Stars Speak (2007)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A fantastic praise & worship album for those seeking honest and heartfelt worship, without having to suffer the bland offerings of most worship groups nowadays." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger)
Perfect For: Praise & worship
Song Highlights: "Hear Our Prayers," "Forever Holy," "Meet Us Here," "Tonight The Stars Speak," "Wrapped Up In You," "Where Your Glory Dwells"

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

 


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