New Video: Loving You Out Loud

I’m so thrilled to announce Jennifer’s first live video on her new YouTube channel. The song “Loving You Out Loud” represents one of my favorites in her new repertoire, reminding the listener of the joy of first-love and all that comes with it.

Jennifer’s been working so hard on her music over the past several years, and it’s finally time to start releasing it for the world to hear. While her new record is in progress with Sprig Music, we thought we’d start sharing some of the songs as we wrote them: personally and intimately from our home in Clayton, NY.

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I do.

Cheers,

ch:

How Do You Read The Bible?

Most of my spiritual conversations over the last several weeks have swirled around a common question: How do you read the Bible? Some of these dialogs have stemmed from the social media firestorm surrounding musician Michael Gungor’s admission that he does not believe some of Genesis’ accounts are literal. Others have been private confessions from believers who secretly believe in evolution (a broad statement, to be sure), but are scared to death to voice this among their Evangelical peer groups. And still others are trying to reconcile inconsistencies found within scripture, now digging deep for contextual understanding.

In all cases, I commend Christians everywhere for their hunger for learning. We must be people that dig deep, and then dig deep again, fostered by healthy communities that endorse free thinking and inspire “walking out [one's] own salvation with fear and trembling.” Changing doctrine is not a sign of weakness, but of confession that we don’t have it right, and God does.

No matter your sentiments or beliefs, the Bible plays a critical roll in all of our development: our faith must be shaped by the cannon of tradition past and by the counsel of spiritual leaders present. Which leads to an all-important question:

How do you read the Bible?

Below, I’ve pasted four very keen points from Joshua Graves, the lead minister for the Otter Creek Church in suburban Nashville, TN. I’d suggest reading his preface on the original post as well, since his four-point list is actually a part of a much larger conversation, both presently and historically.

These four perspectives are incredibly helpful both in knowing where you’re at and helping determine where others are coming from when they purport seemingly irrational conclusions when held in context to your own.

Pastor Joshua Graves:

VIEW #1: FUNDAMENTALIST or BASIC (The Bible is read as a rule-book for living a godly life before a watching judge.)

God is a judge with holy (sometimes angry) and wrathful disposition towards sinful humanity. Jesus saved humanity. Though he loves us, God’s anger burns towards humanity because of continual evil and wicked ways.
The Holy Bible was given via dictation theory or celestial possession. The Holy Spirit literally dictated every single detail. The autographs (original sections of the Bible) and copies are perfect, infallible and inerrant. Every word in Scripture is historically, theologically accurate. The Bible is accessible for any person to understand in a rational and logical approach. It’s not enough to say the Bible in “inspired and authoritative” . . . one must also believe the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and perfect. The Bible is God’s direct instruction manual to all people for all time for how to live before God.

Some of the key players/voices: John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Southern Baptist Convention, Albert Mohler, authors of the Left Behind Series (Jenkins and LaHaye).

VIEW #2: EVANGELICAL (The Bible is read as a collection of timeless principles for morality and conversion in a dark and corrupt world.)

God is a judge and father with a major dilemma that only Jesus can resolve.
The Bible is the Word of God for the people of God. It contains the timeless truths of God’s heart that need to be communicated and shared with all people. While the copies of the Biblical manuscripts might possess some tension/uncertainty, the autographs (originals) are perfect, infallible, and inerrant. The primary role of the Bible is to save people from their sin and hell, providing the road map for any person to spend eternity with God. God’s primary way of communicating to humanity is through the sacred scriptures. It’s the most important tool we have for understanding God. Some in this camp will greatly stress the power of the Spirit to use the timeless truths of the Bible to provide a practical guide for everyday decisions.

Some key voices/leaders: Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Tim Keller, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes.

VIEW #3: THIRD WAY (The Bible is read an unfolding drama inviting all people to participate in the work of God in the world.)

God is the creative father who seeks to pull all women and men out of darkness into living the Kingdom of God now in preparation for the fullness of the new heavens and the new earth.

Because the church came before the New Testament, this group is inclined to call the Bible the word of God and reserve the phrase the “Word of God” for only Jesus (word does not = Word). Rather, the Bible reveals the Word. The Bible is the word of God in that it is trust-worthy, powerful, and effective in leading people to a living encounter with the power and mystery of Jesus in the world. It is the sacred drama of God, in which we are mere B actors, and Jesus is the main character. While God is revealed in a myriad of ways (creation, art, music, friendship), scripture is unique in that it derives its authority from the witness of catholic orthodox stream of disciples and the local church. The power of the Spirit is at work taking ink on a page, and bringing us closer to the Jesus who holds all creation together. The Bible is the mirror that shows us who God is and who we are. It is not to be worshiped or made an idol as it did not create us, sustain us, die for us, etc. It’s simply the tool God uses in conjunction with all of the other revelations to bring us closer to God’s intent for the world: faithful discipleship, resistance to the powers of this present age (communal). Christ’ presence in the world is both powerful and mysterious and the Bible is a key tool God uses in that endeavor of discovery. This group resists using infallible and inerrant because a) they are not words that show up in Scripture and b) are tied to stale debates between faith and science. This group takes seriously the role of the Bible as it relates to inspiration and authority but refuses to divorce these two words from the main purpose of the Bible, further revelation of the person of Jesus.

Key voices/leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr. Karl Barth, Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright, Lauren Winner, Sarah Coakley, Bonhoeffer, James Smith, Walter Brueggemann, Barbara Brown Taylor, Chuck Campbell, Walter Wink Richard Hays, Ian Cron, and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Oh, yeah. Bono.

VIEW #4: HUMANIST (The Bible is an inspiring document with varying levels of relevancy for coping with life in the modern world.)

(Here, I’m not using humanist in a decidedly negative fashion) God is whoever you think God to be or were taught God to be. If God exists at all. The “God” pursuit is almost exclusively subjective. In this view, the Bible, like the Qur’an, Torah, the writings of Baha’ll’a, and Bhagavad Gita, is simply one more sacred collection of spiritual moral writings meant to speak to life’s deep experiences of pain. While mostly the product of human engineering and imagination, the Bible is important because of its link to history, meaning, purpose, and identity. Not meant to be literal or pure history, the Bible functions as an important narrative for understanding the values and linguistic emphases of many modern westerners. Full of inspiration, the Bible’s authority should be regarded with great suspicion. It can be however, a guide-book for remarkable standards of ethics.

The widest group, the HUMANIST camp, ranges from Liberal Christians to passionate Atheists. “It [the Bible] is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies,” Mark Twain.

Key players/voices: Richard Rohr, Bart Erhman, Christopher Hitchens, the New Atheists, A.J. Levine, Post-Christian Americans and Europeans, Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Mark Twain, and Richard Dawkins. This is the most diverse list of all four categories.

I probably needed five categories but ran out of time (pastors have deadlines too).

Had to share this beauty in conclusion. Because, in a sense, everyone does this. Everyone who reads the Bible. Or used to read the Bible.

•••

So, how do you read the Bible?

ch:

Bible Nature

The Bible does not give simple answers to complex questions, but complex answers to complex questions.

Part of its beauty is that it always calls its readers much higher in our thinking, and doesn’t stoop to accommodate an inferior perception of humanity or its Creator.

To treat Scripture as a series of anecdotes to the world morass is to treat it contemptuously; it was never meant to be an easily defined, well-packaged defense of faith.

It’s not tame, and it’s far from tidy.

Rather, let it be a mere introduction to the living God and all his mysteries, one that necessitates the school teacher of the Holy Spirit to be active in all conversing.

Dare to engage the scriptures as God’s story, for that is what it is. Story. Then resign yourself to knowing you won’t figure it all out.

Don’t worry.

Your faith will survive the ambiguity.

Know only that you’ll be better pointed toward him in the process, and let your heart find peace there. For being in him is all that was ever hoped for you anyway.

ch:

How To EQ Acoustic Guitar

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One of my jobs as a producer is to continually be on the cutting edge of the recording industry. This means I’m constantly researching modern techniques and trying to implement them in the studio.

It’s in that spirit that I pass on this amazing video from the amazing Craig McDurmot on EQ’ing acoustic guitars.

Enjoy!

ch:

For the War History Buff

Thom Atkinson Soldiers' Inventories

I’m intrigued by a meticulous art project from UK-based photographer Thom Atkinson, in which he obtained and laid out the battle kit of English soldiers over the past millennium. The fiction author in me, as well as the child in me, found the images fascinating. Similarly, my boys were eager to look over my shoulder and view each image as I explained the various pieces of kit.

Perhaps showing signs of age, and revealing the parts of my heart that have been touched by the realities of human conflict (particularly with regard to our pastoral proximity to Ft. Drum), I was surprised to find that some of my explanations interested me far less than they used to. And a few unspoken concepts repulsed me.

Because I knew my sons couldn’t and shouldn’t handle them yet.

I think of the use of hooked polearms, or how a gas mask protects against the effects of nerve gas.

The romance of war has certainly faded, though the call to protect and defend has not.

Moving through the various images, I was reminded that these kits were necessary because of our rebellion to God in the first place. And further, I noted how many of the conflicts had purely humanistic motives (which could be said of any conflict, to be sure). One doesn’t need to know much of the Crusades to understand its fundamental atrociousness.

For the innocent blood we’ve spilt, we’ll give answer to; for the innocent we defended, our blood is its own testament.

ch:

A Reminder From Rocky

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!

-Rocky Balboa

Thanks to my friend Wayne Thomas Batson for this beautiful reminder.

Weight

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure. While I can’t see it, I can feel it.

Weight.

Something pressing’s down on me. Many things, actually. And they’re not bad things. They’re good things. In fact, they’re God-ordained things.

Serving my wife, stewarding my kids, taking care of our home, investing into people, building the local church, growing kingdom businesses that influence communities, creating art that changes hearts.

Every one of these topics have high price tags of time, energy and money. And they each have severe ramifications if I make mistakes.

Legitimately.

And yet they weight me down.

So is the weight something I’m to be afraid of? To fear?

How about to avoid? That seems to be the most common advice I give myself. That’s the advice most well meaning people give. Avoid the weight. Look for ways to offload it. It’s unhealthy. It’s not God. If you’re not at peace with it, look for where you’re being disobedient.

But what if not giving myself to any of those things is the disobedience?

I’m also inspired by a quote form one of T.D. Jake’s famous sermons, The Weight of Glory:

The conduit from laity to leadership is discomfort.

What if the discomfort of my life is the very thing that qualifies me to lead? To stand in front of my family, my friends, my church, my businesses, and say, “Follow me as I follow the Lord.”

I’m inspired by the life and letters of the Apostle Paul, knowing that affliction is the gateway for glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

What if the very tactic of the enemy is to get me to believe the “burn out” lie? To subtly convince me to “take it easy.” To “quit” one thing or another “because it’s hard, and I’m so tired.”

If anxiety and burdens are the enemy of the first-world Christian, how can I consciously avoid lines like this in what most scholars believe is the first written text of the New Testament?

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28

I can feel the loving eyes of the Father staring at me as I complain about my circumstances. As I moan about one issue or another. About how hard I have it. The past several days, it’s been a minute by minute awareness. He’s checking me. Testing me.

•••

This past Sunday was the most frustrating tech Sunday at New Life. Ever. Four days before, our building was struck by lightning, so by Sunday, my tech department was finding more and more ghosts in the systems. Lights stopped working, lyrics stopped going up on screens, audio sends weren’t feeding. And I have no hair left to pull out.

Meanwhile, on stage, Jamie Wright was talking about victims of sex trafficking and how The Exodus Road is working covertly to rescue them.

Could God be speaking any more loudly to me?

•••

I think I’m mining gold now. I think I’m arriving at a divine conclusion. I feel God forging it deep within me. And I’m becoming profoundly certain of a heavenly truth.

The best way to keep from spoiling our position is to correct our attitude.

And what is my attitude to be?

That I live like a king. That pastors dream about having the “problems” I do. That since I’ve been given so much, much is required of me (Luke 12:48). Anything less than my very best not only belittles my calling and my position, but mocks the one who knew I can stand here and lead. And serve.

I’ve never met a grateful person who was burnt out.

Keep going today.

Don’t give up.

Tomorrow will take care of itself. You just be obedient today.

Souls are waiting on the other side of your obedience.

Ultimately, it’s obedience that the Holy Spirit is looking for (Psalm 40:6, 1 Samuel 15:22).

ch:

More Pics en France

Our time in Europe was refreshing and extremely productive from a personal and kingdom standpoint. Jennifer and I both felt extremely used by the Lord (a marvelous commentary to be had on how the rest of secular culture hates “being used”), and that we were in the right place at the right time.

The tour included teaching at the EDEN discipleship school, concerts in Longwy, Longuyon and Woippy, and nights of worship as well Sunday ministry at L’Eglise Sans Frontier—our home church in France. We also made stops in Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland.

ch:

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Comic Con Perk

The number one Comic Con perk? If you’re ultra famous, all you need is a simple mask to completely blend in.

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And if you’re already known for living your adult life in your own personal fantasy world, come as you are. No one will think twice.

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Wait. OK, well, maybe they’d know who you are, Lady Gaga.

ch:

Vast

Consider a bird.

No, no. Not like that. I mean, act as if you never saw one at all. As if a bird hasn’t ever existed before.

No references.

No memories.

Just pure imagination. All its systems working together to create flight. And self-awareness. And self-reliance. And it’s flock mentality. Maybe a little homing sense thrown in for good measure.

Only now, you’re charged with actually making one.

Right now.

For the very first time.

What tools would you use? Which technologies and materials would you employ? Today, 2014.

Where would you even begin?

Considering your prototype works, you’re now charged with mass producing them. But here’s the catch. They need to self-replicate. So your factory only needs to produce one. But every other subsequent bird needs to grow inside a self-contained (ie, all food inside), geometrically perfect oblong sphere able to withstand immense pressure and the elements, yet thin enough that the offspring can break through once they’ve outgrown the module. And your design material needs to be semi porous for breathability. You know, just because.

If you master that, let’s really make it interesting. Your new goal is coming up with 10,000 different models; you can even combine models mid-stream to produce new ones if you want. I want variations in wing size, body shape, color, eating habits, behavioral patterns and more. I want some that talk, some that swim, and some that bang their beaks against trees like an impact drill. I want fluffy ones, fat ones, and others that stand on one leg. Shoot, give me a few that can hover or fly backwards and I’ll give you bonus points—cause, man, that’s fly.

Thanks, God.

ch:

My Sermon Preparation Process

How I Use iPhone Apps to Study The Bible and Prepare to Speak

I share the following workflow for three reasons. The first is that I get a lot of requests about how I prepare my messages, and people seem genuinely helped when I explain my methods. The second is that it speaks to study in general; not everyone is a pastor or teacher, but everyone, especially Christians, should be students of scripture and of life.

The third is that I believe I’m in the cross-over generation from print Bibles to digital Bibles, at least in leading and developing first world nations. This is important. I grew up reading my Gideon hotel-stolen NKJV until it needed rebinding, and my leather-bound NIV Rainbow Study Bible. But as I traveled more (specifically flying), the sheer weight and size of my Bibles and notebooks became an impediment. As the iPhone, and then iPad made it easier to chose how I could pack, my study habits also started to change. They became more efficient, and therefore more powerful.

Superior tools allow a craftsman to do better work. The generation behind me often finds digital sterile and cold, some might even say “un-anointed.” But the generation coming after me needs to be even more immersed in the written Word. I’m sure there may have been similar despondency when people could actually bring a Bible into their home for the first time. “But how will we know what it means if the priest isn’t here to teach us?” Or how about the glaring hurdle of having to learn how to read?

The point is, if there are new tools available to us that proliferate the accessibility of scripture and allow us to understand more than ever before, we need to champion them, if nothing more than for the sake of those coming after us.

When preparing a sermon for a church service, I first have to begin where I want to end: my audience (their needs and contextual appetites), my time frame (if I’m at New Life, we have four services each with a 20-25 minute window for the message; if I’m at EDEN school in France, I look at 3-hour blocks), and obviously my goal (what I want them leaving with). Without these, I tend to ramble, over prepare, and think more about what I want to say than what God wants to say. Remember, constraints can either limit you or serve you—the choice is entirely yours.

All of my messages begin (and mostly end) on my iPhone. It’s always with me, so convenience is key. It’s also the place I do my largest amount of Bible reading. I use four different apps for different reasons.

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Bible by YouVersion: This is the easiest and simplest app to read from for me. The social connectivity attributes are nice, but not really the reason I’m there. When I need to copy and paste scriptures, this app places them in my clipboard with the reference in parentheses at the bottom. I have it loaded with ESV, NKJV, NIV, KJV and NLT.

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PocketSword by CrossWire: This is the mojo, the magic sauce Bible app for me. I use it for one thing: Greek and Hebrew (Strongs modules) in the KJV (the only version they appear in). When I want to research and break down the words (something all good teachers and preachers need to be in the practice of), PocketSword is my go-to app.

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Lumina by Bible Studies Foundation: This NET translation of the Bible comes hyperlinked with 60,000 translation notes created by 25 translation scholars from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Great for digging a little deeper into those hard-to-understand passages.

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Bible+ by Olive Tree: I tend to make most of my in-Bible notes and highlights in this app as it “feels” the most like reading my favorite print Bibles. I typically read out of the ESV here. Pasting copied sections strips out the references, so if I want to grab something I like, I jump back to YouVersion.

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The other reading app I use most (paired beside Evernote, which I’ll hit next) is Kindle for iOS. In here I’m gleaning from whatever non-fiction or essays (PDFs) I’ve downloaded. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have enough time to extract everything out of the Bible that you need, so you better eat from the hands of others who’ve used their entire lives to share something worth digesting.

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Since I’m one of those preachers who believes that everything needs to be rooted and end up in the written Word, most all of my ideas launch out of verses that speak to my life experiences, world happenings and what I believe God is trying to say to people (my audience, in particular).

As a result, when I’m reading in one of my Bible apps, I’m bound to open Evernote within moments. Evernote is my catch-all of choice. From pics and drawings to links and syncing, it’s my jam, and arguably the best on the market.

I have an “Academics” stack that contains most all of my more heady content, and within, my “Messages” notebook. I allow this notebook to be very fluid. It not only contains finished content, but also “content in process.” Or as my Dad uses in his three ring binders, his “Sermons Working” tab.

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Here’s a shot from a message I preached last Sunday at L’Eglise Sans Frontiers in Longuyon, France:

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When I’m traveling or under time constraints, I preach right out of Evernote from my iPad or iPhone. But if I have time, there’s one extra step that I take. Fair warning: this is for geeks, nerds, designers and people with any level of OCD.

I import my content from Evernote into InDesign to create a good looking PDF.

I learned from designer Nathan Davis to value the added step of creating a beautiful looking PDF as it has a way of internalizing the content more thoroughly. This added process, while sometimes time consuming, is a great way of embedding the message deeper into my gut where it moves from notes I have to read verbatim to a message I can proclaim intuitively. And when I need to transition from teaching to preaching while onstage, this key component is essential.

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My father, Peter, taught (and challenged) me to love scripture. And he still prepares his messages using his wonderful leather-bound Bible and 8″ three-ring notebooks filled with his handwriting. What he passed on, however, we’re not his methods, but his love for God’s Word. Regardless of how you learn, study, preach or teach, make sure that you’re more focused on imparting than on your process: few people will remember how you did it, but everyone will remember what you did.

ch: