Your Saturday Smile: Free Christmas Album

RELEVANT Magazine has created their annual Christmas album and is offering it free for download. That definitely gives me a smile, and I would highly and happily recommend you pick it up.

Download it here.

Should Christians Be Listening to "Clean" Music?

I remember one of the most provocative and eye-catching titles for me was from a Christian website for millennials. 

It was something like this: Don't Confuse The Phrase "Biblical" With "Family-Friendly."

And I could only say, "Yes," because I realized that many Christians do confuse these two labels, myself included. We think if a song doesn't have any curse words or a movie any sex scenes, it's good and soul-nourishing for us.

But that is not the way Christians should engage with media. The merit of art is not its "cleanness." It's its presentation of truth. A month or so ago I realized this afresh. I was listening to a "clean" song by a mainstream female artist. As I sang the lyrics, the deeper, underlying messages of what I was singing dawned on me. Its lyrics were actually communicating a drastically unhealthy and unbiblical view of romantic relationships. I immediately stopped listening to it.

Engaging in entertainment to the glory of God is not necessarily nitpicking "d-words" or counting kiss scenes. It's about evaluating a piece's whole worth -- yes, its moral presentation, but also its worldview, its values, its philosophy. That's not to say I won't listen to a catchy and "clean" dance song, but it means I don't use "family-friendly" as my primary filter. I use "God-given truth" instead.

As one writer puts it:

Let’s not confuse “family-friendly” with “Christian.” Let me just tell you as a person who has been struggling, trying to live the Christian life for almost 30 years, there’s nothing safe about Jesus nor His Truth. In fact, be prepared to confront some pretty unattractive things about yourself as He shines a big light on the darkness in you, and then strap on your seat belt and see what happens when you try to live out His commands of loving and forgiving people.
So I can only encourage you, whether you're a creator or consumer, don't be entertained on auto-pilot. Think. Really think about what you're singing, what you're watching, what you're laughing at, what you're reading, what you're following, and why that is. 

Be entertained by truth. Think truth. And create truth. 

Friends, Keep Runnin'

There are a lot of ra-ra, go-you songs out there. You know the kind -- peppy anthems of sugar-coated self-worship. "You're beautiful." "You're perfect." "You're worth it."

These are meant to instill a sense of secure hope and enthusiasm for the future. But at best all they do is make you feel a little happier for a moment while letting you down in the long run.

Then there are songs like Matt Papa's "A Pilgrim's Progress (Keep Runnin')." This is not a ra-ra, go-you song. It's a stop-and-reflect, bible-based, take-all-of-your-joy-from-God song. It is rich with encouragement for pushing through the fight and faithfully running the race.

Listen to it today, take delight in God through it, and, friends, keep runnin.'

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What I'm Listening To Right Now

Ah, music. It can calm us, soothe us, make us happy or emotional. It has a deep and pervasive effect on us.

Nobody asks, "Do you like music?" They ask, "What kind of music do you like?"

Occasionally I do round-ups of books that I'm reading. Let's talk music today instead. Here are six musicians I'm listening to.

Andy Mineo - I was never a big Andy Mineo fan until I heard some of his music on a podcast. At that point I discovered his album Uncomfortable and loved it. Not everyone is into hip-hop music and if you aren't, you won't be a fan of Andy. But he has a pretty incredible way of verbalizing and exploring gutsy subjects with a lot of winsomeness and courage.

Citizens and SaintsI love both of Citizens and Saints' albums, Citizens and Join the Triumph. When Citizens came out I listened to it on steady repeat for months. Theological pop music? It couldn't be. But it was - and is. I love Join the Triumph too, especially the songs "The Strife is Over," "You Brought Me Back to Life," and "Father, You Are All We Need."

Ghost Ship - There are certain songs on their first album, The Good King, that I will forever associate with studying for an Information Systems and Computer Applications CLEP exam at my grandparents' house while I dog-sat for them. I've lately been enjoying their more recent endeavor, Costly.

Kings Kaleidoscope - I have always loved Kings Kaleidoscope, from the time I heard "I Know" and then became obsessed with "Seek Your Kingdom." My latest song on repeat is "Come Thou Fount." Just listen to all of it.

Indelible Grace Music - Do you like folksy music? Hymns? Then you'll like Indelible Grace. I've been listening to their album Beams of Heaven lately, and I love the song "Come and Welcome."

Propaganda - Here's another artist that you unfortunately won't enjoy if you don't like hip hop music. Propaganda is not quiet on cultural critique and analysis from a biblical perspective, and I think he's a worthy voice. I'm listening to Crimson Cord these days.

What are you listening to?

Prince of Peace

While I don't agree with or endorse all of Hillsong's music (or their theology), I have found this song of theirs on repeat lately. I love the melody, love the words, and I think this video is pretty cool too.

A rock in the middle of a storm. God is the center of peace in our lives.

Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven

Jesus, joy of the highest heaven,
Born as a little baby
Under a wondrous star.
Like us, crying He takes His first breath
Held by His mother, helpless
Close to her beating heart.
Jesus, laid in a lowly manger,
Facing a world of dangers,
Come to turn me a stranger
Into a child of God.

Jesus, King of the highest heaven
Learning to take His first steps,
That He might bring us life.
Like us, knowing our smiles and sorrows,
He showed the way to follow,
A way that is true and right.
Jesus, take away every darkness,
Steady my simple footsteps
That I might in your goodness
Live as a child of God.

Keith Getty and Kristyn Getty
Copyright © 2011 Gettymusic; admin by Music Services.

An Interview With Keith Getty About Christmas Music

If you recognize the last name "Getty," you're not alone. Keith and Kristyn Getty are the dynamic husband-and-wife duo behind such new modern Christian classics as "In Christ Alone," "By Faith," and "The Power of the Cross."

They are on a Christmas tour now, performing many pieces from their album, Joy: An Irish Christmas.

Keith recently sat down with The Gospel Coalition and offered some important insights on Christmas music.
If you could say one thing to pastors and other church leaders preparing for Christmas, what would it be?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

When we look at the simplicity and focus of the early apostles, especially Paul, we see individuals who were uncompromising about the gospel but sought to use strategic opportunities and platforms for its spread to those who had yet to believe. Since Christmas is a time of year when many unbelievers visit our churches, we should be on the lookout for creative opportunities to share the good news.

If the question is about church music, I’d suggest that singing the great Christmas carols is one obvious place to start. The best of them tell the gospel story in some of the most innovative and inviting language we’ve ever seen in religious verse, certainly in the English language. In terms of art, they are the masterworks, the treasured heritage of the church we shouldn’t ignore. Young and old, churched and unchurched, are united in wanting to sing Christmas carols during the Christmas season.

More than that, however, I’d say it’s our responsibility to have a high view of congregational worship. Our singing is always a witness; therefore, if our churches don’t sing well, or sing apathetically, or sing while distracted by iPhones and casual conversation, we become an appalling witness to outsiders. So let’s take these songs and use them as a galvanizing force for our singing—that we might declare to all who are present the breathtaking good news of Jesus.

Why Christians Should Be Involved in the Arts

There are two main fallacious ideas concerning Christians' involvement with the arts.

The first is that Christians should avoid them altogether. Stay out of Hollywood, don't write for secular publications, don't make a career out of painting, and so on. The second idea is that Christians must create art that is explicitly "Christian." In other words, we must paint pictures of Bible stories or make movies built around a Christian couple doing Christiany things or only write Bible studies.

Both of these ideas are absolutely false. Christians are called to redeem the arts by pursuing them in a God-glorifying manner. That means everything Christians create will have the indelible mark of their God on it - whether they are painting a cross or a bowl of fruit.

Mark Altrogge has an excellent piece today on why Christians should be involved in the arts. He writes:

"When I was little my aunt said she loved how I sang all the time. In grade school my teachers let me spend extra time in the library drawing. My parents got me my first oil painting lesson when I was 12. And when I was 14 the Beatles invaded America and I had to get a guitar and get in a band. In college I majored in art ed and got a Masters in painting.

But when Jesus saved me in my early 20s, I began to wonder if art was a waste of time. I could be evangelizing or praying or doing something spiritual instead of dabbing oil paint on a canvas. And besides that, everything is going to burn up anyway at the end, so what’s the use of creating things? Or if I do paint a painting does it have to be a Christian theme? Does it have to have a cross in it or be a scene from the Gospels?

Here are a few reasons why Christians should play banjo and decorate cakes, knit sweaters and make movies, do photography and write poems:

Because God has commanded us to take dominion over the earth. In other words take the raw materials of the world and make stuff out of them.

Because when we create we act as those the Creator made in his own image. God could have made the world in black and white. He could have created one kind of food. Instead he made luna moths and mimosa trees and jungles and deserts and garden spiders and red-winged blackbirds and ring-necked snakes. God didn’t make a strictly utilitarian world. He decorated it with weeping willows and tiger lilies.

Because the arts are a way to bless others. A way to serve others and bring joy to others. A beautiful wall hanging in someone’s living room can bring them joy over and over again and again.

Because the arts bring joy to us. When God created the earth at the end of each day he looked on what he had made and saw that it was good. God enjoyed what he created. And he wants us to get joy from what we create.

Because beauty reminds us of the Beautiful One. When we see a cool painting or hear a moving symphony it points us to the author of all beauty. When I hear the theme from Jurassic Park I don’t simply think of John Williams’ talent, I think of God."

Sooner Count The Stars

Wednesday marked the release of Sovereign Grace Music's new album, Sooner Count the Stars. What's this album's focus? The Trinity.

This is what they write about the album:

“'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all' (2 Corinthians 13:14). This is what God invites us to participate in as we worship Him–an endless spring of inexpressible joy, affection, and beauty that the Father, Son, and Spirit have experienced from all eternity.

Apart from God revealing Himself to us as triune we would never know Who He really is. But the Trinity isn’t so much a puzzle to be figured out as it is a relationship to enjoy. The goal isn’t complete understanding, but complete delight.

As we wrote the songs for this album, we wanted to inspire gratefulness and wonder that the Father has joined us to Himself through the substitutionary sacrifice of His Son and sent His Spirit to open our eyes to His love.

We pray that’s what happens as you listen to and sing these songs."

If you aren't impressed by a godly endeavor to create beautiful, theologically-accurate music about the Trinity, you should be. You can listen to SGM's new album below.

Great Are You, Lord

This is a song I've been singing lately, a song that never fails to lead me to worship. Great is our God. This day is His.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

Come Behold The Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

– Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa 2013

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