Thinking Out Loud

April 15, 2014

Gospel Music Association to Induct Rich Mullins to Hall of Fame

Filed under: media, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:52 am

Ragamuffin Rich Mullins Movie

It’s an honor that would have made Rich Mullins blush.

The GMA (Gospel Music Association) will induct Rich Mullins, writer of “Awesome God,” into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame at their inaugural GMA Honors Ceremony to be held on Tuesday, April 29th at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena. The event celebrates those being inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame as well as individuals and organizations that are impacting our culture globally both past and present. Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant are the first performers announced for the ceremony, with more to be added.

The GMA honor comes on the heels of the Color Green Films Ragamuffin movie inspired by the life and legacy of Mullins whose tour launched earlier this year and is currently screening across the nation.

source: Christian Cinema

The movie has been on a tour of single-night showings across the U.S. since January, due to wrap up at the end of May. A full list of remaining venues is available here. Here is a short trailer:

Mullins left a legacy of great songs — including Our God is an Awesome God — but this will always be my personal favorite:

Another one was the powerful song Creed, a declaration of faith and doctrine which we featured here.

I realize that I may not get to see this until it is released on video, but I would not want to miss this story.

Ragamuffin Movie

February 21, 2014

Miley C. and Justin B. — Same Old Story

Filed under: media, music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:36 am

Years ago, the British band After the Fire (also known as ATF) defined the ever repeating story of kid-made-superstar that is currently happening to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. This video version of Billy, Billy offers the lyrics onscreen and I encourage you to read along. Depending on your age, you can probably think of other people in other decades and other areas of the entertainment industry — film, television, music — for whom this shoe fits.  Who better to introduce this than ATF’s own Peter Banks! This was written early this morning:

Greetings Paul from the UK

Billy, Billy came about because of seeing first hand the way the business (music business mainly!) can wreck certain people. We were guests at the comedian Billy Connolly’s birthday party when a completely ghostlike Pete Townshend came in, Billy looked after him… the lyrics were written by Andy Piercy and he will clearly be the best source, from my angle it is a mish mash of the people we met and a sense of concern as to where we ourselves could land up being.

This is ATF’s second appearance here at Thinking Out Loud. Check out the song One Rule For You which was a #1 hit in England.

February 1, 2014

Grammy Awards: Has American Society Reached a New Low?

Grammy AwardsIt is said that sometimes you’re better to get your news from magazines than from newspapers, because magazine writers don’t face the same deadlines, and have had more time for reflection. So here we are nearly one full week later after last Sunday night’s music awards, hopefully with the advantage that comes from not writing a knee-jerk response on Monday morning.

If you’ve missed previous coverage, Daniel Jepsen describes the telecast at Internet Monk:

Channel surfing Sunday night, I happened upon the Grammy awards.  I didn’t realize it was the Grammy awards at first, however.  All I saw was Madonna dressed up like a cheesy cowgirl. I flipped the channel immediately (my Madonna threshold being  about 3 seconds per decade), so did not realize till later that the song was part of a mass wedding.  Yes, you read this right.  The Grammys apparently decided, “You know what we need?  We need to act a bit more like a Korean Cult.  That’s what we need”.  So 33 couples (including the obligatory same-sex couples) got hitched by Queen Latifah while Madonna and Macklemore played troubadours…Isn’t having Madonna sing at your wedding kinda like having Dr. Kevorkian deliver your baby? If you get married at the Grammys, can you get divorced at the Country Music Awards?

American talk show host Glenn Beck is reported to have said this about a former Contemporary Christian music artist who performed at the show:

“The fire in the circle, her hanging onto the witch’s broom, and the guys with the gigantic horns on their head in the background… I mean, it is full-fledged witchcraft and demonic glorification, I think,” Glen Beck said of Katy Perry’s stint at the Grammys.

He continued, “It’s not going to end well. We’re worshiping a god that is glorifying division. It is glorifying just bad things, dark things, dark thoughts. It is glorifying envy and greed, stuff, materialism. It’s not a good path.”

Ed Stetzer wrote:

…the Grammys are not representative of our culture, but in some ways they are indicative of its shifts. And, the Grammy moment is a good moment to remind ourselves of a few things. Views that were sidelined ten years ago…are not just accepted, they are celebrated.

As a Christian, I think the question you have to ask yourself is, “Would I be comfortable taking Christ with me to attend or watch (via television) such a spectacle?” I know that sounds very conservative, very old-school, but I don’t see how anyone who is “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit could not, at the very least, feel a nudging from the Spirit to at least change the channel until another segment began (which in this case might not have been the solution) or turn it off altogether. Or, if you were present in person, get up and walk out.

That’s what Natalie Grant did. As Charisma magazine reported:

“We left the Grammys early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head,” Grant wrote on her Facebook page Sunday night. “But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen.”

That Facebook post had over 103,000 likes, and a follow up has over 111,000. Grant had been nominated for two categories presented in the pre-show, and was not scheduled to perform during the telecast. She did not walk out during an actual performance, but left during a commercial break. In subsequent post on the same page she wrote:

…I NEVER said I left during any particular performance. I only said I left early.  I never pointed out any one particular performance, I only said I had many thoughts about the entire show, which were best left inside my head and that is where they will stay. So those who say I condemned one performance but then condoned others clearly did not read the post…

I am honored to be a part of the Christian music community. I’ve had many people throughout my career ask why I never tried to go in to mainstream music and last night was a beautiful reminder that I love singing about Jesus and FOR Jesus.

I’ve judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God. I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won’t use my platform to engage in political arguments that will only divide and not unite. I will continue to pray that my life will be my message. I do have my own personal convictions that I live by, and I will continue to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. (Philippians 2:12)

I was honored to be nominated for 2 Grammy awards last night. I’m so grateful that NARAS and The Grammys continue to recognize the contribution that gospel and Christian music make to the world. And I’m so thrilled for those who won in my categories. And I can say that with all sincerity.

My last thought:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus for it is the power of God who brings salvation to ALL who believe.”
Romans 1:16

For her, leaving was the right thing to do. What would your choice be?

The piece at Internet Monk was a reminder of an article I had debated about including here. Normally, items from Daily Encouragement find their way into my devotional blog, Christianity 201, but several days ago I was considering putting this here, and this morning’s iMonk piece served as reminder. You can also read this as it appeared originally with extra resources.

The entertainment industry has plunged to new lows in decadence as exemplified in an awards show this past weekend. However it seems that so many in our culture feed and approve of this material. Some excuse the content as being creative, an expression of “the visual arts”. One especially distressing example was a young entertainer brought up in church, her father a pastor, but her music and lifestyle defies all that is wholesome and godly. Another stunning example was a female entertainer and her young son; well-known for her blasphemous music, sacrilegious acts, and provocative lifestyle. I consider the phrase from 1 Timothy 4:2 that speaks, “of the conscience being seared as with a branding iron.”

The seared conscience is speaking of our moral conscience that can be rendered insensitive to right and wrong in the same way the hide of an animal scarred with a branding iron becomes numb to further pain. For human beings, having one’s conscience seared is a result of continual, unrepentant sinning. Eventually, sin dulls the sense of moral right or wrong, and the unrepentant sinner becomes numb to the warnings of the conscience that God has placed within each of us to guide us (Romans 2:15).

We are increasingly accustomed to poor examples, so much so, that in the last several years there has been debate as to whether character even matters. Fame, talent, good looks, or educational degrees can trump over one’s character. One’s flawed character is downplayed in favor of the ratings he or she can get and the money they generate just by their visibility. Just consider how many politicians and actors are readily identified by their outrageous behavior and yet they have a large following, at times because of their bad behavior rather than in spite of it.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “dumbing down”, usually referring to education. I feel this concept applies to morality as well. The majority of young people are clueless regarding historic and Biblical morality concerning sexuality. The lack of sound teaching and positive example accompanied by the abundance of immoral smut, especially in the entertainment industry and access to the internet, has very effectively “dumbed down” their sensitivity and awareness of right and wrong.

“God gives each person strengths and abilities that will find their greatest usefulness only under His control.  Outside that control, however, they don’t accomplish what they could and often become tools of evil.  One way to make sure this does not happen is to tell God of your willingness to be under His control.  With His presence in your life, your natural strengths and abilities will be used to their greatest potential and for the greatest good” (Life Application Bible). Couple our abilities with godly character and we will accomplish much good for the kingdom of God.

Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, had ministered personally to the believers in Thessalonica, having founded the church.  They spent a relatively short time there, perhaps several months, before persecution drove them out (see Acts 17:1-10). Several months later he wrote two letters to them (1&2 Thessalonians). But during that short time of personal interface the Thessalonians had witnessed godly character in Paul and his ministry associates.

Like Paul, powerful leaders accompanied by good character can and should properly declare, “Follow my example.” In another text Paul elaborates on this with the essential necessity of consistent Christ-like character; “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Today, we must resist the false contention of this world that character doesn’t matter. Character does matter!  Let this be our goal. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

  • “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Philippians 3:17).
  • “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example” (2 Thessalonians 3:7a).
  • “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8).

December 23, 2013

This Christmas, Give Me More of Christ

Great music for Christmas 2013 from the band 7eventh Time Down.

December 19, 2013

Simeon: “Now I’ve Seen Everything”

Filed under: Christmas, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:58 am

Life is like a box of Christmas ornaments. You never know what you’re gonna get.

I was wondering if I would have time to post anything today, when last night an old friend asked if I would post a particular song on our store’s YouTube channel. The song was the title song on a vintage Canadian Christian album called Simeon by a band called Simeon. So yes, the album, the song and the band all have the same name. The band was the house band at The Master’s Workshop in Toronto, Canada and did studio work for clients during the week and did weekend ministry at Christian concerts.

I was just thinking about Simeon — the one in Luke 2, not the band — just the other day. His speech in Luke 2 is the ultimate, “Now I’ve seen everything.” Eugene Peterson tells the story this way:

In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:

God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.

So enjoy this song from the early 1980s.

December 16, 2013

Christian Radio Stations and the True Meaning of Christmas

Christmas Banner 2

Because I spend part of my week in a Christian retail environment, I hear a lot from customers about their frustration trying to buy Christmas cards that contain anything even remotely resembling the Biblical Christmas story, and as I mentioned here a few days ago, the birth narrative from Matthew or Luke is just the beginning of what we, as Christ-followers, would want to convey.  Fortunately, the Christian bookstores — and their online equivalents — are able to offer products that aren’t about Rudolph, or Frosty, or one-horse open sleighs.

So now that we’re into the final countdown to Christmas, I’m at a total loss to understand how it is that the customers who so decry the secularization of Christmas can handle what Christian radio is offering during the final weeks of December. Biblical narrative? Idea that Jesus came to save us? Concept of God incarnate? Some songs, yes; but in many others that are sucking up valuable Christian radio airtime, it’s just not there to be heard.

Now let me say at the outset there are two realities present here.

The first is that successful Christian music artists either feel compelled or are compelled contractually to make a Christmas album. This provides them with extra visibility, extra radio airplay and extra revenue. And I’m sure that these artists really do have deep personal memories of song of these songs from their own childhood years.

Secondly, I realize that for Christian radio stations, they are most likely to attract new listeners at this time of year with a playlist that is more recognizable to the average listener. Maybe some of those new listeners will stick around in January, and hear the Good News in a way they’ve never heard it before. One of my favorite radio ministries is 96five in Brisbane, Australia. They play a mix of Christian and secular family-friendly songs that has earned them top ratings in their market.

Despite both of these realities, I believe there is an expectancy on the part of regular listeners, who are also in many cases financial supporters that the station will take the opportunity to communicate the message of the Gospel at this time of year. Furthermore, I think the broader community feels that in many ways they own lyrics like “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” in a way that they don’t relate to “How great is our God,” and are therefore quite content to stop tuning across the radio spectrum and allow their car radios to stop at any station that’s playing the traditional carol.

I’ve deliberately avoided mentioning names of artists or song titles here, but the one which grates on me (and others) most this year is a recording of a new song called “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Sorry, but there are so many better uses for that three minutes. I realize the song goes into what we might call vertical ‘worship-inclined’ lyrics — lyrics that can be taken two ways — but that isn’t clear to listeners in the context — and title — of the larger song.

There is also an argument for the radio formula where only one song in three is a Christmas song, and listeners traveling to the mall or to family events get to hear the kind of Christian radio that is broadcast the rest of the year, instead of re-branded “Christmas” format that disappears on December 26th. That strategy, is something my Christmas card customers would support. Right now they’re just bewildered.

What’s your relationship to the whole Christian Christmas-album genre?

December 7, 2013

Show Me The Manger

I thought we’d take a break from yesterday’s busy day here at Thinking Out Loud. It’s been a couple of years since this first appeared here. My wife Ruth is a naturally gifted songwriter and singer. Her best writing is often centered on Christ’s birth (Christmas) and death (The Cross).  I hope you enjoy her song.


Show me the manger
Show me where life begins again
Show me the manger
Show me where hope and peace come breaking in
Show me the shelter and the family and the faces and the dawn
Of untidy love that’s forever, forever from now on
Once I’ve seen the manger
How could I ever turn away?

Show me the angels
Show me a hint of what Heaven can do
Show me the star now
Show me a flash of forever shining through
Show me the beauty and the glory and the music and the flame
Show me the power of the promise and the power of the Name
Once I’ve seen the glory
How could I ever turn away?

Show me the baby
Though I don’t begin to understand
How such an ordinary baby
Could be God becoming man
Could he be born to live to die to live again?
To be the life, be the way, be the truth, be the plan
Once I’ve seen the baby
How could I ever turn away?

Show me the manger, show me the family,
Show me the angels, show me the star now
But once I’ve seen the Savior,
I will never turn away.

November 10, 2013

These are a few of my favorite songs

This is a re-post of a series of links to articles at Christianity 201 that contain worship song videos. it’s been available at that website for years, but never posted here before. Enjoy. (If there’s a song you want to recommend, feel free to add a comment.)

October 17, 2013

Ministry of Music

Filed under: Church, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:13 am
Not a lens trick, this is the circular seating at the Igloo Church in Iqaluit in Canada's north. It has nothing to do with this article, but click the picture to learn more.

Not entirely a lens trick, this is the circular seating at the Igloo Church in Iqaluit in Canada’s north. It has nothing to do with this article, but click the picture to learn more.

“And now Mrs. Smith will favor us with her ministry of music.”

You don’t hear that phrase often anymore, at least not at the churches most of us frequent. But in an earlier time and place there was “special music,” often abbreviated as “the special,” which usually preceded the message, or if the soloist was given two slots, one early in the service and one just before the preacher.

Mrs. Smith would choose a piece from the selection of “sacred music” available, perhaps a song form an album by Steve Green, or Evie, or Sandi Patti, or if the church was Pentecostal, Janet Paschal.  Or perhaps she would delve into a back catalogue of perennial solos from an earlier era.

Today’s worship musicians have a different role. They lead us into worship, they certainly have more profile, and they are involved in choosing a greater number of compositions. It’s a much greater responsibility, which means that in larger church environments, people doing this ministry are on paid staff.

But the worship is something we do ourselves. The worship leaders prompt us in directing our voices heavenward to God, or in proclamation of God’s deeds and attributes to each other. (To say “How great is our God” is horizontal; to say “How great are you, God” is vertical.) The songs minister to our spirits and we trust touch the heart of The Father, but we don’t receive ministry from them in the same sense that Mrs. Smith’s song would convey doctrine, or in the case of a really rich lyric, teach theology.

In a way, Mrs. Smith’s ‘ministry of music’ complemented the pastor’s ‘ministry of the word.’ For those of us who caught part of that era, the songs taught us Bible stories and Bible truths; gave a testimony of salvation, healing or deliverance; or described aspects of the Christian life.

Today’s worship songs extoll God’s virtues and character, but generally cover a smaller compass of available topics. If I got up on Sunday and struck a chord on the keyboard and began, “I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore;” my words might sound either too poetic or too egocentric.

The depth of feeling and emotion today is far greater, but the catalog of available expression seems a lot more limited.

In an ideal worship service environment, there would be room for both; though not necessarily the same material that Mrs. Smith would use.

September 30, 2013

24 Hour Worshipathon

Filed under: music, worship — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:48 am

This was the schedule on the weekend at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky; where Dave Stone is the lead pastor and Kyle Idleman is the teaching pastor:
Glory Arise - South East Christian Church

There are some links to pictures at the church’s Twitter page.

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