The Power of Music

This speaks for itself…. There is something powerful about music. It connects on a deep level and brings us to life in ways nothing else can. How are we using the power of music to connect and stir people to life?

Listener – A True Original

I was excited to finally receive a late Christmas gift in the mail… Listener’s Wooden Heart album on vinyl + digital download… (if you like these videos, pick up a copy of this album). I admit, I wasn’t on board when I first heard this guy years ago on a rickety wooden stage on a field beside a lake. My friend and I were first introduced to Listener at PAPA Fest (People Against Poverty and Apathy) but his style has matured significantly since that first encounter. (And I’m in a different place too.)

His unique “Talk Music” is best described as Hardcore Spoken Word Poetry backed by sparse Indie Rock. He’s not hip-hop (He used to be). What used to stress me out is suddenly restful. This album just clicked one day near the end of 2011… There is an incredible empathy as Dan Smith confesses and relates stories in a brutally honest and emotional style that is like nothing else you will ever hear. There is a grace and hope that is as unexpected as the Christ he follows. After finally dialing into where he was coming from, I felt not only encouraged personally, but motivated in community. (be sure to check out Building Better Bridges and House On Fire and Seatbelt Hands… Save Up Your Hopes Friends is an urgent reminder of the truth in The Book of Revelation) The album is below to stream in its entirety. Skip around. Listen through. Just do yourself a favor and give it a chance.

Seryn… WOW.

Seryn. Think Anathallo from Texas. …Sufjan, Sigur Ros, The Low Anthem, Mumford & Sons, even Guster… BUT, here’s the kicker, all in worship. Seryn is hands down the best thing to come out of the Texas Indie scene since Explosions In The Sky. The closest comparisons would be hints of Josh Garrels or Gungor’s eclectic and atmospheric folk/worship. I can’t get over the creative resurgence in Christian Indie music. It’s like a second Renaissance. Creatively and theologically, there is a sweeping trend through our culture… the Church is seeking truth and beauty and expressing awe with integrity. No more shirking spiritual labels, yet still refusing to be pigeonholed by any genre. Unapologetic in faith and artistry, the result is wholly inspiring.

Can’t wrap your mind around that? Listen here. (Click on the arrow in the music layer for a free MP3 download of “We Will All Be Changed.”) Snag the 180gm white vinyl and digital copy of the whole album…

Freebies: Matt Jackson & Catalyst (no relation)

There are so many great free resources up for grabs right now that I thought I’d share a few…

The Healer from Matt Jackson on Vimeo.

First, this is seriously good (and gets better with each track – the last two being flat-out incredible). Birmingham’s own Matt Jackson is giving away downloads of his new EP (and you can pre-order the vinyl). Further evidence that great things are happening in the world of Christian songwriting. Think Indie-Rock meets Southern-Gospel (complete with horn section as the killer album art suggests). Not only is this quality songwriting, it was mixed by Grammy-winner Darrell Thorp (If you’ve heard the last several albums from Paul McCartney, Beck, Radiohead, or Thom Yorke, then you’re familiar with his work… yeah, he’s the real deal.) Musically, this album sounds nothing like any of those (that would be impossible), but the quality is that caliber. So go get Matt Jackson’s new EP and spread the word at iammattjackson.com

Also, Catalyst is giving away tons of free stuff just for signing up for info about Catalyst in Atlanta (October 5-7), including ebooks (Veneer, Gracenomics, more), music (Thad Cokrell, Seryn, Gungor, John Mark McMillan, Aaron Ivey, Aaron Keys, Lecrae, Sleeping at Last… more), and their “best of” from past speakers (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Don Miller, John Maxwell, more)… too much to name, but some stuff worth checking out… seriously it’s a ton of stuff. And if you’ve never been to a Catalyst leadership event… it’s quite an experience. Think about it.

Never Been Alive (Words Do Matter)

The Saturday following the tornado outbreaks, The Avett Brothers lifted spirits in Birmingham, AL, doing what they do best: playing to a packed house. My family (and most of my county: Shelby) was fortunate enough to be spared from the swath of devastation that plowed through Alabama. It was a hard day of cleanup (I didn’t realize how sore I’d be from using a chainsaw all day or how how many massive bruises would mysteriously appear afterwards – guess it goes with the territory of being a 30+ yr-old who works from home) and the need was and remains to be overwhelming (another post on that thought coming soon). The show was full of standards, plus a few gifts, but the whole set list seemed to be intentional – the already deeply personal lyrics resonated in a new way that night.

The opening line of the show was: “Disappear from your hometown, go and find the people that you know…” followed by a chorus that has helped me with several life-decisions lately: “So when you run make sure you run, to something and not away from…” (Weight of Lies). The chorus of a newer song echoed: “If I live the life I’m given, then I won’t be scared to die…” (The Once and Future Carpenter). And the encore left us with two simple truths: “Don’t worry with all of my belongings… Always remember there is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name…” (Murder in the City) and “God only knows. God makes his plan. The information’s unavailable to the mortal man. We’re working our jobs. Collect our pay. Believe we’re gliding down the highway when in fact we’re slip slidin’ away…” (Slip Slidin’ Away – Paul Simon cover) Finally, one last song from the middle of the concert. I simply wanted to share the lyrics of a rare, yet-to-be-recorded song performed that night. It too seemed particularly meaningful in the wake of recent events…

“Never Been Alive”

Money won’t do the trick… but it will help
To open the doors we need it to… to help someone else

Still we won’t need it, to turn things around

I’ve never been alive, like I am now

You need only tell me… when you’re under the gun
If you need someone to lend a hand… consider it done

But still you won’t need me, to turn things around

I’ve never been alive, like I am now

And even though they didn’t close with “Salvation Song” as I had secretly hoped, the sentiment rang true:

“And I would give up everything, if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame, but that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way…”

Easter Sunday: Skeleton Bones

HE IS ALIVE!

The resurrection is not just a historical fact, theological truth, or future promise. It is a present reality. It is more than mere doctrine, it is definitive. This is the core of our life as a Christ-followers: New Life. Abundant and Eternal.

We worship the resurrected Son of God. And He has breathed His immortal Spirit into our mortal bodies. By His shed blood, the dead have been granted life. The sinful has been made holy. His love is our heart beat. We live on every word that proceeds from His mouth. Live in this power and freedom as you worship your risen King today!

“Skeleton Bones”

Peel back our ribs again
and stand inside of our chest.
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you

Peel back the veil of time
And let us see You with our naked eyes
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you

We want your blood to flow inside our body
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just wanna’ love you
We just wanna’ love you

Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
And gravestones roll
To the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
So separate those doors
And let the son of resurrection in.

Oh let us adore the
Son of Glory drenched in love
Open up your gates before him
Crown Him, stand Him up

Saturday: Closer

“God is dead.” Nietzsche penned his infamous 3-word sentence almost 130 years ago. What he meant was that religious belief in God no longer had a place in society – we didn’t need Him anymore. Or at least, mankind did not live in recognition of a God from whom absolute morality and justice was found. Look at his words:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us?”

The irony, we know, is that while it is true that mankind largely lives as if God does not exist, or at least as if He does not have authority and power in our lives and the world, we need Him desperately. Though not as he meant it, Nietzsche’s words ring partially true of the Christian faith and of this holy weekend. He did not remain dead, but in some divine mystery, God became flesh and willingly died at the hands of sinful men. The Creator was murdered by His creation. What on earth is man capable of doing to make right this unthinkable sin of killing God metaphorically, but even more so of killing Him literally?

Nothing. There is nothing we can do.

It hit me a few years ago, that between Good Friday and Easter Sunday exists 24 hours of Saturday. For one day, Jesus lay in that tomb. The stone had not yet been rolled away. God… was… dead… Not in every sense, don’t get bent out of shape theologically if that sounds blasphemous to you. What I mean is simply this: Can you wrap you heart and mind around the historical fact that on Saturday, following the crucifixion, Jesus the one and only holy begotten Son of God was dead. Man had literally killed the divine: Jesus being fully God and fully man… Dead.

And there was no hope for anyone. What was a sacrificial death on the cross without the resurrection?

It is the Light breaking forth on Sunday that is our hope. It is by the power of His resurrection in us that we too experience newness of life. If the story ended with the cross and the tomb and a stone rolled over it, we would have merely sealed our own damned fate – eternally guilty of not only rebelling against God, but murdering His own Son. By His grace alone did He overcome the world and give us hope of redemption.

Don’t rush from the cross to the empty tomb. Meditate today on the fact that Jesus laid in the tomb, His body lifeless, as He waged war on sin and death. Yes, we know that tomorrow is coming. But today, the shadow of death was darkest as Christ was lain in a tomb, wrapped in grave clothes, and sealed in the earth by stone, guarded by Roman soldiers.

We need more than philosophy, science, morality, inspiration, or even religion. Today, we need a God who is real. A God who not only loved us enough to endure the cross on Friday and conquer the grave on Sunday, but to lay in that grave, burying our sins on Saturday – forever removing Death’s sting.

There is nothing we could do to ever draw closer to the God we have sinned against. We are helpless. We are forever in debt to sin unless our ransom is paid. But by His grace, He came to us, not just as the promised Messiah, but through the power of His Spirit, revealed in the gospel and received by faith. We have been set free. And we owe Him the very lives He has given to us!

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
(James 4:8-10 ESV)

“Closer”

Come closer, closer to me.
Find me broken, find me bleedin’
cause I need more now than a fairy tale,
a god who lives in a book.
I need someone real.

So would you come?
Would you come?
If i begged you, would you come closer to me now?

Come closer, closer to me.
Find me broken, find me on my knees,
cause I need more now than philosophy.
Some god in outer space doesn’t mean anything to me.

So would you come?
Would you come?
If I begged you, would you come closer to me now?
Would you come?
Would you come?
If i begged you, would you come closer to me now?

Son of David, do not pass me by,
cause I am naked,
I’m poor and I’m blind.
Son of david, don’t pass me by,
cause I am naked,
I’m poor and I’m blind.

Good Friday: Death In His Grave

Death In His Grave Performance from Christopher & Nathaniel Calnin on Vimeo.

I’m especially excited about this Good Friday. Amanda and I are meeting her brother and his girlfriend for Secret Church tonight at Brook Hills. What an incredible time to focus on Crucifixion, Salvation, and the Glory of God. Intense time in God’s Word and in prayer for the persecuted Church around the world.

My prayer is that the suffering, salvation, and sanctification of Christ becomes deeply personal today as we reflect on the work of Christ for the glory of God. (Read Luke’s account of Friday’s historical events here.)

*Check out John Mark McMillan’s blog for yesterday’s line-by-line commentary on today’s song.

“Death In His Grave”

Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls on men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke holding keys
To Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

Maundy Thursday: How He Loves

So, it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I knew what “Maundy” Thursday even meant. It comes from the Latin word for “Commandment.” So Commandment Thursday…. What is that all about? And what does it have to do with Easter Week? (Maybe you already know this – but it was a big deal for me.)

On the day before His crucifixion, Jesus met one last time with His disciples. As they celebrated the Passover at this “Last Supper,” Jesus said to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

The world should see the love of Christ in our lives as His disciples. That’s how they’ll know we follow Him. Not because we go to church on Sundays (or at least on Easter). Love. The Way Christ loved us. That’s what we should be known for. Deep. Passionate. Love for God and for each other. Is this what it means for us today to be a disciple, a follower of Christ? If we’ve turned it into anything else, I pray that this Easter weekend, we let Christ redirect our hearts’ desire.

A few weeks ago, we saw John Mark McMillan at Vinyl – a small bar venue in Atlanta, GA. The worship of our Resurrected Savior was undeniable. And I’m sure the bartenders had never experienced anything like the raucous praise filling the dark room and pouring out onto West Peachtree Street… flooding downtown with the love of Christ.

So for the next few days I wanted to post a video and lyrics from John Mark McMillan that fit the events of this Easter Weekend. What better way to kick things off than with:

“How He Loves”

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree
Bending beneath
The weight of his wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these
Afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize how beautiful you are
And how great your afflictions for me

Oh how he loves us so
Oh how he loves us
How he loves us so

Yea He loves us
Oh how

We are his portion
And he is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart burns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
He loves us

Oh how he loves us so
Oh how he loves us
How he loves us so

Yea He loves us
Oh

SISU = “Stubborn Guts” in Finnish

That’s your foreign language lesson for the day. How many Finnish words do you know? Probably one. Now.

I can’t remember the last time I was so floored artistically and uplifted spiritually as when I was introduced to the music of Josh Garrels. Truly unique, but the best I could put it is think: the surprisingly rich soul of Paolo Nutini or Alexi Murdoch, the beautiful realism of John Mark McMillan or Ben Harper, an occasional bend toward the eclectic hip hop of Citizen Cope, the haunting atmosphere of Sufjan Stevens or Gungor, and the middle eastern Mumford & Sons collaboration… all infused with a heavy dose of Holy Spirit. Did you follow that? Josh Garrels takes it to church. I want to see and feel and love Christ the way this guy so clearly does in his music. I want to know this deep kinship with martyrs and our brothers and sisters around the world.

Mason Jar Music Presents… Josh Garrels from Mason Jar Music on Vimeo.

Below are some links to freebies to get you started (including the song “SISU” which was too interesting a title to pass up) and if you like him… or love him… support what he does and buy something and spread the word – fresh, artistic and worshipful music that flows from and into a realm that is anything but mainstream and stale.

Go to his site joshgarrels.com to hear more, download free mp3s (click on the harmonica), link to his vimeo account and check out his store. *UPDATE: GET HIS NEW ALBUM FREE*

Click here to download a free concert from the Relevant Magazine Podcast.

Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise Video

This week’s free video on iTunes is The Avett Brothers’ Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise. (Download it here) But just like the title, the song’s video is a bit conflicted – an artistic juxtaposition…

First, let me say that The Avett Brothers put on one of the absolute BEST live shows around. My wife and I caught them this past New Year’s at The Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta with my good friend in life and ministry, Andy Blanks and his wife Brendt. All four of us were blown away. (I won’t detour into our people-watching adventures, but concertgoers can be ridiculous with their go-to dance moves, incoherent outbursts, and enthusiastic gestures…. head-bobbers, leg-slappers, fist-pumpers, whoopers and whistlers… and the token “i love you” guy.)

Second, I loved this video (obviously) and wanted to share it. I’m not sure if the art was done by Scott Avett or not; the painting seems to be very similar to his style (view Scott’s gallery). I can’t imagine how much time went into the production of this video. It’s over four minutes of stop-motion style animation with a painting, probably done digitally (like that iPad artist using the brushes app), and it looks awesome.

BUT, with the countless thoughts running through my head as my imagination was lead along this painted journey, I was left impressed by two things:

1. I love the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this video reminded me of the futility of man’s great achievements and the natural cycle of this world. There is nothing new under the sun. There are seasons, highs and lows. Ultimately, everything man does will be stripped away, returning to dust, only for the next guy to come along with the same  great “new” idea. So there has to be a greater purpose than living for the so-called success and progress depicted in this video. We can’t depend on the things of this world, especially material things, to find meaning and satisfaction. (Which is their point, I believe.)

2. I was distracted by the video to the point of missing many of the lyrics (which as a writer, is one of my favorite things about The Avett Brothers). Ironically, the other theme seemed to be intentionally inserted in the middle of the video. At one point the sign is surrounded by the noise of competing signs. I say this is ironic because it seemed to unintentionally speak to the video as a whole, the noise of the medium drowning out the message. This made me wonder about life, leadership, ministry, writing, teaching, and communication in general… how often does the message get lost in the delivery? Does the creative presentation draw too much attention onto itself? Do the two work together or do they compete? Even if the creativity, production quality, and message are all incredible, is it cohesive? Is there synergy?

If there is a greater purpose and meaning in life (which I believe there is) then I want to be able to clearly communicate that in everything I do. Sometimes that means knowing when to reel a great idea in to better suit the content.

Jonah and the 4th of July

Taylor Robinson, a great friend of mine, helped out with a song during worship on the 4th of July. (Check out the 10 minute mark.) Sure, it may look like what some of you may expect from a church in Alabama, but it was a great time. Imagine A Boy Named Sue version of the story of Jonah in an Oh Brother Where Art Thou? fashion… if that makes sense. The message was a challenging look at the all too familiar story of Jonah. (NOT your typical 4th of July message.)

Fish Food <— Nobody saw this coming…

I always get a little anxious around the 4th of July when it comes to how churches will acknowledge the day, especially with it falling on Sunday this year. Over the past 5-10 years, I have honestly had growing discomfort with the blurred lines (if any line at all) between American and Christian values and the place patriotism has in the church. Sunday morning (this video) was a great balance of fun and celebration, while both respecting our nation and calling God’s people to remember that our allegiance lies with and our freedom comes from a King and Kingdom that is not of this world… and His mission is to reach the nations… all of them…. with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

July 4, 2010  ::  Fish Food and the Fourth of July ::  The Church At Brook Hills  ::  David Platt