Monday, June 29, 2009

Paste on the best music of 2009

As we come to the mid-point of the year, seven people from Paste Magazine weigh in on the best albums and songs of 2009. Of the lists, I probably like Josh's list the best:

1. Passion Pit - Manners
2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
3. The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
4. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
5. Wild Light - Adult Nights
6. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
7. Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Elvis Perkins in Dearland
8. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
9. Roman Candle - Oh Tall Tree In The Ear
10. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career


1. "California On My Mind" - Wild Light
2. "Little Secrets" - Passion Pit
3. "My Girls" - Animal Collective
4. "Lua" - Conor Oberst with Gillian Welch (from Dark Was the Night)
5. "Charlie Darwin" - The Low Anthem
6. "Field Report" - Loch Lomond
7. "Bloodbank" - Bon Iver
8. "Two Weeks" - Grizzly Bear
9. "The Rake's Song" - The Decemberists
10. "No Wedding Cake" - Fol Chen
11. "Airstream Driver" - Gomez
12. Roman Candle - "Why Modern Radio Is A-OK"
13. "This Tornado Loves You" - Neko Case
14. "Make Light" - Passion Pit
15. "Brackett, WI" - Bon Iver (from Dark Was the Night)
16. "Doomsday" - Elvis Perkins
17. "So Far Around the Bend" - The National (from Dark Was the Night)
18. "Come Saturday" - Pains of Being Pure at Heart
19. "Belated Promise Ring" - Iron & Wine
20. "Echoes" - The Decemberists (live Pink Floyd cover, part of the "Save Paste" download vault)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Parkman wedding

If I were to get married one day and could model my wedding after any wedding I've ever been to, I think I would model it after my friend Barrett's wedding. He and his new bride Jessa got married last night in the Piedmont Room at Piedmont Park. My friend Matt, as the pastor, did a great job of helping us all see the beautiful picture of the gospel on display through marriage. And the view of the Atlanta skyline was in the background as the couple gleefully took their vows and worshiped God together. The whole thing was a very joyful experience.

The music selection was phenomenal. The procession all occurred to the song Beautiful by Vineyard Music. That's the most of I've ever wanted to get up and dance and sing during a procession. There were a few other great songs during the ceremony itself, one being In Christ Alone, during which Barrett washed Jessa's feet. That was really neat to watch. Then they might have had the coolest, most unique first dance song ever, All I Need by Radiohead.

Here are a few of the pictures from the last two weekends together:

Bachelor party crew up at Lake Chatug in Hiawassee
The happy couple
Old UGA crew from freshman year
Scott and I with Barrett
You can see the rest of the pictures here

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson

Andrew Sullivan has a brief, thoughtful post on the death of Michael Jackson. I think he has good insight into how the culture that we have created was largely responsible for Jackson's restless life:
There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age - and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.

But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.

I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.

I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours' and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.

I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Piper on TV and movies

If you have listened to John Piper over the years, you might have picked up that he does not own a television. In a panel interview a couple of weeks ago at Advance09, he was asked about this very subject. There was a small misunderstanding in the asking of the question, but the one thing Piper said was that he is not suggesting that everyone needs to do as he does in this regard.

Today, he wrote a follow-up article at Desiring God on this subject. He provides a few helpful explanations about why he does not own a TV and does not watch many movies. A popular thought of the day says that Christians and pastors should see tons of movies in order to be relevant to the culture. Here's one paragraph of Piper's response to that:
"I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies."
Though I practically differ somewhat from him with how much entertainment I take in, I still think his point is extremely valid. I should definitely be cautious about what and how much entertainment I take in. Because, if I'm honest, I believe my senses are often dulled by this exposure, making me less likely to enjoy Christ to the degree that I want to.

I would also say this same thing concerning Piper's thoughts on television:
"...It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.

One more smaller concern with TV (besides its addictive tendencies, trivialization of life, and deadening effects): It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me; it’s a cliff I walk beside every day with trembling.

TV consumes more and more time for those who get used to watching it. You start to feel like it belongs. You wonder how you could get along without it. I am jealous for my evenings. There are so many things in life I want to accomplish. I simply could not do what I do if I watched television. So we have never had a TV in 40 years of marriage (except in Germany, to help learn the language). I don’t regret it."
In the article, he also has some helpful advice on the danger of viewing nudity in films, so really you should just read the whole thing

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sharing the Gospel with the gay community

John Bell recently wrote an article on Tim Challies' blog. John is the pastor of a church plant in Toronto and has an active ministry with the local gay community. I found the article very insightful, not just showing what it looks like to have a ministry with those who have their identity rooted in homosexuality, but also for evangelism in general. The gospel really does break down walls, because the gospel tells us we all are equally in need of a Savior.

Here are two paragraphs from the article that I found especially encouraging:
"When I first meet someone at the coffee shop and they ask me what I do (which is a natural "in" to introducing the gospel) they assume that I must be a liberal gay Baptist minister, because otherwise what would I be doing in their coffee shop? (The first man I talked to had only just broken up with his boyfriend, a Methodist pastor.) I begin by asking them questions. I get them to do all the talking for the next 45 minutes. I ask them about their job, their background, their family life, their personal life and what they believe and why so I can get a picture of their epistemology and worldview. Needless to say, I frame my questions in an inquisitive, slightly naive, polite fashion, not in an interrogative, formal way. Gay men love to talk (at least the ones in this coffee shop seem to) and people in general today enjoy discussing "spirituality". Then, out of politeness, they will inevitably ask me what I believe. So I tell them the gospel, starting with Genesis 1, laying out for them the biblical storyline and worldview.

I have been able to share the gospel with many men over the past two years, even though I am saying things highly offensive to the gay lifestyle--which is actually their identity. I base everything I say on the authority of the word; that is, I make it clear to them that that is what I am doing, that I believe the bible is authoritative for all peoples in all cultures and times because it is God's authoritative revelation to human beings. I stress this emphatically. And I tell them that the Bible condemns me, it condemns everyone. It condemns me as an idolater, someone who is selfish and sinful, who has de-godded God and installed himself in the position of "The Ruler of John's Life." I have done things in my life that I am ashamed of and oftentimes what I am ashamed of the bible calls my "sin" (I have found that gay men can relate very well to shame). I do not zero in on their homosexuality (which is what they expect me to do) but rather the fact that they are sinners. Now, more often than not, they will push me and ask if practicing homosexuality is a particular expression of their sinful disposition and I will not hesitate to tell them "yes." When asked, I tell gay men that, personally, I have a "live and let live" approach to everyone's sex life, but my personal opinion doesn't count for anything if God, our creator, has declared otherwise. I tell them I know that I am sounding very intolerant and bigoted when I tell them that they are sinners and that their lifestyle is not pleasing to God. Who am I to tell another human being such a thing on my own authority? But then I explain that it is not on my own authority that I am saying these things. Rightly or wrongly, I am utterly convinced that the bible is the revelation of God. I am banking my eternal soul on it being so. It condemns me, but I have found salvation in Christ. It condemns you. I am here to tell you about the salvation that I have found in Jesus, that I believe you need, that the bible says he needs."
Read the whole thing

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The origin and impact of Keller in Manhattan

Tim Keller was recently featured in an article in Christianity Today written by Tim Stafford. It tells the story of how an unlikely guy from Virginia ends up planting a successful church in Manhattan. For me, Keller has been a huge help over the last few years as I listen and read the things he has to say. I'm very thankful for his ministry and was privileged to visit his church back in April and thank him personally for the impact he's had on my life.

I think this quote from the article helps describe one way that he has such an impact, in my life and in the lives of others:
"White believes Keller's unique gift is to preach to both Christians and non-Christians in the same terms, without making a choice between evangelism and discipleship: "Tim uses the gospel surgically on the heart. The gospel is what we need to come to faith and also what we need to grow." A theology of grace uses the same language to challenge both the runaway son and the solid older brother."
The article also mentions the other significant ideas that have been very influential, namely the subject of idolatry as well as the importance of the city.

Read the whole thing

Monday, June 22, 2009

Understanding my gifting just a little bit more

The Resurgence blog has been doing a series on spiritual gifts over the last couple of months. The gift highlighted on June 10 was the gift of administration. They defined it this way:
"The gift of administration is the God-given ability to give direction and make decisions on behalf of others that result in efficient operation and accomplishment of goals. Administration includes the ability to organize people, things, information, finances, etc. Often the mark of an administrator is the ability to accomplish things in a "fitting and orderly way" (1 Corinthians 14:40)."
I've known for a while that I enjoy doing this kind of thing. I think only until recently have I understood that it is truly a gift and is beneficial to the body of Christ. In the past, I've looked at the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and for some reason elevated gifts like teaching and others as more spiritual or something. Organizing just didn't seem all that important compared to healing, miracle-working, and prophecy.

I lost my job at the bank back in March. For about ten weeks I was jobless and during that time was really trying to figure out what I'm passionate about and what I'm gifted at. As I began to see my love for, and gifting in, administration, I also began to see a host of people who were terrible at it, yet a large part of their job required them to do it. I began to see how I loved administration even more as it fit with these people who didn't like it at all. I saw how working together could free them up to be more successful and do what they love and are gifted at.

Three weeks ago, I was hired by the owner of a couple hardwood flooring companies for this very fit. My job is to make him more successful by getting all the details off his plate, because he's visionary and really hates the details. And I love what I'm doing!

I am very glad God has finally given me the ability to appreciate a little bit more how he has wired me. And I am very thankful that He has provided me an opportunity to serve someone by doing what I love. I hope this encourages you to appreciate the gift of God in you, whatever it might be, however unhelpful you THINK it might be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saying to God, "You owe me"

Matt Chandler spoke about the de-churched a couple of weeks ago at Advance09. He said that many Christians put God in their debt. They do a lot of good things and get really angry when something doesn't go well for them. So they walk away from God and that's how we get the de-churched. As he was speaking then, and watching this clip again now, I painfully recall a close friend who is no longer walking with the Lord, I believe for this very reason. Let us remember that it is only by His unmerited grace through Christ that we able to walk with and be loved by Him.

Here's the clip:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Garrett Moore, photo shoot, July 3, and marshmallows

See if you can follow me here. My roommate Roy's friend Stephen recently did a photo shoot for my friend Garrett that can be found here. Garrett is a local Atlanta musician that is very talented. You should check out his stuff and go to his show at Eddie's Attic on July 3. Apparently there will be marshmallows there. Enjoy this video of the photo shoot:

Garrett Moore Photo Shoot from Stephen Hunton on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Top Foreign Films of the Decade

Foreign films have become increasingly more interesting to me over the years. They tend to convey more realistic, captivating stories than the typical box-office blockbusters. Living in Atlanta, I love stopping by Tara every month or so to catch a good independent/foreign film. I recommend doing the same.

Paste Magazine recently weighed in on their top 25 favorite foreign films of the decade. I've only seen three on this list, including #3 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, #12 Amelie, and #16 The Class. I highly recommend The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. You can watch the trailer here:

What on this list have you seen? Any recommendations?

Books: the perfect technology

After having the Kindle for about a year, Tim Challies explains why books are the perfect technology:
...I came to see that all of the things that frustrated me about the Kindle were things that made it not like a book. It's book-like qualities were it's best qualities; it's non-book-like qualities were the ones that got to me. All of the things that annoyed me were the things that made the experience more like operating a computer and less like reading a book. Pages took too long to turn; I could not splash yellow highlighter on the pages; I could not skim through the book looking quickly for a word or phrase or note; I could not scrawl notes in the margins. Sure, there were a few advantages--the notes I did take (saved in a text file on the Kindle) could be exported to my computer simply by plugging in a USB cable; books were less expensive and instantly added to my collection; hundreds of classics were available for free. But overall, the Kindle experience paled in comparison to the happy, familiar, comforting experience of sitting down with a book. Everything I wanted the Kindle to do, a book could do better.
I don't own a Kindle and I think this pretty much sums up why I doubt I'll ever prefer electronic reading to book reading.

A Plea for Silence

"One of the most lamentable aspects of modern life is the disappearance of silence. Throughout most of human history, silence has been a part of life. Many individuals lived a significant portion of their lives in silence, working in solitude and untroubled by the intrusion of constant noise."
This is how Al Mohler starts his recent blog post on the issue of silence. He reminds us the need for silence amongst the constant noise of our culture today. He quotes Susan HIll, from Standpoint, explaining the reason many of us might be scared of it:
"...In adapting to constant noise, we seem to have become afraid of silence. Why? Are we afraid of what we will discover when we come face to face with ourselves there? Perhaps there will be nothing but a great void, nothing within us, and nothing outside of us either. Terrifying. Let's drown our fears out with some noise, quickly."
I think this is definitely a reason many of us run away from silence in our lives. And I believe it's a discipline that we ought to be better at engaging in.

Towards the end of his post, Mohler directs his attention towards children, and the dangers of allowing them to be constantly inundated with noise. He quotes Susan Hill again as she explains:
"If children do not learn to focus and concentrate in a pool of quietness, their minds become fragmented and their temperaments irritable, their ability to absorb knowledge and sift it, grade it and evaluate it do not develop fully. Reading a book quietly, watching a raindrop slide slowly down a windowpane or a ladybird crawl up a leaf, trying to hear the sound of a cat breathing when it is asleep, asking strange questions, such as, "Where do all the colors go at night?" and speculating about the possible answers — all of these are best done in silence where the imagination can flourish and the intricate minutiae of the world around us can be examined with the greatest concentration."

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Advance09 recap

I got back Saturday from Advance09 in Durham. The conference messages along with the quality time had with the guys made for a great time. Props to Whitney for hooking us up with a free place to stay in Raleigh AND for buying the tickets the day after they went on sale so we could sit in the second row, 30 feet from Piper and company. And we actually we able to move up day 2 & 3 where we were about 15 feet from them, close enough to where Piper looked directly at me several times while he was speaking. That will keep your attention. Here's a flash-less picture of him from where we were sitting:The messages basically centered around revitalizing the local church. The two basic ideas that all the speakers seemed to agree upon is the need to live a life of repentance as well as to keep telling people about the person and work of Christ. Most of messages were good, but here were my favorite 3:
1. Bryan Chapell - Communicating the Gospel Through Preaching
2. John Piper - Let the Nations be Glad Part 1 & Part 2
3. Mark Driscoll - Ministry Idolatry
To highlight my favorite, Dr. Chapell began talking about how the love of Christ should compel us to walk with Him. He then started talking about the supremacy and centrality of Christ in the Scriptures. My favorite point in his message came when he began talking about the idea of understanding our position in Christ as God's children. Don't sin because that doesn't reflect who you are. You are God's child. He loves you. That is the motive for fighting sin, not some kind of behavior modification. That thought is incredibly freeing and compelling.

Alright, so for the rest of the messages, click here. And here are a few more pictures:

This was the crew (Matthew not pictured)Here are the guys in front of Duke Memorial Chapel:Finally, we stopped by Greenville, SC on the way back. What a cool city.Click here for the rest of the pictures.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The modern politician

My friend Arnold's latest post summarizes my own distaste for politicians today. He quotes Henry Kissinger as saying:
"The great statesmen of the past saw themselves as heroes who took on the burden of their societies' painful journey from the familiar to the as yet unknown. The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values; stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital."

John Piper on Twitter

John Piper is now on Twitter. Rightly or wrongly, I now feel somewhat more justified by being on there myself. He wrote a great article at Desiring God explaining why he made this decision. His conclusion pretty much sums it up:
I’ve been tweeting anonymously for a month mainly to test its spiritual and family effects on me. In spite of all the dangers, it seems like a risk worth taking. “All things were created through Christ and for Christ” (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I Tweet.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Even though I don't drink coffee, this company's coffee house is one of my favorite spots in Atlanta right now. It actually has other great drinks too, but a large reason I enjoy it is because of where it's located. Randomly, it's set in the back of an apartment complex in Smyrna, right on the Chattahoochee River. It's a great place to relax, read a book, and enjoy the view.

Another great reason to go here the company's support of Rwanda:
"Purchasing Land of a Thousand Hills coffee blesses a nation of rural Rwandans. No longer exploited, Specialty Coffee provides a fair and proper Living Wage to Rwandan Farmers that have embraced the gift God has given them. Their commitment to excellence and your love of coffee helps fund micro lending projects, creates opportunities for Hutu and Tutsi to work together that restores dignity, and builds safe places that promote reconciliation and construct platforms to hear the Gospel."
Thanks to Roy for giving me telling me about it. Here are some pics:Aren't those chairs tempting to sit inAnd here's Ethan "candidly" readingClick here for directions.

Going to Advance09

Wednesday night, Lord willing, I will be heading to Durham, North Carolina with four other friends to attend Advance09. It's a conference about the power of the church. We'll hear from guys like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Ed Stetzer,Bryan Chapell, and a few others. I'm really looking forward to the fellowship with the guys I'm going with as well as to hear from some of my favorite pastors on the subject of the church. If you're interested, I'll hopefully be twittering throughout the conference about my insights from the talks as well as significant quotes.