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  • New REMIXD Album from Capital Kings

    Posted on March 6, 2014 by Family Christian


    After finishing the popular “Hits Deep Tour” with TobyMac, electronic-pop duo Capital Kings (Jon White and Cole Walowac) is gearing up for the release of their new project, REMIXD. REMIXD will compile several remixed tracks from their self-titled album, which released last year, as well as the brand new song “Be A King.” The album will be available exclusively at Family Christian beginning March 25.

    The remix project will also feature the winning track from Capital Kings’ U:REMIX campaign, which called for fans to take an original Capital Kings song and remix it as their own. Through an online contest, the winning contestant and remix ("I Feel So Alive [Matthew Parker U:Remix]") was chosen and will be featured on REMIXD.

    The dynamic remix masters continue to build on the momentum of their early success with recent remixes for Colton Dixon, Natalie Grant and Crowder while working on a brand new album. They also made waves at the 2014 Passion Conferences in Houston and Atlanta earlier this year, opening with a thrilling and energetic performance for over 20,000 students representing 1,200 universities and 33 countries. They kick-off the exclusive “Summer Shed Tour” with TobyMac, Skillet and Lecrae in May.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Lecrae, David Crowder, Capital Kings, Skillet, Colton Dixon, Natalie Grant

  • MercyMe Welcomes the New

    Posted on March 3, 2014 by Family Christian

    When MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard talks about the band’s latest album, Welcome to the New, it’s with the passion of an artist rejuvenated and reborn. He’s proud of the lively, spirited rock vibe that drives many of the 10 tracks. He’s still basking in the glow of the recording sessions, where he and his bandmates left their comfort zone and stretched the boundaries of the MercyMe sound.

    But when he talks about the overarching theme of Welcome To The New, Millard gets especially fervent. And here’s why: “New” is the fruit of his real-life embrace of grace. It all adds up to a musical, lyrical and spiritual turning point—that most rare of trifectas for a beloved veteran act that’s been at it since 1994, and has four gold albums and a platinum disc to its credit.

    Simply put: If Millard asked big questions on 2012’s The Hurt & The Healer, then Welcome To The New steps out boldly with a bigger answer that he didn’t find so much as it found him. (More on that in a bit.)

    “The last album was about needing a full-blown collision with the healer—when my family was hanging on by a thread, my cousin who was a firefighter died, and I wrote the title song in 10 minutes in a concert arena, in tears,” Millard recalls. “I was thinking, ‘Why we do we go though this mess, this junk in our lives? Is there any chance that what I’m going though is not in vain?’ And Welcome to the New is the answer to that song: It’s where we landed after the collision. And we didn’t go through it in vain. I feel like the gospel has come to life for the first time.”

    You can hear Millard’s conviction in the album closer “Dear Younger Me,” a song he considers the most personally meaningful on “New.” Built around an organic, slapped percussion loop and plaintive swells of electric guitar, the song is framed “like a letter to my younger self. I was physically abused as a kid and I’ve had a chance to play this song for people who’ve been through similar things. This is the one song I hope brings a lot of healing to people.” Wrestling with how to encourage and bolster his younger self, Millard lands on this refrain: “You are holy / you are righteous / you are one of the redeemed / set apart / a brand new heart / you are free indeed.”


    Yet from start to finish, MercyMe wraps the “New” message in music that’s infectious and inventive. The track “Greater” shows the band taking delightful chances and succeeding. Imagine shades of the Lumineers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, then throw the result into full gallop under a big sky: “Bring your doubts, bring your fears / Bring your hurt, bring your tears / There'll be no condemnation here / You are holy, righteous and redeemed.”

    “If there was one song that musically and spiritually represents the place where we are, the grace message of joy, ‘Greater’ is it,” Millard notes.

    Then there’s the song “Shake,” the first hit single from “New” and a throwback to the days of INXS and their most funky, danceable material. “We thought it was a great way to kick off the record,” Millard says. “It’s a little bit of a departure from what we do.” Actually, it was a big departure for Millard when it came to showing off his moves for the music video. “I grew up Southern Baptist which means I would be banished if I were to learn how to dance,” he says, laughing. “But we figured that everyone has at least a good shimmy in them. Even my grandmother, she can shake it.” And the theme of rebirth shows MercyMe putting its best foot forward: “Brand new looks so good on you / So shake like you are changed.”

    Millard is quick to praise his longtime bandmates for their willingness to explore and expand (Nathan Cochran on bass; Michael John Scheuchzer and Barry Graul on guitars; and Robin Troy "Robby" Shaffer on drums). But he also singles out producers David Garcia and Ben Glover as vital to helping MercyMe find the footing that helps “New” more than live up to its title.

    “This was our first time working with them, and fitting along the vein of being new, we tried it and just loved it,” Millard says. “It’s like they’re an extension of MercyMe now. When you’re in a band this long, it gets to the point where you get in the room with the guys and the same stuff comes out. We just wanted someone to stretch us.”

    And stretch they did. While the Nashville studio settings were certainly familiar (Ocean Way on Music Row and Dark Horse Studios in Franklin), the process certainly wasn’t for Millard and company.

    “We would track the drums and the bass, and then each musician would create parts on their very own,” Millard says. “Some of the songs had as many as 100 tracks of background vocals, and the producers gave us an environment where we didn’t feel like we could do anything wrong. We were chasing rabbits like crazy—nothing to lose and everything to gain. It was like kids being in a garage again playing music for the first time.”

    That’s apt considering that Millard feels, by his own admission, akin to a spiritual beginner these days.

    While some Christians may understand the concept of grace with glad hearts and open minds, Millard admits that for him, it’s been a much different story. “I grew up with a legalistic background, and even though it was all about grace, there were always three more things you could do to make life better. But of course, I’d do 10: I was an overachiever. That’s why I started a band; if we weren’t giving God our best, he wasn’t happy with us.”

    That relentless drive almost finished the band as well. Burned out from giving so much of his life and energy to MercyMe, and feeling as though he fell short somehow, Millard was ready to turn in his resignation and “go work at a Home Depot or something.” That’s when an old friend—a youth pastor from the first church camp MercyMe played 20 years ago—popped back into his life with a most unexpected message.

    “He said, ’There is nothing in our life to make Christ love us any more than he does.’ And I thought that was a novel concept, but I didn’t buy it: I have a wretched heart, and I’m nothing without God. But then he said, ‘Because of the cross you are a brand new creation. You can’t worry about the heart that can’t be trusted. You have a brand new heart and mind in Christ. And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s something I never heard growing up. There’s no way I can sabotage this.’”

    So yes, Millard stayed on with MercyMe, and it’s a wonderful thing he did. Welcome To The New brings on the reboot in fine style, but not in such a way to kick the band’s loyal fans into a wholly unfamiliar space. And if the singer sounds full of joy on this new disc, it’s because he most definitely is. “We’ve never been more comfortable in our skin and focused on the message,” he says. “I am not a tortured soul on this album.”


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, MercyMe

  • Blog Summary for February 2014

    Posted on February 27, 2014 by Family Christian

    Here are the most popular blog posts as read by you. Thank you for following us!


    Diving Deep with Casting Crowns

    Like a tree planted by the water (Jeremiah 17:7-8) we should be digging into God's word to know Him and know who He has made us to be. We should be reaching out to the world and showing others who He is through our lives and our stories - knowing Him and making Him known.

    I caught up with Mark, Melody and Juan from Casting Crowns at a summer festival this year. I wanted them to feel me in on their new album and what has been going on in their life as a band.

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Read the full q&a here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    I had gotten into trouble my senior summer. Financial trouble, trouble with other people, trouble with women – I was just running myself into a dead end. So I’m thinking, “I’m seventeen, let me do the mature, adult thing, and go to church.” Grandma was a Christian so the roots of the foundation I had established of the Christian God were through my grandmother. And that was where I needed to go. By grace, there was a young lady that I went to high school with that invited me to a Bible study. I went, and I had never seen Christians who dressed like me or talked like me, so I thought they were Martians from another planet! When I saw them, I said, “Oh you guys are human!” They loved me genuinely and that’s really what started it.

    To read the full interview, click here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Read the full q&a here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    Read our full interview here.

    Saying "I Love You"

    Many people say that Valentines Day is a made up holiday, put in place by the greeting card companies of the world. Well, truth be told, I don't care. It is a day to help us remember to say "I love you" to those around us. Taking the time each day to show love is certainly important, but it's also fun to get caught up in a holiday such as this day.

    So how do you say "I love you" to someone you love? Perhaps it's packing two cookies in the kid's school lunch. Maybe it's a surprise delivery of flowers for your spouse at work. Maybe it's even a call to your mother-in-law. How do you say "I love you?"

    Read the full blog post here.

    The Storm Inside - Sheila Walsh

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith. With

    Read the full blog post here.

    Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America.

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    Read the full interview here.

    Skillet. The Rock Band That Doesn't Quit

    Skillet recently made headlines when their last album, Awake, became one of just three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, forming an improbable triumvirate with the Black Keys’ El Camino and Mumford & Sons’ Babel. The news that Skillet had sold more than a million albums in the U.S. came as a shock to all but the band’s wildly diverse horde of fans, male and female, young and old—known as Panheads—whose still-swelling ranks now officially number in the seven-digit range. This remarkable achievement was announced just as Skillet was putting the finishing touches on their eagerly awaited follow-up album, Rise (Atlantic/Word).

    As soon as the master was turned in to the studio to finish post production on the new album, I sat down with John Cooper (lead singer) to talk through what was behind Rise. As you will see, while reading this, John is a passionate man. He is passionate about his music. His wife. His family. About Christ.

    Read the full interview here.

    Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    Read the full interview here.

    So which blog post was your favorite? Is there an author or an artist that you would like us to interview? Leave a comment below and let us know.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, Francesca Battistelli, Nick Vujicic, Casting Crowns, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Matt Maher, Skillet, Sheila Walsh

  • Shedding Light On the Story

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Several years ago, when Matthew West invited people to share their stories to serve as inspiration for an upcoming album, he had no idea it would be the start of an amazing journey that would forever change his music, ministry and life. Armed with more than 10,000 stories from fans all over the world, the floodgates of inspiration opened and West crafted a landmark album, The Story of Your Life. Suddenly people were given a voice and a chance for their stories to be heard. It started a powerful wave that continues with even greater momentum on West’s new album Into the Light.

    “On every level it has been the single most fulfilling thing that I’ve had a chance to be a part of in my career,” West says. “It’s just the added element of emotion that I feel by having a chance to be a part of this person’s story and to share their story with an audience. Something really special is taking place and I’m along for the ride for as long as it needs to go. As long as those stories come in, I think I’m going to keep making these kinds of records.”

    I ran into Matthew at a recent festival and we decided to talk over what has been happening in his life.

    John:               Matthew, on your album The Story of Your Life you had letter after letter, story after story filling you with ideas for a new record. You went back to all those letters that were written to you and continued to go through that process of writing songs based on what people were telling you.

    Matthew:       Sort of, yes.  Well, what’s interesting is instead of going back to all the stories that I had read, the stories never stopped coming in, and so I really didn’t plan on making more than one record of songs inspired by peoples’ stories, but what happened is, after the first 10,000 or so came in, I release The Story of Your Life, which had songs like “My Own Little World” and “Strong Enough.

    What I began to notice is that as one story is told, two more were coming out and saying, “Okay, I want to tell my story now,” and people just began to come out of the woodwork, and at my concerts, it still happens now, at the end of a concert, I’ll go back to the bus with a handful of handwritten stories, and I began to just really feel it press upon me that what was happening by not just putting out a CD, but to put out a CD of songs really putting a new emphasis on, hey, these are the every day true stories of peoples’ lives was beginning to stir something within people, and it really kind of began to refine what I feel my calling is, which is to encourage and empower people to realize that God has a unique one-of-a-kind story that He’s telling through each and every life.

    In the last three years, we’ve received well over 25,000 stories.  In fact, I was just showing my friend this morning some new stories that had just come in, so I can read stories every day, and in many ways, this has just become … it’s not really volume two or volume three.  This is just part of my process now, and I've made a promise that as long as people share their stories with me, I’ll read their stories and turn as many of them as I can into hopefully inspiring music that will challenge and inspire other people.

    John:               Matthew, when read the stories, do you ever feel like a huge weight on your shoulders?  I mean, do you feel like, “Oh my goodness, these people are just pouring their hearts out to me.”  How do you …

    Let me just backtrack a year.  A friend of mine, he works in the ER, and there is a process you kind of have to go through as … things, for different patients that were kind of coming in that didn’t go the way the family were all hoping it would go.  I’m sure you encounter those same type of situations where you’re getting a story that is just like … this is wrong.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               How do you deal with that?

    Matthew:       I think it’s funny you mentioned someone who works in a hospital, or I think at one point in time, we could all say we’ve had a doctor that maybe didn’t have the best bedside manner, or maybe they seemed cold or distant, and I think I've begun to understand how maybe there is that need for a doctor to separate his own personal emotions from a heartbreaking story because he’s seeing it so often.

    And yet, what I've noticed is in my reading, as a songwriter, you’re not a good songwriter if you’re not completely connected with all of your heart when you’re writing that song.  I’m not really afforded that luxury of detaching myself from any emotion.  I have to be running full-speed ahead towards that and embracing what people are writing to me, and I think the only way I can really answer how that’s been able to happen is just I feel like God has really given me different eyes to see these stories.

    What I mean by that is the vast majority of the stories that come in, I’m not going to lie … people will … what I've realized is when you ask somebody “What’s your story?  What was the defining moment in your story?” very few people are going to point to the money in their bank account or their college diploma or what kind of puppy they had when they were growing up.  Instead, they’re going to talk about some of the most difficult moments of their lives or their battle with cancer, or their financial trouble, or their marital trouble, or the abuse they suffered as a child.

    You’re exactly right.  One by one, I've read stories that can be seen as heartbreaking, and yet somehow, some way, and this is no joke, in every story I read, what I can sense is God is still at work, and just in the fact that that person wrote to me, even if that person is writing to me saying, “I’m struggling to see where there’s any hope in my story,” the fact that they’re writing means that they’re searching, means that they’re reaching out, and so while it may be at different stages, God is at work in each and every one of these stories, and his work is not finished yet.

    I really feel like my job is to extract the hope from these stories and to be accurate and authentic with what I’m writing about.  For example, there’s a song on my CD.  It’s called “Two Houses” inspired by a teenage girl who’s dealing with the reality that her Dad just up and walked out, and now she’s having to go back and forth and learn what life and love and trust and all those words are starting to kind of be redefined for her.  Well, I’m not going to just tie a bow on that story and just make it neatly wrapped like the end of a Brady Bunch episode, but I want to be authentic and real and genuine, and yet just as real with the pain, I want to be just as real and authentic with the hope that I believe we all have no matter where we’re at in our stories, and that hope comes from one source, and that’s the hope we have in Christ that he somehow, some way, works all things for the good.

    John:               So life is not summed up in a Brady Bunch episodes.

    Matthew:       It is not, and I’ll tell you what, I’m 25,000 stories and counting.  I’m reading, and I’m realizing that, man, people walk in the doors of the church, and everybody’s trying real hard to act like they’ve got it all together.  These stories I've read, I didn’t advertise that I was collecting stories in People magazine.  There were no posters in bars downtown.  These were people who walk into family Christian stores.  These are people who listen to Christian radio stations or go to church on Sunday, and yet they’re carrying some pretty heavy weight.  They’re carrying some difficult parts of their story, and many of them are struggling to figure out how to move on and how to find healing for those broken places in their story.

    In many ways, I feel like these songs that are coming out of the experience have become sort of a soundtrack for broken people and kind of realizing that, man, there’s community here, and it’s not the fake “everybody’s got it all together” community.  What if it was, “hey, we don’t have it all together, but we all have a story to tell, and we realize that God loves us, and he's not finished with our story yet.”  That’s what fires me up to make music this way.

    John:               You’re a dad … are you a dad?

    Matthew:       I am a dad, yeah, two kids.

    John:               You’re married.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               You’re …

    Matthew:       You’ve got … like how many kids do you have?  Like 12?

    John:              You’re a successful singer/songwriter.  You’re nationally known.  Your face is on a can of Pepsi (so is Franny's, Matt Maher's, and TobyMac's - but still!).

    Matthew:       (laughs) Yes, it is.  I’m infamous, as the Three Amigos once said.

    John:               Infamous.  When … talk to the average Joe who’s just … you know, he's living life, and maybe he’s married, maybe he’s not.  Maybe he’s a single dad, single mom, whatever, and college student, just trying to get through life, and looks at you and says, “Oh yeah, Matthew West, man, he's got it all together.  If only I could be like that guy.”  I mean, how do you live your life on a day-to-day basis, because we know that, you know, being up on stage is not necessarily … that's not life.  I mean, it is who you are, but yet at the same time, how does someone like in your shoes pursue Jesus.

    Matthew:       To start off answering that question honestly, I would say that I've lived much of my life trying to present an image to people of not imperfection but that I've got it all together.  So here's my story.  I grew up as a preacher’s kid and felt an intense pressure as early as I can remember from the people in the church who were looking at me and maybe holding me up to a higher level of expectation, a higher standard, and I constantly just felt like I was living in a glass bubble, and everybody was watching me.

    No lie.  I got to this point where like I felt like I could manipulate and act a certain way.  I knew how to look and talk and act and say all the right things.  I knew that if I … I wrote about this in my book recently that I knew if I raised my hand to worship during the slow song in church that because I was in the front row that the ladies … yeah, everybody behind me would go, “Oh, okay, he’s okay.”

    I saw that as a way of, like, one, that’s a dangerous path to be on, because the authenticity continues to get edged out of your life, and the presentation becomes much more important, much more significant, and then that’s just an open door for sin to creep into your life and for you to realize that you can cover and that you don’t have to be the real deal as long as everybody sees you as the real deal.

    Honestly, reading the stories that I've read, they’ve actually challenged me.  Instead of me getting up on stage and wanting to present myself to somebody who’s got it all together, because guess what?  That preacher’s kid grew up to become a professional singer.  And what do we do?  We’re on stage all the time.  And what do we do when we’re on stage?  Air our dirty laundry?  No, we want to sing well, and we want to look good, and we want to perform.  We want people to applaud us.  These stories have begun to challenge me to realize that’s not what it’s about.  It’s about being authentic, it’s about being real, and it’s about telling your story.

    One of the things that I share from the stage is one of the things that God’s begun to teach me in my life over and over again is that a long time in my life I've spent holding up parts of my story to God, and saying, “God, here, you can use this part of me,” and so I would pick what I think are the best parts of me, and I would put only that under his care.  What these peoples’ stories have taught me and how good things have come out of broken beginnings is that all the while God’s looking at me and everybody else who tries to make everybody think they’re perfect and saying, “I know about your good stuff.  I’m the one who gave it to you.  Give me all the rest.  Give me the worst mistake you’ve ever made.  Give me the junk in your story and watch me work something amazing out of it.”

    I guess one of the songs I’ll be singing on stage tonight is called we are the broken.  That’s kind of like my anthem of going, “I don’t want the audience to look at me and see someone who’s got his act together.  I want them to see somebody who’s realized that we’re all the same, we’re all broken, and yet God somehow isn’t done with us, and when we show the world that we’re broken, the worlds not going to look at us and applaud us anymore.  They’re going to look at God and say, “Wow, God changed his life?  Maybe he can do the same with mine.”

    John:               Why do you think people are so apt to putting on a mask?  Why do you think followers of Jesus … we can understand that maybe somebody who does not know Christ, why they would put on a mask, but I mean, the Gospel calls us to be secure in Christ, but yet at the same time, we are scared to death to expose ourselves to our brothers and sisters in the church?  Why is that?

    Matthew:       For one, I think that’s one of the reasons why somebody who doesn’t have a personal relationship with God would be turned off by the church, and I've heard a lot of people say that.  It’s like, “Man, Christians are two-faced,” or “They’re not authentic,” and I think we could all agree that there’s times where I see more what looks like authenticity in the world.

    John:               Right.

    Matthew:       People that aren’t going to church because they’re not claiming to be anything, do you know what I mean?  I think one of the things that my dad always shared with me that has stuck with me my whole childhood and now where I’m at today because I grew up in church, and at times, I would be hurt or offended or turned off when I saw somebody who out of their mouth was claiming to be a Christian but by their lifestyle and the way they acted and the way maybe they treated my dad or my parents, they didn’t back it up.  It felt like it was two-faced or a double standard.  My dad always said to me, “People inside the church, they’re just as flawed.  The church is filled with broken people who don’t have it all together, and so you can’t let your relationship with God be defined by other Christians.  It has to be between you and God, because people will always let you down.”

    Yet, I think one of the things that I notice, and I travel around churches all the time is I see that sign on the door that says “Come as you are,” and yet when you walk inside, it oftentimes doesn’t feel like the people really believe that.  I think that’s one of the missions that I’m on in having people tell their story is that one of the enemies greatest tricks in our lives and tools is isolation.  If he can get us to feel like, one, you’re messed up, and two, you’re the only one.  If you get that in your head, you start to go back into the shadows, and you start to retreat, and what you do is you retreat in the shadows, but you still have to function in every day life.

    You come to church, but your heart, your soul’s still in the shadows, and you clean yourself off so that nobody will know that you’re in the shadows, and there that isolation goes, and I know that all too well, and that's why I feel like I’m encouraging people to tell their story because I feel like when one person steps up and says, “All right, here's my story, no more mask,” it draws other people out into that light just like that person saying, “I want to find the freedom that that person has.”  How else do you explain 10,000 stories becoming 25,000 stories, becoming what I believe is going to be a million stories?

    It’s not just about a million stories.  It’s about the fact that we’re going from a story-haver to a story teller.  We’re going from being a Christian to being a disciple, you know, to being somebody who believes in you’re head that you’ve been set free to somebody who’s willing to really step into the light and say, “I’m so set free and I've found such freedom in my life because of God that I’m willing to let him even use the not-so-good parts of my life.”

    When that starts happening, a powerful thing takes place in our world, I believe.

    Here is one last story to illustrate that, and it’s a story of a woman named Jenny, and she wrote to me, and she said, “I've never told this to anybody before, but I heard you in a conference talking about telling your story and finding freedom.”  And she said, “Thirty-five years ago, I was a scared teenager, and I got pregnant, and my boyfriend at the time didn’t want anything to do with me or the baby, and I was too scared to tell anybody because I was afraid I'd be judged.”

    So she terminated the pregnancy and never told anybody.  For 35 years, never told anybody, but that isolation made her feel separated from God because she just felt so much shame in her life, and she somehow just felt like, “I need to set this free,” and maybe she felt like sending her story to a complete stranger would be a safe thing.  In fact, I called her and I said, “Why did you send it to me?” and she said, “I never thought you’d actually read it.”  But I did, and I wrote a song about it called “The Healing Has Begun.”

    That woman in the progression in her life to me is a beautiful example of what can happen to all of when we stop wearing the mask and when we step out of isolation and begin to seek out community and mostly communion with God, is now, she just finished her training, and she’s a counselor at the crisis pregnancy center in the town where she lives in.  You see how God is uniquely redeeming her story.  That’s a full circle.  No more mask.  No more isolation.  After 35 years of feeling weighed down, she’s found freedom and joy, and now she’s seeing a purpose even for that most difficult part of her story.

    That’s an example of what I’m hoping to encourage people, and not just other people but myself to walk in that and to realize that, man, God’s going to change your story.  He's going to heal your most broken parts, and he's going to use it in powerful way if you'll let him.

    John:               Awesome.

    For more from Matthew West, click here.

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Matthew West, Francesca Battistelli, Matt Maher

  • Jeremy Camp - Continuing to Live Recklessly

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Last year I had the privilege of sitting down with Jeremy Camp to talk about, then, his new album, Reckless (find the interview here). It was an honest conversation with a man who continues to struggle with what it's like to pursue Christ with his whole life. His whole being.

    I say down with Jeremy again because I wanted to "check in" and see what God has been teaching him through this journey. What follows is certainly a continuation of where we left off.

    John:               Jeremy, the thought behind the record is obviously living out this really reckless life with complete abandon to the call of what Christ has for you. What has that looked like in last few months for you?

    Jeremy:           Yea... We've been talking to some missionary friends in the Ukraine and Kurdistan. I didn't know much about Kurdistan at first and we were going, "Hey, let's do these outreaches. This has been in our heart to go to these places. Wherever God leads." Ukraine was coming at it pretty easy. We're like, "This is awesome." Everything was coming together. Churches were coming together. It was one of those, "Yeah, this is definitely the Lord's doing." Then, Kurdistan seemed like it was red flag after red flag. I'm getting all these papers and trying to get my government friends to get papers to say that the government of Kurdistan, "He's a legit person. It's okay." The KGB's looking at me and literally ...

    John:               This is serious stuff.

    Jeremy:           This is all serious. They were looking at YouTube videos and listening to my music and they were concerned. "Why does a Christian artist want to come over here?" I didn't really realize to the full extent that it was a Muslin country so I'm going, "Walking into this proclaiming Christ is not going to be well accepted." When we said we wanted to come over, there was a lot of question, "Why are you coming over?" What happened was it wasn't happening so I started feeling like there was some red flags, maybe we shouldn't go. That wasn't because I was afraid, but it was more like, "Wow. It didn't seem like it was coming together." My missionary friend who had been there for seven years, he emails me back and says ... I've been talking about going, "God, whatever you want, wherever you want me to go I will go." And I meant it from the bottom of my heart. He emails back and says, "Hey. If you don't feel like God wants you to come, that's fine, but just so you know, there's never been an outreach ever in Kurdistan. This is probably the last year that it'll happen because doors are closing very quickly." He said, "We need this. Churches are underground here. People are fearful in their faith."

    Here we are going, "Maybe we didn't really pray about this because my minister director's going, "If we started a non-profit called Speaking Louder Ministries to do these outreaches …" And he's going, "Should we do this? Because it seems dangerous." I go, "Listen, are you willing? Are you willing no matter what God has? We need to pray about this." So we prayed and God gave us, all of us, scriptures, instances where we go, "Yeah. This is definitely what we're supposed to do." We said, "We're going to go." I told my guys, I said, "Guys, here's the dangers: it's underground churches, persecutions, there's stuff going on. Are you willing? Because I don't know what's necessarily going to happen. This is trust in the Lord." I say all this and I'm going to share it tonight the more I think about it because I try to make sure that I'm not exploiting what I went through, "Look what I just did." Because that's not the point, but you're asking ... "Since you've been talking about being reckless. What's going on?" God said, "You want to do this?  You want to be completely surrendered and trust me in the mist of the hardest circumstances? Here you go." Not, "I'm going to teach you how to swim during this ... starting this new ministry that going to do that." I want to throw you in the water and say, 'All right. You're going to trust me.'" That's what it was. I was thrown in the water and said, "Okay God. I've got to look to you completely because I don't know what I'm doing."

    We get over there. Ukraine was amazing. We had 150 people plus come forward at the show and accept Christ in of Ukraine. It was amazing.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           We get to Kurdistan and I'm not going to get fully into it, but we had ...it wasn't well received. We had a cable news program; basically, spreading lies about us saying, "Don't come to the event." The main cable news program in Kurdistan saying, "Don't come." We were warned not to speak. I couldn't speak at the concert they said. They were like, "Jeremy can't speak." This is all the truth. It sounds like, "This really happened?" Even when I looked back, I was going, "This really happened?" I was there and I was in it. I was just in the warfare of it having to get on my knees, basically, and cry out to God. They said if we do something wrong, they were going to imprison one of the locals there for a year. Here we are, faced with reality, faced with like, "Okay God, we’re actually doing what you've laid on our hearts for a long time." I had to get to a point where I said, "Alrigh, God. My life's not my own. Called my wife weeping saying, "Okay. Here we are. What do we do?" It's so hard sharing this because I don't want it to be ... It's not ... I'm still processing it. I just got back a month and a half ago.

    John:               It's real. It's real life.

    Jeremy:           It's real what's happening and people being persecuted, people being afraid of sharing their faith. Their fear is gripping them, all that. I'm fine with the point where I'm weeping saying, "God, I can't do this." And he says, "Perfect, because you can't do it." We get there and hundreds of people left. Eight thousand people showed up, hundreds of people left when we said, "In the name of Jesus," because it was offensive. [inaudible 00:06:01] who were stumbling, in the name of Jesus is. To us, it's life. We saw that. Lyrics meant so much more to me than I can even ... I'm talking about not being ashamed of the Gospel. I'm going, "Oh, wow. We have lyrics on the screens huge in the stadium in their language so they can see what we're saying." It's not just hearing music. They know what we're saying. At the end, people came down to hear more about Jesus. The sad thing is, we got to leave and the missionary friends over there have a warning. If they speak at church anymore, then they'll be deported and they'll close the church down. That's what's happened from this. You know what they told me? The locals have all stepped up and they're on fire because people are wanting to do an event in the stadium, a worship event with the local people. Not an artist coming, but the local people saying, "Let's get together. Let's do this if we're going to really ... "

    I saw the affect of that and it was nothing I did. I was like, "I don't want to go." God goes, "You will go and be obedient." I was like, "Okay." Then, he just showed up and we said, "All right. This is not us, at all." We knew that. It wasn't anything we did. It was God leading and directing. That's what's happening. Speaking louder ministries is the next season of my life where we're ready to go and preach the Gospel. We're going to Japan next year. Going to the Philippines, going to Guatemala.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           That's what I feel like is the next step for us. Whatever it is, wherever he leads, I truly will go and lyrics mean a lot more than they used to because I realized I'd actually lived them out more than I ever have before.

    John:               How can we be praying for you and Addie and the kids? Especially in this next ... whatever this next season, year, whatever this is.

    Jeremy:           We need wisdom. We need wisdom because there's a lot of things we could be doing. Going, "Yeah. That sounds great. We're in a new season." We just need a lot of wisdom because we want to be ... I know it's the basic thing of Christians, "Always want to be in God's will." Honestly, stepping out into something like that, we don't want to be ahead of God's will. You know what I'm saying? It's a serious thing. When I realized the very words that I could have said could have affected the missionaries and the local people there in a heavy way, I realized that my very words and the very actions that I take, if I'm not led by the Lord, could be devastating. I want wisdom to be led by him in everything I do. That's where we're at and I don't really know what this next season looks like. I know what we're going towards, but we don't want to be on the side building our little kingdoms, I know that. That's very easy, especially in this industry. You know?

    John:               Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

    Jeremy:           Everyone had built their little kingdoms and where's the balance? I don't know. That's where we're going. Give us wisdom. I don't want to build my kingdom because that's going to crash and burn. We're here to build the kingdom of God and that's it. That's where we're at.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, Missions, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Missions, Jeremy Camp

  • Shane Harper on Living Out the Gospel

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by John van der Veen



    Shane Harper established himself as an artist with a quadruple threat—singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter. He began working as a professional dancer in the entertainment industry when he was just 13, appearing as a principal dancer in High School Musical 2, and in Nickelodeon's show, "Dance on Sunset".

    Shane transitioned easily into acting, and is recurring on the hit Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie", for all 4 seasons. He guest starred on "Wizards of Waverly Place", and "So Random". He also guest starred in a 4 episode arc for the scripted MTV series, "Awkward."

    As an actor in film, Shane worked with Rob Reiner, in a supporting role for the movie, FLIPPED. He also had a small featured role in the Bollywood film, MY NAME IS KHAN.

    Shane has a principal role in the feature film, GOD'S NOT DEAD and recently, I sat down with him to talk about faith, Hollywood, books music and coffee.

    John:               Thank you, Shane, for chatting with me today. I do appreciate it.

    Shane:            Thank you. Yeah.

    John:               I've got a few questions that I want to ask you and the first one, Shane, is extremely important, and I know a lot of people are actually very anxious trying to figure out exactly what you do because that may influence them. The question is, are you a coffee drinker or are you a Red Bull drinker?

    Shane:            Oh man, coffee, ten times out of ten. Always.

    John:               Is it like frou-frou coffee for you?

    Shane:            No. I love coffee. I love the art of making coffee. I am a coffee nut. Everything from pour over coffee to French press coffee to the whole thing. I just love it. I love buying coffee beans from different places and trying them out. It's kind of a process as well. It's a little bit therapeutic in a way, and I also am officially addicted as well. I can have 3, 4 cups of coffee in a day, and I don't really feel it which makes me kind of nervous and kid of excited and proud at the same time. I have reached ... there's that level of coffee love.

    John:               Yeah. You have become your own barista is what I hear you saying.

    Shane:            Exactly. Yes. I'm usually a latte guy unless I'm feeling in a real cappuccino mood. Generally, a good latte will really just make me smile. Generally.

    John:               Yeah. Very good. Because you answered that way I feel like I'm more of a friend to you now. I love coffee as well.

    Shane:            Yeah. It's great.

    John:               Shane I'm wondering maybe if we can transition into something that is a little bit more serious. I'm wondering would you share a little bit about how you came to the realization that Jesus is real and how you started to follow him?

    Shane:            Yeah. Absolutely. I grew up in church my entire life. Not just grew up, really was heavily involved in my youth group. I wasn't just a Sunday church guy. We were the mid-week church family, too.

    John:               You were all in.

    Shane:            We were all in. Yeah. I think there was always a genuine love for Jesus there. I really felt like I knew God from a young age. I don't think much it is was really phony or fake or like I was pretending, but I didn't realize the weight of what Jesus did for me or what the implications of Gospel centered Christianity meant until I was in my early teens.

    When you get a certain age you start asking questions, and you start saying, "Well, why do we do this and what's the purpose of that, and where did we get the Bible." Just one day I came, "Where did the Bible come from?" We're reading this as an authoritative book. We're living our lives for this book. Where did we get it?

    You grow up in the church community, and you almost kind of just take it as it comes because you're like, "Well, of course this is how it is, and this is how we do things, because we're Christians, and we go to this church."

    I think that honestly through a lot of different circumstances and also the beginning of my involvement in the entertainment industry, I started asking different questions. It was the beginning of, "Okay, well, what does my faith look like, and how do I talk to people about it, and what does it mean for me?"

    It just became a lot deeper and more settled in my soul. I was restless but kind of settled at the same time. I don't know how to describe it. Through a lot of really great Bible teaching by guys like Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll that the Gospel began to sink in more deeply. I remember sitting in my parents' room, and we were listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll. He started to expand on Martin Luther’s “The Great Exchange.” Where Jesus gives free grace to you, and it's yours.

    You didn't do anything to earn it, and I remember at that moment thinking to myself this is so much more real and life changing than I could have ever even realized. Obviously it's along process of going through these walks and these seasons, but I do remember that well and just being like, "Wow. I haven't heard it like that," or I hadn't felt Jesus pressing on my heart like that saying, "Do you realize the weight of this, not only for your life, but in the life of your community, because you live in light of that."

    Tim Keller always talks about these floors in your soul. Where truth embraced or realized sinks lower. There's always another floor, and this elevator just drops lower and lower and it happens throughout your whole like and for me, it just started to plummet. It just dropped. I was like, "Wow." It’s really a wonderful thing to talk about because it brings a lot of joy to me to talk about.

    John:               I think, Shane, you bring up an incredible point here, and I want to expand on it. When you and your family were listening to a Driscoll sermon about Martin Luther talking about the Great Exchange. The truth is Christ on the Cross literally taking away the sins of the world, our sins, and putting them upon himself, and then taking his own righteousness and literally, like a robe going around us, giving us his righteousness, and so we have that Great Exchange between the two. That's so amazing to wrap your mind around and yet that's where we're supposed to be living every day.

    Shane:            Exactly.

    John:               My next question just kind of goes right along with that. Now your job is very different than a lot of other people's. You work within an industry that a lot of time goes is very contrary to that type of thought or ideal. What is it like being a Christian within Hollywood, and how do you live out your faith in that context?

    Shane:            It's a really good question. I immediately think of when I hear the question, "What's it like being a Christian in Hollywood?" I immediately think, "Well, being a Christian anywhere in the world more or less means the same thing from a heart perspective of how you're supposed to serve and love your community." Right? The culture that God puts you in, and we know to love Jesus first, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to live in a posture of service to those around us.

    That's what it means literally to be a Christian in any culture and any community it just literally means to share the heart of Jesus with people and have that posture that Jesus had. He's washing his disciples feet. The King is washing the feet. That kind of picture he paints for us in terms of how to live lives that are really emulating the heart of Jesus is so powerful. I think in terms of ... honestly the human heart has inclinations that are honestly kind of universal. C. S. Lewis would attest to that.

    There's kind of this universal thing that everyone's trying to get at, and a lot of times we try to find it within ourselves, some kind of thing we can do ... Or we try to find it outside, something that we can serve, something we can dedicate our lives to. Sometimes when you're working on a set or something, it's like, "Can you grab me a _____? Can you do this for me? Can you do that for me? Well, I need this, and I need that."

    Sometimes people naturally go into service mode. You're an actor on this set. How can we service you? It’s not right. That's so contrary to how you're supposed to live with someone saying, "Well, what can I do for you? How can I make your day easier?" That's awesome that there's people that want to do that. It's not like being on Hollywood set's this fanciful thing where people bring you lattes and doing your pampering you because that's honestly a lot of times it's not like that.

    John:               Really? (Asks with a smile).

    Shane:            It depends. God has called them to do their work well, and to serve well within that job, and within that community and culture, but for me, when I show up to a set to work, what my relationship with Jesus does for me, it tells me this is not just a job. This is not just a moment to be the most paid attention to person in the room or on the set.

    It's not an opportunity to indulge in that kind of natural narcissism that my heart wants to grab onto. I need to be saying “what can I do for those people on that set?” Those are people that you're there to serve. That's the idea. You're on a set, and your coworkers and the writers and lighting and props and the directors, the producers, the DPs, everyone involved is ... That's the community that you're called to serve on that day. Honestly it's funny because talking about it, it makes it sounds like I show up to these sets in all of my serving glory, and I just have this great mindset like, "Oh, I totally got it down in life. This is what I'm doing for the people that I work with."

    Honestly just being completely upfront, I forget about it constantly. Weeks will go by. Months can go by, and I'm like, "What am I doing? What does my job mean? What does my job mean today?" God's called me to do this, and to do my job really well, but how has he called me to treat the people around me. I think the Gospel always challenges your values and challenges what you believe to be the most important thing. That's what I mean by like ... People are always like, "Well, Hollywood. It must be so hard."

    It's like, it's hard everywhere. To live in a way ... I can't displace myself. Everyone in the world living in their communities and their cultures has a call to live a life of service. It's the same everywhere. To have a heart of Christ is the same everywhere. People are honestly the same everywhere. There's this innate human desire everywhere to find meaning and value in things, and as Christians our meaning and value is rooted and grounded in Jesus and what he's done for us.

    I think the call to live a Gospel centered life as Christians is really honestly the same everywhere. Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles area, because I live in Los Angeles, and Hollywood is just a small part of it. This is my community and culture. I'm a part of this. These are my people. These are the people that I love. I go to a local church that longs to serve the community and be ... the church. I feel blessed to be a part of this.

    I think generally when people are ... Wherever people are living and doing their work, wherever God's called them, I think that's kind of a sense that we need to have in terms of where you've been placed. I don't know. I know that I'm really grateful to be here, and I never really thought I'd be living in LA, and being a part of this community. The diversity of culture in Los Angeles is really amazing. Honestly there's like a million different pockets of communities and cultures, and it's such a wonderful opportunity, I think and such an amazing place to grow.

    From the set of Disney's 'Good Luck Charlie'

    John:               In fact, as you were talking about the various pockets in LA, I do remember I went out there one time with some friends of mine that are in a Christian Reggae band, and they took me to Little Ethiopia. I don't even know if that's a real place or not, but we went to this Ethiopian restaurant. It was absolutely amazing. It was another community within this much larger community of what's going on there.

    I totally get it. I resonate with it. I think your answer is very true as far as what does it mean to be a Christian in Hollywood. It's loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

    Shane:            Yeah. That would have been a simpler. It's just loving God and being infatuated with who He is and what He's done for you and really wanting to serve your community in a really honest way. Not like serve your community where everyone's watching you.

    Serve your community where it really means something to you to emulate the heart of Jesus which is ... I think that's life changing. I think it can be.

    John:               Real quick question. Yes or no answer. Are you sad that Good Luck Charlie is going off the air? I want a yes or no.

    Shane:            Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. We did 4 years, 4 seasons of work, a hundred episodes, and it didn't feel like it was supposed to be over when we finished up. I think it's almost like it wasn't supposed to end, but everyone's still kind of really, obviously proud of the work and really happy to have been a part of it. Honestly, I think the environment was so uplifting and wonderful to be a part of. I think that hopefully people will continue to enjoy it for a long time.

    Hopefully they can rerun it for a long time. It's not the last time it will ever air on TV, but having the last episode air, and having no new episodes come out feels strange. It does. It feels weird. Yeah. I'm sad it's over. It was really fun.

    John:               All right. You are stepping into a new category of work. You are participating in a motion picture film called God's Not Dead. It is, I guess, a fair statement would say this is a pro-Christian film, and you play a believer in the film as well. What is it like playing something that there's certainly a heart resonating there between whom Shane Harper is and who the character is in God's Not Dead. Has this been a good transition for you?

    Shane:            Yeah. It was really enjoyable. It was fun. It was challenging. I think with characters, as an actor, you step into this character, and you kind of zip it up, and put it on. When you're on set, you're that person certainly in the scene. It's cool because when you ... As an actor when I'm playing a character, there's always what will interest me in a project will be either me resonating with the story line, or me resonating with the character specifically. Sometimes it's a little bit of both.

    In this case, there is this thing involved in it and it happens to be something really kind of personal because it's faith. It's a faith-based movie. I've had a ton of them come down the pike and when I got the breakdown, I thought, "Well, this seems interesting. I'll check it out." It was exciting to me to see the orientation of the film being kind of driven by this character Josh Wheaton being challenged by his professor, his bossy professor, and him having to work out his faith and what it means to him and how it operates in his mind.

    He knows how it works in his heart, but the character has to pull out some apologetics and try and work his way through this. I think that seems really interesting to me, and so it's why I honestly went out for it. I didn't just do it because, "Oh, this is a faith based movie, and I just want to ... This will be cool to be in a movie like this because I'm a Christian you know, or whatever." It's specifically the story line, and the kind of character it was kind of drew me to it. I've always been interested in that since I was a young teenager.

    I've always been interested in apologetics. C. S. Lewis has always been a huge influence on me ever since I was young. I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia. The Great Divorce was the first grown-up book I picked up from Lewis when I was 13 or 14. Books like the Great Divorce and The Problem of Pain and The Weight of Glory and these kinds of things really started to shape how I viewed my faith in life and in practice.

    It was something I naturally resonate with. It was fun. It was a lot to do. Have you seen a preview of the movie?

    John:               I have. Yeah.

    Shane:            There's these big scenes that Josh has, the character that I play. He kind of does these presentations for his class, these 3 big ones, and I had to memorize all that material, and it was a couple dozen pages of material that I had to memorize. It was all monologue. That was probably the most challenging part about the whole movie was doing those 3 scenes back to back to back 3 days in a row. The first things we ever shot in the movie. It was really rough. It was fun, but it was hard. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

    John:               That's very cool. Any other ... Did you get it first time, every single time, or were there a couple times where you just messed up?

    Shane:            No, no way. I needed that first huge mess up to make me relax, to calm the nerves. I somehow thought I was going to fly in there and be like superman or something and just do it perfectly every single shot fir 17 hours a day, 3 days in a row, and it was nice. That second of third run totally screwing up the cut. All right. Let's start over. Let's do pickup. It got the nerves out. It was dense with information. It's a college setting. The scene is that he is trying to give arguments for the validity of the existence of God.

    It was a lot to work through in my brain. I actually even made notes as my character to actually give me a little bit of help giving the presentation because I was like, in real life, if you're giving a college presentation that's 9 pages long, you're going to have notes as the character. I was up there journaling information and notes and stuff. It was fun. I had to kind of get creative with it, but-

    John:               Good for you. All right. We're going to change gears. What about music? You are a multi-talented individual. On the soundtrack to God's Not Dead, you do have a song. Do you see yourself coming out with a full length album sometime?

    Shane:            Yeah. Absolutely. One of my huge passions is music. I grew up playing music. I'm currently working on a record on a full-length record. That's kind of obviously a huge goal of mine to get it out and release as soon as I can. Getting to do a song for the movie, for the film, God's Not Dead was really cool. I'd love to continue doing that. It's fun being a part of the film, and then them coming to you after, in post production saying, "Hey, can you do a song for the movie? Because we know you write music."

    It's kind of a cool thing to be able to do. It's an interesting story behind the song because I actually written the chorus of Holds You Up probably 2 months before I ever auditioned for God's Not Dead. Then when they came to me to write a song for it, they said, "Hey, do you have a song that kind of goes with the flow and the vibe of this storyline, the narrative?" I said, "I don't." "Can you write one?" I was like, "Yeah. I guess I can write one."

    Then a couple days later I remember, "Oh my gosh. Half of it's already written. I wrote this song that's perfect. I just need to go finish it." We finished it, and it ended up working great for the movie. It's kind of a cool story of it working out.

    John:               That's awesome. Shane. Man, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate it.

    Shane:            Thank you so much. It's been really fun. I enjoyed it. We should do this more often.

    John:               We should.

    Check out the "behind the scenes" videos with Shane on the set of God's Not Dead


    This post was posted in Music, Movies, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Mark Driscoll, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, God's Not Dead, Shane Harper

  • Top Albums of 2013

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Ok. You are right. I am a little late in getting our "Top Albums of 2013" out for you all. Believe me, I know. I mean, being so far into the month of February already, it seems that 2013 is so far ago. I hope that my lapse in time doesn't allow you to miss the value of each one of these albums.

    So here they are. The top albums of 2013. Chosen from you, our followers.

    How Great is Our God: The Essential Collection

    As one of the most-sung artists in the church, Chris Tomlin writes music that connects people to the heart of Jesus and leads them to a greater worship of him. After six studio albums and numerous appearances on Passion live worship albums, Chris released his first-ever greatest hits collection, How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection, featuring three all-new recordings of classic Tomlin worship songs. Included is a new recording of "How Great Is Our God," which features guest appearances from renowned international worship leaders, singing parts of the song in their native language.

    Top 25 Praise Songs: 2014 Edition

    Renew your spirit with this collection of the Top 25 Praise Songs: 2014 Edition! Featuring twenty-five of the most refreshing worship songs made popular by today's best selling artists, this 2-CD compilation is a must-have for fans of praise and worship music.

    A sampling of the songs include: 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord),  Our God, Forever Reign, - Glory To God Forever, Your Love Never Fails, Jesus Messiah, How He Loves, Hosanna and Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).

    Come To The Well

    Come To The Well is an appeal to Christians to let the "living water" of Christ well up in them, overflowing into the relationships we have around us, both inside the church and beyond.

    Inspired by the story of Jesus talking to the woman at the well, the title track, "The Well," illuminates that main theme. With no-fluff lyrics and a genuine heart of worship, Casting Crowns sings truth about the Christian life journey, rewarding their listeners with a musically progressive sound that has widespread appeal.

    WOW Hits 2014

    Only one record a year brings you the biggest Christian artists and songs! Featuring your favorite artists and their best songs of the year, WOW Hits 2014 captures the songs that are impacting our world. With songs about finding strength, placing your hope in Jesus and the promise of everlasting life, WOW Hits 2014 is filled with 30 uplifting songs from top artists, as well as three bonus tracks from up-and-coming artists.

    Also available is the deluxe version that contains features six additional songs.

    Burning Lights

    Is it fair that Chris Tomlin have two albums listed on our Top Albums of 2013? Only if they are good enough. And yes, Burning Lights is just that.

    One of the most storied worship leaders of our time, Chris Tomlin returns with his latest album, Burning Lights. As the songwriter behind the worship favorites "How Great Is Our God," "Jesus Messiah," "Holy is the Lord" and "Forever," Chris continues to write songs that connect people to the heart of Jesus and lead them to a greater worship of Him.

    Burning Lights features the single "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)" and an all-new recording of the radio hit "White Flag."

    Miracle

    Third Day spent a generous part of 2012 immersed in the recording of its studio album, Miracle. The album, Third Day's 17th career offering, was recorded within the walls of the band's own state-of-the art studio, The Quarry, in Atlanta, GA, with the help of veteran rock producer Brendan O'Brien.

    From the opening track, "Hit Me Like A Bomb," it is clear that Third Day means business when they say they want to bring something new to the table. Musically, there are sounds that have never been on a Third Day album, including layered guitars, layered harmonies and sing-a-long gang vocals. Music styles range from pulsating rock to acoustic pop-rock, yet the classic Third Day sound everyone loves is still there - but refreshed and rejuvenated.

    The Hurt & The Healer

    The Texas-based band does so yet again on their seventh studio album, The Hurt & the Healer, a compelling collection of songs that rock with the authority of a seasoned band, yet also insinuate themselves into the souls of listeners through insightful, heartfelt lyrics. “We’ve been doing this for 17 years,” Bart Millard says of the group. “You still need a fresh perspective. You still need to have these moments where you are like, ‘Oh I totally get it. I see something new.’ That is what this album has been for us.”

    The Hurt & The Healer is a celebration of the moment when these two worlds collide - the deep need for healing and the God Who provides it. Produced by Brown Bannister and Dan Muckula, The Hurt & The Healer features signature MercyMe anthems, engaging pop songs and worshipful and intimate moments.

    10,000 Reasons

    As the writer of many popular worship songs including "Blessed Be Your Name," "The Heart of Worship," "You Never Let Go" and "Better is One Day," Matt Redman’s songs are sung by millions of people every Sunday. He has a unique ability to craft songs that teach deeply spiritual truths and remind us of God’s steadfastness, which he displays again on 10,000 Reasons. The album features 11 all-new songs and was recorded live.

    The first single, "Never Once" speaks of God’s faithfulness in our lives as he is always with us, and never abandons us. Inspiring and hopeful, this album will resonate with fans of worship music everywhere.

    The Struggle

    After two highly acclaimed albums, Tenth Avenue North takes a bold creative leap forward on its new album, The Struggle. Inviting fans all over the country to lend their voices to the process as they recorded this album in cities along its tour route, the songs explore themes of forgiveness, redemption and grace.

    "We really fostered the dance of both the music and they lyric while thematically unpacking the idea of what it means to struggle," says lead vocalist Mike Donehey. "We are free to struggle, but don't need to struggle to be free. It's about the permission to struggle but also a challenge not to stay there." With The Struggle the band offers up lyrically substantive songs people have come to expect from Tenth Avenue North.

    Overcomer

    Coming up her most successful album ever, American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee Mandisa returns with Overcomer. Produced by Christopher Stevens and David Garcia, Overcomer showcases her powerful vocals and pop-leaning hooks that blend effortlessly through all 11 tracks.

    With caution-to-the-wind melodies weaved throughout the record, anchored by emotional songs like her open letter to her brother in "Dear John," Overcomer may be Mandisa’s most impactful release to date.

    So there you have it. The 2013 Top Albums. What do you think? Do agree with the list? Would you add any titles to it? What is your top albums of this past year?


    This post was posted in Music, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Tenth Ave. North, Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Third Day, Matt Redman, Casting Crowns, Mandisa

  • Today's New Releases (2/11/14)

    Posted on February 11, 2014 by John van der Veen



    The middle of February brings out some great new releases. New books, new music and new DVDs. There is enough here for your whole family to enjoy, for personal growth or to give as a gift of encouragement.

    WOW Gospel 2014

    Filled with songs that lived at the top of the gospel radio charts in 2013, this double CD set is chock full of hits, including songs from Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Tasha Cobbs, Deitrick Haddon, Lecrae and more. WOW Gospel 2014 is a must-have for fans of modern worship music, and it's perfect for singing along to all year!

    Don't forget the companion DVD as well.

    Grace Unplugged

    In Grace Unplugged, Grace Trey aspires to more than just singing at her church, where the worship leader is her former pop-star father. With the help of Mossy, her dad's former manager, Grace records a cover version of her dad's old Top-10 hit, runs off to Los Angeles and begins to experience the kind of fame she's always dreamed about.

    Stardom offers Grace a hit song - but will the fame be too much for Grace to handle and blind her faith? Or will she rediscover it? Starring actress and musician A. J. Michalka, Grace Unplugged is an inspiring story about chasing your dreams.

    Soundtrack for the movie can be found here.

    The Storm Inside

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith.

    In The Storm Inside, you will find strength in the most profound truths - that you are always a child of God no matter how you feel. This simple teaching will be the difference between a life of joy and one of despair. Sheila powerfully reminds us that God offers no guarantee of a life without storms, but He does provide the strength and grace to make it through them.

    Glory

    When a band’s first priority is to declare God’s glory through song, it doesn’t worry too much about fitting into one particular genre of music. Perhaps that’s why some fans have alternating definitions of Kutless, the best-selling rock . . . , no, worship . . . no, rock/worship hit makers from Portland, OR. On the inspiring new studio album Glory, its eighth with BEC Recordings, a perfect balance is struck as lead singer Jon Micah Sumrall, guitarists James Mead and Nick de Partee, and drummer Kyle Peek celebrate with electrifying abandon not their collective identity but the mighty name of Jesus.

    “Our goal with Glory was simply to worship louder and clearer than ever before,” de Partee says of the amped up and sometimes stripped down set. “We felt led to create original songs that could be sung on an acoustic guitar in a Bible study or in an arena with the masses shouting God’s praises.”

    Kutless kicks off 2014 with Glory, featuring the single "You Alone." Continuing their transformation from "new band" to established act that began with 2012's Believer, the album showcases the band's massive range, featuring a more mature tone and stunning performances.

    Crash the Chatterbox

    Inside your head and heart is a chatterbox. Its lies are keeping you from realizing your God-given potential. What can you do about it? In Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God's Voice Above All Others, Pastor Steven Furtick focuses on four key areas in which negative thoughts are most debilitating: insecurity, fear, condemnation and discouragement. He asks, "What great deeds are in danger of remaining undone in your life because of lies that were planted in your past or fears that are looming in your future?"

    With personal stories, inspiring examples, and practical strategies, Pastor Furtick shows you how to silence the lies and embrace the freeing affirmation of God. You'll learn how to crash the chatterbox - and hear God’s voice above all others.

    City Harbor

    City Harbor presents their debut, self-titled album, featuring their first radio single, "Come However You Are." The duo of Molly Reed and Robby Earle brings a unique creative, organic pop sound, which skillfully showcases their songwriting, dual lead vocals and playing. The songs on City Harbor come from a desire to know Christ and to make Christ known to the world around.

    Besides the new releases, there are plenty of prebuy opportunities as well. New music from MercyMe and Francesca Battistelli. New DVD from VeggieTales and a new movie from Kirk Cameron. Click here to see them all.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Movies and was tagged with Featured, MercyMe, VeggieTales, Kutless, Francesca Battistelli, WOW, Grace Unplugged, Sheila Walsh, Steven Furtick, City Harbor, Kirk Cameron

  • A Small Church Known as Hillsong

    Posted on February 4, 2014 by Family Christian


    In 1978, a small church was planted in Australia by newly married Brian and Bobbie Houston. Their humble beginnings were rooted by a Christ-centered vision- one that focused on stirring up authentic praise and worship. They believed sincere worship was so powerful, it could pull heaven to earth in a powerful display of hope and faith.

    Thirty years later, they became the mega-church plant known as Hillsong.

    Thriving in over ten countries across the globe, Hillsong has made world-changing strides in Christ-culture as well as praise and worship music. The Hillsong Creative team consists of hundreds of singers, musicians, songwriters, and production volunteers whose passion is creating and worshipping. Since 1988, they have recorded 18 live albums and several youth albums that are distributed worldwide.

    Their most recent project, Zion, was created by Hillsong United, a musical branch of the Hillsong Creative Team. This group consists of various collaborating artists whose common goal is to musically express the truth and life found in Jesus. The album, Zion introduces a new reality-- one that invites us to step into the extraordinary life Jesus has prepared for each one of us.

    The most distinct song on the album, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” is a breathtaking, cinematic piece that seamlessly displays the purity and intimacy of our response to God’s love for us. The song ebbs and flows like the ocean itself. Sung with ethereal beauty, the words soar over an electronic symphony of blending melodies.

    Experience the Live Version of “Ocean (Where Feet May Fail)” here:

    In this interview, Hillsong United’s musicians talk about the story behind “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”:


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, Hillsong, Hillsong UNITED

  • The Letter Black - Up From the Ashes

    Posted on February 4, 2014 by John van der Veen

    Have you heard the new album from The Letter Black yet?  Continuing on sonic strength of their previous albums, Breaking the Silence and Hanging By a Thread, their new release Rebuild, proves to be just as strong.

    Rebuild is produced by former RED guitarist Jasen Rauch and mixed by David Bendeth, It is a full of energy-infused, hard-hitting collection of songs.

    Check out their new single, Up from the Ashes, here.

    What do you think?


    This post was posted in Music, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, RED, The Letter Black

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