• Easter Gifts & Decor

Family Christian

  • Hillsong Set to Release New LIVE album Glorious Ruin

    Hillsong LIVE will release their 22nd live-recorded album, Glorious Ruins, on July 2. Recorded for the first time live in two locations - London, England and Sydney, Australia - Glorious Ruins is consistent with Hillsong’s passion to resource the church around the globe. The live album offers the church a new era of worship anthems that will cross multiple denominational and cultural boundaries.

    “Ruins can speak of crushing defeat or perhaps of something abandoned, but the good news today is that the ruins come to life,” explains Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church Brian Houston. “Through Jesus Christ what we look at is ruins that become glorious.”

    Let the ruins come to life, in the beauty of your name, rising up from the ashes, God forever you reign. And my heart will find refuge, in the shadow of your wings, I will love you forever, and forever I'll sing" – lyrics from "Glorious Ruins"

    “This declaration of the saving power of Christ reminds us that we can look to the cross throughout life, in times of success or failure He is there with us,” shares worship leader Reuben Morgan. “We’ve never been diverted from viewing worship as both personal and corporate, intimate and celebratory. We don’t seek to make each project ‘better’ as such, because how can one form of worship be better than another? Instead each project is a continuation of the journey, and we are thankful to God that so many people take the journey with us.”

    Glorious Ruins is an acknowledgment of humanity and a bridge to redemption. It includes 12 fresh new songs (14 songs on the Deluxe Edition) written by Hillsong team members including Joel Houston, Reuben Morgan, Ben Fielding and Matt Crocker. The album features the title track, “Man of Sorrows,” which is already being sung in churches internationally, and “Glorify Your Name,” a collaboration between Reuben Morgan and Chris Tomlin.

    Glorious Ruins follows the highly successful LIVE 2012 release Cornerstone, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Christian and Praise and Worship charts. The single “Cornerstone” recently had the highest debut on the CCLI chart and was sung in over 11,000 churches on Easter Sunday.

    Glorious Ruins Track List: 1. Always Will 2. You Never Fail 3. Christ Is Enough 4. Where The Spirit of the Lord Is 5. Glorious Ruins 6. Closer 7. God Who Saves 8. To Be Like You 9. Man of Sorrows 10. We Glorify Your Name 11. You Crown The Year (Psalm 65:11) 12. Anchor

  • Space to Exhale

    Lysa

    "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord." Isaiah 58:13-14a (NIV)

    Rest.

    That sounds so good, but it's really difficult for a girl like me. Even when my physical body is at rest, my mind rarely is.

    I feel like I'm always juggling balls in my brain. Kids' needs. Home demands. Work projects. The to-do lists never stop.

    Yet the Bible makes it very clear that we are to honor the Sabbath day and pursue rest. Literally we are to hit the pause button on life once a week and guard our need to rest. Guard it fiercely. Guard it intentionally. Guard it even if our schedules beg us to do otherwise.

    But why?

    There are honest, personal reasons we need to observe the Sabbath that will be unique for each person. There are private conversations we need to have with God. We all need to pause, to sit with God, and ask Him to reveal some things to us.

    And when I consider our key verse Isaiah 58:13-14a, something occurs to me—it's not just a day for me to give to God. It's a day God established for me. He wants to give me something if only I'll slow down enough to receive it.

    "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD."

    The Sabbath isn't merely a time to be observed; it's a time to be preserved. It's a time to rediscover our joy in the Lord.

    I need this. I want to be a preserver of this day—one who is determined to protect this day of personal preservation and rediscover the delight of God.

    The observer remembers to rest.

    The preserver rests to remember—to remember that it's all about God.

    The observer remembers to rest and pause on the Sabbath day in order to follow a rule.

    The preserver does more than follow a rule. She follows God's desire and embraces His purpose in the rest. She spends one day a week letting the fresh wind of God's rest blow through her, cleaning out all she's been taking in during the week with a purifying soul exhale.

    It's all about pausing and connecting with God without the distracting chaos of our everyday routines. For one day a week, we step out of the fray and let God direct our day according to His rhythm, not ours.

    God's rhythm preserves a space in us to hear His voice, reveals the places we're off track, and prevents us from being filled with unnecessary clutter. Quiet rest allows us to see the places where we're going our own way, the areas where we're more self-pleasing than God-pleasing, the idle words that need to be reined in. During the down time, we can deal with the mental clutter and focus on the ways of God.

    The Sabbath makes this possible.

    Taking one day for rest gives my soul the freedom it so desperately needs. Freedom to breathe. Space to breathe. Inhaling and exhaling in a gentle rhythm set by God.

    Dear Lord, space to breathe, this is what I need today. Thank You for showing me how important it is to create a place for freedom and rest. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

    Related Resources: For more encouragement and practical advice on creating a place to exhale in the midst of raw emotions check out Lysa TerKeurst's book Unglued.

    The accompanying Unglued Bible study will help you understand what the Bible says about better ways to react. To order your copy, click here.

    Follow us on Facebook.

    Reflect and Respond: Take a moment to think about your own practices for rest and reflection on the Sabbath.

    What can you do to hit "pause" and spend some time with the Lord this week? It could be taking a break from your to-do list, committing to spend some time journaling, etc.

    Power Verses: Hebrews 4:9-10, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his." (NIV)

    Psalm 62:1, "Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Unanswered Prayers

    Boyd

    Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

     

    Sometimes God is silent, even when His children cry out for answers. The unfair becomes a test of faith that grows the prayer life of those who stay persistent with the Lord. No, He is not too busy answering the billion other prayers bombarding heaven, but He does want an unfeigned faith in His followers. God is not a cosmic “google” waiting to give unlimited information to all requests. Too much data can break a spirit, puff up a mind or confuse a heart.

     

    Our Heavenly Father knows what’s best in how we process unanswered prayers. We may not be ready to receive what we want or think we need. We seem stuck in a stage of suffering because we are learning the depths of dependency on God. We feel like we are dog paddling in a phase of waiting because our patience needs to progress to perseverance. Our aloneness can suffocate us, but we breathe better spiritually in a close walk with Christ. Unanswered prayers produce prayer.

     

    Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

    Jesus says that even an unjust judge can be convinced of the right thing to do, but our Heavenly Father does not have to be convinced of good actions. He is all good and He knows what’s best for His children. He wants us to be convinced of the next right thing. So, a prolonged prayer process creates new convictions we cherish and cling to for comfort. For example, in prayer the Spirit may reveal anger in a pocket of our heart that He replaces with forgiveness. Unanswered prayer pushes us to unknown places that need soul care. Humble prayers are always productive.

    Lastly, we remain in prayer to remain in Him. Our perspective grows in Christlike clairvoyance as we focus on our Heavenly Father in His liberal love and holiness. Trust wins, not suspicion, when we grow familiar with the dynamics of faithful living. Prayer becomes like oxygen for our soul, lest we smother ourselves in worry. Like a needy widow we need assurance from our righteous judge, Jesus! Yes, our Lord never sleeps, He listens intently and loves us passionately.

    While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep. Daniel 8:18

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, while I wait on You, I will pray to You and remain in You.

     

    Related Readings: Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:5-8; Romans 1:10; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2

     

    Post/Tweet today: Unanswered prayer pushes us to unknown places that need soul care. Humble prayers are always productive. #prayer

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry

    info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • FOR KING & COUNTRY PERFORM BEFORE A SOLD-OUT CROWD

    Saturday night was a momentous occasion as critically-acclaimed duo for KING & COUNTRY played before a sold-out crowd for KSBJ’s 30th Anniversary Concert. The celebration, which also featured performances by Chris August, Francesca Battistelli, Steven Curtis Chapman, Family Force 5, Amy Grant, MercyMe and Switchfoot, took place at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Spring, TX.

    “for King and Country were C-R-A-Z-Y onstage and set the bar high opening up the show,” said KSBJ’s Assistant Programming Director and “The Morning Show” co-host, Pam Kelly. “They really gave it their all and the crowd loved it.  And such nice guys!  Joel stood out in the plaza for hours, in the Houston heat, to take pictures with everyone who wanted one.  These guys are going to be around for a long time!”

    “Middle of Your Heart” is for KING & COUNTRY’s third single from their debut album, Crave. On January 10, they made their late night debut performing “The Proof of Your Love,” on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” In 2012, for KING & COUNTRY were named as one of Billboard’s 17 acts to watch and were CCM’s best-selling new artist. New Release Tuesday noted that Crave was “One of the Best Debut Projects in Years!” ET’s “The Insider” said the duo, “make music that speaks directly to your heart” and have been “gaining popularity in the alt-rock genre.” American Songwriter commented that “for KING & COUNTRY may just be Australia’s answer to Coldplay.”

  • Amy Grant's Latest - One of the Best Albums of the Year

    The foundation behind Amy Grant’s first full-length studio album in 10 years came from some advice given to her by her late mother – “sing something that matters.” The six-time GRAMMY® Award winner, who releases her 18th studio album today, May 14 is dedicating How Mercy Looks From Here to her mother and drawing from some of her favorite singers and songwriters in what critics are calling her most impactful release to date. The impressive array of talent includes Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Will Hoge, Carole King, Eric Paslay and James Taylor.

    To launch her first album in over a decade, Grant dives in to street week with appearances on CBS This Morning (5/17 and 5/18) and the nationally syndicated lifestyle program, The Better Show (5/17) as well as Morning Joe on MSNBC (5/14), NPR’s “Weekend Edition” (5/12), WOR Radio with Rita Cosby (5/14), ABC Radio, Keep the Faith radio and more. Grant also recently conducted an in depth interview for Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act,” (5/28) as well as their “Hollywood Watch” program (5/31). Additionally, Grant is also scheduled to appear on the highly acclaimed shows The View and The Chew early this summer.

    Other media highlights for How Mercy Looks From Here include a special two-part Artist to Artist interview with FUSE NEWS between Grant and Sheryl Crow, an exclusive online video interview for Entertainment Tonight online as well as their featured artist for New Music Tuesday today, exclusive song premieres with Billboard.com and GoodHousekeeping.com, and cover stories with CCM Magazine, Called Magazine, Guideposts, FIRST for Women Magazine, SOCIAL and WHOA magazines. Additional feature coverage includes Billboard, Country Weekly, People.com, SiriusXM, and more.

    The album’s lead track, "Don't Try So Hard," features legendary songwriter James Taylor and continues its rise up the AC monitored chart, jumping 4 spots to #25 this week, and up 6 spots on the National Audience chart to #27.

    Along with special mother’s day promotions with several stations across the country, additional radio promos for the record are happening with key market stations throughout the country. Grant is making personal appearances at record listening parties with WAWZ, WGTS, WCIE, and WHPZ, as well as participating in a special promotion with KSBJ, while KXOJ and K-LOVE are both promoting a flyaway to The Greek Theater in Los Angeles to meet Amy and see her live.

    Welcoming back the iconic singer-songwriter with open arms, here are just a few of the multitudes of praises on How Mercy Looks From Here:

    “[Amy’s] time away from music seems to have given [her] a renewed fervor for the job – a feeling that she doesn’t plan to extinguish any time soon.” - Entertainment Tonight

    "The older I get the more I appreciate the experiences of others and what they teach me. This album is about just that, experience or the journey that we are all on. It is very powerful yet simple and humbling. Great record for where you are or where you will go!" - Mike Bowles, AVP Ministry Initiatives, Family Christian

    “...her singing has an easy grace that's well served by these songs of love, loss, faith and resilience, which benefit from Marshall Altman's spare, glowing production.” - USA Today

    It is so good to once again hear from Amy Grant. Her artistry, love, and matter of fact communication style have produced an incredible new release. Amy is always so good at encouraging me to get my head right, and she has done it again. - Hank Butler, Sr. Merchandiser Manager, Family Christian

    “Grant’s most emotionally compelling release since 1988’s “Lead Me On"... proves that sincerity is not overrated and that open-hearted storytelling will outlast any musical fad.”

    - Atlanta Journal Constitution

    “The revered veteran is at another creative peak punctuated by authentic vocal delivery, understated but sophisticated production and a slew of all-star guests.” - CCM Magazine

    "I’ve been waiting years for new Amy Grant music…this record was worth the wait. From the first single 'Don’t Try So Hard' which delivers instant rest for this world that has gotten itself into a great big hurry, to my personal favorite 'Our Time is Now' (co-written by Jon Foreman). I love 'How Mercy Looks From Here.'" - Dan Hubka, Family Christian

    "...a start-to-finish true album experience... Every song on this album is heart and soul music, and Grant hits a home run in her quest to “sing something that matters.” - Nashville Parent

    “A collection of songs that mine the depths of both heart and soul as only Amy can. This is easily one of the best albums of the year.” - NewReleaseTuesday.com

    “Ultimately a profoundly encouraging record, How Mercy Looks From Here is a vibrant collection of thoughtful, reflective ruminations on life and the passage of time, from the lens of one who realizes the purpose for which she was created.” - Christian Musician

  • Praying With Confidence

    Renee

    "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." 1 John 5:14 (NAS)

    I used to be hesitant to pray and found myself stumbling over my words when talking to God. I especially didn't know how to pray when struggling with uncertainty and doubts.

    Desperately wanting to say the right things, I believed if I prayed the right way God would listen and answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to.

    It took me a while, but I eventually got up the courage to talk with a friend about my fears and struggles. She shared how she had struggled with the same things. She also explained how, over time, she had discovered that prayer isn't about saying or asking the right things; it's about building a relationship with God by talking to Him.

    She also showed me how to take verses from the Bible and turn them into powerful prayers. Using God's Word as a guide gave me a new sense of confidence and direction when I didn't know what to say.

    One day I was reading 1 John 5:14, and noticed it says we can pray with certainty when we ask God for what is already part of His will: "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."

    Praying Scriptures increased my confidence over time, knowing that I was praying God's will when I prayed God's Word.

    Wanting my prayers to be filled with power and my heart to be infused with faith, I now look for Scriptures about God's will and God's ways. One is Hebrews 4:12 where God teaches us His Word is "alive and active." Praying that truth, I ask God to make His Word come alive in a situation and become active in the person's life I am praying for, including my own.

    Oftentimes when I pray now, I'll remember verses in the Bible that apply. For instance, when it feels like my plans are spinning out of control, Jeremiah 29:11 will come to mind. On those days, I'll pray:

    Lord, You know the plans You have for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a future and a hope. You say that if I come to You and pray, You will listen and will lead me. So, today I surrender my plans for Your plans. Please guide my decisions and thoughts to match Yours so I can experience hope and not harm. Even though things aren't going so great today, I trust the plans You have for me."

    God isn't looking for the perfect combination of words, and there's no formula to get it right. Now that the pressure to say the right things is gone, praying has become one of my favorite things to do—whether alone or with a friend.

    Sometimes I just sit still and let God whisper His promises into my thoughts and then I ask for their fulfillment in my prayers.

    Lord, I'm so glad I don't have to say that right thing to get Your attention. Thank You for Your Spirit that lives in me and leads me—in my daily activities and even in my prayers. Please show me verses You want me to pray so I can see Your Word come alive in my circumstances and become active in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: In her life-changing book, A Confident Heart, Renee Swope ends each chapter with a prayer weaving together powerful scriptures to help you overcome doubt and insecurity based on the topic and teaching in that chapter. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend!

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    Reflect and Respond: Use God's Word as a guide to pray when you don't know what to say.

    Pick a verse today to begin praying.

    Power Verse: Matthew 6:9-13, "Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'" (ESV)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Christian Duty

    Boyd

    So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty. Luke 17:10

     

    Christian duty is illustrated by a master and servant relationship. The Master (Jesus Christ) is caring and clear in His expectations for His servants (Christians). The Master expects diligence and thoroughness in the tasks at hand. He does not patronize the sincere servant with flowery compliments, but allows the servant to enjoy fulfilling work for the Master’s sake. Honorable service done for our Master Jesus Christ is the duty of all His followers. This is fundamental.

     

    Our Heavenly Father does not owe us anything for our routine or radical efforts for His Kingdom. Indeed, our life in total is all His grace. Our relationships, our ability to work, our mental reasoning, our feelings of love and hope all spring from the heart of our Savior Jesus. It is our duty to do what Christ commands without complaint or expecting anything in return. Like a good soldier does his duty for God and country, so servants of Jesus are faithful to their charge.

     

    Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12

    Those of us who long for approval struggle when our service is absent commendations. Yet, this is a test to see if our motivation is for what we get out of obeying God, or for what we can give, by doing our duty in pure gratitude to Him. We become miserable, even angry, if we expect   special treatment by the Lord or His people because of our sacrificial service. Yes, unexpected blessings will come back to those who bless, but this is not why we give. Our duty has no claims.

     

    Therefore, your Christian duty needs no more than to diligently follow Christ’s calling. He is your Master and you serve at His bidding. He may have you engaged in the mundane tasks of motherhood or the boring basics of an entry level job. Wherever your Lord has you on assignment, do it with joy. Total submission to Christ is your best option, yes, repent of negotiating your own recognition and rewards. Christian duty done by grace glorifies God!

     

    Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13

     

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I submit to your service and trust you to lead me in Your calling.

     

    Related Readings: Psalm 16:2; Job 22:2; John 15:20; 1 Timothy 5:21

     

    Post/Tweet today: Wherever your Lord has you on assignment do it with joy. Total submission to Christ is your best option. #submission

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry

    info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • JAVEN TO RELEASE LIVE WORSHIP ALBUM

    Tyscot Music + Entertainment is pleased to announce the signing of award-winning Gospel artist JAVEN. His upcoming live album, “Worship in the Now,” will be released on May 21st, features guest appearances by Damita, Marvin Winans, Jr., The Campbell Family, Jonathan Nelson and LaRue Howard.

    "Praise and Worship music is one of the cornerstones of adoring and honoring our God, a joyful celebration of congregational singing,” said Bryant S. Scott, President of Tyscot. “We signed JAVEN as we truly believe it's his time to help the nation & the world, Worship In The Now!"

    Over the past decade, JAVEN has not only gained international recognition as a recording artist, but as an actor as well. His extensive acting credits include the Off-Broadway musical “The Rock and the Rabbi” and feature films like “The Sixth,” “Abandoned” (starring Brittany Murphy), “One Night with the King” (opposite Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole) and “Preacher’s Kid” (with Clifton Powell and former Destiny's Child member LaToya Luckett). JAVEN also served as a co-host on BET’s “Paula White Show” from 2001-2002.

    “I'm excited about ‘Worship in the Now’ and what it means to those who are experiencing it,” said JAVEN. “I know as people begin to include worship more and more in their everyday lives, everything from depression to poverty, even sickness will begin to be removed from their lives. It's my belief that this new [album] will be a hit across the country with this Now Generation of Worshipers, who are people that want to get closer to God's presence.”

    JAVEN continues to tour worldwide, traveling internationally to perform and speak throughout North America and around the world.

  • Third Day "Miracle" Tour Review

    It is fascinating having multi-generations involved on-stage. Not only is there a variety of song styles, but there is a sense of community that can happen on-stage and in the audience that typically does not happen in a single genre setting. This very aspect was called out by Mac Powell during the concert when he stated a fact: Third Day is in their 20th year of making music and Colton Dixon is 21-years-old – just one year difference in them beginning a career and him beginning life. Throw in the guitar and lyrics of Josh Wilson to open (and close) the evening and the outcome is a fun-filled evening of community and worship.

    The family is the beginning of community, and I saw it sitting right in front of me. The teenage son was obviously a Colton Dixon fan – the Messenger t-shirt he wore was a clue, but his actions were the exclamation point. Encouraged by his mother, he ran to the stage to take pictures while Colton energized the room – and mom moved to the music (she obviously listened to what her son listened to – you cannot fake lip-syncing). And he returned the favor for mom, going to the stage multiple times while Third Day filled the air, taking pictures of one of her generation’s enduring music groups. She is obviously a fan, singing not just to the new songs but to the classics as well – raising her hand and enjoying a few moments of worship. And then it happened, the moment that showed what true community was occurring. As Mac Powell hit the chorus “Well, no matter who you are, and no matter what you’ve done…”, mom began to cry and the son put his arm around her and held on. It was obvious that somewhere in their story, God had brought a miracle in their time of need, and they were a stronger community by it.

    Did I get involved in community? Well, I had gotten tickets for my small group and we filled most of our row. I learned just how much they liked Third Day (some of those middle-agers can scream!); I enjoyed finding out how much one guy loved Colton Dixon; and it was fun seeing them pour over the lyrics of Josh Wilson, debating whether to get one or both of the CD’s available. And we were all still there for the post-concert/songfest with Josh out by the flag pole. A community event we will be remembering for a long time to come.

    Highlights from this evening of communal joy and worship: • Getting to shake hands and picture-take with Mac, Tai, David, and Mark before the concert; and realizing it had been a decade+ since I had last seen them live. I guess I am truly a part of that generation. • Seeing and hearing Josh Wilson live in concert. I had discovered his music a few years ago and had been hooked with his twist of phrase and remarkable guitar licks. For the Josh Wilson fans who go back farther than “Pushing Back The Dark” and “Carry Me”, his rendition of “Amazing Grace” was even better in person than on the album; and I am still kicking myself for not getting “Dear Money” out fast enough when he called for requests at the flagpole. • Beyond just hearing and seeing Colton Dixon (in the words of some of the small group: “Billy Idol!”), it was great to see him and sister Schyler perform “You Are.” They both have amazing voices. • Third Day started and hit me like a bomb. Yes, I tweeted that! • It was definitely a great playlist by Third Day, covering the multiple years and albums from “I’ve Always Loved You” to “Kicking and Screaming”. My wife was a little upset until they finally came out for the encore and did her favorite on the Miracle album: “Your Love Is Like A River.”

  • 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

    John

    (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.

    John: I’m wondering if you could share a little bit with us about the new record, Rise. What’s the story behind this?

    John C.: It’s a story about a typical, American teenage kid coming into adulthood and being faced with how brutal the world is. There are shocking things in the outside world, like school shootings, war and all the things you see on the news everyday.

    This album is about how those things affect the life of a teenager. And it’s not just about the big problems from outside, but also about problems from within. That is, living in a single family house with an abusive dad, fighting at home, school bullying, just not being happy with who you are as a person and about trying to find faith. The whole record is about finding faith in a dark world. Rising up out of your circumstances. It all leads to a climax of the character realizing he is never going to be good enough. He is never going to do enough, and is born to let himself down. Even if the outside world doesn’t let him down. Even if his friends don’t let him down. He is going to let himself down because he needs to be redeemed. He reaches out to God and basically just says, “I need to be saved. I need something bigger than myself. I want a change and I want to be new.” That is the climax of the album during the song “Salvation,” in which he cried out for Salvation. All of the sudden, he is safe and able to rise up out of his circumstance.

    John: John, throughout your discography, you guys have always had one or two songs that have dealt with that person who is being pressured by the elements of this world, by the things of this world. You’ve really kind of encouraged people to rise above it and move past that. This certainly has been part of your call as an artist and as a songwriter through the years. Is this a personal story in a sense, John C.? Do you know this person?

    John C.: Right, well there certainly are aspects of me in this person. It’s not a mural. It’s not every little thing that happens. But, yes, absolutely. In fact, I dare say, there are elements of all of us in this person. I think that’s why this record is coming off well.

    So far, people are experiencing it personally. I think it’s because most of us can relate to that feeling of worthlessness, or maybe we let ourselves down and we just realize that it’s amazing that someone else would love us, especially God. A holy God, for that matter! That He would like us is real shocking. There are personal things in my life, of course, that contributed to this, certainly.

    My mom died when I was young. I was 14. My dad and I didn’t get along for a long time. There were times growing up that I felt afraid and wondered if God was there. When I cried out to Him to help me through those hard times. My story is embedded within this record, definitely.

    Good to be Alive Written by John L. Cooper, Zach Malloy, Tom Douglas

    Verse 1 When all you've got are broken dreams Just need a second chance And everything you want to be Gets taken from your hands

    We hold on to each other All we have is all we need Cause one way or another We always make it, you and me

    This life can almost kill you When you're trying to survive It's good to be here with you

    CHORUS It's good to be alive It’s good to be alive I was lost and I was gone I was almost dead inside You and me against the world It’s a beautiful night It’s good to be alive

    Verse 2 Driving down this highway Soaking up the sun Got miles to go before we get home And the journey's just begun

    We hold on to each other You are everything I need You feel like forever You're a second chance for me

    Bridge It's a beautiful night Yeah, it's alright It's good to be alive

    John: Your last three records have allowed you guys to walk into various ideologies or arenas of thought where you've been able to speak a very significant message. What has that been like? How has that experience been for maybe you, your wife and for you guys as a band over the last couple of years?

    John C.: It has been thrilling, because evangelism has always been kind of what my life is about. Ever since I became a Christian when I was five, it was a natural gifting and leaning towards sharing my faith with people. That longing and zeal has never changed for me. The only thing I think that has changed is the way I do it and the way that we go about it.

    To answer that question, yeah, I think Skillet has begun to write songs, as you said, songs we could all relate to, not just Christian people. I kind of look at it like the way that Jesus told his parables. That is—and I’m just going to be honest here, but I hope nobody takes it bad—I’ve been a Christian since I was five, and still when I read Jesus’ words I still sometimes go, “Man, I just wonder why he wasn’t more clear about what he was talking about.” It’s a little elliptical you know? You have to dig in and watch it rise and see what he was pointing at. The only answer I have come up with is that the Bible said if you seek God, you will find Him. I started thinking, you know what? That’s how I’m going to write my songs. I’m going to leave them open to interpretation of things that we can all relate to, and then when people go to the website or they come to the show and they hear me doing an interview, they will begin to hear what the songs are about. I hope to point them toward Jesus in that way. The songs are kind of grouped by a message that people can relate to. That is kind of how Skillet has written our songs.

    To answer your other question, it has been thrilling because I love evangelism. They tell of people that have gotten saved from music. Could be the unreachable type, the unreachables of the world and that is where I feel I have a lot to share.

    When our last record came out, there was a guy who basically sent me an email saying he heard our song on NFL. “Hero” was playing and he liked it. He said he went to their website and found out who the band was, and bought the song. He said he loved the song and came to a show. One thing led to another, and basically this guy and his wife were both in the pornography industry. They both were filmmakers. The guy got saved and ended up leading his wife to it too. So they were saved now and got out of that industry and have gotten into church. And it was all from hearing our song on NFL. Stories like that are amazing! It’s something only God can do. And we are so honored He is using our music to do it.

    What I Believe Written by John L. Cooper and Korey Cooper

    Verse 1 The world around me Is lost in misery The only good I've got in my life is you No meaning, no other reason When everything feels wrong I feel right with you So madly, desperate, deeply, obsessed your love is better than life to me Can I have this moment forever? Take me to the beginning

    CHORUS You are what I believe I'll live and die for you This is all that I need When nothing is real you are my truth In the darkness you shine Can you keep me safe tonight? When I’m down on my knees You are what I believe

    Verse 2 When we started, wholehearted I never needed anything or anyone else I was broken, you made me whole again The only one I trusted more than myself

    So madly, desperate, deeply, I will live for you completely Can I have this moment forever? Take me to the beginning

    Bridge: Believe in your love Believe in your life Believe that you can put me back together on the inside Chase all the fear away Every time I speak your name

    Take me You are what I believe

    CHORUS You are what I believe I'll live and die for you This is all that I need When nothing is real you are my truth In the darkness you shine Can you keep me safe tonight? When I'm down on my knees You are what I believe

    John: That is absolutely amazing, John. And I appreciate you sharing that.

    Let’s shift gears now and talk a little bit about the new record. How does a concept record get played live? What is the live show going to look like for Rise?

    John C.: Well, at the moment, we are just going to keep showing our shows as we do them. The really cool thing about this record is that I think the songs live on their own outside of the concept period. It’s really cool because with concept records, sometimes individual songs aren’t as strong on their own outside of the full story. We wrote these songs not intending to make it a concept album. The songs themselves do live on their own, and yet the story seems quite clear per song.

    That’s why I think this record is kind of unique. It’s a concept record full of songs that stand alone with impact, we hope. At the moment, we are going to keep playing the songs as-is, but in the back of our minds, we hope this album garners enough excitement, respect and sales that we could go out and do a tour. The whole show is basically like theater, not a theater performance, but more like cinema rock. Like a movie all the way through. That would be really great. You can’t really plan on that kind of success. You have to hope for it and wait and see what happens.

    John: It’s all about cinema rock, isn’t it? Is there still going to be fire?

    John C.: I sure hope so. I love that. Again, going back to Skillet, in the past a lot of people have told me, “When I’m listening to your music or I see the show, it kind of feels like I’m watching a movie.” People have said that quite a lot. I like the theater aspects and the fire. We were adding some stuff this summer that we’ve never done before. I won’t give it away right now, but we’re beginning to add other effects to our show that I think are bringing even more to that sort of theater/movie experience. We’re going to keep adding surprise elements. I hope that fire is always one of them for the rest of my life.

    John: I do too, man. I keep voting for fire.

    John C.: I agree. It was my birthday [a while ago] and I got these new shoes that I’m really excited about. I put them on and I said to my son, “So, what do you think? Do you like my new shoes?” He said, “Yeah, but I think they would be cooler if there was a skeleton on the side and his skull was on fire.”

    John: I love it.

    John C., with that in mind, either in a live setting or even on your records, we will hear hints of 80s glam rock.

    John C.: Right.

    John: I know you were born in the mid 70s. Are you in love with 80s glam rock as much as I am?

    John C.: Absolutely. You definitely can hear it. In fact, it’s funny because some people ask in interviews, “Who is your biggest influence?” This is awful to say, but I think that in Skillet’s music you hear decades of influence. You definitely have that 80s glam thing. You see it in the show with the fire and the guitar solos. Everything is a little bit over the top.

    Also, I am a really big fan of 70s rock, like the stuff Journey, Kansas, Yes and Fleetwood Mac put out. You can really hear that in the music, too. Even some Meatloaf. It’s got this kind of Queen opera rock thing to it that feels a little dramatic. I think with the strings, it feels a little romantic as well. You can definitely hear all of those. But my voice, I don’t sing like an 80s guy. I sing more like a 90s guy. That is, when I started really singing in rock bands, it was 1992–93, and you had Nirvana, Pearl Jam and all those kinds of bands on the scene. So we definitely have a variety of decades of influence and skill with our music and sound.

    John: Cinema rock.

    John C.: Yeah.

    John: So you are a husband, a father, a songwriter, singer and follower of Jesus. Help the ordinary man—whether in high school, college or married—who has followed your career for the last few years. As someone who is reading this blog who struggles to follow Christ on a daily basis, how do you work that up? How do you follow Jesus on a daily basis and how could you encourage others in their walk?

    John C.: That is a great question. The problem is there is not a great answer, like click your heels together twice and take this pill. I wish there were because it would be easier. I think especially what I’m seeing with young people, young people’s attention spans are just so short these days because of the amount of information available. It is constant bombardment with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. There is so much stuff happening that I think we get drawn into fads. We go, “Man, I’m all about this new TV show, or twit picks. Or the new iPhone.” It’s constant bombardment. Within all of those things, there may be a time for a lot of Christians that they are all about Jesus but then they move onto something else because it’s just constantly moving.

    I tell people, “You have to make a decision in your life now, what your entire life is going to be about.” It’s kind of like when I chose to marry my wife. I made a decision and I knew for the rest of my life until I died or she dies, we are going to be married and that is just the way it is. Nothing is going to change that. I have a kid. Nothing is going to change it. You are going to be a father. Nothing in the world can stop that anymore. Even more importantly, that is what it means to follow Jesus. I am making the decision today that my whole life is going to be about Him, and I will do what He says and I just won’t falter from that. I think a lot of it just comes down to making a decision and sticking to it rather than jumping on and off fads.

    For me, I made that decision years ago and I surrounded myself with other people who made that decision. My pastor, my friends, and my wife. We all have made that decision together and then when things are hard and the new fad comes in, and I go, “Man, maybe I want to give working out more time than I give Jesus,” I have my wife and pastor and friends chime in, and we all pursue Him together.

    I think a lot of Christians don’t make that decision. I always tell people it’s not going to be easier to live for Jesus but you have to make the decision and it can be done. It becomes easier to live for Jesus once you have just made that commitment because that is what your life is about. Instead of finding things that seem more fun, find the most fulfilling thing and that is living for God. Knowing His love, speaking to Him every day and talking to Him. It’s absolutely more fulfilling to your soul than all of these other “fun things.” Anyway, that is what I do. Of course, I read my Bible and I pray, but a lot of it comes down to what our lives are going to be about, and it is Him.

    MY RELIGION

    Music and words: John L. Cooper and Korey Cooper

    Verse 1 Who's gonna save my soul Nothing and nobody but you Who's gonna make me whole Nothing and nobody but you

    Can't change me, sway me Don't know what to make of me You've got my devotion fanatical though it may be I love you mind, heart, body and soul You're the only sanctuary that i know

    CHORUS I don't need to stare at stained glass and a steeple I don't need to dress to impress all of the people Don't need no priest Don't need no pew You are my religion my religion is you

    I don't need no other purpose You give me a reason Ain’t their business what I wanna believe in You are my priest You are my truth You are my religion, my religion is you

    Verse 2 Who's gonna heal my pain Nothing makes me feel like you do Who can drive my demons away Nothing makes me heal like you do I love you mind, heart, body and soul You're the only sanctuary that I know

    CHORUS I don't need to stare at stained glass and a steeple I don't need to dress to impress all of the people Don't need no priest Don't need no pew You are my religion my religion is you

    I don't need no other purpose You give me a reason It ain’t their business what I wanna believe in You are my priest You are my truth You are my religion, my religion is you

    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me

    Bridge Mind, heart, soul and strength Belong to you, belong to me Got my devotion I will follow where you lead I won't be told what to feel and how to show My love can't be stopped Love you any way I want

    John: I love it John, and I really appreciate your honestly there. That is really good to hear. One last question before we leave?

    John C.: Hit me.

    John: Red Bull, Mountain Dew or coffee.

    John C.: Oh gosh, you know what? I’m not in love with any of them to tell you the truth. These days I drink coffee, not a lot, but I do drink coffee. I haven’t been drinking sugar or caffeinated drinks. I got off that. I am over six months Dr. Pepper-free. Dr. Pepper was my drug of choice.

    John: That’s right, I forgot about that. I’m sorry I should not have offended you by saying Mountain Dew. I should have said Dr. Pepper, Red Bull or coffee.

    John C.: It would be Dr. Pepper but I am recovering.

    John: You are recovering.

    John C.: That is one of those things that I could never touch it again because I’m like a Dr. Pepper-a-holic. I haven’t told anybody that in interviews. You are the first person to hear me say that I’m six months Dr. Pepper-free.

    John: Can I ask why you gave it up?

    John C.: It was just bad for me. Diabetes runs in my family. I’m like, you know what? I love this drink too much and it’s not good for me so I quit it. I think even more important than that, is they refused to promote Skillet and put anything behind it. So they haven’t put me in a Dr. Pepper commercial. If they did, then I wouldn’t mind drinking it (laughs). I would give them my Dr. Pepper anonymous card, and I would take it up again if they would put me in a commercial.

    John: There you go. All right, Dr. Pepper, it’s on the line. It’s all up to them now.

    John C.: Yes.

    John: John, thank you, Man. You’ve made me laugh. You encouraged me in my walk with Christ today. I appreciate you. I appreciate your band and your ministry and your art. I’m excited about this new record.

    John C.: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it. It was good to talk to you.

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