Refreshed and Refocused

I’ve been absent for a little while.  My apologies for that.  But I was working a week of church camp last week at Guadalupe Christian Camp for Jr. and Sr. High students.  While I had access to internet there, I felt my time was more valuable investing in the week there instead of trying to write for “Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak”.  I mean, I had to write a sermon while I was there anyway, so I didn’t take anymore time for this.

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It was a great week.  We had 38 teenagers and quite a few adults from West Texas and Southeast New Mexico that attended the week, and I do believe that lives were changed.  We had a speaker from Illinois that blew it out of the water, as well as a Christian band from El Paso that was just as interested in investing in the lives of the teens there as they were about playing music for the evening sessions. 

We got to get away from our normal hectic schedules and spend time with fellow Christ followers, up on a mountain, away from distractions.  Although it was a scorching hot week, we were able to enjoy God’s creation together in a few different ways as well.  One of those was spending time at Sitting Bull Falls, hiking and swimming one afternoon (the temperature gauge in the van I drove read 108 degrees when we parked at the falls).  On Friday morning, we went on the annual hike to the ridge that has quickly become one of my favorite places that I have seen in person on this earth. 

As tired as I have been since returning, the physical exhaustion has been well worth it.  I came back mentally, emotionally, and spiritually refreshed.  That’s something that I’ve needed for a long time.  I got to spend time with other ministers, discussing our churches and what things we need prayer and support in.  Just bouncing ideas off of others is so beneficial.  I got to have some good laughs with the other adults there as well.

One thing happened on two separate nights, however, that may top any camp experience I have ever had.  Well, not really because I received my call into ministry at a week of camp, but this was awesome anyway…just not on the exact same level.  On Thursday night, we were having a camp fire/smores night, and a couple of the band members were there playing acoustic guitars.  The night was coming to an end, and I jokingly asked the lead band member if he knew “Jesus Freak” and explained my website.  They didn’t know the song by memory, but looked up the chords and started playing.  That is when a bunch of the other adults and I started singing our lungs out to an impromptu jam session of “Jesus Freak”.  It was incredible.

Then, the next night at worship was supposed to be more of a concert style worship with the band.  Wally told me early that night that he was going to call me from the sound booth to come up to the stage to help him with something, but that it was for the kids.  I asked what, but he wouldn’t tell me.  When he finally called me up, he handed me a mic and said they were going to play “Jesus Freak”.  I got the other guy at camp with a Jesus Freak tattoo to join me on stage, handed him the mic, because I don’t sing into mics, and we got to sing on stage to a live version of “Jesus Freak”.  As you could imagine, this Crosseyed Jesus Freak was flying high after that.

It just reminds me of where our focus should be though.  Where does your passion lay?  This world tries to distract us, but if I’m going to claim to be a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, I need to be focused on Jesus 100% of the time…or at least as much of that time as I can be.  We have to be strong in our faith.  That’s why this event that I want to tell you about is so important. Guadalupe Christian Camp is getting ready to host its First Annual “Defending the Faith Conference” at the end of July.  Check back here tomorrow for an article about that, but if you are in southeast New Mexico or west Texas, consider joining us for this conference.

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The Sincerest Form

I love music, and as I have written about here before, I generally have music playing anytime that I am reading, writing, or generally any other work in an office setting or at home.  It’s just one of the best ways that I have found to focus in on the task at hand.  Also, as my nickname here suggests, dcTalk is my favorite group of all time.  The first concert I was able to go to was “The Jesus Freak Tour” with Audio Adrenaline opening for dcTalk.  I was only about 12-years old, but still remember plenty of details from that night. 

Recently, I came across an album that I had heard about only briefly, as some of the songs had come across my Pandora account on a few occasions.  For some reason I had never taken the time to really look into the album, although some of the songs definitely peaked my curiosity.  Well about two weeks ago I finally decided to look up the album, which is already 10 to 11 years old at this point.  That’s because it was released around the 10th Anniversary of Jesus Freak

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What is the album in question?  It is a tribute album from Gotee Records honoring dc Talk’s Jesus Freak.  It is a collaboration of other Gotee Record artists performing the songs from Jesus Freak in an album titled Freaked! – A Gotee Tribute to dcTalk’s Jesus Freak.  In fact, this album is what I have playing through my computer speakers as I write this today. 

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When I found the whole album online a few weeks ago, I made a mistake.  I read the comments and reviews.  I already new I was going to buy it, the reviews didn’t matter at all to me.  As big of a fan of dcTalk as I am, a tribute album for one of their best works is a no brainer for me.  Honestly, I don’t know why I waited this long to find and buy the album in the first place.  Besides that, I still had gift card money from Christmas, so it wasn’t even going to cost me money out of my pocket.

Yet, still I went to the reviews.  I do that way too often on things online.  Maybe I just like to read some of the insane and off-the-wall comments that you find online.  I sat in my office that evening though, just shaking my head.  This is a tribute album done by a lot of different artists with a lot of different musical styles.  I would never expect the album to sound exactly like dcTalk’s Jesus Freak.  In fact, I would have been disappointed if it did.  I was excited to listen to different takes on a classic.

Did I expect to like every single song?  Not really.  And I don’t (there is one that just freaks me out for the lack of a better term).  But the comments on the reviews for this album blew my mind.  People were complaining how none of the songs sounded like the originals, and I was like “really”?  It was like they were expecting the album to exactly match the original.  Well, despite the insane reviews, I bought and downloaded Freaked!  To me, the album is a honoring dcTalk in a great way.  It’s a bunch of talented artists coming together to pay tribute, honor, and thank a pioneering group in the Christian music realm.  Without dcTalk, we wouldn’t have many of the groups we have today (and not just because Toby, Michael, and Kevin are still performing with others).  They paved the way for what we know as Christian music today.

Thinking about all of this today gave me an idea.  Hebrews 11 is knows as the “Faith Hall of Fame” in scripture.  What does that mean?  The author of Hebrews takes a chapter and writes about those from the Old Testament, and even alludes to those from the inter-testament period that lived with great faith.  He shows us what it looks like to live faithfully as Christ followers by showing us those that lived out great faith.  Then the author makes a statement that I try to model my life by as much as possible.  He writes in Hebrews 12:1-3,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right had of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

That is where I get the first part of my nickname, Crosseyed.  But think about it.  He says we have all these people that have gone before us.  They show us what living a life of faith could look like.  Consider them.  Learn from them.  You might not look or sound or act exactly like them, but imitate them.  Honor them.  Pay tribute to them.  Thank them for going before you.  Then comes the big right hook.  Not only do we have those that have gone before us, we have Jesus Himself to imitate, honor, pay tribute and thank.  None of us will ever be exactly like Jesus.  Our personalities are different.  But we are supposed to be as much like Him as we can be. 

Paul brings out this idea in a few different places as well.  In I Corinthians 11:1 he wrote,

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

He wrote in I Thessalonians 1:6, 7,

You became imitators us us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

Is Freaked! the perfect analogy of what I am talking about?  No.  It’s comparing music to trying to follow the example of Jesus and other Christ followers that have gone before us, but it still makes my point.  Just like the artists paying tribute to dcTalk, we won’t look or sound exactly the way someone who went before us did.  But here is the biggest difference.  We don’t just have those that have gone before us as our example.  We have Christ Himself.  He is our standard, and what we are striving to be.  Will we do that perfectly?  No one can.  But, as the old saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  Who do you want to imitate?

What dcTalk taught me about reaching others

When I was growing up during the early to mid 90’s, I was introduced to a music group called dcTalk.  At the time, I didn’t realize that there was such a thing as Christian music outside of what you would sing in church on Sunday mornings.  I was more of a country music fan at the time, but the first time my cousin Josh let me listen the Free At Last album by dcTalk, I was hooked.  They quickly became my favorite group, and honestly they still are to this day, even though the three members of the group have all moved on to other Christian groups now.

My first concert that I ever went to was dcTalk’s Jesus Freak tour, with dcTalk headlining, and a little group opening called Audio Adrenaline.  I was blessed enough to be able to see them in concert one other time, on the Supernatural tour.  I can’t remember all the groups with them on this tour, but The W’s with their one hit, The Devil is Bad were there.  dcTalk’s music influenced much of my life, and it changed the face of Christian music, which has allowed for bands playing just about any style of music with a Christian theme to be possible.

Arguably, dcTalk’s biggest hit, although they have many, would be Jesus Freak.  The chorus of the song, if you haven’t heard it before, goes something like this;

“What will people think
When they hear that I’m a Jesus freak
What will people do when they find that it’s true
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak
There ain’t no disguising the truth”

If I was forced to pick my all-time favorite song, I think I would have to go with this one.  There are other songs that come close, but it makes me want to live my life like a Jesus Freak.  In fact, part of my blog name comes from this song.  I have told my wife on countless occasions, in all seriousness, that I want this song played at my funeral, because I hope that I have lived my life as a Jesus Freak, living completely sold out for Him!  We had a live band play our prelude, entrance, and exit music for our wedding.  My groomsmen and I walked into my wedding with Jesus Freak being played.  To say that this is an important song to me would be a huge understatement.  And there is a lot we can learn from the song as well.

Over the first couple of weeks of November 2014, Kelley and I have had the opportunity to attend two separate Christian concerts.  We saw 7eventh Time DownFamily Force Five, and The Newsboys here in Carlsbad, NM.  Then we went to the opening night of WinterJam in Rio Rancho, NM.  I bring this up because dcTalk hasn’t been together since the late 90’s or 2000, and Jesus Freak is now close to 20 years old.  But during both of these concerts, Jesus Freak was played.  Granted The Newsboys lead singer is Michael Tait, one of the members of dcTalk, but it still shows the influence we can have if we are able to present the message of living sold out for Christ in a way that truly changes the way people see it.

I’m not saying that we need to change our message.  The message of Christianity and what it means to this world is the best message anyone can ever receive.  The message of the cross, and the grace that God shows us through the cross is the best story that has ever been told.  And the best part is that it is completely true!  But we have to find ways to tell this story in such a way that we can bring in the masses.  dcTalk changed the course of Christian music by being willing to push the envelope.  They found new ways to present a 2,000 year old message, without watering down or changing the message itself.  And because of the way they did it, 20 to 30 years later, their form of the message is still being used to try and tell the greatest story ever told!

May we learn from them, and may we be able to reach the world with the most important story that they will ever here.