"The Hymns Sessions" Out Today!

8 years ago yesterday I stood in front of 200 college kids in a coffee shop off the highway and debuted my very first indie album "For Freedom" (2005).  It is now 2013 and once again I'm releasing another indie album, "The Hymns Sessions: Vol. 1".  It is a very gratitude-filled moment for me to share my 6th record with you all today.  

Last night before bed, while Kelly was asleep, I grabbed one of my old journals.  I read the entry for Sept. 10, 2005, the day after my CD release concert.  "Thank You for giving me words to say last night.  It is my absolute ecstatic pleasure and joy to serve You like this...Lord, if this is Your will, may I continue to be obedient to do music ministry with boldness".  What an awesome thing for me to say today that God's answer to my prayer was "Yes!".  

Since most of the folks getting this record will never own a hard copy of it, you will most likely never see my "thank you's" on the inside.  So let me say some brief ones now.  Thanks to my wife Kelly, who has been my ally since day one of this music thing (she actually played violin at my first release concert).  Even right now she is downstairs working on email blasts to my fans about the record.  I love you and my heart is so full of gratitude it hurts.  Thanks to all of you who have caught the vision with my music, who have shared with friends and retweeted and come to shows and written me countless encouragements and submitted thousands of prayers to God on my behalf.  I love you guys and your passion for my art and the gospel.  To the folks in my life who have invested in me, taught me, loved me and helped me with my music:  I'm indebted to you.  And to my Lord Jesus, who condescended to love an unworthy specimen like myself.  Thank you for bringing me into the family of God, giving me a new name, befriending me, filling my heart with gladness and my mouth with words to tell of it.  I love you most.  

Well, that's it from me.  I hope the new record blesses you.  If you haven't bought it yet, you can order a hard copy from my website or digitally from iTunes or Amazon, among others. 

 

Until next time, 

J

 

Jimmy NeedhamComment
Welcome!

Welcome to the new jimmyneedham.com!  Feel free to take a look around at all the new features.  I've linked some great video content on the home page for you to check out.  We also have a new page called "Bible Study" where you can download a series of lessons I've written for my previous tour.  More to come as well!   

Another page you'll want to check out is the "Tour" tab.  I may be headed your way soon on my "The Guy, Guitar & Gospel" tour this fall.  My dear friend Ross King will be opening.  

Of course, I hope you guys are aware that I'm releasing my new record this week "The Hymns Sessions:  Vol. 1".  You can get it on iTunes, Amazon.com or right here on the site!  Featured artists include Shane & Shane and Trip Lee.  

Keep an eye out for new blog posts from me in the coming weeks.  I have a lot that God is teaching me that I can't wait to share with you.  Much love to you all!

 

Yours and His, 

Jimmy

 

Kelly Needham Comment
You Are What You Eat: Three Artists that Changed My Life

“You are what you eat”. This is so very true. What you put in determines what you become. There’s probably a great sermon segue in here somewhere but I’m going take it a different direction for a bit. I want to pay homage to 3 artists from my past whose music was seismic in changing the course of the art I was to create. It’s been said none of us creates ex-nihilo” (out of nothing) and in every way that is true of me. I am so much a product of some very key people and moments that destroyed and then rebuilt what I thought creative expression could be, and be for. Gustav Holst: More Than Words I played tuba in junior high band (pray for me). One day our conductor had us listen to a record by English composer Gustav Holtz (1874-1934). That record was The Planets, an orchestral work that attempted to capture the character each planet is said to represent. For instance, Mars is known as the “war planet”, Mercury is “the winged messenger”, etc. Even Pluto got some musical love from Holst. Perhaps I was too young to have encountered something like this before, or, more likely, I had never been forced to thoughtfully consider a piece of music, but whatever the case I was floored. To think: wordless art telling stories, describing abstract ideas like old age or magic! It opened me up to a new vocabulary, one that didn’t require adjectives or pronouns, just notes. It was my first step to my own musical expression, which wouldn’t yet come for a few more years.

Phil Ochs: More Than Entertainment In high school I took a humanities course that proved invaluable to me. Any course that wasn’t algebra proved invaluable to me but this one more so. It was the first class that wet my appetite for philosophy that I would later study in college. One part of our curriculum included the study of civil disobedience. We looked at MLK and Ghandi. One day in class Mr. C.K. pressed play on a Phil Ochs CD. FYI: A CD is a little round piece of plastic that at one time people used to buy to support artists they liked…but I’m not bitter. : ) Anyway, the song I heard was “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, a political commentary on the apathy of American culture toward injustices. Phil sang of real world cases like the New York murder of one Kitty Genovese.

Oh, look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed/ They dragged her to the bushes and now she’s being stabbed/ Maybe we should call the cops and try to sop the pain/ But Monopoly is so much fun I’d hate to blow the game/ And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends/

All I had known my whole life was old soul music and George Strait tunes: Pleasant, fun songs that were at best anecdotal, sometimes thoughtful but very seldom intending to say something. It was another level of complexity added to what I thought music could be. It was this that lit under me a fire to “preach” as it were, in my songs. You may have noticed by now that I am no Chris Tomlin. My music is not often corporate sing-alongs (which the Church needs to be sure). Most of what I do is either introspection or teaching. The latter I attribute to my first inspiration, Mr. Ochs.

Lauryn Hill: More than Polished Lauryn Hill doesn’t know this, but she taught me that I can be me. Just me without any pomp or façade. One day I hope to tell her that, but until then, here’s hoping she reads unpopular blog posts by under-the-radar Christian singer/songwriters. For Christmas one year my college roommate bought me Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged album. The year before he bought my Finding Nemo which either reveals the complexity of my palette or the bizarre-ness of my friend. For years afterward I listened to that CD almost exclusively, besides an occasional interjection of Shane & Shane or Nichole Nordeman. Man O Man! Hill’s record was so good. Why? Because it was utterly naked. Her, a guitar and one other instrumentalist singing these run-on songs that felt more like rhyming college lectures on the Old Testament or personal journal entries than songs, and what’s more, her voice was totally hoarse! Now, this might sound like the makings of a terrible performance but on the contrary, these elements only added to the charm of it all. She was completely herself, she said what she wanted to say with little regard for the fact that MTV might not be down with the gospel, and she sang her songs with a wonderful rasp that only enforced the sincerity of her lyric. She literally starts sobbing at the end of the record as she sings about the “conquering Lion” breaking every chain. Man O man. I think I need to wrap this blog up so I can go listen to the CD again. This record empowered me to be me on stage and off, not what someone wants me to be. It’s true, I might be further along in my career if I’d just adjust what I do here and there, but I love how well I sleep at night knowing what I am striving to make is art that sounds and feels like me. I have much gratitude for Lauryn Hill who gave me the confidence to do what I do, how I do it.

How about you? What artists have inspired and shaped who you are? You can comment on my site under this blog or post on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/jimmyneedham

What's at Stake: A Look at the Same-Sex Marriage Question

I’ve hesitated for a number of months now of speaking out on this issue.  Perhaps it’s because there are so many diverse opinions on it, even among conservative evangelicals.  Who am I to presume I have the best one?  Perhaps it’s because it is more comfortable to wax poetic on theological maxims in the blogosphere than it is to actually address contemporary moral issues.  Maybe it’s simply that I’ve been scared to have anyone mislabel me a bigot.  But by now I’ve read enough of the life of Dietrich Bonheoffer to know, “not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act.”  In light of that, allow me to speak for a bit on the new hot topic of our time, same-sex marriage. Intentions

My goal in this blog is not to prescribe a particular “war strategy” among my readership.  There are many thoughts as to how to practically affect change in our nation, ranging from legislation and lobbying to complete removal from the political sector.  Each side makes compelling arguments and I for one am not yet settled on either entirely.  Suffice it to say that one strategy that should never be forsaken in this culture war is prayer, for, “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16).

I would rather like to talk about what’s at stake in the embracing of same sex marriage as a constitutional sanction.  As many of you know (hopefully), there are two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court right now that demand rulings regarding the legal legitimacy of same-sex marriage.  Until recently, I hadn’t really thought much of it.  It seemed to me that not much would change about our country should the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs.  After all, same-sex marriage is already legally legitimate in a number of states and I’m still doing fine.  Sure, I wasn’t happy about it, but it really has no direct impact on my day to day.  Turns out, I was very wrong.  That’s why I’m writing this, so that we as the Church can speak thoughtfully with our friends and neighbors about this very important topic, and so we can prepare ourselves for what waits over the horizon.  There are in fact things at stake in this matter, and I will be arguing them from three positions:  Theological, social, and legal.

The Purposes of Marriage:  Why Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Work Theologically

If you thought same-sex marriage can’t coalesce with the Christian message simply because homosexuality is a sin, you’d be only partially right.  Despite the theological dance that is being done from religious liberals, we know from Scripture that homosexuality is denounced as a sin.  However, what we fail to consider is the inconsistencies that come when an unbiblical union collides with a biblical institution.

Several months ago, I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Pastor Voddie Baucham.  In his sermon he laid out what he sees as the three purposes of marriages.  Namely, that marriage exists for multiplication (bearing children), sanctification (being made holy) and reflection (picturing to the world Jesus’ union with the Church).  The theological problem here is that none of the three fundamental purposes of marriage can be achieved by a same-sex couple.  The first is obvious why.  The final two deserve a word of explanation. As for sanctification, God uses our circumstances and our spouse to draw out of our sinful, selfish leanings and daily make us look more like Him.  However, if the very foundation of your union is itself not pleasing to God, then to be fully sanctified would mean to end the relationship, which is a logically absurdity.  The problem in this case is plain.  As for reflection, nothing to me is as dastardly as the undermining of this purpose.  Each married couple serves as a parable of the archetype: Jesus and His bride.  Any combination of as marriage partners besides one man and one woman serve as poor parables.  Whether we know it or not, when we enter into marriage, we are making statements about God and his gospel to future generations.  We must be careful about what those statements are.

 

Taking the Sticky out of the Glue:  The Social Ramifications

As with everything God does, there is deep purpose to the existence of biblically defined marriage.  The marriage union is vital for the stability of culture.  As one pastor put it, “God has created three institutions, marriage (and family), the Church, and the government, and the latter two hinge on the former.”  In truth, this God given institution acts as the glue for an otherwise chaotic society.  Study after study only confirms this.  Children in loving homes of one mother and one father are statistically less likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, commit suicide, go to prison, live below the poverty line, get pregnant out of wedlock, etc.  To tamper with the understanding of marriage is to remove the stickiness from society’s glue.

 

What Looms Ahead:  The Legal Ramifications

What looms ahead of us?  An assault on religious liberty, that’s what.  Believe it or not, we are on the precipice of a nationwide governmental intrusion into our freedom of religion.  Practically speaking, this final point should open eyes more than anything previous.  Consider what has already happened in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized.  In his article in Decision Magazine, Al Mohler points out, “In Massachusetts, the legalization of same-sex marriage meant the end of the adoption ministry of the largest faith-based agency there…Given its refusal to recognize same-sex couples as candidates for adoption, the agency was forced by law to end its respected adoption ministry.”  In California it is now illegal for a licensed professional counselor to counsel a minor away from same-sex attraction.  Things like these are beginning to happen around the country, but these are just birth pangs.  Imagine what would happen to our ability to practice our faith freely if on a national level our government rules against one of Christianity’s longest held institutions.  What might happen to our religious universities?  Our churches?  What will be the consequence if a church parishioner refuses to perform a wedding of a gay congregant?  Will sermons speaking against homosexual behavior become a hate crime?  We can only speculate.  This much is certain, what was once far away is now very near and we must know that things might never be the same for people of faith.

 

God, Give Us Strength

 I’m not saying our government owes us the luxury of religious freedom.  In many ways I’m surprised we’ve had it this long.  The Spirit opposes the flesh and the flesh the Spirit.  We cannot expect that a secular institution will always uphold our viewpoints.  I thank God that for so many years it has.  However, as our culture takes yet another large leap away from the gospel, I want to encourage all of us who love Jesus to bear this well.  Many societies around the world for most of history have resisted the gospel and persecuted God’s people.  Perhaps it’s our time now to bear up under the coming heat.  I want to challenge you, brother, sister, to be faithful to God’s Word.  May we, the Church, resist the urge to co-opt un-truths in pursuit of comfort.  May we be vigilant in prayer for our nation and each other.  And may we always be marked by kindness and compassion to the gay community, even as we stand firm on the ground of the gospel so that though “they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12)

 

 

CLEAR THE STAGE TOUR: Calling All Fans!

By now, many of you have gotten or heard my new album Clear the Stage. Many of you have also taken time to write me on Facebook, twitter and spoken to me at concerts to share how you’ve been challenged and encouraged through these songs, and in particular, the title track. By the way, if you haven’t heard the song, here’s a link to the lyric video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6smGew7dGto

What you might not know is that this coming Spring I will be doing my first headline tour called, you guessed it, the CLEAR THE STAGE TOUR.

The songs on this record tell the Truth, but songs can only go so far. For seven years, I’ve dreamt of being able to go even deeper.  create a concert experience like nothing I've ever done before.  And now, it’s finally here.

God is after so much more than our sing-alongs and token prayers. He wants are appetite, our desire, our all. This is the heartbeat of our tour. Not only is the message of the night so vital, but the mission is as well. We are partnering with our friends at the Mocha Club to help liberate women in the poverty stricken nation of Ethiopia from a life of prostitution. Currently in Ethiopia, one in nine women sell their bodies every night just to make ends meet. They are without hope or dignity. We want to change that number in Jesus' name, and we know that as we fight for these girls, we will all be changed in the process.  To do this I’m bringing with me my friends, nationally renown speaker Tony Nolan and worship leader Jeff Johnson. These are men with heart, passion and talent. I’m so glad to have them on the team.

WE NEED YOUR HELP Why am I sharing all this with you?   I’m writing because I want your help. I want to get this event into as many venues around the country as possible but I can’t do it alone. That’s where you come in.  If you’ve been impacted by what God has done through these songs in your own life and want to share that experience with others, you can have a hand in getting us to play in your city! Here’s how:

• Talk to some folks in authority at your church, or a local promoter at a nearby theatre, or a promotions director on your college campus (maybe an on-campus organization like a Christian fraternity/sorority). • Tell them about the event, share with them the lyric video “Clear the Stage” to help them understand more about the tour. • Have them, or yourself, send an email to Elite Talent Agency booking@ETA-Live.com or call them at (615) 983-6600 to get details about the event. NO COMMITMENT NECESSARY. This is just to see what costs will be, etc.  They respond quickly, promise! • We will do our best to work with most budgets so don’t be scared to reach out! • Do it soon as we are filling up our tour calendar now!

It's that simple.  One thing I always loved about my fans is that they may be few but they’re passionate! I believe in you guys and know you can help us take this show to people who really need it. I look forward to joining you in an effort to win back the hearts of a generation to King Jesus! Let’s prove together that worship is more than a song!

- Jimmy

UncategorizedJimmy Needham
Resting In The Lord: My August Sabbatical

“The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.”(Leviticus 25:1-5)

In August of 2005, I released my very first independent CD, “For Freedom”. This was the album that got the attention of Inpop Records only three month after it’s release, which ultimately led to my first ever record contract in February ’06. I was 19 when that first album dropped. Still in college with plans to be a history teacher. I’m writing today as a twenty six year old. In a week I will be a father of two. Six years of marriage to my best friend next month. And, this August will also mark seven years since “For Freedom” was released and my career began. So much has happened in these seven years, and I’m grateful for it all.

There is an often undervalued command of Scripture that we find in Leviticus 25. It is a passage on rest. Specifically, God commands that every seven years the people are to cease tilling the ground, gathering it’s fruits, sowing and reaping. “There shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land” (Lev. 25:5). The command served dual purposes. First and most practically, it allowed the ground a year of “recovery time” for it to replenish the nutrients that the soil had lost over the past six years. This rest actually made the soil even better than before so that the next six years could be fruitful and profitable.

The second purpose was not for the soil but for the people: “But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath…to the LORD.” Every business owner knows, work equals provision. You put your hours of labor every day and yield a return that will provide for you and your employees as well as grow your company. Time off means regression, no production, no provision. This is a terrifying thing. Maybe that’s why so many Americans are work-a-holics. The Lord knows this about mankind, and He knows that what is best for man is not to rest in their own efforts, but to rest in Him. He is their provider and their ceasing from work is a tangible way for them to affirm that.

I wanted you to know all that so that I can inform you of something. This August, in honor of my seven years of laboring in the studio and on stage, and in keeping with the essence of the levitical command, I have decided to take a Sabbath rest. Not for a year, but for a month. From August 5th until September 5th I intend to one thing, rest. My goal is to take thirty days to press into the Lord and to invest in my family and friends. I am hoping this will yield two results: First, that just like the fallow soil replenishing its nutrients, my heart will grow a renewed fondness and desire for Jesus, that He would expand my appetite for Him and then satisfy that appetite. I’ve been going virtually non-stop for seven years and there is no question that on some level, my relationship with Him has suffered because of that. I look forward to hours of uninterrupted God-time to pray, read and enjoy being in His presence. The second outcome I am aiming for is to remind my heart that it is the Lord and not my labors which provide for me and my family. Despite misconceptions about my financial situation as a recording artist, if I’m not on the road, I’m not making money. Thirty days of no income is no fun, but I believe and am trusting that God will provide in the interim. The Lord says to the people, “The Sabbath of the land shall provide for you” (v. 6). It’s a funny statement. It’s like saying, “not providing will provide for you.” Our provision is not by works, but by God’s grace as we rest from our works! This beautiful passage is a shadow, an arrow of the future grace that was to be poured out on people when Jesus came to earth. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And that, not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. Not by works so that no man may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9). My God “provides for His beloved even in their sleep” (Psalm 127:2)!

So, what can you do during this next month? Well, I would deeply appreciate your prayers. Pray that I would actively not waste my Sabbatical. Pray that I would work hard to rest. Pray for new vision from God about what these next 5-10 years hold for me and my family. Pray for new inspiration for songs when I come back. Pray for provision for us in these next months. You can also pray for my wife, Kelly. August 16th she will be giving birth to our second baby girl, Sophia Quinn. We are so excited and would greatly appreciate prayers for a smooth delivery and a healthy little girl.

I consider you all my family, which is why I want to inform you of all these things. We are all in this together, working and resting for one glorious purpose: that in all things we would make Jesus famous!

What Monster Movies and Porn Have In Common

“See? Told ya. Only one way to kill a werewolf.”  - Rudy from The Monster Squad I was five when I saw my first PG-13 movie.  For some reason the older kid in the neighborhood out of his own good graces invited my juvenile self and a buddy over to watch The Monster Squad.  It’s a super dated teen monster movie from the 80’s.  A surprising fact, it never won an Oscar.  I know, I couldn’t believe it either.  Anyway, onto the plot:  A band of buddies find themselves battling a horde of monsters with Dracula as the ringleader in order to save the world…kinda like Goonies but with mummies and vampires.  The genius of the film (if I can use such a phrase) is in the scenes where the kids are determining what weapons are appropriate for which monster.  They spend time arguing about the necessary accoutrements for killing a vampire and so on.  On one occasion, a kid named Rudy proves himself right by successfully taking out the werewolf with a silver bullet and then exclaiming, “See? Told ya. Only one way to kill a werewolf.”  Now, how in the world am I planning a segue from a terrible 80’s B-movie to porn?  Well, for those who didn’t know, this blog is a very belated ‘part 2’ of my previous blog, “All In the Family:  Lust and Her Ugly Cousins”.  In that post I sought to resource you with practical ways to experience freedom from lust’s stronghold.  But practicum does us no good if we don’t know the type of monster we’re dealing with.  You can’t really talk garlic and crucifixes until you’ve decided it’s a vampire and not a werewolf in your living room (trying to stay relevant for all my Twilight readers J).  So I want to talk ‘big picture’ in this blog.  What’s really at the heart of our battle with lust?  Just what sort of monster are we dealing with here?

For a while I thought about sin, and in particular my porn addiction, as a violation of God’s law, the 10 Commandments.  I was committing various crimes against God’s standard and thereby indicted myself before a holy God.  My sin, my monster was primarily an activity-based issue.  Of course, the point of this blog is not to deny that.  The Bible is profoundly clear that our sins are activities of the mind and body against God’s perfect standard, His Law.  But I believe there to be an even more profound lens through which we can understand the monster of sin and in this case, lust:  Sin is not just a violation of Law, it is a violation of appetite.

The Old Testament is one giant train wreck of sin.  We get two good chapters and then the earth goes to pot.  I don’t just mean Adam and Eve.  I don’t just mean those pagan nations that all end in the suffix –ite, either.  I mean the nation for which God selected for Himself, Israel.  It took about 34 seconds after God led them out of slavery in Egypt for them to start grumbling against Moses and God because they were hungry.  Then you arrive at the 10 Commandments scene.  Moses comes down from the mountain, having been with God for 40 days receiving His Law to find the nation having a giant orgy and worshipping a bunch of earrings they melted down to look like a cow.  Fast forward to the years of the Kings.  These kings are charged with leading the people of God into obedience of God’s statutes.  They were to be models to the people of grace and servant-hood.  Instead, they were some of the biggest criminals of all:  erecting statues to false gods, practicing unspeakable sexual immorality, some kings even sacrificed their own children to idols by burning them alive.  Greed, murder, deception, idolatry, adultery, theft and pride riddled this people.  And then, we arrive at the Prophets, where God spells out His indictment against this vile nation.  Jeremiah, the weeping Prophet, doesn’t get two chapters into his book before he lays before the people what God believes to be their crimes.  I was shocked by what I read.  I expected a laundry list and what I got instead was two charges.

“[M]y people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  (Jeremiah 2:13)

Wow.  All the things God could have said, and He chose instead to boil their crimes down to two things:  They forsook God, the fountain of Living water.  And They tried to drink from wells that could not satisfy them.

Maybe we’ve struggled so long under lust without experiencing real freedom because we didn’t understand what type of monster it was.  We thought we could beat it with silver bullets but we didn’t realize we were battling Dracula, not the Wolfman.  We’ve attacked lust by trying to choke it out with willpower, self-denial and the like, but we haven’t considered that maybe the solution is found in quenching our thirst in Jesus, the fountain of living water.  Our monster is one of appetite, and to beat it we must satisfy our appetites in the person of Christ.  This is the solution.  This is the only solution.  Our wooden stake in the heart of sin.

Jesus once said to a crowd of people “I am the bread of life;  He who comes to me will never hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)  I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Jesus is telling the truth.  He really can satisfy us in such a profound way that our hunger for sin will wilt away.  There is a way to not hunger and thirst for lustful images by feasting on the Satisfier, Jesus.  Take Him at His word.  Sit with Him daily.  Read the Scriptures and allow Him to leap off the pages at you.  Speak to Him.  Listen to Him.  Invite Him to fill your soul with water that quenches and bread that fills.  Maybe for the first time in your life, you won’t need to fear your monster anymore.

All In the Family: Lust & Her Ugly Cousins

Months ago I listened a most fascinating and challenging sermon by one of my favorite teachers, Tim Keller.  The sermon was called “How to Change”.  Do yourself a favor and find it on iTunes immediately.  His talk tackled the fruit of the Spirit as addressed the book of Galatians.  Keller quoted the wise Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards who in one of his books was quoted as saying “There is a concatenation of the graces of Christianity”.  Concatenation.  It’s a weird word but it’s packed with meaning.  Basically, Edwards was saying that there is a deep interconnectedness between the fruit of the Spirit, so that you can’t truly have one without the others.  If you experience peace, but no humility, what you really have is a shell of peace, a façade that will show itself to only be circumstantial in the end.  True peace must necessarily be partnered with humility because a truly peaceful person is someone who admits that God, and not they, is in control and that they submit to His will for their life.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are all close relatives of each other.  You can’t say your in the family and not be around all of them.  Kinda like Everybody Loves Raymond.  :)  Over the past few years of observing myself and those around me, an idea has been developing in my mind about a different type of concatenation.  But first, some things you may not know about me.

Fact #1:  From the age of 9 until about 7 years ago, I was deep in the trenches of porn addiction.  Yep, for the better part of 10 years of my life my identity was wrapped up in my lustful habits.  At the worst point I was looking at pornographic material every day, often never leaving my room except to go to school.

Fact #2:  From the age of 9 until about 7 years ago, I was severely overweight.  In fourth grade I weighed 116 lbs.  I was a 36 waist by the time I was eleven.  In high school and college I weighed about 260 lbs.

All of that changed by my sophomore year of college.  God gave me a number of decisive victories over lust that year, and eventually 1 week of freedom turned into 2, turned into 3, and then one day I just never returned to internet porn.  It was such a burden lifted.  Interestingly, at the exact same time my gluttonous eating patterns began to change.  I was saying “no” to overeating, and pound by pound the weight began to fall off.  In just a handful of months I lost almost 70lbs.  I went from a 42 waist to a 34.  I even dropped a shoe size!  It occurred to me recently that these two victories happening simultaneously might not have been mere coincidence.  Could it be that in some odd way, there was a link between the two and that by crippling one, the other crippled as well?  Perhaps spiritual fruit isn’t the only thing that is concatenated.  Perhaps our sins can be too.

By this point, you might be confused by what I mean.  Let me give a couple more examples.  I have two friends, both who struggle with lust (manifesting in a pornography addiction).  As the battle with lust increased in Friend A, so did his battle with his weight.  He would stumble by looking at porn and console himself by eating a meal.  Conversely, he would gorge himself on food, and as sure as the sun rises would go to his room and get on the internet.  On top of these two issues, slothfulness showed up to play.  This man who was once very disciplined in his lifestyle was now sleeping past noon most days.  Lust, gluttony, laziness, all manifested in his life at about the same time.

Friend B has two foibles: A constant losing battle with lust and a constant losing battle with dust.  The dude is just a slob.  Disorderliness and uncleanliness mark his existence.  It is my opinion that for both of these men, there is a deep connectedness, a concatenation, of sins in their life.

My point is this:  Lust, gluttony, slothfulness, uncleanliness, drunkenness, are members of the same family:  Self-indulgence.  They can no more be separated than Siamese twins who are connected at the heart.  If one is in your life, it is incredibly easy for the others to show up.  Consequently, if the victory you experience over one is a real, Jesus-given victory, the others will have a much harder time sticking around.  I’ve seen this in my life and in the life of many folks around me.

The reason I am writing these things is to provide one more round of ammunition in your arsenal against sin.  I don’t believe this truth is all you need to find victory.  In my next blog I’ll be tackling what I believe the ultimate problem and solution are to the sin of lust.  That is not what this blog is about.  But this can still be ammo for you. Perhaps you are in the throes of lust and addiction and are desperate for freedom.  Consider this counsel.  Heed the words of Paul, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27).  By taking control of one part of your “body” you might be able to reign in the others.  I wish I would have known this long before seven years ago.  Perhaps I would’ve experienced victory sooner.

“Tonight We Are Young! What About Tomorrow?”

I consider myself to be something of a student of pop-culture. I try to stay up to speed with the latest trends, songs, clothing etc. I like having a pulse on where my generation is at so I can be more equipped to contextualize the gospel for them. Lately I’ve noticed a trending topic in Top 40 radio. I suppose it’s always a topic of interest but a number of huge songs over the past few months have built their theme around one thing. Have you noticed too? See if you can spot it: “Tonight we are young/ So lets set the world on fire/ We can burn brighter than the sun/” (We Are Young ft. Janelle Monet)

“So what we go out/ That’s how it’s supposed to be/ Living young and wild and free/” (Young, Wild & Free ft. Bruno Mars)

“Let’s go all the way tonight/ No regrets, just love/ We can dance until we die/ You and I, we’ll be young forever/” (Teenage Dream by Katy Perry)

It’s interesting to me reading these lines, how short sighted we can be as a culture. “You and I will be young forever”? Uh…false. Katy Perry is gonna be wrinkly old lady one day who needs assistance to use the bathroom, if she can hold it that long. She’ll probably be eating prunes and watching reruns of “All My Children” and arguing with the characters out loud in her living room. Then she will die. And there in death she, as well as everyone else, will stand before a thrice holy God to give account for all things done while in the body. I wonder if she thinks about her death ever. I wonder how that might change her songs. I wonder if it would cause us to sing a different tune as well.

There’s nothing as sobering as death. Our own death. It waits there at the end of our days, a giant “period” hungry to finish the all too brief sentence of our life. It’s all we can do some days to avoid thinking about it. Funny, because that’s exactly what the Bible tells us not to do.

“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Ps. 39:4-5)

All through the books of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes we are challenged not to run from thoughts of our death, but to meditate on them. But why? Why meditate on something so morbid? What benefit could it generate? God provides a very clear reason why in a psalm: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10 & 12)

We are to number our days so that we may get a heart of wisdom. Wisdom is a big theme of much of the Bible. It’s a very pregnant word packed with so much meaning, but if I could give a quick definition I would say wisdom is having your thoughts and actions dramatically impacted by a desire to reflect God’s character in this earth. Wisdom isn’t intelligence, though it engages the intellect. It is rather seeing one’s intellect washed by a view of God’s holy standards, His love for righteousness, His distain of all things vile and corruptible. And you and I can acquire this simply by meditating on our own mortality. You see, when you realize that you won’t, in fact, be young forever, you begin to reassess your priorities. There’s an old adage about acting in futility that goes, “doing (X) is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” We understand what this means. A sinking ship is no place to be concerned with how the amenities look! Those chairs will be at the bottom of the ocean in a few short hours. Much better to focus on getting folks into life-rafts than tending to deck chairs.

These bodies are like the Titanic. They are all sinking. You’ve heard the ultimate statistic haven’t you? 100% of humans die. It’s true. I looked it up ☺. If we can but realize that we are just moments away from our eternity, how might that impact what we are doing today? Would it change your priorities? Are there things you are involved in that seem like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic when you think of them in light of your death? I bet there are. That’s why we must do what the Bible says and number our days.

My mentor Ben once told me, “if you ever want to gain perspective on your life, go have a devotional in a grave yard”. I took him up on that challenge in high school. I sat next to a boy that was born the same year as me. He didn’t make it past 14. It was such a sobering moment, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I know now that at best I have about 60 more years to go. I want these next years to count for something more than living “young, wild & free”, don’t you? Don’t waste your days. Join King David and countless saints before and after him who learned the art of numbering their days so that you too might gain a heart of wisdom.

Good Luck Being Good

1. You shall have no other gods before me. 2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain

4. Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.

5. Honor your father and your mother

6. You shall not murder.

7. And you shall not commit adultery.

8. And you shall not steal.

9. And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10. And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.’

(Deuteronomy 5:7-21 Edited)

Israel was summoned to a meeting. Down from the mountain came Moses to speak to God’s people. What followed would become one of the most famous passages in all of Scripture. Churches, city centers, courthouses and classroom walls would all be emblazoned with these words millennia later. Folks would build whole cultures around them. Major motion pictures would be made about them. Men would lose status and reputation for upholding them. Others would lose their lives for ignoring them. These words have undergone such scrutiny, so many interpretations, applications and misuses that there is hardly anyone (at least, any westerner) without an opinion on what has come to be known as the Decalogue, or the 10 Commandments.

So the scene has been set. God issues 10 Commandments to His people to obey completely. Picture yourself standing at the mountain’s base for a minute. Fire and smoke swirl all around you. The Lord of glory’s majestic voice bellows through you as you hear Him speaking from heaven. What awe you must feel at His words! What terror! What can you say? What should you say? Well I’ll tell you what Israel said: “Yessir!”. Israel said to Moses, “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.” (Deut. 5:27).

Now, maybe this promise doesn’t phase you. God said “obey” and the people said “done”. No big deal, right? The problem is, Israel wrote a check they simply couldn’t cash. Look at God’s words to them about their noble pledge.

“And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:28-29)

You get the sense that the heart of God was touched at their promise, but ultimately the wisdom of God knew better. He said “O that they had such a heart”. What was God’s response to His people when the pledged allegiance to Him and promised to obey His commands? He said that they didn’t have the heart to do it. I believe that this phrase is one of the most important passages in all of Scripture. It’s important because it’s the exact same thing God says to us when we think that we can be good enough to meet His perfect standard. “O that they had such a heart”.

C.S. Lewis once said, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good”. I don’t know about you, but I was raised with the understanding that the Commandments were the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Good people kept them. Bad people broke them. It was important, therefore, to do your best to obey. What I didn’t know was that the same Bible that told to obey also told me I lacked the ability to do so! The thing is, you don’t need to be taught this truth. Just go try to be good for one day. I mean, really good. How’d it go? Fact: We are all terrible at morality. Even when we get the external actions down, our heart’s internal motives are usually selfish and prideful the whole time. God demands goodness. Worse, God demands perfection, and all we do is sin. Is there any hope for us?

The answer is yes! But it isn’t found in more trying. Believe it or not, it’s found in open-heart surgery. Many centuries later, God spoke through the Prophet Ezekiel to the nation of Israel. Through the Prophet God gave His people insider information on how he intended to fix their sin problem. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

The problem: God demands our obedience but our hearts won’t let us obey him because they are sinful. God’s solution: Give us a new heart. He removes that old stony heart that doesn’t care for Him and gives us one that beats for the things He loves. This was fulfilled after Jesus rose from the grave and sent His Spirit to live inside every believer. This is the great promise of the Old Testament fulfilled!

I pray this comes as a relief to those of us who have tried to be good enough for so long and have always failed. May we learn to cease trying in our own power and yield to the Spirit of God who gives us new desires and causes us to be obedient. Maybe you read this and think, “I have no idea what this means. I thought Christianity was about being good and moral.” May I say to you, there is only one way to be good, and it’s not by working harder. It’s by trusting in and treasuring the one who worked on your behalf, Jesus Christ. He achieved what we could not: Pleasing God perfectly. Give Him your sin and let Him give you His goodness. Then you will truly be free to obey all God has commanded you, for His glory and your good.

HOLIDAY SALE!
Greetings!

WOW...It's hard to believe that 2011 is almost gone. This has been a blessed year for Kelly and me, along with our new baby, LIVELY!

I know you have a crazy schedule, like everybody does, so I won't take up much of your time. I just wanted to let you know that our Holiday Sale is underway on all the Jimmy Needham items online. All shirts have been reduced to $6 - $8.00 each. All music is $9.99.  We have sweatshirts, pictures, pic cards, sheet music....anything and everything Jimmy Needham is now on sale.

Quantities are limited and so is the sale, so maybe think about doing some of your holiday shopping with us online.

Please click on the store link above for all the savings.  Prices online have already been reduced.  Thanks for your partnership with us and we hope you and your family have a blessed holiday season!

Jimmy Needham

 

Avril Lavigne, Invisible Rings & True Freedom

“All my life I’ve been good, but now, oh oh oh I figure, ‘What the hell?’” –Avril Lavigne I had the radio on the other day when the new Avril Lavigne single came on.  You’ll remember Avril as the 5 foot nothing punk/pop chick who dominated the early 2000’s with her single “Complicated”.  It seems things have gotten decidedly less complicated for the girl recently, at least according to her latest song, “What the Hell”.  In this very catchy number that had my attention right away, the chorus arrived as she sang, “All my life I’ve been good, but now, oh oh oh I figure ‘What the hell?’”  Touching.  However that line rubs you, one thing is true, it’s bigger than just a pop song.  It’s a statement on freedom.

Do you hear what she’s really saying?  Listen closely.  Here’s the ethic of the song in a nutshell:  Morality, law abiding, manner minding has its place, and I’ll obey for a while because it’s what I ought to do.  But when it really comes down to it, what I ought to do is never what I want to do.

In other words, the good we do is done out of a sense of duty at best, and at worst, a fear of punishment.  But never is it done out of desire.

The Lord of the Ring

This isn’t something new.  We’ve known this about ourselves for millennia.  There is an ancient Greek parable called “the ring of Gyges”.  The story was told of a shepherd named Gyges who discovers a ring that makes its wearer invisible (sound familiar?).  Gyges takes the ring and upon arriving at his king’s palace, slips on the ring, and, protected by invisibility seduces the queen, murders the king and takes control of the kingdom.  The point of the tale was that even the most moral man, when given proper protection from consequences, will defy his ethic and act selfishly and wickedly.

Opera House Thieves

Perhaps this is too pessimistic for you.  Maybe humans are better than that.  Of course, you haven’t found any magic rings lately either, have you?  However, that was precisely the case for a group of gift shop employees in the 1970’s.  Chicago Public Radio’s podcast of “This American Life” just did a segment on a group of volunteer workers at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C.  It seemed there were some major financial discrepancies in the books for the little gift shop below the performance hall.  More than 40% of the gross income was going missing every month.  That’s over $100,000 a year.  When they finally investigated the matter, they were shocked to find not just one criminal, but the entire volunteer staff as the guilty party.  You see, there were no real records being kept of the comings and goings of money and merchandise.  This meant there was no real way for a thief to be caught.  One by one retirees, war veterans, patrons of the Center, would slip on their invisible rings and take cash and goods right out of the store.  Maybe there’s more to this Gyges thing than we first thought.

But what if it didn’t have to be like that?  I mean, are we destined to always be kicking against the goads of the Law?  Must we always feel like muzzled animals, longing to cut loose from the restrictive bonds of ethics to live, well, like hell?

Open Heart Surgery

Thankfully there is hope, and as always, it’s found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  You see, Jesus didn’t come to earth to make mean people act nicer, or liars behave more honestly.  Christianity is NOT just behavior modification.  It is heart surgery.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

The Prophet Ezekiel foretold how God had decided to handle Israel’s sin issue.  It wasn’t more laws or better disciplinary measures.  He knew the human heart would ultimately resist anything telling it what to do.  There was only one option left:  Remove the source of the problem and replace it with something better.  He gave his people a new heart.

The implications of this are massive.  Don’t miss this glorious truth!  It is one of the biggest distinctives of Christianity.  Jesus didn’t just save us.  He gave us His Spirit who now lives inside every believer.  This Holy Spirit gives us a whole new set of desires.  Seriously.  I’ve experienced this.  Before Christ I was a deeply committed pornography addict.  Then Jesus saved me in high school.  For the first time ever, and ever since, I distained my old habit.  I didn’t want it anymore.  I actually began to desire purity.  Now I am not only free from that addiction, but it was my glad choice to do so.

True Freedom

John Piper puts it this way:  “True freedom is doing what you want to do, when what you want to do is what you ought to do.”  You want to know what real freedom is?  It’s not the escape from morality, but the willing, joyful embrace of it.  It’s obeying because it’s a joy to obey.  But be advised, this kind of freedom is only possible through a heart transplant.  The good news is the surgery is free, and I hear the Surgeon is a pro.

“Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always…” Deuteronomy 5:29

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:27

New Blog: My New Website!
Hey fam!  Wanted to update you briefly on the new site.  It’s…new.  I know, pretty cool.  Not just anybody can have a website you know.  It takes someone with credentials, someone with clout, someone with $5 a month to spend.
www.jimmyneedham.com
Yes the rumors are true.  We’ve updated my site, and there’s some neat things I want you to check out. For starters, you’ll find all my blogs, vlogs and clogs(just go with it) right there on the home page to check out.  There’s a place for comments so be sure to add your two cents.  Check my tour schedule to see if I’m coming your way soon.  You’ll also find new and cool info on my band and me by clicking on the “Band” tab.
All you girls need to check out “Kelly’s Page”.  My wife has some incredible insights on dating, marriage, relationships and walking with God that she posts on this link.  (P.S. our baby girl, Lively, is due in January.  Feel free to click the tab to see how you can help.)
Finally, I have a special gift for the FIRST 100 people to buy a shirt from the website.  We’re giving away a FREE 6 SONG E.P.!  I don’t sell this CD individually anywhere so I’m excited to be able to offer it to you with this deal.  It has exclusive, unreleased songs and acoustic performances of some of my favorites from my previous records.
So, please drop by.  Stay a while.  Be encouraged by the writings and links I’ve posted.  I hope you enjoy the new site!  Peace!
Jimmy