Archive for February, 2007

With Regard to Excellence

Posted in General, Ministry on February 22, 2007 by christopherhopper

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Will The Man Who Loves Jesus Please Stand Up?

Posted in Ministry, Music on February 22, 2007 by christopherhopper

jonny-lang-2.jpgOne of my guys in youth group recently handed me a CD simply saying, “Dude, you’ve got to check this guy out.” Like most things I’m given, it got put on “the stack.” Needless to say, it was a good month before I listened to it.

The music really impressed me. But being signed with Interscope Records, it should. Clean, tight, and extremely well written.

Then something hit me with the words. Something major. Each song, every song, seemed like it was either talking about Jesus, or encouraging people to dream, two things you don’t hear very much about today. “Maybe this guy is a Christian…” I thought.

But it couldn’t be.

Could it?

While my wife was grocery shopping and I was sitting in the truck with the kids, I fell upon the song that encapsulates his testimony, and it hides nothing. I’m not going to spoil it by telling you the track name. Don’t worry. You’ll find it. And when you do you’ll be as amazed as I was.

When Jennifer got back in the car, I ran in to the auto parts store, but I started the track over so I know she’d hear it when she turned the CD player back on.

When I came back five minutes later, she was in tears.

“Who is this?”

May I present Jonny Lang, a man I wish I knew personally just to shake his hand and say “thank you.” And the album of course is the Grammy Award winning Turn Around. A quick read through of his bio and subsequent visit to his website will portray what we’ve come to know in the US as a first-class act, full of talent, success, and prestige. Yet, upon further investigation, you’ll discover so much more.

This guitar-playing, song-belting virtuoso got saved. Radically saved. And he’s not ashamed of it. A brief read through of his testimony will put any sceptics to shame. This guy is the real deal. He’s had an encounter with the Holy Ghost.

His music has been blessing me non-stop. And the most amazing thing: he’s still signed to Interscope, yet his stuff is, in my opinion, more Christ-centered than most things I’ve heard out of CCM in a long time. Original. Authentic. Classy. And need I say I thought he was black?

Granted, my praise of the guy get added to the already long list of endorsements, including Eric Clapton, B.B. King , and Buddy Guy. But mine would be of a different sort. Yes, he’s an amazing singer, song-writer, and guitarist.

But, thank you, Jonny Lang, for being willing to use the amazing platform you’ve been given to create phenomial art that makes the whole world notice, not just a whole niche. Thank you for standing up. My hat is off to you and I look forward to meeting you one day, either here or in glory. I’m proud to be your brother in Christ. You have my thoughts and prayers always.

CH

Being Christian Without Being “Christian” (CFSS Blog Tour)

Posted in Community, General, Ministry, On Writing, Recommendations on February 21, 2007 by christopherhopper

Yesterday, my friend Jason made a fantastic comment about how we [the greater representative of the Westernized-American Body of Christ] slap the “Christian” tag on everything we do, from businesses to art. It reminds me of a revelation I had recently on the subject of witnessing.

So often we think that if we don’t mention “Christ dying at Calvary,” and Him being “raised from the dead three days later,” and so on and so forth, that we haven’t accurately witnessed to a lost person. But after re-reading that scripture which says “God is love,” (1 John 4:16) the Holy Spirit taught me a valuable lesson:

If we haven’t loved someone then we haven’t accurately witnessed.

To quote Fred Hammond, it’s not so much what we say, it’s mostly what we do. I love Rebecca Miller’s comment on my site yesterday, how Christians are “ghetto-izing” themselves. Granted, I’m posting on behalf of the CHRISTIAN Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour right now. And I rejoice for the title! But here’s my point:

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our art was categorized because of its excellence and not because of its prefix?

That day is coming because of people just like you, if you’re reading this and have a heart for the Bride of Christ to rise up, strong and powerful!

If you are reading any of Jeff Gerke’s material right now, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, please visit his web sites. It’s really encouraging stuff. The guy has a handle on the need for Christians to write modern day parables, and the power they have.

On yet another subject, Rebecca Miller again just posted this yesterday and I think it opens up a great discussion:

rebeccaluellamiller Says:
February 20th, 2007 at 8:49 pm

“Long way around saying, I do think we ought to lead, but I’m not necessarily sure that             means having the slickest this or that or the latest-and-greatest. Maybe web design needs         to be affordable so churches can have a web presence, for instance. Maybe the movie needs     to be made with volunteer actors (that In the Face of Giants, I think it was called). I don’t         know.

“I DO think content needs to lead the way. Presentation? I’d like to hear more thoughts on     that.”

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What do you think? (FYI: Wayne Thomas Batson already posted a similar theme here. Good reading and some great comments posted by his readers).

The world has such a strong handle on “presentation” for two reasons: 1.) They know that our culture is conditioned only to buy what looks the best. Call it shallow, but the numbers prove it. And 2.) how people present something directly (or indirectly) speaks of the object’s intrinsic value. Presentation builds credibility.
Unfortunately, I think there has been a lot of damage done in the world’s view regarding the Church in this; not only must we fight to set a precedent, but in a way, we’re having to make up for the apathy of those before us. Granted, I don’t even think we have to work that hard to do it. But work, we must.

I agree that our content must lead the way. But I fear that if it’s not presented with the best possible light we can give it, much of it will be passed over. In fact, as important as it is for authors and musicians to make great content, I think creative marketers need to be divinely inspired on how to present it. There are marketers out there (who’s gift it is to present things), who will get new ideas from heaven just on how to market something! A new add campaign, a new media tool, a new ingenious slogan or tour idea.

In response to Rebecca’s comment, I think “content” and “presentation” will walk hand in hand, a strategy which will set the Church apart, unlike secularism in which “presentation” is everything and “content” is next to nothing.

The most amazing example of all this, however, is right in front of us and I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss it briefly. On one hand, Jesus was far from what Israel was expecting. His “presentation” was far from desirable. They were looking for a valiant King and a war host following; he came to a manger and rode in on an ass. Yet, conversely, His return “presentation” will leave no doubt that He is who He says He is. All the sceptics will be shut up in that great and glorious day. To this, Rebecca has a fantastic point: in both cases His “content” was bar none.I’d love to hear your comments on this! Thanks for such a great theme, Rebecca!

And to my dear friend Wayne Thomas Batson, Knight in Arms, Swordbrother of Athera, what a fantastic post yesterday! Y’all need to check it out. I particularly like the picture of Aragorn.

Tomorrow I’m going to highlight one of the absolute best music albums I’ve heard in years. In my opinion, it’s more Christian than any CCM album has been in a long time, yet the artist has relatively nothing to do with the CCM community, and is signed to one of the largest secular labels in the world.

Stay tuned! And thanks for spending another few minutes with me today.

CH

(PS – Yes Wayne, I guess that would make God Stridex. But only if we can be Jamaican Jerk Sauce).

If The Map Ends… (CSFF Blog Tour)

Posted in Community, General, On Writing, Recommendations on February 20, 2007 by christopherhopper

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If the map ends, how do we pick up the trail? More importantly, who is going to help us? How do we get back on track, or even find the track for that matter?

Fortunately, this cool guy Jeff Gerke is here to help. Because my post yesterday was more about me than him, and I’m not sure how many readers actually made it to the bottom of my lengthy post to find his link, I thought I’d try and make all the links to both his personal author site as well as his resource site available to you towards the top of today’s post in such a way that you couldn’t miss them no matter how hard you tried by either clicking here or here and being taken to one of his two great sites in the hopes that it may help you or encourage you depending upon which link you click on, for if you click on this one, you may just get both.

Although he is not a part of the CSFF Blog Tour, I did want to highlight one of the comments left on my site today by Jason Clement. The writer is a dear friend of mine as well as one of the most creative people I know, bar none. And while his comment relates to the web-design end of things, it is very much in line with this month’s theme of Christians leading the way and not following. The comment (below) points out that it’s not just in music or writing that we’re lagging, but even in technology. Again, my point here is not to point a finger and keep it pointed, but to take account of our current state and then look to improve, so much so that we’re no longer trailing behind, but leading.

The Church as a whole is poised like never before to lead, to take over, and to set precedent. If I didn’t believe in Her, I’d stop writing. And I’m sure you wouldn’t be reading this. She is beautiful and glorious. And She is of God’s design, not mine. Plus, He’s madly in love with Her; that’s why He’s i back. So if I criticize Her, I criticize Him. I have no problem going through a self-examination process (which is what I consider this month to be) in the hopes of making Her (us) more lovely and effective; but I am quite tired of people throwing stones at the Church.

Stop it! May God convict us all.

If the Church is so ugly to you, maybe you’re the pimple keeping Her from getting noticed. Get healed or get concealed, because we have a world to save. If not, get popped because you’re too valuable to be toting around so much puss.

CH

(Don’t be a pimple!)

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  1. Jason Clement Says:
    February 20th, 2007 at 3:27 pm eGreat post! I’ve always been annoyed by the CCM artists sounding very much like secular artists, especially when they are marketed that way…“If you like the Dave Matthews Band, then you’ll love…”

    This brings up my argument on whether or not there should be a “Christian” label for the arts… when there isn’t for anything else. You don’t see a “Christian plumber” or “Christian news anchor” unless you count the “W.W.J.D.” bumper sticker on the plumbers’ van, or the “Jesus-fish” pin on the news anchors coat. Dunno, I could be wrong.

    I guess I don’t see the lack of quality in “Christian” writing, but I also don’t read as much anymore as I should. I do see evidence of the quality issues in my field. The best way I can sum this up is with the mission statement from the gang at Godbit Project.

    The purpose of this site is to help the Church catch up with the rest of the world in adherance to standards given by the World Wide Web Consortium, the governing body of best-practices on the Internet. The majority of Christian web design agencies are using outmoded methods of coding to create websites that the rest of the world would scoff at. Basically, they are stuck in the 1990’s.

    This is so common in fact, that the term “Christian” when associated with the Internet has become synonymous with “sub-par.”

    The good news is that we are starting to make some progress. There are some church web sites starting to show up in design showcases and being recognized for their quality. I have to keep pushing myself to do my part… to press on… to set an everlasting precedent for the world to follow, one that points to the greatness and majesty of the Heavenly Father.

    Check out http://godlycreatives.com/ for some people using “God’s Gifts for His Glory”

Setting The Standard (CSFF Blog Tour)

Posted in Community, On Writing, Recommendations on February 19, 2007 by christopherhopper

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I have been intimately involved with what I will term “the arts” for the past 20 years of my life. Born and raised in a professional recording studio, part of one of the first charismatic churches in the 70’s, and son to highly talented and artistic parents, my life has been anything but dull. Up until I was 13 I thought all churches had dancers, flags, painters, photographers, and rock bands in each service. I was constantly around the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and used to fall asleep under my dad’s giant mixing console in the studio during late-night sessions.

In my mind, my childhood was the apex, the very pinnacle of creativity and expression. My church set the standards for art, from theater to music, and my family was, and still is, magically gifted. Indeed it was a time in which the Lord taught me something beautiful: that He wanted to be the inspiration behind every work and The One to set precedent for the world to follow. And that He would use His Bride to show off His wonders.

Around the age of 16, I grew increasingly disturbed about “a trend” I noticed, first in myself, and then in the world around me. I remember that shortly after I recorded my first CD at age 18, I pitched it to Nashville. I sent it to a few family “connections” (something you must have), and felt confidant I would be the next Steven Curtis Chapman within the year.

Until I didn’t hear back from them.

Ever.

I was definitely crushed. It was my dream after all. But it was not God’s dream. And I don’t mean that in terms of His dream for me; while that’s true, it’s much bigger than that.

We’re talking about God’s dream for His Bride.

Before I go on, I rejoice that Christ is preached. Period. I don’t care who does it, how they do it, or what motives they are doing it with. There can be no true accounting for the lives that have been touched and changed through the music generated over the last 30 years from Nashville and beyond.

When no response came from Nashville, my father took me aside and said something that deeply impacted my life. “Son, you’ll never hear back from Nashville. You just don’t fit their mold. You’re not what they’re looking for.”

At first I was destroyed inside. But when the smoke cleared, I realized the jewel I had received: in order for me to “make it,” I’d have to play to the world’s standard.

God’s dream for His Bride is not that we’re always to be playing “catch up” with the world. We’re supposed to be the pace-setters, the policy makers, the precedent holders.

How many Christian albums have you heard that sounded like they were three years behind what some secular artist was doing? How many books have you read that felt as though you had read it before, minus the “God stuff”? Granted, my art must be included among it as I’ve been fighting for over a decade to be heavenly original.

But I finally feel like I’ve got a hold of something.

I believe their are secular artists who touch realms in the supernatural that they don’t even know they’re touching. I’ve heard pieces of music that have deeply moved me, even to heavenly places, yet I’m quite certain the artist is not a believer. But how can this be? Would I be a heretic if I dared even say their music was “anointed”?

As it always happens, I’ve had to return back to scripture for the answers. James 1:17 says that all (ALL) good and perfect gifts are given by the Father. Would anyone dare contest that the gift hidden within the heart of a guitar virtuoso like Joe Satriani is anything but good? Nay, even perfect? And if the giver of that gift is not Himself anointed, that gift is therefore anointed (meaning “to serve”), and accordingly brings great honor to the Gift Giver, whether the artist knows it or not.

It was for this reason that I began to feel ashamed. Not because I was comparing myself to a Joe Satriani, but I was comparing my level of stewardship with his. Having both been given good gifts from the Father of Lights, whether it be guitar playing or not, it was clear to me that one of us had been a better steward of the gift than the other. Granted, my gift may be in painting or accounting or acting or construction. The point is that we’re both receiving from the same Source, but one of us is setting a higher standard than the other, maybe not in an orthodox “ministry” sense, but certainly in skill, beauty, and overall accomplishment.

So is it merely in a dedicated and steadfast commitment to excellence that the world is setting the standard over the Church? Or is it in their creativity, too? Here is where I think the Christian has the obvious upper hand. But is it so obvious?

After a solid reading, and re-reading, of 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, we find some amazing facts about our current state in God’s eyes. How often have you heard someone quote, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”? Probably a lot if you’ve been around Christendom for even a year. But the problem is we hardly ever take into account the next line (how often do we make that error?): “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

Wait a second…

The things that no one has yet seen or heard about, stuff that no one can imagine, God wants to give those to me?

No.

He already has given them to you. When our spirit was awakened to the person of Jesus, summoned by the Holy Spirit to the life which we now live, something marvelous happened: we were given the very mind of Christ (verse 16). And in doing that, our spirit was instantly seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 1:17-20) so that we might have His Spirit of revelation and wisdom.

If we are three parts, body, soul, and spirit, mirroring the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, then practically that means one third of us, our spirit, is seeing above everything else (right now!) and can inform the other two thirds of us on earth the hidden and secret things of God!

Christian, this means you have access to things this world can’t even dream of! You can touch the hidden things of God which are yet to be revealed to the eyes and ear and minds of man! So why would you ever want to try and keep pace with what the world produces when you have been positioned to keep pace with what God Himself produces? If you have indeed been made a Son and Daughter of the Most High, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, why would you want anything other than this, your inheritance?

It is for this reason we press on, as Paul wrote, toward the mark of the high calling of Christ: that we would set an everlasting precedent for the world to follow, one that points to the greatness and majesty of the Heavenly Father. And it’s our birthright. You are the head and not the tail (Deut. 28:13), so don’t trade your inheritance for a bowl of soup. Don’t stoop down to follow when you should be leading. While the world’s dedication for excellence, no expense spared, should at least convict you, causing you to examine your own habits and attitudes, you need not flavor your art with the spice of lesser inspiration.

Touch the mind of Christ with your spirit. Ask Him. Wait on Him. He died for you to know, and He’s dying to show you.

As part of the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour, we highlight a different author or blog each week. And it’s very encouraging to know, at least for me, that I’m not alone in my thinking. There are others out there that want the glorious Bride of Christ to stand up and take her place in the world, especially when it comes to creating art. The man I’m highlighting in this months post is Jeff Gerke and his web site WhereTheMapEnds.com

From his own world-view (which you’ll get in just the first three paragraphs), to his amazing resources (from writing tools to his massive booklist), there are many practical steps and encouraging words that can be gleaned from this brother in the faith.

Please check it out, and tell him I sent you.

For other great authors and sites to visit, please review the following. Thank you for reading and spending a few minutes with me today.

Yours until they have all heard,

CH
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Suggested visiting:

Nissa Annakindt
Jim Black
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Leathel Grody
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
K. D. Kragen
Tina Kulesa
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 – The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver
Timothy Wise
D. G. D. Davidson
John W. Otte
Nicole

Author Talk: Batson & Hopper Interview

Posted in On Writing on February 16, 2007 by christopherhopper

During our infamous Writer’s Boot Camp held Feb. 2nd thru 4th in Scranton, PA, Wayne and I sat down for an interview on-all-things writing. Below you’ll find the full interview, fielding questions from “What are your writing schedules like?” to “What’s the future of Christian Fantasy?” I think it turned out pretty well. Granted, you either really have to like us, or writing, to watch the whole thing as it’s nearly 10 minutes long. But for “Batson/Hopper Junkies,” this will be write up your alley.

Please make sure to check out Wayne’s awesome blog HERE. He has incredible tips on writing, as well as a huge following of his books who leave great comments.

Enjoy!

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour

Posted in Community, On Writing on February 13, 2007 by christopherhopper

CSSF Blog Tour

Thought I’d pass along this wonderful new site I’m a part of called the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour. Tina, Becky, and the host of others that are making this “Christian worldview of fiction” a huge success deserve much praise. I’m thoroughly impressed by their heart for networking the Body of Christ in the realm of modern-day parables.You’ll be hearing more from me on this shortly as they prepare to debut yet another wonderful author. In the mean time, please check out these fantastic authors at your leisure.

Blessings!

CH
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