What's that sound?

It's the sound of custom-made ringtones, free of charge, bellowing from the tiny lo-fi speakers of my iPhone. In the words of Don Moen, "God will make a way where there seems to be no way." 

How was it accomplished? I'll tell you. Like I said before, the iTunes ringtone creator only allows you to use songs you buy, and only if those songs are approved by the record labels. Well, a "ringtone" is actually just a short AAC (.m4p) file with a different extension: .m4r. So, what I did was take an mp3 from any album that I've imported, for instance, "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay. I dragged that file into Garage Band and made a nifty little 30 second clip of it with a short fade in and fade out so it's not too abrupt when it plays on my phone. I don't like for ringtones to scare me when they start. After that, I used the "export to iTunes" option on Garage band, which imported the mp3 into iTunes. Then, I set the importing options on iTunes to AAC, which creates an .m4p file. Once it was converted, I dragged the file to my desktop and erased it from the iTunes library. Once on the desktop, I just renamed the file from .m4p to .m4r, and double-clicked it. It opened up and automatically was put into the ringtone folder, which syncs with my phone. Dollar saved. 


Lighter Note

I've spent a few posts on heavy theological stuff. That's important, I think. But, today I will be talking about some things that have recently brought me joy. This, of course, is the fleeting, temporary joy that things of this world bring, not the lasting, incomprehensible joy that comes from the Spirit of God.

1. I like lists, so this will be in list form.

2. Number 3 will be the first item.

3. The Michael Gungor Band- This summer, John Sherrill was pretty excited about one of their songs, called "Ancient Skies." I liked it too, so I checked out the full album. It's really great. I love the creativity and production, you can tell it was really thought out and is very well done. The songs are great, too. I love "Ancient Skies," but also this song, called "Spotless:"

**At this point, I had planned on copying and pasting the lyrics, so you could read them. I'm not lying, this is the first time ever I have not been able to find lyrics online for a particular song. The one link that looks like it will help me is not loading. I will continue to search and type, and hopefully something will pop up. Weird. It's a good song, believe me.

4. I have an iPhone now. I really like it. It continues to become more and more invaluable. Just Sunday, I downloaded an application that is a really simple shopping list, and Bethany and I headed off to H.E.B. It was totally frivolous and a pen and paper would've worked just fine, but how cool was it that I could use my phone for that?

5. I took my computer in the the Mac store today because I screwed something up. They adjusted everything so that my iTunes library is all in one place, on my portable hard drive, and there is no music on my actual computer hard drive. I have 24GB free on my computer now (instead of 500MB like before), and all of my music is in one place. It feels like a new computer. Now all I need is a battery, so I can actually use the computer more than 10ft. from the wall.

6. I quit the band, Max Cat. It's been a long time coming, but I finally just went ahead and did it. October 4th will be my last gig with them.

7. I just stopped and thought about how quitting Max Cat is a pretty big financial blow for me. Then I realized the song that's playing on my iTunes right now is called "God Will Take Care of You." Blatant profundity?

8. I didn't know I knew the word "profundity."

9. I have a new drive towards a pursuit of the knowledge of God. I'm trying to be careful that I'm not just learning facts to have something to argue, but really working towards sharpening my beliefs and growing in my faith. I'm sure I'll post a few of my newest revelations here soon.

10. I'm going to be a dad very soon. This is her:

I automatically think she's the most amazing baby ever conceived. I can't wait to meet her and hold her and raise her. Oh gosh, I have to raise her. God, are you SURE I'm ready for this?

11. I took my car in to a service shop last week for my inspection (two months late), and was not treated like a child. I will be going back for other car work as the need arises.

12. My DVR is glad the olympics are over. I actually had to reboot it because the "record" light was stuck on. Sorry, U-verse. Thanks for doing such a great job, though. P.S. The closing ceremony is still saved on there, if you want to come watch it with me.

13. I am researching a way (and I will find one, I promise) to bypass the "ringtone" function on iTunes. Right now, I can only use ringtones that I make on iTunes. And I can only make ringtones on iTunes from songs I have bought from iTunes. And among the songs I've bought on iTunes, only songs that are approved by the record company to be made into ringtones can be made into ringtones. Then, they charge an extra $.99 for the 30 seconds I use of each song I already own. This is limiting, and needlessly expensive. I don't like to be limited, especially when I'm paying for very high levels of technology. And I don't like to all of a sudden be charged for what I used to do for free. And seriously, why would I pay another $.99 to have 30 seconds of a song I already paid $.99 to have in the first place? I will find a way. I already have an idea, it's just going to take a few extra steps, and THANK YOU to Apple marketing, I'm starting to wonder if it's worth my time to just pay the $.99 to save myself 5 extra minutes. Oh, you are clever, Mr. Jobs.

14. This is the last item in the list. I will talk to you soon.


Nothing New Under This Title

I like to be right. I tend not to get into debates about things unless I'm pretty sure I'm going to win (or leave thinking I won). I spend hours researching things to find out the different angles and basically side with people that I agree with. I'm constantly trying to sharpen my thoughts and beliefs and theologies. Or I'm lazy and don't care. Depends on the day.

Here's a few things I've been wrestling with lately. This all stems from a few nights ago when I stumbled upon an article about Joel Osteen. I would keep it anonymous, but most of what I'm about to say either won't make sense if you don't know who I'm talking about, or it will be so obvious who I'm talking about, you'd know anyway. (** Just a note, I'm not saying, in the opening of this blog, that I am right in whatever I am saying here. These are the things I'm dealing with. If I'm not right, let me know what you think, and we'll figure it out together. Otherwise, I think I'm right)

First, here's something I've been thinking. Is it right to come on my blog and "publicly" speak against someone? Yes, I think so. These are things I would say to him, if I was important enough to talk to him. Also, Luke 12:48 says that much is required of whom much is given, so I'd say if you're placed in such a prominent "spiritual" position, everything you say can and should be questioned and balanced against scripture.

I am almost dreading what I'm writing today, because I've read SO MANY blogs and articles in the last few days, and I don't want to just add to the noise. My goal and prayer is that I expose the lies scripturally and maybe spur some of us to thoughts about these things. I don't think God wants us to just sit blindly and soak in everything that we hear or read. When Jesus sent out his disciples in Matthew 12, He charged them to be as wise (or shrewd) as serpents. I think that means we need to out-think the world. Satan has very limited resources to attack us with, and can use very subtle lies to influence us.

I made a comment on a youtube video the other day. The video was bashing Osteen (somewhat sloppily), and I was bashing someone who stupidly tried to defend Osteen. Within 12 hours, I was called a "hater" and banished to hell 3 or 4 times, etc. I'm pretty sensitive, so I thought, "Oh gosh, I AM a hater, where's the love, Smith?" But NO! That's what the pansy feel-good-about-anything-that-looks-like-what-i-want-God-to-look-like theologists think of anyone who disagrees with them. So this is for you blind, ignorant Christians who accept any message of health and prosperity because it's what you think you deserve because you're a Christian.

Word-Faith. Heard of it? I didn't until last week. Joel Osteen's dad was a member of this cult. Joel took over his ministry when he died, and continues this type of teaching. Oh? You didn't know the world's biggest church was a cult? Hmm.

Word-Faith basically says my words have authority over God (through something called "Positive Confession"). Hebrews 11 states "Faith is the substance of things hoped for..." "Substance" in this instance is somewhat poorly translated, and really means "Assurance." But someone decided that faith was an actual substance, and when I speak, this substance has actual power over outside events. Based on this belief, I can speak into my life what I want to happen, and it will happen. According to Osteen, I can speak into my life wealth, good health, whatever it is I desire. Since I'm speaking these things with enough faith, they will happen. So, therefore, God becomes subject to my words, and under my authority. Wow. I am pretty amazing, then. If God's under my authority, that .... that TOTALLY makes me GOD!!!!!!! Yesssssss. no. That's wrong. If God has something in authority over Himself, then technically (and philosophically), He can't be God. I've shut up some pretty loud atheistic mouths with this argument, so trust me, it's solid.

If I speak to my body and say "You will be well," you better believe I'm saying that as I'm driving to the hospital. My words are nothing without the authority of the Holy Spirit behind them.

Let's take Benny Hinn, for example. Beyond the fact that there are NO recorded updates on people he's "healed," he says that if we say "if it be Your will," our faith will be destroyed. Funny, that's the exact words Jesus spoke in Luke 22. If only Jesus would've had more faith. No, He destroyed His faith by asking God to let this cup pass from Him (I wonder if He knew He was about to die for a generation of people that think His death is their monetary and physical gain?)

If I'm never sick, I never need a healer. If I'm never struggling with money, I never need a provider. If I can will myself a perfect marriage, I never need to learn the kind of love that is a choice. If I can just speak myself into big house or nice car, I'll never learn to be content with what I have right now.

I know it's common now, even among people who are not believers, to say "Joel Osteen's not a pastor, he's just a motivational speaker." The more I read and think about it, the more I think that statement is not strong enough. He is dangerous. 47,000 people every Sunday leave a building thinking they've been taught the "ever-living seed of the word of God," when they've been showered with a message of false hope, not based in any scriptural truth. You cannot come to a realization of your need for God (and thusly be saved), without realizing the depravity of your own soul. As unpopular as it might make the messenger, it is a message that must be spoken.

Plug this thought into ANY large church (yes, it's getting personal now). Speak a message of our depravity. Don't use a screen, open a Bible. Don't sing top ten worship songs, sing what the Holy Spirit wants to hear. End with a message of hope, that Christ is the redemption for our depravity, but it requires some sacrifice and repentance on our part. Let people leave broken for their sins and imperfection, but glimpsing the hope set before them. ... Sadly, alot of people will leave if they don't get a warm fuzzy that day. Oops. There goes attendance. Empty seats. Means empty offering plates. Gosh, can't pay for our gigantic building or smaller ministries within the church. What? Pay cut for our pastor? No security detail? Church leadership is confused? Maybe if they were ministers, not businessmen, you wouldn't be relying on your personal marketing so much. ... Maybe it's safer to just preach a message that's inoffensive and have high quality production that makes church entertaining. WHEW! Almost thought we were just like those silly ancient churches of Acts.


I just enjoyed this article. It was a link on another friend's blog. I won't say I definitely agree with her 100%, so don't read thinking this is my new outlook on church. But, I will say that it opens up some lines of discussion and thought that the Church NEEDS to have. My beliefs not really swayed easily based on what I read, but certain things do excite me. It's as though they're ideas I've had but just couldn't really articulate them. I get this feeling while I'm reading of "Oh yeah, I feel that way too," even though I couldn't tell you when or where, or what my conclusions were.

I just erased a large amount of ranting. I lost my inspiration or something. So, read the previously linked blog, think about it, come to your own conclusions, and make the necessary improvements in your life, mind, and church. I might post my thoughts later.


Another Music Rant

I'm not extremely opinionated about alot of things. Music is not one of those things. I'm kind of over the whole "I like what you like so you'll like me" thing. So, if I don't really like a song, I'll tell you. I also am not afraid to admit that I might now like a song that I once didn't like. Here's what I'm talking about.

Without getting too honest about things that aren't really pertinent, I'll just say I'm not automatically a fan of each new worship song that people jump onto. Just because certain people wrote or recorded a song, doesn't mean I should embrace it. It doesn't mean the song is bad, it just means I would rather wait until the hype settles to see if the song has any true weight.

That said, I never liked the song "God of this City." I've had to play it several times at different churches, and it has always just felt contrived, like a marketing scheme by a big worship machine. "Here, Houston, here's a song to sing. Here's a song for you, Boston. Sing it at church and feel good."

No one ever seems to grasp on to the powerful message, because we don't think our cities need God. We safely drive down our roads to our clean churches with nice, smiling people who have normal lives. We sing our joyful songs about how good our lives are now that we're saved, and go home to our mostly great lives where we can do pretty well on our own. We're safe and protected in our little bubbles. We don't know what God is doing in our cities, so how can we say, "Greater things are yet to come in this city"?

You might not have heard of the band called Bluetree, but they wrote that song. After hearing this story (Passion doesn't mention it, that I can find; And Amazon.com told it incorrectly), I can honestly say that I am starting to love this song now. I'm not ready to sing it at my church in my city; I don't think it's necessarily for us here. So, take a look. Here's the story behind the song, from Bluetree's Myspace blog. Read it, then read the lyrics and allow your perspective to change.

God of this City

Nov 2007, Bluetree are heading out to Pattaya Thailand to participate in an event arranged by Belfast missionaries living in Pattaya, Thailand called Pattaya Praise. We’ve no expectation of the event; we were just looking for an opportunity to serve somehow.

We didn’t know much about it before we left, but Pattaya is a dark place. It’s a small seaside town notorious for it’s sex trade. Throughout our time there we heard countless stories of girls who are bought from their parents for a price, sold to the sex industry at ages as young as 5 years old. Arriving in Pattaya the spiritual climate seems to change, it’s hard to define, but there is a very tangible change. On the bus journey in we’d been our usual cheery selves, but entering Pattaya at 10am and turning on to a street lined by girls ready for business, the bus became very quiet. We’re in total shock. It’s a sunny day but it’s incredible how dark it feels.

’Walking street’ we learn is the epicentre of the sex trade in Pattaya, it’s about a mile long and at night springs to life with neon signs. Thai people are generally conservative in their dress sense – it’s generally considered provocative to bare your shoulders. But on their street the girls are wearing very little, and offering anything you can imagine for a price. It’s easy to look around with human eyes, see the depravity and get angry. You see older men walking hand-in-hand with young girls – as a daddy, that’s hard to take in. It’s easy to get angry, it’s easy to judge – but that’s not our job, so we grit our teeth.

We were in Pattaya to be part of a praise event not far from this street, the soul purpose of which was to worship and show God’s light in a dark place. We wanted to play more than the scheduled slots while we were there, so we found out that one of the bar owners would let us play a worship set in her bar on the proviso that we brought as many from the missions team who would buy coke-a-cola all night. We walk in to the bar which is about the middle of walking street, girls are lined up on the stairs waiting for business. We get set up, we’re really nervous and quite uncomfortable but we kick in to a familiar beat of worship and soon it’s ok. God starts to speak and we started to move in to this spontaneous song. The truth is when you worship in a place, you start to see God’s heart for that place. What would God say to a place like this?

Amidst the depravity God say’s, I’m the God of this City, I’m the King of these people and Greater Thing are Yet to Come, Greater Things are Still to be Done HERE. The song wasn’t written before that night, but we came out of the bar having worshipped with the song that is now the title track of our album – God of this City (Greater things). The song isn’t just for Pattaya – it’s for your city, and it’s true. By faith we must expect that greater things are still to be done.

God of this City (Greater Things)

You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

For there is no-one like our God
There is no-one like our God

Greater things have yet to come
Greater things are still to be done
In this city

You’re the Lord of Creation
The Creator of all things
You’re the King above all Kings
You are

You’re the strength in our weakness
You’re the love to the broken
You’re the joy in the sadness
You are

For there is no-one like our God
There is no-one like our God

Greater things have yet to come
Greater things are still to be done
In this city

Greater things have yet to come
And greater things have still to be done here