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AN NRT EXCLUSIVE CONCERT REVIEW
Grace on Display: A Night with Jason Gray
The "More Like Falling in Love" singer performed an intimate set Feb. 9 in Quakertown, Penn. and NRT's Kevin Davis shares his perspective.
 


Jason Gray blessed my church, Calvary Chapel of Quakertown, Penn. with an acoustic night of worship on Saturday, February, 9, 2013. He was looking for an opportunity to reach listeners with his music, message behind his songs and ministry. 
 
This event was created with Jason's fans in mind, providing an intimate night of worship and fellowship similar to a VH-1 "behind the music" special, with stories, jokes, and Jason's heartfelt performances of his most well-known songs. 
 
Jason Gray is a Christian folk music singer-songwriter in the style of Bebo Norman, Andrew Peterson and Shaun Groves. Something unique about Jason is his speech handicap and how he has overcome that affliction in his profession. 
 
Jason says, "I'm actually grateful now that my speech handicap never afforded me the option of masking my weakness behind an illusion of competency. Whenever I opened my mouth, there it was for all to see... I couldn't fool others or myself. I think the best thing that can happen to us is to be 'found out' for all that we are, our religious and human pretenses stripped away to reveal our sin, pettiness, and weakness. Then we can devote our energies to better endeavors than the constant masquerade of sufficiency."
 
When Jason Gray inked a contract with Centricity Records in 2006 after a run of more than a decade as a hard-touring indie artist, he did so after a lot of soul-searching, wondering how his highly relational artistry would translate to a broader audience. 
 
Now with the release of his third studio album for Centricity, A Way To See In The Dark, that tension can probably be laid to rest. What emerged on the new project is a thought-provoking collection of artful, emotional and radio-friendly tunes that achieve a high level of accessibility without sacrificing any of Gray's personality or creativity. 
 
Jason opened with "Good To Be Alive," which was co-written with Brandon Heath and Jason Ingram--a song that will remind you of Brandon's recent hit song "Your Love" both musically and lyrically. Jason yet again yields his signature stamp in the bridge where he croons, "I won't take it for granted, I won't waste another second, all I want is to give You, A life well lived, to say thank You." 
 
He followed it up with his hit song "More Like Falling In Love" which takes the listener to a deeper level, asking to fall in love with Christ instead of just following the rules of Christianity. This song provides a real life picture of the difference between dead religion and a vibrant relationship with Christ. Jason went on to tell us about his history as a kid with a chronic stutter who eventually discovered his calling as a singer meant that his weaknesses are nothing to hide, reminding us that "God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." 
 
"Help Me, Thank You" is a catchy song based on the two best prayers Jason knows, "Help Me, and Thank You." Next came "Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue." The inspiration for song came from a quote from The Lord of the Rings and the beauty and truth of the words captured Jason's imagination. The song lists examples of earthly tragic events and sin areas. Each verse ends with the question: "Could it be that everything sad is coming untrue?"
 
Jason discussed how he was influenced musically by his mother. "I grew up on the road with my mom's band, so I was always hanging out in the bars while they were doing a concert every weekend," he said. "In the fourth grade, in the midst of an ugly divorce, is when my mom became a Christian. She went from singing in the bars to singing at revival meetings and so at that point I was introduced to Christian music. Meanwhile, I was also navigating the challenges of being a kid with a speech handicap and this growing feeling of being an outsider. All of these experiences have shaped my music."
 
 
On his latest Centricity Music album, A Way To See In The Dark, Gray once again exercises his gift for channeling complex emotions and bold truths into songs that resonate strongly with his audience. His songs are personal yet universal. Who among us hasn't struggled with fear and wrestled with identity? Who hasn't exhaled in exasperation and breathed the name of God? Gray captures these vulnerable moments in the song "The Sound of Our Breathing."

"Author Frederick Buechner tells us that before we presume to proclaim the hope and the good news of the Gospel we should look at the headlines of the day and acknowledge the worst of the world," he said. "Otherwise nobody is going to believe the best of the hope we speak of. With all my songs, I want to be conscientious of the person who feels like an outsider, excluded because of their pain. I hope by acknowledging difficulty, heartbreak, and pain that I can cast a line for them to hold onto and be drawn in."
 
Jason then performed his great songs "The Reasons Why You Brought Me Here" and "Blessed Be." Both songs can be found on his 2008 album, Acoustic Storytime. "Blessed Be" cleverly begins with "Losers, all the lovely losers" as the opening lyrics. 
 
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is The Beatitudes, which serves as the inspiration for the song. (You can read them in Matthew 5:1-12.) Jason's speech handicap and his testimony really speak to how God loves us and blesses the poor in spirit, the meek, the lame, or to quote Jason "the losers," no matter what our circumstances. Jason then performed a pair of my favorite songs from his new album, "Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard" and "Nothing Is Wasted."
 
The basic message behind Jason's songs is for people to see how God's grace works in a real person's life. When we come clean about our brokenness, Christ becomes the star of our testimony and not us. A lot of the songs have to do with fear--that we aren't enough, or that maybe God isn't in control. Jason said, "I think one of things I'm trying to say with this record is that all of our fear, regret, and shame is answered in God's love for us, His heart towards us. Fear loses its hold of me when I'm confident of God's love for me and that He is in control. He's always at work and especially in the most difficult things I experience. None of it is beyond His reach to redeem." 
 
"I Am New" is a profound song based on 2 Corinthians 5:21: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." You can sing the song directly to God with gratitude to celebrate the gift of salvation. In identifying with our sin, Christ paved the way for us to become identified with the righteousness of God. It is not merely that we acquire a right standing or do good works; we actually become righteous. 
 
Jason closed with his hit song, "Remind Me Who I Am." 
 
"It's about identity," Gray explains. "I began to wonder why exactly do I sin? I was raised to believe that we sin because of willful rebellion, but the thing is most of the time when I sin, I don't want to sin, so it's almost like I'm doing it against my will. I wonder if I sin less because of willful rebellion and more because I forget who I am. We run to all these other things--like relationships, materialism, career, etc. in hopes they will give us a sense of worth, but they can never fully name us. The lyrics, "If I'm Your beloved, can You help me believe it?" keep the theme from "I Am New" going, which is that if we would only run to Christ, He would remind us who we really are.
 
We were all very blessed to enjoy Jason's songs and get to know his heart for God. You can't help but get welled up praying along with several of his songs. As many of Jason's songs beautifully proclaim, we are Christ's beloved. We all certainly beat ourselves up and forget that Truth. Jason consistently finds a way to express my own spiritual feelings and prayerful yearnings of my heart. Don't miss any chance to see Jason Gray in concert. You'll be blessed, nourished, challenged, entertained and refreshed.
 

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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