There is no such thing as Christian music

Now this may sound like a strange thing for someone who writes ‘Christian’ music, performs ‘Christian’ music and yes… reviews Christian music, but I have to admit there is no such thing as Christian music.

A cynical me would say that it is something that a whole bunch of marketing people put together to create it’s own genre, I mean Christian music has it’s own Billboard music charts. An interesting point – the only music that is categorized by it’s lyrical content is Christian music.

How many times do you have to use the word ‘Jesus’ in a song before it becomes a sacred song?

Does this mean that if you use the word ‘baby’ more than once in a song (not related to the virgin birth) it makes it secular… I mean Amy Grant used it twice in a song (Baby Baby) and look what happened to her, her marriage broke upoh the scandal of it all!!

But seriously can music actually be Christian?

Here’s the thing… Christian means to follow Jesus (It literally means little Christ’s) – to my knowledge a CD can’t follow anyone, no mater what their religious belief is. Is a hotrod atheist if an atheist built it? This however bring up another interesting point.

Is there Secular music?

I would argue… NO!

There seems to be JUST music.

In 1 Timothy 4:4 Paul writes:

“Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it.”

God created music, and because he made it… it is good (not relating to sin).

Songwriter Michael Gungor writes this. (the underlining is me!)

“There are films and plays and pieces of literature and art and music that are drenched with the creativity and majesty of the Creator that are made by artists who would call themselves “atheists.”  They can’t help where they got that creativity from, even if they’d like to try.”

Isn’t it funny how we can be so worried about defending our little piece of God that we forget that God is weaving his magic in ALL areas of life… and it doesn’t need to be labelled Christian for that to happen. I think with all the labels we start to loose sight of the wonder that God has created all around us.

There are songs for ALL aspects of life… some are there to point us to heaven, some show our depravity, but there is this wonderful spectrum of light that seems to shine in it all if you are truly looking.

Music takes the lyrics often far above where the lyrics could ever have gone by themselves.

Take time to soak in good quality music, or even the wonderful melody of silence either way God made it good!!

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Album Review: Hillsong – ‘A Beautiful Exchange’

Hillsong have been releasing live worship albums since 1992’s ‘The Power of Your Love’… the latest  ‘A Beautiful Exchange’ is their 19th… and for any band or group being able to keep a legacy like the one that Hillsong has been able to keep running is nothing but spectacular…

Now I have to admit I haven’t always been a fan of Hillsong  albums as I felt that for a while in the the early 2000’s that their music was becoming a bit predictable, almost paint by numbers worship, and although there hasn’t been to many bands that have had the edgy feel that Hillsong have been able to retain,  it was starting to sound s a bit laboured.  This has been one of the great things that Hillsong has been able to offer , just when there is a fear that the group is in a rut along comes a new songwriter or a new song stands out from the rest an takes the group to a new place. And that has been the greatest thing about the group… with multiple song writers and worship leaders been able to add something new to the groups dynamics, certainly broadening it’s musical vastness.

In saying that the albums over the past couple of years has been somewhere between, U2, Cold play and The Killers, which brings us nicely to the latest album.

A Beautiful Exchange almost has the feel of a huge U2 or Coldplay concert, with the drummer giving the same pounding drum march feel that U2’s Larry Mullen Junior would give while the 4/4 feel and driving bass has the feel of a Cold play album, that you would could hear on Coldplays songs like ‘Fix me’… now please hear me this isn’t a bad thing as it takes a great band to be able to pull this sort of thing off, and isn’t what church music should be… a reflection of what is out in the world with the words of grace and love that the world has to offer?

The album is broken up nicely by two songs that were written and lead by women Brooke Ligertwood (nee Fraser) and Darlene Zschech. The song ‘incense’ that is lead by Ligertwood has a sense of familiarity to it as it is layered with the song ‘Sometimes by Step’ which is sometimes known as ‘Step by Step’ which was originally written back in 1993 by David Strasser and christian music legend Rich Mullins.

Hillsong albums are best listened to at high volume… why? Well they are preformed in a conference environment (Big stadium stuff)… that’s what they were designed for… Hillsong write songs for their own church, and they are able to have them recorded for the whole world to hear.

Hillsong have found their own niche market… the Big stadium worship… while Bands like David Crowder Band are pushing worship boundaries with what Worship is (which sometimes can be hard to actually play in church)… and Matt Redman is writing songs that have the directness of the ancient hymns with a modern spin… and Hillsong are somewhere in the middle. Pioneers in their own right.

So is this a good album to worship to?

As long as your idea of worship isn’t ‘Scripture in Song’ from the 80’s and Early 90’s… this is Stadium worship, with the bigness of a rock concert but with the delicate approach of a love song.

It is a beautiful exchange.

7/10

Looking towards the THEN & THERE

Life can really get you down. Check the news papers, there always seems to be a war somewhere, jobs are hard to find and hard to keep, depression, hate, anger are all encouraged to be expressed as we are told to express ALL our feelings.

Sometimes do you get the feeling that it’s all crashing down around you, and somehow you’re stuck right in the middle of it all?

The fact of the matter is the world is falling down around us… so how can we survive through all this?

In the Bible Peter says he is “Looking forward to the new heavens & new Earth” you see he was looking past where he is, and looking towards Heaven. He was lifting himself out of the HERE and NOW and looking towards his future (the THEN and THERE if you will)

I like Peter in the Bible because he’s just so ‘gung ho’ and he’s not worried about being PC… and I really like that, in fact I think Christians should be more like that, you see there is only one way to heaven and that’s through Jesus… the problem with that is there is only one way to Hell also, and that’s rejecting him… In this day and age that is certainly seen as narrow minded, and it is I’m afraid it is, but it has to be. If ALL roads lead to Heaven then Christ never needed to die for us, because we could just get to Heaven another way… not to mention the different teachings of the so call ‘prophets’ other religions have to offer… the world in it’s desire to be PC has done nothing but remove Christ from the mix, but Jesus said “no one comes to the Father but by me”

So what do we do?

We look forward to the THERE & THEN… we look forward to Heaven, and while we’re still in the HERE & NOW we should live with integrity, with honour, with truth and show the love of Christ that the world is so desperately needing.

Uncomfortable truth

It recently dawned (or more accurately re-dawned) on me how in our quest to make Christianity more attractive we have totally forgotten the Gospel. We have tried to put God into a bullion cube, and dressed him up in lights and decoration, we have made his sayings into bumper stickers… God is more than an epic book that you can make into a  movie, there is no real way that you could cut it that could truly show the immensity of just who God is… the Bible gives over 200 descriptions of different characters of who God is… and I have a feeling that it is not even a scratch on the surface…. but it seems we have neglected to mention to people the other half the story about who God REALLY is. Yes God is all love and mercy and grace but he’s also holiness and justice to. I’ve made some points below that may sound familiar to some.

  • We talk about God’s love, and mercy and grace, but we seem to neglect to mention the holiness and the justice that is all throughout the Bible
  • We highlight the freedom we have as sons and daughters of God, as he is in us, but we avoid talking about the responsibility of right living in Christ.
  • We seem to ‘hint’ at the fact that God will turn a blind eye to any wrong thing we do if we just come humbly before him, instead of focusing on the fact that we are UTTERLY TOTALLY accountable to God.

The problem with that is that it seems to be to much focus on the things we want God to be, but not on the things that we know that he is… and we wonder why church attendance is up but morality is down. We think we can do anything and God won’t care… or worse not do anything about it.

In 2 Peter 2:4-9  Peter made some very interesting facts, he basically says – If God didn’t spare the Angels when they sinned and send them to Hell… when Sodom & Gomorra went off the rails, he destroyed the cities… when the Earth was corrupt  God sent a flood to destroy it all to start again…

Now the really cool thing about this is Peter could have gone on to say “and if you don’t sort your self out God will reign down fire on you all…. hell and brimstone!” but that’s not what Peter says, he starts to focus on Gods mercy and love and grace within that time, out of the Flood God was able to raise up a great righteous man in Noah, he was able to save Lots family from Sodom & Gomorra.

God is Judge: It’s uncomfortable to think of God in the end will judge ALL things . ALL things are naked and open to God and that is uncomfortable truth. I mean would you respect a God who couldn’t even keep his OWN rules?

Jesus came with TRUTH and GRACE and that is the way that God comes to…

Let me finish with this great description of how God works from Stuart Briscoe:

JUSTICE gives me what I deserve

MERCY doesn’t give me ALL I deserve

GRACE gives me what I don’t deserve

Album Review: Newsboys ‘Born Again’

If Bono left U2 it’s fair to say that the band will fall in on itself like some black hole collapsing in on itself due to the massive void left, and if we are going to be fair that was the prospect that The Newsboys faced when founding member drummer and more recently the face and front man Peter Furler announced that he would be pulling out. So the question had to be asked, was this the end of The Newsboys?

Peter Furler had a huge stage presence and lungs to match… would this void to be too much to fill?

Well the fact that I’m writing a review about a new album that isn’t a ‘greatest hits’ package would suggest that they found someone. Long time Newsboys friend and Christian rock pioneer Michael  Tait (from multi platinum band DC Talk) moved into the massive void left by Peter. Now I was one of many people who thought that this was more of a gimmick and the last breath of a band that had seen one change to many… and I was wrong.

What happened was a new birth… and the title of the album suggest more than is obvious from a Christian band. Tait has been able to take the band to places that the band could never had gone to before. The last album (In the hands of God) had a feeling of predictability and it felt like the band had painted themselves into a corner, adding Tait to the mix (with his unique vocal abilities) in essence opened a hidden door allowing the band to rediscover a new sound… while not loosing the sound they are known for.

So what does the album sound like?

Born Again has the usual pop rock sound that NB’s are known for although adding Taits voice has meant that the NB’s have been able to bring an album that takes in all aspects of the rock spectrum… when it’s not rockin’ it has a nice pop feel, when it’s not poppin’ it’s dancing… when it’s not dancing it’s worshipping… it really is very very well done and at no point are you thinking that this isn’t how NB’s should be? It just feels right!

This is an album for all pop music types.

NB’s are able to keep their distinct australasian feel by adding the song by the Aussie Worship group Hillsong ‘Mighty to Save’… adding their own pop flair to it of course… in the past they have used songs by NZ group Magnify and Hillsong United songstress Brooke Fraser, keeping the Aussie and NZ worship scene in the front of the minds of Millions of people around the world. Also by adding ‘When the boys light up’ is also another hat tip to down under seemingly using the Aussie Crawl anthem ‘Boys light up as it’s base.

This album is sonically a kaleidoscope of sound and emotion, and most certainly the best album from the boys since their 1996 album ‘Take Me to your Leader’… the NB’s are also back lyrically to their quirky best with

“Things change, Just like the Twitter that you update Or your Facebook status on your front page  there’s no comment you can leave to change my mind”

An album that has something for everyone, it always keeps you guessing what is coming next AND is good quality sound… which is missing from many mainstream albums these days.

And just to keep you happy… Newsboys have made the completion of the DC Talk tribe to the Newsboys family final with the cover of the DCT classic ‘Jesus Freak’ , with KJ52 adding the rap to the song.

This is the album that the Newsboys were formed for… and ‘the boys light up’ and Shine!

Back Bone not Wish Bone

We often find our selves wondering why God isn’t doing anything in our lives… the reality is, it’s because your sitting on your butt treating God like your own personal Genie…

If you look at the amazing things that happened in the Bible you’ll see that it took faith for someone to step out in faith first. Noah had to build and ark… now if you’re building a huge boat no where near the sea you’d better be making sure that you’re sure that you’re listening to God… imagine the amount of ridicule Noah would have got. The walls of Jericho… Joshua had the Israelites walking around this place blowing trumpets… for 7 days….. and the list goes on. Do you get the picture?

They looked foolish… until God added his part of the deal

God works THROUGH us… it’s this amazing plan that baffles us? And I really don’t think we get it!!!

We need to be asking ourselves do we trust what God is telling us?

Has God place this conviction in our hearts?

Then let me ask you… what are you waiting for???

Now please hear me… I’m not saying be reckless… but I’m saying trust God enough to stop worrying about what others will think, because after all isn’t that God’s problem, hasn’t he got the winning game plan?

We can come up with all the game plans and contingency plans but often God has his own unique way of doing things. I mean I never would have thought my car breaking down out side my house and getting the window smashed in would be the way to meet my neighbor or get a new alternator for free, but God’s plans are perfect… you can’t plan for that stuff…

So as the Nike add says “Just do it” but I would like to add “because God has it all under control”.

Uncomfortable Worship

My good friend Abi on her blog site ‘Here to Eternity’ made the comment that worship “cost you something”… now I know that there are times when in worship  you can sit in the presence of God and soak in his love and mercy, but often to get to that place there has to be some amount of sacrifice, and often it’s the time when God really ‘digs deep’ where he really get to the heart of the issues in your lives, as God continues to craft you into the person that you were meant to be.

But I wonder if it’s an even BIGGER problem… we have become lazy worshippers?

We often come to church and get worship on a platter… we have good music, we have created an environment that has made it easier to focus on God, and we have songwriters that give us the right words we say, it’s not costing us anything, it’s almost too easy. You see in the scripture it talks about ‘God inhabiting our praises’, but God can’t inhabit our praises if we aren’t engaging with God.

Most Christians would agree that reading God’s words (and a collection of them) really pushes them to look at themselves in a new way… and God in a new way. Worship by it’s nature should be the same… right?

I mean how easy is it to turn on your favorite worship and never really worship?

How often are you listening to the music that suits your own style?… meaning it’s comfortable

Look I’m not saying that you have to change the type of music that you are listening to, so that your all of a sudden listening to Jazz worship and I’m certainly not saying that you have  to worship with every worship song that you hear… but I certainly think it can only be a good thing to really push ourselves in what we worship and how we worship.

Now let me make this very clear… music is only a very very small portion of our worship to God but it is certainly the most unique in the way we worship, but pushing ourselves in worship is something that can be extended into all areas that we worship in. You see it could be the difference between honest unique worship and a ritual of going through the motions in worship… which would you want?

It could be as simple as going from listening to Hillsong United and start listening to David Crowder Band, from Parachute Band to Charlie Hall…

It could be as simple as listening to a new song on repeat until you understand something more of what God had revealed to the songwriter…

It could be as simple as skipping past your favorite song on the album and listening to the words of a new song…

But learning more about God has to be worth something to push for… so why don’t we?