If Jesus is dead… (or “Why I like butterflies … “)

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:17

Paul is quite right… If Jesus had not been raised to life, then our faith is useless… or to put it another way:

If Jesus is dead then Christianity is dead.
It’s pointless… worthless…

You see without the Resurrection of Christ, there is no saviour or salvation, no forgiveness and no Resurrection hope for a life in eternity.
You see the resurrection of Christ is one of the foundations that Christianity stands on. Without this Christians are just fools who are putting their trust in a dead man.
Now some people might think… that explains Christians PERFECTLY, fools worshiping a legend or folk hero however there are a few things that set Jesus apart.

One of the keys proofs for me of the authenticity of it (if you want to put it that way) is the reaction of the disciples.
You see after his death the disciples ran away, they hid… they fled and that makes sense, if they could kill Jesus what would it mean for the rest of them?

However that all changed after the resurrection… after the resurrection they were bold… they died for their faith.
What would it take for a group of scared and frightened men and woman to make a complete turn around and be willing for them to die for something?
They certainly wouldn’t be willing to die for something that they knew was a lie… and all but one of the disciples died for their faith in a resurrected Christ. If it was a lie (and they knew it was a lie) then it wouldn’t make sense for them ALL to be willing to go through some of the pain that the apostles did.

for example:

Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

John was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he miraculously survived.  The Apostle John put into prison was later freed and returned to serve as a bishop in modern Turkey. He died an old man, the only Apostle to die peacefully.

Peter, was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, according to Church tradition, because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die the same way that Jesus Christ had died.

You see there was a cost.

For me the biggest thing to convince me was the transformation of Jesus’ brother James… he went from someone who was so totally skeptical of Jesus, but after the resurrection become a firm believer.
This is astounding for a number of reasons.

  1. What would it take to convince you that your brother was the son of God?
  2. Would the turn around be worth dying for (James was thrown of the highest point of a temple and then was also beaten to death when it was shown that he survived the fall)

It seems to me that the resurrection did something to the early believers… it seemed to transform them… change them.
And the great news is that the same resurrecting power does the same change in us.

Just like a caterpillar thinks it’s the end of the world… it then is transformed into something new… something different… a new creation.
The old life is gone… the skin is just a shell… a new life has been born again… and we see the beauty in the butterfly.

That’s why I love it when I see a butterfly… it reminds me that there is more to come… it reminds me to have faith in what I can’t see or know or understand fully… because this is just one chapter.
Death isn’t the end… it’s not the ultimate enemy… death to your old life for Christians is just the beginning of new life.
A new chapter has begun… and it ends with eternity.

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A Lazy Easter (or ‘like’ if you are saved)

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Easter… and I love social media. However this Easter has been the first time I have been disappointed in what I saw Christians doing to both Easter and the use of social media!

This Easter was the first time I saw link after link filled with soft ‘Easter’ related pictures and sayings with phrases saying things similar to “Like if you are saved” or “Write I love Jesus in the comments” … and while this is all good stuff it seems to me that Christians are starting to get lazy in the way we are approaching Easter.

Are we starting to get to the point that we think “Hmmmm it’s Easter, I better say something” and then proceed to find a Easter picture or nice scripture to post and then sit smugly thinking “Well that’s done for another year”?
My point isn’t if we should do this stuff because sometimes there is a time and a place for it… I just wonder if it actually engages people to the true understand and meaning of what Easter actually means.
Are we missing the opportunity to tell people why Easter is so important in every aspect of our lives as Christians?

Revelation 12:11 says “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.”

It seems to me that our testimonies are one of the most important part of our faith… so why are we reducing it to half thought through status updates and cute pictures?
A great example of a testimony working in a powerful way is when the Pharisees were trying to find stuff to put on Jesus so that they could capture him, they asked someone who Jesus had healed.
The Pharisees said to the man “God isn’t getting the Glory for the healing did on you because we know that Jesus is a sinner”

But here is what the man said in reply

“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” – John 9:25

You see they could try and trap the man with words and loopholes… but they couldn’t trap him with what he had experienced.
His testimony was a powerful statement of the power, grace and majesty of Jesus… NO ONE could take that away from him… it was his… his story to tell… his proof.

So lets stop hiding from our faith… because it’s our faith that will prove to the ones we love that Jesus is actually real in our lives.

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” – John 5:24

Easter – Good Friday History

Jesus, on the cross, is mocked in Calvary as t...

Jesus, on the cross, is mocked in Calvary as the King of the Jews, Luke 23:36-37 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The thing I love about Easter is that it’s ingrained in history… it’s not just some story that we pass on.
The pain of the crucifixion was real too.

Crucifixion was used as early as 330-ish BC and used by Alexander the Great to help spread rumours of fear and dread throughout the ancient lands. Often the stories played more on the minds of his enemies than the armies he commanded.

When the Romans starting using it they decided it was time to perfect the tool. Roman soldiers was known to try and out-do each other and experimented with techniques to try and prolong the agony and intensify the pain. The pain was so great that words like “excruciating” were used to explain it… for the record excruciating derives from the phrase “From the cross”.
The pain of the nails were only part of the agony… the pain of the crucifixion was mainly due to the fact that it was just another way to prolong death by asphyxiation, as the person struggled to breath while laboring under the weight of their own body.

Ancient historians like Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths”… as the pain and agony of it was then added to the mockery and torment that went with it. Often people would be crucified at eye level so that people could mock and spit and cuss at the people hanging on the cross.

We often see pictures of a clean Jesus hanging on the cross and we think “wow that must have hurt” however that doesn’t even come close to describing what happened… skin was hanging of his body with the beating (as well as 30 lashes) that he had earlier that day… and even that doesn’t come close to describing the weight of all our sin on him… not just what we had done… but what we were still going to do.
That weight is something that makes the cross pale in comparison.

You see we can’t remove our own sin… there is nothing that we can do that even gets us close to wiping the slate clean… there is nothing we can do.

Paul says this :I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

You see it was FOR our sins… for the benefit of our sins… because of our sins.

OUR sins… HIS death… that’s why it’s good news.
Scripture says over and over again that Jesus dies for our sins…

 

Album Review: Ian Yates ‘Really Good News EP’

Ian Yates - Really Good News

Ian Yates – Really Good News

I’m a firm believer that the music that’s in the church should sound like the music that’s being played outside the church only the lyrics are uplifting and God focused… this follows the tradition of people like Martin Luther who used pub songs as the melodies for his hymns or William Booth when he used the Brass band (The Rock band of the day).

Ian Yates seems like he’s standing on the shoulders of these giants when he gives us ‘Really Good News’ or what you could call ‘Good News 1.5’ as it is a follow up EP right on the heals of his last release ‘Good News’.

Now this isn’t a bad thing… it’s almost like Ian is saying “we released our album ‘Good News’, but we couldn’t wait for you to hear some of the new stuff we were working on”.
The great thing about this EP is that it follows on perfectly from the album ‘Good News’, a lot of EP’s of this nature are like random songs that are thrown together and called an EP to bridge a gap between full length albums.

Ian’s strength is his ability to find great melodies and take fairly big subjects and make them simple for people to understand.
I mean it’s one thing to be able to pick up a great melody… but to have a great melody with a lyric that will stick in your brain is a much harder task… however it’s something that Ian manages to do with great ease and then like a magician he also adds this dance type feel to some of the tracks bridging the gap between church and club, chapel and pub… this is the easy part… the hard part is maintaining the gaze on the creator of it all… and Ian’s focus is firmly fixed on him.

All through the album Ian fights this great tension between dance-able poppy church music and something that’s more meaningful… there are times when Ian seamlessly crosses from pop/rock to a kind of dub-step feel (like in Heavens Open) the really cool thing is that he does it well, and by that I mean is that it doesn’t feel forced or out of place.
The message could have been really easily lost in the ideas of the music however the music seems to push the ideas of the songs further… and that’s how it should be.
I like a worship album with tension… the wrestle with the music and lyrics that unmask the emotion of the things we want to say but don’t know where to start.
Ian gives you words simple and true “All we are is found in you” and then gives us a platform in which to direct them to the God he wants to turn your eyes to.

The bottom line is if you are into worship music that you want to sing along with, be challenged by and have songs where you understand what you are actually singing about because all of the church jargon has been removed and replaced with words we actually use… then make sure you check out this EP… and even better… it’s FREE… or you can even pay for it if you think it’s an artist you feel like you should support, because he’s just that good.
Check out the EP HERE… you won’t be disappointed!

Album Review: Audio Adrenaline ‘Kings & Queens’

Audio Adrenaline 'Kings & Queens'

Audio Adrenaline ‘Kings & Queens’

It’s easy to get nostalgic about a band you grew up with isn’t it?

For me Audio Adrenaline was one of those groups… and with their farewell tour I would have thought that was the end.
And then the resurrection… something new rises out of the ashes… the same name… but is it the same band that I remember?

Let me just be really up front with you… This album isn’t going to leave you a gasp at the new direction or the lyrical content… however it’s not going to leave you offended either. This is a ‘safe’ album designed to be the start of a great new re-brand of a great Christian brand ‘Audio Adrenaline’

And the sound… ironically this album comes out sounding more like Newsboys meets U2 with a touch of The Script thrown in for good measure and DC Talk vocals… this is not the same Audio Adrenaline sound that some might be expecting…
Almost every song is a dialed up to 10 stadium anthem pop/rock (very much like Newsboys and U2’s big numbers) and there is a definitive smell of mid 90’s rock oozing through almost every riff and melody.

This is a solid album… however to say it’s a Audio Adrenaline album is based on the heart of the band (still fighting for the under-dog) and the fact that Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss are still heavily involved in the band (Mark as cheerleader and Will is still playing bass).

The album starts of almost sounding like it’s going to break into a new version of Newsboys super song ‘Shine’ – however it soon slides into a song that’s in the same sort of vein as Audio Adrenaline’s more poppy tracks from the past like ‘Under dog’or ‘Get down’.
We’re then lead into the first single from the album ‘King’s & Queen’ a song that at the heart of it is orphans from Haiti… it’s a great single and stands out as just that.

Believer is my favourite track I would have to say… it’s a powerful track that reminds me of the things that have pushed tracks by The script to the top of the charts.

I get halfway through the album and I;m almost begging for something new… a new sound… something that isn’t just another anthem… I want peace… I want something that lets me rest… or maybe something that is going to rock my brain out of the ‘nice’ middle of the road stadium filling flood that is filling my room.

There has been much talk about the power and range of Kevin Max’s vocals… and they are world renown. However all I have heard is his amazing range and power… but I want to hear the diversity in his voice… I want to hear the growl and frailty I heard in some of his solo projects.

The end of the album takes a nice change and K-Max and the band start to take on more of a U2 vibe (think ‘No line on the Horizon’) especially on tracks like ‘Seeker’ and ‘I climb a Mountain’ and like anything that they have done on this album they have done it well… but it’s really just paint by numbers anthem pop/rock at the end of the day.

With a new line up and a new lead singer I though this was going to be the chance for Audio A. to really push the boundaries and wow a new generation of followers… instead it kind of feels like a band that is making it’s first appearance a face lift and the result is an album of 10 great songs that belong on 4 different albums… and while there is some continuity throughout the album it just seems like the band was being ‘too nice’ learning how each other works rather than being able to stand back and really critique the album as a whole.

I’ll give them a ‘A’ for effort but these guys have got a bit of as way to go to really land a great album… hopefully the next album will have them gelled more and ready to push their music boundaries more than this. This is good… it’s just not great…