Christian. Really?

Men are a very poor reflection of God. The basis of true Christianity is the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Son of God, the infinite and eventually incomprehensible Creator of life. All of the Old Testament leading up to the birth of Christ and everything that has happened since are subject to the One who was born homeless, in a borrowed barn, and laid in a troth. Whether an atheist, a Buddhist, or anyone else believes this is true or not is irrelevant to the point that this is the foundation of Christianity: the character and being of God was revealed to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ here on earth.

With the foundational belief that Jesus was God revealed in human form, it is perfectly logical to place great emphasis on the actions and teachings of Jesus Christ as being synonymous with the characteristics and wisdom of God. While here on earth Jesus taught, fed, healed, and served. His daily life was humility and selflessness manifested in human form and he instructed His followers to live the same way:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” John 13:14-15

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

The failure of most Christians to embody these teachings, characteristics, and values in their daily lives is undeniable, but, the fact should be recognized for what it is: humans are imperfect, human reflections of a perfect God. If I didn’t know anything about Jesus and I only had the lives of Christians to go by as a testament to Christianity, I fear that I would also think of the Christian life as foolishness because of the gargantuan gap between the way that Christ lived on earth and the way that so many Christians, including myself much of the time, live now. Pompous piety will achieve nothing without the embodiment, through grace, of Christ’s character and teachings in our daily lives.

Walk Two

Walk Two is a new and growing e-zine that I’d like to encourage you to check out. It is a lens through which to reflect on the daily Christian walk through essays, poetry, art, and music. So, take a few minutes and stop in:

http://www.walktwo.net

 

Album Reviews: OPEN by Jason Morant (2006) & BELONG (EP – 2007) by Jason Morant

I will start by noting that I’ve been a music fan for a long time and have likely read hundreds of album reviews since reading Rolling Stone’s review of Stryper’s IN GOD WE TRUST (1988) juxtaposed with a Slayer album review when I was 12. After writing my first album review (Kevin Max’s THE BLOOD) a couple of weeks ago, reading some other current music reviews, and considering the unique perspective and responsibility that a Christian might have in critiquing music labeled as being Christian, I want to state my intent to never post reviews of music that I don’t personally find intriguing. I will only post reviews of albums that I think are notable enough, in my opinion, to be featured in a blog that is not especially bent toward discussion of music. That being said, OPEN (2006) and BELONG (EP – 2007) are at least worth a post.

I’m grouping them together in this review because, essentially, BELONG is a mini-collection of rekindled, reinterpreted tracks from OPEN. I first fell in love with OPEN while listening to samples of the album when it was featured as a staff pick on iTunes some time ago. It is a rare occurrence when I purchase a whole album on a whim without any prior exposure to an artist, but, this was a complete impulse buy based on my first listen to a couple of 30-second song snippets. More than a year later, it is still a favorite on my ipod and in my car.

In trying to characterize the style and mood of OPEN, I can say that it is not pop, but, does feature layered melodies amongst more solitary undertones in a manner slightly reminiscent of Coldplay, but, with a New Orleans tint. Infectious and addictive? Yes, but, thanks to the lyrics, the listener’s thoughts are effectively focused on the substantive, yet basic, foundation that Christ laid out and that Christians should be known for, throughout the album: servitude through Love. In the title track, Open, Morant sings:

Its time for something more real than all these words
While the least of these are broken and dying
We count the pearls in our purse
It’s time to live in love
So open up your doors
Let the Son shine out into the night you’re hiding from
Let your hearts bleed with love because when all is said and done
Love’s the only voice that’s heard

Like in Open, the lyrics throughout the album do a tremendous job of focusing the listener’s attention on non-denominational, Christ-centered issues that cut to the chase of what Christ really wants from us. The songs aren’t about sentimentality, or overused, lifeless Christian wordplay. Morant sincerely sings about seeking in desperation, finding, and displaying gratitude to God through service to “the least of these.”

The 2007 release of the BELONG EP brought fresh versions of a few of OPEN’s tracks, namely Open, Offering, Belong, and Display My Love. In comparison to the original versions found on the OPEN LP, each of the reworked tracks exude more solitary tones, but, in a manner that amplifies the power of each song. Each of the EP’s tracks were appropriately seasoned with time since their original release.

I think that, for me, it is the wondrous marriage of articulate, focused lyrics with music that bleeds artistic integrity in a Christian music market that too often showcases so much less. Morant, is relatively under the radar of popular Christian music, but, that is the fault of the Christian music market machine and a testament to the substance of Morant’s music. I would find it hard to believe that he’s out there to sell T-shirts and become another ironic Christian celebrity. His music is less like the fast food snack-style of music so predominant in contemporary music and more like a gourmet meal meant to be savored and enjoyed.

Jason Morant on iTunes

Jason Morant on myspace

Album Review: THE BLOOD by Kevin Max (12/26/07)

The standard Mac dictionary software on my ibook offers multiple definitions of Gospel including the following: (1) the teaching or revelation of Christ; (2) a thing that is absolutely true; (3) a set of principles or beliefs; (4) a fervent style of black American evangelical religious singing, developed from spirituals sung in Southern Baptist and Pentecostal churches.
The third full-length solo release from former dc Talk member Kevin Max epitomizes each of these definitions. My intent for posting my a review this album does as well: The Blood, as an album, is truly good news that I need to share.
I am not one who enjoys vanilla (unless it is Ben & Jerry’s which squelches my heartburn) and, as a father of two and a teacher, I don’t have a lot of extra time or energy to devote to the homogenized sap that permeates the majority of radio playlists – Christian or not. The latest solo offering form Kevin Max, however, is worth taking in. With The Blood Kevin Max has effectively delivered a high-potency project that is pure in content with no preservatives.
In a nutshell, The Blood showcases Kevin Max’s penetratingly unique voice, the core, redemptive message of Jesus Christ, and reverence for the roots of American rock music. Each track has unique characteristics which allow it stand alone amidst a loaded album that contains no fillers.
For people mainly used to the higher end of Max’s vocal range, the first track, “The Old Rugged Cross,” comes across as a stark, pleasing surprise. It immediately reminded me of Johnny Cash’s My Mother’s Hymnbook partly because of the surprising Cash-esqe growl and also because of the simple guitar, vinyl-static arrangement.
“The Cross” features a reunion of sorts with former cohorts Toby McKeehan and Michael Tait lending vocals to the Prince cover to create a track that, while featuring a characteristically dc Talk sound, accomplishes a direct and personal delivery of the gospel message that is the common thread of the album and the foundation of the Christian faith.
“Run On For A Long Time,” which features former American Idol finalist Chris Sligh, is an uptempo track (complete with horns) that I can’t seem to get out of my head. The song is virtually impossible not to sing along to when it is playing. While the rest of the tracks are all unique in character, they all exhibit an authentic, often rural gospel flare.
“Trouble of the World,” “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole,” and “They Won’t Go When I Go,” all exude sincerity-laden, solitary, personal testimony of the redeeming nature of the gospel of Christ. The simplicity of the musical arrangements in each song only amplify the power of the message being communicated.
Of the two most characteristically country tracks on the album “One Way – One Blood” (featuring Joanne Cash) is the most satisfying because of what I perceive to be a more personal, less-produced flavor in comparison to “Up Above My Head,” which features Amy Grant and Vince Gill. I admit that this perception may have come as a result of the sing-along-style outro that “One Way – One Blood” closes the album with.
“People Get Ready,” (featuring Erica Campbell from Mary Mary) and “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” are two tracks that make me just want to close my eyes and sway with the choir while I sing along with my hands raised.
Kevin Max has achieved the mark of a true artist on this album, in my opinion, by so successfully and convincingly displaying his range of style and ability on a selection of songs that are as different in style as they are similar in message. While only one of the tracks on The Blood is an original, I believe that the message of The Blood is what validates the authenticity Kevin Max as a person and an artist and is what, inevitably, carried over to shape an authentic collection of recordings that can be appreciated by the masses and needs to be heard everyone.

The Blood

A Decade Has Passed: Remembering Rich Mullins

A great article highlighting some of what was great about Rich Mullins.