Monday, July 11, 2011

Top 5 Returns!

So a few months ago Shannon and I were trying to determine who would be the Top 5 Christian bands ever. This isn't favorite ones, but who is the best period. I had to put my feelings for certain bands aside and come up with the final list.

Here is what I came up with:

1. Jars of Clay - was there ever really a question? Easily the #1 choice, no one else compares to them. Look at their debut album and tell me which of those songs is still *not* relevant? I can't think of any, and they sound like they could be released today and seem contemporary, not 15 years old. No one has been better, or done it as well for so long. Not only did they top the Christian charts, but they also made some noise on secular charts as well. Ergo, #1.

2. dcTalk - Was there a bigger draw than dcTalk in the 90s? Big hits, big shows, big personalities. dcTalk WAS Christian music during the 90s. The problem they had en route to #1 was longevity. They broke up, and there went their shot at knocking off Jars. Don't get me wrong, I feel like they could be the best ever, but when you break up at the peak of your popularity, that makes me wonder what could have been. Seriously though, is "Jesus Freak" the best Christian music song ever?

3. Newsboys - Yes, I had to include some foriegners in my list. Just kidding, but the Newsboys have been a headlining band for YEARS. From "Shine" to whatever they're doing now (cuz I don't listen to them anymore), they are still a major attraction to Christian music fans. Definitely hit the worship music bandwagon and the popularity kicked up quite a bit. It's saying something to be this high and have gone through 3 lead singers and multiple other band members. I am a little weirded out though seeing Michael Tate (dcTalk) in their press pics as the lead singer...

4. Petra - Ok, for those of you who don't know Petra, they were a Johnston family favorite. They wrote some killer songs, from "Beyond Belief" to "This Means War!" they were great. Killer 80s/90s guitar rock with amazing vocals from John Schlitt, Petra defined 80s/early 90s Christian rock. Every rock band wanted to be them, and no one came close.

5. Audio Adrenaline - My childhood favorite. Can't say enough about a band that essentially is the same as when it formed, consistently made good music, stayed true to their sound while never sounding exactly the same, and always put on a great show. I never left an Audio A show disappointed, and I always wanted to go see them again. Mark Stuart's original voice (too bad that's the reason they also had to disband) and the classic rock sound, they are what I would declare, the U2 of Christian music (I'm sure that's a biased overstatement, but I LOVED Audio A)

Honorable Mentions - DC*B, Six Pence, Third Day, Supertones, Five Iron Frenzy

Update: I forgot 2 VERY important Honorable Mentions, which completely eluded me when I was writing this (and VERY tired I might add) : Switchfoot (duh) and Relient K

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What I've been thinking about lately...

So, a while ago I read The Shack by William P. Young. If you know nothing of this book, a brief summary is this. One guy's family camping trip turns into a nightmare when his 7 year old daughter is abducted and murdered in a remote shack. He goes into what he calls The Great Sadness and becomes bitter at God. About a year or so after the tragedy occurs, he gets a note in his mailbox from God saying He will be at the shack that weekend. He goes, has a weekend with God, and you have to read the rest. I can't begin to explain what goes on, but I can tell you your life will be changed. While it's not the most eloquent book, it's definitely worth the read. I laughed, cried and was overwhelmed by it, and I am actually looking forward to reading it again in a few months. It's deep without being heavy, and an easy read. Now, I didn't write this post to briefly summarize a good book and tell you to read it, I actually am writing it for a much different purpose, but the book has spurned all these thoughts...

One of the main conversations the protagonist, Mack, has with God is about our relationship with God. I know that in my life, I have spent a lot of time trying to earn God's favor. I had repeatedly learned that God's grace was a "free gift" that I didn't deserve, but I spent so much time learning verses for prizes or points, that I felt like I was trying to earn God's saving grace. The problem was, those points were also used to get myself prizes as well. So now not only am I trying to earn God's grace, but I am getting fun prizes for myself too. In The Shack, the idea of a relationship with God is one of the central themes of Mack's coming out of his Great Sadness. In their conversation, the embodiment of the Holy Spirit tells Mack that a relationship out of love has no expectations at all:

"That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything tha emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that expectancy into an expectation- spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements."

God has no expectations of us! How freeing is that? I mean, suppose God had expectations of us. Only one person could (and did!) live up to those expecations: Jesus. We would fail Him EVERY day! But since He loves us, that relationship of love has no expectations of us to do anything. If we truly love him and want a relationship with him, the things that seem like "requirements" (i.e. prayer, Bible reading, etc.) wouldn't be done out of obligation, but a desire to grow closer to someone we care about. That's what God wants, a relationship that is built on love and what flows from that. It makes me feel better about when I make mistakes to know that I haven't failed God and that He loves me just the same no matter what happens. That is a true love relationship, unconditional and right. Faith without works IS dead, but a relationship of love REQUIRES no works. I have gone through life trying to earn God's grace and do works I felt required to do. Now when I do those daily tasks of praying and spending time with God, I feel like I'm doing them out of love, not because I have to. How much of a difference that makes in my daily life is CRAZY! Love it!