The Songs Remain the Same

A friend got me thinking about music this morning.

He had a Facebook post yesterday where he mentioned the Counting Crows album August and Everything After. Later, his wife gave it a pretty good recommendation, mentioning how much it meant to her in the 1990’s.

It made me think about some of the music I listened to back before I was old and decrepit, and what a huge part of my life it was.

I remember my sister gave me a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA back when I was 15, and I played the heck out of that thing. I liked all the songs, but “No Surrender” was especially powerful for me. I remember walking around my high school shortly after my dad died and listening to a copy of the album I transferred to tape, and looking around at everyone and wondering how I would get through this. Mom was sick, too, and it just seemed like it was too much. That song made me remember I didn’t have to give up.

I mostly kept my act together, but eventually I did fall into a bit of a tailspin, and it lasted for a while. I was sad, and it seemed like there was nothing I could do to shake it. My parents were gone, I was 18 and broke, and I began to withdraw from everything.

Thankfully, the 1990’s happened, and with the advent of that decade, came a lot of really good music. I slowly began to climb out of my self-imposed dark period thanks to a few good friends, and my CD player (CDs may not sound as good as records, but they’re easier, that’s for sure).

I remember listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers Bloodsugarsexmagick and it was just impossible to not want to get up and jump around. It was funky, and awesome, and it just rocked. I listened to it a lot at work when I was closing up the projection booth at night.

I listened to Metallica’s …And Justice for All even more. There was a time when my car was broken down and I didn’t have the money to fix it. I had to get up really early and walk 5 or 6 miles to meet someone for a ride to this factory where I worked. That CD was—and is—one of the best metal albums of all time. And it kept me awake at 4-something in the morning.

Eventually, I was able to pull my life together, and get my head out of my arse spiritually. I think the first Christian band I ever heard was Third Day, back in the mid-1990’s. I went to one of Greg Laurie’s “Harvest Crusades” at Jack Murphy Stadium (I think it was before it became Qualcomm), and Third Day played the song “Thief,” and “Love Song,” and one more I can’t remember. I wasn’t a believer at that time, but that music stayed with me.

I still listen to that first Third Day CD today, and it means a little more to me now. Third Day was also the first concert I took my wife to, back when we were dating. Love that band.

I don’t only listen to Christian music, by the way. There’s still a lot of great music out there—too much to stick to just one genre. I had a CD of My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade that I literally wore the heck out. Such a good album.

I also like Aranda’s Stop The World (listen to ‘Satisfied’), and Matisyahu’s Live at Stubb’s and Youth CDs.

There really are far too many to name, and the albums I mentioned here are only a very small sampling. Some of the most fun Jen and I have is when we’re just laying in bed and listening to music. I love that.

I’m gonna put on my headphones and get to work now.

Bye.

The Bottom Line

Today I awoke thinking again about the sermon from Saturday night, and doing everything in our lives for the glory of God, and about living intentionally. I was pretty tired this morning driving in to work, so I decided to throw on a little hard stuff, and I pulled up Black Label Society on Pandora. Here’s a live clip of the song I heard:

It occurred to me to wonder about the crazy talent God gives people. Zakk Wylde, for instance. I didn’t know anything about his spirituality at the time, but I can’t think of any other guitarists I’ve heard recently who can do the insane things with their instrument Zakk Wylde can. Just watch that video and you’ll see what I mean.

Wylde has had the typical rock star struggles with alcohol/substance abuse, which seems evident from the beers he has lined up on the drum riser in the video. Not long ago, though, I heard an interview with another guitarist, who was describing how Wylde had gotten over his problem with alcohol. He had something wrong with him where if he drank again, it would likely kill him. So he had to quit–cold turkey.

What does a heavy metal guitar player have to do with the Glory of God? Well, after hearing the song today, it occurred to me to wonder if recognition of the gifts given us by God makes them any less gifts? And if are not clearly glorifying God with them, is God’s glory made any less?

I think of a CS Lewis quote that says something like: “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can blot out the sun by scribbling ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

So maybe it really doesn’t matter if Zakk Wylde goes on stage and says “this one’s for you, Jesus.” His talent speaks for itself, and it is not made less by whether or not he thanks God for giving him his ability. Nor is God made less by his acknowledgment, or lack thereof.

And then I came work and read this interview Wylde did with an online metal magazing where he was talking about the recovery of a guitar that had previously been stolen. It’s just a snippet, and is buried by the interviewer, but it struck me just the same:

Events such as being reunited with your prized guitar “The Grail” and when that happened out of the blue; does it remind you how crazy this business can be, for you?

Oh, without a doubt. I thank the good Lord every day. I thank him when I wake up and when I go to bed. I thank him in the middle of the day. I’m definitely grateful for everything I have. Hands down.

I don’t need a tragedy to happen to realize how blessed I am. I don’t need that. I don’t need to beat up an 80 year old grandmother and do six years in jail to realize that beating up elderly people and stealing their money is really not a good thing.

On the road, is maintaining your spiritual side important to you?

Yeah, well, I’m a soldier of Christ, man. Without a doubt.

When you say “Soldier of Christ,” what do you mean by that?

The bottom line is that he’s with me all the time.

It was Wylde’s last sentence that really made me think. If he’s with me all the time, then how can I not glorify him? Whatever my gifts may be, if my constant companion is the giver, then how can I not look to him?

It would be like walking some place with your father, and holding his hand. I would constantly look up at him to make sure he was still there, and he would look down at me and smile, assuring me with a look that he was still there, and always would be.

The bottom line is that he’s with me all the time.

Stop. Heyyyy, Macagangnam Style

I watched the above video through once, and I’m not sure I could do it again without spiraling down into a nightmare world where everyone wears weird pants that don’t fit and does a little dance that’s like the bastard love child of the Macarena

Hammertime

And the African Anteater Ritual

All of which makes sense, all things considered. Gangnam Style is without question the Macarena of this era, which was U Can’t Touch This of the one before. Undoubtedly, Psy’s ode to sexy ladies will usurp one or both of the other two aforementioned songs as the one all the champagne-sodden parents hit the floor for at their kids weddings.

God help us all.

Clearly I’m not the first one to get the connection, either, what with the mashup in the first video. MC Hammer may have been relegated to background dancer, but he still killed it.

Now I’m gonna go lay down in front of a tank.

The Anthem

I was listening to music this morning. This song, actually. The Anthem, by Jake Hamilton:

and a snatch of an Ozzy Osborne song occurred to me. “I don’t want to change the world, I don’t want the world to change me.”

I don’t want to change the world

I wondered why someone wouldn’t change the world, given the opportunity? There are so many terrible things going on in a place that was not designed to be terrible. I could list a million things I would change about the world so it would be more to my liking. Instead, I’ll just mention what I’d change about the world to make it better.

I’d bring God to it, bring Jesus. Like Galadriel told Frodo, “a light when all other lights go out.”

I don’t want the world to change me

That much at least is true. I don’t want the world to change me. Not because I don’t think I need to be changed, but because I want God to do the changing.

So I listened to that song again and I thought that change is possible, but that if it happens it’s up to us. Not a politician, or a president.

The change we can believe in comes from God. It breaks chains, it delivers, and it sets captives free. If you want that kind of change, you’ll have to seek it out, and work for it.

Here’s the lyrics to The Anthem. Maybe it will inspire you, too.

I can hear the footsteps of my King
I can hear his heartbeat beckoning
In my darkness He has set me free
Now I hear the spirit calling me

He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
Such a time as this

I can hear a holy rumbling
I’ve begun to preach another king
Loosing chains and breaking down the walls
I want to hear the Father when He calls

He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
He’s calling, wake up child, it’s your turn to shine
You were born for such a time as this
Such a time as this

This is the anthem of our generation
Here we are God, shake our nation
All we need is your love
You captivate me

This is the anthem of our generation
Here we are God, shake our nation
All we need is your love
You captivate me

This is the anthem of our generation
Here we are God, shake our nation
All we need is your love
You captivate me

I am royalty, I have destiny
I have been set free, I’m gonna shake history
I’m gonna change the world

Unity in Diversity?

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The pictures above are displayed above the proscenium at the San Diego House of Blues, with “Unity in Diversity” written beneath and “All Are One” above.

Certainly, all are not one.

From the little I know about world religions, pretty much all the major ones are symbolically depicted. There’s Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Brahmanism, Islam, and several other isms I didn’t recognize.

Unity in Diversity. All are one.

I’m not sure what they’re trying to get at with that, but I’m going to go ahead and call BS on the slogans.

Diversity in the symbols depicted, certainly. There’s yin/yang, the star and crescent of Islam, and many other statues and symbols except 1.

I didn’t see a cross.

Considering the rubber stamp political correctness that’s become ubiquitous these days, the lack of representation for Protestant Christianity is perhaps understandable.

Jesus has become persona non grata for much of the world, and representing the instrument of His death and mankind’s hope in a place where secular and sometimes even evil music shakes the roof on an almost daily basis could be seen as ***gasp*** favoring mainstream Christianity.

It was interesting because while diversity and “tolerance” was proclaimed from the proscenium, the message of Christ was fearlessly proclaimed from the stage. First, by opening act Jake Hamilton.

Followed by headliner Jeremy Camp, who turned a very unlikely place and a few hundred strangers into a church service (no video for his set. I was busy worshipping).

It was a great and amazing evening, and the whole point of writing this is simply to say I am continually blown away when I see firsthand how God can use anyone at any time.

During the pre-show Q&A and meet-and-greet, Jeremy Camp was humble, and kind, and very funny. He answered everyone’s questions honestly and straightforwardly, even taking time to lay hands on a young man and pray for healing for him.

The music was great, and the word was proclaimed. During Overcome, Jeremy even had hundreds of strangers link raised hands in praise to the one who’s worthy.

The smartest and best thing Camp said came toward the end of the evening, when he had very little voice left. He looked out over the crowded floor and said “the best thing I can tell you is ‘read your bibles.'”

Simple advice, perhaps. But also the best thing we can do in a world where diversity and “tolerance” are valued far more than the sacrifice of an obscure Nazarene carpenter.

Hear o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

You can think what you want about diversity, and Christianity, and political correctness, but you will still be just as lost if you fall for that “all is one” nonsense.

All are not one.

You can serve God or not.

If not, you’d best be prepared to face the consequences.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

On Fire

I’ve been thinking of a song all day today. “On Fire,” by Switchfoot.

It’s a beautiful song, and one of those ballads you could easily take as either about a relationship between a man and woman, or between a believer and God. Jenny and I heard it at the first concert we went to as a couple, back in 2008. Before I go any further, just listen:

This is actually from the very show we attended:

I love the song, and when I hear it I think of falling for Jen, long before we were planning to get married.

“But everything inside you
Knows there’s more than what you’ve heard
There’s so much more than empty conversations
Filled with empty words”

I’d spent so much time talking to different women. Some I wanted to be involved with and never got to be. Some I shouldn’t have been involved with, but was. It wasn’t until I started spending time with Jen that I knew what it could really be like to have God in common in a relationship—to have Him mean the same thing to each person..

Things change when that happens.

“There’s so much more than empty conversations
Filled with empty words”

I discovered that when Jen and I started talking, and I will be ever grateful she sent me that first email. It changed my life in every way a life can be changed.

Today, though, I was thinking about the song in a different way, and the part that kept repeating in my head was this:

“Give me one more time around
Give me one more chance to see
Give me everything you are
Give me one more chance to be near you

When everything inside me looks like everything I hate
You are the hope I have for change
You are the only chance I’ll take”

Today, I was thinking about God when the song was playing in my head, and the funny thing is, I didn’t even listen to the actual song today until I typed this sentence.

I’ve been feeble and inconsistent in my devotional life, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that I was having difficulty.

I’ve been feeble and inconsistent in my prayer life as well, and that is perhaps worst of all.

Perhaps as a result of both of these things, I’ve been down on myself tremendously of late. Mainly, this has been because I feel like I’ve been epic failing in my ministry commitments at church, and questioning whether or not my current involvement in Youth Ministry is even where I’m supposed to be involved.

I’ve been really giving myself a ration of crap.

So today I found myself singing quietly to God:

Give me one more time around
Give me one more chance to see
Give me everything you are
Give me one more chance to be near you

When everything inside me looks like everything I hate
You are the hope I have for change
You are the only chance I’ll take

And I also began to think about how easy it is to start looking at ourselves as piles of garbage—piles of crap.

Our enemy wants us to have these sorts of images of ourselves, and the opposite is true.

We were not created worthlessly, no matter the circumstances of our births.

We were not created to offer weak prayers and insincere pledges of fealty to God based on what we think our needs are.

We were made not as piles of excrement or garbage, no matter what our erroneous self-images may tell us.

We were made in His image, and meant to offer Him our most sincere prayers—and our hearts—and to cry “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

This is my prayer—that I find that ability within myself, and also the ability to tune out the things and negative thoughts that help no one, least of all myself.

So that When everything inside me looks like everything I hate, I will be able to remember what I am actually worth to my God.

I Have Decided

People talk a lot about what it means to be saved. They discuss the semantics of it, and different ways they believe it can and cannot be achieved.

Many doubt there is even such a thing as salvation at all. In order for salvation to exist, there must be a thing or perhaps circumstance we are delivered from. In order for mankind to be delivered from sin, sin has to exist.

If sin exists, what is it, and what is the punishment for committing it?

Perhaps a very simple way to put it would be that it is something that pulls us away from God and toward the world, or ourselves, and our own gratification and glorification becomes paramount. The punishment is death.

The semantics of sin have generated endless hours of arguments, likely millions of written pages, and one dead and resurrected savior.

So what does a person have to do in order to be spared eternity outside the presence of God?

Some believe all one needs is to a be a good person. Treat people well and be nice to dogs and homeless veterans.

Others think faith in God receives the gift of salvation rather than causes it.

Then you have decision theology, which tells us one must make a conscious decision to “accept” Christ and follow his teachings to be saved from sin and its penalty.

I think that some people make it a lot more complicated than it actually is. They’ll talk about theology like monergism and that doesn’t sound like Jesus at all to me.

I think you truly do have to simply decide to follow Jesus, and then do it. It is a lifelong commitment, and it is not always easy.

I think of the old hymn, composed in India “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus. Who knows how this hymn was actually composed? I’d like to believe it’s the first version given in the above linked web page, but the truth is that even if it is not, that does not make the words any less true.

Here is a beautiful version of the song, and the story behind it.

As for me, I have decided to follow Jesus.

Two Songs

It’s interesting how every now and again music (especially praise & worship music) will sort of ambush you with conviction. It could be a completely new song to you, or one you’ve heard a bunch of times. It won’t matter. You’ll just get kicked in the nuts and convicted in a really powerful way.

It happened to me twice today (so far). The first was on the way to work this morning when I heard this:

Lead Me, by Sanctus Real. It describes very well what it takes to lead a family, and this morning it spotlighted the areas where I’ve been remiss.

Nut shot number one.

Later on, I had to drive back to town on an errand, and I was just kind of looking around at the fields as they went by on the way back to the office. I started thinking the countryside out here was not much to look at. Master of irony that I am, I wondered for a minute what God was thinking when he made this particular little patch of desert.

Then I heard this song:

Nut shot number two. Filled With Your Glory, by Starfield.

I realized I take the things and places God made completely for granted. There is beauty in all His creations, and if I choose to see only ashes, that’s on me. I think I need to also try and make sure the eyes of my heart are open when I’m driving. You can see better that way.

The desert is magnificent in its own way, and that people can actually (and quite successfully) pull crops from it is truly a testament to God’s glory and man’s God-given resourcefulness.

Take a listen to these songs, and maybe they’ll mean something to you, too.