Dark Master

The Archangel Michael, who went to the mat with the Devil as they fought over the body of Moses, wouldn’t have dared level him with a blasphemous curse, but said simply, “No you don’t. God will take care of you!” (Jude 1:9 MSG)

Even the archangel – one of the highest ranking angels – wouldn’t mess with Satan. Why do we think we can?

“In the Presence of Enemies” is a 25 minute song in two parts by Dream Theater on their Systematic Chaos album. In the first part, Heretic, we are introduced to the daily conflict we all face. “Do you still wait for your God? And a symbol of your faith?”

We all must learn to wait on God. He has blessings we can not recognize on the surface. The symbol of our faith is faith itself. We trust in the Lord and we wait through various trials to find Him. James said “count it pure joy when you face various trials for these trials build patience.”

“I can free you from this hell and misery… All I ask is that you worship me.”. The tempter offers empty promises of freedom from our problems. And, on the surface, they do appear to be our salvation. Piece by piece, we fall into his trap.

“Dark Master within, I belong to you. Dark Master of sin, now my soul is yours.” How I long to serve my Lord, Jesus Christ. But every time I turn a deaf ear to his commands – that I love him and live others- I bow to His enemy. Hardening my heart I offer allegiance to the Dark Master.

But there is hope. “My soul grows weaker, he knows and he waits. He watches over me, standing at the infernal gates. In my hour of darkness, the moment I feared has past, the moment I lost my faith- promising salvation. My soul is my own, now. I do not fight for you. Dark master.”

We can choose at any time to come home. It gets harder every minute we are away, but the invitation is always open. We can declare our independence from sin – with Christ’s help – and walk away from the Dark master.

He waits to make us a new creation, ready to serve Him today and reign with Him in eternity. And I’m SO ready.


…while I’m waiting…

I said it before and I’ll say it again. Letting God drive is like riding a roller-coaster. One day you’re up. The next day you’re down. Some days you loop-the-loop. But you never know what’s coming next.

I’ve been offered, and accepted, permanent employment. But I’m still a contractor. I want insurance. So I’m not happy. What does our Provider have up His proverbial sleeve now?

The funny thing is, I know he has something up His sleeve. I just don’t know what it is. Somehow the bills will get paid. Not the extras, like the dinner out last week, but the necessities. There is always, miraculously, a little left over – just so long as we don’t over-do it.

But I’m greedy. I want a little more. I want to show my kids the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I want to show them every place I’ve ever lived. I want to eat an occasional steak. I want… I want… I want…

Then I think about the poor soul I passed under the bridge this morning. At 4:00 am. It was already over 80F and he didn’t have a cool place to sleep. Sweaty and dirty, he hoped to get just a little shut-eye on a concrete mattress before the day warmed up to another record high.

And I got mad because my air conditioning couldn’t keep it below 85F at 4:00 pm.

God can put things in perspective. I can do little to help the guy under the bridge. But I can put a little jingle in his cup. I can feel good about that, right?

I am content with what God has given me. I really am. But there are days when it just seems like more would be better.

Thanks for listening.

Blessed be Your Name

There’s a song I absolutely love by Tree63 called Blessed be Your Name.  The song praises God through everything life throws at us, good and bad.  When the sun’s shining down on me.  When the rain is falling.  Whatever may come, Blessed by the Name of the Lord.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, just ask Job.  I won’t bore you with his story, but know that when he lost everything he said

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

But what does all of this mean?

Regardless of your circumstances – Praise the Lord.  Whether you reside in a Beverly Hills mansion, a 2,000 acre ranch, a condo in the city or under a bridge – Praise the Lord.  Whether you eat prime rib, hamburger or leftover dog meat – Praise the Lord.  Whether life has handed you malt liquor or champagne – Praise the Lord.

This, my friends, is not life.  This is a temporary place pending an eternity with our Lord and Savior.  Praise His Name.  He gave us breath!  He gave us a will!  And He gave His life that we may live forever.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Taking TSO a Little Deeper

In the 1980s and 90s there was a band that didn’t get much airplay. Their name was weird and their style was weirder. They were a strange mix of my style of metal and my dad’s style of classical. They recorded some albums and kinda hung around the bargain bins in record stores. Their name was Savatage.

In 1990, I heard Scatterbrain’s rendition of Mozart’z K545. No orchestra, just two guitars, a bass and drums. Sounded wonderful! I began to see what many had tried to show – classical and rock aren’t as strange bedfellows as we had once believed!

So when I began to explore symphonic rock in earnest, I fell in love with Yes, Metallics, Dream Theater and Jethro Tull. But Savatage, well, they are just plain weird.

The magic happened in 1996. I heard Christmas Eve – Sarajevo 12/24. I was HOOKED! I ran out and bought the cassette (yes, I’m showing my age….)! The love of TSO had begun in earnest. After all, who could turn down something that rocked like that?

But the liner notes told me that this was something much more than just another rock album. They did not shy away from mentioning our Lord and Savior. They sang about the birth of Christ. And the music felt much more real.

The second half brought a tear to my ear – and it still does 14 years later. So I bought The Lost Christmas Eve. And there is a story there as well. It will also make one weepy.

But the history of TSO goes back to that weird band called Savatage. In me research, I found that they are one in the same. And they are believers. The aforementioned Christmas Eve – Sarajevo 12/24 was originally released on an album titled “Dead Winter Dead”. On that album it sounds exactly the same.

I am now, twenty years later, a Savatage fan. Their music continues to bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my lips.

May God continue to bless this wonderful music-making effort. They give Him the glory, and they allow us to see Him.


The Ministry of Lost Souls

Ten days ago, I blogged about Christian reality in secular heavy metal.  Today, as a follow-up, I would like to tell you about one of the bands we discussed.  Dream Theater is a progressive rock group that mixes all I love about rock music.  They are Yes meets Metallica.  In 2007, they released “Systematic Chaos”.  I dare you to listen to this album through Christian glasses and tell me what you hear.

Unfortunately, my iPod only got three of the songs from the CD:

So, I listened to those three songs, over and over again, whilst cleaning out my garage.  I’ll troubleshoot later.  There are bigger headaches than that…  Anyway – those three songs add up to forty minutes of music.  Working outside when the temperature is pushing 100° F and the humidity is pushing 100%, one’s mind tends to wander.  Mine wandered.  I rocked out to these three songs as heavy metal and as progressive rock.

Then I put on my Christian glasses.  Read the lyrics to “The Ministry of Lost Souls“.  Imagine Christ singing it.  Imagine Him singing it to YOU.
Remember me?
I gave you life
You would not take it
Your suffering
was all in vain
It’s almost over now
Don’t turn your back on paradise

I gave you life and you would not take it.  Your suffering was all in vain.  Don’t turn your back on paradise.

Go back to “In the Presence of Enemies.”  Much like Darth Sidious (Chancellor Palpatine) from Star Wars, the devil calls us with flattery and empty promises:
Do you still wait for your God
And the symbol of your faith?

I can free you from this Hell and misery
You should never be ashamed my son
I can give you power beyond anything
Trust me you will be the chosen one

Trust me.  Yeah, you’re from the government and you’re here to help me, right?

Most of the songs on Systematic Chaos offer a seemingly beautiful promise from an unexpected source.  A kiss from a vampire in “Forsaken”.  A bottle of booze in “Repentance”.  Compulsions in “Constant Motion”.  Each of these promises turns out to be hollow, when faced with the source.  I’ll let you learn how the story ends on your own.  Buy the CD.  Listen to the words.  And let me know what you think.


Talking Secular Metal with my Preacher

If you know me, you know I love heavy metal music.  I love hard, driving music with lots of guitar, little keys and heavy vocals.  Soundgarden.  Metallica.  Deep Purple.  Since I became a Christian, I found new bands like Demon Hunter.  Skillet (well, their old stuff, anyway).  Tourniquet.

This morning’s sermon was based on Rev. 6:9-11.  The fifth seal.  Our preacher, Jeff Christian, mentioned the four horsemen and said there had been hundreds of good sermons on them, and lots of references in popular culture.  He actually said “Metallica” in a positive manner during a Church of Christ sermon.  He had mentioned AC/DC before – in what I believe was the first sermon at our church.  I like him.  He likes my kind of music.  We can relate.

I spoke with him briefly after the service and we talked music.  Chris Cornell and Dream Theater were mentioned.  In what was a revelation to me, secular heavy metal can be enjoyed by Christians without shame.

So many people I’ve spoken with have said they never listen to secular music.  Some even say it with a haughty voice.  They enjoy all that Christian metal has to offer, but would never be able to say “Decypher Down sounds like Soundgarden.”  When I’ve mentioned that I enjoyed a Rush concert with our former preacher, Sean Palmer, they are appalled.  When I mention that I can find Scripture in “The Distance” by Cake, they are dumbfounded.

Fellow Christians, there is no more shame in listening to secular heavy metal than there is in listening to secular country music.  Perhaps less, from a metalhead’s point of view – unless you’re talking Marty Robbins or Johnny Cash…  Seriously.  Listen to it with an open mind.  Find the rage and anguish that prompted the words.  Relate it to your life.  Now relate it to Christ.  Do you find a message there?

I continue to enjoy heavy metal in both Christian and secular circles.  It is the kind of music I like.  That is not going to change.  I make no apologies for the music I enjoy.  It is what it is.  And I believe God is there – in all of it.