The Armor of God: Breastplate of Righteousness

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I’m especially excited today as I begin a new series. This time I’m going to be looking at the Armor of God. As with the Lord’s Prayer, I’ll be looking at each section at a time and taking you through what they mean to me.

So the first in the series is easily one of my favourites: the Breastplate of Righteousness. What does it mean to put on the Breastplate of Righteousness? We can go further and ask, what does it mean to put on the Armor of God? As the Bible says we should. My honest opinion is that we don’t have to pray it everyday, but to believe it and live it. Armor is worn by warriors and soldiers, and they wear it in every battle. Only when we put on the armor could we stand against the attacks of the enemy.

Alright, so what is the Breastplate of Righteousness, and what is its purpose? As with all the parts of a soldier’s armor, we have to look at the enemy in order to understand. One of the many lies the devil throws at us is that we aren’t righteous, and on our own, we aren’t. Of course the devil wants us to look at our own righteousness, because when we do, our salvation will depend upon our performance, and not on His.

The truth is this, we have been made righteous through the blood of Jesus. The Breastplate of Righteousness is not of our own, but of Christ’s. We are the righteousness of Jesus.

If we wear our own righteousness, and put our trust in it to protect us, it will always fail. The enemy will always find weak points, and he’ll take every advantage he can find.

We have to believe that we have been made righteous by Christ’s work on the cross, and not our own.  That’s what is means to wear the Breastplate of Righteousness.

When we wear the righteousness of Christ, there can be no error in the fight.

The Lord’s Prayer: The Hold of Temptation

Well, here we go, the final of the Lord’s prayer series. I hope this has helped you discover the meaning behind what we pray and how we take that same prayer into our own lives. In the final part, we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The prayer ends with a cry. “Lord, I’ll follow you, but don’t let me fall into the temptations of my flesh, but deliver me from evil.” I want you to focus on that final word in context of the verse. Evil.

In my latest novel in progress, I focus on this virus that eats us from the inside out. Everyone believes this virus comes from an outside source, in other words, the devil. But in reality, the virus is our own flesh nature. It’s ourselves. The evil the disciples are crying to God to save them from is themselves.

Sometimes we place so much of our failures on the enemy, when most of the time the true fault lies with ourselves. This is where the miracle of the Gospel comes in!

Everyone has that one temptation, that one sinful desire they can’t shake. They try, but each time they give in they fall back down to earth. I want to give you some good news today. You’re free. What that means is that God’s grace is strong enough to catch you when you fall. Tenth Avenue North puts it best in their song, the Struggle. “Hallelujah, we are free to struggle, but we’re not struggling to be free!”

The good news is that when we fall, there’s grace, but that same grace is strong enough to free you from any hold your flesh has over you. You no longer have to sin, because sin and death was defeated on the cross. And what has replaced that sin? God has promised greater things than what our flesh has promises us.

You see, we don’t need to try to resist whatever temptations we’re facing, we just need to set our eyes on the greater pleasure that the Lord has promised, that He has given us fellowship with Himself. So in the end, it’s not that our temptations are too strong, they’re too weak. In this day and age, we’re too easily satisfied. We rush to grab whatever new technology that comes out, and in a month, it’s old, or something else will come up. The flesh works the same way.  No longer after you gave in the desire is back for more.

So in the end, rest in the knowledge that He has freed you, and live to seek Him. I promise that He will bestow upon you far greater pleasure than what this world can ever provide.

Sanctus Real: The Dream, Album Review

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If there was one band who has constantly produced good music throughout their career, it would easily be Sanctus Real. The first band I ever called my favourite back in 2010 when Pieces of a Real Heart was released. There has been so much music flooding my ears since then, some of my favourite bands have been put to the side. Sanctus Real isn’t one of those bands. And now with the Dream, I’m pleased to announce that they will continue to be one of my favourites.

Sanctus Real began as a hard rock band with their first record, Say it Loud, in 2002. Their second, and one of my all time favourite albums, Fight the Tide, came in 2004. Another hard rocker with Matt belting out some of the best vocals in rock I’ve heard. In 2006 The Face of Love was released, and it was here that they began to slow down. While The Face of Love was still heavy, it was a darker record overall. In 2008 We Need Each Other hit the shelves and it brought the hard rock from Fight the Tide back, at least for half of it. It remains to this day my second favourite record from them. Their next release, 2010’s Pieces of a Real Heart, brought a more pop/rock sound to the table. It remains to this day their best selling, but for me, it’s my least favourite, and even though that was my first record by them, it was good enough to make me pursue their other albums. In 2013, after their tour bus was burnt down in a blaze, came their softest record yet with Run. Despite slowing things down quite a lot since Fight the Tide, it was a brilliant record. Now just shy of two years later comes the band’s seventh record, the Dream.

After multiple listens (I never review an album after one listen) I have come to the conclusion that it is indeed better than Run and Pieces, and just as good as We Need Each Other.

The album begins and ends with some of the best songs Sanctus Real has ever written in my opinion. It starts off with the title track and it sets the tone for the songs to follow. The whole concept of this record is that the dreams we have in our lives (wealth, travelling, pursuits) isn’t what our hearts truly need to fill us. The dream, Matt says in the song, “is You.” Christ is what we’ve been looking for all along, we’ve just never seen it because all the things of this world have blinded us to our desperate need of God.

Before this album released it was promised that it would venture back to their roots (their rock side), which of course made me really excited. Though there isn’t anything heavy here, there was a few instances of some rough electric guitar thrown in, albeit it was sometimes hidden behind the bells and whistles of production. Despite this, the promise was, in a way, fulfilled. It’s more up tempo than Run was, and comes just shy to their 2010 record.

Musically it’s mostly pop/rock with some folk thrown in for good measure, and though it’s a tried genre, Sanctus Real manages to keep it from sounding generic or done before. They keep it fresh and relevant. A good example of this is the lead single, Lay it Down. A fun, foot stomping anthem that shouts out, “Those problems you’re worried about, they can’t keep you from living now. Shake it off and lay it down, at the cross where your freedom’s found!”

Other highlights include Head in the Fight, Easier on My Heart, Ride it Out, Bend not Break, One Word at a Time, and my personal favourite, and one of the best songs these guys have written, On Fire.

On Fire tells how we once were completely passionate for the Lord, but the trials and demands of life have diverted our eyes. Matt sings in the chorus, “You were fire, and church was more than a place, people were more than faces, and Jesus was more than a name.” It’s a truly powerful way to end the record, following  with the first instrumental track the guys have ever recorded.

Lyrically is sticks pretty much to the standard of CCM, but one thing that sets them apart from the others is their honesty. As heard in their song, The Redeemer, from Pieces of a Real Heart, they’re not afraid to “Wear a tattered heart on my sleeve.”

Digging into this record one will find a lot of musical and lyrical treasure. And though fans of their harder stuff will likely still be dreaming of the day they’ll return, fans of their softer sound will fall in love with this album. For me, these guys impress no matter what they play. And if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in intensity, it’s their passion and love for God, and that’s what it all comes down to in the end. The true dream. Jesus.

4/5

The Lord’s Prayer: The Freedom of Forgiveness

Right, it’s been a while now since we’ve gone through the last part of the Lord’s prayer, so it’s time to continue! Last time I went through, “Lord, forgive us our sins.” Today I’m going to talk about, “As we forgive those who have sinned against us.”

If you thought the last parts of the prayer were difficult to truly pray then this takes it up another level. A lot of people have unforgiveness buried deep in their hearts, and most refuse to let it go. Forgiving someone who has wronged or hurt you is hard. I understand how hard it can be to forgive that person who broke your heart, but let me give you a question: Who broke Jesus’ heart?

If you pointed to others, you’ll be right, but there’s one person you forgot: yourself. We were the ones who put Christ on the cross. It was our sin that drove those nails through his wrists and feet. But here’s where the true grace of God comes in. Jesus says in His dying, rasping breath, “Father, forgive them!” Jesus was covered from head to toe in His own blood, and nails were being driven through Him, yet He pled for their forgiveness.

See, Christ has forgiven us, and when we can’t forgive others, what we’re basically saying is that Jesus is wrong. We can accept Christ’s forgiveness because we deserve it, but the one who hurt us doesn’t. He shouldn’t have died for them. Jesus says that if you don’t forgive others, He will not forgive your sins. Jesus gave us grace, yet we can’t give it to others. The Christian life is summed up when we love the unlovable and forgive the inexcusable.

The act of forgiveness can be summed up in the act on the cross. Jesus absorbed our pain, and gave us grace instead of judgement. To forgive, we need to die. We need to lay it down: our judgments, our bitterness. Absorb the pain, and let grace take hold.

I know it’s hard, but His grace is sufficient. And if it’s enough to save me, it’s enough to save whoever broke your heart.  “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it,”-Mark Twain.

Christ loves them unconditionally, and He’s given them grace beyond measure, just as He has for you. So lets surrender it all to the one who surrendered it all for us; because if He lives in you, who can hurt you?

 

Disciple: Attack, Review

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One band I have been really getting into lately is Disciple. With my first album from them, O God Save us All, I was impressed, but with this newest release, Attack, they’ve taken it to a whole new level. This is Metal at its finest. It isn’t the chugging, hardcore of modern metal, it’s melodic and just outright cool. It’s a hybrid between metal and hard rock, and it works.

The concept of the album is found in the title alone. And coupled with that awesome cover, one can easily come to figure that it’s about warfare of some sort, and they’ll be right. Attack is all about standing strong and bold against the enemy.

It begins with the lead single, Radical, which begins with Kevin shouting, “”Til the day I die I’ll be a radical!” The first thing one notices is these guy’s rock solid faith. With explicit Christian lyrics such as, “It’s easy to find someone who will compromise, but it’s not easy to find someone who’s willing to stand.” Overall, this song just gets the heart pumping with a passion for Christ until it slows for the worshipful bridge, “Not just my mouth, but let my hands speak the glory of God.” It picks back up before it ends with a earth shaking scream from lead man Kevin Young.

The next two songs, Attack and Dead Militia take the warfare aspect even further. Both are hard rocking and fit their concepts perfectly. Both also contain some of my favourite lyrics. Attack is sung from God’s perspective, getting His son ready for battle and telling Him that He’ll be there. “So hang on every Word I say, don’t let them take you by surprise!” Dead Militia is easily one of my all time favourite metal songs. This time it’s a song directed to the enemy, with sometimes violent lyrics such as, “We are the thunder and the chorus of war, we are the hammer that will break of their horns!” And it ends in victory, “The earth will lift its hands in hallelujah to God!”

Scarlet takes full advantage of the Gospel and Disciple presents the perfect song to show to an unsaved friend. It’s bit softer than the previous tracks, but still offers some crunching guitar. Another incredible highlight

Another favourite of mine, the Name, takes the old hymn “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,” and turns it into a full on metal worship anthem. Beginning with fast guitar work, Kevin screams, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I have proven Him over and over!” The chorus is second best to Dead Militia. “I will not be afraid to speak your name, I don’t care if they drag me up in chains, no power of Hell can shake my faith!”

As usual with a band of this intensity, the lyrics are full of Scripture, and in the lyrics sheet, each line of each song is coupled with a Scripture passage where the line came from. It proves that these guys only write from the inspiration of Scripture, and it shows. On songs like Angels and Demons, the chorus shouts, “Nothing can tear us apart, no Angels, no Demons, or dangers, no enemies!”

The second ballad of the record (the first being Unbroken) comes in with Yesterday is Over. About leaving the past behind and “Letting His love take over you.” A truly inspirational song and yet another one of my favourites.

Crazy is probably my least favourite on the record. It just doesn’t grab me like the others. That’s not to say it’s a bad song, but compared to the others on this record, it sadly falls short.

The final ballad, The Right Time, ends this amazing record off with a simple song about God saving us in His perfect timing. Kevin sings, “With God it’s never too late.”

Overall this is easily one of the best metal albums of the year (second to Wolves at the Gate’s VxV) and it gives me strength to fight in the battle God has called us into. Easily one of the top three albums of the year, and it’ll be interesting to see where it ranks at the end of this amazing year of music!

4.5/5

A Life of Prosperity

Today, I’m going to talk about prosperity. Doesn’t that make you want to stop reading? I’m sure we’ve all heard the messages. “God wants you to prosper.” “Live for Him and He will bless you.” And my personal favourite, “The Lord will richly bless your financial life.” We’ve heard it all before, and honestly, it’s starting to grow old.

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First of all, where did the prosperity message come from? It seems to be a new message that has stemmed out only a few years ago. Billy Graham, Smith Wigglesworth, John Wesley, all the pastors of the old age who’d given themselves wholly to the Lord never preached this prosperity message, at least not in my knowledge. So why is it that all we’re hearing this new message?

First, let’s look at the state of the modern church. When you think of a church, do you still picture the small wooden building, polished wooden pews lining the auditorium in even rows, and an altar up front? Or do you picture a large, stadium like complex, where thousands of people gather to sing, worship, and listen to a preacher speak through a microphone? Unless you go to one of the former types of churches (and there aren’t many of them left) you’ll more than likely be picturing the latter type.

The sad truth is, church has become an institution. Instead of finding inspiration from the Holy Spirit, we find inspiration in theology classes. Instead of a singer with a single guitar on stage singing to the Lord, we now have a full rock band singing for the audience. Instead of a preacher speaking of God’s love and grace, he now speaks of God’s blessing and inheritance. Prosperity. Not that those things are bad, but we’ve let them take the focus off of Christ, and onto the business. More money equals bigger upgrades, and it goes on and on. If you’re having trouble believing, just go and buy Hillsong pastor Brian Houston’s book, We need more money.

So far I’ve shown you the state of the church, but what good would this post be if I left it at the fact they they’ve turned their focus from God to money? So I’m going to give you my take on it.

The Bible does say He will bless us. It says that He wishes that we may prosper and be in good health, even as our soul prospers. The thing is, we believe that money and worldly possessions are where our prosperity lies. The truth is, God doesn’t see prosperity that way.

If I asked you, “I want you to give away everything you have,” what would you do? Notice I say have, not own. That includes those around you. You’d give away your possessions before you gave away your wife, or your brother, or your children, wouldn’t you? The Lord doesn’t say He’ll bless your life with money or material possessions. He will bless your life with Himself.

Christianity is a relationship, and relationships aren’t found in material gifts, they’re found on acts of love and commitment. Jesus gave His life on the cross in order to cut off the separation between us and God. True prosperity is living in the freedom of His love and grace. Living in His presence and reflecting His heart to those around you.

Prosperity is found when we give it away. We don’t need more money, we need more of Christ. The greatest gift of all, is Love.

The Lord’s Prayer: We Are the Redeemed

Next in the series on the Lord’s prayer is, “Forgive us our sins.” Right now, I think we can all be honest and say that we pray that part of the prayer more than any other. We’re constantly asking God to forgive our sins. We’re constantly repenting for the things we’ve done, whether it’s something we say, think, or do. A day doesn’t go by where we don’t say, “I repent!”

When I hear this part of the prayer, I hear someone who has laid down their lives. Someone who knows they’re a sinner. Someone who knows they need forgiveness. In other words, someone who relies on God to wipe the slate clean.

The sad truth is that most of the time, we don’t believe Christ’s blood is enough. We don’t believe that Christ can forgive us. We’ve just done this one thing too many times, and His forgiveness will wear thin if we keep going. No, He is always faithful to forgive if we confess, and like I said before, it’s the sin that separates us, not the other way around.

So when we pray this daily, we’re confessing we’re a sinner, and that we need forgiveness. The person who prays this prayer is not prideful, nor righteous in his own eyes. He is the person who has faith in Christ that the blood He shed on calvary is enough. Again, sometimes we don’t believe it’s enough.

Sometimes we say, “No, what I’ve done is too great. I can’t be forgiven.” When we say that, we don’t believe that Christ’s blood was enough. We’re taking our salvation, our relationship with Christ, into our own hands. Instead of finding our identity in the blood of Jesus, we want to find our identity in our works. We’re trying to better ourselves. “If I do good, maybe it will outweigh the bad I’ve done.”

One of my favourite scenes from the movie Courageous is when the two officers are conversing about God’s judgement. The younger officer says, “But I’ve done a lot of good in my life.” The older one says, “That’s not the way it works. Let’s say if someone killed your mother and was sent to court for it. He says ‘but I’ve done a lot of good in my life’ and the judge lets him go. Would you say that was a good judge, or a bad judge?” I think you already know the answer.

No amount of good we do can outweigh the bad we’ve done. Only the blood of Jesus can save us, and it is sufficient.

So when you pray this prayer, know that whatever you’ve done, He’s faithful to forgive. We are the redeemed, and nothing can stand in the way of the blood of Christ, that’s a promise.

The Violet Burning: The Story of Our Lives: Liebe uber Allies, Black as Death, and the Fantastic Machine, Review

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Welcome to a special post. In fact, this could be the biggest album review I’ve ever written. To begin this incredibly difficult review, I want to talk about the issue of the music industry today. These days we’re so focused on singles, pop hits, and the top forty that we forget everything that comes around it. Today it’s singles, E.P’s or albums that are only meant to carry that single. Rarely does an album demand to be listened to from front to back. And with the rise of itunes and other digital outlets, buying full albums is just an inconvenience when you can just buy the song you hear on the radio. It’s safe and risk free. The Violet Burning are pretty much against that way of music production. To begin the review on a high, hard hitting note, this could be one of the greatest albums I have ever heard.

As you may have noticed, this album bares a fairly long title. The reason for this title is astounding, because apart from a few secular artists, this type of album has never been seen in the Christian industry. The three titles after the main title represents three separate albums. Yes, this is a three piece album, with a total of thiry-four songs. And to answer your other question, this is not a collection of the Violet’s other albums put into a set for the new fan, this is one album. One story. Each part released on the same day.

As a writer, this album hit me where my passion sits. Again, contrary to the modern music industry, this is a concept album meant to be listened to in one sitting, and that’s pretty hard when it clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes. But it demands it, and rewards it.

The Story of Our Lives is just that, a story, anyone’s story. It begins with the heaviest of the three, the Fantastic Machine, and right off the bat we’re hit with a beautiful piano and strings, and then the next song builds to a hard rocking crescendo. The story begins with our protagonist searching, looking for an answer. He sees the materialism and is haunted by “big brother” beautifully sung in the two “brother” songs. They talk about the state of the world’s obsession for possessions, and how it will only lead to emptiness and loneliness. In the end our protagonist chooses death.

This is where the second part, Black as Death, comes in. This is some of the darkest on the album. It explores the problems, difficulties and fears of death all face. But in the end, our protagonist realizes he needs God. He needs a savior.

That’s where part three comes in, Liebe uber Allies, (Greek for love above all else) the softest set of songs on the record. The protagonist comes out of the darkness, and into the light. This set of songs is my personal favourite, and each and every song gives me chills. The album ends on the highest note of them all, “Made for You.” An epic worship song, and one of the best I’ve ever heard as our protagonist surrenders all to God.

I’ve given you the basic plot line, now you have to go and experience it for yourself.

Musically, it can get heavy. It’s classic rock’n’roll at its finest, and we sometimes get to hear Michael Pritzl bash out some incredible screams. Unfortunately for some, his voice can either be irritating, or amazing. I’m in the latter. But without a doubt, his soft vocals carry beauty the likes of which I haven’t heard in a long time. It’s perfect.

Some can buy this album so nonchalantly, but it does not deserve that. It’s an absolute masterpiece from beginning to end. Art. The way music should be.

Overall, to end this review, I want to ask a question and make a special announcement. First, if you could choose one album from your collection, what would that be? Before, I would answer with an, “It’s impossible.” Now, I can honestly pick this. Like I said before, this is without a doubt, THE best album I have ever heard. And for that, it deserves a special rating. One rating that can only go to one album. Five stars won’t cut it, because there are multiple five star albums in my collection. For me, this is in the next level: Six stars. Seven years in the making. The one album I can finally call my favourite. The one album I’ve been looking for my entire life. The Story of Our Lives.

And like always, the best music is usually free. The Violet Burning have put the whole album for free download on their website. Here’s the link, and please, please listen to this album. It will bless your life. The Violet Burning: Story of Our Lives.

Does God Want Us to Suffer?

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A question a lot of Christians ask is, “Does God want us to suffer?” or, “Does God want me to go through this?” The test can be anything, whether a disease, a financial storm, a relationship trial, anything that pins us against the wall or brings about suffering. The question is, “Is it God’s will that I suffer?” I want to attempt to answer this today.

First of all, what does God want for us? If you look to the Scriptures, God doesn’t say He wants us to suffer. He says that He wishes that we prosper and be in good health. So why are we saying that it’s God’s will that we suffer?

It’s a question a lot get stumped on, but I’ll try to give an answer and give you my opinions on the subject. What I first want to point out is that no where does God say he wants us to go through trials. Tests and trails are what we need to go through to grow and learn, because of our fallen nature, we’re constantly pulled by sin. One thing I do believe is that tests and trials are not of God; they are either from our sin, or the enemy. God doesn’t place trials upon us, but He also doesn’t take them away.

If you look at it this way, it might help. Trials are a form of discipline, a means of teaching us and guiding us in the right direction. When I was little we used to have a small poodle, and we’d have its water bowl on the floor. Well I used to dip my hands in that bowl and splash until there wasn’t any water left. As you can imagine, discipline had to be given to teach me that what I was doing was wrong. Discipline is an obligation. An action that must be done to guide us in our ways. But at no point does a father ever enjoy it. A father never wants to discipline his child, but he knows it must be done. So God doesn’t want us to go through trials, but He sometimes has to allow the enemy to place them on us to teach us, or to guide us.

What we go through isn’t what God wants for us. He wants us to lean and depend on Him. He wants us to stand on His promises, and above all, He wants us to fight. We need fighters, Christians who will stand on God’s promises, and that’s what trials teach us. To depend upon God’s Word and what He’s promised; and in the end, they will always make us stronger.

So in the end, I hope this gives you some encouragement as you battle your own trials. Remember, we all go through them, but only few of us take what God gives us during those trials, and that is the promise of victory.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Daily Need

Right, we’re back with the Lord’s prayer. So far we’ve gone through “Out Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Next up is, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Before I go on, lets look at today’s culture. We’re all striving to have wealth. We’re striving for riches, yet Jesus said to pray for our daily bread? Let me explain.

So first, let me ask a question: why doesn’t He given us our needs for the future? Because we’re looking at the wrong needs. Remember Jesus in the desert, when He was being tempted by the devil? Satan told Jesus to turn the stone into bread, yet Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus knew His need wasn’t in the bread. He knew His need wasn’t in the material things, but in God.

So to answer the previous question, why doesn’t God give us what we need for the future? One: because we’ve already got our needs in Him, and two: our need for Him wouldn’t be needed. When we have our needs covered, for now and the future, what would we need God for? Our eyes will depart from Him, and look upon the material needs which we all think is what we need to live.

We survive on material needs, but we live in the dependency and grace of God.

If we had all material needs supplied, we’d most likely forget about the one who created them, but if we became poor, we’d be tempted to do things we wouldn’t want to do. God always gives us what we need for the day, and when we have our need, and our want, completely set on Him, He’ll satisfy in every way.

So when praying, don’t ask God for material needs, ask for more of Him. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” Jesus is the bread of life, and when all things were created by Him and for Him, what more could we want?

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