It is Lent, No Meat, So What

Two slices of rump steak (sirloin) with a forbidden sign and the text “Just say NO!”

Whether we like it or not, we have entered into the season of Lent. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of us who hate the season of Lent. The church wants us to give up things we might not want to give up. What for example?

The most obvious is we are told not to eat meat on Fridays! So for carnivores like me, this is a challenge. I like to eat meat. Giving up eating meat is a sacrifice. Sure you fish lovers can run out and have your Red Lobster favorite. If you are rouging it, you have eat that tater sauce drenched McFish Or at home, you have that coconut shrimp, baked walleye, fried perch… But I hate fish. Especially sea food.

A friend of mine hates fish as much as I do and has gone so far as creating a new food he calls chicken fish, which is really chicken.

My vegetarian daughter just laughs, because she doesn’t eat meat, so giving up meat on Friday isn’t a sacrifice for her. While she might be fine with it, I can eat only so many grilled cheese sandwiches and boxes of Kraft Marconi and Cheese.

But isn’t that the point of the church is making to me? That it is a sacrifice for me not to eat meat on Friday; that it can be truly painful to watch someone eat a juicy burger while I try to swallow a fish sandwich. (Plus they look and see there is another one of those Catholics stuck eating fish.)

It was apparent that Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane didn’t want the bear the pain of dying on the Cross, especially when he knew some would not recognize his what his meant. Yet, he told his the Father that, “Your will be done.”

Granted, my sacrifice of not eating a cheese burger on Friday does not even begin to compare the sacrifice Christ made for me, for us; nor does choking down a fish sandwich. But, perhaps, it helps me remember how much Christ was willing to do for me.  And, perhaps, I take the time to think about the sacrifices I can make for Christ.

 

 

Stryper Goes Death Metal?

{Post Edited 2/13/18}

In 1988, Stryper decided to follow-up their highest selling album To Hell With the Devil with the very polished album In God We Trust (IGWT). The album was closer to pop and more radio friendly. The result was a mixed reception by fans and critics.  

Fast forward to 2018. Following the album No More Hell Pay  (2013) and Fallen (2015), Stryper  goes even harder in their new album “God Damn Evil.”

https://www.frontiers.shop/new-releases/684/stryper-god-damn-evil-ltd-gatefold-black-vinyl-180-gram
Image of Album From Frontier Records Website

Many may question the title and the direction of this album.  “We thought long and hard about this title,” says Michael in response to thousands of fan comments. “It was actually considered quite a few years ago and it just didn’t feel like the right time. Now, with all the evil in the world that we see around us on a daily basis, it made perfect sense. It’s a very bold statement yet a prayer asking God to damn/condemn evil. Nothing more, nothing less.” (Stryper.com)

In a post, Michael Sweet released the lyrics to “God Damn Evil” to prove his point:

We power up the empty screen
And let the games begin
Far beyond it’s poisoning
Is a special kind of sin

We open locks 
And break the chains
To let the devil in
We’re losing all of what remains
In a war we’ll never win 
A war that never ends

(Chorus)
God Damn Evil
God Damn it all
God save The People
But God Damn The Walls

Self control is all but gone
The weak time after time
Take the bait and break the bond
But never pay the crime

The only saving grace is love
And we know where that lies
It’s what we feel unworthy of
So we don’t claim the prize
We never claim the prize…..

(Chorus)
God Damn Evil
God Damn it all
God save The People 
But God Damn The Walls

For some, the lyric “To Hell With the Devil” is ok, but they have trouble with “God Damn” because the phrase is often considered taking the Lord’s name in vain. Others argue two they mean the same thing, both are asking God to send something or someone to hell.  One is just more politically correct Christian.

While the lyric is definitely a hook with a message, I wonder if people also miss the other part of the chorus, where there is also a plea for “God save the People”? Initially when I scanned the song lyrics, I missed that plea.

When the album cover was released, people reacted positively and negatively. The album cover is similar in style to the last two Stryper albums. The artwork appears to to portray God coming down from heaven and striking down evil in the word. My initial reaction was a negative on the God image, He looks a lot like Zeus in my opinion. However, how do you draw a representation of God?

Recently, Frontier Records released the “Take It To Cross [Official Visualizer Video],” their first single of the album. While there are the traditional elements of Stryper are there, the chorus is not in classic the classic Stryper format. Instead you hear a growling chant, “TAKE IT TO THE CROSS.”

Take It To The Cross is our answer to many fans asking us to do something a little heavier and even bordering on thrash, says Michael. The verses are heavy with a vocal and lyric delivery that’s bold and relevant yet the chorus kicks in with a fast, thrashy vibe. We brought in Matt Blanchard (Act Of Defiance / Shadows Fall) to handle the vocal growl on the choruses and the end vamp. This song is 100% high octane.” (Stryper.com)

Some may wonder how much does Michael sing on this song. According to Oz Fox posts on Facebook, “… Michael sings in the first and third lines of the phrase {the chorus–Bring It To The Cross} with a crazy vibratto on the end of the latter…With the exception of the last course of the song. Michael sings every line on that one.” (Oz Fox via Facebook)

While Stryper gambled on a more polished sound in 1988 and met with limited success, will this gamble on harder sounding album 30 years later be more successful? Will the message confronting of evil be lost in the new sound?  Will the album’s title put off Christian fans?

Currently the album is selling very well on Amazon (#1 on Amazon’s Rock Chart). Fans are responding positively and negatively to the album’s title, the cover art, and the song “Take It to The Cross.” My recommendation is look at the entire package before you judge.

 

 

 

Christian Job Description

In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34) If we honestly look at our lives, we realize how often we have rejected God’s love. We may have rejected this love because we are afraid of being labeled as a Christian. We may have rejected this love because we afraid that God’s love might create a desire in us to transform our love. We may rejected this love because we felt unworthy of this love. Whatever the reason, God loves us.

Likewise, we may have been afraid of loving others unconditionally the God loves us. We may think the person unworthy because of the way they have treated us. We might be afraid sharing that kind of love might transform our lives. We might be afraid of being see as weak and vulnerable. Regardless, God expects us to love unconditionally.

Sometimes, when we love, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, but never weak. Love always opens the door for us getting hurt. It is only through strength can we love.

“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. ”

― Jean Vanier

Love is always transformative, it is impossible to avoid. Through love, we open ourselves to new experiences that cannot but change us. Sometimes these changes our painful. Sometimes they are not.  Often, they make us better human beings.

Because love cannot be forced upon someone, it can be rejected. Some forms  of love, when rejected, can be heart breaking. Many writers have suggested that when Christ said on the cross, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28-29), Jesus was reflecting on how many people would reject His love. His wish for them to receive his love was so great, his wish became an unsatisfiable need.  Imagine dying for someone who doesn’t even recognize your sacrifice.

Most of us are not called to lay down our lives for another. But we are called to love. Who in your life are you called to love today?

 

 

We Are Imperfect

Let us face it, we Christians are not perfect. We are like everyone else and we sin just like everyone else. We do an injustice when we live in denial that we are still sinners or believe we are better than others. If anything, we should be even more conscious of our sins. We should have the courage to admit our wrongs and the strength to set things right.