The Hero’s Journey

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post specifically about writing, and since a friend of mine has begun work on his own novel, I thought it would be a good time to give a little more advice. Today, I’m going to map out the journey your protagonist is planned to go on. This is a general guideline, and is by no means meant to be the be all and end all, just a guideline where you can gain some inspiration. That’s one of the great things about writing, you can break the rules!

Alright, so the first step in the journey isn’t really a step for our hero at all. And like I said before, it can be broken, but usually in the beginning the hero will encounter some sort of messenger, whether that be a person, a vision, or anything that foreshadows or gives the hero a low-down of what’s going on. In the Pilgrim’s Progress, this is the Evangelist of the story.

Step two is where the hero begins to unravel to the problem ahead. This step presents the main problem our hero must face. It’s the main plot introduction, which leads onto the next step: The Decision.

This is where the hero needs to make his decision. To solve whatever problem is facing him (or the town he’s in), or to run away. Obviously, unless your hero is a stubborn coward (like mine are sometimes!), you’ll no doubt let your hero decide to solve the problem presented.

Nest up the challenge is presented. This is where the hero realizes what he has to do to stop the problem. This usually happens multiple times in the novel, because there are many challenges in the way which must be overcome in order to solve the main problem. Once your hero has made the decision to go, there’s no turning back, unless of course you want to take the next step: the Refusal.

A realistic hero will always debate with some sort of refusal or hesitation. He’ll probably think, “Uh uh, there’s no way I’m doing that. You can just forget it.” Sound familiar? A lot of novels use this step to give their hero some solid ground in reality to stand upon. Unless of course your hero is a superhero, and even then, refusal is a valuable tool.

Once your hero has gotten over the refusal stage (sometimes with some help from another character), we then get on to the exciting bit: taking the first step. This is the first real step your hero takes on his journey. This is where he leaves the comfort of his own home, whether it be literal of metaphorical, and sets off on the dangerous journey. For example, this is where Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress begins the journey to the Celestial City.

Somewhere along the line though, your hero is going to have some trouble, and this is where the next step comes in: The helper. This is where the second character takes place to fight along side your hero, whether for that one scene, or for the remainder of the story.

Now we’re getting to the final steps. This is where the hero begins to really ware out. After facing so many challenges, your hero should be at his lowest. Worn out and defeated. And after a quick revelation, maybe from the aforementioned helper or another sign, we get on to the next step: The Rise.

This is where the hero rises again, regroups, and leads them into the final battle with the main foe.

The next step is pretty obvious: The Showdown. Obviously, you’ll already know what that is, the glorious (or sometimes not so glorious) final battle. It’s where your hero will either live or die.

If your hero survives the fight, and the foe is defeated, you will then move on to the final step: The Resolution. Everyone celebrates and crowns the hero with honor. This is the happy ending to your story.

So I hope this has helped. Like I said before, it’s just a guideline, and is not meant to be the final say in your novel. But all good novels have at least two of three of these steps, so have fun with it! And to my newest novelist, I hope this gives you some inspiration for your own novel. You’ve just begun one of the greatest adventures you’ll ever take, and like the heroes in the Christian movies always say, God speed!

Brady Toops: Self-titled Album Review

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Worship music and I don’t really get along, basically because most of it, in my opinion, is stale and lifeless. You can just tell when they’re truly worshiping, or if they like to be the spotlight, and just use worship music to get there. Sadly, there are very few worship artists these days that are truly genuine in their devotion to the Lord. And with that stale emotion, comes stale music. I’m sitting here, crying out for the real thing, and not just some live worship record that repeats the same cliched phrases over and over again. Thankfully, my cries have been answered, because indie artist Brady Toops has released his full length debut album, and is it a beauty.

The album begins with By the River, a beautiful opener that lulls you in with Brady’s rich and emotion laden voice, and just by this song alone, I knew I wasn’t getting just another worship artist trying to sound like the next big thing. This guy is genuine, and his music is his own. The music of By the River, and most of this album, makes you feel like you’re in a rich green forest, sitting by the river, stumming softly on your guitar, and worshiping with all your heart.

Along with By the River, Golden Bell adds a good dose of gang vocals into the mix, and it really lifts the song to new heights. The oh-oh’s in the chorus are beautiful, even celestial. This is amplified even more in Lord have Mercy.

Another highlight, Glorious Name, is the celebratory song of the record, and really makes you feel like you’re worshiping with the angels.

Come on Home really highlights Brady’s incredible voice, and brings you to tears in this song about the prodigal son.

I admit, I was a bit skeptical with the inclusion of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, but was interested to see how Brady would carry it out. Again, he takes the song to a new level, and I was blown away, especially with the new bridge, and the ever brilliant gang vocals.

Soon and Very Soon is a cover of the old hymn. A beautiful piece of poetry that is absent of all instruments. With only Brady’s voice, and a small choir backing him up, that’s all this song needs, and it’s a very peaceful moment on the record.

My personal favourite, Make Your Home, has everything a good worship song needs, and more. It has the best buildup of the entire album, and it really pays off in the end.

O For Grace ends the album on the highest note of them all, with the final half of the song completely instrumental, it allows time to think over what you just heard, and offers a beautiful time of personal worship.

The only song I wasn’t fond of from the first listen was Reckless Love, simply because it leaned into the generic territory a bit too much, and it doesn’t quite capture the beauty of the other songs. But, it builds with a triumphant bridge that nearly redeems the entire song. It’s definitely not a bad song, it just fades a little in comparison to the other amazing songs on this record.

Overall, Brady Toop’s self-titled is a true gem of a worship album. Full of rich emotions, faultless melodies and harmonies, and just beautiful music and vocals, this is a must have for any music lover. Fans of up tempo, live worship albums may have to look elsewhere, but for those who want worship and artistry along side each other, Brady Toops easily delivers.

4.5/5

Thousand Foot Krutch: Oxygen:Inhale Review

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TFK has been in the business since the late nineties, and since going independent in 2011, they’ve shown no signs of slowing down. Their first venture into the independent world, The End is Where We Begin, fused all their styles together, from rap, rock, metal, and balladry to produce one of their best albums to date, and today they follow it up with a new two part album series titled, Oxygen.

Part one of the series, Oxygen:Inhale, is the natural follow up to the End, and it takes a different turn from what most fans are used to. Of course we still have the rawk (the TFK term) songs, but they have also taken a more southern rock twist with these songs, and after a quick listen through the samples, a much slower album to what we’re used to. But that doesn’t mean it’s void of any rock, like I said before, half of the album is solid, classic rock and roll, and because it’s TFK, Trevor inserts his signature rap style vocals into the mix, and is especially apparent in Born This Way and Untraveled Road.

The idea of oxygen, Trevor explained, was that we need to not take half breaths, but full breaths. We’re not to just be living day by day like we have forever, but to live everyday like it’s our last. We must take in all God has for us, and leave nothing behind.

Lyrically, what’s most pleasing about this record is that it’s a whole lot more worshipful than previous ventures. Though TFK have always included God clearly in their lyrics, it’s never been so blatant as it is on this record. Over half of the record takes the worship approach, without it ever sounding like a run of the mill worship tune, and it will please most worship fans, including myself! The devotion and love for God Trevor and the boys show on this record is intense, and not since Needtobreathe’s Multiplied have I seen such emotion poured out. Trevor’s voice is simply incredible, and all who have read my review on the Masquerade album, know his is a voice not to be reckoned with. He’s reaching new highs I’ve never heard him reach before, and it’s definitely enough to get the blood pumping.

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So how does Inhale compare to Masquerade, or even the End is Where We Begin or Phenomenon? Let’s have a look.

The album begins with Like a Machine. A song that’s sure to get the blood pumping and the party started. Not deep lyrically, but a fun opener nonetheless.

Untraveled Road is where the album really begins to show it’s spiritual side. A song about walking the path less traveled, the narrow road. Trevor sings in the chorus, “We walk, where no one wants to go, on this untraveled road!” A battle anthem that’s sure to make you want to walk the life of Christ instead of talk it, because, “Light shines brighter in the dark.”

Born This Way is another rocker, but this has a lot more of a classic, southern feel to it that puts a big smile on your face. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin, and not trying to live like someone you aren’t. We’re all God’s children, and each one is unique. We’re all equally loved by God, no matter who we are.

Set Me On Fire is the first worship song on the record, and boy it’s catchy. A pop song at heart, but it still feels like TFK. Simply about God setting us on fire with His love. Not sure if we’ll see it in church, but it would be amazing if it did.

Give It to Me is the final full on rock song on the record, matching the heaviness of Born This Way and Like a Machine. Trevor plays with the high range of his voice magnificently in the verses, and like Born This Way, is just a fun song about God taking our burdens off our shoulders.

I See Red brings it down a notch, but picks up again in the latter half. A fun light rock song about the saving power of the blood of Jesus. In the final half, you just want to sing along as Trevor sings, “We can run, we can hide, but we can’t live without it. It’s the same in us, takes the blame in us.”

Light Up takes a beautiful acoustic turn, and leads the way into the softer half of the record. It displays Trevor’s falsetto perfectly, though at times it does get just a little overbearing. A simple love song that can either be about a romance or as worship to the Lord.

In My Room is lyrically, one of the best TFK songs to date! About a teenager facing abuse from those around him, so he goes into his room, and cries out, “They make me feel so empty, their words they cut like knives. You tell me to forgive them, but I’m not sure I’ll survive. I’m not sure if it’s a good time, or even if you’re home. It’s a long, long way from your throne, but can you meet me in my room?” A tear inducing song, and a must listen.

Oxygen takes a full on worship route, and it does so brilliantly. My personal favourite on the record, it brings chills each time, and is full of God’s presence. Declaring that God is our oxygen, and that we have no life without Him.

Final song, Glow, takes a country turn, and is one of the best on the record, and in my opinion, the perfect closer. It begins with the chilling words, “Today I died in search of you.” Again, so much devotion for the Lord. This song reminds me of the cry of Elisha after Elijah went up in the chariot of fire. He cried for Elijah’s anointing, or nothing. In this song, Trevor sings, “Burn me bright, or let me go, make me stronger on the inside. Hold me tight, or just let go, because I don’t want it if I can’t glow.”

Overall, TFK have definitely passed their last album, and maybe even Welcome to the Masquerade. With half of the album rock, the other half ballads and worship, this is sure to have something for everyone to love, even if you’re not a TFK fan.

I highly recommend Oxygen:Inhale by Thousand Foot Krutch as one of the best albums on the year!

Here’s the album stream if you’re interested: Youtube, thousand foot krutch, oxygen inhale

4.5/5

 

Thousand Foot Krutch: Welcome to the Masquerade, Review

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In celebration for Canadian rockers Thousand Foot Krutch’s new album, Oxygen: Inhale, coming out this Tuesday (one of my most anticipated albums of 2014) I want to look back at, in my opinion, their best album: Welcome to the Masquerade, the Fan Edition, since that is the version I purchased.

This is easily their heaviest record, as it begins with the epic intro, the Invitation. This leads into an explosive album title track opener. It hits with you an adrenaline charged guitar riff that is just epic.

Fire it Up is the pump up song of the record, and really gets the heart beating, with the best vocals from front man Trevor McNevan to date (until the new record comes out that is). A song about being on fire for God, and taking His presence to the streets. This is sure to get your feet moving.

Bring me to Life takes the album into metal territory, with a scream from Trevor, and a fist pumping, anthemic bridge that shouts to the mountains and bridges in our lives, and commands them to “Shut it!”

The album soon slows down after yet another rocker with Watching Over Me, a song about knowing the Lord is with us through every thing we go through.

The Part That Hurts the Most (Is Me), is one of the best, most emotional tracks on the record. It’s pretty tame for the most part, until we get to the bridge, which again finds Trevor screaming his lungs out.

The next ballad is Look Away. A beautiful song about not looking away when God calls us to Him, despite what others may say. This is the first song I ever heard from them, and I still love it five years later.

Forward Motion finds them going down a more pop/rock route, and is one of the most enjoyable on the record.

The album ends with the straight forward worship track, Already Home. This song is absolutely glorious, and if this doesn’t usher you into the throne room I’m not sure what will. Trevor’s voice is amazing, and in the last minute, it’s an amazing experience. You have to listen yourself to know how powerful this track really is.

The bonus tracks aren’t anything really great, except for Take it Out On Me, a song about dealing with anger. The bonus trilogy of tracks begins with the rocker Shook, leads into Take it Out On Me, a heavy pop song (if that’s a thing) and ends with Anyone Else, another ballad about a relationship between two lovers, but can just as easily be about God.

TFK began with a more rapcore style, and have evolved to hard rock and nu-metal over time, and this album straight up rocks. The whole theme of Masquerade is that we sometimes hide ourselves behind masks. Masks of pain and false identity that takes us away from God. It’s a journey of self discovery and salvation that ends with the cry, “I’ve made a mess of myself on my own, and now I’m on my face and I’m calling out your name.”

If there’s one rock album you buy anytime soon, if you haven’t already got it, Thousand Foot Krutch’s Welcome to the Masquerade is an absolute must have. Highly recommended!

4.5/5

Separating or Serving

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You know, a lot of Christians say that we should separate ourselves from the world, from the people who live their lives in sin. It’s because their corrupt nature will rub onto us, isn’t it? If we associate ourselves with sinners, we’re going to fall into sin ourselves, so we should just stay away. That’s what being a Christian is, right? It’s being separate from the world, because, “We’re a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people for His own possession.” We’re God’s children, aren’t we? We are, but that’s not exclusive to Christians.

When I see Christians separating themselves from the world, I often see more damage than healing done. See, we’ve made ourselves more than what we actually are. We’ve put ourselves on a pedestal. We don’t want to step off, and others don’t want to step on it with us. Why is this? Why aren’t more people coming to Christ?

Jesus knew the way to salvation, but it seems like we, the ones who have accepted Christ ourselves, don’t. Jesus didn’t put Himself on a pedestal. He didn’t put Himself above others. In fact, He even let them put on Him a mockers robe and a crown of thorns. He let them hang Him on a cross and be put on display for all to mock and tease. But right there, that picture, is the very scene of salvation. So why have we made salvation to be this place where only the holy dwell?

When I hear preachers say we need to be separate from the world, I think, “But Jesus sat and ate with those same people the priests said to avoid.” This presents a lot of problems. When Jesus said we should be separate from the world, He didn’t mean we should abandon them, He said to turn from their ways. Sin no more, because living in sin isn’t going to get people to see Christ. Living in sin is not the way to salvation.

So what is the way to salvation? How can we lead those in sin, to Jesus Christ? To do that, all we need to do is look at Jesus. How did He live? It’s very different to the way a lot Christians are living today. The one thing He did above all else, was serve. He washed the sinners feet. He served on bended knee.

So we go to say that if we hang out with those people, surely we’ll become like them. Jesus didn’t fall into sin because He was the servant. When we put ourselves on a pedestal, there’s no way we can pull others on the ground up with us. We’ll just fall down with them. But get down from the pedestal, and on your face, no one’s going to be able to pull you down!

That is what it means to be Christian. That’s how people find salvation. Jesus laid down His life on calvary for those in sin, why shouldn’t we do the same?

Let’s stop seeing people as “good,” and “bad.” Because we’re all God’s children, and we all need salvation, even past the cross.

God bless, and thanks for reading!

Christian Conformity

Have you ever heard the saying, “They’re conforming to the world”? I have, and I want to talk about that today. One of my favourite verses in the Bible says, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I’d like to dig into this whole subject today.

To conform means to agree with something, or to be the same as someone else. Suddenly a problem arises with this, and it isn’t just exclusive to Christians. Everywhere I see people conforming to things that, not only takes us away from God, but from others. We’ve turned into mindless consumers, conformers who have taken on the mindset of those around us, and we’ve closed ourselves up. We no longer think for ourselves. We’re so conformed to the world’s mindset that we’ve shut God out.

I think that verse goes further than just conforming to the ways of the world. The sinful ways of man. It says we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to have a new mindset. The mind of Christ.

We need to conform ourselves to only one person: Jesus Christ. Not the TV, not the doctors (though they are very important), and not even to pastors. Yes, I’m walking on dangerous ground here (like to do that a lot!) but a friend once said, “we need to look to the Word for everything we believe,” and I completely agree, anywhere else is shaky ground. But sadly, the Bible alone isn’t enough for most, and this is where the problems begin in the Christian community. We’re conforming to what those “above” us say, and a lot of the time, without question.

For an example, the idea of Christian metal, a style I enjoy and love, is very looked down upon in the Christian community as “Satan’s music.” I once conformed to those beliefs myself, and I never felt at peace. Why? I wasn’t conforming to Christ, I was conforming to man! When you conform to the mind of man, Christian or not, there will never be complete peace. When I decided to stop conforming to the beliefs of man, and I began to really listen to Christian metal, I found something that none of the other genres of Christian music gave me. Bands like Wolves at the Gate, War of Ages, Haste the Day, and yes, Demon Hunter, have given me songs that have really strengthened my walk with Christ.

Conforming doesn’t stop with others as well, you can even conform to yourself.  When we conform to ourselves, and our own beliefs (or desires) it can severely hinder our relationship with Christ, and even others. It stops us from growing in the knowledge of God’s Word, and it can stop us from hearing the Lord’s voice! The Holy Spirit is pushed aside when we don’t want to hear what He has to say, and we want to hear what we want to hear, because no one can tell us otherwise. If I gave you complete proof, without a doubt, that metal is just as godly as pop, would you believe me? Sadly, many will still say no.

We need to have an open mind, because only then can the Holy Spirit speak. If the Holy Spirit put something in our path that doesn’t fit our mind set, or if others have said that it’s wrong, it must be wrong, right? I’m beginning to have my doubts.

Another example: what if the Lord told me to go into a bar that sat across the road? A bar is a sinful place right? Well according to us, yes. Anyway, I choose not to go in, because it’s not a good place for a Christian to be. A few days later, a suicide story pops up in the paper, and the person being interviewed said that that bar was one of his favourite places to go each Monday, the day I walked past. I could have shown that person the love of Christ, but I didn’t, because others said it was wrong.

Let’s put on the mind of Christ, because only then can we truly be free.

Words as Weapons

After a little writers block, I’m back with a new post, inspired by a trip to the supermarket! What I want to talk about is words, and how they can impact our lives, both negatively and positively.

Words are powerful things, and if used carelessly, could break someone apart. Christians, and non-believers, have used words to hurt. We’re all guilty of it, even me. But we need to be careful, and to watch our tongues, because every word we say could have the power to give death, or life.

I like to take chances where I can sow a seed in someone’s life. Giving them a glimpse of Christ, so they may see Him in me, and that’s what happened today. I want to share a short story, nothing glamorous, not even a testimony really, but it had power like no testimony could give. I’ve done this quite a few times now, at a few different places, and it’s complimenting people, particularly girls.

So we were at the Brisbane Myer centre, and it was around eleven, so we went to Coles to grab a snack. While in there I saw this beautiful girl going through the vegetable section. She passed me once, but I didn’t say anything. We walked around for another five minutes (on the search for Stevia!), and I didn’t see her again. Well, the Stevia wasn’t anywhere around the left side of the store, so we went back around, and there, down the exact aisle we needed to go, was the girl. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I wanted to tell her she was beautiful. I hesitated for a moment and stood beside her. Then, I took the leap! I said, “Excuse me, I’m sorry if this is a bit strange, but I think you look lovely, and I wanted to say hi.” It actually wasn’t that hard! She replied with a huge smile, and her whole face just lit up. I shook her hand, gave her my name (not sure why I did, since I probably won’t see her again, unless the Lord puts her in my path) and she gave me hers.

The other times I complimented girls were at the Brisbane Roma street Parklands, (that was two girls together!) and at another supermarket with my cousin. But that’s not what I want to talk about, what I want to talk about is how my words just changed her countenance around. The girl at Coles wasn’t looking too cheerful to begin with, but when I gave her that compliment, it was like something exploded inside of her, and it made me feel amazing as well! A man on Pastor Bob Beeman’s channel said that when he complimented a girl, she was like an old flower suddenly blooming. That’s what it looked like with that girl today.

Another funny thing that happened concerning the girl was that when we headed off, Mom told me she had turned around and watched, and she said, “You know, when I saw you talking to that girl, I knew the Lord was standing beside you.”

I had just planted a seed in that girl’s life.

As followers of Christ, we need to lift each other up, and edify one another. And I believe, that as men, we should be letting women know how beautiful, precious, and worthy they are, because they really are.

I want to share another story I remember from around seven years ago. It was in Laidely, a small town near our hometown, Rosewood. Mom was in a health store (it wasn’t actually a store, more of a house where a woman sold health food) and my brother and I went walking with our friend Sandy (she’s in her sixties if you’re wondering, and is one of the best friends I’ve ever had). We walked with the tracks, since a train line sat to the right, directly before the houses. A little up the hill sat a man, standing before the tracks. Sandy passed him, smiled, and said hello. The man smiled back, and we walked away, leaving him still standing. On the way back, the man stopped us and he said, “You know, I was just about to jump in front of that train today, but you’ve shown me that there is still love in the world. There’s still some hope.”

I was young at the time, and kids never listen to adult conversations, but when we got back, and Sandy gave the story, I listened, and it has stuck with me for all these years.

Words are a powerful thing, and it’s true when the Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Words saved that man’s life and made that girl’s day. Go out and, not only walk in the love of Christ, speak in it as well.

The Gray Side of the Line

A word that gets tossed around Christian circles a lot is lukewarm. Why is it being tossed around like some sort of wrapped parcel filled with guilt? Today I was listening to a song by Sleeping at Last, and it talked about the color of gray in a Christian’s life. Grey being the color of lukewarmness. Neither hot or cold. Black or white. And something he said really struck a chord with me, and I want to point a few things out on the subject.

First, I think we have put the term in the completely wrong light. We see the condition of being lukewarm as the place where sin and faith join hand in hand with each other. We believe that the lukewarm person is the one who spends his Sunday in church, and then goes to bars and drinks himself to sleep on every other day of the week.

Really, that’s completely the wrong view, for a number of reasons. First off, we don’t know the guy’s heart (I’m not pointing at anyone in particular here), nor do we know his reasons for going to the bar and jumping into the world of drunkenness. The term of being lukewarm has been used by countless people to say that they’re out of line and have fallen away from God. We act like God is some sort of goal we need to reach, and if we don’t do good, we’re not going to be close to Him. It’s no wonder people are falling into the “dreaded” gray area all the time.

But here’s the thing. We have taken the term “lukewarm” so far out of context from the Word that we use it to make other’s feel horrible about their condition. The lukewarm condition the Bible speaks about is regarding the heart of the person. When one willingly sins and wants to follow God. That’s what the Bible speaks of, and that’s when you’ll be spat out of God’s mouth, as the Bible says. If it was based on how much we sin, honestly, we’re all cold.

I want to argue something now, and you reading may not agree, but I think the color gray, the area between black and white, is a beautiful place. Let me explain. The condition of the color gray is about the heart, not about the actions. If we go back to the drunkard we talked about before, we find that he actually hates his sin. But yet he still indulges in it. We’ll continue his story soon, but when our hearts are pointing towards God, the gray, or “lukewarm” area is one of the best places to be.

The song mentioned before says that, “Gray is not a compromise, it is a bridge between two sides.” It says that we’re constantly in a state of change. We’re constantly maturing and changing and heading towards that other side. The gray state of a Christian’s life is the most reckless in God’s eyes, the song says. When your heart is set on Him, the gray area is the most daring and lovely in God’s eyes. Why? Because we’re in a state of change for Him. We want to begin the process of change in our lives because we want to be more like Him. When we begin to lay down our sinful desires and begin down the gray path, the bridge of change, that’s when our relationship with God truly comes alive.

Change isn’t something that happens overnight. We don’t go to sleep an alcoholic and wake up in a completely different condition. Change is slow and takes time, and God is walking right beside us.

And then this answers the question of why there’s evil in the world. Why there is darkness and despair. It’s when going through those things that relationships and commitments make sense. Love becomes real when it’s lifting someone up from brokenness. Love becomes real when it hurts with one another. Love becomes real when we look at the cross. The place of brokenness. Love comes alive when it’s shown to another. We can’t pull ourselves up from the mud, we need someone to lift us up. We can’t get through that state of gray on our own. It’s in that time where God is most real to us. He always meets us at our brokenness, not when we’re walking the white line.

So let’s go back to the drunkard. We know he hates his sin now, but we don’t know why he still falls for it every night. The answer is that people want to find comfort, and they will look for it anywhere. If they find comfort in alcohol, that’s where they will go. Same goes for other addictions and sins. People find comfort in drugs, sex and pornography, and even occultic practices. They’re looking for something we can’t seem to provide. The truth is, these people want to change, and in reality, their hearts have already past the gray area.

God looks at the heart, and we’ve crossed the bridge when we hate our sin, and yearn to follow, love, and obey Him. When we walk in love in His presence, that’s being on fire. That’s the white area. If you’re still struggling with drugs, or alcohol, or any addiction and sin remember that God’s walking by your side, and He’ll help you through. If you want Him, you’re not being lukewarm, you’re just walking across the bridge.

Cold is where we turn from love, gray is where we grow in love, and white is where we live in love. There’s no middle ground for the follower of Christ.

God Bless!

What if God didn’t Exist?

This is quite a frightening thought, isn’t it? What would life without God be like? That’s what’s been on my mind, especially during the writing of my current novel.

It’s a frightening reality that might not be so untrue as you might think. I’m not saying God doesn’t exist, but others do, and I see a frightening reality in people’s lives that’s happening around us every day.

Everyday, people are proclaiming that God doesn’t exist. That God is dead (no, this isn’t about the movie) in their own lives. How scary is that? The horror of a life without God is more real than we let on in our own lives where God is living. God’s alive in our lives, but what about people who reject Him, or refuse Him? This is where the horror of it comes in.

Our lives are a battle field. A spiritual war zone where God and the devil battle it out for our souls. Ultimately, the choice is up to us, but take God, the good, away and what do we have? The all evil force of the devil. That’s all that would remain. Atheists can argue it all they want, but without God in our lives, the devil has full victory, and no matter what we believe, it won’t change. What would the devil do with no one standing before him? I can’t imagine, and it would be too graphic to write on this site.

A world without God would be void of hope, joy, meaning, and love. The emptiness that I talked about in the last post would dominate our lives. Biblical morals would collapse, and sin would run rampant. Hell is a very real reality, and its doors are always open. So why aren’t we doing something about it? Why aren’t we crying for the lost sheep who have rejected God and are living in a reality where God doesn’t exist? Christians are living like it’s all going to be alright, but for most people, it isn’t. Christians, if we don’t turn from our ways, from our division and lukewarm lives, people are going to die, and we have a lot to answer for. If people live in a reality where God doesn’t exist, why are we showing that a life where God does exist is horrible? The Christian life just isn’t appealing to an unbeliever because we’re all caught up in ourselves, and in our own beliefs and laws.

The truth is, the Christian life isn’t about ourselves!

We know a life without God would be as Hell, so why are we letting others live that way? Why aren’t we pointing them to the truth, that there is a God who loves them? There is a God who accepts them, and that truth will never change.

God isn’t dead, because He’s alive in the ones who have laid down their lives. Do people see the living God in you, or do they see something else?

I know this use this band a lot, but here’s another lyric from Wolves at the Gate, and their song, the Harvest. “Have our hands worked the fields for Your glory? Or have our tongues spoken of Your story? Have our feet seen the pain in the labor? Or have we wandered off and wavered?”

Everyone has a chance, what life do you want to live?

Album Review: NEEDTOBREATHE, Rivers in the Wasteland

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Needtobreathe are one of my favourite Christian bands out there, and with five amazing records under their sleeve, there’s good reason. I’m very picky with bands who I choose to be my favourites, but Needtobreathe ranks number one!

Their newest album, Rivers in the Wasteland, has absolutely blown me away. Released back in the beginning of April, I’m still listening to this constantly. It’s that good, and it only gets better each time. An instant classic, and I’ll tell you why.

The album begins with Wasteland, a hauntingly beautiful folk track about the wastelands we find ourselves in, and how there’s always, “A crack in the door filled with light.” It spills with epic hope in the final few seconds, and already sky rockets the album above most others, with just the first track!

The next three songs have more of a country/rock sound to them, especially Feet, Don’t Fail me Now and Oh Carolina. These three tracks are just so fun, and though there’s nothing obviously Christian about them, they’re great tracks to stomp around to!

Needtobreathe take a lot of different musical twists and turns during this record, and nothing ever feels like filler. It can go from rock and roll, to worship, to gospel choirs and banjos! Not once while listening through did I want to skip a song. Each one has its own flavor, and each one is a standout.

Difference Maker is my favourite lyrically. It’s about the damage of ego in a Christian’s life, and how we can call ourselves, “Difference Makers.” A truly convicting song on how we see ourselves. The truth of the song is, we’re not difference makers, and only Christ can change a heart. And when we see ourselves as more than we are, we become lonely and unloved by those around us. It’s when we think we know everything that we really know nothing.

Track seven, the Heart, has become my favourite song of the year, and maybe even the decade. It flows with rich, thick joy that’s beyond toe tapping. And the music video to go along is beautifully excellent. “Long live the heart, long live the soul, that knows what it wants!”

That same joy flows into the next song, Where the Money is. This is a song about not looking for money and riches in life, because “It’s just a tragedy trying to take its toll again.” My brother’s favourite track 🙂

Multiplied can not go without a mention. This is simply one of the most beautiful worship songs written in a long time, and I don’t take that lightly. Absolutely breath taking in every way. Bear’s vocals shine like never before, and each instrument has a stand out point. Second best song, along with the Heart.

The album eventually closes after another brilliant song, Brother, with More Heart Less Attack. A soothing ballad about being more loving in life. No room for judgment here! Pure poetry with a beautiful melody, and it brings the album to a close just as powerfully as it began.

Overall, Rivers in the Wasteland is easily one of the top five albums of this year, and I doubt anything else will pass it, but if something does, I’ll review it straight away! But if you pass this, you’ll be missing one of the best albums of the decade, and it leaves you with hope that there’s always a river in the wasteland.

4.5/5

God Bless.

 

Where’s our Joy Found?

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Where is our joy found? That’s the question I want to ask today, and interestingly enough, the answer may surprise you.

People are always looking for happiness, for satisfaction, fulfillment, but they can never seem to find it. Why? What’s making them feel empty? The thing we have to tell these people is, “Where are you looking?”

Everyone wants material things because they think it will give them some form of satisfaction, some form of joy, but it won’t, and I’ll give the reason soon. The question I want to ask is, why is our culture so want orientated but not need orientated? Why are our wants put in the spotlight, while our needs are sort of left in the dark.

If you’re honest with yourself, I can tell you that most of the things you have planned to buy are wants. Of course we have the needs like food, clothing, and homes, but not even they give us true joy and satisfaction. Most of the time we feel alone, even with family by our sides. Why do we feel like this? Why aren’t my wants keeping me happy? Why aren’t my needs even keeping me happy?

It’s called the pursuit of happiness, because it can never be found. We’re constantly pursuing it, but it’s always two steps ahead of us. And the sad thing is, some people keep pursuing it until they die, so they never find true happiness.

A lot of the time, people don’t even know what their needs are. They know the obvious, but there’s always another need deep down they just can’t put a finger on. Something’s missing, and they can’t see what it is. That’s why our culture is so focused on the want, because they don’t know what the need is.

One of my favourite lyrics from the Christian hardcore band, Emery, says, “I knew it, right from the start. I’ve got this big, big hole in my heart. I wanted to put you in, but for some reason, you just wouldn’t fit.”

So what is this need we keep trying to fill? The answer? Love. True, unchanging, uncompromising, unconditional, love. Things can’t provide it, not people, not even your own family. No person on this earth can love unconditionally, because we were born in sin, and no matter how much we love, it’s corrupt. It never stays. A crush in a year could turn into your enemy. A friend could turn against you with just one mistake. But Jesus, His love never wavers.

That’s the great need, and only Jesus can provide it. He was willingly beaten, whipped, slashed, and crucified to provide that, and now that we have it, we don’t want it! Jesus is right there, with our great need in His hands, yet we turn away! I can’t fathom it, really.

So here we go searching for all the material possessions again. It’s a cycle of temporary happiness that’s never broken, not until we finally accept Christ’s love, the thing we all need. And to answer the previous question, why don’t material possessions make us truly happy? Because they’re only meant to point to the one who can. They are merely poor reflections. All the treasures of this world are shadows compared to the majesty and glory of Christ!

How can you refuse Him now, after He bore your grief? The things of this world are merely shadows, and we’re always trying to hold them, but shadows aren’t something that can be held.

To finish this post, I want to give you a preaching segment found on Wolves at the Gate’s newest album, VxV. “What is true joy, or hope? Where can it be found? Is it in the promise of gold streets, or is it in escaping the fires of hell? No. All things are worthless in view of the surpassing value of knowing God, and being known by Him!”

God Bless, and go out living in the true joy of Christ.

A Good Christian?

In the last post, I talked about how we’re all bad Christians, but I want to conflict with that for a moment, and reveal the secret to being a good Christian.

What is a good Christian? One who never sins? If you answered with that, you’ll be wrong. It’s impossible to never sin, only Jesus lived up to that standard, and to be sinless is, well, blasphemy. We’ll be taking Jesus’ place if that was the case, and if we can be sinless, that would be evidence that Jesus was only a man! Jesus wasn’t just a man, He was the sinless lamb of God!

So how can we become like that? How can we be “good” Christians. It’s simple: Let it go.

That’s right, let it all go. Let go of yourself. Stop trying to be a good Christian. Stop trying to look like the most spiritual one of them all, because you’re honestly not if you think that way. Good Christians die to themselves and they make God their everything. Not their works, not their missions or their goals, God. Jesus Christ. Jesus was dead to sin, and He lived in the presence of His father.

The Lord is asking you to come to Him, not work your way up,trying to beat everyone else. A good way to see it is as a staircase to the throne. We think Jesus sits on top of this high staircase, and the only way to get there is to climb, and you can only climb by doing good. By being holy. But no one ever gets there. The truth is, Jesus sits directly before us, and we’re running everywhere except into His arms. “I have to pray more if I’m to get closer to God.” “I have to refrain from talking to my worldly friends in order to be holy.” “I have to join this youth group and work for the church, and if I don’t God will reject me.” These are just some of the lies we’ve been taught, and it’s time we stopped listening.

Being a good Christian is to confess that you aren’t! Confess your sins one to another, and rest in the knowledge that God’s grace is sufficient.

Another thing Christians tend to do is they create their own group. They class themselves as almost a whole different species to the unsaved. The truth is, most times, we’re just as bad, if not worse. Jesus sat and ate with the sinners. His main purpose for coming was for the unsaved!

The thing is, we’re no different than those in the world, except we know Christ. We have the cure to sin’s disease (a little nod to my novel in progress)! So to look down on people, no matter what they may be doing, defeats the purpose of being a Christian.

And if you think all this gives you free ground to sin, like I said before, it will only hurt you.

So in the end, to be a “good” Christian is to admit that you’re not one, and to give everything you are to Christ. Replace your life, with His!

God Bless, ’til next time!

A Bad Christian?

What is a bad Christian? If you’re anything like me, you’ll picture a Christian who sins a lot, and you’ll be right. But the thing is, a bad Christian is no different than you and me. I’ll tell you why.

We’re all sinners, and it doesn’t matter how many good things we’ve done, we’re still sinners. For one good deed, there are ninety-nine bad ones. The truth is, we’ve all sinned, and no one is better than the other. But what’s worse is how we look at others with that same title.

Before I go on, I want to explain how Jesus sees us.First, we have this theory that when we come to the Lord, we’re no longer sinners. We become these holy white soldiers, and that’s great, but the problem comes when we see ourselves as those white soldiers and we look down on those who live in sin, as if we no longer partake in that.

I want you to be honest with yourself. If you take everything you did during the day, and wrote it on paper, how much of it would you show me? How much of it would you show God if He asked to see your list? If you give the Lord your list without a single crossed out or erased word, congratulations, you’ve just lied to the God of the universe.

So should we cross out those bad things in our lives. Of course, but that doesn’t mean you’re any less worthy or loved if you fall for those things. We’re still sinners, even after we come to Christ, because we continue to sin even then! But Jesus looks at us through His blood. He sees us as white as snow and washed in His blood. Blameless. Flawless.

But that’s where I get angry. People seem to take that as an entitlement and not as a privilege. We think we’re on a higher plane than those dirty sinners who don’t believe. We’re like the rich guy who washes his hands after he’s shaken hands with a pauper. I’ve seen Christians who are personally like this, and it grieves me.

The thing is, we’re all bad Christians. And when I look at the cross, I find it truly amazing that God would send His son to take my place. Even more amazing is that He no longer looks at my sin. He forgave me before I even invited Him into my heart. That’s amazing!

But does that give us a ticket to freely sin? When people ask me this, I always say, “So you weren’t in sin before?” God’s grace is not about being able to freely sin, it’s about living free in the knowledge that even when we fall into sin, God’s always there to lift us back up. If we willingly sin, we’re abusing God’s grace, and it hurts Him terribly. I’ll warn you right now, sin is not going to love you. It leaves you in the dark with a bright red mark on your back, and it doesn’t apologize (quote from the Restoring)! So why would you willingly fall into sin in the first place? I can only think it would be because you don’t want God, but look what happens then. It’s not a good place.

I want to share this lyric from Mercyme’s song, Greater. “There are days I lose the battle, but grace says that it doesn’t matter, ’cause the cross already won the war!” Amazing!

So Christians, please stop judging others who aren’t on the supposed same level as you, because we’ve all come short of His glory. We’re all bad Christians, but we live with a Crimson stain on our hearts, and that’s something to be joyful about!

God Bless, and thanks for reading!

Seeking a Spiritual High

I’m loving these teaching posts so far, and I’m no where near the end! Today I want to talk about feelings, particularly, what I like to call, a spiritual high.

What is a spiritual high? It’s when you just get so pumped up for God that you can’t help but jump up and down in excitement. You feel the presence of God so strong it makes you feel like the king of the world. Does all this sound familiar to you? To me, it sounds like the way I feel when I talk to a pretty girl who likes me!

What’s so bad about that? You’re falling in love with the Lord, why is that bad? The answer, it’s not. It’s great. But I think some Christians have it wrong. What I mean is that people are very self motivated, and if something feels good, they’ll go after it. If you’re in love with a girl, you’ll want to be with her as much as you can. It’s the same with the Lord. When you fall in love with Him, all you want to do is talk about Him 24/7. That’s great. But we forget, it’s only an emotional feeling! It doesn’t last forever.

I think I might have a theory regarding the amount of marriage divorces today. People only get in relationships for what they can get out of it. They’re constantly chasing that high. I also think that’s why a lot of Christians, especially teenagers, depart from the Lord. It’s because they’re seeking Him for that spiritual high, and when we don’t get it from the Lord, or from your girlfriend or boyfriend, it’s their fault, and we don’t feel satisfied, so we go looking for other things that can satisfy us. Something else that will give us that high for a few days, and then disappear. That’s the truth of the matter.

Christianity and physical relationships are about sacrifice and commitment. Relationships are not meant to sorely make us feel good, they’re a commitment. Love is a commitment that goes beyond the fluffy feeling we feel inside when we get a spiritual high, and if you’re seeking after a girlfriend, a boyfriend, or the Lord for that reason, you’re going at it completely the wrong way. Jesus laid down His life to have a relationship with us. He didn’t depend on the fluffy feelings. That’s what a relationship is about: sacrifice.

Guys, if you depend on a girl to make you feel good, you’re not going to get one. You’re not ready for any relationship if you think it’s about what you can receive from it. You’re ready when you see that it’s about what you can give. And if you go about it like that, I can assure you, your relationship with others, and with God, will be a whole lot more fulfilling.

God Bless.

A Church Divided Pt. 2

Yesterday I talked about division, and how our theology and religion isn’t going to lead anyone to Christ if we don’t live the way Christ did. Today I thought I’d talk a little more on the subject and about division in Christian circles, especially in the church.

I’m going to throw out a few verses here (something I’ve never done before) about division.

Titus 3:9 says, “But avoid foolish questions, genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they unprofitable and vain.”

Romans 16:17-18 says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them.”

Right, so these obviously are about quarrels against theology and doctrine regarding the law. A lot of churches these days are so caught up in their theology that they forget the most important of all: Love. Christians are caught back in the law and can’t see the great grace that Jesus gave on the cross. Jesus defeated the curse of the law when He died, so why are we still holding on to it? Why are we still teaching others the ways of the law. Why are we judging others through the eyes of the law?

There’s division in the church because they still follow the law. The very law that says we should be tithing 10% instead of giving everything to the Lord because He gave everything to us. The very law that looks at a persons outward appearance instead of the inside. And the very law that makes us feel unworthy if we’ve done something wrong. I used to feel very much like that whenever I fell short of it. And guess what? The guilt I felt only caused me to fall away even more!

Christians who judge people by their looks are causing division right there. People who judge others with long hair, tattoos, earrings, or anything else are causing division, not only with others, but with God. Jesus looks at the heart, not the appearance, so I think He’s hurt when we judge others based on our own theology and law. That long hair and tattoos are evil.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to grow long hair or get tattoos myself, but that doesn’t mean they’re evil, I’m just not interested. I’m going to be controversial here, and you may not agree with me, but here goes. Regarding long hair, Paul was talking to the Corinthian church, and at that time, they were judging according to the law. Their theology was that long hair was a sign of homosexuality, so as you can imagine, men with long hair weren’t treated kindly, so they (the Corinthians) were causing division. We look at that verse in Corinthians and we miss everything around it (as we always like to do). It’s funny when each time we take a Scripture out of context, it coincides with what’s deep inside our hearts desires. Anyway, Paul was getting quite angry with them, so he said, “Judge among yourselves!” And he then went on to state the obvious between them. After that, he says, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practices, nor have churches of God.”

A contentious person causes strife, argument, or division. They were causing division by the issue of long hair, because their culture was against it! No wonder Paul got angry. Their own law and theology got in the way. God can’t move when there is division. Look at what Paul says next. “But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together, not for the better, but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you, and in part, I believe it.” Oh Lord, help us to see the error of our ways.

The law never made someone feel good. It’s never made someone fall in love with God. If I found Jesus through the law, I would have departed years ago. I would be living in sin. We’re rebellious by nature, so our very will is to rebel against the law. It’s no wonder that you don’t see a lot of Christians in the Old testament. And so we have this wall put in front of us. It separates us. We have the ones who live in grace, and the ones who follow the law. I can tell you which is the happier side.

I’ll talk about grace in another post, but I want to focus on Jesus’ theology. Yes, He had one. What is it? Love. Loving God, your neighbor, and yourself. The three L’s is what one of my favourite pastors, Pastor Bob Beeman, says. By the way, Pastor Bob is a man with long hair, tattoos, earrings, and a goatee, so I don’t think he’s following the law very well 🙂 But he lives in grace, and he’s one of the happiest, nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. And he loves heavy metal!

So, lets stop causing division within the church, ourselves, and others. And start living like Jesus did, in love and in sacrifice. Remember, a church divided against itself can not stand.

God Bless!

If you have any other thoughts please share.