#ChesterBennington and The Fight

The 90s-early 2000’s were my jam.  I was a musician playing clubs and I connected with many of the artists and their music.  Today, many of the lead singers of these bands are no longer with us.  Lane Staley, Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell, and the one that hit the hardest for me – Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.

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I identified strongly with the music of LP and Chester’s raw cutting lyrics – not because I was performing them, but because I was living them.  Hybrid Theory came out in 2000 and Meteora came out in 2003.  I had them both on CD and ripped them to my first generation iPod [remember the one with the wheel?!] and listened to them continuously.  In my office, at the gym, in my car.  I knew every word.  I felt Chester’s pain because he was transparent and vulnerable to let it out.

It was a time of deep personal and spiritual struggle for me.  I was coming out of a decade of self-destructive, self-centered, sin-soaked behavior and I was angry about it.  Angry about the things I’ve done, that I can’t get back the years lost, and that how I couldn’t get past any of it. Life. Was. Hard. Here…take a sample…

Crawling in my skin, These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall, Confusing what is real.  [“Crawling” – Hybrid Theory]

I wanna run away, Never say goodbye
I wanna know the truth, Instead of wondering why
I wanna know the answers, No more lies
I wanna shut the door, And open up my mind  [“Runaway” – Hybrid Theory]

Don’t Stay” – Meteora…pretty much the whole thing.  Yeah. Great angry song.

I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along – 
Somewhere I belong [“Somewhere I Belong” – Meteora]

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It’s easier to run, replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go, Than face all this pain here all alone

Something has been taken from deep inside of me
A secret I’ve kept locked away no one can ever see
Wounds so deep they never show, they never go away
Like moving pictures in my head, for years and years they’ve played

If I could change, I would, take back the pain, I would
Retrace every wrong move that I made, I would
If I could stand up and take the blame, I would
If I could take all the shame to the grave, I would [“Easier to Run” – Meteora]

You get the idea.

Chester had a way of crafting and delivering lyrics that reflected the darkness and evil that is sin…although he may not have realized it was sin.

I came to Christ after an epic battle with sin that nearly killed me.  Even still today, I don’t consider battling sin to be a neat and tidy sniper shot from half a mile away.  It’s more like a gory, dirty, blood bath, cage fight/guerrilla war where the enemy never really dies.

But the reality is that the power of sin really is dead and one day, it’s presence will be gone too.  It’s dead because someone killed it and died in the process.  Except his death is the road to life for anyone who comes to an end of themselves and throws themselves on his mercy for healing and restoration.

Here are some “lyrics” from another author who was very blunt about the battle with sin – the Apostle Paul…

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:15–20 ESV)

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:23–25 ESV)

We all have to get to that point in the fight with the darkness, “our demons”, evil, sin…call it what you want where we say “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?!”  There is only one hope and one answer – “Jesus Christ our Lord” who became sin for us so that we become what our souls are crying and starving to be – whole, complete, healed, righteous…reconciled to God.

I still like angry music.  I like tattoos. I despise Christian Contemporary Music and plastic Ned Flanders Hellmans on Wonder Bread churchianity. I sometimes just really want/need to be alone.  Some parts of life are still really hard.  Sin is always there, but so is Jesus and he is greater.

I don’t know if Chester ever put those pieces together before the darkness deceived him completely – but I pray that others will be transparent and vulnerable about the ugliness of sin and seek refuge in the one true answer – Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Forgiveness and Love

In Luke 7 we read the account of Jesus’ dinner at a Pharisee’s house – during the dinner,  a woman enters the house seeking Jesus.  Our text tells us that this woman was well known for being a “sinner.”  She is weeping and is at the feet of Jesus – broken by the knowledge of her own sin – now even more pronounced as she is in the presence of the sinless one – but she has come to the one who can heal, restore, forgive,  and make new.

We see the Pharisee’s reaction – almost as though this woman is worthless, no hope for her – judging her as beyond reach, he identity is permanently lost, not as holy as they are.

Jesus thinks otherwise.

He tells a story of someone who was owed 20 months wages vs 2 months wages – if the debt were cancelled, which one will show greater love to the one who cancelled the debt? The answer is the one who owed more.

The parallel is clear – this woman had great sin – she was well aware of the depth of her sin – it has broken her – and she is seeking forgiveness – because she has been forgiven much, she loves Jesus much.

How about us?  Do we understand the depth of our sin?  Do we grasp the magnitude of what we have been forgiven of?  This isn’t to say that we need to constantly dwell on our sin, because for those who are in Christ the sin is removed – but we should retain an awareness of how big of a deal that was.  Our massive debt was paid – how much more should we love God and others in light of that?  Or do we dare be like the Pharisee who completely didn’t see his own sin, and harshly judged this woman as beyond hope.

The cross is the obvious statement that we all sin and we all need a Savior and that NO ONE is beyond hope of restoration in Jesus.

This is received and lived out by faith – like the woman “whose faith has made her well” and we go in peace.  (Luke 7:50)

Confessing

Psalm 32 speaks of the blessings of confessing our sins to God – and the negative effects of not doing so.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
(Psalm 32:1-4 ESV)

We protestants sometimes have a slightly whacky view on confession – this isn’t something you need to just tell your pastor.  This is something you need to first confess to God, and then confess to anyone directly involved that you have sinned against.  This needs to be a regular thing happening in our relationships.  James 5:16 is a  key New Testament verse that sums this up well — “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

Our sins need to be brought out into the light so that we can apply the work of Jesus to them – the forgiveness that he won for us on the cross with the sacrifice of his life as payment for our sins.  We cannot hide sin, it will destroy us – bring it out into the light where it can be forgiven and relationships can be healed!

Then, after confession comes repentance – we need to turn from sin and change.  The Bible speaks of putting off, renewing our minds, and putting on.  (Check out Eph 4:20-24 and Col 3:1-17)

We need to fight the Americanized Christian church culture that ignores sin – we all have it – we need to follow God’s word on what to do with it.  This is critical in marriages and parenting (yes, parents…we can sin against our kids. Confession and repentance is required!), but in all of our relationships.

That’s tough work, but good work – as the Psalmist ends:

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
(Psalm 32:10-11 ESV)

Flipping and Flopping

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In 1 Kings 18, we have the infamous Biblical smack down of Elijah vs. the False Prophets of Baal.

It is one of the most awesomest (seminary word) stories in the Bible – I highly recommend reading the whole thing.  (In addition to reading the whole Bible itself of course.)

When Elijah arrives on the scene, he’s got to do a bit of triage with Obadiah to assess the situation.  Before all the public humiliation of the ‘god’ Baal by the almighty Yahweh, Elijah verbally slaps the people of Israel in 18:21 —

How long will you go limping between two different opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.

Yikes.  Ouch.  Hey, Elijah, I thought you were going to come here to beat up on the Baal guys not us.

Yet, we still do this today don’t we?  We flip flop between believing our God is who he says he is, and also entertaining sin – the complete opposite of that.  When we linger in sin – we are saying that sin is better than God.

There are two sides to this of course – initially, we all need to come to the knowledge (faith) that we are sinners, and our relationship with our Creator has been broken, and God has offered us Jesus to reconcile us to him, but then after we have been justified and adopted into God’s family thru faith in Jesus– we need to remember who we are in Jesus.  That  we, as redeemed children of God, do not live lives characterized as flip flopping between following sin and following God. Our commitment is to live lives that please God…24/7.  (2 Cor 5:9)

May we truly believe the LORD is God and follow him today.

The Perspective of Joseph

I remember exactly the first time I ever heard someone teach from Genesis 39 – the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.  I was in Junior High Youth Group and it changed my perspective on the Bible significantly at that time.   I remember thinking – “Whoah.  There is stuff like THIS in the Bible? Maybe I should read it more….”

Of course initially I just wanted to read more scintillating stories – but today when I read it, I realized something different.  Joseph has an exceptional God-centered perspective.  Joseph, as you recall, had been nearly killed by his brothers, and then sold into slavery by them.  Nice, eh?  Now he is in Egypt as a slave, but where is his perspective?  On God.  Verse 2 tells us that he was successful “because the Lord was with him” and in v4 that the Lord caused all he did to be successful.   The first thing we realize here is that any success comes from the Lord, therefore he should receive all the glory.

But what about when things go from bad to worse?  Joseph is a slave, in a foreign country…he is doing “well” as a slave, but still…then things go from bad to worse.  We know that Potiphar’s wife has the hots for him, she tries to make the move but what is Joesph’s response?     “He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9 ESV)

Joseph knows that when we choose sin, we primarily sin against God.  Yes, others are involved and scripturally we are to confess our sins that we have done against others (James 5:16), but Joseph’s perspective is one to remember – above all, we offend God himself when we chose sin. Why?  (1) Because he is 100% holy and perfect, sin is totally contrary to his nature and we should fight it in ourselves, all of it.  (2) Because he calls us to love him with 100% of our being, (Matt 22:37-39) and when we chose sin, we are saying that we love our sin more than God.

Wouldn’t that change the way we look at sin? If we realized the weight of our sin, before a perfect God who calls us to find our satisfaction in him?  Praise God for the grace that he gives us in Jesus – that through faith, our sins are removed the punishment for them absorbed by Jesus on the cross.  We need to be quick to remember this perspective when faced with the choice to sin, and quick to remember the grace of Jesus and repent (turn) from that sin quickly and remember that all blessings, including forgiveness, are from our God.

Matthew 6

Matthew 6 (and 5 for that matter) have so much in them – so many wonderful things to sit and soak in. It’s kind of hard to pick out 1 thing – but perhaps what did jump out at me most this morning is the place God needs to rightfully have in our lives if we call ourselves His followers.

Matthew 6:9-13 is the “Lord’s prayer” perhaps a prayer that most everyone knows. It starts ‘Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name.” In the Greek it’s aorist so it’s a statement of fact – “God your name is holy, set apart, hallowed.” Therefore, since that is a fact, we need to recognize that and submit to Him as such. You see that in the following verse “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” May we submit to God’s purposes and plans in our lives. Again, he has a sovereign plan for his kingdom, we need to submit to it. We need to change our wills and hearts to match his.

Speaking of which – check out Matt 6:33, as Jesus wraps up his section on worry and anxiety – “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” Jesus teaching us thru his word that we are to have his purposes first, and that mean to avoid sin and pursue righteousness. This means trusting that his way really is the right and best way for us, instead of our own ideas and sin.

Lord, I pray that I do seek you first, your kingdom, your purposes, and your will in my life today. I trust in you.

Praying for “God’s Will”

“God’s will” is a hugely misunderstood term in Christianese. Back when I had hair, going thru all the youth groups I was lead to believe that God’s will was a super secret mission that only you could do for God and you had to find out what this secret mission was – you had to make totally sure it was in fact really God’s will. Nonsense. Sadly, we still here this a lot today in Chruchianity. But what does the Bible say?

Our main purpose for our lives is to glorify God (Is 43:7) – we do this by growing into the image of his Son Jesus (Rom 8:29). This means sanctification – as Wayne Grudem says is “a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our actual lives.”

Therefore, as we pray – let’s pray to avoid sin and love righteousness more,pray that we GROW, to become more like Christ in our “actual lives.”

Job says this is wisdom and understanding “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28). Paul instructs us further In Eph 5:15-17 “Look carefully then, how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise making the best use of time for the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

The less we look like sin and more like Jesus in our actual lives, the more all the other “stuff” in our lives becomes more clear. He is our LIGHT.