Awake, Oh Sleeper

Oh, Sleeper came out with a brand new album this past Tuesday. They are a homegrown Texas band straight out of Fort Worth and I have been a fan of them since before their first album was ever released. As a preface, I am all for everyone who reads this to go out and buy their music and become huge fans, but they are a very heavy rock band with lots and screaming. So be warned. Their first album was called “When I Am God” and it was phenomenal. However, this new one is on a whole new level and I wanted to write this entry for two reasons:

1) To plug Oh, Sleeper

2) To try and explain why I listen to the music that I do because most people don’t understand my reasoning

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The picture above is a shot of the cover of the album which is called “Son of the Morning.” The album itself is a story led journey through a spiritual war. The opening song is the title track and it is a battle cry from Satan towards the heavens in which he verbally jaunts God for wasting his grace on the cowards of the world who will belong to him in the end anyway. Amid the cries, God responds saying:

If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything
If you could see like me you’d see it’s by my grace you’re breathing

As the album progresses into the second track and forward, it plunges into the troublesome road of humanity after conversion. The electric feeling of realizing your immortality in God’s hands, misguided hopes we place in the idolized leaders of the world, the hopelessness we find in the works of our hands…it climbs up the hill and plunges into the valley. It’s a desperate journey of humanity leaning on its own abilities only to find that they cannot sustain unless they are surrendered to the Lord. However, the album reaches its conclusion with a song called, “The Finisher.” This entire song is devoted to being a response from God to Satan’s claims in “Son of the Morning.” I think the lyrics are too complete to simply allude so here they are to read:

THE FINISHER
Do you mean to challenge me?
Because your speech is threatening to the writer of your history,
Through a future perverted by envy.
Your whisper may sway the weak, but when I speak it roars the sea.
Your challenge has been met, because with a breath I could snap your neck.
This won’t be like the first time you tried,
Because my patience and mercy for you has run dry.
You’ve watered among my bride and started seeds to feed your throning flight.
I will sing to the world your storm is capturing
And the angles will join me…
We will sing to a world reborn from suffering.
But mark my words,
Because if that tree keeps them from seeing me
I will burn off your limbs and you will never shade again.
You will bow at my feet or I’ll rip out your knees
And make of your face all the carnage you crave.
I am the Finisher and I am Forever.
I will sing to the world your storm is capturing
And the angels will join me…
We will sing to a world reborn from suffering.
From the armories the angels sing. You will see them end this suffering.
From the armories the angels sing. You will fear them when they lift their wings.
They will sing to a world reborn.
They will sing as I cut off your horns.
I’ll cut off your horns.

The album begins with a torrent of anger from Satan himself, plunges through the chaos of the human struggle, and ends with God standing tall and holding all of creation, both the heavens and the earth, in His hand with control and authority. The last lines are so powerful to me. As Christians, we are a part of a spiritual war that is being waged and to know that in the end, despite all of Satan’s deception and all of his lies…knowing that he will have his horns cut off is a deeply encouraging thought for me. Because it is not up to us. Our duty is to follow God’s plan for us and to let Him do the rest. These final lines are also indicative of the album cover. If your powers of observation serve you well, you may have noticed that the cover art resembles a portion of an inverted pentagram. It has many religious connections in its upright position from Mormonism to Judaism to Christians originally using this symbol as a representation of the five wounds of Christ in his crucifixion. But pagan cults and satanic sects have since flipped the symbol in order to convert it into something that would represent a rebellion to authority and the opposite of God – Satan.

Pentagram_with_one_point_down_(de_Guaita)This is an image of a satanic pentagram. As you can see, inside the triangles is a picture of a goat which is often used as an animalistic representation of the devil. Oh, Sleeper chose to use the particular image that you see on their album cover in order to illustrate a new symbol of hope that echoes the final lines of their album – Satan with his horns cut off. The top two triangles, which represent the horns are absent. I love this idea because it also illustrates something else – Satan is not the opposite of God. He is the enemy, but not the opposite. Because to be the opposite of God, you have to equal God. But when you are a part of His creation, you are at the mercy of His hands. For all of his rebellion and defiance and treachery, Satan will not win. Because God will sing to the world his storm is capturing. He will break through the shade of his deception. And He will cut off his horns.

I am astounded by this album. It will not be appealing to everyone’s ears, but that is what I love so much about music. Now I will freely admit that I consider myself somewhat of a music snob. I have listened to a lot of music in my nearly twenty-one years and I have found nothing that speaks to me quite as deeply as the artists some would term, for a lack of a better title, “Christian rock.” There is nothing for me in rap, pop, country or whatever else is out there right now. The bands that truly captivate me, and there are only a handful, belong to this genre. Oh, Sleeper is one of these bands. Everything fits with them. The vocals, the melody, the lyrics, the beat – it all becomes a cohesive movement that rings so true in my heart. But it is the honesty which I prize above all. I am very critical of most mainstream rock bands because they are in it for the fame, the fortune, and the girls. They exploit rebellion, selfishness, pride, anger, and lust for their own momentary pleasure and they push further and deeper to gain that new high. Oh, Sleeper does not do that and this new album affirms this. They are living on mission proclaiming the finished work of Christ and the victory of the Lord over everything. Their music dives deeply into the lessons of the Gospel and they offer that to all who are willing to hear. Sure, they scream and fans mosh and slam dance (Youtube it) at their shows. But those fans also hear the Gospel preached boldly (and loudly) through an amazing use of the art of music.

I get so turned off by mainstream music because it has become so incredibly shallow. Nobody considers the idea of a conceptual album from beginning to end anymore. It’s all about that one hit. That one moment that will land you a big tour that will set you atop the industry for your moment of fame before you fade into the forgotten. Forget all of that. Give me something with depth. Give me something with meaning. Give me something with hope.

Son of the Morning by Oh, Sleeper: Check it out here.

Our bodies yearn to live life endlessly, so now we rise. We rise in mutiny.
We make our stand here between the angels and animals.
We fear nothing here, where we can beat any feat set to keep us crawling.
………
So grip your fist and swing until your knuckles bleed.
If you are the new breed scream, “I am immortal!”
We can’t sit quietly because there’s more to life than we see.
So if you are the new breed scream, “I am immortal in You!”

Will Work For Eternity

It is sad to me how we see sin and disobedience so visibly in contrast to the lives of those in pursuit of the Gospel. Why are those living in sin so much easier to spot than repentant faithful believers? I’ve been thinking a lot about how it looks to have a life comparable to the first followers of Christ who Luke calls the Way in the book of Acts (9:2). He does not call them Christians (Acts 11:26). And even after establishing the historical pinpoint for the first use of the term “Christian,” he never calls them by that name again in the rest of the book (Acts 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22). I find this very interesting. Their existence as believers included both a verbal expression of faith and a visual manifestation of their faith in behavioral patterns. How do we get to that level? How does holiness change us from the inside out so deeply that it overtakes every single extension of our lifestyles? And how do we pursue this without slipping into legalism and license?

Contemporary culture places so much faith in the abilities of mankind. So often it replaces the person and finished work of Christ with our own unstable and empty endeavors assuming that we can earn a place in Heaven with our good works and honest passions. And in doing so, it redefines who we are as human beings. If there is any inkling of confidence in our own works as being worthy of eternity, we have placed a piece of ourselves on the same level as God. This is done through greed, lust, judgment, and any other act that does not submit to the authority of the Gospel. We see this played out every single day in corporate business, film, music, relationships, and even the church itself with the recent decision of the ELCA being a prime example. The only problem is that the Bible speaks against this.

Chapter two of Ephesians begins with a Pauline summary of the Gospel and verses 8-10 say,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Clearly, we are not saved by our own abilities. It is a gift from God. We do not become holy by picking and choosing certain behaviors that are going to make us look more righteous. That’s works-based righteousness. We do not become holy by showing up at church every Sunday, singing every lyric to every worship song, memorizing enough Scripture, and knowing enough Christian people. That’s works-based righteousness. We do not become holy by listening to the “right” music, watching the “right” movies, and reading the “right” books. That’s works-based righteousness. The only way in which we can truly pursue holiness is by total and complete submission to the Gospel thereby receiving the grace of God which changes the fabric of our lives from the inside out – not from the outside in through self-righteous, moralistic fine-tuning of outward behavior.

I see this happen in myself all the time. It is so much easier to play the judge and decide the outward behaviors that will make you look like a better Christian. But in the end, that is legalism and it is the same thing Jesus verbally attacked over and over again with the religious leaders of his time. It is also easier to decide that the rules don’t apply and that your faith in Christ is so firm that anything goes and nobody can tell you what to do. But that’s license and works-based righteousness. To be holy means to be set apart. Romans 12 calls us to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. It also says to be “living sacrifices” to the world. It does not say to be tolerant and indifferent. It does not say to subscribe to legalism or license. And it certainly does not say that you can be judge in place of the true Judge. Jesus was not tolerant, indifferent, legalistic or anything else. He was God. And because of this, he was mercilessly beaten and nailed to a tree where he hung until his death – a death he died for the very souls who placed him on that cross.

Legalism and license are dangerous tools of humanity. When we begin to convince ourselves that we are God, we forget the cross of Christ and we make the Gospel about us and not about Jesus. I have been reflecting on Hebrews 13:2-3 lately and it says,

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

It does not say entertain those who you deem worthy of your entertainment, but entertain them all. Don’t remember those who you deem worthy of remembrance, but remember them all. Christ challenged the sins of others, but he loved them deeply. He pursued the drunkards, the prostitutes, the poor, the broken, and the hopeless. He gave his life for the calling of the Gospel and for those who did not know him. And we should love, embrace, entertain, and remember others in the same manner.

Good thing -> god thing = bad thing

Upon returning to Austin, I found quickly that I needed to get a job if I wanted to eat this next year. I had a few employment options that I was working on over the summer, but everything fell through. So I decided that I would ask my church here in Austin if I could come on late and join their internship program. I was excited to find that there were no closed doors for me and I have officially been hired through the whole school year to work for Hill Country Bible Church UT. I will be helping organize missional communities through the church, meeting with MC leaders in order to encourage and help them however I can, leading a Bible study with my buddy Riley, and I will be starting a weekly communal prayer gathering so that we can practice praying for the church, its leaders, and the mission.

Looking back, it has been funny how all of this came to be. Over the summer, I wanted to try and find a job that would pay above minimum wage, offer reasonable hours, and be right on campus so that I wouldn’t have to drive to school and work everyday. None of those options worked out for me and getting back to Austin, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. My time in Omaha was a truly satisfying experience for me and my desire for this next school year is to live out everything that I’ve learned. All of my reservations and hesitations to committing to church responsibilities came from my lack of clarity on my job schedule. But now that my job is with the church, that isn’t an issue anymore and that came about by simply praying for clarity and direction.

More and more I am seeing my prayer life change and I am seeing this change even in moments like the one I just wrote about. It is becoming more sound Scripturally as I am seeking to apply the acts of Christ in my own life. But more than anything, it is becoming more and more of a departure from my own will in order to implore God’s will in my life. Because my own free will is so hopelessly drowning in sin and destruction that my hands can do no good on their own. Why then wouldn’t I pray for my passions and my desires to become aligned with the holy God of the universe? “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6). At ground level, this is a scary thought for me to think about because my efforts are not enough, yet it is so hard to let go and let God take over. Whether or not we admit it, this culture we so gladly exist in affects us deeply and we are all of victims of it in one way or another. At the heart level, it is even worse because when we truly examine our motives to do good we will find sin. Whether it is selfishness, control, or even a self-esteem boost when we do something that God created for good for the sake of ourselves we rid that action of good entirely. Because we waste it on our selfish, broken, and sinful selves. Voddie Baucham says it this way:

“I am totally, radically depraved beyond the shadow of any doubt. I can’t be good. Even when I do things that look to be good, I do them for the wrong motives and that destroys the good that was in them. I can’t be good.”

We are hopeless when we look to ourselves. But we are not without hope. When the author of Hebrews calls us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,” he is talking about Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. God gave his Son over to death and satisfied His wrath on that cross so that we might taste life and enjoy it in His presence. The God who created the universe right down to the very fibers of our being loved us so deeply that even while we were his enemies pursuing everything but His purpose, He sent his one and only Son to die for the world. In our hopelessness and in our brokenness, that is the hope we profess.

Finally, this is a great video. Thanks to Nathan Bliss for sending it to me. I love listening to Matt Chandler. Watch this and you might see why.

“At the root of all sin is the confusion, or inversion, of creator and creation. The worship of created things can be either the worship of things God has made, such as the environment or the human body, or the worship of things we have made, such as the television (which usually sits in the middle of the living room with all of the seats facing it so that hours can be paid in homage to the glowing deity that demands sacrifices not unlike the little shrines present in Buddhist and Hindu homes that are eerily familiar minus the remote control). The result of this error is that a good thing become inordinately elevated to a god thing and therefore a bad thing. Often times the god we worship is simply the one we see in the mirror every morning as we brush our teeth.” (Mark Driscoll, “Vintage Jesus,” pg.168)

“Be wary of people who don’t constantly point you to the blood-spattered cross of Jesus Christ.” – Matt Chandler