Tag Archives: Demon Hunter

Just Who Do You Think I Am?

Read Romans 7:7-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NLT)

CrossRedeemedIf you were to ask any of the students I have had over the years for confirmation class, they would tell you that one of the major projects I have them do is write a theological essay on who people say Jesus Christ is, and to also write about who they believe Jesus Christ to be. This essay is based off of the two questions Jesus asked his disciples, “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is? Who do you say that I am’” (Matthew 16:13, 15b)?

There were no wrong answers, and it wasn’t anything they were graded on. The purpose of the required exercise was two-fold: 1) To help them develop the skill of critical theological thinking and the ability to articulate the Christian faith as they have been taught it. 2) To promote critical thinking around their own experiences with Jesus Christ, as well as to give them the opportunity to express those experiences and their own understanding of who Christ is in writing to themselves. Later in life, they can look back on those answers and see how their understanding has grown over the years.

Recently, while driving, I was listening to the Christian metal band Demon Hunter’s album, “Extremist.” The first song on that album is “Death”. This song, to me, is the opposite exercise. Unlike the exercise I have my confirmation students (aka confirmands) go through, this song is not asking the listener who they think Christ is, but rather it is asking that same question in regard to all of the other influences in their lives.

Actually, the song is a reflection, in part, on the tendency to idolize people like him, as if they are some sort of paragon of perfection. With that said, I also think that this song works beyond just Ryan Clark, but other people and/or influences in our lives that we turn to in order to be “saved” from ourselves and our circumstances. In the song, Ryan Clark screams, “I’m not your gateway. I’m not your prodigal son. I’m the vile lesser-than. Just who do you think I am? I’m not your standard. I’m not your vision divine. I am not sacrificial lamb. Just who do you think I am? I am death.”

Ryan is not stating that he is literally Death, as in the Grim Reaper. Nor is he stating that he is evil or that he has no part to play in helping others. That is not what he is saying at all; rather, he is stating that ONLY CHRIST is the savior. We all, including Ryan, are sinners and we are all in need of being saved. How do I know that’s what Ryan actually meant when writing the song? Here’s what Ryan has to say about it:

‘By our very nature, we are a sinful people. It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you stand on, that will always be the case. If you don’t see it, you’re not paying attention. There is no pretending to be impervious to it. The answer is revealed in the realization of its existence, and the understanding that you are in need of forgiveness. The wages of sin is death. Eternal death. My desire is to be an instrument for this revelation, but my words alone can only point the way. I am no savior.’

Amen. We are all in need of being saved and, for those who recognize that need, salvation rests in Jesus Christ who literally HELD NO BARS in ensuring that  salvation for us, should we desire and ask for it. Our way, apart from the eternal love that is GOD in Jesus Christ, leads to death. This need not merely be in some other-worldly sense either. Just look at the wisdom and “saving plans” of human beings running amok in the world. Look at the broken relationships, the drug addiction, the abject poverty, the abuse and oppression, the genocide and the governing for SELF-INTEREST. It is clear, we humans are not saviors, but lesser-than (to use the lyrics).

We are, apart from Christ, death. Yet, as Ryan rightly points out, those of us who are saved are called to point the way to Christ, who is the revelation of God’s unconditional, saving love. We may not be the savior, but we intimately know the savior and can introduce people to our Lord and Savior. If you feel lost in your life, if you feel surrounded by dead ends and hopelessness, there is a way out of such despair. There is a way to abundant and joyful life. That way is Jesus Christ and I pray that you two get in touch. Find a pastor or someone grounded in faith who can support you in that. If you are a person of faith, be willing to be the vessel that points the least, the last and the lost to the One who LOVES and SAVES THEM beyond all measures!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“He that falls into sin is a [human]; that grieves at it, is a saint; that boasteth of it, is a devil.” – Thomas Fuller

PRAYER
Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. May I always point to your saving grace. Amen.

Thorns

Read Mark 4:1-9, 13-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NLT)

TheThornsFor those who may be reading one of my devotions for the first time, or for those who may need to be refreshed, one of my favorite bands is the Christian heavy metal band, Demon Hunter. On their album, Storm the Gates of Hell, there is a profoundly powerful song entitled, “Thorns”. The lyrics utilize the imagery of the thorns to both symbolize the brokenness of humanity and the salvific wholeness that comes through Jesus Christ.

The song came out of the Ryan Clark’s interaction with Demon Hunter fans. He had been hearing about how their music was giving hope to countless people. In each story they heard how the music and the lyrics had helped pull people from the depths of despair into the heights of hope. Many of these people talked about their struggles with cutting and/or harming themselves, which got Ryan thinking about cutting in general.

Here were people who were lost, people who were in so much psychological, emotional and spiritual pain that they would cut themselves to try and “take some of that pain away.” That may seem counter-intuitive; however, psychological, emotional and spiritual pain can be far greater than any physical pain that one can endure. The truth is that the adage, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, is actually the furthest thing from the truth.

Words do hurt, and they do far more damage than sticks and stones. What’s more, depressed minds, souls, and hearts suffer in a hell that seemingly one seemingly has NO EXIT from. On top of that, they are alone in their suffering because, while people can see and tend to physical injuries, they cannot see and often dismiss psyhcological and emotional injuries.

 

So, Ryan began to think about how people get so lost in their own hurt and pain that they try to cut their way out of it; however, the tragedy beyond their suffering is that Christ endured being cut (e.g. crown of thorns, whip, nails, and spear) so that we might find THE EXIT from the hells we find ourselves in. While SIN put Jesus on the cross, it could not keep him there. Christ’s resurrection was Christ conquering sin and death, and we can share in that resurrection and rise up out of the sin and death we find ourselves so lost in! There’s HOPE in that, for Christ is the EXIT from our hellish suffering that we so long for.

This song also makes me think of the “Parable of the Sower.” In that parable, Jesus likens God’s Word (both Scripture and Jesus. See John 1:1-4, 14) as seeds in that a farmer scatters on soil. One of the types of soil mentioned is soil that is filled with vines with thorns. Those seeds begin to grow as plants; however, the thorns quickly choke the life out of them. Jesus goes on to explain to his disciples that the thorns represent all of the things in this world that act as distractions and pull us away from the SOURCE OF LIFE (aka GOD).

We get crowded by worries, by the lure of wealth, the desire for more stuff, the need to be accepted by other people, our body image, the hurtful and injurious words of others, and a whole host of other things. Even if we know in our heads that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), our hearts are choked by the other things that are possessing us. Whether it is self-inflicted, or inflicted on us by others, those things take root and choke the very life out of us.

Today’s challenge is for us to pause and reflect on what in our lives is choking the life out of us. Do you suffer from body image issues? Do you suffer from psychological, emotional and spiritual pain? Do you find yourself surrounded by abusive people who do not value you as a child of God? Do you long to be accepted by others, and find yourself doing whatever it takes to attain that acceptance? Do you suffer from the disease of wanting more? Are you lured by wealth? Are you constantly worried about EVERYTHING?

What is it that is choking the life out of you? What is it that is plunging you deep into the very pit of hell? Remember, you NEED NOT suffer! You need not accept the burden of your suffering as “your cross to bear”. For it is NOT YOURS TO BEAR. There is One who has born it for you! There is One who has carried that load, and who has “stormed the gates of hell” in order to FREE YOU from it! That One is Jesus Christ and he has conquered sin and death through his resurrection so that you can be resurrected with him. Place your faith in Christ and take the steps you need to be liberated from your suffering. Find a community of like-minded believers who will support you and help FREE YOU from the chains that this world has bound you in! You are profoundly loved, and you are FREE in Christ! Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Don’t sever what you are for what you couldn’t be.” – Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter, taken from the song, “Thorns”.

PRAYER
Lord, reveal the truth of your love to me. Save me from the thorns that are choking me to death. Amen.

Demon Hunters

Read Mark 5:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down at his feet and shouted, ‘You are God’s Son!’” (Mark‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭CEB)‬‬‬‬

  It is no secret to most people that one of my favorite metal bands is Demon Hunter. I love heavy metal, in general, because it often rages against the machine (so-to-speak), and the lyrics address issues within the status quo. Demon Hunter is certainly no exception to that; however, instead of just raging against political machines, it rages against the religious and social machine as well. What I mean by this is that Demon Hunter’s lyrics often speak out against the status quo within the church, as well as the status quo in society.

 They don’t do this just for the sake of being whiney against the way things are, but because they recognize that real people suffer in society and, in particular, in the church. What’s more, they also call out the fact that the church often turns it’s back on such people, and they seek to do differently in their lyrics. There song, “I Am You”, which I have already written another devotion on, speaks to the fact that they struggle like everyone else, and that they stand in solidarity with those who do struggle. The song, “I Will Fail You,” speaks to the fact that we should not put our faith in other people; rather, we should put our faith in God for, unlike people, God will not fail us.

Aside from their music, I also love the artwork on their albums, in particular, I love their band’s logo of which is the demon skull. One of my favorite Demon Hunter skulls is from their third album, “The Triptych”. The skull itself is pretty typical in that it has the uneven horns and is the skull of a goat that has a bullet hole in the forehead, which obviously symbolizes that the demon had been shot and slayed. But this is skull has something else going on. For one thing, the skull itself looks like it is made of some sort of armor, and it is pegged together by spikes. Also, there is a red and black snake slithering through the mouth, through one of the eye sockets, and up over the top of the skull.

As weird as this might say, it is a rather beautiful work of art. Granted it is dark, but there is something alluring about it. Beyond its aesthetics, however, it speaks a profound truth to me. You see, we often spend our lives running and hiding from our demons. With that said, even when we kill our demons and try to move beyond them, they never truly die. They often just lie dormant until something or someone triggers them back to life. Now, when I say demons, I am not thinking of the word in a literal sense, but more of a metaphorical sense. Demons can be personality and character flaws, it can be addiction, anger, bitterness, hatred, envy, or any of the things that possess us and rule our lives.

God is calling us all to be demon hunters, but we cannot be that on our own. The reality is that the things we struggle with will inevitably resurface in our lives. That is why it is so important for us to place our faith in God and to be a part of the community of Christ so that we are not alone in hunting our demons. The more we are surrounded by supportive people, the more likely we are able to overcome our demons and vanquish them. We all have demons, but they need not define who we are. Rather, allow God to help you vanquish your demons through a community that will stand in solidarity with you, support you, hold you accountable, and help you rise up in triumph over the things that have been pulling you down.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If you don’t deal with your demons, they will deal with you, and it’s gonna hurt.” – Nikki Sixx

PRAYER

Lord, help me with my demons so that I may rise above them and defeat them. Amen.

I Will Fail You

Read Deuteronomy 32:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NRSV)

ryanClarkHave you ever been failed by anyone? Have you ever put your trust in someone, almost elevating them to the status of “perfect”, only to be let down by how not “perfect” they actually are? Perhaps you have done this with celebrities? Perhaps you have done this with public officials, perhaps you have done this with pastors, with friends, and/or with family members. You think that they are wonderful people, that they can do no wrong, that they have your best-interest in mind, only to find out that they were not able to live up to all you thought that they were.

Have you ever failed anyone, including yourself? Have you ever had people put their trust in you, have you had people look up to you like you could do no wrong, only to let them down for one reason or the other, revealing to them how much wrong you could actually do? Have you ever been relied on, looked up to, and placed in a position that you felt you had to live up to, only to find out that your attempt, in the end, was an epic fail? My guess is that, like me, everyone can pretty much answer “yes” to each one of the above questions.

I have been listening to my favorite Christian metal band, “Demon Hunter”, a lot lately. On their latest album, “Extremist”, there is a song called, “I Will Fail You.” In that song, Ryan Clark sings, “I will fail you, of that I’m sure. I will remind you of the pain forevermore. And when my sins are just a memory, faith restored, I will fail you to the core.” In the video for the song, Clark is seen driving a car at night…like for the WHOLE VIDEO. As the song progresses, Clark goes from just driving, to lighting up a cigarette and smoking. Finally, he opens up a bottle of  pills and takes several of them, which are presumably narcotics. In the end, Clark becomes dazed and incoherent as headlights shine through his window. The video then pans to the passenger side of the car where a man who is bound, whose mouth is shut with duct tape, tries screaming to wake the drugged driver up. The video cuts to black; the video, like the driver and passenger in the car, has come to an abrupt end.

Clark, who is the frontperson and chief song writer for the band, explained the song by saying that, especially as Christian artists, there is a lot of pressure for them to be perfect. Because they are Christian, people expect them to be the ultimate role models, to be the staunchest Christians (as defined by each individual looking to them that way), and to live perfect lives. The reality is, however, that at some point they will be let down. Imperfection and the tendency to fail are a part of the human condition. What’s more, if we try to be perfect or elevate someone up to the status of perfection, we are totally setting ourselves up for epic failure.

The only one we should look to for perfection is God. While Christ called us to “be perfect as God is perfect,” Christ was not calling us to raise up anyone, ourselves included, as idols of perfection. Rather, Christ was calling us to strive to live into the essence of God, which is to have compassion, to be a peacemaker, to forgive others, to be agents of hope, healing and wholeness, to seek justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. If we do those things, if we seek after God’s righteousness rather than an unattainable human perfection, we will find that God’s righteousness will be flowing in and through us for the transformation of the world around us. I will fail you…but GOD WILL NOT!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” – Benjamin Franklin

PRAYER
Lord, help me to place my faith in you for you will never fail me. Help me to grow in my love and compassion to others who, like me, embody the human condition. Amen.

I Am You

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I Am YouOne of my all time favorite music bands is a band called Demon Hunter. Now I am sure that, judging from the name, you can probably tell that they are Heavy Metal band. If so, you are absolutely correct. I am also sure that, judging by the name, some of you might be questioning why someone like would be listening to a band with that kind of a name. Well, the truth be told, I listen to all sorts of music from classical to heavy metal, from Christian to secular music. In fact, sometimes I find a deeper spirit-filled theology (whether it was on purpose or accidental) in secular music than I do in Christian music.

With all of that said, Demon Hunter is actually a Christian heavy metal band who writes music that really speak to me as a person who knows what it is like to struggle in life. I know what it means to be depressed, to feel hopeless, to feel like the world might be literally crushing me, to feel like I am at wits end, and to feel like no one truly understands me. The lyrics that Ryan Clark write for Demon Hunter are ones that reach out to people who struggle in life, it is their ministry to do so and God certainly has blessed them, and those listening to them, as a result of doing that ministry.

There is a song that they write called, I AM YOU. In this song, Ryan writes, “A new voice for the broken souls in a world awaiting its death—I am you—an everlasting well of life for the hopeless and the wrecked I am the dying self, the narrow path, the calm that conquered the storm—I am you—the cross-hairs on the head of shame, the negation to conform.” For the longest time, I interpreted this to mean that Ryan, the singer, was saying that he was like anyone else and that he, too, has struggled in his life. I am certain that, in part, he is saying that.

This time around, however, I began to see the song in a whole new light. I began to hear God’s voice in it. After all, is it not true that God is a new voice for the broken souls? Is it not true that God is an everlasting well of life for the hopeless and the wrecked? Did Jesus not embody the dying self, the narrow path, the calm that conquered the storm? Did Jesus not set the cross-hairs on the head of shame, and represented the negation to conform? To Moses, God revealed Godself as I AM. In Jesus, God revealed to the world, I AM YOU.

What a wonderfully powerful notion that God is one of us. That God knows what it means to struggle. After all, which one of us has not struggled in this life? Which one of us have remained completely unscathed from childhood to whatever age we are at now? Which one of us has lived a perfect, paradise-like existence without any pain, loss or suffering? I am imagining the answer to be: NONE OF US.

Then how powerful of a message it is for us to receive that God is one of us and knows how to conquer the struggles we face everyday. It is a wonderful message that God is not above us or somewhere out there watching us from afar but, rather, God is with us…God is in us. When we truly embrace that, we will recognize that God is not only with us, but God is with us wherever we go. Once we realize that truth, we will see that when we are in the lives of others…when We reach out to others with compassion and say, “It’s okay, I AM YOU”, we are showing such people that God is with them too…you are giving them the good news of God’s presence and of God’s hope, healing and wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” – Anne Frank

PRAYER

Lord, fill me with your Good News and send me out to bring it to others. Amen.