Petra – Beat The System (1985)

This was the third Petra album I bought. The first two were More Power To Ya and Captured In Time And Space. I got all three of them the summer of 1986. Captured In Time And Space was brand new at the time. I had heard snippets from More Power To Ya at the North American Christian Convention and it immediately blew me away even though it was four years old. I picked up Beat The System when we got home from the convention.

I didn’t know anything about Petra at the time and wasn’t even aware that they had changed singers. I sent off a little card from inside Captured In Time And Space and received a promo photo of the band a few weeks later. I assumed it was the same guys on Beat The System so I had those faces in my mind whenever I listened to it. It wasn’t until Back To The Street came out later that year that I figured it out. By that point I had purchased Never Say Die and Not Of This World as well. I realized that Beat The System had been somewhat of an anomaly in Petra’s body of work.

To this day I don’t know all that was going on with the band at the time but I assume it played a part in the sound. I know that John Slick, the keyboardist, had left the band after Not Of This World and was replaced by John Lawry. Slick was very much a “classic rock” type keyboardist. He used Hammond B-3 and analog synths like a lot of bands from the Seventies. Lawry was more of an Eighties keyboardist. That had to have affected the sound. The drums and bass are heavily processed and I wonder if it is all synth and drum machines. The guitars sound processed as well and lack the bite of earlier albums. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. In fact, the songs are really good and the lyrics are challenging. In spite of the questionable production qualities, it’s right near the top of Petra’s finest material.

Now that I’ve said all that, let me go through the album track by track and share my thoughts.

Beat The System – The title track sets the “high tech” vibe of the album and establishes the lyrical theme that runs throughout the course of the album. I am trying to recall secular artists that had a similar sound at the time and Thomas Dolby comes to mind. Even though there is guitar in the mix this is synth-based pop rock. The lyrics refer back to Romans where Paul says that we are more than conquerors. The message is that we can overcome this world’s corrupt system when we live a life devoted to Jesus.

Computer Brains – Musically this is a continuation of the first track. There are computerized effects in the background and the rhythm tracks are sequenced and sound like machine keeping time. The song addresses the consequences of consuming the negative things of the world. Once again, Paul is referenced. Bob Hartman (guitarist and primary songwriter) encourages listeners to take their thoughts captive and to fill their minds with godly things. The old computer saying “Garbage In, Garbage Out” is the lyric hook for the chorus.

Clean – It’s almost as if the first half of the album was meant to be one long conceptual piece. The songs bleed into one another and each lyric build upon the one before. With different production this one could have been a straight-up hard rocker on one of their earlier albums. The riff is really cool even though it is heavily processed. The message is that we are all guilty but can be washed clean when we put our faith in Jesus. This is one of my favorite Petra songs and I was thrilled to see it redone on 2010’s Back To The Rock.

It Is Finished – This is one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard. Once again, this one is a hard rocker at heart. It’s a fairly straight retelling of the crucifixion. The lyrics paint a vivid picture and one can almost see the events playing out as Greg X. Volz sings. Hartman plays a nifty guitar lick all throughout the verses that rival the main riff from Judas Kiss. With every beat of the synthesized drums I can just imagine the hammers driving nails through Jesus’ wrists and feet.

Voice In The Wind – I wonder what these songs would sound like with real drums, bass guitar, and less processed guitar. This song feels mellow because of the production but it’s really a mid-tempo rock song that addresses the work of the Holy Spirit. Volz’s vocals are in fine form on every track and one realizes just how powerful a singer he is. The song is a perfect follow up to It Is Finished. First the listener is shown how forgiveness comes through Jesus’ death and then is told how the Spirit draws people to Christ and his atoning work.

God Gave Rock And Roll To You – This is actually the second time Petra covered Argent’s classic song. The first was on Come And Join Us and was faithful to the original. This one is more like an psychotic merry-go-round and doesn’t have the same impact as the original. However, like many, this was the first one I heard. At the time I didn’t even realize it was a cover song. It’s not a bad version and it does fit with the overall feel of the album.

Witch Hunt – This is one my personal favorite Petra tunes even though it is comical and very much tongue-in-cheek. I love the numerous Wizard Of Oz references scattered throughout the background. The lyrics address the highly critical nature of many Christians. I assume that it might have been a response to all those who had accused Petra of playing the devil’s music.

Hollow Eyes – A lot artists in the Eighties addressed the plight of those who were starving in other countries. This mournful ballad equates those who were dying due to disease and hunger with Jesus. His commendation (and condemnation) of those who dealt with the “least of these” is applied to all who suffer throughout the world.

Speak To The Sky – I remember reading the liner notes and seeing that this one was dedicated to Glen Campbell. I didn’t understand why at the time but now that I am familiar with Campbell’s faith and the struggles he went through during his life it makes sense. The lyrics address the power of prayer. I really dig the Scottish vibe with the guitar “bagpipes” in the intro.

Adonai – This is another straight-ahead rocker than suffered slightly from the production. It is also a straight-forward worship song that predates Petra’s own worship album by a few years. The title is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for Lord. Like Clean, I was glad to see this one get the proper “rock” treatment when the Beat The System line-up reunited in 2010 for Back To The Rock.


Grace and peace


The Worst

15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NLT)


I know that Paul was referring to himself in this particular passage but I can’t help but relate to it on a personal level. Some people may look at my life and think that I haven’t done anything remotely close to what Paul did when he was persecuting the Church. While that may be true I have still knowingly sinned against God time and time again. There have been moments in my life when I KNEW I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing and I did it anyway.

Like Paul, I am SO thankful that there is grace, mercy, and forgiveness in Jesus. I don’t believe that I should give detailed accounts of all the sins I’ve committed in my life but I should be willing to admit them. I should be able to point to myself and say, “Look, if Jesus can forgive me for all the things I’ve done, there’s hope for everyone.” We should all be able to say that.

Grace and peace

Getting Back To Business

A busy month is now coming to an end and I hope to get back into the habit of writing every day. We were in North Carolina the last week of June and then there was something going on nearly every week after. We were all at Sylvan Hills last week. The week before that we had VBS and Chris had Boy Scout camp. Chris does have to be at the fair on Friday night with the Scouts but this week is much less hectic. Robin and Jamie will be at camp next week and that should do it for this summer. It’s been busy and we’ve put a lot of miles on the Taurus but it’s been a lot of fun.

I’m thinking and praying about where God is leading me with my sermons. I’m finishing up on stewardship this Sunday and I honestly don’t know where God is taking me next. I’ve been reading through Paul’s letters this month and lots of things have been sticking out. Perhaps that is where He’s taking me. I’m just trying to pay attention and listen.

It has been really dry here. Thankfully we got some rain yesterday but we really could use more. It’s warm here but not nearly as hot as it is down south. I sure don’t miss that oppressive heat. I vividly remember sitting out in the ReStore during the summer and the thermometer read 105°. Lord willing, I will never have to do that again. Here’s hoping everyone’s summer has been good so far.

Grace and peace

He’s Got This

We’re just about half way through Junior Week at Sylvan Hills Christian Service Camp. Our lessons today have come from Matthew 6:24-34 (NLT).

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.


I was talking with a group of fourth and fifth grade boys this morning and this is kind of how we summed it up.

God loves the tree and the animals and He takes care of them. He loves us more. Don’t worry. He’s got this.

Grace and peace

Your Cheatin’ Heart

I watched I Saw The Light this morning. I am a huge fan of Hank Williams’ music so this one has been on my list ever since I heard about it. I only knew Tom Hiddleston from his role as Loki so I was genuinely impressed by his performance. Much like Gary Busey as Buddy Holly and Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, he BECAME Hank Williams. He did all of the singing as well and proved to be a capable vocalist. His voice may actually be a little more refined than Hank’s but he pulled it off. There was some language and one brief scene with nudity (which really was unnecessary) so it’s not for everyone. I do believe the movie managed to give a very sympathetic (but honest) look at a truly gifted but flawed individual. Even though I knew the outcome, I was in tears at the end.

I have always been fascinated by Hank’s ability to write songs about sinfulness and then turn around and offer genuine worship songs. Perhaps it is because I have seen both of those things in my own life and I can truly relate. As I was listening to the simple acoustic version of Your Cheatin’ Heart that Hiddleston performs near the end, I realized that it unintentionally makes the most theological statement Williams ever sang.

Your cheatin’ heart
Will make you weep
You’ll cry and cry
And try to sleep
But sleep won’t come
The whole night through
Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…

When tears come down
Like falling rain
You’ll toss around
And call my name
You’ll walk the floor
The way I do
Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…

Your cheatin’ heart
Will pine some day
And crave the love
You threw away
The time will come
When you’ll be blue
Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…

When tears come down
Like falling rain
You’ll toss around
And call my name
You’ll walk the floor
The way I do
Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you…

I realize he was writing this from the viewpoint of someone who has been dealing with an unfaithful partner. However, go back and read those lyrics from God’s viewpoint. One of the things that has pained God throughout history is the fact that His people too often have divided loyalties. They aren’t faithful. The Bible uses that same imagery to describe people who won’t commit to following God. They are enticed by the things of this world and continue to “cheat” when God is the only one who can truly love us. I don’t think I will ever be able to hear that song the same way again.

Grace and peace


A Brief Comment

I have started this sentence six times and erased it each time. I want to say something. Part of me feels like I NEED to say something. Yet, each time I begin I find that my words seem shallow and fake. I am seriously struggling with what I want to say and at the same time I keep asking myself if I really need to add one more opinion. I have twice convinced myself to remain silent but now I wonder if that is the appropriate response.

Edmund Burke is credited as saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the same can be said for those who say nothing. At the same time I am reminded of Proverbs 17:28.


Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
            and discerning if they hold their tongues.


Paul, in Ephesians 4:28, says that we should only speak things that will build up others and give grace to those who hear. Nothing unwholesome should come from our mouths. Once again, I am extending that to the things we write. How can I boldly speak up against injustice without making myself sound foolish? Are the things that I am saying and writing pointing people to a solution or are they just throwing fuel on the fire?

I do my best to carefully consider everything I share on social media. I try to not respond if I am emotional or upset. That’s what makes this post so difficult. I am emotional. I am upset. I am at a total loss for words. That is the reason I have waited to say something. I don’t want to make things worse. I don’t want to be a part of the problem.

I think that many in the Church have been guilty of being part of the problem throughout history. The truth is that there have been some very ungodly folks who called themselves Christians. They did unspeakable things in the name of God. That is inexcusable. At the same time there have been those in the Church who sat silent while evil ran amuck. That, I believe, is just as inexcusable.

Think about it. Why didn’t more Christians speak up against slavery? Why didn’t more Christians speak up against the genocide of Native Americans? Why didn’t more Christians speak up against the Nazis? As I look around at all the hate and violence in our world right now I have to ask, “Why aren’t more Christians speaking up?” I realize that there have always been those who dared to stand up fight for the oppressed. However, they seem to be few and far between.

I believe that the sad truth is many really don’t think there is a problem. I honestly don’t know how one can come to that conclusion. I just don’t. I wonder what Jesus thinks when he sees what’s going on. I wonder what he thinks when those who claim to follow him are either taking part in evil or sitting silent while it rages on around them. I wonder what he thinks of me.

I don’t have the solution. Only God can fix this problem. I truly believe that. What I do know is that I don’t think I can sit back and be silent any longer. May God have grace and mercy on us all.

Grace and peace



A Blast From The Past

OMG at The Rock 4

I just finished watching a video of an Oldmangrady show from 2000. Phil had some of them burned to DVD and gave me copies when were down in North Carolina last week. The one I was watching was recorded at the youth loft at the old Nashville Praise & Worship Center. It was a really cool place they called The Rock and if memory serves me correctly (it sometimes doesn’t) we played there three times. The video I have is from our second show there. It was recorded sometime after June because I talk about how I just turned 30 and had a new kid (Christopher) on the way.

I have watched the video four times now and although there are some missed chords and some rough spots I can’t help but think that we were much better than I ever gave us credit for at the time. Joe was a really good drummer. Phil and I performed well beyond our limitations. We were really tight live (this show in particular) and we had a lot of fun. I guess I kind of forgot about that. The kids at that show were really into it as well. I often tell people that the best show I ever did was when Ekklesia played at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Rocky Mount. I may have to rethink that now.

I think one of the reasons I never considered Oldmangrady a “real” band is because I was constantly comparing us to Puddleglum at the time. We played a lot of shows with them and all of the stuff we recorded was done with Britt. I know that a couple of the guys in their band thought we were a joke. They never came out and said it but I could tell by the way they acted. I really let that get to me. It caused me to doubt myself and it probably contributed to me wanting to pull the plug on Oldmangrady much earlier than I should have.

There were some other things going in my life at that time that made the decision easier but it was mostly because I let others make me feel inferior. We even had one former member of our band basically tell us that he was used to playing with real musicians. I really let that have a negative affect on me and looking back on it sixteen years later, I have to wonder if I ever gave us a serious chance. We never had aspirations of being critically acclaimed musicians and we never pretended to be anything other than what we were; a three chord (sometimes four) noisy pop band. I don’t know why I let other people convince me that we weren’t good enough. We weren’t playing for them in the first place. All we wanted to do was play music and give God glory through it. You know what? That’s exactly what we did and I’m not ashamed of it.

It has taken me a few years to be able to say this but I say it now. Oldmangrady was the best band I ever played in. Thanks to all the guys who were a part of it.

Grace and peace

Not Just Another Glass Block



Give up? Yes, it’s a glass block. It’s 7 1/2 inches wide, 7 1/2 inches tall, and 3 inches thick. Yes, it has some concrete and some sort of binder (I’m assuming it’s silicone) attached to it. Yes, to most people it’s junk. However, to me it is a special piece of history. This is one of the blocks from the glass wall that was part of Booth 25 at the now demolished Pizza Inn on Hunter Hill Road in Rocky Mount, N.C. Why, you may ask, is that special to me? Let me tell you a little story.

My third job in high school was at Pizza Inn on Country Club Drive. I started working there when I was sixteen and was there right up until it flooded and was closed down. After that I worked at the Pizza Inn across town on Fairview Road. I worked there until the new Pizza Inn opened on Hunter Hill Road. I moved to that one and that is where I met Robin during the summer of 1988. Pizza Inn had tried to open up a delivery unit at the old Country Club Drive location but eventually moved it to the new facility. Robin had been working there so she showed up on Hunter Hill Road. Pizza Inn directly contributed to us meeting one another and becoming a couple. 28 years later I still am thankful that I worked there at the time.

What does that have to do with the glass block and Booth 25? Anyone who frequented the old Hunter Hill Pizza Inn most likely remembers Booth 25 even if they didn’t know that was it’s number. It was a solitary booth that sat just past the dessert bar and right before the entrance to the restrooms. There was a big glass wall (made up these blocks) on the side closest to the buffet area. This is the booth most employees sat at before, between, and after shifts. It’s also the booth that Robin and I typically sat it. For years there was some hand drawn graffiti (discreetly placed) that read Lebo ♥ RC. To put it plainly, it was OUR booth. Both of us were somewhat saddened when we saw the old location torn down to make room for the new one. We understood it but it was sad watching part of our past disappear.

Fortunately for us, Craig Johnson (who has been the manager there forever) knew it was special to us and he saved one of the blocks for us. He knew we had met there and he knew that Booth 25 had personal significance to us. Also, as a long time veteran of Pizza Inn (I did four tours of duty) it was something neat for me to have from the past. I was there the very first night it opened. I wasn’t there the day the started demolishing it (that would have been neat as well) but I spent a great deal of time there. This block is a conversation piece that will allow me to share a little part of may past.

Grace and peace

Who Knew A Biscuit Could Taste So Good?

Actually, I DO know that a biscuit can taste good. That is the reason I made a point to have one from both Bojangles’ and Hardee’s while we were in North Carolina. Both of those chains have their roots in North Carolina (I believe Bojangles’ is still based there) and I have had many a biscuit from each one. It’s not that you can’t get a biscuit here in Pennsylvania. We do have McDonalds and Burger King and both serve biscuits at breakfast. However, their biscuits taste as if they were frozen and then microwaved. They are edible and I do get them from time to time but they don’t begin to compare to the freshly made buttermilk biscuits served by the first two places I mentioned. Feast your eyes on these.

Bojangles’ Steak Biscuit



Hardee’s Chicken Biscuit

chicken biscuit


Yes, I know they are greasy. Yes, I know that aren’t particularly good for me. I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t have easy access to them. I don’t know when I will get another chance to eat at either place so I will fondly remember these two culinary delicacies until we meet again.

Grace and peace


It Is Good To Be Home

We left for North Carolina on Friday, June 24th. We arrived back here at about 3:50 yesterday afternoon. It was WONDERFUL seeing all of our family and the friends we were able to squeeze in. It was GREAT being able to get into the ocean for a few hours. It was INCREDIBLE to be able to eat at some of the places we used to eat at. It was AWESOME baptizing Jamie at Stoneybrook two Sundays ago. I don’t know that I can sit here and accurately sum up all the emotions that we experienced over the last ten or so days. It would take several posts just to mention everything we did and all the people we saw. We did keep a journal while we gone so I may share some of the highlights over the next day or so.

As much as I enjoyed seeing everyone and going to all the places we went to, I am truly glad to be home. I missed my dog. I missed my bed. I missed drinking coffee out of my mug. I missed the folks here at Granville. Part of me will always be connected to eastern North Carolina and as long as I have family and friends there, I will continue to visit. I will always love the Atlantic Ocean and I hope I will be able to continue going there. However, I cannot describe how great it was to drive through the hills of Pennsylvania and finally pull up into the driveway yesterday. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time away or that I don’t love all of the folks down there. I guess I will always have a “home” down there but this is home now. This is where God led me. This is where I believe I am fulfilling my purpose. This is home.

Grace and peace