Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Trials Turned to Gold

Has anyone ever considered the similarities between Yahweh and Rumplestiltskin?

Let's not take the comparison TOO far, considering Rumplestiltskin's wickedly impish nature and self-destructive temper, but there is one particular skill of Rumplestiltskin's that directly relates to something Keith Green praises God about in his song, "Trials Turned to Gold".

Just as Mr. R. could take a roomful of straw and turn it into a precious metal, so Yahweh specializes in using the negative circumstances of our lives, no matter how trivial or traumatic, to transform us into kids of the Kingdom..."heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:17 NIV)

He's brought me here, where things are clear
And trials turn to gold
He shared with me, His victory
He won in days of old

Oh Lord, I don't deserve
The riches of Your word
But You've changed my filthy rags
To linen white as snow

The view from here is nothing near
To what it is for You
I tried to see Your plan for me
But I only acted like I knew

Oh Lord forgive the times
I tried to read your mind
Cause you said if I'd be still
Then I would hear your voice

My Lord, my King, my urge to sing
And praise the things above
No words can say the glorious way
You changed me with your love

He's brought me low, so I could know
The way to reach the heights
To forsake my dreams, my self-esteem
And give up all my rights

With each one that I lay down
A jewel's placed in my crown
Cause His love, the things above
Is all we'll ever need

He's brought me here, where things are clear
And trials turn to gold
©1977 April Music

Truth is...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Scottish Snippets

While I've never been disappointed when reading a book or article by Alistair Begg, he has proven that he is just as able to pack a wallop with only a few words:

The great need is for us to be taught theologically, not just stirred emotionally.

The reason most preaching is ignored today is that it deserves to be.

The Church is where it is today because it has decided that the advertising agents know better than the Holy Spirit of God.

Our relationship with God will never be right as long as our relationship with others is wrong.

It takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian.

I only need a mirror to see a sinner.

Do you want to lead, or do you want to be liked?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is... More important than his Scottish brogue, the reason I benefit from listening to Begg's "Truth for Life" podcast is that he eschews controversy in favor of living up to this frequent saying of his: "The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things."

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Dangerous Christians: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #21

Ask 25 people why Jesus came to the planet and you'll get at least 12 different answers.

"He came to show us how to love everyone."

"Jesus came to teach us how to live simply."

"Jesus' mission was to save us from the consequences of our sins."

Ask Australian activist, evangelist, and international speaker, Christine Caine, why Jesus came to the planet and you'll get Number 21 on azquotes.com's list of the top 25 quotes having to do with Jesus:

Christine Caine

Jesus didn't come to make us safe.
He came to make us dangerous
to the kingdom of darkness.

You see, our lives as Christ-followers aren't meant to be just about our own lives. "I've got my ticket to heaven and that's all that matters." 

Jesus used a lot of action verbs when he commanded his followers: "Go." "Preach." "Make disciples." "Love one another as I have loved you."

Truth is...in the words of Rich Mullins, "He gave us a promise and He gave us a job. He'll be with us, but the work is up to us." ("Alrightokuhhuhamen")

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When You and Your Parents Don't Share a Common Faith

In recent years, Taylor Swift and other songwriters have earned a reputation for writing songs that publically express some very personal feelings or events. But they've got a long way to go to match the heartfelt transparency Keith Green displayed in "Song to My Parents (I Only Wanna See You There)".

I need to say these things 'cause
I love you so
And I'm sorry you get angry when I say that
You just don't know
That there's a heaven waiting
For you and me
I know it seems every time we talk
I'm only tryin' to just make you see

And it's only that I care
I really only want
Just to see you there

Please try and overlook my
My human side
I know I'm such a bad example
And you know I'm so full of pride
But Jesus isn't like that
No, He's perfect all the way
I guess that's why we need Him
'Cause by ourselves, there's just no way

And it's only that I care
I really, really only just want to see you there
To see you there

Close the doors
They're just not coming
We sent the invitations out long, long, long, long time ago
We're still gonna have a wedding feast
Big enough to beat them all
The greatest people in the world just wouldn't come
So now we'll just have to invite the small

And it's only that I care
I really, really only want
Just to see you there

Isn't that Jesus?
Isn't that Joseph and Mary's son?
Well, didn't He grow up right here?
He played with our children
What! He must be kidding
Thinks He's a prophet
Well, prophets don't grow up from little boys
Do they? From little boys?
Do they?
©1977 April Music

Truth is...it's a hard thing to put a desire for a smooth, peaceful relationship aside in favor of the desire for an eternal one. Talking to our parents or other dearly loved family or friends seems scary, but if we really love them, and Jesus is really real, their rejection of Christ should scare us even more.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

How to Succeed in Politics

This has never aspired to be a political blog, but Clement Eaton has made some observations that certainly contain facts and point out a deeper truth.

The voters failed to elect their superior men to office. To obtain the [votes] of the people it was not necessary for a politician to have a superior education or a brilliant mind. Rather, he must be able to sense the common man's discontents, his economic grievances, his prejudices, and his dreams. The successful politician was, as a rule, a vigorous or eloquent speaker, a man who could devise popular slogans and organize political workers, and who gave the common people a feeling of their own importance. As party warfare developed into violent partisanship and as sectional tensions arose, the politician who had strong convictions and had taken a courageous public stand on issues was often pushed aside in favor of a candidate of availability.

In the spirit of Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story, it may surprise you to learn this is a quote from the book, Henry Clay and the Art of American Politics, and is talking about the voters of the 1830s and 1840s.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

I Am Loved: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #22

If you go to TimothyKeller.com, you are immediately greeted by a picture of Keller apparently speaking from a pulpit or lectern. In large type, like a banner across the top of the page, is this quote:

The gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope.

That's a pretty good collection of words right there, and it relates to Jesus Quote #22 in two ways:

     1.   It covers similar ground...talking about how Jesus has an effect on what I think about myself.
     2.   Its source is the same person.

Tim Keller

The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.

Truth is...While I have often said that God loves us so much He would rather die than live without us...and there is truth in that statement...I am also reminded of something Rich Mullins said: "I grew up hearing everyone tell me 'God loves you'. I would say big deal, God loves everybody. That don't make me special! That just proves that God ain't got no taste. And I don't think He does. Thank God! Because He takes the junk of our lives and makes the most beautiful art."

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Something to Stop Praying About

It might surprise you that in a book titled Pray Big, the author (Alistair Begg) actually spells out something he thinks we should all STOP praying:

Mouth Taped Shut

I want to erase the two words that shut most of our prayers down. Here they are:

"Be with..."

If you were to record my prayers, I have a sad suspicion you'd hear a lot of "be with": "Dear Lord, I pray you will be with Tom as he goes to work, and be with Mary also, who's having her wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday, and be with...and be with...and be with...and be with us all. Amen."

This is unimaginative. It's limited. It's certainly not spiritually ambitious, like Paul is. And it is, I think, unnecessary. Jesus said, "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). He's promised to be with Tom and with Mary. It's a bit of a waste to make the sum total of my prayer for them the request that Jesus would do what he already said he'd do, and has already started doing.

Search the Scriptures, and you won't find a prayer recorded that just asks God to "be with" his people. The prayers of the saints have far more weighty, far more spiritual concerns.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we can all understand the intent behind our "be with" prayers. Maybe we could expand them into prayers pleading that our friends and family would actually sense God's presence and walk boldly into whatever circumstance they find themselves, knowing that Yahweh, the creator of all that is, loves them and will never give up on them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Keith Green Isn't Feeling Like Himself

Here we are at the seventh song on Keith Green's first album (For Him Who Has Ears to Hear), and Keith is speaking on behalf of Lucifer.

I kid you not.

Lucifer, Satan, Fallen Angel

Instead of singing, "Hey, people, Biblical truth is still Biblical truth! Satan is not a fairy tale!", Green puts on the persona of the chief fallen angel and proudly sings "No One Believes in Me Anymore (Satan's Boast)".

Oh, my job keeps getting easier
As time keeps slippin' away
I can imitate the brightest light
And make the night look just like day
I put some truth in every lie
To tickle itching ears
You know, I'm drawing people just like flies
'Cause they like what they hear
I'm gaining power by the hour
They're falling by the score
You know it's getting very simple now
Since no one believes in me anymore!

Oh, heaven's just a state of mind
My books read on your shelf
Or have you heard that God is dead?
I made that one up myself
They're dabbling with magic spells
They get their fortunes read
You know, they heard the truth
But turned away
And then followed me instead
I used to have to sneak around
But now they just open their doors
No one's watching for my tricks
Since no one believes in me anymore!

Everyone likes a winner
With my help, you're guaranteed to win
Hey man, you ain't no sinner!
No, you've got the truth within
And as your life slips by you believe the lie
That you did it on your own
But don't worry
I'll be there to help you share
Our dark eternal home
Our dark eternal home!

Oh, my job keeps getting easier
As day slips into day
The magazines, the newspapers
Print every word I say
This world is just my spinning top
It's all like child's play
You know, I dream that it will never stop
But I know it's not that way
Still, my work goes on and on
Always stronger than before
I'm gonna make it dark before the dawn
Since no one believes in me anymore!

Well, I used to have to sneak around
But now they just open their doors
You know, no one's watching for my tricks
Since no one believes in me anymore!
Well, I'm gaining power by the hour,
They're falling by the score,
You know, it's getting very easy now
Since no one believes in me anymore!
No one believes in me anymore!
No one BELIEVES in me anymore!
©1977 April Music

Truth is...It wouldn't be fair to expect a song to take the place of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters in just three minutes and twenty seconds, but this could certainly be Side One, Song One of an album full of music inspired by that classic book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Health Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

One good thing about a longer commute: I've been listening to the podcast, Truth for Life, featuring my favorite Scottish preacher, Alistair Begg. I started listening because I loved hearing his brogue, but he really is a solid, interesting Bible expositor.

Alistair Begg

I'm also currently reading a book by Begg, Pray Big: Learn to Pray Like an Apostle, wherein he looks at the prayers of Paul contained in his letter to the Ephesians.

There's an interesting section in the second chapter, "Prayer is Spiritual (But Not Impractical)," that makes me take a pause:

     Praying about health (which, if we had the chance to listen in on the prayers of Western Christians, would likely come in at number one) is rare  -  almost non-existent  -  in the Bible. So why are we praying about it so much?
     It's because we don't want to die.
     We want to live. We've got a sneaking suspicion that what we've got now, this side of death, is actually better than what God has for us then, on the other side of death. So we want to hang on to what we've got. But instead, we need to believe  -  really believe  -  that these things are true:
God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ  -  by grace you have been saved  -  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV)
     You have now been raised with Christ into the heavenly places. You have been made part of a family that will never come to an end. One day, you will live in a new heaven and a new earth. You will see your God face to face and, with a heart no longer burdened and distracted by sin and a body no longer broken and decaying in frailty, you will praise him.
     And you and I just want to pray that we'd stay healthy and live long?! All that matters may be brought before God, but what we bring before God is not always what matters most.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...It is so easy to get caught up in what we can see, taste, smell, hear, and touch and lose "sight" of what's most important. I'm not saying it's okay to be "so heavenly-minded that you're no earthly good," but there's no value in living life the other way around, either.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Your Love Broke Through

Like every good tale of spiritual conversion, Keith Green's "Your Love Broke Through" starts by describing what he was like before Jesus, continues with what it was like meeting Jesus, and ends by declaring what life is like while following Jesus.

Like a foolish dreamer trying to build a highway to the sky
All my hopes would come tumbling down and I never knew just why
Until today, when you pulled away the clouds that hung like curtains on my eyes
Well I've been blind all these wasted years and I thought I was so wise
But then you took me by surprise

Like waking up from the longest dream
How real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy
That blinded me
Until your love broke through

All my life I've been searching for that crazy missing part
And with one touch you just rolled away the stone that held my heart
And now I see that the answer was as easy as just asking you in
And I am so sure I could never doubt your gentle touch again
It's like the power of the wind

Like waking up from the longest dream
How real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy
That blinded me
Until your love, your love broke through
©1976 April Music/King of Hearts Music

Truth is..."Sharing your testimony" really is just that simple. And not all that different from "Amazing Grace," eh? "I once was blind, but now I see."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Your Church Is a Mission Outpost

Have you ever thought about the possibility of your church shutting its doors for good?

Sounds weird to most of us, I suspect.

Most of us see a building and a parking lot and a staff of professional speaker/teachers and think of our church as a well-established institution.

We understand when a radio station or podcast ministry says they depend on the financial support of their listeners. We get it when a missionary in Africa or Central America expresses a need for funds to be able to reach the unreached. But somehow, we expect our church to, like Old Man River, just keep rollin' along, no matter what.

Truth is...your church is just as much a mission outpost as a no-walled, thatched-roof shelter in the jungles of Nicaragua. It is a tiny portion of the Body of Christ embedded in a culture that is foreign to the ways of Christ. And it depends on the grace of God, expressed through the financial support of her members (that would be you), to continue to exist and serve and advance the Kingdom. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #23

It's interesting that the author of this week's Jesus quote identified himself as "an historian." H. G. Wells is best-known for his works of science fiction like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. Maybe he considered such works as before-their-time history books.

He certainly had a keen eye for the condition of humankind and the intricacies of sociology, and it led him to make the following observation:

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

It brings to mind the piece, "One Solitary Life," attributed to James Allen Francis:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30. Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn't go to college. He never lived in a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned--put together--have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.

Truth is...Whatever a person makes of Jesus, it's certainly difficult to ignore him. Non-believers often go to the point of using his name to swear...that in itself implies some kind of significance, does it not?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Laughing All the Way to the Throne

Humor and holiness are not enemies.

Case in point: "He'll Take Care of the Rest," which is the fifth song on Keith Green's album, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear.

In the midst of encouraging his listeners to trust in God's providence, Keith light-heartedly recalls some Bible stories that are examples of God's trustworthiness. It's not the silly, laugh-out-loud humor experienced in many of Randy Stonehill's songs, but it's enough to at least make a person grin.

You know it ain't no use in banging your head
Up against that cold stone wall
'Cause nobody's perfect, except for the Lord
And even the best bound to fall

Remember He is divine and you are de branch
He'd love to get you through it if you'd give Him a chance
Just keep doing your best and pray that it's blessed
And Jesus takes care of the rest

Yes the Lord said that He'll take care of the rest, He's gonna do it
Well He'll take care of the rest, He'll see you through it, yeah
Well He'll take care of the rest, the devil blew it
Well He'll take care of the
He'll take care of the rest

Just think about Moses, in front of the burning bush
Barefoot on the holy ground
You know, he must have been thinking
Hey what's an old dude like me gonna tell 'em all
When I go down? (Go down Moses!)

The Lord said, "Hey Moe
Don't you worry about you going down south
I'll be saying every word that comes out of your mouth
You just keep doing your best and pray that it's blessed
Hey Moe, I'll take care of the rest"

Yes the Lord said that He'll take care of the rest, He's gonna do it
Well He'll take care of the rest, He'll see you through it, yeah
Well He'll take care of the rest, old Pharaoh blew it
He'll take care of the
He'll take care of the rest

Just believe and you'll receive
That comfort you need
You just think about all those lonely people you know
They got everything they want
but they got empty souls
Well, He'll take care of the, He'll take care of the
He'll take care of the, care of the rest

You just think about Noah toting his umbrella
When there wasn't a cloud in the sky
All his neighbors would laugh at his pet giraffe
And they would snicker as he'd passed by

But the Lord said, "Hey Noah
Be cool, just keep building that boat
It's just a matter of time till they see who's gonna float
You just keep doing your best, and pray that it's blessed
Hey Noah, I'll take care of the rest, I'm the weatherman"

The Lord said that He'll take care of the rest, He's gonna do it
He'll take care of the rest, He'll see you through it, yeah
Well He'll take care of the rest, his neighbors blew it
He'll take care of the
He'll take care of the

He'll take care of the rest
He's gonna do it yeah
He'll take care of the rest
Only Jesus will see you through it
He'll take care of the rest
Yes, yes, yes
He'll take care of the
He'll take care of the

He'll take care of the rest
You better believe it
He'll take care of the rest
Only the pure in heart receive it
He'll take care of the rest
Yes, yes, yes
He'll take care of the
He'll take care of the

He'll take care of the rest
He'll take care of the rest
Only Jesus can give it to ya

He'll take care of the rest
©1977 April Music

Truth is...I once was asked about my "ability" to go from laughing to praying in a blink of an eye. The answer is, what with Yahweh loving me so well, how could I separate the two to begin with?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

4 Signs You've Got a "Hot Dog" Faith

I like meat.

Beef, pork, chicken, fish (I don't care WHAT some people say, trout is meat), rabbit, bison...practically anything except escargot is more than fine with me. (And even escargot is tolerable with enough garlic butter.)

I even like hot dogs, though there is an argument to be made they don't technically qualify as being meat. (Ball Park's ingredient list features corn syrup, potassium lactate, salt, sodium phosphates, water, sodium erythorbate, maltodextrin, and  -  oh look! some actual meat!  -  pork and "mechanically-separated chicken".)

I am not, however, a fan of hot dog faith.

I came across this term in my Sunday School class while we were using J. D. Greear's study on the book of Judges, produced by RightNow Media. It refers to constructing a faith by mixing together pieces of Biblical truth with cultural norms and popular philosophies...basically taking the Grade A U.S. Choice steak of Truth and turning it into a hot dog.

Here's a partial list of things some well-meaning people firmly believe that just aren't scriptural:

All roads lead to heaven.  -  This is a pleasant attempt to dissolve any sense of conflict between different religions but doesn't make much sense for the religions that don't even believe in the existence of heaven. It also stands in stark disagreement with Jesus' statement, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

God is in control.  -  I've written a whole post about this (which you can read by clicking here), but suffice it to say that not only is this not found in the Bible, but it leads people to actually reject Yahweh: "If God is in control, he must be an uncaring monster. Look at all the bad stuff that happens!"

Everything happens for a reason.  -  This is a cousin to "God is in control," and is a misreading of Romans 8:28, "We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." That does NOT say that God causes everything. IF it's true that everything happens for a reason, sometimes the reason is that people make bad choices.

God has a wonderful plan for your life.  -  "Now wait a minute, Dewey! This is the first of the four spiritual laws that have helped to lead thousands of people to Christ. Are you telling me it's not true?!!?" Slow down, my friend. Take a breath. This one is true, but only to a certain extent. It's true that God has some glorious intentions for us to live a life filled with joy that extends into eternity, but nowhere in Scripture will you find anything about God's plans for our lives involving which college to attend, who you should marry, or which route to take to work.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Enjoying a Labor Day hot dog is not going to have a long-term detrimental effect on your health, but a steady diet of nothing but potassium lactate and mechanically-separated chicken isn't going to take you anywhere good.

Let's feast on the Word.