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.

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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.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #24

I never heard of S. D. Gordon until doing a tiny bit of research on number 24 of azquotes.com's list of "Top 25 Jesus Quotes."

Gordon was born in 1859 and died in 1936 after a life of Christian speaking, writing, and missionary work. He published over 25 devotional books, most of which were part of his "Quiet Talks" series (e.g., Quiet Talks on Prayer, Quiet Talks about the Tempter, Quiet Talks on Power, etc.).

It's only a guess, but I'm thinking today's featured quote is probably from his book, Quiet Talks about Jesus, published in 1906.

Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that men can understand.

I'm happy to report there are Scriptural references to back up S. D. Gordon's assertion:

Matthew 1: 23  -  The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).

John 14:9  -  [Jesus talking] Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...even though I agree with Gordon's quote, I have to admit that there are still things about Jesus that I don't completely understand. But you know what? I think that's part of the plan. If our minds could totally explain Yahweh, he wouldn't be much of a God, now would he?

For more on the inability to understand Jesus, featuring a Rich Mullins song, take a look at this post from 2015.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Stop Trying So Hard

Can we finally kill off the notion that our relationship with Yahweh is determined by the balance of good and bad deeds we accomplish? Can we stop living our lives in fear of not being good enough?

According to Keith Green's song, "When I Hear the Praises Start," the answer is yes...yes we can.

My son, my son, why are you striving
You can't add one thing to what's been done for you
I did it all while I was dying
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you

For when I hear the praises start
I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To me, you're only holy
Nothing that you've done remains
Only what you do for me

My child, my child, why are you weeping
You will not have to wait forever
That day and that hour is in my keeping
The day I'll bring you into heaven

For when I hear the praises start
My child, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To me, you're only holy
Nothing that you've done remains
Only what you do in me
Just what you do for me

My precious bride, the day is nearing
When I'll take you in my arms and hold you
I know there are so many things that you've been hearing
But you just hold on to what I told you

For when I hear the praises start
My bride, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child, and you know me
To me, you're only holy
Nothing that you've done will remain
Only what you do for me
©1977 April Music

Truth is...the good news of the gospel really is good news. We don't need to try to live up to a list of rules and expectations. Our challenge is to live lives of gratitude for what Jesus has already done on our behalf.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Wise Words Ignored By Their Speaker

Every so often, Hollywood comes up with some words of wisdom that have the potential to change lives for the better.

Hollywood Sign and Cross

The example I'm thinking of right now is a short line spoken by a fictional character named Lance Clayton:

"If you're that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

Truth is...the movie was 2009's World's Greatest Dad and the actor playing the part of Lance Clayton was Robin Williams...who committed suicide August 11, 2014.

Oh, if only Williams would have truly allowed the scriptwriter's words to sink into his heart. If you're on the brink yourself, learn the lesson he didn't. Call 800-273-TALK or 800-NeedHim.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #25

If you've never been to azquotes.com, I urge you to make the trip. There you can find words of wit, wisdom, and whimsy. You can search by subject or by who the quote was spoken/written by.

And you can also find a list of the top 25 quotes about Jesus, as selected by the thousands of users of the site.

Or, you can hang out here for a while as we take a look at the quotes and those who are being quoted.

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Napoleon Bonapart was a man of war and political intrigue. Among other official positions, he was Emperor of France from 1804 to 1815. His biography reads like a script for an action-packed thriller.

And yet, he seems to have recognized the superiority of the spiritual when he uttered these words...

Truth is...Jesus knew there was a difference between him and the political leaders of his day. When Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36)

And to verify Napoleon's assessment, consider these words of Christ from John 13:35: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Pretty Sure God Didn't MEAN For This To Be Funny

There's an account in the Old Testament book of I Kings that always cracks me up. I'm sure it's meant as a testimony to the reality and greatness of Yahweh, but I can't help envisioning Jim Gaffigan in the role of Elijah.

It's in I Kings 18. The scene is a showdown between 450 prophets of Baal and Yahweh's sole spokesperson, Elijah. Two altars are built. Two bulls will be prepared and laid on top of the altars with some wood. The Baal-Boys and Elijah will both pray for their god to set the sacrifices on fire, and whichever deity answers will be proving which god is real.

Spoiler alert: Yahweh wins the contest, but that's not what makes me giggle. The humor I see is how Elijah taunts the prophets of Baal while they're wailing and dancing and cutting themselves...trying to get Baal to flick his Bic.

You may think I'm embellishing this to make it sound more like a stand-up comic, but this is a direct quote of I Kings 18:27 in the New Living Translation: "'You’ll have to shout louder,' he scoffed, 'for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!'"

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Truth is...One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think. (Brother Lawrence)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Because of You

I noticed something surprising about the first two songs featured in this space from Keith Green's "For Him Who Has Ears to Hear": There was no mention of Jesus. And the reason that surprised me is that my memory of Keith is his outspokenness. It seems he never held anything back, and yet, the first two songs on his first album could have been sung to his wife instead of his Lord.

No need to fret, though. Some very upfront in-your-face lyrics will show up later on. As for the third song on the album, "Because of You"? Well, Keith does use the title "Lord" at one point. 

People smile at me and ask me what it is
That makes them wanna be just like I am
So I just point to you and tell them, yes it's true
I'm no special one, I'm just one man

It's because of you
People smile at me and they say, "What a lucky guy"
Yeah, because of you
I can raise my hands in reply and say, "I'm happy because of you"

Now people can't believe, that my life used to be

Something no one had any use for
I'd stay at home each night, never shine the light
And I thank you, it'll never be like before

It's because of you

People point to me and they say "Hey, I like what that boy's got"
But because of you
I confess I don't have a lot
but what I've got is because of you

Oh oh no no no no no no no no no oh

I'm only happy because of you, Lord
Yeah because of you...
I'm only happy because of you

Well people smile at me and ask me what it is

That makes them want to be just like I am
So I just point to you and tell them, yes it's true
I'm no special one, I'm just one man

It's because of you

People smile at me and they say, "Yeah, what a lucky guy"
Yeah because of you
I can raise my hands to the sky and say, "I'm only happy because of you"
Oh yeah because of you, because of you, you, you, you
©1977 April Music

Truth is...There's never really any doubt who Keith Green is singing about, is there?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Our Father, Which Art in - SQUIRREL!

Do you ever have trouble concentrating?

Apparently, one of Brother Lawrence's correspondents had written to him confessing that his mind would wander during times of prayer. The first sentence of BL's reply is, in itself, an empathetic encouragement: "You tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving."

BL quickly goes from commiseration to wise words of advice:
I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before God. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering; hold yourself in prayer before God like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man's gate; let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord; if it sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that; trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to recollect it; the will must bring it back in tranquility; if you persevere in this manner God will have pity on you.

Truth is...it does no good to wallow around in our shortcomings. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Animal Cruelty as Entertainment

The seemingly ancient theaters of London once were new and struggling business ventures. Consider this quote from Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson...

The new theaters did not prosper equally. Within three years of its opening, the Curtain was being used for fencing bouts, and all other London playhouses, with the single eventual exception of the Globe, relied on other entertainments, particularly animal baiting, to fortify their earnings. The pastime was not unique to England, but it was regarded as an English specialty. Queen Elizabeth often had visitors from abroad entertained with bear-baiting at Whitehall. In its classic form, a bear was put in a ring, sometimes tethered to a stake, and set upon by mastiffs, but bears were expensive investments, so other animals (such as bulls and horses) were commonly substituted. One variation was to put a chimpanzee on the back of a horse and let the dogs go for both together. The sight of a screeching ape clinging for dear life to a bucking horse, while dogs leaped at it from below, was considered about as rich an amusement as public life could offer. That an audience that could be moved to tears one day by a performance of Doctor Faustus could return the next day to the same space and be just as entertained by the frantic deaths of helpless animals may say as much about the age as any single statement could.

This reminds me of a couple things in Scripture.

  • First, the quick turnaround the crowds of Jerusalem made between shouting "Hosanna!" on Sunday and "Crucify him!" on Friday.
  • Second, the words of James in chapter 3, verses 7-10: "For every wild animal on earth including birds, creeping reptiles, and creatures of the sea and land have all been overpowered and tamed by humans, but the tongue is not able to be tamed. It’s a fickle, unrestrained evil that spews out words full of toxic poison! We use our tongue to praise God our Father and then turn around and curse a person who was made in his very image! Out of the same mouth we pour out words of praise one minute and curses the next. My brothers and sister, this should never be!" (The Passion Translation)

Truth is...none of us should be surprised at the behavior of the British bear-baiters or the Jerusalem crowds. We all carry the same tendency.