Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Keep Him Away in a Manger

What follows is a reprint of this blog's very first Christmas post from December 25, 2012.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Keep him away in a manger, no crib for a bed
I'd rather not think of the thorns 'round his head
It pains me to picture his back beaten raw
Just give me the baby, asleep on the straw

The cattle! The wise men from far, distant lands!
The little Lord Jesus who makes no demands
I love the old carols and things in that vein
Just stay in the cradle and don't make me change

Be Little Lord Christchild, I ask thee to stay
The babe in a manger forever, I pray
To die when you're perfect would be such a loss
It's far too disturbing: the blood and the cross

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...this really is the desire of a lot of folks; enamored with the romanticism and fairytale quality of The Christmas Story, but uncomfortable with the grisly necessity of Good Friday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas Song For All Year 'Round

Taking this song out of order in our review of Randy Stonehill's Welcome to Paradise for seasonal reasons...

"Christmas Song For All Year 'Round" is the penultimate song of the album, and in several ways, it packs the hardest punch. Not musically, because it sounds like a Christmas lullaby, but the poignant, simple, bittersweet lyric does far more than tug at the heart...grasp it with both hands and wring it dry is more like it.

I wonder if this Christmas they'll begin to understand
The Jesus that they celebrate is much more than a man
'Cause the way the world is, I don't see how people can deny
The only way to save us was for Jesus Christ to die

And I know that if St. Nicholas was here, he would agree
That Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me
They led him to the slaughter on a hill called Calvary
And mankind was forgiven when they nailed him to the tree

But most of all the children, they're the ones I hope will learn
That Jesus is our savior and he's going to return
And Christmas isn't just a day and all days aren't the same
Perhaps they'll think about the word and see it spells his name

And I know that if St. Nicholas was here, he would agree
That Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me
They led him to the slaughter on a hill called Calvary
And mankind was forgiven, mankind was forgiven
We were all forgiven when they nailed him to the tree

So Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.

I wonder if this Christmas they'll begin to understand
©1976 King of Hearts Publishing

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...when I sang this song for my former-girlfriend's mother (yes, we were still friends, even when the dating stopped), she balked at the phrase "led him to the slaughter." She said it sounded too violent. Probably what led me to write "Keep Him Away in a Manger," which you can read here next week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Stay and Get Your Love

One doesn't necessarily expect to be moved to tears because of a television commercial. Especially a television commercial featuring the poppy little 1974 tune by Redbone, "Come and Get Your Love."

And yet...

The perfect casting, the fun song, the subtle acting, the storyline of "This is fun/this is lame/this is love"...oh my yes.

Truth is...It may take a lifetime to fully appreciate some family members, but the payoff for hanging in there is well worth the investment. And hang on to that thought the next time you start thinking about switching churches for anything other than deep theological differences.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Cost of Forgiveness

Colossians 3:13 is used quite a bit to encourage believers to forgive people who have wronged them, and rightly so. I mean, just read it:

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Nice and simple in the New International Version, right? You should forgive others because, after all, God forgave you.

That's the way it's always been taught to me, but just yesterday I started really thinking about that last phrase: "...as the Lord forgave you."

Paul didn't say "because the Lord forgave you." He said "as." As in, "Forgive in the same way the Lord forgave you."

My standard flesh-out-the-meaning translation, the Amplified Bible, says it like this: "just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive."

And then it struck me.

Think of what God did in order to forgive you! Yahweh doesn't just flippantly override His perfect justice and say, "Don't worry about all the wrong you've done. I've decided it doesn't matter."


In order to satisfy justice and yet offer us forgiveness, the God of all creation made the greatest sacrifice of all. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13 NIV)

It cost Jesus His very life to be able to forgive us. Why would we expect to be able to forgive others without it costing us something? For example, when I've forgiven someone, I've promised to never bring the matter up again...and that's a hard promise to keep. How many times have I wanted to say, "But what about the time I forgave you for...?!!?"

Truth is...forgiveness has never been easy, but for any kind of relationship to work, or just to be able to walk through life without the burden of keeping a grudge intact, it's absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Musical Ventriloquism: The Winner (High Card)

Just because someone sings a song in the first person doesn't mean the singer is being autobiographical.

That shouldn't be a shocking revelation, considering all the songs out there that are basically Jesus singing: "Rise Again" by Dallas Holm, "That Where I Am There You May Also Be" by Rich Mullins, etc.

But there are other songs where the singer being the voice for someone else isn't quite as obvious. Case in point, "The Winner (High Card)" by Randy Stonehill. It's the third song on the Welcome to Paradise album, which means it's still on the side expressing the lostness and searching of the human condition without Christ.

I'm a wheeler, a dealer
the man who's in control
Don't talk about my feelings
Don't talk about my soul
Well you know my time is money
so I've got no time to spend
But when you've got some business
won't you come on by again

I'm the winner and I made it to the top
and I took it all just like I planned
I'm the man who holds the high card in his hand

I'm an owner, a loaner
a master at the game
I've got that golden Midas touch
and people know my name
There were times I held the low cards baby
Well I knew they weren't enough
But I just kept my poker face
and won it on the bluff

I'm the winner and I made it to the top
and I took it all just like I planned
I'm the man who holds the high card in his hand

I'm not in trouble
I have no need to pray
My profits double
Day by day by day by day by day

It's not easy to see me 
I'm an influential man
And I never needed anyone
to build my promised land
So don't tell me about Jesus
'cause He's just too hard to sell
And I never trust in strangers
that's the first rule I learned well

I'm the winner and I made it to the top
and I took it all just like I planned
I'm the man who holds the high card in his hand

I'm the winner look at me now I'm the winner

©1976 King of Hearts Publishing

Truth is...[From Stonehill's liner notes for the 25th anniversary CD] I told [Jim Steele] I wanted to write a song about the carnal counterfeit version of success that a dark world often uses to seduce our hungry hearts...and Jim jump-started the lyric singing, "I'm an owner, a loaner, the man who's in control." I said, "Yep, that's the right approach! If we write a preachy song about what an empty lifestyle being a corporate carnivore is, it will be much easier for people to ignore. Let's write it from the 'first-person perspective' instead. Let's tell the story through the eyes of the hollow victor. That way, the lie is exposed by the tongue of its' victim!"

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Big Ten In Simple Terms

Exodus 10:1-17 is where a person can find what we've come to call The Ten Commandments. Through several centuries, they've been respected as a good way to live your life, whether you particularly believe in God or not.

In an effort to get them off the page and into our lives, allow me to offer them in a more-understandable format than the traditional Thou Shalt Nots.

1.  I am your only God. Keep it that way.

2.  Accept no substitutes or representations. Why? Because not only am I "jealous" and do I inflict judgment (x4), but I am also abundantly merciful and loving (x1,000).

3.  Don't use my name lightly, frivolously, or in making false affirmations.

4.  Honor and trust me by resting one day a week. Keep that day set apart for my purposes in you.

5.  Treat your parents with all due obedience and courtesy.

6.  Don't murder.

7.  Don't cheat on your spouse  -  even if you aren't married yet.

8.  Don't take what isn't yours.

9. Don't tell lies about anyone.

10.  Don't jealously desire what someone else has.

Truth is...It really is as simple as that. And yet, even with just this short list, we still find ourselves in desperate need of a savior. This Thanksgiving, I choose to be thankful that Yahweh met that desperate need.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Does God Need Me?

The 17th chapter of Exodus has a couple incidents in it that might make those who emphasize the sovereignty...the total self-sufficiency and omnipotence...of God come up short.

In verses one through seven, the former slaves are apparently taken by surprise that walking through the desert results in them getting thirsty, so they whine and complain and tell Moses to give them some water...as if he's keeping a tanker truck full of liquid refreshment all to himself.

Acting on orders from Yahweh, Moses stands in front of everybody and hits a rock with his staff...a rock which then pours out enough water to quench the thirst of the million or so grumblers.

Then, in verses eight through thirteen, the Israelites and the Amalekites do battle, but the Israelites only do well when Moses' hands are raised. If he gets tired and lowers his arms, the Amalekites start gaining the advantage. Eventually, Aaron and Hur stand on either side of Moses while he sits so he can rest his upstretched hands on them and the army of Israel prevails.

Now...could God have provided water without the theatrics of Moses hitting a rock? Could Yahweh have given the army of Israel a victory without Aaron and Hur holding up Moses' hands?


Truth is...I am currently in the midst of a job transition and wondering what door the Lord might be opening for me. I am searching and praying and hoping that I'll soon get hired so I can keep buying groceries and making the mortgage payments.

With that in mind, I think you can understand how the words I wrote in my journal back on April 16, 2002 in response to Exodus 17 are particularly impactful for me today:
For some reason, God chose to do His mighty acts through Moses, rather than personally. (What kind of acts do You want to do through me, Lord?)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If The Eagles Loved Jesus: Keep Me Runnin'

I'm not sure I particularly agree with the second song on Randy Stonehill's classic album, Welcome to Paradise, but man...it sounds so good.

Maybe the reason "Keep Me Runnin'" is so musically pleasing is because Randy wrote it in an attempt to sound like the Eagles. He actually asked himself "Now if Glenn Frey and Don Henley were Christians, what kind of song would they write?"

Keep me runnin' from the shadow of my lies
Like a gypsy who is never satisfied
Once you compromise your soul
You spend a lifetime dodging the devil's toll

Keep me runnin', keep me coverin' up my tracks
Keep me runnin' so I'm always looking back
Always restless in my dreams
And trouble's never too far behind it seems

Keep me runnin', keep me movin'
Keep me always on the go
Keep me makin' sure my footprints never show
Keep me runnin' keep me movin'
Keep me numb from head to toe
Keep me hiding where my past will never go

Keep me runnin' from the sins I can't erase
Like an outlaw with a mask to hide his face
Once I was told that love could fly
Yeah but it's been so long
I just don't remember why

Keep me runnin', keep me movin'
Keep me always on the go
Keep me makin' sure my footprints never show
Keep me runnin' keep me movin'
Keep me numb from head to toe
Keep me hiding where my past will never go

Keep me runnin'...
©1976 King of Hearts Publishing

Truth is...this song is on the "Paradise Lost" side of the album and is meant to evoke "the tension and turmoil of the human heart in flight from all of life's shadows and the spiritual warfare in our souls" (Randy Stonehill in the 25th-anniversary liner notes). So of course I don't "particularly agree with" it...I mean, it's true for what it's meant to do, but the deeper, "truer" truth is that Jesus takes care of all of that turmoil: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

In It For The Kicks?

This falls under the category of "Something I Found While Looking For Something Else".

While I certainly have been aware of the song "Kicks" by Paul Revere & the Raiders for almost my whole life, the Truth in the lyric only recently jumped out at me. This popular 1960's rock group certainly went against the "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out" tide when they sang...

Girl, you thought you found the answer
On that magic carpet ride last night
But when you wake up in the mornin'
The world still gets you uptight

Well, there's nothin' that you ain't tried
To fill the emptiness inside
But when you come back down, girl
Still ain't feelin' right

And don't it seem like
Kicks just keep gettin' harder to find
And all your kicks ain't bringin' you peace of mind
Before you find out it's too late, girl
You better get straight

No, but not with kicks
You just need help, girl

Well you think you're gonna find yourself
A little piece of paradise
But it ain't happened yet
So girl, you better think twice

Don't you see, no matter what you do
You'll never run away from you
And if you keep on runnin'
You'll have to pay the price

And don't it seem like
Kicks just keep gettin' harder to find
And all your kicks ain't bringin' you peace of mind
Before you find out it's too late, girl
You better get straight

No, you don't need kicks
To help you face the world each day
That road goes nowhere
I'm gonna help you find yourself another way

Kicks just keep gettin' harder to find
(Oh, you don't need kicks, girl)
And all your kicks ain't bringin' you peace of mind
(You just need help, girl)
Before you find out it's too late, girl
You better get straight

The anti-drug message is certainly clear, but there are other truths that deserve some attention:

  • That magic carpet ride last night  -  This song appeared two years before Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride", so...so there.
  • Well, there's nothin' that you ain't tried to fill the emptiness inside  -  Reminds me just a bit of words credited to Pascal (wrongly): There is a God-shaped hole in the life of every [person]. While the "quote" is a paraphrase of something Pascal wrote, I think the concept is true. We seem to have been created with a desire for a relationship with our creator that we will continually try to satisfy by any available means until we get the real thing.
  • Don't you see, no matter what you do, you'll never run away from you  -  A physical truth, to be sure, but here's a spiritual application: If you're going from church to church, never committing to any particular group because you're looking for the perfect church...give it up. Even if you find "the perfect church," that will change the minute you step through the doors.

Truth is...the first thing I thought of when I started getting serious about the song "Kicks" was this story told by Rich Mullins (minutes 14:05-15:21 of a lecture posted on You Tube):
A very interesting thing happened in Witchita, Kansas. A bunch of people who had been going to my church a few years went over to visit The Vineyard. And after they started visiting The Vineyard, they decided to join The Vineyard, so they went up and, you know went forward and the pastor said, "Why do you want to join our church?" And they said, "Well, because your worship is just so exciting to us!" And you know what the pastor of The Vinyard said? He said, "Go back to your old church. We don't really particularly need you in this congregation. Because this is what will happen. You used to go to the church where you've been going about three or four years because you got a buzz out of it. So suddenly, you come to visit our church and we give you a better buzz. So you decide that, suddenly, you no longer want to be faithful to the church where you're a member...suddenly you're going to a church that gives you a better buzz. You know what's gonna happen is that you're gonna get used to the way we do our worship service here and then you're not going to get the buzz out of it and you'll go seek out another church. You'll end up being the member of about 50 dozen churches by the time you're fifty...and you won't have helped anybody. And you won't have grown. Because you will have gone from one goosebump feeling to another.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Original Ragamuffin On God's Love & Compassion

I only experienced Brennan Manning in person once in my life, and he was not as animated and on fire as he is in the short clip I'd like to share with you today.

But whether excited and flamboyant, or quiet and introspective, he always delivered the message that God loves us...




Truth is...I hope you are encouraged today. I hope you are inspired to greatness today. I hope you accept the love of Christ today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

King of Hearts

Have you ever heard the line, "I used to be high on drugs, but now I'm high on the Lord"? It became kind of a cliche for personal testimonies in the Sixties and Seventies...especially among the ex-hippies that made up most of the "Jesus Movement."

Cliche or not, it was fitting for Randy Stonehill, who went to L.A. in search of a musical mentor in Larry Norman. Randy certainly got what he was looking for, but he also found out about Jesus and asked Him to take over...a story that Randy sings about in the song "Norman's Kitchen".

Stonehill went on to become one of the foundation stones (or maybe I should say "rockers") of "Jesus Music", which has now morphed into Contemporary Christian Music, or CCM. In fact, his 1976 album, Welcome to Paradise, is considered one of the very best from the era and holds a special place in the hearts of most of us who were hip to that jive.

Having introduced the readers of this blog to Larry Norman's In Another Land, I feel led to do the same with this very special album from this very special artist.

Welcome to Paradise opens with "King of Hearts," a quiet call for the listener to follow Jesus instead of wandering lost in a world full of pain and fear.

All alone drifting wild
Like a ship that's lost out in the ocean
Everyone's a homeless child
And it's not hard to understand
Why we need a Father's hand
There's a rainbow somewhere
You were born to be there
You're just running in circles
Till you reach out your hand to the King of hearts

Pockets full of pain and fear
That's a load there's just no need to carry
Let it go and leave it here
Now there's no price that's left to pay
With one more mile or one more day
There's a rainbow somewhere
You were born to be there
You're just running in circles
Till you reach out your hand to the King of hearts

You can try to catch the wind
But in the end, you're only wasting precious time
Life can really be so kind
Once you find the truth and follow
Go on follow, go on follow

(Repeat 1st Verse)
There's a rainbow somewhere
You were born to be there
You're just running in circles
Till you reach out your hand
Till you reach out your hand
Till you reach out your hand to the King of hearts
There's a rainbow somewhere
©1976 King of Hearts Publishing

Truth is...In the words of a different old song (by Diane Ball), "[God] makes all things beautiful in His time." Beautiful...like a rainbow. If you're just running in circles, maybe it's time for YOU to reach out your hand to the King of Hearts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Victim or Victor?

Are you a victim or a victor? It's your choice.

Don't believe me? Check out this short video featuring Alvin Law, a person who was born armless, but not optionless. (A big thank you to Goalcast for making this available.)

Truth is...this is not the first time you've seen Alvin here. He's part of the "Yes I Can!" music video featured in a previous post that you can see if you CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

How To Be Creatively Inspired

It takes more than waiting around for inspiration to do inspiring work.

Case in point: George Gershwin, as described in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.

"To me George was a little sad all the time because he had this compulsion to work," Ira Gershwin said of his brother. "He never relaxed." Indeed, Gershwin typically worked for twelve hours or more a day, beginning in the late morning and going until past midnight. He started the day with a breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and orange juice, then immediately began composing, sitting at the piano in his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers. He would take breaks for a mid-afternoon lunch, a late-afternoon walk, and supper at about 8:00. If Gershwin had a party to attend in the evening, it was not unusual for him to return home after midnight and plunge back into work until dawn. He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse he would compose at most three songs a year. It was better to work every day. "Like the pugilist," Gershwin said, "the songwriter must always keep in training."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

The apostle Paul would probably agree with Gershwin. "Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains—for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for an eternal crown that will never fade. I run the race then with determination. I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight! I am my body’s sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified." (I Corinthians 9:24-27 Phillips)

Truth is...Do you want to be close to God? To hear His voice? To feel led by the Spirit? To do inspiring things for the Kingdom? Then get up out of your seat and show us your faith by your works. (James 2:18)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hymn to the Last Generation

Go big or go home, right? Well, Larry Norman did both when he ended the album In Another Land (and his present-past-future album trilogy) with the grand-sounding-though-less-than-two-minutes-long "Hymn to the Last Generation".

The title and the first half of the lyric definitely put this in the same end-times/apocalyptic vein as some other songs on the album: Might as well face it, the world as we know it is coming to an end.

And then we get the evangelistic plea and the promise of a better life to come: There's no need to fear; Jesus Christ is here.

Come to reason
Face the day
Now's the season
Old things pass away

Stand beside us
Take His hand
He will guide us
In another land
©1976 Beechwood Music Group
J. C. Love Publishing Co.

Truth is...Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow or a million years from now, our only hope for making our lives in this world (and the next) what they were meant to be is to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ragamuffin Rocker On "Contemporary" Worship

For faithful readers of Truth is..., it is no secret that I have a high regard for most of what came out of the mouth of singer/songwriter Rich Mullins. (Just click the "Other Posts" link that bears his name and you'll see what I mean.)

The surprise today (one day before the 21st anniversary of his death) is...I've found a series of Mullins quotes that I've never heard before. They are all about worship and they are within an article by Esther O'Reilly that I strongly encourage you to read by clicking HERE.

Maybe this single quote will encourage you to invest five minutes to read something that may enrich the rest of your life:

"I have a feeling that maybe sound doctrine is more important than goosebumps."

Truth is...watching the "It Is Well" clip found at the end of the article may be the best thing you've done for your spirit all week. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Seventeen Years Ago Today

I've been reading through my old journals to see if there were any nuggets of truth worth sharing here. While I'm not sure about the concept of worth, the following entries are certainly timely, considering today's date.

[A word of explanation: At the time these were written, I was working through the night, sleeping during the day, and waking up at about the time my children came home from school in the afternoon.]

September 12, 2001, Wednesday

     Yesterday afternoon, I was getting up just as Curtis came home from school. He came in and asked if I knew about all the stuff. "I just got up. What do you mean?"
     Then he said that the World Trade Center towers in NYC weren't there anymore; that some planes got hijacked and flown into them, etc.
     I kept saying, "No way...C'mon get real...what's the punch line?" until we went downstairs and turned on the TV.

September 14, 2001, Friday

     So, Lord, what do YOU think? Is this going to end up being a war? Or a prolonged crime investigation? Is this finally the beginning of the end?
     Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

September 15, 2001, Saturday

     Yahweh, silence the foolish talkers; those who would seek attention for themselves by spouting off sensational myths in response to Tuesday's attacks. Keep them from furthering the stereotype of Christians as narrow-minded, reactionary, and judgmental. Take the goose-down out of their blanket statements. I pray specifically against their sweeping generalities.
     Thank You for the opportunity that Franklin Graham took to preach the Gospel in his brief interview with Tom Brokaw Friday night!
     And may the nation's prayers turn from "strengthen and protect us" to "forgive, save, and change us."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...It's seventeen years later, and that change in our national prayers is still needed.