Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Keith Green, Enough Said

It was 28 years ago today that the music died for me. Not just the music, but the most passionate Christian I knew of. Keith Green was only a Christian about 7 years. He wasn't a theological giant, but he probably learned a lot more than most believers do in 7 years. He wasn't an evangelist of the renown of Billy Graham, but hey, 7 YEARS! God used him incredibly in that time.
But 28 years ago today I was driving an 18 wheeler through the Crockett Forest in East Texas in the wee hours of the morning. I was listening to Larry King's all night radio show when there was a news interruption that a plane crash in northeast Texas had occurred and there were a number of people dead, including a missionary family and an evangelist.
There are many evangelists in east Texas, they're just about a dime or 15 cents a dozen. But in my gut I thought of Keith green. He's was generally described as a Christian Musician and Songwriter but I just had a bad feeling about that news report beyond what was said. Sure enough, within the hour the names of the dead were revealed and Keith Green and two of he and Melody Green's children perished with him; as well as a pilot and a missionary family.
I drove, and cried, and prayed. I prayed that at least a small portion of Keith's mantle would fall on me. I told the Lord I would try to live up to all the anointing He passed on to me, but I didn't feel worthy of the whole mantle of such a Passionate follower of Christ as Keith Green.
On July the 28th, 28 years ago, I was 28, and Keith was 29. I never met him but heard him sing on a couple of occasions and had several of his recordings. I was always amazed by his policy of sending a record to anyone who wrote and said they couldn't afford to buy one. Keith cared more about the gospel than his recording career. 
He wasn't very "reformed" in his theology (as am I) but he influenced people like John Piper and Jon Bloom. And he wrote things like, You Put This Love in my Heart, and Your Love Broke Through, and There is a Redeemer. Sound musically, evangelistically, and most importantly, sound theologically and expressing his passion for Jesus.
Keith, I love ya man. Thanks for all you did for me!
Someday in Heaven I'd like to sing Your Love Broke Through with you. OK?

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 though 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, until your love, broke through

Here's another tribute the Keith Green:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'll Say a Poem For You

Once upon a time there was a land with genteel customs. They demonstrated concern for one another in nice ways. They said "Bless You" when someone sneezed. They said "Thank You" for gifts and kindnesses and even for their meals. And a very widespread custom across the land was the wish, "I'll say a poem for you."
When someone was ill, a friend would say, "I'll say a poem for you." When someone had a big test at school, they'd hear, "I'll say a poem for you." If someone lost their wedding ring or even the remote to their TV, you guessed it, "I'll say a poem for you." Even their President would close his addresses with, "And remember, I'll say a poem for you."
Now the usual response to this was various forms of gratitude. "Oh you're so kind." "Thank you very much." "Oh, would you? How sweet." But the fact is, among many adults, and especially the more "High society" types, the poem was rarely actually said. Sure they would teach their children to do it, and if they were visiting someone in the hospital they would say the poem for them before they left. If they were asked to say a poem at the beginning of a meal or at a formal meeting, they would always graciously comply. But mostly, they just didn't get around to it.
A child might say for a friend or grandparent:
"I really hope that you get better
So that you can watch our setter
when we go across the nation
On our next family vacation."
"If you would soon become OK
Then we could play most everyday.
I hope that you will soon get well
So you don't go to the Hospi-Tel."
Of course when a child said a poem, or made a sincere stab at it, Moms and dads would say "Good Job" or "Well Done" or give Junior a high-five.
And certainly, as they got older, their poems matured as well.
A young man was heard on the PA system at a football game to say,
"Now all the players on the field
Should do their best and never yield,
To strive and fight and outperform
To overwhelm them like a storm.
But for their safety we would hope,
And if an arm should break, to cope
with sportsmanlike dignity in the end
and so depart here, friend and friend."
An older well beloved gentleman recited his favorite meal-time prayer at a large civic luncheon,
"The food looks great, the company sweet,
But I can't wait 'Cause I'm ready to eat!"
And there were smiles and peals of laughter even though they'd heard this poem many times before.
Sadly though. in most homes poems were never heard. In schools, after the obligatory Opening Poem, just after the Poem of Allegiance to the flag, there were no more heart felt poems uttered.
In business meetings, restaurants, taverns, and at neighborhood bar-b-qs, No Poems were said.
Tragically, even in the houses of poetry, an institution that set this nation apart from others, a practice that many said made their nation great; very few attended anymore, to say their poems or listen to others.
Sure some tried to get the Great poems of the past repeated and memorized, but folks just didn't go there anymore. And for all the questions and answers about why, for all the socio-cultural studies that were done, for all the pleading or haranguing for folks to return to those Places of Poetry, the simple reason was, people no longer believed they did any good.
Oh maybe they encouraged a genteel state to some degree. Maybe they helped grease the wheels of common courtesy and the course of human endeavor and interaction. but they didn't really need poetry to do that. They could just be nice and follow the Ten Stanzas and the Bill of Rhymes and all would go quite well.
But there was a quiet disappointment among many, that the beauty of their culture had been lost and replaced with a duty to rules and forms with no heart in them.
Oh how sad a people we are, (One of their sages wrote)
To make false promises near and far,
To say a poem for a friend or a child,
And then to forget it, after a while.
Where is our heart and where is our spine?
Have we forgotten oh friend of mine?
That promises made and wishes expressed
Are worth inconvenience, worthy of test.
That we should be able to say we did.
I did say a poem for you, I did!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Christian and the Fourth of July (In the USA)

We must not to equate Patriotism for the USA with patriotism for the Kingdom of God. ----One we were born or sworn into with relatively little expense. The other we were born into by the blood of the Lamb of God.

We must not confuse our country’s founders depending on God’s blessings for America-with the idea we are God’s chosen people. -We are a great country because God shed His grace on us.

We must not confuse the role of the church in the world with the role of government. ----Just because the government has taken over some of our responsibilities doesn’t mean the church should give up its role in the world as defender of the poor, champion for the oppressed, messengers of peace, and most importantly, messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Rom 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and

those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct,

but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,

4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Rev 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

What do these have in common? They are both descriptions of earthly government. One passage describes what government should do and the Christian’s response. The other what government will one day become. And believe me, the enemy has been practicing for this day in countries around the world. I’m not at all suggesting that it is here, but just keep in mind what it will one day become.

So when we celebrate Independence Day, let’s remember from what we were set free; The tyranny of King George. The tyranny of a government.
And yes, we replaced the British government with a better government. Our founders worked hard, and put their lives on the line to institute a better government and they sought the wisdom of God to do it. And I believe God blessed them. But remember, that doesn’t make our government perfect. That doesn’t mean government is good or bad. It’s like a fire. A fire is good when it’s in the fireplace on a cold night. A fire is bad when it escapes the fireplace and burns down the house. Can a fire be good? Sure, if we keep it under control! That’s why we vote, that’s why we don’t elect presidents and congressmen for life. For 230 years we have kept in under control, and gotten it back under control when it threatened to break out.

But it’s not the Kingdom of God! Yes we should celebrate our freedoms today and every day. But those freedoms pale before the freedom we have in Christ!

So what is the Christian’s response to Independence day?

I’d like to quote another preacher who preached on July the 4th a while back: Pastor Timothy Dwight began his sermon by referring to what he perceived as a dire secularist threat …

“Doctrines and teachers are rapidly spreading through the world, to engage mankind in an open and professed war against God … The being and providence of God have been repeatedly denied and ridiculed. Christ has been mocked with the grossest insult. Marriage has been degraded to a farce … In the school of public instruction atheism is professedly taught.”[1]

So, Christians should be aware of growing secularism-that’s the religion of worldliness creeping into the church. They should be aware of the growing denial of the existence and providence of God, the growing mockery of Jesus Christ and His church, and the growing instruction in atheism in our society.

Pastor Timothy Dwight was also the president of Yale University and preached this sermon in 1798! And it still rings true today. So what do we do about this description of our world?

First, and this might surprise you-Forsake not the assembly of yourselves together with other believers. (Heb 10:25) Why is this important? First because God said it was important. Why do we see Jesus and Paul frequenting the synagogues and meeting with other believers? Because it’s important.

Some would say that Christians going to church every week just makes Christianity a separate little religion, detached from the world and the reality all around them. That could be true. When a church starts acting like a country club, that’s what you get.

But is that what we are supposed to do at church? Listen to the Confession of Southern Baptists: (BF&M 2001)

The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Christ.

You see, this is God’s day. We are to reaffirm and recommit to the Absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Now what does this do to make us more of the kind of Church God wants in the world? It brings us closer to the heart of God. Worldly endeavors and entertainment MUST take a backseat to the worship of God!

What is in the heart of God? God seeks to make His Glory known in all the earth! He wants the church to show the world that he is the Holy Righteous Creator and sustainer of the world and that he offers forgiveness and blessing to all who put their trust in Him. When we properly set aside the day of the Lord, we come away more valuable to the world!

Alexis de Tocqueville was commissioned by the French Government to investigate the prison systems in america. He did that and issued a report. But the more famous book he wrote was entitled Democracy in America. He didn't like everything he saw in America. There were things that bothered him about American culture. But, he also wrote this: "I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!"

IF the gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of peace then we should come away from observing the Lord’s Day together with Peace in the heart, Peace in the Home, Peace in our country, and peace in the world! That’s what properly observing the Lord’s Day is for!

Second, The Church needs to believe in and practice Prayer!

Remember 2 Chron 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways…”

Is America God’s people called by his name? No, the Church is God’s people called Christians. It’s not the world’s job to pray and seek His face, they don’t understand that. It’s our job: Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What are we supposed to do: Humble ourselves before God. Pray to God. Seek God’s face and Repent before God. We don’t talk about seeking God’s face much anymore. The whole idea is a little foreign. To seek God’s face is to endeavor to live our lives as open books before God’s eyes, looking for his pleasing countenance not his rebuke. Looking for guidance from His eyes, and His still small voice. Then when we get before His face we are painfully aware of our sins and we repent.

THEN, Having done all that, we BEGIN to pray. We pray for the church. We pray for our families and loved ones. We PRAY FOR THE LOST. And we pray for our government!

Are we praying for our government God’s way? God’s way is NOT to pray for some harm to come to your President! (As some have suggested.) God’s way is to pray for His welfare, His soul, and that he be led by God. God's way is to pray that we are able to live in peace.

Third, The church needs to Take the Gospel to the world. We REALLY need to do this. There are many ways to do this, but it requires we involve ourselves with the lost. Matt 28:19 AS YOU GO, MAKE DISCIPLES! If you don’t have a lost person to pray for get one. Today! Ask God who it is. Say, “Lord lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me!”

We live in such incredible freedom! The believers in China would LOVE THIS! We can talk to friends about Jesus without being arrested! They may not like it. Your boss might even tell you to stop it. So you do it after you punch out.

This week I was presented with an opportunity to share Christ. I tried to explain it to someone who was confused. Now I’m leaving it in God’s hands.

The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it. Charles Bradlaugh, an avowed infidel, once challenged the Rev. H.P. Hughes to a debate. The preacher, who was head of a rescue mission in London, England, accepted the challenge with the condition that he could bring with him 100 men and women who would tell what had happened in their lives since trusting Christ as their Savior. They would be people who once lived in deep sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents. Hughes said they would not only tell of their conversion, but would submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories. Furthermore, the minister invited his opponent to bring a group of non-believers who could tell how they were helped by their lack of faith. When the appointed day arrived, the preacher came, accompanied by 100 transformed persons. But Bradlaugh never showed up. The result? The meeting turned into a testimony time and many sinners who had gathered to hear the scheduled debate were converted.

When we do a School Supplies drive we should look for opportunities to include the gospel. When we do a coat drive include the gospel. When we have a concert or a special event, include the gospel. Maybe in your Christmas card this year, include the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just a manger!

Today when you celebrate the Freedoms of America, first thank God for them. Then make very sure that you have Freedom in Christ! Sin puts us in slavery, Jesus can set you free!

[1]]Dwight’s sermon is reprinted in Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, edited by Ellis Sandoz, pages 1363-1394.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Social Justice: Good or Bad?

From Wikipedia:
Social justice
is the application of the concept of justice on a social scale. ...The idea was elaborated by the moral theologian John A. Ryan, who initiated the concept of a living wage. Father Coughlin also used the term in his publications in the 1930s-40s. The concept was further expanded upon by John Rawls beginning in the 60s. It is a part of Catholic social teaching, ...and is one of the Four Pillars of the Green Party upheld by green parties worldwide. Some tenets of social justice have been adopted by those on the left of the political spectrum.
Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, [it] is based on the concepts of human rights, equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. These policies aim to achieve what [some] refer to as more equality of opportunity than may exist in some societies, and to manufacture equality of outcome in cases where incidental inequalities appear in a procedurally just system.

What is Social Justice? I like the beginning of this Wikipedia entry, "Social justice is the application of the concept of justice on a social scale."
Lets stop here for a second. Combining the words Social Justice sounds good but is it? Justice has this nice "right and wrong" air about it. It refers to sanctions for misbehavior and the rewards of right behavior. Social is a fine word but what does it mean in black and white description? Anything having to do with society. And thus lies the problem. Social justice can refer to the end of slavery or to the end of private property ownership. Really! It's that broad.

Surely everybody means something toward the "No Slavery" end of that spectrum right? No, not right.
Let's explore another concept that doesn't get mentioned as often as Social Justice and that is "Ethics of Responsibility." Social Justice suggests a means of accomplishing it not unlike Civil Justice. That is, just as life and liberty maybe constrained by force for those that violate Civil Justice, so too, there are those who would set themselves up as authorities for Social Justice to constrain the life and liberty of those who have too much (Yes-they get to decide that) and who refuse to "share" it with others less fortunate. SHARE? Its not sharing if its taken from you by progressive taxation and confiscation by force.
The Ethic of Responsibility, on the other hand, says, "for him who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin." SJ (Social Justice) says you are "bad" if you have too much. ER (Ethic of Responsibility) says I have been blessed with intelligence or opportunity or a strong body or a creative mind and as a result I have reaped the rewards of my labor. Others, who have not had these things, and are in dire straits, need my help. ER further says, others who have these things and have simply failed to work and achieve will not be helped by my generosity, only enabled to continue in sloth.
The SJ advocate says you can't make that distinction, that's like the fox guarding the hen house. Which tells us exactly how they consider others with ample resources - foxes.
So how is a benevolent assistance rendered for the truly needy? This is where the old joke about the golden rule actually makes some sense. What is the Golden Rule in this case? He who has the Gold makes the Rules. Well now that sound incredibly calloused. Why? It is his gold after all.
Yes many with ample resources will simply ignore the needy. But Jesus called us to Ethical Responsibility.
First that would imply we don't take advantage of the labors of others like Zaccheus did. He stole in the guise of taxation. He was practicing a little Social Justice of his own with himself as the prime recipient.
However, what about the vineyard owner who paid those that worked one hour the same as those who worked all day? Was he Un-Just to the day-long workers? Certainly not. They agreed to this wage and he was faithful to pay it. Now, if he was in collusion with all the other vineyard owners in an attempt to suppress wages that would be bad. Hey, we can file that under Civil Justice and have laws against that kind of collusion.
Second, it recognizes that the person with ample resources Owns those resources; they are his or hers. They may have earned them by building a better mousetrap or computer, or they may have inherited it from the inventor of Ketchup. Whatever, it BELONGS to them. It is not Un-Just to be wealthy. It is not a Sin to be wealthy. It is not BAD to be wealthy. It just IS. As long as it was not "Ill-gotten" gain. (There may be a case for calling lottery winnings ill-gotten gain but that is another blog.)
Third it recognizes that the truly needed need help. They don't necessarily deserve it but neither do those with good minds, strong bodies etc. deserve the resources they used to acquire their wealth. So since we are all in this together, and for the believer, the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, and since we are to be Royal Ambassadors for Christ, and since we are to be imitators of Christ, and etc. etc. we have a DUTY, a RESPONSIBILITY, to help those in need.
How? We pay our taxes. We may complain that they are confiscatory, we may criticize their distribution, we make work to change things. That is all good. In the USA we are the government. But we pay them none-the-less.
We give to individuals who need our assistance.
We give to churches who help those in need.
We give to World hunger organisations.
We might even support the building of factories in other countries to help them be more gainfully employed. The one with the gold (factories) gets to make the rules. True, in their endeavors of providing more jobs to other countries they may make a greater profit. PROFIT is not BAD, SINFUL, or EVIL.
I am against Social Justice because it is a misnomer at best. Those with no desire to work will always claim that helping them is social justice. I would rather place the burden on those with the resources to share to decide, reminding them frequently of the teachings of Christ concerning God's concern for the poor. That is an Ethic of Responsibility.