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Rock Star Christianity

Rock Star Christianity

As a former Events Coordinator (that’s concert promoter in the real world) for a Christian radio station for almosts ten years, I have seen both the good and bad side of Christian music.  Uh, let me elaborate if I may.  When I say the good side of Christian music I really mean “the good” side and when I say bad, well… I really mean bad.  No, make that bad in bold and all caps. BAD.


nauseaYeah, BAD.  Real BAD.

But as I look back in time, what I see today is something Keith Green and, a decade later, Steve Camp also saw— the selling out of ministry for the almighty buck.  I could tell you stories, boatloads of stories, about secular rockstar wannabes who try to “make it” in Christian music because they believe the industry standards are lower.  And, to a degree, they might be right.  These artist often parade around as spiritual giants— makeshift religious Goliaths, talking about fasting and the importance of prayer in their life and how it’s all about God and not about them, yada, yada, yada— but when I dare to mention the need for a gospel presentation at one of their Christian concerts, God forbid!  Like a werewolf at full moon, their secular side slides out from behind their carefully placed mask, and the real spirit behind the music shows itself.

“Sorry.  I don’t feel comfortable speaking about my faith publicly.  It takes away from the ending of my show, you know.  We really want to end the set with a bang!  And, well… sharing the gospel might make some of the ticket buyers, my fans, feel uncomfortable.”

Oh, I see.  And we can’t have them feel uncomfortable, can we?  That might hurt record sales.

Heave, gag, vomit, splat!— one more time.

If I insist, the road manager loads a silver bullet in his gun, points it towards my chest, and says, “Hey, we’d love to help you out.  It’s all about the Lord you know.  But there’s nothing in the contract or rider that says he’s got to allow the gospel to be shared at his show.  Sorry bub.  Maybe next time.”

Right.  Maybe next time.  That is, of course, if I negotiate beforehand with the artist’s management the need to share Christ at a Christian concert.  Am I missing something here?  Or does that seem like something a Christian artist would want to do at a Christian concert anyway?

My take on it is that there are many artists who happen to call themselves Christian.  But there are very few (I can actually count them on one hand) who are Christian artists— with the emphasis on Christian first and artist second.

Very, very few.  To the shame of our industry.

Anyway, read what Keith Green said about the same issue over thirty years ago.  Not much has changed, has it?

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So You Wanna Be A Rock Star
by Keith Green

keithgreenToday, so many people ask me if I can tell them how they can start or enter into a music ministry.  At concerts I get countless questions about this, and I also get lots of letters and even some long-distance phone calls from many people who feel they are only “called” into the music “ministry”  One day I began to ask myself why so few have ever asked me how to become a missionary, or even a local street preacher, or how to disciple a new believer.  It seems everyone would prefer the “bright lights” of what they think a music ministry would be, rather than the mud and obscurity of the mission field, or the streets of the ghetto, or even the true spiritual sweetness of just being a nobody whom the Lord uses mightily in small “everyday” ways.

Are You Willing?
My answer to their question is almost always the same.  “Are you willing to never play music again?  Are you willing to be a nothing?  Are you willing to go anywhere and do anything for Christ?  Are you willing to stay right where you are and let the Lord do great things through you, though no one may seem to notice at all?”  They all seem to answer each of these questions with a quick “yes!”  But I really doubt if they know what their answer entails.

Star Struck
My dearest family in Jesus…why are we so star struck?  Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers?  We go from glorifying musicians in the world, to glorifying Christian musicians.  It’s all idolatry!  Can’t you see that?  It’s true that there are many men and women of God who are greatly anointed to call down the Spirit of God on His people and the unsaved.  But Satan is getting a great victory as we seem to worship these ministers on tapes and records, and clamor to get their autographs in churches and concert halls from coast to coast.

Can’t you see that you are hurting these ministers?  They try desperately to tell you that they don’t deserve to be praised, and because of this you squeal with delight and praise them all the more.  You’re smothering them, making it almost impossible for them to see that it’s really Jesus.  They keep telling themselves that, but you keep telling them it’s really them, crushing their humility and grieving the Spirit that is trying to keep their eyes on Jesus.

Ultimately, what we idolize we ourselves desire to become, sometimes with our whole heart.  So a lot of people who want to become just like their favorite Gospel singer or minister, seek after it with the same fervor that the Lord demands we seek after Him!  And again, we insult the Spirit of Grace and try to make a place for ourselves, rather than a place for Jesus.

A Thankless Job
How come no one idolizes or praises the missionaries who give up everything and live in poverty, endangering their lives and families with every danger that the “American dream” has almost completely eliminated?  How come no one lifts up and exalts the ghetto and prison ministers who can never take up an offering, because if they did they would either laugh or cry at what they’d receive?

How Come?
Because (1) we’re taught from very early on that comfort is our goal and security… and (2) that we should always seek for a lot of people to like us.  Who lives less comfortably and has had less friends and supporters than the selfless missionaries who have suffered untimely, premature deaths trying to conquer souls and nations for the whole glory of God?  Do you really believe we’re living in the very last times?  Then why do you spend more money on Gospel records and concerts than you give to organizations that feed the poor, or to missionaries out in the field?

There are ministries all over the world where “penniless” people are being saved and transformed.  They are broken people who have promise and qualities, but just need someone to bring them God’s light during the times when their lives seem so completely hopeless.

keithgreen-180I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy (Romans 11:11) or to sell out more completely to Jesus!

Quit trying to make “gods” out of music ministers, and quit desiring to become like them.  The Lord commands you, “Deny yourself take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). My piano is not my cross, it is my tool.  I’d never play it again if God would show me a more effective tool in my life for proclaiming His Gospel.

Conclusion
To finish, let me say that the only music minister to whom the Lord will say, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant,” is the one whose life proves what their lyrics are saying, and to whom music is the least important part of their life.  Glorifying the only worthy One has to be a minister’s most important goal!

Let’s all repent of the idolatry in our hearts and our desires for a comfortable, rewarding life when, really, the Bible tells us we are just passing through as strangers and pilgrims in this world (Hebrews 11:13), for our reward is in heaven.  Let’s not forget that our due service to the Lord is “… not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).

Amen.  Let us die graciously together and endure to the end like brave soldiers who give their lives, without hesitation, for our noble and glorious King of Light.

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Coming Close to the End of an Era: Billy Graham

Coming Close to the End of an Era: Billy Graham

On Monday I had the opportunity to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC.  While there I noticed the following engraved on a plaque in one of the display rooms.  It reminded me of the words of Paul to a much younger Timothy.

Paul’s words went like this:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)

It seems that obedience to the Lord, even in the smallest of matters, can profoundly impact the world for years to come.  You don’t agree?

Then consider the following chain of obedience that led to the salvation of Billy Graham.

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billygrahamOn July 1, 1885, Edward Kimble felt constrained to share his faith with a young shoe salesman he knew.  That day Dwight L. Moody prayed and received Jesus Christ as Savior.

Several years later a pastor and well-known author by the name of Frederick B. Meyer heard Moody preach.  He was so deeply stirred by Moody’s preaching that he himself embarked on a far-reaching evangelistic ministry.

At one of Meyer’s speaking engagements, a college student named Wilbur Chapman accepted Christ.  He later employed a baseball player to help him prepare to conduct an evangelistic crusade.

In 1924 a group of businessmen invited that ballplayer, Billy Sunday, to hold an evangelistic campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, which resulted in many people coming to Christ.  Out of that revival meeting a group of men formed a men’s prayer group to pray for the world.

They prayed for Charlotte to have another great revival.  God sent another evangelist named Mordecai Hamm to the city in 1934.

On one of the last nights under the big tent, a lanky 16-year old walked up the aisle to receive Christ.  That young man’s name was Billy Graham.

From generation to generation… may we be faithful as well!

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From Kimble to Moody to Meyer to Chapman to Sunday to Hamm to Graham and to hundreds of thousands more.  Praise the Lord for the faithfulness and obedience of one, Edward Kimble.

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Beware of Pride

Beware of Pride

In reading Psalm 11 today, I was struck by verse 4.  It says, “The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.  All his thoughts (or plots) are, ‘There is no God.'”

So what is this menacing thing called Pride?  How far reaching are its tentacles of destruction?  How many times does the wicked think, continually, “There is no God?”

edwardpaysonThe following is from Edward Payson (1783-1827), the American Congregational preacher.

The pride of the wicked is the principal reason why they will not seek after the knowledge of God.  Pride consists in an unduly exalted opinion of oneself.  It is, therefore, impatient of a rival, hates a superior, and cannot endure a master.  It is evident that nothing can be more painful to a proud heart that the thoughts of such a being as God.  Such a being pride can contemplate only with feelings of dread, aversion, and abhorrence.  It must look upon Him as its natural enemy, the great enemy, Whom it has to fear.

Pride plunged Satan from heaven into hell; it banished our first parents from paradise; and it will, in a similar manner, ruin all who indulge in it.  Its keeps us in ignorance of God; shuts us out from His favor; prevents us from resembling Him. Beware of pride!  Beware lest you indulge it imperceptibility, for it is perhaps, of all sins, the most secret, subtle, and insinuating.

Again, pretty sobering, isn’t it?

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Gaius, Demetrius and Diotrephes

Gaius, Demetrius and Diotrephes

The Everlasting Stain of Pride

It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glory to search one’s own glory.  Proverbs 25:27

In other words, just as people get sick and nauseous and ready to hurl from eating too much honey, they also get sick, real sick, of listening to those who constantly draw attention to themselves through faint praise, self-promotion or by simply putting someone else down.
We call that jealousy.
God calls it pride.
And the Scriptures have much to say about it.

smugLet’s take a quick look back at the Scriptures and see how the thread of pride, like a malignant cancer or mutating tumor, winds itself around the lives of those who claim to know and love God and subtly, over time, changes good, God-fearing people into a mob of self-seeking free agents.  The flesh-exalting sin of pride stained each of them— and each of us, to such a degree that it required the blood of Christ to remedy.

Pride.  The resilient, illusive, ever-present source of all sin.

Pride.  It was pride, the original sin, that tempted Satan to exalt himself above God and to be cast down, banished from his place in heaven. “How you have fallen from heaven, O star (shining one) of the morning, son of the dawn!” (Isa. 14:12-14; 1 Tim. 3:6).

Pride.  It was pride that allowed the serpent’s words to resonate deep within Eve’s heart, attaching themselves to her concept of self-worth and satisfaction with God’s creative order.  It was pride that fostered in her a driving desire to be like God, to be better than God, to assume the worst about God, and to lust for His place of preeminence.  When the serpent asked, “Did God really say?”— Eve’s pride willingly believed the lie.  And, if truth be told, it was pride that caused Adam and Eve to lose their place in Eden and led to the fall of all mankind (Gen. 3:5-6).

Pride.  It was pride that hardened the heart of Cain against his brother Able.  It was Cain’s pride that demanded God accept his sacrifice regardless of what God required.  After all, pride reasoned, “I’m bringing the best of my fields to God as my sacrifice and that should be good enough for Him.  It’s the best I have to offer.  It’s all I’m going to offer.  And if God doesn’t accept what I want to bring… well, that’s His problem.”  But Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t what God required.  And, as the story goes, neither was it God’s problem.  It was Cain’s pride that responded to God’s warning and rejection of his sacrifice by shedding the blood of his brother.  “Hey God, You want blood as a sacrifice?  Ok, I’ll give You blood.  How ’bout Able’s blood!” (Gen. 4:1-8).

Pride.  It was pride that prompted Lamech to boast to his wives about the murder he committed.  “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Gen. 4:23-24).

Pride.  Under Nimrod’s leadership (whose name means “rebel”), it was pride that built the Tower of Babel.  “Come,” they said, “Let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower, whose top will reach into heaven (or, whose top is heaven), and let us make for ourselves a name; (why) lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4).

Pride.  It was pride that led to the deaths of Nadab and Abihu who disregarded the command of God and offered what they wanted, strange fire, before the Lord (Lev. 10:1-2).

Pride.  It was the pride of Aaron and Miriam that brought about God’s judgment of leprosy on them because, dissatisfied with God’s plan, they sought to exalt themselves by questioning Moses’ leadership and God’s supreme plan.  “Has the Lord only spoken through Moses?  Has He not spoken through us as well?” (Num. 12:2).

Pride.  It was pride that kept Moses from entering the Promise Land. Pride tempted Moses, the most humble of men, to exalt himself to the place of God in his own eyes regarding the people of Israel.  Remember his words? “Listen now, you rebels, shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10).  We?  Tell me Moses, what part of this miracle did you do?  What part are you in the “we” of all this?

Pride.  It was pride that led Absalom to publicly rape David’s wives and try to remove, by the force of betrayal and rebellion, the king God had placed to rule His people, Israel.  Why?  Because pride caused Absalom to believe that he, and not God, knew who should be king in Israel.

Pride.  It was the pride of Haman and his jealousy of Mordecai that compelled him to build the gallows, designed for Mordecai, that Haman’s body hung from (Est. 7:10).

Pride.  It was the prideful words uttered from Nebuchadnezzar that drove him into the wilderness to live like an animal until he recognized and acknowledged the sovereignty of the Lord.  He said, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30).  This was the question Nebuchadnezzar asked.  And God answered in a way that only He could (Dan. 4:31-33).

Pride.  Pride was the great sin of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time.  They were outwardly religious like “white-washed tombs,” but inwardly they were rotten, corrupt and decayed like “dead men’s bones” (Matt. 23:27).

Pride.  It was pride that prompted the mother of James and John to ask that her two boys get special, preferential treatment when Jesus came into His kingdom (Matt. 20:20-21).

Pride.  And even during the Last Supper when Jesus was teaching His disciples about self-sacrifice by washing their feet, it was their pride that bickered among themselves as to who would be the greatest (Luke 22:24).

But, for me, there is even a more chilling example.

Diotrephes:

In 3 John 9-11 we read:

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.  For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.  Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.

John is writing this letter to a man named Gaius, a beloved elder in the church.  It appears that in this church a powerful and influential man, Diotrephes, refused to allow hospitality to be shown to visiting itinerant teachers whom John had approved.  Teachers like Demetrius, for example (3 John 12).  In fact, it seems that the letter John wrote to the church regarding that very matter was intercepted by Diotrephes, the self-proclaimed resident gatekeeper, and deemed so sensitive to National Security that, taking his lead from our own Government, it was Classified and kept from the congregation.
Where is the Freedom of Information Act when you need it?

Why did Diotrephes do this?  What was his motive?  What was he trying to hide?
The letter from John states that Diotrephes “loves to be first among them,” or, to put it in the language of today, feels that he is the head-honcho in charge and everything that the church does must gain his approval.
Unfortunately for all of us, there are still many Diotrephes in the church today.
But there is something else in play here.
There is also an element of jealousy on the part of Diotrephes.

John was well known and beloved among the brethren of the church.  He was one of the Twelve, the disciple Jesus loved, and his standing and credibility in the church was never in question.
Not so with Diotrephes.
He was jealous of John.  Intimidated and green with envy.
When John was present, people dropped everything and flocked to hear him, for hours on end.  And why not?  After all, just being in his presence reminded them of being with Jesus.  John was wise, seasoned, mature, beloved, respected, and full of wonderful, first-hand stories about the Lord.  And if that wasn’t enough, it was John who had been given the visions of the future, the apocalyptic revelation of days yet to come.
At this time, what person on earth could compare with John?  Who was more esteemed than he?  More desired?  More sought after?
Certainly not Diotrephes.
And he knew it.

Diotrephes wanted to be like John, to be respected and admired.  He wanted to be regarded as spiritual, a natural leader, an anointed teacher— basically God’s gift to the church.  He wanted in one day what took John a lifetime to achieve.
He wanted others to come to him, and not John, for the answers to their questions.
He wanted to be the one who set the vision for what God was going to do.
He wanted to be the final authority in all matters, spiritual or not.
He wanted all praise and glory and hope and adoration heaped on him.
He wanted to be the fourth person in the Godhead.
He wanted it all.
And he wanted it now!

Instead of waiting on the Lord to recognize and promote him to a position of true leadership within the congregation based, of course, on his likeness to Jesus, Diotrephes decided to take matters into his own hands.  As the proverb warns, “Nor is it glory to search one’s own glory” (Prov. 25:27).  Or, “For men to search their own glory is not glory.”  It is self-promotion at best.  And the root of it is pride.

Diotrephes, who imagined his perceived greatness should be seen by all, could not allow another’s greatness to outshine his.  There was room for only one star in the heavens— and it was named Diotrephes.
Therefore, John was a threat.
John had to go.

So as is the custom in our culture, Diotrephes used his First Amendment right, his right to free speech, to malign and criticize John’s ministry, John’s leadership, and ultimately John’s authority.  Pretty much the same stuff we do today when pride and jealousy raise their ugly heads among people in church.

Here is John’s response:

For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church (3 John 10).

Carnal, heavy-handed bullying tactics within the church— and the sinister source of this sin, as always, is pride.
He accuses John to others with wicked words.
He personally refuses to recognize John’s authority and receive the itinerant teachers approved by John.
He then expands his iron-fisted control by forcing those who do not bend to his wishes out of the church.  They are shunned from fellowship.  Persecuted.  Excommunicated.
And it appears the congregation does nothing to stand against this evil. Nothing.
Again, much like our church culture of today.

So what was John’s final word on Diotrephes?  What did he finally do?
As a loving, caring, compassionate spiritual father to Gaius and the church, John took this crisis and carefully, strategically, crafted it into a teaching moment.  One of those, “He who has ears to hear” moments he learned from his Master.

Listen to the application gleaned from the actions of Diotrephes.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.  The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.  Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true (3 John 11-12).

In other words, you be different.  You imitate what is good, and not what is evil.  John urged Gaius not to imitate Diotrephes’ wicked behavior by refusing to welcome and accept Demetrius.  Instead, he urged Gaius, and each one of us as well, to imitate what is good and just.  Why?  Because, as he said, “the one who does good is of God and the one who does evil (Diotrephes) has not seen God.”

In essence, lost people act like lost people.  Even if they are members of your church.
Don’t be like them— even to the point of rejection.
Or persecution.
Or excommunication.
Or death.

Adveho quis may.
Come what may.

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Clear the Stage

Clear the Stage

Leonard Ravenhill once said, “I think they should tax churches.  Most churches are amusement centers anyhow.  And you have to pay taxes on amusement.”

But maybe church doesn’t have to be that way.  Watch and enjoy.

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Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.
Chuck the pews and all the decorations too
Until the congregations few then have revival.
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you’re broken for your sins you can’t be social.
Then seek the Lord and wait for what He has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful.

Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And don’t get me wrong, worship is more than a song.

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper.
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister.
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open.
Then read the Word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken.

Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And don’t get me wrong, worship is more than a song.

Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.
We must not worship something that’s not even worth it.
Clear the stage and make some space for the One who deserves it.

And I can sing all I want to
Yes I can sing all I want to
I can sing all I want to
And still get it wrong, worship is more than a song.

And you can sing all you want to
Yes you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
But don’t get me wrong, worship is more than a song.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.

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You want to go grab a grub?

You want to go grab a grub?

Remember the dream Pharaoh had about the seven cattle and the seven ears of grain?  It seems that in Pharaoh’s dreams he saw seven cows, full, fat and healthy, and then seven other cows, gaunt and sickly-looking.  As he watched in his dream, the gaunt cows devoured the fat ones.  Why?  What did this mean?

Then, right on the heels of dream one came dream two.  It was the same principle repeated— only now the characters are seven plump ears of grain and seven thin, sun-scorched ears of grain.  Ah, I see, “second verse, same as the first.”  Now, in dream two, the seven thin, sun-scorched ears of grain swallowed up the fat, plump and healthy ears.

Again, why?  What does this mean?

Enter Joseph.

gauntcows-300Joseph, as you remember, tells Pharaoh that God is revealing to him what He is going to do in the very near future.  God is giving Pharaoh a glimpse into the future, so to speak.  I’ll let Joseph tell you in his own words.

“Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.  The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same.  The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine.  It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do.  Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land.  So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe.  Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.” *

Get the gist?  Bad times are soon to be upon Egypt like a raging storm and there is nothing Pharaoh can do about it.  And I mean bad times!  Real bad times.  In fact, they were to be so bad that no one will even remember what life was like before the famine. Serious stuff.

What was Pharaoh to do when faced with the certain economic meltdown of their society?  What should he tell his people to do knowing that the collapse of the Egyptian dollar is imminent?  How can he, the ruler of Egypt, prepare his government for hyper-inflation and food and fuel shortages?  What should they do?

For one thing, listen to the advice of Joseph.

“Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.  Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance.  Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it.  Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.” *

In other words, during the times of abundance… prepare!  Get off your rear, take your head out of the sand, quit listening to the pundits who are lying to you and prepare!  It’s not that hard.  Follow this simple rule: If you have today, store for the time when you won’t have.  Like, duh.  Be smart and prudent and wise and prepare for coming uncertain times.  Otherwise… flash forward to gaunt cow.  Get the picture?

And, as you know, Pharaoh took Joseph’s advice and not only survived, but thrived and prospered during the seven years of famine.  Are we at least as smart as Pharaoh?  I sure hope so.

Since we are going to spend a great deal of time talking about how to prepare for the coming collapse of our economy, the unraveling of our society, the possible declaring of martial law and, quite honestly, the greatest ministry opportunity we have ever had in our lifetime— I thought I’d preface all this with a word picture. No, make that more of an object lesson.

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Now, go buy some extra groceries at Wal-Mart the next time you go shopping and we’ll talk more about this tomorrow.

Rest easy… and go grab a grub.

*Genesis 41:25-36

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Daniel Nash: Prince of Prayer

Daniel Nash: Prince of Prayer

Daniel Nash pastored a small church in the backwoods of New York for six years, and traveled with and prayed for a traveling evangelist for seven more years until his death.  As far as we know, he never ministered outside the region of upstate New York during days when much of it was frontier.  His tombstone is in a neglected cemetery along a dirt road behind a livestock auction barn.  His church no longer exists, its meetinghouse location marked by a historical marker in a corn field; the building is gone, its timber used to house grain at a feed mill four miles down the road.  No books tell his life story, no pictures or diaries can be found, his descendants (if any) cannot be located, and his messages are forgotten.  He wrote no books, started no schools, led no movements, and generally, kept out of sight.

Yet this man saw revival twice in his pastorate, and then was a key figure in one of the greatest revivals in the history of the United States.  In many ways he was to the U. S. what Praying Hyde was to India.  He is known almost exclusively for his powerful prayer ministry.

The great evangelist, Charles Finney, left his itinerant ministry for the pastorate within three or four months after this man’s death.  Finney never counted on his theology, messages, preaching style, logic, or methods to save souls.  He looked rather to mighty prayer and the resulting powerful work of the Holy Spirit to sweep in with great conviction on his audience, that his conversions might be thorough.  This may well explain why 80 per cent of those converted in his meetings stood the test of time.  Years later Moody followed a similar pattern but without such a prayer warrior.  He saw perhaps 50 per cent of his converts last.  Today, a well-known evangelist (well-financed and highly organized) recently stated that he would be delighted if 20 per cent of his converts were genuinely converted.  In this day of apostasy with many decisions but few true conversions, with many programs but little prayer, with much organizing but little agonizing, we would be wise to learn lessons from the past.  One of our godly forefathers whose life can teach us such is Daniel Nash.

His early years seem mostly lost from the records.  This much we do know-he was born November 27, 1775, and by November 11, 1816, at the age of 40 he had accepted the pastorate of the Stow’s Square Congregational-Presbyterian Church, Lowville Township.  He had moved there from Onondaga County (the area around Syracuse), and had a farm at least by 1825, the time of the first census in the area.

During his first year of pastoring this union church, he saw Revival with at least 70 being converted.  One of the first he baptized was a Sally Porter (December 18, 1816), to whom he was married by February of 1817.  He baptized five of her children before spring and possibly a sixth several years later.  Typical church problems were dealt with clearly by church discipline–broken contracts between members, heresy regarding the Trinity, etc.

A meetinghouse was built beginning June 7, 1819, and “dedicated to the service of God’ December 13, 1819.

There was a group who split from the main group during the period of the building program or shortly thereafter.  They located four miles south where the village of Lowville was beginning to develop.  Pastor Nash was able to peaceably work with this group and establish it as a mission throughout the rest of his pastorate.

Upon the completion of the meetinghouse and while working with the mission work to the south, he was able to start a Sabbath School in the union church.

Such a ministry would seem to be the basis for a long term relationship.  However, on September 25, 1822, a strange church meeting was called at an unusual time and he was voted out by a vote of nine to three!  The only reasons surviving to this day in the records were that they wanted “a young man to settle in.”  At the age of 46 they felt him too old, and resented his traveling.

[ Continue Reading… ]

The Importance of Just One Godly Man

The Importance of Just One Godly Man

The following are a few nuggets of truth that the Lord spoke to me about while reading Proverbs 28.  I hope they prove to be a blessing to you.

One man, one person can change the world:

By the transgression of a land many are its princes, but by (who) a man of (what) understanding and knowledge, so it endures. (28:2)

Note:  God, in His sovereignty, often uses changes in the leadership of a country to bring about His divine chastening, judgment and punishment.  Remember the history of the northern kingdom of Israel?  When the land is plunged into apostasy, sin and transgression, often new heads of state emerge who, by law, decree and dictate, drive that society towards destruction— morally, economically, militarily, spiritually, or all combined.  But the Word says that by the wisdom of a man of understanding and knowledge… presumably understanding and knowledge of the Lord, the land will endure and stability will be ensured.  Remember Joseph to Pharaoh; Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar; Isaiah to Hezekiah.  Remember what happened to the northern kingdom of Israel when the voices of Elijah and Elisha could be heard no longer?  And remember that it doesn’t say, men, or committee or council or government, but, man.  Singular.  One man.  You.  Me.  Just one man.

Why?  Why will the land of evil and transgression endure because of the understanding and knowledge of one man?  Part of the answer is found in verse 5:

Evil men do not understand justice, but those who (what) seek the LORD understand (what) all things. (28:5)

And by the way, when the Scriptures say, “all“— it means, “all.”  This is known as the wisdom and knowledge of God.

But sometimes the evil princes of the land refuse to hear from those who possess the understanding and knowledge of the Lord.  They become angry, arrogant and belligerent to the words of wisdom from those who place the Lord as their King.  “Who are you to speak to me about sin or transgression in my life,” they utter to the Godly with great disdain.  “Look what I have created with my own hands.  Look at the riches I have under my control.  Look at the power I have over life and death… even over you.  Who are you to even speak to me, let alone bring a rebuke.”

The Lord has something to say to them in this chapter.

The Godly will always be at odds with the unrighteous:

Those who (what) forsake the law praise (who) the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them (the wicked, those who forsake the law). (28:4)

Even when the unrighteous try to do right, it is of no avail.  Why?  Because their heart is bent on rebellion and disobedience:

He who turns away his ear from listening to the law (rebellion and disobedience), even his prayer (righteous act) is an abomination. (28:9)

Sin loves company.  But the one who leads the upright astray will suffer the consequences of his own sin and rebellion:

He who leads the upright astray (how) in an evil way will himself fall into his own pit, but the blameless will inherit good. (28:10)

“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever (what) causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matthew 18:4-7)

See also Romans 1:21-32

You cannot serve two masters.  You cannot serve God and money:

The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding (which allows him to) sees through him. (28:11)

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)

Once you understand your sin, you must confess and repent of it.  If not, your heart will become cold, hard and calloused and you will fail to fear (or revere) the Lord:

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who (1) confesses and (2) forsakes them will find compassion (or mercy, forgiveness). How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. (28:13-14)

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

When rough times come to all, it is the man who trusts in the Lord and not in his riches that will be delivered:

He who walks blamelessly (what) will be delivered, but he who is crooked will fall all at once. He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished. To show partiality is not good, (why) because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.  A man with an evil eye (what) hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him. (28:18-22)

Finally, the arrogant and unrighteous continually strive to stir up strife so they can use their own human wisdom to solve the problem.  Buy those who have the understanding, wisdom and knowledge of God, and trust in them!— will prosper and be delivered:

An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.  He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered. (28:25-26)

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Clear the Stage

My Jesus

Which Jesus do you follow?

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My Jesus *

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand?

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side
Or fall down and worship at His holy feet?

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He’d prefer Beale Street to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I’m not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like you Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

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Adveho quis may.
Come what may.

* From the album, Reflection of Something by Todd Agnew

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The Flawed and Sinister Manhattan Declaration

The Flawed and Sinister Manhattan Declaration

The following post is from November 2009 regarding the Manhattan Declaration and the reluctance of some to sign on to this joint venture.  The pressing political issue may have changed but the principle behind that reluctance remains the same today as it did then.  It would be a good reminder to revisit the underlying reasons that only true Christians can stand together as one man for the faith (Phil. 1:27).  Only true Christians.  Read and remember.

From November 26, 2009:

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As many of you know, the Manhattan DeclarationA Call of Christian Conscience was drafted on October 20th of this year and released a month later on November 20th.  “What’s the Manhattan Declaration?” you ask?  From their own website they state the following:

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them.  These truths are:

1. the sanctity of human life
2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable.  Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them.  We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Sounds noble, doesn’t it.

In fact, almost 200 well-know and influential Evangelical leaders, with a clear conscience, signed the document.  Some of them include:

Randy Alcorn
Leith Anderson
Kay Arthur
Gary Bauer
Steve Brown
Chuck Colson
Dr. James Dobson
Jerry Jenkins
Dr. Richard Land
Josh McDowell
Dennis Rainey
Dr. Joseph Stowell
Joni Eareckson Tada
Dr. Michael Youssef
Ravi Zacharias

But there are a few names that are missing— John MacArthur for one.  And John Piper, Franklin Graham and David Wilkerson to name just a few more.  Did you ever wonder why?  Why are these names conspicuously absent from the Who’s Who of notable Christian signatories?  Maybe they weren’t asked to sign.  Or, maybe they couldn’t make the trip to New York for the conference?  You know, maybe it didn’t fit into their ministry schedules.

Or maybe, just maybe… they had a problem with the opening statement of the Declaration that blurs the lines between authentic, Biblical Christianity and the heresy known as Catholicism?  Remember the documents opening salvo?

“We are Catholic, Orthodox, and evangelical Christians…”

Uh, exactly how can that be?  How can both Catholics and evangelicals be Christians when their foundational core beliefs about Jesus, the Scriptures, the Atonement, Heaven and Hell, Biblical Authority and many other non-negotiables are opposed to each other?  How can these groups join together under the flag of Christianity when the Gospel they preach is not the same?  Both cannot be correct, can they?  Of course not.  Then both cannot be Christian.

Biblical Christianity is not some big, political tent where we willingly ignore our core differences and try to agree on whatever we can just to get along.  This is not about numbers or unity at the cost of truth.  One view of the Gospel, as Jesus taught in Matthew, is the wide road that leads to destruction and the other view is the narrow turnstile that leads to eternal life.  There is no third way.  There can be no compromise or common ground on the Gospel.

There is only one Gospel, one Lord, one message and only one way to heaven.  Period.

It appears this sinister blurring of the lines between the true and false Gospel is why John MacArthur refused to compromise and sign the document.  The following is his position statement that clearly gives his reasons for not adding his signature to the next ecumenical Magna Carta, the Manhattan Declaration.

I’ll let John tell you in his own words.

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Here are the main reasons I am not signing the Manhattan Declaration, even though a few men whom I love and respect have already affixed their names to it:

  • Although I obviously agree with the document’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and other key moral problems threatening our culture, the document falls far short of identifying the one true and ultimate remedy for all of humanity’s moral ills: the gospel. The gospel is barely mentioned in the Declaration. At one point the statement rightly acknowledges, “It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season”— and then adds an encouraging wish: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.” Yet the gospel itself is nowhere presented (much less explained) in the document or any of the accompanying literature. Indeed, that would be a practical impossibility because of the contradictory views held by the broad range of signatories regarding what the gospel teaches and what it means to be a Christian.
  • This is precisely where the document fails most egregiously. It assumes from the start that all signatories are fellow Christians whose only differences have to do with the fact that they represent distinct “communities.” Points of disagreement are tacitly acknowledged but are described as “historic lines of ecclesial differences” rather than fundamental conflicts of doctrine and conviction with regard to the gospel and the question of which teachings are essential to authentic Christianity.
  • Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.
  • The Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message.
  • This is neither a novel approach nor a strategic stand for evangelicals to take. It ought to be clear to all that the agenda behind the recent flurry of proclamations and moral pronouncements we’ve seen promoting ecumenical co-belligerence is the viewpoint Charles Colson has been championing for more than two decades. (It is not without significance that his name is nearly always at the head of the list of drafters when these statements are issued.) He explained his agenda in his 1994 book The Body, in which he argued that the only truly essential doctrines of authentic Christian truth are those spelled out in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. I responded to that argument at length in Reckless Faith. I stand by what I wrote then.

In short, support for The Manhattan Declaration would not only contradict the stance I have taken since long before the original “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document was issued; it would also tacitly relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue.  That is the wrong way— perhaps the very worst way—  for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time.  Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.

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Amen.  Thanks John.  Thanks for standing for what is true and of greatest importance: the Gospel.  I totally, wholeheartedly agree.

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