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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Land Of Golden Opportunity

NOTE: I wrote this about 1982 or '83, not long after I started as a "Lay Evangelist" and church planter in the SBC. Working in an area where there was not a lot of wealth or white folks, I found out what many in the church believe about the gospel. That experience produced this tract.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful land called the Land of Golden opportunity. There was much wealth in this land and the people were very kind and good to each other. Their hearts were warm and they wanted to be good neighbors. They were a strong and healthy people and being very industrious they worked hard.

Now the King of this land of Golden Opportunity wanted his subjects to do many and marvelous things; So in order to promote all of these activities, He made a decree that 10% of the citizen's income would be owed to the King. Now because the people loved their king and believed in Him, many gave more than 10%. Some even gave special gifts.

One day news reports carried the 'announcements that a terrible tragedy was taking place in other lands. An epidemic of the dreaded disease of “NO HOPE” was running rampant in all the world and many people were sick and dying. It seemed that young and old, rich and poor were being stricken with the terrible disease. And then the call came. Could the people of the land of golden opportunity help?

Now the King, Who was also the Great Physician, reminded His subjects that they were forever free from this terrible disease called “NO HOPE” because He had given THEM the remedy. The remedy was so powerful that just one injection was needed and it insured that never again would that person suffer from “NO HOPE.” But best of all, it was FREE and there was an abundance for everyone. Then the King announced that He was going on a journey, but that He would be back soon. Before He left, He opened the treasury where the remedy for “NO HOPE” was kept. He also announced that he would give them the keys so that they could help their neighbors and save them from dying with “NO HOPE.” The King gave them a “GO TELL” commission to go and heal all people of “NO HOPE.” The people were overjoyed that they would be able to help their neighbors. So immediately they set to work.

They decided the first thing to do was organize. With proper organization, and administration, one could be assured of success in any endeavor. So they appointed committees to organize the people. Of course, there were a lot of committees. After all, there had to be one to organize the men, one to organize the women, and one to organize the young people. As they continued it was obvious that other committees were needed. One to deal with transportation was vital. And of course there needed to be a committee responsible for seeing that fun and music were included in the program, how else would they be able to hold the interest of the people? On and on things went, until it became apparent that the people needed someone with a lot of training, possibly an executive type, to run such a huge organization. And they realized that they would have to pay him a large salary. Of course he would need a big office. So they built large buildings and filled them with plush carpet and large velvet chairs. After all, they asked themselves, wasn't it all for a very good cause?

The next project of the people of the land of golden opportunity was to construct buildings where many thousands could gather and get the very best, most up to date “CARE” for "NO HOPE." They would be told all about the disease “NO HOPE” -- How they got the disease -- How they could make themselves more comfortable with the disease -- How they could find ways to make the disease less noticeable and so on. We will use a “COME SEE” plan.

Then one day along came someone and tried to point out that millions were sick and dying and that all they needed was one injection and that it was free! But the planners just thought he was trying to block their progress and get some attention and money for his own program.
There continued to be news reports that many people were dying all around the land of Golden Opportunity. The reports made it clear that it was impossible to tell how many of those alive today would be alive tomorrow. Time was running out, the remedy had to be delivered soon. As powerful as the remedy was, it would not bring back to life those who died with “NO HOPE.”

But the people of the land of Golden Opportunity would not hear the reports! They were too busy, too involved with their own wonderful organization. They would meet every year and tell the world, look at us, look what we have done. Look at our Multimillion dollar program for our neighbors and just as soon as we get more money, we will make it even larger. They applauded their own achievements.

And besides, there are still a few people out there who are actually distributing the remedy using that old fashioned “GO TELL” stuff.

One day the King will return just like he said he would. Can you hear His questions and their answers?
"Why are the people of the world still dying of "No Hope"?"
Then they will say:
“Look at all of our fine buildings, plush offices and velvet chairs we have built in your name, Lord.”
“Look at all of our committees and boards organized - spliting hairs and churning out tons of programs and paper work to impress people in your name Lord”
“Look at all of our fine executive types who have been educated, schooled, pampered and polished in your name Lord.”
“Look at the great salaries, pension plans, and travel allowances we have given them as they go about in their silver slippers to tell other executive types how to promote more of these plans, programs and allowances in your name LORD.”

And then He said, that He would say this…………
“Lord, Lord, have we not ………….in your name …” (vs. 22)
“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore, whosoever hearth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock: (Matthew 7: 22-24 KJV)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Our silly gods and American idols (Repost)

There are times when articles cross my desktop that make me think, "I wish I had said that and said it just that way!" This is one of those times.
In my humble opinion Bill Maher, like many in Hollywood, does ALL of his thinking between his nose and his chin!

Our silly gods and American idols
By Rod Dreher Not that he cares, but the Almighty surely deserves our thanks for arranging to deny celebrity atheist Bill Maher, the Iron Man Nightlife Decathlete, an Academy Award nomination for his anti-religion documentary. But Maher got his licks in anyway, saying on last week's Oscar telecast: "I know, it's a touchy subject. But someday, we all have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly."
Too right! Our silly gods have plainly taken a lot out of humanity's hide, as a quick tour of the popular pantheon will attest.
The god of money has been a particularly effective smiter of our hopes and dreams. His cultic devotees performed their rituals in the towering cathedrals of Wall Street, his evangelists carried the Go$pel to the masses through the media, and his Prophet, Alan Greenspan, commanded the devotion of the princes in the capital city and beyond. We believed the Oracle of the Federal Reserve had unlocked the secret of permanent prosperity by sacralizing the market, a mystery religion whose miracles were not to be questioned by mere mortals.
When the Prophet finally admitted last October that he had found "a flaw in the model" - that markets are made up of humans, who suffer from a flawed nature — the time to save ourselves from the consequences of idol worship had long passed. Greenspan the Once-Great: Look on his works, ye Mighty, and despair.
The god of hedonism, in whose service the priapic Maher qualifies as a snake-handling holy roller, has exacted a painful tribute as well. How has hedonism's first commandment — "If it feels good, do it" — worked out for us?
Marriage and the traditional family are disintegrating, for one. According to a 2007 study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, four in 10 babies born in America today are to single mothers. Younger adults cohabitate and have children outside of wedlock, says Pew, "at rates unprecedented in U.S. history." Social historian Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has lamented that at the current rate, fewer than half of America's children born today will spend their entire childhood in an intact two-parent home.
The deleterious effects on children from weak, broken or unformed families have been copiously documented. One can't look forward to enduring an economic depression with so much social capital depleted.
Habits of thrift and prudent self-denial, dull though they may be, built this nation's middle-class wealth. But over the past 40 years or so, we dropped that boring old virtue. Why deny yourself anything? A big house, a great vacation, a new car — such were the ephemeral blessings bestowed upon communicants of the Church of Consumerism. This is how America went from a nation of savers to a country crippled by debt. Hedonism is a demanding and jealous god.
And let's not forget the god of progress, whose cult is indigenous to our shining city on the hill. America was born out of the Enlightenment, which took as an article of its secular faith the idea that humankind was moving irreversibly toward a brighter future, under the guidance of reason. Modernity's notions of progress required weakening or outright decoupling society from the bonds of religion and tradition. To the progressive — and in the historical sense, almost all Americans are progressive — the past has no binding claims on the present.
But what happens to the progressive society when a storm blows up and strains at its foundations? That society may find that it's "like a fool who built his house on sand."
One of the "silly gods" denounced by Maher said that, and his words were recorded in a silly book upon which Western civilization was built. That book has a lot to say about the god of money, none of it good. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? And: You cannot serve both G-d and Money.
Nor will you find in the Bible's pages a brief for the god of hedonism. "I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure," mourned the writer of Ecclesiastes, "and behold all was vanity and striving after wind." In the Christian bible, St. James warns rather more darkly, "You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter."
So, yes, let's confront our silly gods, the golden calves whose worship has brought us to this day of reckoning. It was the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Sound advice. We should try that sometime.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Here is a seldom considered truth. Human life is a constant confrontation—and (hopefully) resolution—of crises. If a person does not maintain a conquest of these crises, he will die. Every human being faced a major crisis at birth (and this is more true today than ever!), and this crisis is only the first among many. In his book, Where Is God When It Hurts?, author Philip Yancey has a long paragraph that is worth examining many times. “Imagine what it would be like if you had had full consciousness as a fetus at the time of birth and could now remember all the sensations:
"Your world is dark, safe, and secure. You are bathed in warm liquid, cushioned from shock. You do nothing for yourself; you are fed automatically, and a murmuring heartbeat assures you that someone larger than you fills all your needs. Your life consists of simple waiting—you’re not sure what to wait for, but any change seems far away and scary. You meet no sharp objects, no pain, no threatening adventures. A fine existence. One day you feel a tug. The walls are falling in on you. Those soft cushions are now pulsing and beating against you, crushing you downwards. Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched. You’re falling, upside down. For the first time in your life, you feel pain. You’re in a sea of rolling matter. There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear. Your head is squeezed flat, and you are pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh, the pain. Noise. More pressure. You hurt all over. You hear a groaning sound and an awful, sudden fear rushes in on you. It is happening—your world is collapsing. You’re sure it’s the end. You see a piercing, blinding light. Cold, rough hands pull at you. A painful slap. Waaaahhhhh! Congratulations, you have just been born.” Fortunately, you have no memory of that trip down the birth canal.

Now, think of a parallel crucial reality in the Christian life, the moment of your New Birth. In a study of the New Birth, I have elsewhere explored the “painful” nature of the experience, both on God’s side (Calvary) and ours (conviction). The New Birth is a crisis experience, and it is only one of many in the Christian life. One crisis after another faces the newborn person, and many of the crises will typically last a lifetime. The human being is like a person with an upper respiratory ailment, who must always carry his oxygen tank with him, or die. The human being has this advantage: the world is a vast oxygen tank; but let him stop inhaling its vital ingredients and he will die. The human being is like a man walking across a minefield; he must negotiate the situation very carefully, or he will never walk that way again.

I want to mention some of the evident crises, suggesting that only disciple-making will enable the believer to fully face and resolve these crises in his life. Many believers carry the ravages of one or more of these crises, unresolved, into church every Sunday (and more) and do not (probably cannot) resolve them there. The very mechanics of church services preclude the likelihood of resolution in church. Like Adam hidden among the trees of the Garden, church members are hidden in the crowd in church pews. There is no “personal therapy” to address the crises they face continually in their daily lives. Let me attempt to identify some eight of these continuing crises. Please note that this list is only suggestive, not exhaustive.

First, there is the information crisis. The new believer does not know anything yet as he ought to know. In fact, he doesn’t even know his ignorance. He must learn many things to even be able to know how much he doesn’t know! Just yesterday, I read this sentence: “Theological minimalism (translate, ignorance of the Bible) is not permissible in the Biblical portrait of a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Every Christian should accept I Peter 3:15 as a major goal of his life: “Give the Lord God His proper place in your heart, and always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have in Christ.” Note the words, “prepared”, “answer” and “reason.” A Christian is “a-person-in-preparation” on a continual basis. The word translated “answer” is the Greek word “apologia,” from which we derive our word “apologetics,” the science of intelligent defense of the Christian message. And “reason” involves intelligent thought. So the information crisis must be resolved by each Christian.

Then, there is the identity crisis. Just as a newborn human infant doesn’t even know what a “human” is, or that he is one, so the newborn believer doesn’t know who or what he is. He has just been born; he has had no opportunity to study “spiritual embryology” and learn the truth about himself or his new life. In a day of wide-spread “identity theft,” the Christian must remember that he has a crafty Enemy who has logged a long history of identity theft—and he would love to victimize you today. Do you know the truth about who you are in Christ?

Then, there is the inventory crisis. Though he became an instant “spiritual millionaire” the moment he was saved, he doesn’t have the slightest idea of that truth or of what it means. He is like a baby into whose bank account an inheritance of $100 million was deposited at birth, but he knows nothing about money, value, wealth, stewardship, expenditure, etc. Do you see how important disciple-making is in “walking him through” these things (and many, many more) item by item? Christian, do you know how much you are personally worth to Christ, and what vast resources you have to function and to serve on His terms as a Christian?

Then, there is the immaturity crisis. Babies are not born mature, and the mere fact of birth does not guarantee maturity. This is especially true spiritually. In fact, without good “parental care,” the newborn will likely never adequately mature. The New Testament has much to say about this crisis and its cure, but it cannot be simply taken for granted. The Christian community needs an army of “spiritual pediatricians” who can assist babies in matters of hygiene and growth. Again, disciple-making builds these skills into the disciple.

Then, there is an idealism crisis. To see this crisis, all you must do is observe or interview Christians with regard to moral and ethical issues in today’s culture. The veteran Christian is often completely shocked to see that there is little ideological difference morally and ethically between a Christian and a non-Christian. The Christian has often absorbed his moral views from his culture instead of forming them from Scripture. Furthermore, many of these ethical infants are in church on a regular basis, but somehow, the morality of the Master never reaches their conduct and practice. In fact, the standards of Jesus and the Bible get absorbed in social and selfish interests, and the Christian becomes a kind of moral chameleon. This would be dealt with face to face and item by item and as often as necessary in disciple-making.

Then, there is an interpersonal crisis. A baby must be taught social skills regularly in his growing years if he is to emerge as a relational human being. If he is allowed to drift, his relationships with others will be influenced, damaged and then controlled by his own selfishness. He may try to monopolize and manipulate people subtly (or aggressively) for his own advantage. This is often a major crisis in a believer’s life, and may never be resolved. He has “spiritual surges” in special church meetings and on other occasions when he becomes convicted and tries to correct this problem, but he often slowly drifts back into inadequate relationship patterns. Again, disciple-making addresses this problem and offers and applies the Biblical answer as necessary.

Then, there is an insight crisis. Or it might be called the illumination crisis. According to the Bible, no person (including a saved person) can truly understand revealed truth without a miracle of the Holy Spirit. An unsaved person receives his first miracle in this area the moment he is saved. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see.” When he is born again, it is as if God issues him a new set of eyes. In the hush of his heart, he might say, “Where in the world have I been? I see!” But just as a newborn baby’s eyes must grow and develop and be trained for proper use (and as he grows, discrimination must be taught in what he is to look at), so it is with a newborn Christian. Again, the New Testament has a great deal to say about the resolution of this crisis, and every Christian should master the related Scriptures and be able to use them to help other believers. This is reasonably guaranteed in disciple-making.

Then, there is an implementation crisis. Or it might be called the incarnation crisis. The issue is, How does a believer incarnate or implement all the demands, dimensions, delights, etc., of the Christian life? One Christian said with a groan, “It’s easy to ‘love your enemies’—until you get one!” Most Christians never realize how impossible it is for the flesh, the performance of the self-life, to “live the Christian life.” “The Christian life isn’t merely difficult—it’s impossible!” one struggling believer exclaimed. The reason many Christians never realize this crisis is that they “tame down” the Christian life to casual dimensions, totally removing the miracle element. Their entire Christian life is a casual, tame go-to-church-and-see-my-friends, enduring all the pontifications and hoping I can get an occasional blessing from one. Frankly, any resemblance between the Christian life as it is revealed in the New Testament and the daily life of the typical Sunday morning church-goer is purely coincidental. Alexander Whyte, the great Scottish pastor, said, “The true Christian life requires moment-by-moment miracles.” I agree. Thus, if you are not living a life that requires moment-by-moment miracles, you are not living the Christian life of the New Testament. A “pew potato” Christian will never know the need for such miracles, but a Spirit-walking disciple/disciple-maker lives with this necessity every day. Furthermore, the powerful Presence of Jesus Christ is specifically promised to the person who lives to fulfill the Great Commission (in which the only command is to “turn people into disciples”).

No wonder Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him (adjust to Him in faith and make Him known), and He will direct your path.”
Note the three mandates we are to fulfill, (Trust - Depend on the Lord - & give all recognition & thanks to the LORD! Then, enjoy the promise of His guidance. These are good “first steps” in facing the crises that every Christian encounters.