Thinking Out Loud

January 3, 2017

Updating the Classics

Of the writing of books, it would seem there is no end. I know… I should copyright that sentence. But any observer of Christian publishing knows that the new year will bring thousands of new titles. But perhaps we need a few old books. We need their wisdom, but we need them in language we can understand.

A few years ago I made this suggestion. A few days ago, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and see how hard or how easy it is to do this.

First the challenge. This appeared in January, 2010…

Keith Green

In the early 1980s before his death in 1982, contemporary Christian singer Keith Green was publishing the monthly Last Days Newsletter in which, among other articles, he was translating a number of classic sermons and shorter works into modern English.

James Reimann, a Christian bookstore owner, took a look at the classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and decided to present this rich, quality material in a way that his customers would understand it. The updated edition was published in 1992 and now outsells the original.

However, events of this type are rare. Some bloggers re-post the works of Charles Spurgeon on a regular basis, but if this material is so vital to Christian living, why not update the text?

Jarret Stevens gave us The Deity Formerly Known as God, an update of J. B. Phillips’ Your God Is Too Small, written for the next generation with the addition of bold typefaces and illustrations. When you have such a good base text to begin with, your work can’t help have value.

As a blogger, I’m often told how eloquent a writer I am, but the truth is that while I read several books per month, I struggle with older writing styles. I see the value in Spurgeon, Charles Wesley, E.M. Bounds and Andrew Murray, but I’m unlikely to impulsively grab one off the shelves unless it pertains to a particular topic of interest.

The Christian book industry needs to be encouraging more modern renderings of some of these great books. The authors’ take on scripture is often different and deeper from what modern writers extrapolate from the same scriptures. We need to connect with some of these classic interpretations before they are lost to a changing English language.

So on to the execution. This was written in January 2017 and was easier said than done; trying to get inside the author’s word usage took about three times longer than I expected. (By the way, Matthew Henry would have loved bullet points, numbered lists, bold face type, headings and subheadings, etc.) This appeared at C201 yesterday, and had to be finished in a hurry…

…The pastor in the church we visited on New Year’s Day started 2017 with a message on sin. Although he used literally dozens of scripture references — many from Romans — this passage in Isaiah 30 (12-14 in particular) was the only verse for which he prepared a slide for us to read. Many people just want to hear things that will make them feel good. Elsewhere, we read about people having “itching ears.”

Today, we’re going to contrast the contemporary language of The Message with the more formal commentary of Matthew Henry. However, where you see italics, I’ve used more modern expressions. Everything from this point on is Matthew Henry as amended.

So, go now and write all this down.
Put it in a book
So that the record will be there
to instruct the coming generations,
Because this is a rebel generation,
a people who lie,
A people unwilling to listen
to anything God tells them.
They tell their spiritual leaders,
“Don’t bother us with irrelevancies.”
They tell their preachers,
“Don’t waste our time on impracticalities.
Tell us what makes us feel better.
Don’t bore us with obsolete religion.
That stuff means nothing to us.
Quit hounding us with The Holy of Israel.” – Isaiah 30: 8-11 (MSG)

They forbade the prophets to speak to them in God’s name, and to deal faithfully with them.

They set themselves so violently against the prophets to hinder them from preaching, or at least from dealing plainly with them in their preaching, did so banter them and browbeat them, that they did in effect say to the seers, See not. They had the light, but they loved darkness rather. It was their privilege that they had seers among them, but they did what they could to put out their eyes — that they had prophets among them, but they did what they could to stop their mouths; for they tormented them in their wicked ways, Rev. 11:10.

Those that silence good ministers, and discountenance good preaching, are justly counted, and called, rebels against God. See what it was in the prophets’ preaching with which they found themselves aggrieved.

  1. The prophets told them of their faults, and warned them of their misery and danger by reason of sin, and they couldn’t take it. They must speak to them warm and fuzzy things, must flatter them in their sins, and say that they did well, and there was no harm, no danger, in the course of life they lived in. No matter how true something is, if it be not easy to listen to, they will not hear it. But if it be agrees with the good opinion they have of themselves, and will confirm them in that, even though it be very false and ever so undeserved, they will have it prophesied to them. Those deserve to be deceived that desire to be so.
  2. The prophets stopped them in their sinful pursuits, and stood in their way like the angel in Balaam’s road, with the sword of God’s wrath drawn in their hand; so that they could not proceed without terror. And this they took as a great insult. When they continued to desire the opposite of what the prophets were saying they in effect said to the prophets, “Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the paths. What do you do in our way? Cannot you leave us alone to do as we please?” Those have their hearts fully set in them to do evil that bid these accountability monitors to get out of their way. Be quiet now before I have you killed! 2 Chron. 25:16.
  3. The prophets were continually telling them of the Holy One of Israel, what an enemy he is to sin ad how severely he will judge sinners; and this they couldn’t listen to. Both the thing itself and the expression of it were too serious for them; and therefore, if the prophets will speak to them, they will determine that they will not call God the Holy One of Israel; for God’s holiness is that attribute which wicked people most of all dread.

Now what is the doom passed upon them for this?

Therefore, The Holy of Israel says this:
“Because you scorn this Message,
Preferring to live by injustice
and shape your lives on lies,
This perverse way of life
will be like a towering, badly built wall
That slowly, slowly tilts and shifts,
and then one day, without warning, collapses—
Smashed to bits like a piece of pottery,
smashed beyond recognition or repair,
Useless, a pile of debris
to be swept up and thrown in the trash.”

Observe,

  1. Who it is that gives judgment upon them? This is what the Holy One of Israel says. The prophet uses the very title they find so objectionable. Faithful ministers will not be driven from using such expressions as are needed to awaken sinners, though they be displeasing. We must tell men that God is the Holy One of Israel, and so they will find him, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear.
  2. What is the basis of the judgment? Because they despise this word—whether, in general, every word that the prophets said to them, or this word in particular, which declares God to be the Holy One of Israel: “they despise this, and will neither make it their fear, to respect it, nor make it their hope, to put any confidence in it; but, rather than they will submit to the Holy One of Israel, they will continue in oppression and perverseness, in the wealth they have collected and the interest they have made by fraud and violence, or in the sinful methods they have taken for their own security, in contradiction to God and his will. On these they depend, and therefore it is just that they should fall.”
  3. What is the judgment is that is passed on them? “This sinfulness will be to you as a wall ready to fall. This confidence of yours will be like a house built upon the sand, which will fall in the storm and bury the builder in the ruins of it. Your contempt of that word of God which you might build upon will make every thing else you trust like a wall that bulges out, which, if any weight be laid upon it, comes down, nay, which often sinks with its own weight.”

The ruin they are bringing upon themselves is,

  1. Surprising: The breaking shall come suddenly, at an instant, when they do not expect it, which will make it the more frightful, and when they are not prepared or provided for it, which will make it the more fatal.
  2. Total and irreversible: “Your and all you hold dear shall be not only weak as the potter’s clay (Isa. 29:16), but broken to pieces as the potter’s vessel. He that has the rod of iron shall break it (Ps. 2:9) and he will not spare, will not have any regard to it, nor be in care to preserve or keep whole any part of it. But, when once it is broken so as to be unfit for use, let it be destroyed, let it be crushed, all to pieces, so that there may not remain one shred big enough to take up a little fire or water”—two things we have daily need of, and which poor people commonly get in a piece of a broken pitcher. They shall not only be as a leaning fence (Ps. 62:3), but as a broken mug or glass, which is good for nothing, nor can ever be made whole again.
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July 24, 2016

So, You Wanna Go Back to Egypt

Filed under: Christianity, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:57 am

I decided that if pastors, authors and speakers are going to keep quoting lines from Keith Green’s “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt” we should really let a new generation — and new Christians — hear the song. This song continues to endure with the popularity of the text as a source of teaching and illustration. If you’re not familiar with this artist read this and this here at Thinking Out Loud or do a Google search.

August 11, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This was such a busy week already on this blog, that the link list seems almost anti-climactic…

  • Our opening cartoon above is from Sacred Sandwich and is titled “Baptist Bestseller.”
  • I’m trying to decide whether to run this Christianity 201 post here at Thinking out Loud.  It’s titled I Belong to a Cult.    I think it’s important to know the bare minimum about your spiritual lineage.
  • Zach N. posted this video embed which I believe is from a series Matt Chandler does at YouTube called Sermon Jam.
  • Here’s a full-screen CBN News item about Christian painter Ron DiCianni, currently working on a 12′ x 30′ picture of Christ’s resurrection; a picture with many unexpected features.
  • Here’s a really courageous — though not recommended — piece about a robbery attempt that fails because the clerk doesn’t want to be held responsible for the loss of the money; though she does feel responsible for the robber’s soul.
  • In all the talk about Keith Green last week, probably nobody mentioned Gordon Aeschliman.   He gave up his seat on the ill-fated plane at the last minute so one of Keith’s other kids could board.   Read about him and his book, Cages of Pain.
  • After a nine year hiatus, the book Operation World, first published in 1974, is ready to hit the streets in October.    The writer, Jason Mandryk, explains why the print edition is still needed in a world where the balance of the info is available online.
  • Over a hundred people at iMonk respond to Chaplain Mike’s invitation to explain why they follow the teachings of Beth Moore.
  • For this link, I’m going to plant you in the middle of a multi-part blog series by Dean Lusk, and then let you do the navigating to find the rest of it.   This is part five — and a personal favorite — from Is The Church Signing The Wrong Words?
  • Looking for a longer read?   Try this piece where initial-guy N. T. Wright considers initial-guy C. S. Lewis.
  • Albert Mohler weighs in on the back and forth status of California’s Proposition 8.
  • If you’re reading this in the U.S. before 6:30 PM Wednesday local time; ABC News has an interview with author Anne Rice.
  • With his comment level now reaching up into the stratosphere, Jon Acuff scores over 300 reactions to his piece on trying to find a new church.
  • Check out some new and different worship songs available free at Worship Corner.
  • This week’s comic:  It’s been six months since we last visited Jeff Larson’s The Back Pew

July 27, 2010

28/28/28 – Remembering Keith Green



“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!!” — Keith Green

I was standing in the dining room of a summer camp when the two guys whose job it was to monitor the morning news and do a morning sports report told me, “a gospel singer was killed in a plane crash.”   Not just any gospel singer as it turned out.   One of the best.

In February 1965, [at age 12] with forty original songs already written by him, Green and his father Harvey signed a five-year contract with Decca Records, with Harvey as business manager. The first song released on disc was The Way I Used to Be in May 1965 …which he had earlier composed and published before signing on with Decca. Upon publication of this song, Green became the youngest person ever to sign with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

Keith had a Jewish heritage and raised in Christian Science. He grew up reading the New Testament and called the mixture “an odd combination” that left him open minded but deeply unsatisfied. ~ Wikipedia

Keith considered all of the spiritual possibilities out there and wrote them on a list for investigation.   He put Christianity at the end of the list because, “it couldn’t possibly be that.”   The Wikipedia article sums up his life:

Beyond his music, which shook the Christian world and recording industry, Green is best known for his strong devotion to Christian evangelism and challenging others to the same.

I’ll let blogger Dennis Mansfield continue:

The name, Keith Green, may not mean anything to you.

A memorial to him would, therefore seem like a goofy thing to do. “Memorialize WHO?” you might say.

Keith’s life is worthy of a quick read.  His death is worthy of a long study…at least the after-effects of his entering into eternity…

…I loved his fierce determinism.  He was a no bull man of God. And he would, I am told, COMPLETELY upset evangelical leaders for their fakery. My friend from years ago, Bob Probert, told me of how Keith upset leaders of Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard. Many people across America just DID NOT like Keith.

And he did not seem to care.

That last sentence says more than you think. Keith answered to a different boss.

“I 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 or to sell out more completely to Jesus!” -Keith Green-

Blogger Melissa Griffin picks up the story,

Keith Green, with his powerful voice, outstanding musical talent, and unquenchable passion for the Lord, inspired countless droves of listeners to give up everything for the unsurpassing joy of knowing Jesus Christ. He followed Jesus for 7 years, released 5 albums in 6 years, and saw thousands come to the Lord through his stirring, yet short-lived ministry. After 28 years of life, Keith unexpectedly departed this world to enter the presence of His Savior. That was 28 years ago.

28 years ago, at age 28, on the 28th day of July.

In a day when believers seem to be trying to please both the world and the Lord (which is an impossible thing), when people are far more concerned about offending their friends than offending God, there is only one answer…Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him!” — Keith Green

Nilson Sousa, Jr. is only twenty-something.   Too young to have been around when Keith’s music was sold in Christian bookstores, or later when it wasn’t sold in Christian bookstores because Keith was giving it all away for whatever price listeners could afford.    But a twenty-something offers a fresh perspective:

He is one of my heroes, probably the biggest one of 20 century.

Is that possible? To have bones of a dead prophet calling forth a generation of dead Christians? Yes, It is.

I was blessed to be part of the technical crew the day Keith was a guest on Canada’s national daily Christian television show.   I pushed the production team hard to just give Keith a block of time and they allowed him to have more than 20 minutes uninterrupted, a rarity for that program.  A quick-thinking floor manager held up a sign with the phone number for the show’s counseling center.

The show ended at 11:00 AM; at 3:00 PM calls were still coming in as people responded to Keith’s message about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, at 7:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, (6:30 Central) there is a free, live web event remembering Keith Green taking place at www.keithgreen.com which I hope you can spread the news about.   Find out more at this 3 1/2 minute video invitation.

Either copy and paste the permalink for this article or just copy and paste the above paragraph [or this and the above one] into an e-mail and send it to any and all you think might be open or interested in hearing more about one of the founders of both today’s contemporary Christian music and the subsequent modern worship movement which followed.

YouTube audio links for those of you who missed the Keith Green era include: The worship song, There is a Redeemer; and the more up-tempo You Put This Love In My Heart.   Co-written with Randy Stonehill here’s a link for Love Broke Through, popularized by Phil Keaggy.

May 28, 2010

Why Am I Still Here?

Though I had already been notified, a thought occured to me while I was reading yesterday about the death of Rhonda Glenn, who had worked in broadcasting previously as Rhonda London.

Rhonda enjoyed a successful broadcasting career in Ontario, Canada when she decided to join CTS, a family-friendly Christian television station affiliated with Crossroads, the organization that produces Canada’s daily Christian talk show, 100 Huntley Street. She was given her own afternoon talk show, but later decided to leave broadcasting altogether to persue a career in law.   She would have been called to the bar in just a few weeks.

She had married an Anglican minister and they had a son.   The next chapter of life was just beginning when she was diagnosed with brain cancer which ended her life just weeks after diagnosis.   Pray for her son and husband and family.

But I had this thought later on, that probably many of you have in times like this, “Why her and not me?”   Or, “Why am I still here?”

I think much of this has to do with the phrase often used in situations like this, “God took her.”   Years ago, my wife attended the funeral of a young girl who died several days after a brain seizure.    There was a poem read or sung that said something to the effect that ‘God must have needed another angel in heaven.’   It was perhaps comforting imagery, but not entirely sound theology.

I think the “Why am I still here?” question is directly related to the way in which we use words.

I took a course in university on the Philosophy of Language.   It was a seminar format, what I would call a 7-11 course (a minimum of seven people sitting around a table, eleven people if everyone showed up.)  The professor sat almost at a corner of the table and I sat in the corner at the opposite end.   There was something comfortable about that environment, and when people thought I was taking copious notes, I was actually writing songs.   But I enjoyed the readings, interjected ideas into the discussion, and somehow ended up with a B+.

Anyway, the point of the course was that our ideas and concepts are shaped by the way our given languages identify or reference those ideas and concepts.    So when we use a phrase like “God took her,” we’re loading the phrase with kinds of assumptions about the nature of God and His involvement in our day-to-day affairs.

Furthermore, since it often seems like some of the best and brightest die, as we might say, before their time, it then leaves us wondering why God would choose to take them.   This was the question someone asked me just hours after we heard the news of Keith Green‘s death:  Why him and not one of the lesser Christian musicians?   That question contains the twist of implying that somewhere that day a Christian singer or songwriter was destined to die, and it was just a coin toss as to which one.    (Fortunately, because people say things in moments like this that we shouldn’t judge, we have the liberty of excusing questions like this which are not more thoroughly considered.)

I don’t know what Rhonda might have accomplished in her family, church-life or new carreer.   My guess is: probably a lot.  I just know that I am still here, and while I think my life pales in comparison to all that she did accomplish, it’s up to me to try to make the most of the day for God’s glory.

You’re reading this, so you have been given another day, too; what are you going to do with it?

May 23, 2010

Movie to Tell the Keith Green Story

A very small handful of blogs have picked up on this story from Monday (5/17) which appeared — as far as I can tell — only at the Los Angeles Daily News.   As I type this, the link has been broken, so I’m going to import some of this from other bloggers who were able to grab the story before the link became unstable…

First from Arts and Faith:

Nearly 30 years after Christian-rock pioneer Keith Green died in a plane crash, his widow and a Hollywood producer have teamed up to bring his story to the big screen in the hope of introducing a new generation to his music. . . .

Melody Green is working with producer Mike Leahy to make a movie version of her book “No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green.”

Leahy has been involved with a number of Hollywood projects over the past 20 years, including “The Prophecy” starring Christopher Walken and “Infinity” directed by Matthew Broderick. But this is the first project for the production company he formed with his wife, Lori, to make films with a spiritual or social message.

They hope to start shooting later this year, and release the film in 2011. . . .

The blog To Be Free fills in more of the missing online article:

One of several Christian rock musicians who lived in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, Keith and his wife, Melody, wrote numerous hit songs, but also formed a seven-home community in Woodland Hills where they cared for people in need.

“The stuff he did was breaking all the rules,” said Melody, now an author, composer and speaker who leads Last Days Ministries out of Kansas City, Mo.

“He showed up in flip-flops, blue jeans and suspenders and really kind of revolutionized the music industry by giving away his music for free, loving God, really loving people and telling Christians, `Hey, we’ve got to do what we say we believe.”‘

It turns out however, that one blogger had this story first at the blog, Our Sovereign Joy.   That entry is a link to the Last Days Ministries website; the organization Keith started that Melody Green continues.   There we read:

Shortly after the plane crash, I knew someday there would be a movie about Keith.  I’ve waited for over 25 years for the Lord’s timing — for God to bring producers with the right hearts, the vision and expertise to take Keith’s story to the big screen.

I always had a specific vision for the movie… just as I did when I wrote Keith’s story in No Compromise.  I want people to join Keith in his searching years and then track with us together on our journey to faith.  It must be authentic — and connect to both the heart and the spirit.

The Screenplay is being written right now – so please pray for it specifically!  For the story line, the events shown, and the power of God to be woven into it.

Every film that is taken from a book is much more condensed than the book, so everyone involved needs great and specific guidance…

…This movie is a God-sized job that needs to be bathed in prayer… for wisdom, anointing, divine connections, favor in the industry, the funding that is needed, and much more.

I also need prayer personally, as I know this will be both an exciting and emotionally overwhelming project.  I’m already feeling the weight of it…

Continue reading Melody’s letter here… (click on “current prayer needs” under Keith’s picture)

This is a story we’ll continue tracking.   Years later, there is no denying the great influence of Keith Green’s life and music.   Even this week, as part of a two-hour reconnect with a friend who does worship seminars for churches, I asked the question, “I wonder what Keith Green would think of today’s modern worship industry?”

This movie will no doubt impact many lives, and taking Melody’s suggestion — we should all be praying both for the movie to be a worthy reflection of Keith’s life, but also praying about the role we can play in helping to promote it, especially to a younger generation who never lived through the year’s of Keith Green’s influence.

Do you have a Keith Green story to tell?   Click on the comment link and share your story.

Photo: Keith and Melody as new Christians.  The book No Compromise was reprinted in 2008 by Thomas Nelson.

UPDATE:   Be sure to read a more recent story on this blog describing the 28/28/28 memorial.

January 19, 2010

Why Limit Translation To The Bible?

Keith Green

In the early 1980s before his death in 1982, contemporary Christian singer Keith Green was publishing the monthly Last Days Newsletter in which, among other articles,  he was translating a number of classic sermons and shorter works into modern English.

James Reimann, a Christian bookstore owner, took a look at the classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and decided to present this rich, quality material in a way that his customers would understand it.  The updated edition was published in 1992

However, events of this type are rare.    Some bloggers re-post the works of Charles Spurgeon on a regular basis, but if this material is so vital to Christian living, why not update the text?

Recently, Jarret Stevens gave us The Deity Formerly Known as God, an update of J. B. Phillips’ Your God Is Too Small, written for the next generation with the addition of bold typefaces and illustrations.    When you have such a good base text to begin with, your work can’t help have value.

As a blogger, I’m often told how eloquent a writer I am, but the truth is that while I read several books per month, I struggle with older writing styles.   I see the value in Spurgeon, Charles Wesley, E.M. Bounds and Andrew Murray, but I’m unlikely to impulsively grab one off the shelves unless it pertains to a particular topic of interest.

The Christian book industry needs to be encouraging more modern renderings of some of these great books.    The authors’ take on scripture is often different and deeper from what modern writers extrapolate from the same scriptures.   We need to connect with some of these classic interpretations before they are lost to a changing English language.

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