Archive for the ‘ministry’ Tag

Give & Go   Leave a comment

Paul’s Plans to Visit

Some people who just skip this last chapter of 1 Corinthians because it really isn’t very theological, but I find Paul imparted a lot of wisdom in his farewells. And, I’m systematic, so I prefer not to leave things out, which is what some of us would prefer to do with the first subject in Chapter 16.

With regard to the collection for the saintsplease follow the directions that I gave to the churches of Galatia: On the first day of the weekeach of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come. Thenwhen I arriveI will send those whom you approve with letters of explanation to carry your gift to JerusalemAnd if it seems advisable that I should go alsothey will go with me. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Give to the Lord’s Work

Related imagePaul had a practical philosophy of giving to the church, providing six guidelines as to how we should give. Before we look at these biblical guidelines, you must accept the Bible’s premise that you and I don’t own anything. Our home, cars, possessions, and money all belong to the Lord. We are merely stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to us. If you accept this premise, you probably won’t object to what I’m going to teach here.

Guideline #1:

Biblical giving is not optional but mandatory. The word translated “direction” is a strong word that is frequently translated “command” or “order.” Paul wrote with apostolic authority, calling for the church in Corinth to do what he had already directed the Galatian churches to do. Generous financial giving is one of the key characteristics of a mature Christian. This ties in rather nicely with the previous verse (15:58), where Paul commands the Corinthians to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” It’s like he’s saying, “Speaking of giving yourselves fully, let’s talk about financial giving.”

Guideline #2:

Biblical giving starts with meeting the basic needs of believers. 

Typically, when a pastor preaches a message on money, it’s in order to generate pledges for the annual budget, buy land, or build a new building. Such matters concern most congregations at some point in their church history. But that is not where biblical giving begins. It begins with a heart that cares about the basic needs of other Christians for food, shelter, and clothing. That’s what the collection here in 1 Corinthians 16 is all about—sending a gift to Jerusalem so the believers there can survive. Their financial plight was due to famine, persecution, and economic sanctions against them, making it difficult for new converts to hold anything but the most menial jobs.

The above guideline indicates that we who are wealthy (every American, from a world perspective) have an obligation to help poverty-stricken believers as well as the persecuted church in foreign lands. Such support should never be treated as optional. Instead, the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ should be an essential part of our financial giving. This Christmas, what will you give to brothers and sisters in Christ who are less fortunate? When you think about giving to others, think about all God has given you. This ought to compel you to give generously to those who are less fortunate.

Guideline #3:

Biblical giving is the believer’s #1 financial priority. 

Many Christians don’t give at all, and often those who do give do so sporadically. They might give two months in a row, skip three months, give one, and skip two more. Some people don’t give when they are on vacation, sick at home, or snowed in. Some don’t give if they miss the offering plate. Imagine standing before the Lord and explaining why you disobeyed His command to give. Do you think He’d be impressed if you explained that you just kept forgetting to write the check? We don’t think that way about anything else. If our mortgage comes due when we’re on vacation, we don’t not pay it because we’ll lose our house. The wise among us pay our house note before we go on our vacation. Why don’t we take what God is owed as seriously?

Today, you may need to reevaluate your financial giving. God’s Word is clear from cover-to-cover, we are to give to the Lord first, not last. This implies that giving to the Lord’s work should take place before other obligations are met. Every once in a while I hear someone say, “Well, I had to take a pass on giving for a couple of months because we had some unexpected medical expenses, house expenses, etc.” I don’t think Paul would buy that. If we would give the first part of our paycheck, then maybe we wouldn’t get into those tight spots in the first place. That’s the point of the Old Testament prophet, Haggai, who told the poverty-stricken Israelites that God was putting holes in their pockets because their financial priorities were amiss. Giving should come before bill paying, before pursuing hobbies, before eating out, even before repaying debt. And, if you consistently cannot afford to give God’s tithe, then you seriously need to look at your debts and income. People who pay off credit cards and don’t use debt often have a lot more money to give.

Guideline #4:

Biblical giving is every believer’s responsibility.

Ever get stuck by a word’s base meaning? Writer, right? Responsiblity = your ability to respond. This topic is about your response to God.

It’s an individual response. “Each one of you is to put aside and save ….” Notice that Paul didn’t excuse the poor, the slaves, the pastors, or the large family with three kids in college. Giving is every believer’s privilege and responsibility. We are all to be involved in giving regularly, whether we have a lot of money or we’re impoverished, whether we’re children or the most senior adult.

Unfortunately, many of us have erroneously assumed that if we don’t have a lot of money or are in debt, we don’t have to give. Nothing could be further from the truth! The greatest examples in Scripture of sacrificial giving come from those who are in the midst of poverty and persecution. God wants and expects us to give in spite of our circumstances or lack of wealth. The Lord will honor even a meager attempt to prioritize giving.

Guideline #5:

Biblical giving should be proportionate. 

Paul wrote a believer’s giving should be “save it to the extent that God has blessed you.” In other words, the more we are blessed, the more we should give. There are two ways one can approach this matter. If you are giving a set percentage of your income, let’s say 10%, as your income rises your giving will automatically rise proportionately. But a more generous approach to proportionate giving is to increase the percentage of your giving as your income increases. In the case of a substantial raise, you will still be left with more than you had before the promotion. The issue is: where does your heart lie?

The New Testament does not require flat 10% giving. The tithe was an income tax system in the Old Testament. There were three tithes—two tithes per year for two years and on the third year an additional tithe of 10%, making it 30% for that year. The tithes for the third year were for the poor. It worked out to 231/3 % of income over a three-year period. Yeah, most people in America could not manage that since we already have the government in our pockets for 15-40% of our incomes. Then, additionally, we are supposed to give “offerings.” Israelites gave both tithes and offerings. All this was done for the national entity of Israel. A national entity needs an income tax system, so that was the purpose of the tithe. The New Testament does not command tithes for the church. The idea for the church is an offering of proportional giving or as God has blessed the believer financially. There is no percentage in this system of giving.

My personal conviction is 10% of one’s income is a good guideline – a target to hit – for most people. Some people who are poor or deeply in debt may need to build up gradually  to 10% as they retire debt or their income increases. That’s fine. Giving is ultimately a matter between the individual believer and God. Don’t assume you’re violating God’s command if you truly don’t have 10% to give, but don’t think you’re doing just fine if you’re giving 10% when you’re really wealthy. I would suggest that the vast majority of American Christians, if we avoided credit card debt and bought houses and cars we can actually afford, can and should give more than 10% of our income to the Lord. Sadly though, many Christians are more concerned with their standard of living than their standard of giving. For many of us, prosperity has become a greater test of character than poverty.

When it comes to giving, ask two questions:

  • How has God prospered you?
  • To what degree do you want to express your gratitude to Him for all that He has given you?

Guideline #6:

Biblical giving should not be motivated by pressure. 

Looking again at 16:2 we see that the apostle was asking that the collection be made each week so that there didn’t have to be a fund drive when he arrived. He was in Ephesus as he wrote this letter, and he had plans to travel to visit Corinth in the future. He knew that his credibility and charisma were such that he could generate a huge offering with his personal presence, but he didn’t want them to give under that kind of pressure.

Pressure, of course, works. Countless churches and ministries have funded vast building projects through high-pressure fund-raising efforts. Just because it works, doesn’t mean it’s right and Paul seems to have understood that.

In addition to the above six guidelines, there is a concluding principle that has more to do with how offerings are handled than with how they are given.

Biblical givers have a right to expect integrity and accountability from those they give to. 

Verses 3-4 explain that it is the responsibility of every congregation to entrust its funds into the hands of trustworthy members. Paul didn’t say, “Give your money to me and I will handle it for you.” Instead he urged the church to choose their own representatives to disburse the gifts. Obviously, integrity matters. Churches and Christian charities should have the highest level of financial accountability observable in society.

I challenge you to either continue or begin giving generously and cheerfully. Not only does gracious giving please the Lord, but there are also legitimate personal blessings involved.

But I will come to you after I have gone through Macedonia – for I will be going through Macedonia  and perhaps I will stay with youor even spend the winterso that you can send me on my journeywherever I go. For I do not want to see you now in passingsince I hope to spend some time with youif the Lord allows. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a door of great opportunity stands wide open for me, but there are many opponents.

Now if Timothy comessee that he has nothing to fear among youfor he is doing the Lord’s workas I am too. So thenlet no one treat him with contemptBut send him on his way in peace so that he may come to meFor I am expecting him with the brothers.

With regard to our brother Apollos: I strongly encouraged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was simply not his intention to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity. 1 Corinthians 16:5-12

Go to the Lord’s People

Image result for image of christian missionariesThese verses explain how Paul and his ministry partners were willing to go to minister to believers and unbelievers alike. There are at least five observations worth making from these eight verses. First, Paul had plans and goals to share the gospel with unbelievers and build up the churches. He had a schedule mapped out. He didn’t just trust God and sit on his hands. He took initiative and moved forward with holy ambition.

Do you have a plan to share Christ and build up His body? If not, why not? Today, make a promise to yourself and God to share the gospel, write down the names of three unbelievers and three believers, and develop a plan to share Christ with those individuals.

Second, Paul submitted his plans and goals to Christ. Words and phrases like “perhaps,” “wherever I may go,” and “I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits” reveal Paul’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Although he had plans and goals that he wanted to accomplish, he was always striving to make sure that he was doing what God wanted him to do.

Are you willing to relocate and change jobs if God calls you to? Would you be willing to take on a new ministry? God longs for willing hearts.

Third, God eventually opens a door of ministry for faithful believers. Admittedly, sometimes it takes many years but God has a way of blessing our meager efforts. Paul wrote “for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” This “open door” in Ephesus brought great evangelistic fruit. However, with the fruit there were many adversaries. This is to be expected. Where there is light there are bugs. When God pours out His blessing, Satan sends adversaries to destroy God’s work. Those involved in ministry of any sort should expect opposition. It is important to recognize “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:13).

Fourth, Paul valued ministry partners. In this section, he spent considerable ink talking about Timothy and Apollos. In the passage that follows he will mention five more valuable coworkers. Paul recognized how important other ministry leaders were to his ministry and to God’s kingdom. God uses teammates (brothers and sisters) to help us to accomplish His purposes for our lives. More importantly, He uses the purposes He works in us to accomplish His kingdom agenda in the world. Have you expressed gratitude to God for all that He has accomplished in your life? Have you said “thank you” to your Christian teammates?

Going requires more of us than giving and that should be acknowledged. It’s hard with jobs and children and life to pick up and go to Africa or South America – but let’s be honest, the early Christians did much of their ministering right where they were – in the marketplace, mending tents, as they interacted with the people around them. Do you do ministry at work, the grocery store, on your Facebook page? Are you willing to?

We’re part of God’s work team if we’re willing to let Him guide us in the plans He has designed for us. Today, will you commit yourself to fulfilling God’s plans for your life? Will you submit yourself to Him in the areas of giving and going?

Paul Was a BiVocational Preacher   Leave a comment

Have you noticed how Hollywood can spend millions producing what they are certain will be a blockbuster, only to watch the movie bomb in the box office? Then along comes a small-time producer, who spends peanuts producing a flick that becomes the latest rage. Think the original Star Wars movie.

Image result for image of bi vocational pastorIt’s all too common to see an athlete sign a ridiculously lucrative contract only to be injured or have a sub-par season. Then a rookie can sign the league minimum and have an explosive year. You can’t always judge a movie by its budget or an athlete by his salary. Furthermore, you can’t judge a servant of Christ by his pay or lack thereof.

I know may be hard to believe as people genuflect before some televangelists in their limousines and million-dollar mansions, but the apostle Paul chose not to receive payment from the church at Corinth. Instead, he established a church in this sin-hardened city at his own expense. He served them freely so that the gospel would have an open door to travel through. It would be hard to argue that Paul’s personal sacrifices didn’t bring about great results for God’s kingdom.

Modern Christians have also been called to have a godly work ethic as ministers of the gospel. Some of us will be paid, others will serve as volunteers, yet, we are all called to represent Christ … to serve Jesus with our lives.

Paul started by building a lengthy argument for ministers being paid or at least supported by the church they serve in. In 1 Corinthians 9:1, Paul began by reminding the Corinthians of his apostolic identity.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?  1 Corinthians 9:1

Paul’s four rhetorical questions all expect a positive answer, and they become increasingly specific. Certainly he enjoyed the liberty that every other believer had. Moreover, he possessed the rights and privileges of an apostle. The proof of his apostleship was twofold. He had seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:21-22) on the Damascus road (Acts 22:14-15; 26:15-18), and he had founded the church in Corinth, which was apostolic work (see Romans 15:15-21).

If I am not an apostle to othersat least I am to youfor you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 9:2

There were some who doubted Paul’s apostleship (Galatians), but the Corinthians shouldn’t have because they themselves were the proof that he was an apostle. If the Corinthians denied Paul’s apostleship they denied their own validity as a church. Paul, therefore, took the opportunity to work that issue into his discussion seeking to nip it in the bud. He explained that the Corinthians were the “seal” of his apostleship. A seal in the ancient world was a warm blob of wax into which a signet ring was pressed to seal a letter or package. It was an assurance that the contents had not been opened; it showed who owned the contents; and it showed the genuineness of the contents, that it was sent by the right person. The Corinthians were Paul’s work in the Lord, proof that he was obeying God’s guidance.

As a Christian, you should have your own “seal” of people you have impacted and influenced for eternity. Like Paul, our goal must be to see lost people trust in Jesus Christ and then grow to maturity in Him. In light of eternity, nothing else will matter.

This is my defense to those who examine me. Do we not have the right to financial support? Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wifelike the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work? 1 Corinthians 9:3-6

Paul started by sharing his apostolic rights to make his living from the gospel. His argument was based on a barrage of rhetorical questions that persuasively presented a rationale for his financial support, then he concluded it was best for him to forgo those rights in Corinth (9:12b). Paul lived what he preached and he firmly believed that proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

So have you ever noticed that when people work for free, they and their services are worthless. Since Paul was serving for free, some questioned his credentials. In Corinth, orators, teachers, and philosophers were well paid. It was unthinkable that someone like Paul would not receive a paycheck. So Paul built an air-tight case for remuneration and then insisted he would not make use of his rights. For Paul, proclaiming Christ demanded paying a price.

In the context, “the right to eat and drink” is a figurative reference to financial support. It means to “eat and drink” at the expense of others. Six different times the word “right” is used in this chapter. It’s a very central issue. Paul was saying that he had a legitimate claim to receive financial support from the people to whom he ministered.

All of these questions expect a positive answer. Paul stated that apostles have the right to be married and to cease to work outside of ministry.

Whoever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense, 3  or does the law not say this as well? 1 Corinthians 9:7-8

Paul gave five reasons why he had the right to be supported by the churches to whom he ministered, why he shouldn’t have to work at a trade to earn a living, so he could devote his energy to study, prayer, preaching, and teaching. He began with an appeal to common sense with three illustrations from everyday experience in the workplace. 

  • Soldiers don’t work at their own expense.
  • Farmers eat from the proceeds of their fields.
  • Those who tend the flock get to use the milk.

Just like soldiers, farmers and herders, a Christian worker has a right to expect benefits from his labor.

For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” God is not concerned here about oxenis he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for usbecause the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest.  1 Corinthians 9:9-10

Paul used Scripture to back up his reasoning, quoting the Old Testament law regarding the treatment of oxen. Deuteronomy 25:4 commanded God’s people not to muzzle the ox while it was in the process of threshing, to allow it to eat the grain. If God cares so much about the animals who served His people, how much more must He care for the people who serve them?

If something is true on a lower scale, it is certainly true on a more important, higher scale. If mere animals are given the right to eat as they are working in the fields, certainly human beings made in the image of God have that same right. God is more concerned about getting across a principle for human beings in this text than He is about getting across a principle of animal husbandry.

Several times Paul asserted that the Old Testament was written as an example for New Testament believers (see 1 Corinthians. 10:6, 11; Romans 4:23-24; 15:4). This is an important reminder that the Old Testament is of great benefit to each and every one of us. We should read it frequently and look for opportunities to study it. Perhaps the price that you need to pay in proclaiming Christ is to spend some time studying the Old Testament. After all, it makes up ¾ of your Bible. To effectively proclaim Christ, we must be familiar with the Bible as he and the apostle Paul knew it.

If we sowed spiritual blessings among youis it too much to reap material things from you? If others receive this right from youare we not more deserving? 1 Corinthians 9:11-12

In 9:11-12, Paul appealed to the inherent fairness of paying ministers. Spiritual things are intrinsically more important than physical things. The former will last forever whereas the latter are only temporary. Consequently, those who benefit from spiritual ministry should physically support those who minister to them (see Galatians 6:6). In spite of this spiritual principle, Paul surrendered his rights because proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

But we have not made use of this rightInstead we endure everything so that we maynot be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ9:13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple 5  eat food from the templeand those who serve at the altar receive a part of the offerings? 1 Corinthians 9:12b-13

Paul referenced the Old Testament Jewish custom pertaining to the temple and the priests and Levites. The concept of paying God’s servants is not a New Testament notion; it dates back to the Old Testament. Paul saw his gospel ministry as priestly service (see Romans 15:16).

In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14

Paul closed his argument in powerful fashion, explaining that Jesus taught the same right for servants to be paid (Matthew 10:10Luke 10:7). Case closed: full-time vocational servants have the freedom to be paid.

My church pays our pastor, but a lot of churches don’t. Some are too small or new starts, so cannot afford to pay a large salary. I know quite a few pastors who serve in a voluntary fashion while supporting themselves bi-vocationally. There’s nothing wrong with that if those pastors feel called to service in that fashion and the church can’t afford to pay a salary. But I know some big churches that don’t pay their ministry staff because, they claim, there’s no Biblical mandate to do so. They apparently skip 1 Corinthians 9. If the church can afford a huge new building, but isn’t paying the pastor … there is something wrong in that church.

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing these things so that something will be done for me. In fact, it would be better for me to die than – no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boastingbecause I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this voluntarilyI have a rewardBut if I do it unwillinglyI am entrusted with a responsibility. 1 Corinthians 9:15-17

Having argued vigorously for his right to the Corinthians’ support, Paul then proceeded to argue just as strongly for his right to give up this right. This section gives the reader a window into the apostle’s soul.

Paul explained that his passion for lost people and preaching the gospel consumed him. Consequently, he would go to any and every length to share Christ. Paul actually felt it was better to die than to receive any financial support from Corinth and lose out on freely boasting in the free offer of the gospel. This idea of boasting is used in Paul’s Bible—the Old Testament, of glorying in God. So when Paul used the word “boast” in his writings, he wasn’t talking about personal accomplishments. He was talking about what the Lord has done through him in spite of his weakness.

Why was Paul so adamant that he should not be paid for preaching the gospel? If he had the right, why not capitalize on it? Paul said that he could not legitimately boast in his ministry of preaching, because God ordered him to do it. He stated that he was “under compulsion” (9:16) and had been entrusted with a “stewardship” (9:17). There was an irresistible call of God on his life, and he couldn’t take any personal credit for doing it. He was a man on fire for God! “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (9:16). The word “woe” occurs frequently in the Old Testament prophets to denote coming disaster and even divine judgment. Paul felt the weight of severe consequences if he chose to forego preaching for another profession. Since God dramatically called Paul to preach, he had to proclaim the gospel. There was no reward in simply doing what God had called him to do (see Luke 17:10).

What then is my reward? That when I preach the gospel I may offer the gospel free of chargeand so not make full use of my rights in the gospel. 1 Corinthians  1 Corinthians 9:18

Paul’s “reward” was demonstrating love to people by freely preaching the gospel. His highest pay was the privilege of preaching without pay. Of course, Paul also believed that his loving service would be recognized in the future by his Lord (see 3:12-14). However, Paul recognized that we do not get rewarded for our calling in and of itself, only for the manner in which we fulfill it. Thus, Paul sacrificed much and served well so that he might one day be rewarded for his service.

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to allin order to gain even more people.To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the JewsTo those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weakI have become all things to all peopleso that by all means I may save some.1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Paul described his passion to do whatever it takes to win lost people to Christ. Six times in this paragraph Paul stated his desire to reach the lost. He reached the lost by adapting his methods according to the group he tried to reach. Paul pursued anyone and everyone:

  • Jews;
  • “those who are under the law” probably includes Gentile God-fearers and proselytes to Judaism as well as ethnic Jews;
  • “those who are without law” refers to Gentiles apart from any Jewish influence; and
  • “the weak” most likely refer to Christians with weak consciences. Paul must therefore be using “win” in the broader sense of winning to a more mature form of Christian faith.

Paul’s missionary principle had practical applications and still does. For missionaries it means learning the local language and customs to make the gospel understandable in the local environment. For those in campus ministries it means bringing to college students a message that challenges them on an academic level and shows that Christianity is not anti-intellectual. The applications of “being all things to all people” are endless. I have friends share Christ in bars, homeless camps, AA socials, homosexual clubs, and Mormon churches. If Christianity is to make a mark in the 21st century, fresh and radical methods will need to be pursued.

I do all these things because of the gospelso that I can be a participant in it. 1 Corinthians 9:23

Why does Paul go to such great lengths to win lost people? The work of the gospel was the hub of Paul’s life. Everything revolved around it. Paul lived in the way he did to become a “fellow partaker” of the gospel. He did not “share” the financial blessings of the Corinthians, but he expected to get a “share” in the rewards of the gospel eventually. He turned down rewards from particular congregations, but he expected that God would compensate him for that which he had lost. To become “a partaker of the gospel” means to receive its ultimate reward: to gain “the prize” that Jesus gives.

Brad suggested I should say something about how this correlates with our voluntarist principles. It comports very well because we are completely allowed to CHOOSE to give of our time and money as we see fit. We object to GOVERNMENT taking money from us involuntarily to give it to “charities” that often make the situation they purport to address worse. Most Christians in American churches give very generously of their NET income. Imagine if we had access to our GROSS incomes? How much more would we give to programs that are designed to help people out of difficult circumstances and give them the skills to overcome current and future difficulties? By and large, churches do a much better job of getting people out of poverty than do government programs because the aid is not offered in perpetuity. It’s time-limited and goal-focused because funding is finite. Churches can’t extort money from people, so they have to live within a budget and address needs in effective ways. There is no incentive to continue serving the same people forever because the vast majority of Christian ministers are lay people working on a strictly voluntary basis, raising their own funding. That is what existed in the 1st century and it is still the standard today for God’s people. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But, yes, pastors and other ministers who work on a full-time basis for churches that have healthy budgets should be paid.

Courage of the Music Minister   Leave a comment

“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

 

straightonI became a Christian (spring 1977) as the Christian Contemporary music genre was in its infancy. There was one Christian radio station in Fairbanks and they played really old country-twang gospel. Some of my friends had tapes they had brought from the Lower 48, but there was a lot of low-production quality and praise band tapes.

Keith Green was my first Christian musician because he gave away one tape for every tape he sold and that caused the Christian bookstore here in Fairbanks to carry his music. Green was much more of a minister than he was a musician and that made all the difference.

The following is taken from the Last Days Ministry website with some editing by me.

Born in New York near Brooklyn, Keith came from a musical family. His mom had been a singer with the Big Bands, his dad a schoolteacher. Before he was two his mom said Keith had perfect pitch as he sang his baby songs. A year later his family moved to CA and settled into the newly developed orchards of the San Fernando Valley, just a short drive to Hollywood, which would play a significant role in Keith’s future.

Keith’s parents made sure he learned how to play guitar and piano at a young age. He liked piano best, but got bored playing the long classical pieces.  So instead of learning to read sheet music, he’d memorize each piece, then pretend to be site reading when his teacher was there. But his grandfather, who started Jaguar Records, the first rock and roll label, taught Keith how to play chords on the piano… and it was the end of classical music for him. From that moment on Keith began writing and singing his own songs. He was only 6 years old at the time.

When he was 11 Keith signed a recording contract with Decca Records, singing his own songs. Although his pictures were in the teen magazines and his single had some minor success, the industry didn’t know how to market with such a young artist. Keith was very disappointed and at 14, felt like a total failure, a ‘has been’ which was very difficult for someone who had  been groomed all his life to be a pop star.

Keith was 15 the first time he ran away from home. He started a journal that very day and for years as he looked for musical adventure and spiritual truth, then recorded his journey. Keith had a Jewish background, but he grew up reading the New Testament because his father was Christian Science. He called it “a confusing combination” that left  him deeply unsatisfied. His journey led him to drugs, Eastern mysticism, and free love.

When Keith was 19 he met a fellow seeker/musician named Melody. They became inseparable and got married a year later — now he had a partner as his spiritual quest continued. Frustrated by not finding answers and nearly giving up hope, Keith was 21 when he found the truth he had been looking for.

KGPhotos-4Keith had grown up reading about Jesus in the Bible, but was confused when he figured out he was Jewish, a fact his family had hidden from him. But now what once confused him made sense as Keith proudly told the world, “I’m a Jewish Christian.” A few days later, Melody joined him in this belief and they immediately opened their home to anyone with a need. Anyone who wanted to kick drugs or get off the street was welcome.  Of course, they always heard plenty about Jesus at what fondly became known as “The Greenhouse.”

Not only did Keith’s life take a radical turn, but by then he was a highly skilled  musician and songwriter, a staff writer for CBS (which funded the ministry for some time). All of his songs changed with his salvation. His quest for stardom ended and his songs reflected the absolute thrill of finding Jesus and seeing his own life radically changed. Keith’s spiritual intensity not only took him beyond most people’s comfort zones, but it constantly drove him even beyond his own places of content.

Somewhat reluctantly, Keith was thrust into a “John the Baptist” type ministry — calling believers to wake up, repent, and live a life that looked like what they said they believed. Keith felt he would have met Jesus sooner if not for Christians who led double lives. He made audiences squirm by saying, “If you praise and worship Jesus with your mouth, and your life does not praise and worship him, there’s something wrong!”

I remember squirming listening to some of his tapes, driven to mature in Christ in ways that were not wholly comfortable.

The radical commitment Keith preached was also the kind of faith he wanted  his own life to display. About Jesus Keith said, “Loving Him is to be our cause. He can take care of a lot of other causes without us, but He can’t make us love Him with all our heart. That’s the work we must do.  Anything else is an imitation.”

Keith’s songs were often birthed during his own spiritual struggles. When he pointed his finger at hypocrisy, he knew he had four fingers pointing back at himself.  He penned honest and vulnerable lyrics—but left room for God to convict the rest of us too. He knew the journey to heaven often twists through rocky valleys, and saw no value in portraying his journey as otherwise.

With Keith’s honesty, he would have chafed against a glossed-over reading of his own life. After all, Keith was in the spotlight as he grew in Jesus. So when he made mistakes, he would talk about them to portray his life honestly.  He believed we miss something essential when we overlook the frailty and humanity of others as well as ourselves. He knew he was far from perfect, but he passionately hungered and thirsted after righteousness.

Keith was constantly praying, asking the Holy Spirit to,  “Please change my heart, and convict me of my sin.” And when he was convicted, he took action.  If he needed to repent, he repented.  If he needed to phone someone to ask forgiveness, he made the call.

Keith’s views on many subjects were often controversial -– especially when it came to charging for his ministry. With his albums at the top of industry charts.  Keith decided to give his albums away for whatever people could afford, even for free. Keith’s heart was to make sure those who could not afford to buy his music could get it.  Since Keith and Melody felt their songs were musical ministry messages and they did not want anyone left out due to lack of funds.  At last count at least 15 years ago over 200,000 albums were sent into prisons and to the poor, without charge.

The same issue arose with Keith’s concerts, which he felt were nights of ministry. After a few years of trying different ways of funding his concerts there was just one idea that gave him peace. He decided his concerts would be free so anyone who wanted could come. The ministry would rent a hall or stadium and Keith took one offering for LDM to help cover the expenses. He and Melody did not receive any of the offerings because they were able to support themselves with their music royalties.

Doing free concerts along with Keith’s new album policy were moves that sent shock waves through the Christian music industry, causing some record labels, bookstores, or other artists to question his motives. Some thought he wanted to undercut the system and make others look bad. But that wasn’t his heart at all and in the end it was understood he was just following his convictions.

The Lord had taken Keith from concerts of 20 or less — to stadiums of 12,000 people.  At his concerts Keith always gave an altar call and led thousands upon thousands to the Lord, and just as many firmly recommitted their lives fully to serve the Lord.

Keith began to appear on many television and radio programs. He talked about his walk with God and played a song or two. But his heart was to please the Lord. His childhood dream of becoming a super star had been cleansed from his heart years before with something better – being a servant of God.

 Keith said, ”I only want to build God’s Kingdom and see it increase, not my own. If someone writes a great poem no one praises the pencil they used, they praise the one who created the poem.  Well, I’m just a pencil in the hands of the Lord.  Don’t praise me, praise Him!”

For Keith, meeting Jesus was one thing. Becoming more like Him was another. He struggled with the same things we all do – developing self discipline, deadlines, bad attitudes, selfishness, and ministry issues screaming for attention. He was also trying to disciple the 70 new believers who had come to be part of LDM, which by now had moved to East Texas. Besides all this, Keith still had music to write, articles to finish, and a growing family and wife to take care of.

After striving for years to measure up to God’s holiness, at times even questioning his own salvation, Keith came into a deeper understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross — both to forgive his sins, and to clothe him in His righteousness. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of his chest.

It wasn’t that Keith became less concerned with purity and holiness.But now he was more motivated by love and less by fear in His pursuit of Jesus.He learned so much more about God’s grace and the importance of pausing simply to behold His glory and enjoy His presence. That is perhaps, what Keith loved most.

In 1982 Keith and Melody took a trip to Europe, including Greece and the UK, and their hearts were stirred.. especially when they visited the ministry in the Red Light district of Amsterdam where the open drug use and the lack of thriving churches was so evidence.  Kith asked every leader what we could do, they all said, “Please tell people we need them to come help us.”

So Keith decided that at his 1982 Fall Tour he would challenge the Christians in America to get out of their comfort zones, and into the world to reach the hurting. In the last few months of his life, with his heart turned back to winning souls, LDM booked large arenas for the Fall Tour, Melody wrote some missions songs, and YWAM founder Loren Cunningham was going to come to talk about the needs in the world, and give an missions altar call.

Keith’s heart had fully turned back to those who probably wouldn’t show up at a concert or a church. Keith wanted to go back out into the streets and into the prisons the way he and Melody did as new believers. He wanted to go to the mission fields of the nations, and into secular clubs to reach people with his music.

It was not to be.

On July 28, 1982, a small plane crash took Keith home to be with Jesus. The crash also took the lives of his three-year-old son, Josiah, and his two year old daughter, Bethany. Melody was home with their one year old, Rebekah, and six-weeks pregnant with their fourth child, Rachel. Keith was only 28 years old.

Although Keith is now with Jesus, his life and ministry are still making a huge impact around the world. His songs and passionate delivery are still changing lives. His writings are translated into many languages. Keith once said, “When I die I just want to be remembered as a Christian.” It’s safe to say he reached his goal, and perhaps, a bit more.

Keith Green was simply a man of conviction. When his convictions led him to an eternally worthy object in the person of Jesus he sold all that he had—ambitions, possessions, and dreams—to possess His love. In so doing he became a man of devotion. He also became a man remembered, and still missed, by millions around the world.

 “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!”

While we were berry-picking this last week, Brad started singing “I Only Want to See Your There,” which Keith Green wrote for his parents, but Brad and I could apply to many of our family members. We often sing in the berry patch to let the bears know we’re there, but why Brad would choose a song that he hadn’t heard in several years, but I think it was a God thing. I needed a “hero” to write about and I was stuck until I heard the song.

I need to say these things ’cause
I love you so
And I’m sorry you get angry when I say that
You just don’t know

That there’s a heaven waiting
For you and me
I know it seems every time we talk
I’m only tryin’ to just make you see

And it’s only that I care
I really only want
Just to see you there

Please try and overlook my
My human side
I know I’m such a bad example
And you know I’m so full of pride

But Jesus isn’t like that
No He’s perfect all the way
I guess that’s why we need Him
Cause by ourselves, there’s just no way

And it’s only that I care
I really, really only want to see you there
Just to see you there

Close the doors
They’re just not comin’
We sent the invitations out long, long, long, long time ago
We’re still gonna have a wedding feast
Big enough to beat them all
The greatest people in the world just wouldn’t come
So now we’ll just have to invite the small

And it’s only that I care
I really, really only want
Just to see you there

Isn’t that Jesus?
Isn’t that Joseph and Mary’s son?
Well, did He grow up right here?
He played with our children

What! He must be kidding
Thinks He’s a prophet
Well, prophets don’t grow up from little boys
Do they? From little boys?
Do they?

Written by Keith Gordon Green • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
It takes a lot of courage to launch out into ministry, especially in a field where your colleagues are making huge amounts of money singing “Jesus” songs. I’m not saying that Christians are wrong to make money — even a lot of money — but that Keith Green was brave to choose not to do that and to instead use his music as a springboard for ministry.

Buy Your Love A Goat   4 comments

It’s the Open Book Blog Hop’s weekly meeting and this week, we’re focused on Valentine’s Day. If you want to join us …

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So yesterday was Valentines Day and we celebrated by going to a banquet to raise money for a youth group trip that our son participates in. If it weren’t for that, we might not have celebrated it at all.

Valentines, like so many holidays, became way too commercial for us. It feels like an extended commercial for brand-name product placement for candies, flowers, and jewelry. What a good reason to watch Netflix.

Then a friend posted on her Facebook that she didn’t know why Christians don’t get up in arms about the secularization and commercialization of Valentines Day the way they do about Easter and Christmas. I immediately thought — well, because Easter and Christmas are Christian holidays and Valentines isn’t, but then — well, I ran across an article reminding Christians that Valentines started out as a Catholic holiday. As a student of history, I looked at up and it actually started as a pre-Roman Catholic Church (therefore, early Christian) holiday.

St. Valentine (or Valentinus) was a priest and physician in 3rd century Rome. The Roman Catholic Church as we know it didn’t exist yet, though there was a Christian church in Rome. According to church tradition, Valentine was known for doing good deeds, caring for the poor, healing the sick. Arrested during a persecution of Christians, Valentine healed the magistrate’s blind daughter and the entire family was converted to Christianity. Upon hearing this, the emperor celebrated this miracle by beheading Valentine on February 14th.

Thus, Christians have commemorated this day in memory of Valentine’s life of selfless service and ministry.

I think Valentine might make my roll call of heroes, but please note something — St. Valentine’s Day had nothing at all to do with romantic couple love. Valentine’s Day and the original reason for remembering him placed the emphasis on love of neighbor … agape service love, not eros romantic love, or even phileo brotherly love. The romantic emphasis didn’t come about until the Middle Ages. It was heightened by 18th-century Romanticism and now exacerbated by modern Hollywood mythology and Western consumer culture.

Valentine’s Day should be reclaimed by Christians with a more holistic, trinitarian, agape understanding of love, rather than this narrow emphasis on romantic couple love. Remember, in Christian tradition, romantic love is not the highest love. “Greater love has no one than this, that we lay down our lives for our friends.”

We certainly should love and honor our spouses and significant others on Valentine’s Day, but we should only see this as one particular expression of the greater love that is agape love of neighbor.

Brad and I chose to give our money to the church to help with ministry or, as in the case of the banquet, to help with evangelism since our son and his friends will likely take some non-Christian friends along to the Christian youth conference they are attending in Anchorage in March. We don’t buy into the commercialism of the secularized holiday. The money we give to the church is distributed through the Cooperative Program to ministries in our community, in the state of Alaska, nationwide and internationally. We’re stingy with our ministry giving outside of that area, mainly because we have both given to “ministries” in the past that proved to be using most of the money to provide jobs for bureaucrats in the United States or that sent aid into countries where warlords resold it for huge profits. The Cooperative Program sends aid through missionaries who control the resource until it reaches the intended recipients and who also prioritize the gospel message over other “charities.”

We also donate our time at the Community Food Bank and Fairbanks Rescue Mission and contribute to Samaritan’s Purse and Heifer International . We donate the time all throughout the year, but Valentine’s is when we typically donate to Heifer, while Samaritans is usually around Thanksgiving. We’ve checked these organizations out and have found they are faith-based. Our primary consideration is always the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not say “Go into the world and feed them”, but “Go into the world and make disciples.” If an organization’s primary purpose is to feed people, they are doing a good thing, but they are not obeying Christ, so we don’t spend our limited resources on them.

Heifer and Samitans also meet our secondary requirement of “teaching people to fish” rather than just giving them rice. Yeah, there are times when rice is needed, but building water irrigation system or teaching people to farm and raise animals helps assure that they won’t need more rice in the future.

To us, the highest priority of love is to spread the gospel and to address physical needs in long-term sustainable ways.

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