An End to Complacency
This week has been a tough one for me. During the last three days I had to face two ideas I have held dear, recognize them for what they are and look at how they must change. In Restoring the Foundations we dealt with ‘Ungodly Beliefs’ and quite frankly two of mine had to be dealt with. I am still not sure that I have killed them off and I will ask the help in being sure I have ‘killed the chicken.’ If you see me regressing, if necessary to get my attention, get me by the shirt collar, shake me and tell me.
Briefly I have felt that I should seek political office at times but I have said, “Politics is dirty. I don’t want to get involved.” I skirted what I felt God wanted me to do by getting involved on the peripheral, helping with campaigns. But what have I done? Let’s be honest, that is generally the best. I have shirked my duty, run from battle, hidden in the stuff and in general, been a wimp. And those are probably the good things you can say about it. Friday evening at 04:45 PM I faced it and realized that I have said, “Let George do it” and he wimped out. George said, “Let Ralph do it” so the job fell to someone who flunked Integrity 101 and they flew the plane into the ground. It was my fault as much as theirs. The songwriter said, “Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.” That means when there is a battle and you are needed, be there, in the thick of it. That song is, “Stand up stand up for Jesus” but it applies anywhere honesty and integrity is at risk.
The second event was far harder for me. It was Sunday Morning at above all places sitting in a church. Church is to be a comfortable place. The pastor hadn’t gotten up to preach yet and I was seeing a need to change something in my life. As one who has preached a sermon on Christians going AWOL I missed it. I deserted and ran from the battle. I was like the battle hardened soldier who ran and let the rookie to face the enemy alone! I left him to Satan’s devices and I didn’t like me when I took the look. I have taken a look at me and I don’t like what I see.
Let me go back about sixty years. I was in the backwoods faith and word movement of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the one nobody heard of; the one in the 1980’s that made the big splash and in the one in the early 1990’s that was misnamed. I learned what the word said, what it said about God, who God was and what my heavenly father was like before I started to school. I lead a person to the lord when I was three and a half years old! I knew Him and I still do. I have had opportunity after opportunity to learn his word and being much given, much is expected. I learned to know God and I can identify with Kirk Tully who sang, “For many years now he’s been my dearest friend. He makes my heartaches and my tears to blend, into joy and blessings without end.” At times that relationship has slipped some but he has always been there, been close and been faithful. I have missed it at times and pulled away but he has been there. I have had good times and tough times. Lynda Randell sang it, “The God of the good times is still God in the bad times. Don’t ever believe that he is the ‘god of the bad times’, that god is the thief who comes to kill, steal and destroy. It is Satan. It is not my heavenly father. Bad times will come. The hosts of hell can be arrayed against you. But my God is still God IN the bad times. Note the word IN as opposed to OF, that is all important. I have been through bad times, terrible times and ones where it seemed like all of hell was arrayed against me. All of hell can and will be arrayed against you at times if we are following him. Anyone who knows battle knows the enemy’s forces are always arrayed hard against you when you are pressing the attack. They will dig in defensive positions, counter attack and attack in other places to get you off balance. I have seen times that family members were attacked to get me to lose my focus. The military would call these spoiling attacks. Don’t despair in all of this. We must remember that the battle is the Lord’s and we are just here to make the enemy know he is there. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. That he in the world is Satan, his demons and their fellow travelers, that is people who are in league with them, knowingly or not. Sometimes they are people in the church!
The enemy’s attack this morning was a propaganda campaign. If you think they are not effective we are now in the process of losing the war on terrorism because of a propaganda campaign run by our own media! The campaign Sunday morning was to show me a picture of God that was wrong and plant it firmly in my mind. Satan I am sure knows this one will not fly with me. But he has a bigger plan. It was an attempt to plant it in the minds of others who are vulnerable. Rifle bullets will not destroy a tank but they will kill soldiers. His campaign was to destroy the vulnerable. You will say, “You were in church, in the service. How could Satan carry on a propaganda campaign there?” Yep. I was in church. But Satan can slip in anywhere and do his work. He is the original stealth attack unit. We must be ever vigilant to prevent him from sneaking in. He probably inspired the Trojan Horse. That is where the people pulled the large wooden horse containing the enemy attack force into their town. We Christians often pull Satan’s attack into our church.
So how was the attack laid? Did some Satanist come in to speak and force his way into the pulpit? No. Please bear with me because what I am about to say will be hard for some to take. The message came as words that appeared on the wall of the church! No kidding! This was not some Satanic manifestation. It was the words presented by the worship team and they were sung repeatedly. I know it would be easier for us if it was a Satanic manifestation.
Let’s look at this from another angle. If the pastor makes a mistake in a sermon and presents something wrong it will probably not be remembered. But if a song contains a message that is in error it will be ingrained in minds and hearts and taken out by many. In education we call it rote memorization by repetition. If you think it doesn’t work let me show you how it does? I learned my plusses, takeaways, timeses and goesintas that way nearly sixty years ago and I still remember them. That is the math tables in case you didn’t recognize them and if you know them you learned them that way. Suddenly it was clear to me. If the lines of the song, lines I have seen and sung many times had been bolded, underlines, italicized, highlighted, flashing and shadowed they would not have stood out more. Yep, I bought into the lie too.
“He gives and takes away.”
This line is a blatantly false representation of my Father God, Abba Father. And in one second the real problem hit me. It wasn’t the worship team or the projectionist. It was not the song although that is a problem. It wasn’t the songwriter or publisher. I have left down my guard. I have gotten complacent. God called me fourteen years ago to be a watchman in the house of the Lord. Man has played with that call and tried to negate it but it is still there. Whether or not I like it, I still carry that responsibility. God didn’t discharge me from his army. He didn’t relieve me from the post. He didn’t bring in a replacement. It was my fault. I have deserted and failed. At one time those words would have leapt off the screen at me the first time I saw them but it took me years. I have given the enemy quarter when I should have pressed the attack. The songwriter said, “Let courage rise with danger.” It doesn’t say, “Cut and run.” Nowhere in scripture is there an admonition to desert our post. God has never ordered a strategic withdraw which is what an army calls a retreat to make it sound honorable. The only time you do one of them in the natural is if your force is outnumbered or out gunned. In God’s army there is no ‘outnumbered’ or ‘outgunned’. He is El Shaddai. He is more than enough. The enemy is the one short on supply. When He isn’t we aren’t taking advantage of His bounty. God will support his army and his war.
Now there are two things here that I must answer because someone will use them to write this off and I cannot allow that to happen. If I do I have failed. First, someone is going to say that this reaction now is because of the hurt of the loss of my wife. That is wrong, dead wrong. The first answer to that is: why now when we are two years from her death. I have had time to heal. Secondly, those who would say that are unaware how much I have watched my attitude toward God during this time. I do not see Him as the architect of my loss or a participant in it in any way. I have looked to His word and the relationship with Him and I know better. He has plans for me, not to harm me. I am not sure what they are but I know. John 10:10 says the thief – Satan – comes to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly. If someone died, something was stolen, something was destroyed it was Satan who did it, not my God. That is easy for me.
But you will say that the passage in the song came from the verse in Job that says the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. It is from the bible it has to be true. I challenge anyone who takes that verse out of contest to go to the end of the book. Job is down when he says it but in the end of the book he wins. Look at Job 42. God goes to Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bilbad and Zophar and says, “My Wrath is kindled against you.” Why? “Because you have not spoken the things that are right like my servant Job has.” God does not take kindly to being misrepresented. Read the remainder of this passage if you doubt that. God tells the friends to have Job pray for them least he deal with them in their folly.
But you say, “Job said God gives and takes.” Yes, he did. But like us Job did not have a perfect knowledge of God. But read chapters 35-41 where Job repents for some of the wrong attitudes he had and concludes it with the appellation, “God I know that you can do anything.” When he repented and saw God afresh God turned his captivity.
I had to get up and leave for a few minutes to avoid getting up and saying, “Stop this nonsense.” I know that sounds harsh but what would I say if a Satanist or Wiccan got up and started talking? I see this as even more dangerous.
I came back in to the end of the song, “I want the Joy of the Lord to come down.” How does this stand when we have scripture that say, “I am with you always” or “where two or three are gathered together I am in your midst.” I saw my complacency and I didn’t like it. And when I was trying to justify why I let it go, why I couldn’t do anything, why it was someone else’s job, and I was progressing well at excusing myself the pastor got up to preach and tromped all over me for being complacent! I can’t remember when someone has put on a pair of cleats and walked up one side of me and back down the other more effectively.
Allow me to say that there were several other songs used that gave me no concern. This was just a bad mix. Much of the music we use is great but do we want the water company to put just a little cyanide or PCB in our drinking water?
In the 1980’s we were careful in the selection of music in the church. It had to be in line with the word of God. Yep, the Word of God Police inspected the music. I heard worship leaders chafe about it. We weren’t as concerned about it being contemporarily correct as biblically correct. And there were “great” songs by “great” writers that weren’t used. We protected the flock from erroneous views of God. Why are we not doing that now? I can give some answers that I don’t like because they are not Godly answers. They are what I call Bill Clinton answers, ones that justify sin. He who knows to do good and doesn’t do it is sinning. Sin is missing the mark. I take responsibility for this. I have not only missed the bull’s eye, I have not only missed the whole darned target, and I have dropped the arrow harmlessly and carelessly on the ground in battle. The arrows didn’t hurt the enemy because I didn’t use them. I don’t like that picture. Brothers and sisters, God’s word is too precious, costly, expensive and valuable to be treated lightly and nobody, not you, not me, not the pastor, not even an internationally known songwriter has the right to toy with it. I care not of the notoriety, fame or stature of the man or woman, they can’t do it.
I have taken on several songs in the past that were unscriptural and written of them on my blog but Sunday I realized that I have been strangely silent in my own church on the matter. I have done it to be religiously acceptable in the very place where I bear the most responsibility. We are to start in Jerusalem and Samaria. I failed in my Jerusalem. I wanted to do the uttermost part of the world. Part of the reason for that is because I have felt a strong disrespect from this body and I allowed that perception based on some reality to drive me. I have never claimed to be a prophet but now with the lack of honor here I am wondering. Jesus said a prophet is without honor in his own country. I saw that varmint for what he is this morning in the pastor’s sermon and I don’t like him. That perception has to die. I need a good varmint gun. For those who don’t know, they call weird looking wild animals varmints in the south.
As an example there is the song, “No weapon formed against me will prosper.” Great song but it denotes passivity, “no curse will ever take his promise from me” when to make this real for us it has to be an active role on our part. The scripture says, “Every tongue that raises up against you in judgment you will condemn.” God will take care of it but we have to take the initiative to order the forces of heaven to go on the attack. We have that right; we have that responsibility to give the forces of Heaven the order to charge. Satan has to be laughing when someone quotes that song and says, “They can’t hurt me” while his forces overrun them and he is saying, “They haven’t asked for ten thousand angels to help them. Bring on the big guns and get him.”
As a sound person over the years I have heard Worship Leaders gripe about pastors limiting them in what songs they use or even making suggestions. The songs the pastor designated were too hard to do, too hard to learn, they didn’t like them. All bunk reasons. Most of the songs that were pulled were ones I had heartburn with so I just let it go. Without any real study I saw that most of the pastoral “pulls” were good. The pastor, a.k.a. George was doing it. I know one worship leader who didn’t want to use the “I want the Joy of the Lord to come down” for the same reason I cite. At times I have gotten the feeling that many of the worship leaders were more interested in performance than worship. I even was inspired to write a passage, “Worshipping Worship” that I shared with our team about three years ago. It tilted a few heads and exposed some heart attitudes. Some were more interested in pleasing man and tickling ears than in presenting God to people. This is harsh but I assure you it was the impression I got and I am sure that more than a little of it was reality. Unfortunately these two attitudes seem to be able to creep in when they are not carefully guarded against.
So where do I go from here? Reformed Alcoholics use the 12 steps. Are there 12 steps for reformed compalcentics – my word for someone addicted to complacency? What are they? I will be looking into that going forward. To a reformed alcoholic a danger sign is justifying his drinking. I believe to a compalcentic the warning signs are letting it up to someone else, saying it really isn’t that bad, it really doesn’t matter, it isn’t a big thing, it is only words, and it isn’t my responsibility. Jesus asked if we were our brother’s keeper. I have cited that in many other areas and let it fall in this one.
Let me tell you how I will be able to recognize my enemy. Anyone who encourages me to go back is my mortal enemy. I cannot tolerate their counsel any more than a recovering alcoholic can tolerate someone telling him, “You really want it, just take one drink.” If you think it wise to give me that counsel feel free to do it but I will not give you a proper hearing. I may say as Jesus did, “Get thee behind me.”
And I have promised God that I will try to be sensitive to others, try to do what is right and proper, but I will not bend. Like Travis, Crocket, Bouie and the other one hundred eighty six at the Alamo, the line was drawn in the sand for those who would leave to step over and I have chosen with God’s help to stay and stand firm. That stand made twelve thousand heavily armed Mexicans very angry with them. My stand in the church may not ender me with some of my brothers and sisters. My stand in the political arena will certainly not endear me with some in the political arena. But I have a choice in both. I have made it. This afternoon I have found that like Peter Marshall I find the wind in my face feels good. It’s a little scary out here but it feels good. I was also reminded that when the battle of the Alamo ended the one hundred eighty nine were dead but so were nearly three thousand Mexican Soldiers. Those losses hurt Santa Anna in future battles. Like Travis, Crocket and Bouie I intend to hurt Satan’s forces. Do I want to be like Travis, Crocket and Bouie or do I want to be like Sam Houston’s men who cowered a hundred miles from the Alamo while it was holding? Patrick Henry said, “Is life so dear and peace so sweet that it would be bought at the price of slavery. I know not what course others will take but as for me give me liberty or give me death.” The choice is before us. God holds before us life and death. Let us chose life.
I challenge those who have been schooled in the word to examine the things that are presented carefully. The scripture says in a multitude of counsel there is safety. If you see something that concerns you prayerfully, carefully, lovingly and with resolve make it known.