My Top 5 Favorite Albums right now

Since I was a kid, music has been important to me. All through my adolescence I was exposed to a very broad musical buffet. My mom saw my love for music and would take me to symphonies, musicals, jazz concerts, rock concerts. Where ever music, creativity and poetry were being expressed. I played in many different genres of music from Marching band and jazz band, to hardcore/ metal bands to Hip Hop groups. (yes hip hop).

My taste in music seems to be a very eclectic evolution. To say that any one album is my favorite of all time would be dishonest. What I liked to listen to a decade ago is different then what I enjoy now. What I enjoy in a decade from now will be different then what I find delight in now. However what wont change is my heart. I want a heart that’s alive and not dulled by the music I enjoy.

With that said, here are some albums that for the last couple of years seem to end up in every playlist I make:

Alexi Murdoch “Truth Without Consequence”

NUMBER 5. 

Alexi Murdoch “Truth Without Consequence”

For years I was a huge fan of Nick Drake and his folky stylings. The one sad thing about Nick Drake, is he was so sad. I used to have him on vinyl, and I swear every listen made it rain outside. Murdoch in style is incredibly reminiscent of Drake, but with lyrics that come from a heart that’s alive. The first track “All Of My Days” is a track I play for my wife. It’s one of those sweet tracks that if I had heard it years ago before I got married, it would have been the song we danced to at our reception.

Truth Without Consequences” has a very mellow, classic folk sound, but with a modern rock vibe subtly in the peripheral. I often find this album soothing in the background as I read on my day off, or when I take long drives through the New York country side. It’s an album that I

seem to fall more in love with every listen.

we_are_rising_cover

NUMBER 4.

Son Lux “We Are Rising”

I have always been a fan of the surrealists. As dark as many of them are, as a young junior high student I was always drawn to the works of Salvador Dali. His famous “The Persistence of Memory” encompassed my imagination for days after I first saw it. The one man band of Son Lux, Ryan Lott, adds much of the same stimulation to my imagination. If he was a painter, he’d be a surrealist. The creative yet chaotic sounds feel very dream like yet cognizant with deep meaning at the same time.

Perhaps some of the chaotic elements, that I love, of this album can be attributed to how it was made. Ryan entered into a NPR radio contest to see who could make an entire album in one month. Lott submitted this album and won.

Songs like “All The Right Things” and “Flickers” carry the mainstream electronica sound I love, while songs like “claws”and “leave the riches” carry the forlorn, dub-step-ish, dreamland world that secure Lott as a surrealist in my opinion. Songs like “flowers” and “chase” escort you into Lott’s dream world of creative complexity. It’s here that we encounter his message. Where you don’t just hear his heart you feel it. To orchestrate the complexity of this album over the course of a month is a feat I’ve never heard of. These aren’t sloppy written songs, but powerful poetry. Download it. Even if you don’t love obscurity, its worth the listen.

NUMBER 3

Future of Forestry “Young Man Follow”

A few months ago I found myself standing at the gates of the White House in Washington DC at 2am in the morning. My connection flight had been cancelled and through a series of events I was stranded in DC for 24 hours. Those 24 hours meant I strolled our nation’s capitol praying for our nation listening to the album on repeat. I was actually a little happy to be stuck there, because I had actually wanted to spend some time praying there. However it was during that time I fell in love with this album.

Slowly, these guys have been climbing in to my all time favorite band category for about 4 years now. If we still listened to cassette tapes, the travelers album series would have been totally worn out with as much play time as I have given it. “Young Man Follow” was very similar to those 3 albums, but more grown up. I felt like this was the album the album were FOF went from cool hipster indie band, to legit musical/ song writing contender among the greatest of bands out there.

Named after a poem written by C.S. Lewis by the same name, Future of Forestry carries a Lewis-esque writing style in this album. The songs are filled with depth and whimsy, great storytelling with an ethos that is felt more than even understood at first.

This album (and the next two) you should stop everything you are doing and download it now.

NUMBER 4

Jon Foreman “Fall”

There isn’t a song writer on the planet that I presently love more than Foreman. Sure I get that I can’t say that with out saying names like Dylan, Duritz, Coburn, Springsteen, Young, etc. Oh wait actually I can, because it’s my list. What pushes it over the edge for me is that Foreman sings from a heart in love with Jesus.

This album series (he also has spring, summer, and winter) is a side project to Foreman’s normal claim to fame: The front man of the band Switchfoot.

Over and over I have listened to the song “equally skilled” talking about our brokenness in humanity, and God’s ability to love us and transform us in the midst of our weakness. Every song on this short album is more of a lyrical experience that then a song. The music is a nice deviation from the pop rock prowess of Switchfoot. It has a Jon with his guitar and a few friends playing a living room show, sort of feel.

Every song is genius. I have spent an entire 8 hour work day in my office with these 6 songs on repeat and never gotten tired of them. This album, but really the whole “seasons” series is a must own.

NUMBER 1

Pas Neos “Who Do You Say That I Am”

This album. Pause. I love this album. Some folks could accuse me of being biased, being that these two are some of my best and closest friends. Guys I hang with, play fantasy football against, minister and travel with, I even had them play behind me at a conference while I preached once. I have relationship with these guys it’s true, even still I love this album more than any others.

I remember the first time I heard U2’s “Joshua Tree” album in Junior High School. I remember what I was doing, where I was, and who I was with as we listened to the whole album all the way through in wonder through my friend’s brand new CD player. When I heard this album, I had the very same feeling. I thought I’d put it on and listen while working in my office. I froze. I was stunned by the entire album. From beginning to end this album was unbelievable. I knew I wasn’t just listening to a good album, but one of the best I had ever heard.

Bobby is a song writing genius, who much to his chagrin, I would easily pit against any of the greats. Every song has both biblical and theological depth, with an overwhelming sense of prophetic unction. (especially the song “Pharisees”) It’s obvious that each song is not merely crafted from his heart, but from the heart of Christ. The song “Myrrh” brings tears to my eyes often as we hear Jesus in the garden right before going to the cross. Even the ordering of the songs is a journey through the Gospels. one of those albums where you actually want to listen from start to finish to get the full effect of the message and lyrical flow.

The last song Ascension, I actually put on repeat sometimes. I close my eyes and think of the paradox of emotions the disciples felt on that day. Excited to see Him ascend, terrified that he’s gone, bewildered because they thought He was going to begin a military campaign against Rome, but feeling the words that Bobby belts out at the same time. The same words that give us hope today: “Hold on, Don’t lose hope, because the better days are before you now”

The musical orchestration that Caleb devises here is unreal. Rock electronia, with some dub step-ish tones, with some of the surreal melodic tones that I love. If Caleb was alive 200 years ago, he would have been a famous composer. While he doesn’t do it alone, him and Bobby are a team, his musical orchestration is truly genius. I love Ryan Lott of Son Lux, but I’d pit Caleb against his genius any day. As with Bobby, the difference is that these songs, sounds, composition come from a heart that has touched Heaven. When you submit yourself to the greatest composer of all time, you get melodies and sounds that are unreal.

What may have possibly pushed this album over the top into epic greatness is the fact that Eric Owyoung, the front man of Future of Forestry, produced this album and was apart of it. Only I think one day, on the all time list, Pas Neos will one day surpass the brilliance of FOF. Owyoung’s subtle fingerprint can be felt from time to time.

As with the last two, this album especially, you should stop reading, open up iTunes or Amazon and give this album a download. You will waste $10 on all kinds of things this week, spend it on an album that will possibly change your life. 😉

Strange Fire…

John MacArthur is one of my favorite Bible teachers. I find his books insightful and compelling.

However he is holding a conference in October called “Strange Fire” calling out the dangers of the Charismatic movement, and it seems to be more of a personal vendetta than a helpful dialog about the activity of the Holy Spirit in our present age. From the videos, and based on his books and previous teachings on the subject, it is being heralded as a stage to blast the “Charismatic church/ movement” as heretical, a false doctrine, and a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He even goes on to call it a “work of Satan”. Which I personally believe is dangerous and quite a loaded and scary accusation to make at fellow believers.

(site is here: http://www.tmstrangefire.org/)

His 3 main points:

1. The charismatic church has emphasized the third person of the trinity over the second. The Holy Spirit is meant to testify of Christ and not have attention drawn to him.

2. That the Charismatic movement has emphasized prophecy as equal to or greater than the canonized scripture.

3. That Speaking in tongues and the Holy spirit gifts were for establishing the cannon, and not for today. and can jeopardize the cannon.

As one who not only grew up in the Charismatic movement, was a leader at the International House of Prayer and served under Mike Bickle and Lou Engle, and now pastor a Charismatic church in upstate New York, I must say that most of his conjectures are more accusatory then based on fact.

Sure the Charismatic movement has it’s quirks. It has guys like John Crowder, Todd Bentley, Patricia King and others whom I pray for, consider them brothers to the extent I’m required to by scripture, but wouldn’t want to be known as “affiliated” with them. Not anymore then MacArthur would want to be known as “Affiliated” to Brian McLaren. The Charismatic movement has had strange “revivals” where interesting things have transpired that cause even this charismatic to tilt his head side ways and wonder at times. But it’s had it’s necessary breakthroughs as well.

The streams of the Charismatic river I’ve been apart of, especially IHOP, have taught me the opposite of what John claims they teach.

To MacArthur’s first point. I have only ever heard that the Holy Spirit is the witness of Christ and is important and not to be devalued because His job is to reveal Christ to our hearts. I’ve never heard a message (aside from some of the more wacky folks I mentioned) where the Holy Spirit was to be exalted higher than Jesus, or even equal to Jesus.

I believe there was a season in the last thousand years where an emphasis, or reminder of the Holy Spirit’s ministry was and is important to remember in our living, teaching, and talking about the Gospel.

To Mac Arthur’s second point. In 20 years of Charismatic Christianity, 11 years at the International House of Prayer, I never heard that prophecy was equal to or greater than scripture. In fact it was at IHOP I learned about the 5 “Solas of the reformation” and specifically MacArthur’s favorite “Sola Scriptura”.

I have watched people get rebuked tenderly for trying to hijack meetings with un-biblical prophecies. I have only ever heard that prophecy is to testify of Jesus and the person of Jesus embodied by Scripture and taught about through scripture. I’ve only ever heard that the Bible is the living, active word of God, and is to be defended and protected at all costs. On that note I can at least appreciate MacArthur’s energy to defend the word. I think he’s misguided here.

To his third point. It’s true, we are called the “charismatic” Christians. We aren’t cessasionists. Meaning we believe in the present activity of the Holy Spirit and the gifts. However I don’t believe that is a heresy, in the way he would like it to be. Nor do I see the Bible either condemning the gifts after the cannon. Nor do I see it causes them to cease after the cannon. In fact cessasionism is a hard Biblical argument to make. Which is why it’s usually made through church history and subjective experience. Also why Reformed Calvinist teachers such as Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll, etc are not cessastionists.

I’ll state again. I love MacArthur for his zeal for the integrity of the word. It’s needed. However, he seems to be barking up the wrong tree here and making enemies out of friends. To call Charismatics “debased”, “unbiblical” and “a work of Satan”.

Well them’s is strong Words.

Changing Our Stance On Homosexuality

This morning I watched the news feeds light up because of a few casual comments by the current Pope on not judging people who are gay. Besides the fact that I really truly am starting to like this Pontiff, I thought the reaction by people everywhere was very telling.

It’s been going on for months now. Last month we saw DOMA overturned and Exodus

Pope Francis saying: “Who am I to Judge Gay people?”

International president and founder Alan Chambers change his stance on homosexuality. Desmond Tutu coming out say God is not homophobic. The pressure is so intense on every side for the church both protestant and catholic to “change it’s stance” on homosexuality. Never before has there been such a drive by secular culture to infiltrate faith/ religion and change it’s meaning so the world can feel less judged.

The Pope’s comments from yesterday are sentiments that I echo. It is not for me or anyone to judge another person for who they are. We are all sinners. All are in need of grace. All are in need of transformation into the likeness of Christ, not the likeness of who we want to be. At the same time no man can change the “churches stance” on homosexuality, because no one can change God and His word.

I fear that we have done such a poor job at representing Christ to the world as believers that we have led them to believe that God is a moral idea that changes with time. That Christianity is simply a moral code to live up to and should evolve with culture and time. Which Christianity is not morality; it’s a man who is God.

God is a person. Doctrine is not a man crafted truth, but a God birthed truth to show us who we were meant to be in his infinite and beautiful imagination. It’s a road map to His heart where we can experience the love, joy and peace we were created for where sin has robbed us.  You can’t change His stance, no more than you can reorder the atoms in your hand.

That said, I have many gay friends. Guys I grew up with. Guys that used to serve with me in ministry. Girls who I consider friends who are now lesbians. I love them. When I see some of those guys I give them great big hugs. I listen to them. I don’t treat them any different then the other acquaintances I have. I do not change my beliefs on their lifestyle. However their lifestyle is between them and God.

We face a difficulty in the church, that wont go away or change. The Homosexual movement is only going to grow. The pressure is only going to increase. We as Christians can not give into the pressure to change God’s stance on Homosexuality. Because it’s His stance, not our own.

That said, In our resolve to stand firm with God and His word, we could use to love and accept the gay community as fellow humans. We don’t need to be constantly known for what we are against, but what we are for. We are for love. The love of Christ that saved our hearts, is available to homosexuals as well. They are brothers and sisters we want to see walk in the fullness of who they were created to be by God.

If there is someone who has genuine love for Jesus, who are we to question their salvation because they are presently gay? Lets encourage their faith. Encourage their reach for Christ. Encourage them in their journey with the Lord in the same way we would encourage those who love God but get drunk regularly and don’t want to admit they are alcoholics. To condemn anyone would be to curse them and assume that our words, not Christ’s, are the one’s that save them. To judge them is to declare that their story is over when it’s not.

It is entirely possible to love homosexuals with genuine affection and hold the line on homosexual acts being a sin without shaming and condemning people. My point is that we as a church need the grace of God to learn how. Not because the church will become irrelevant or because we’ll lose the culture. Those fears are silly. Jesus will always be relevant because he’s the creator God eternal, and to think we ever had a Godly culture in America in the first place is delusional. We need the grace to do this well because it’s the Gospel. It’s who Jesus was. It’s how He treats us.

If we want to see humanity walk in restoration, and have true transformation from sin (like homosexuality) we must remember that it’s God’s kindness and mercy that draws us to repentance. It’s true that sometimes kindness isn’t nice, but it’s always kind.

Romans 2: “… Don’t you know that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance.” 

Father show us your love that we may learn to love well.

An Open Letter To Our U.S. Elected Officials: End Abortion

Dear Elected Official,

Since 1776 this continent has been a beacon to the rest of humanity for the individual rights of every human being. Though it has struggled to produce freedom for every people, in the end liberty for all has prevailed no matter race or creed. Our country was founded on certain truths that though at times have been wanting in application, have ultimately remained the cornerstones that uphold the spirit of this nation. Specifically the Jeffersonian proclamation:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is that credo that has driven this nation to the heights of glory and power it currently resides in.  The Constitution that governs this nation was founded on the belief that no man’s freedom can come at the cost of another, for all men deserve to live in liberty from tyranny, the fear of death and oppression.

In the History of this nation we have faced many challenges to this belief. At the risk of losing resources and stifling a growing economy, this nation took the necessary action and gave emancipation to those being enslaved on plantations throughout the South. The cost was hundreds of thousands of American lives but their blood was not in vain. The ultimate result was not a loss in economy but growth for a young nation torn apart. In the early 1900’s liberty was again challenged when children and orphans were being used for cheap labor to kick start a growing industrial revolution. Liberty for these children meant a drop in production and a loss in the Industrial age. The Children were freed, and instead of loss the industrial revolution grew, and 15 years later the nation would boast the largest profits the world had ever seen. Tyranny in Europe by Hitler, voting rights for women, Stalin in Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, Israel, Kuwait, and Iraq, our Nation has been dedicated to the democratic value that all men deserve the rights presented in the Jeffersonian mantra.

Today our nation has come to yet another paramount were the liberties of some have been cut off to supply liberty for another. The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s has come at the loss of many. 50 million human beings have been murdered in the name of freedom. The right to live has been taken by the hands of doctors and parents around this country. Abortion has been granted as a right for a woman to choose, and lowered the value of life to a punishment on those wish to be free in their sexual lifestyles.

The liberties of countless human beings in our nation are in jeopardy. The leaders and decision makers in this nation, who serve at the leisure of the people, have failed those they serve. For 35 years they have stood idly by as a holocaust proportionate to that of Nazi Germany to have wiped out the lives of many. I petition those who hold office in congress to consider not the definition of life, but the definition of freedom. Many in government are in danger of the same type of hypocrisy that faced our nation during slavery, segregation, and manifest destiny. To take the life of a person, so as to allow another sexual freedom, is same type of injustice that inspired the actions of the continental congress 236 years ago.

To cease abortion would indeed be a risk. Federal dollars for foster care, and adoption are waning. Unwanted pregnancies or statistically higher in poorer urban areas, and the quality of life the baby would face is unknown. Yet no man should have the power to determine who lives and who dies. Such power is supposed to be protected and kept from governmental leaders by democracy. I ask amidst the consequences that come with the abolishment of abortion that you would consider the lives being lost. Would you consider the blood being spilt? Would you consider the advancement in social ethics our nation would take if life were valued higher than sexual freedom? Would you consider the cessation of government funds to organizations like Planned Parenthood, and instead redirect those funds to establish a better foster care and adoption system? You hold great power that has been rented to you by one who will one day return to reclaim it. On that day you will answer before Him, the author of life, for how you yielded that power. What will your legacy be before that throne? I pray that it’s one that will please the heart of God.

Our nation has lost its way in the fight for freedom. We have forgotten the “Eternal vigilance” that is required to maintain liberty. Our personal freedoms have come at a high price. For it’s not the blood of the unborn, but patriots that should be the refreshing streams of liberty. Knowing the high price of taking on this issue, I ask would you bleed and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. As long as it is still recited: “Liberty and Justice for ALL”.

Respectfully,

Zack Hensley

The Elephant Room Aftermath

I’m a big fan of the Gospel Coalition. I think what they are doing for the church in America

is invaluable. When I heard that they were going to get main leaders, controversial ones and hammer things out, I thought it was a great idea. I’ve always wanted someone to draw back the curtain on certain leaders and give them an actual chance to defend their specific stance on theology. I would love to ask Joel Osteen for instance, about his prosperity gospel message and actually hear the heart behind the words. However in wanting to do so I don’t think you can lose sight of the word that intrigues you to that person in the first place “Controversial”. If you bring a controversial leader onto your stage and ask him controversial questions, well 1+1= I think you catch my drift. The Elephant room experiment worked in that we got to hear T.D. Jake’s side on his view of modelism or as he now calls it trinitarianism. But it backfired in that by the end of it one of the 2 hosts, James MacDonald, resigned from the Gospel Coalition because of the backlash. The aftermath was a bit tumultuous. It didn’t inspire a theological conversation to better help people understand various streams. Instead it seemed to polarize each side.

There is a Proverb here to keep in mind: Proverbs 26:17 “Don’t take a Rabid dog by the ears…”

Here is the official story from the Gospel Coalition:

The Elephant Room: What Really Happened, and How Things Could HaveBeen Different

If you’re a critic of the Gospel Coalition’s response—or seeming lack of response—to the Elephant Room controversy, or if you’re a critic of the Elephant Room and its repercussions, I hope you’ll slow down and read the whole thing. I am under no illusions that it will answer all the questions or satisfy everyone—I’m sure it won’t—but perhaps it will clarify at least a few things.

Standing is A Verb

Standing. The verb. In our present time, standing is no longer a verb. In fact it’s not a posture generally observed or aspired to any longer. Because of social networking, tired
 politics, empty churches, and growing relativism, standing for anything apart from the ethos of the general society is

 not only looked down on, but is chastised. We live in a time where truth and justice have become fluid concepts, floating from one subjective idea to another. Where practical and historically proven truths are not only being redefined, but in many places forgotten. Much of the culture in our time tries to pull at those who would stand for anything outside of the collectively agreed on ideas and morality. Many have lost the courage to stand when no one else will.

Standing takes more than courage and good intentions, it takes a foundation that is unshakable. We were created by God to stand. To love Him, then reflect and sow that love to others. We are called by God to serve and love the poor in action and in secret not in sentiment and intention. We are called to forgive and love our enemies. To turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, and admit that we can’t do any of this apart from His ability in us. We were called to walk that narrow and hard road to eternal life while everyone else rides together down broad streets leading to destruction. We were called to stand.

Jesus said it this way:
Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 

Standing is a verb. When the waves and winds of opinion and persecution come and beat on us and our faith will we stand? When the hatred and rage fuming in the hearts of those who have rejected Christ is being directed at us who love Jesus, will we stand? When the ideas of our time tell us that Jesus is one of many ways to enjoy eternity will we stand? Only if we are found as lovers of the absolution jesus and the Word that He embodies.

Before we stand, before those waves and winds come and beat at us, are we surrendered to the grace of God and through that surrender loving and obeying His commands? Is it real in our hearts? Do we take our faith seriously. If we surrender to the ability of God and His word they, not our own ability, will guarantee that we stand are are not moved.

“To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling.” Jude 24

He is able, willing and faithful to give us all we need to stand in this age. All that remains is our action. Our daily decision to pick ourselves up from the apathy and lethargy of sin and its ways. We just have to stand. He’ll hold us up.

Making the Wrong Things Right

Begging for change outside of a busy Barnes & Noble is where I found him. It was January 2006 and the temperature was having a hard time reaching 15 degrees. Large snowflakes began rapidly accumulating on top of his head, and adding to the pile growing around his feet. His name was Randy. Often I had dropped change in his bucket, and chatted with him on occasion. This day was much worse than any day I had found him. His hands were shaking, and his eyes were starring off into the distance. I observed from the warm shelter of the Barnes & Noble lobby where I was sipping my coffee. I watched as people passed by with disgruntled looks on their faces, annoyed at his slurred requests for change. One guy even bumped over his bucket and looked back and said, “Get a job drunk.” I began to wonder how this man ended up this way. Surely at one point in his life he was young with nothing but possibilities in his future. Now 40 years removed from that youthful optimism, he sat on a street corner as a product of his bad choices.

I spent about five minutes pondering this, until I decided I was tired of pondering. I felt like the Rabbi who crossed to the other side of the road and starred at the Samaritan in need of help but did nothing. Throwing my scarf over my neck and straightening my jacket I marched out into cold to do something about his situation. I took off my jacket and put it over him as I lead him back to my truck in the nearby parking garage. He said he was raising money to get his heat turned back on at the house his family rented. He had been shot in both legs earlier that year while being at the wrong place at the wrong time during a gang fight. He had since had a hard time finding a job as he never learned to read and only knew physical labor. His wife and their two kids had nothing left to eat, so I took him to the local grocery store on our way to his house. After nearly breaking my bank account at the store, I decided to empty it to get his heat turned back on. I dropped him off at his house and met his family. Their house was a mess. Liquor bottles littered the corners, cigarette butts lined the floors and his wife looked as if she hadn’t gotten off of the couch in about a year. It broke my heart.

I spent the next year visiting Randy and his family in their neighborhood. Eventually he agreed to start going to church with me. I would pick him up every Sunday evening, and get him groceries on the way home. He decided to give up drinking, he would call me when the shakes would get really bad and I’d go over and pray with him and encourage him that he could make it. I was teaching him how to read, helping him turn in job applications around the city. I along with my girlfriend (now wife ) would take him and his family out to dinner and remind them what laughter was like. However in the end, our help wasn’t enough. Randy started drinking again. Loan sharks, and other hustling low lifes started hanging around his house. He stopped calling, stopped showing up at our pick up spot, stopped wanting to talk to me. Months went by, and all I could do was pray. Finally I got a call, Randy was in trouble. He asked if I would come by that night, and I did. I pulled up to his house to find about 10 people hanging out on the front lawn. It was a drug dealer and his minions. I know this because of his offers to me as I made my way inside. Three of the girls were prostitutes that offered me their services, another lifted up his shirt to flash his gun at me as I walked inside. I knew whatever I was walking into was not going to be good.

Inside the smell of pot and urine filled the air. I felt like I was in a movie. More specifically I felt I was at that part in the movie where you are screaming at the main character, “Get out! Don’t stay in the house! Don’t be a moron!” Randy ran out from around the corner frantic. His was wife in her chair watching TV, and his kids under his arms as he ran up to me. I sat down on the couch which felt lumpy, until I removed the Hennessy bottles that had been stuffed under the cushions. Randy’s eyes had regained their cloudy redness, and now started to fill up with tears. Getting on his knees he began to beg me for money. He said he owed the guys outside money for drugs they had already used and they were coming for him if he didn’t give them something. He said he needed about $3,000. I felt helpless as I was $2900. Short of that. I offered to pray with him but it only made him mad. He began demanding I give him everything I had. Mustering up the courage to threaten me physically, pointed at me and demanded my wallet. I stopped him.

“Randy, don’t go there.” Feeling a rousing surge of Godley zeal, I exclaimed, “Don’t you DARE turn on me. You KNOW I love you, and would give anything to help if I could! Don’t you dare try to rob me! That is NOT who you are!” He fell to the floor weeping, not knowing what to do. I sat on the couch praying, also not knowing what to do. I offered the guys outside the hundred dollars I had to get them to leave for the time being, and they did. I laid my hand on Randy’s head praying for him, struck with the realization that he didn’t need my charity, he needed a savior. Telling him I loved him, I grabbed my keys and left. It was the last time I ever saw or heard from him again.

Randy had a lot of needs. He needed sobriety, money, physical health, family care, friends that helped him not hurt him, food, a job. But of his needs only one would have fixed the others; the Gospel. I have helped a lot of different people like Randy, and still do today. Time after time the result is always the same because the impact is always short sighted.

Humans are eternal beings. Whether dwelling in glory with the Father, or dwelling in the flames of His wrath, everyone dwells somewhere forever. The greatest problem Humanity faces, and the problem that causes all other problems is sin. When Paul addresses the churches in Rome, he doesn’t give them a layout of how to fix poverty or political issues. Instead He gives them the message of the Gospel and tells them not to be ashamed of it. The Gospel is the only solution to the Human dilemma of sin. It is the hope of salvation for our souls, for our hearts, our minds, our government, our circumstances, our pain, our shame, our stress, our culture. The Gospel is the literal righteousness and justice of God revealed in our hearts. It’s more than hope for us to grasp, it’s hope that overtakes us. It’s the knowledge that Jesus isn’t our emotional Santa Claus who brings us gifts once a year if we are good. Instead He’s a king and a savior coming down from Heaven to dwell on the Earth in human form and physically rule it in Righteousness. It’s the revelation that Jesus is going to destroy the wickedness of this world in his wrath that is stirred by His desire for you and me. It’s the hope for men like Randy that they don’t have to be the product of their bad choices, but can be re-born as the product of God’s good choices. God’s greatest vision for the poor of the Earth is not that they would have money, but be the image bearers of His righteousness and glory that they were created to be.

If there is to be any sort of social justice revolution in our time, it has to begin with the revelation of God’s justice in the Gospel. Jesus and the good news of His coming is the only way for the worng things to be made right. Without the Gospel as the center of that revolution we’ll end up like the church in Galatia more concerned with the practice of the faith then the faith itself. For our faith is not merely the practice of morality and ethics, but is the ability of God to embody the moral and ethical values He created for us.

I hope I get one more shot with Randy. I pray he’s still alive. I will probably still buy his family groceries, but I will labor and not quit until he grasps the truth and hope of the Gospel. As it’s the only thing able to save him. It’s true social justice.

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