A song by Joe South reflected my teenage disdain for those in power who seemed to not care a whit about the regular folk. I check the comments of young men and women today and I realize that not much, if anything, has changed since this song was recorded in the turbulent late 60's.
"The Games People Play" was recorded by Joe South and here are the first two stanzas.
Oh the games people play now
Every night and every day now
Never meaning what they say now
Never saying what they mean
And they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they're covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine
I have to admit that a bit of the anger and power of the protest is diminished with this hard-hitting chorus.
La-da da da da da da da
La-da da da da da de
Talking 'bout you and me
And the games people play
Hard to gin up a lot of in your face intensity and passion when you are singing "la-da-da-da-da-da-da". My frustration with the hypocrisy I saw in my church was fueled by this lyric.
People walking up to you
Singing glory hallelulia
And they're tryin to sock it to you
In the name of the Lord
I don't want to be that old guy who rambles on about how things used to be. But I guess I am going to be that old guy against my will. We thought we could change the world by promoting love, hope and peace. I see the same anger directed at my generation (pretty much deserved) that we felt toward my parent's generation. I read how this generation is going to change things by promoting love, hope and peace. Can you say full circle?
We thought that hope would be realized with a leader or a political party. We believed that change would come because of kindred politicians or better laws or courts that would establish justice as we saw it. We thought that the right leader would make sure that we educated every child no matter their circumstance. We hoped that this political savior would provide for the needs of every person at no cost to them. We were wrong by placing that hope on the government without putting responsibility on ourselves.
As I get older I picture God looking at His millions of followers with a broken heart because He has blessed this me and probably you with so much in money and resources. So much of what we now demand our government to do could be accomplished if God's people read, trusted and followed His Word and His Spirit.
Here is some research from a very annoying and convicting organization called empty tomb, inc. They are also a very important ministry that God has raised up to be a Nathan to our comfortable and consumer Christianity. God help us to see the needs of our society with His heart. We could make a real difference. And the time to start is now. Church member giving is declining as a portion of income, and is currently around 2.59%. That, my brothers and sisters, is pathetic. Most of us have so much compared to the rest of the world and we choose to spend it on cars, houses and junk that will rust and be thrown away. Or we may get all excited because we recover five cents on the dollar at a garage sale.
Empty tomb reports that if Americans who identify with the historically Christian church increased their giving to an average of 10% of income, there could be an additional $156 billion given to the church. If 60% of this amount were made available to expand overseas missions activity, that number would mean an additional $94 billion available for overseas missions.
One source estimates that $70-$80 billion would impact the worst of world poverty and $5 billion could end most of the 11 million global, annual deaths of children under the age of five. Also, $7 billion would be sufficient for global primary education for all children.
You should be aware, that there could also be $31.22 billion more a year for domestic programs. And this is all on top of our current church activities!
I can't help but think that God has given us, the church, just about everything we need to make a huge difference in meeting the needs that we expect Washington to address. And that would give hope and change to people that obviously are looking for those elusive words in odd places. Plus we would have the additional opportunity to offer eternal hope in addition to meeting physical need. By the way, that is exactly how the early church exploded.
What makes me most sad is that so many people really seem to be placing their hope for happiness on political candidates and parties. I do believe that leaders make a difference. I care deeply about making an informed and prayerful choice. But I never place my hope or desire for change on a politician. The word hope is used about 80 times in the New Testament. The first appearance of the word in the NIV translation pretty much lays out my belief.
"In his name (Jesus) the nations will put their hope." (Matthew 12, NIV)
Paul wrote about the hope that I have in his letter to the Romans.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)
In Colossians we read this praise from Paul as he relates how hope based on the eternal God should make a difference.
For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God's people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God's wonderful grace. (Colossians 1:4-6, NIV)
The second chorus of South's tune has a real pearl of wisdom.
God grant me the serenity
To remember who I am
That is what I have learned since I was the angry young man hellbent on changing the establishment. I remember who I am. I am a follower of Jesus. A child of God. A servant who is humbled by His amazing grace.
I will be pleasantly surprised if our leaders in Washington decide to work together for us. But I will not be surprised if they do not. The important change for me has already happened. I am changed because of Christ. I have hope that is real. I have peace that transcends circumstance. Because of those truths I can deal with the rest of the news. I believe that no matter what happens in Washington in the coming months and years I am convinced that the following statement is true.
God is in control.