If you’re 55 or older, you’ll probably remember the Jesus movement that originated in the Southern California hippie drug culture of the 1970s.
And if you remember that, you’ll probably remember the controversial Christian singer and songwriter who rose to prominence from that culture.
Keith Green was born in 1953 and, at a very young age, it looked like he was going to be a musician. Music was his passion; he was exceptionally talented and he wanted to be a pop star. At eight, he began to perform in musicals. At age 12, he published his first song and became the youngest member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. That same year, he signed a five-year recording contract with Decca Records.
He was of secular Jewish origin, but as a child he was fascinated by reading the New Testament. At the age of 15, Keith ran away from home. Although he was on the fast track to becoming a teen idol, he never really achieved that success and in the late 1960s he began to experiment with drugs and dabble in various Eastern religions.
He met the woman he would marry, Melody Steiner, another composer, in the early 1970s. It was then that his life began to change. She was also of Jewish descent and had explored the teachings of mysticism and Eastern religions. After they met, they began to explore the Christian faith together.
When they were 21, Keith and Melody heard the truth of the gospel at a California church in the San Fernando Valley, and the Lord saved them both.
They never turned away from the Christian faith. Not only did his life take a drastic turn, but so did his music. He was no longer interested in fame. Her songs began to reflect the Joy of knowing Jesus and experiencing His love. From then on Keith focused his work on a series of Christian music projects, including working with the band Good News.
Keith developed strong beliefs that left him feeling inadequate and unworthy of God’s grace. And his beliefs affected and irritated many of his friends and separated him from most others in his industry. He started giving concerts for free, and he wondered how other Christian musicians could, in good conscience, charge for their concerts or profit from their record sales.
But in the last years of his life, Keith Green, the Firebrand, was tempered by the grace of a loving God. He met John Dawson, of YWAM (Youth With A Mission), and through this relationship he began to rediscover the love of Christ. After striving for years to live up to the holiness of God and sometimes questioning his own salvation, Keith came to a deeper understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – both for forgive his sins and to clothe him with his own righteousness.
Keith grew in grace without compromising his beliefs; he reconciled and restored all his relationships and began to experience true peace. He wrote personal letters of apology to those he had offended by this admission:
“I hope you can understand that I am a man of principle, and yet, like a pendulum, I tend to swing too far to make a point. I’m afraid in the past I’ve done just that.
In 1982, he released his last and most cult album, Songs for the Shepherd. One of the songs on this album is THERE IS A REDEEMER. It was written by his wife, Melody, in the late 1970s, when she and Keith were starting Last Days Ministry (LDM), an awareness of drug culture and single teenage mothers; a ministry that continues today. The song had been shelved, unreleased until she featured it during the production of this latest album.
Keith liked the song but wanted to lengthen it, and within minutes he had written a prophetic third verse. Here are the lyrics to this great song. There is a Redeemer,
There is a Redeemer, Jesus, God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah, Holy,
Jesus my Redeemer, Name above all names,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah, Oh, for slain sinners.
When I stand in glory, I’ll see His face,
And there I will serve my King forever, In this Holy Place.
Thank you, O my Father, for having given us your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit, until the work on Earth is done.
A few months later, at the young age of just 28, Keith Green was killed in a minor plane crash and, as his third verse predicted, he stood in Glory, seeing his father face to face.
Ralph M. Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the OLDE TOWNE EMPORIUM at 212 E. Main St. in Rogersville. Comments are welcome. You can contact him at [email protected] or by phone at (951) 321 9235.