Who Is This Guy?

I’ve been writing this blog now for several years. I’m not even exactly sure how long it’s been. Maybe five years? 

 

I sit down once a week and try to come up with something that has something to do with Kinship Christian Radio that will encourage you, something that will help you grow closer to Jesus, something that will bring glory to God.

 

But who am I?

 

If I’m honest with myself and with you, I gotta tell you, I’m pretty much just a big dumb guy in a plaid flannel shirt.

 

I don’t mean to be self-deprecating here. I know I’m not all that stupid in terms of measurable human intelligence, but really, the knowledge of even the smartest human being on the planet is pretty much a big nothing-burger in comparison to the astounding wisdom and intellect that created even the simplest organism on the planet, let alone the entire universe. 

 

I saw a post on an atheist-Christian debate site where someone said “Theology should come back to science…” and I was astounded at the level of arrogance humanity has come to. As if “science” were inerrant, omniscient, and not the product of flawed human beings. 

 

Aren’t these the same people who took decades to decide if eggs were good or bad for us? (The American Heart Association now says, yes, eggs are good for you –but only one per day and it’s better if they are not part of a Western diet. I kid you not.)  And the butter vs. margarine debate? Seriously, we do not have the time to go there.

 

So, I have no illusions that I’m a big shot or a big deal. In fact, whenever I even get close to that kind of arrogance, God is faithful to put some obvious reminder of my own fallibility into my path. 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

 

The verse doesn’t even say fear of the LORD is wisdom. It says fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. 

 

So, when I pulled out in front of that car the other day and the guy almost hit me and my life flashed in front of my eyes for a second, God was saying, “Okay, we have a place to start now.” (I paraphrase.)

 

And with all of this fallibility of mine and the certain knowledge that I will indeed pass from this earth some day, in steps Jesus.

 

In steps God in the flesh.

 

When Jesus was having that last supper with his disciples and he washed their feet and things were suddenly getting very, very real he told them he was going away and they could not go with him, but he would come back. He commanded them to love one another, and Peter insisted he would go with him. Peter pledged his very life to Jesus and Jesus looked Peter in the face and told Peter he would disown him not once, but three times. 

 

He then tells the disciples (who had to be sitting there with swaying jaws by this time) that they should not let their hearts be troubled because he was going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house so that they could be with him. And he says to them:

“You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:4 (NIV)

 

And they don’t! They’re baffled!

 

Thomas, old doubting Thomas, looks at him and says,

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

 

These guys are as clueless as me. They have no concept, no clue. Who is this guy?

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (Verses 6&7)

 

Boom!

 

Jesus has come right out and said He is God! That’s who this guy is!

 

Of course, they still don’t get it and he basically has to get out the crayons and draw them a picture. For the rest of John 14, Jesus details what that means and tells them the Holy Spirit will come and color in that picture for them.

 

And that’s who I am. 

 

No, I’m not the Holy Spirit. I’m the guy God has given a crayon. 

 

In my tiny little way, in the futility of my weak human ability, God has put his very own Holy Spirit in me that I might be given a glimpse, a taste, a hint, a sliver of light in a dark world that I can search and strive and look under rocks to try and find the right combination of words and phrases to be able to begin to describe the all-surpassing greatness of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, glorious, amazing God and the height, the depth, the length, the breadth of his astounding, awe-inspiring love for all of us in His only Son, Jesus Christ! 

 

God doesn’t need me. He wants me! 

 

He gave me this gift to use. This is what I am supposed to be doing. 

 

And the thing is, He gave each and every one of you gifts too! As you tune into Kinship Christian Radio, you hear and experience the gifts he gave the announcers, the preachers, the teachers, the musicians, and every voice that comes over your radio.

 

You have a gift, too. You’ve been given something, some color of crayon, some way to share the love of Jesus in this life! Even if it’s baking cookies, bandaging a bloody knee, taking a kid fishing, speaking a kind word, saying a prayer with a hurting soul, traveling to distant lands, painting a bathroom, or painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we have all been given some kind of gift that can shine the love of Jesus into another life! 

 

God has a plan for you. God has given you a gift. Any voice that says your gift isn’t good enough or doesn’t count is the voice of the liar. 

 

You are valuable. You are loved

 

Share what you have been given because it doesn’t belong to just you.

 

Today’s Praise

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:6-15 (NLT)

Christians at the Dump

 

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Ephesians.  In it, the apostle Paul uses some of his grandest and most glorious language to describe the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

 

Running under that current of God’s marvelous plan and astounding love there’s an underlying image in Ephesians that’s something we probably don’t catch immediately, but would have been part of the inherent imagery of first-century Ephesus. Paul mentions it almost immediately:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— Ephesians 1:3-5 (NIV)

 

That mention of adoption in this passage is not a casual reference on Paul’s part.

 

At the time, if a Roman citizen adopted a child, it was a legally-binding arrangement. A natural child could be disinherited, but an adopted child was an heir for life. Adoption was not something entered into lightly.

 

As Paul continues through his letter to the Ephesians, he repeatedly reinforces the idea that our adoption was predestined, that we are sealed as children of God, that we are unified into one family, that our inheritance as heirs is guaranteed, that we were formerly dead and uncircumcised, that we are saved by the grace of God, that we are members of God’s household, that we are no longer foreigners and strangers but members of God’s own family, and that we are God’s handiwork created to do good works which He planned for us to do since the beginning of time itself.

 

Those are all wonderful, glorious thoughts –and all in stark, glaring contrast to a newborn baby left on a dung heap to die.

 

You see, in first-century Ephesus and throughout the Roman empire, it was absolutely legal to dispose of excess or unwanted babies simply by leaving them at the garbage dump or local dung heap to die of exposure. It was expected and carried no social stigma, especially if the child was deformed, illegitimate, a child of infidelity,  the family was poor, there was family conflict, or was just guilty of being one of too many children.

 

Sometimes the infant was devoured by the dogs that scavenged public places. Sometimes, the child was picked up by slavers and sold as a pet, a play companion for another child, or a prostitute. The great temple of Artemis in Ephesus mentioned in Acts 19 had many temple prostitutes.

 

Into all of this steps the apostle Paul, who plants and grows and nurtures the people of the church in Ephesus.

 

It was those believers, from that church in Ephesus, who quietly started adopting and caring for those abandoned babies from the dung heap and the garbage dump as their own children.

 

And, throughout the words Paul writes to these people whom he never stops thanking God for, I can see the imagery of those children rescued from certain death or worse. One can only imagine the kind of Christians those formerly abandoned and left-to-die children would someday become.

 

The compassion and the love and the self-sacrifice of those believers did not go unnoticed. Many noticed how “The Way” had changed people and they also came to believe in Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior.

 

And the kingdom of God grew and spread putting forth leaves and branches and fruit.

 

So, brothers and sisters, as we hear on Kinship Christian Radio and the news all around us about what has happened in the great temples of our present culture,  let it remind us that the we are not to be overcome by evil, but we are to overcome evil with good.

 

For thus is the kingdom of God. 

 

Today’s Praise

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

 

 

 

Broken Glass

As I was reaching into the cupboard Monday morning for a coffee cup, I accidentally knocked a different coffee cup off the shelf. It fell to the counter-top and shattered into hundreds, maybe thousands, of pieces.

It was an unusual cup in that it was made of thick glass, not ceramic like most coffee cups. I’m guessing it was that heat-resistant glass used in cookware. It broke into pieces of all sizes. Some large, some medium, some small, and some that appeared to be microscopic. 

I say, “microscopic” because as I looked at the counter-top, I could see tiny glints of light in certain places where I could not see the actual piece of glass causing those glints of light.

I remember thinking (in my pre-dawn, pre-caffeinated condition of extraordinary grogginess) “Oh great. This is going to be a pain to clean up.”

And it was. 

Once I got some slippers on my feet and a broom in my hand, I discovered the shrapnel from the cup covered a large area of the kitchen. I swept the floor first, then mopped the floor. The floor mats (luckily not carpeted) in front of the sink and counter would go outside for a vigorous pounding.

Moving on to the counter-top, I considered the stick of butter sitting there. It was missing only one small pat, which had graced a serving of carrots from the roast last night.

Almost a whole stick of butter.

In my mind’s eye, I could see myself carefully scraping a thin layer off all six sides to save that stick of butter from being wasted… and then a small, still voice in my head said,

“Exactly how much broken glass is acceptable in your butter, Dan?”

And then I threw that stick of butter away.

Later, as I was wishing I had been more careful as I reached for that morning coffee cup, it occurred to me that the stick of butter answered a question that had come up in Bible Study the day before. 

We had been talking about when God called Moses through the burning bush to go back into Egypt and free the Israelites from their slavery. God answers all of Moses’ questions and objections, Moses tells his father-in-law, Jethro, that he is going back to Egypt, Jethro says, “Go in peace” and Moses and the caravan are on their way. Moses has been called, God’s great plan to save His people has been put into place and then, seemingly out of the blue, Exodus 4:24 says:

At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. (ESV)

What?

That seems rather unexpected and harsh.

As it turns out, the reason for all of this is that Moses had not circumcised his second son. God had commanded that the sons of His people would be circumcised. Moses’ wife, Zipporah, came from a different culture where men were circumcised before marriage, not shortly after birth. So, for Moses, leaving that child uncircumcised was sin. It was disobedience to God. Moses could not go on this grand mission the LORD Himself had called him to if he was unrepentant of sin –any sin, no matter how good the reason and no matter how microscopic.

We instinctively, completely, and totally understand and agree that the  acceptable level of broken glass in a stick of butter is absolutely none. Zero. Not one of us would knowingly and willingly accept or use a stick of butter with any shattered glass in it all. Zero tolerance.

And yet, somehow, we believe those tiny voices that say the we should willingly allow and accept small amounts of sin in our lives, in our culture, in our nation.

And we allow the acceptable amount of sin to grow as we become desensitized to the broken glass that slowly tears us apart as it increases the internal bleeding that God told us would lead to certain death.

But we cannot speak life and truth and joy and peace to others with shards of broken glass in our gullets.

The bad news is that we stink at being sinless. Everyone of us will some day knock that coffee cup off the shelf before we have come to our full senses.

The good news is that there was someone whom God sent who was and is sinless. There was someone who can not just remove the shards of broken glass, but can make it as if we never knocked that cup off the shelf in the first place.

As every preacher on Kinship Christian Radio will tell you, Jesus removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) Because of Jesus, our sins are not just forgiven, the Father willingly forgets them. (Hebrews 8:12) When we repent and confess our sins, we are washed clean and stand before the judge of all humanity not just “not guilty” but innocent and dearly loved. We are redeemed and set free!

Today’s Praise 

And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24 (BSB)

HALLELUJAH!

 

 

 

Future Radio

 

When I was about 12 years old, I bought an enormous radio at a garage sale with a wooden case and the ability to receive not just the AM radio stations everyone listened to, but also short-wave and other radio bandwidths.

Inside this amazing device were glass tubes that glowed with an eerie orange light when I turned it on. They emitted enough heat to warm your hands on a cold winter’s night.

I found if I hooked a wire up to the connection on the back labeled “ANT” (“antenna”) and fastened the other end of that wire to my metal bed frame, I could pick up people talking in other languages and even rapid clicking noises I assumed to be Morse Code. 

I never did learn Morse Code, but that old radio was great fun.

At about the same time in my young life, there was a program on CBS hosted by Walter Cronkite called, “The 21st Century” in which America’s most trusted journalist showed us things like the home of the future, where the TV screen was three feet wide and you could turn it on and off and change the channels with a control panel that looked like it had been transplanted into the home from Mission Control at Cape Canaveral. 

Well, we’re now 19 years into the 21st Century and the reality is more amazing than Walter (or I) would have ever imagined.

Each of us now walks around with a computer in their pocket or purse that can not only call people on the phone, it can also forecast the weather, inform you of world events, do your shopping, take pictures and video, direct you to your precise location, and do thousands of other things. 

The Dick Tracy phone-on-the-wrist thing actually fell short of the reality of the situation.

And radio?

While many of us still listen to broadcast radio, especially in our cars, the days of glowing vacuum tubes are long gone. The most recent figures I can find are from a study done by Edison Research in 2015 and indicate that fully 53% of Americans listen to internet radio at least some of the time.

Kinship Christian Radio has been available via the internet since 2006 and we know the number of people listening in this way is growing.

Internet radio has some huge advantages, mostly in the amount of equipment needed. Obviously, an internet radio station doesn’t need a huge tower that consumes enormous amounts of electricity to broadcast its signal. All that’s needed is a reliable internet connection, a microphone, and some sound equipment.

It’s kind of like rocket science that’s user-friendly.

And, it’s growing world-wide. There are thousands upon thousands of internet radio stations all over the world. If you want to listen to smooth jazz from Argentina, it’s out there. Bollywood, rockabilly, manele, raggaeton, dubstep, tejano, jpop, trance, polka, chill, and scores of kinds of music I’ve never heard of are available. (Okay, I know what polka is, but I had to Google many of those to figure out what they were. “Manele” is Romanian folk music, by the way.)

What this means for Christians is that the Word and music praising God are rapidly growing all over the world. Believers in countries where Christianity is illegal could now be listening to Kinship Christian Radio. In countries that don’t have the luxury of our incredible wealth and freedom of speech, they now have access to the Gospel via the internet and their phones.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion people currently have smartphones. 

Internet radio could very well do for the Gospel what Johannes Gutenberg did for the Bible with the invention of the printing press. The potential is amazing.

Also amazingly, God has opened a door for me to be involved in this. Through my previous mission trips to the Dominican Republic, I’ve come into contact with some people in that country who have started an internet radio station called Radio Bendicion Digital. (Blessings Digital Radio.) The station is still in its infancy, but it is growing and its people are dedicated to the LORD and the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’ll be travelling to the Dominican Republic next month along with two others with radio experience (at our own expense) to share how God has blessed Kinship Christian Radio and the things that have been learned from 36 years of bringing worship and the Word to listeners like you. 

Your prayers that our mission trip would bring honor and glory to the name of Jesus Christ are needed and greatly appreciated. 

To the saving of souls, HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Isaiah 12:5 (NIV)

 

 

FREE Prize Inside!

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1: 3-6 (NIV)

I was reading these verses the other night and was absolutely struck by the grandeur and the magnitude of these words.

We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We are chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight! He predestined us for adoption in accordance with His pleasure and will –to the praise of His glorious grace!

And, as I continued to read in this very first chapter of Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, the glory and the majesty of what he says continues to build.  Grace is lavished upon us, he makes known to us the mystery of his will, and all of this will bring unity to all things in heaven and earth! All of this is sealed and our adoption as children is guaranteed by the presence of the God’s own Holy Spirit in us –the very same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead! And all is to the praise of His glory!

The astounding idea that God had a plan for me before He ever spoke the universe into being and the magnificence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and absolute sovereignty continued to soak into my soul for days afterward.

These are amazing thoughts indeed.

And it made me think back to when I had strayed from Him.

At one time, I was involved in all kinds of things that I thought were “fun” but in retrospect now seem as utterly ridiculous, embarrassing, and worthless as… Well, as a plastic sheriff’s badge.

Allow me to explain.

When I was a kid, it was not uncommon for boxes of breakfast cereal to be adorned with the words “FREE Prize Inside!” Children (me included) would mercilessly beg their parents to purchase Cap’n Sugar’s Super-Frosted Magic Atomic Cowboy Marshmallow Planets or any of dozens of cereals that were in on the free prize bandwagon.  (Now that I think about it, doesn’t the slogan, “They’re magically delicious™ ” have a suspiciously occult undertone? Nevermind. I digress.)

Even though the commercials during my Saturday morning cartoons always said these high-fructose breakfast treats were “part of a balanced breakfast,” neither I nor any other kid in America were tugging on their mom’s skirt because of the “nine essential nutrients in every bowlful.”  We wanted the plastic sheriff’s badge inside!

And we wanted it now.

Begging to open the package and acquire the prize inside started the instant the grocery bags were out of the car and on the kitchen table. Alas, mom refused to let me plunge my dirty little mitts into the box immediately and absolutely vetoed having breakfast cereal for supper. It took what seemed like weeks of eating the same cereal every morning (sometimes two bowls) before finally, FINALLY I found the prize at the bottom of the box. (Yes, Virginia, all the way at the very, very bottom of the box.)

Once in my eager little paw now coursing with those nine essential nutrients and enough sugar to lift a Saturn V rocket off the launch pad, I was finally in possession of what every kid on the block wanted and yessiree Bob, I was cool!

With that plastic Sheriff’s badge in hand, I dug in my toy box until I found my plastic cowboy hat and my plastic cowboy boots and my plastic six-shooters. Then, I had mom pin that plastic badge right over my heart on my plastic cowboy vest.  Once mom left the playroom, I waved my plastic six-shooters around and said (In the deepest voice an eight year-old could muster.) “That’s right Bart, this town aint big enough for da both of us.”

POW! POW! POW!

Take that, Black Bart!

As imaginary Black Bart lay still and lifeless in the dust of that imaginary one-horse town, I calmly blew the imaginary gun smoke from the end of the plastic barrel.

Without saying a word, my eyes and the cool expression on my face said, “That’s right, folks, I’ve saved the day once again. Go back to your homes and your families. Your wives and your daughters are safe once again. Black Bart will trouble you no more.”

(This would be a really great time for Kinship Christian Radio to be playing the theme song from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” in the background, but I doubt that will happen.)

The only problem was, before Black Bart could be placed in a pine box and lowered into the ground, the pin broke off the back of that plastic star and the only alternative anyone could come up with was Scotch-taping it to my plastic cowboy vest.

But super-cool dead-eye gunfighters do not Scotch tape their badges to their vests.

And that’s the problem.

The badge was a lie.

There’s nothing wrong with an eight year-old kid developing his imagination, but at some point, we all have to grow up and face reality.

All that stuff I thought was cool and fun when I strayed away from the Lord was a lie. All those things I thought I wanted to do because they felt good were actually shallow and embarrassing and worthless in comparison to the reality of the all-surpassing greatness of God and who I am in Christ.

All those things were a plastic sheriff’s badge buried at the bottom of a box of sugary lies.

God did not create me to kill bad guys with a plastic six-shooter. He designed me before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be blessed with every spiritual blessing, to be adopted into his own family with his own Holy Spirit living in me as a guarantee, to have his grace lavished upon me, to know the mystery of his will that will bring all things in heaven and earth into unity through Jesus Christ!

He did all these things to the praise of His glory –not mine!

And, even though he knows my natural tendency is to long to pin that plastic sheriff’s badge back on my chest, he has opened doors for me to demonstrate and share the depth, the height, the length, the width of His love in His Son, Jesus Christ!  He has helped me to see that plastic sheriff’s badge for what it really is in comparison to the amazing, astounding, glorious, awesome of reality of who he really is!

And the truth of the reality is so much greater than the lie!

HALLELUJAH!

 Today’s Praise

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21 (NIV)

 

 

 

The Gray Days

January in Kinship Christian Radioland can be tough.

After the joy of the first snowfall and the wonder of the glorious Christmas season, many of us experience a kind of post-holiday come-down. The days start to get kind of gray and sometimes we go more than a couple of days without actually seeing the sun at all. 

That has an actual biological effect on people. I’m sure most of you have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where treatment involves the use of special lamps to help people through a very real depression caused by lack of sunlight. (If you are experiencing low energy, depression almost every day, insomnia, or thoughts of suicide, you should certainly seek medical attention knowing there is effective help for you.)

As a Christian, our need for sunlight does not surprise me at all as the Bible mentions numerous times that when we are saved, we become children of the Kingdom of Light. Jesus calls himself the Light of the World and we find in the book of Revelation that there will never be any darkness in heaven.  (Revelation 21:23)

We need light. We were built to walk in the light.

So, as part of the service I offer here as Kinship Christian Radio’s blog writer, for those of you who are experiencing the post-Christmas let-down, here are some tips to help you through the grayness of the coming days:

PRAISE THE LORD! I have written many times about the preacher I heard on Kinship Christian Radio many years ago who said, “Praise of the LORD creates an atmosphere the enemy cannot move through.” In my personal experience, I have found praise to be an effective weapon in the spiritual battle we all face every day. The enemy of your soul would very much like to incapacitate you by whatever means possible. Praise of God affirms that God is in control, that He is almighty, omniscient, omnipotent, and loves you so much He would send His only Son to die for you so that YOU could have eternal life! HALLELUJAH! He’s an amazing and wonderful God and He is WORTHY of all our praise! James 4:7b says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” I can think of no better resistance against that old dragon than honest, heartfelt, intensive, unrelenting praise of the LORD our God! HALLELUJAH! It also feels great and does wonders to revitalize a lagging soul.

HALLELUJAH! Look for times and places to say “HALLELUJAH!” Many of us spend much of our lives mired in the swamp of negativity. One of the best ways to counter this tendency is look for the positive and actually use the word “Hallelujah” out loud. Even people who object to “Merry Christmas” or “God bless you” seldom indicate disapproval of a well-timed “Hallelujah!” (Please keep in mind that your face should also look like you mean “Hallelujah” when you use the word. Otherwise, it’s just sarcasm.)

GOD KNOWS. Look, we’re all human beings. We can’t be on the mountain top 100% of the time. God knows how you feel and why you feel like you do. Trust Him and know that it won’t be like this all the time. May is coming. Honest. (Do resist the temptation to count the days until it comes.) It will be here all in God’s time and He is totally in control. Use this as a time to rest and recharge when you’re snowed in. A cup of hot chocolate in your favorite mug, a good book, and a warm blanket are not sinful. 

HELP SOMEONE. One of the best ways to make the winter go faster is to spend some time helping others. Grab your shovel and help your neighbor shovel out. Volunteer at a local charity or Christian radio station. (Yes, that was a rather obvious hint.)

YOU ARE NOT THE LONE RANGER. Great Bible verse on this topic, Tonto: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) What you are experiencing happens to us all, but there’s a promise in that verse and it is true.

KINSHIP CHRISTIAN RADIO. Okay, most of you already know this but the songs of praise and the preaching of the Word on Kinship Christian Radio will often miraculously (Yes, I chose that word on purpose) feed your soul exactly what it needs exactly when it needs it.

MISSION TRIP. This one may not be for everyone, but I find that going where God sends me to multiply the love of Jesus recharges my HALLELUJAH generator for many months and even years to come. Be aware, however, that a mission trip done solely for the purpose of escaping the frozen tundra is not a properly-done mission trip. If that’s your objective and you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with a tropical vacation.

I hope all of this helps, and if you’d like to share your tips for coping with the long, gray winter feel free to do so in the comments below. 

Today’s Praise

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 5:8-10 (NIV)

 

Happy Arbitrary Point in Earth’s Orbit

 

Ever wonder why January 1 starts a new year? 

 

I mean, why this specific point in earth’s rotation around the sun? Wouldn’t it seem more logical to begin our calendars at the beginning of one of the seasons –like spring, for example?

 

As it turns out, it used to. 

 

According to history.com, the ancient Roman calendar did begin the new year in March, but it was woefully inaccurate as it was based on the moon’s rotation around the earth rather than the earth’s rotation around the sun. This was further complicated by officials in the Roman government occasionally adding days to the calendar to extend political terms or interfere with elections. 

 

So, in 45 B.C., Julius Caesar decreed that 45 days would be added to that year which meant that 46 B.C. would begin in January instead of March. He also decreed that, once every four years, an extra day would be added to February to account for a year actually being 365 and one-fourth days.

 

That worked well for a very long time until it was discovered that the year was actually 365.242199 days, not 365.25. The tiny error meant that about 1600 years after implementation, the calendar was off by 10 days. In 1582, at the direction of Pope Gregory XIII, the current calendar was implemented.

 

So, why is an accurate calendar important anyway?

 

God gives us the answer in some of the very first verses of the Bible:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, … Genesis 1:14 (ESV)

 

Our food comes from the earth. So, knowing when to plant that food is very, very important. We take this for granted now because there is always an abundance of food in the grocery store, but an accurate knowledge of the signs and the seasons was crucial to our ancestors –and still is.

 

The glorious cosmic ballet of the earth rotating around the sun as it tilts ever so slightly back and forth while the moon rotates around the earth is all part of God’s plan. The plants that grow and feed us are regulated and dependent on changes in day length associated with this grand ballet. Everything is interconnected and linked in a glorious, wonderful web of life so amazing and complex that (despite how smart we think we are) we still do not fully understand.

 

We never would have figured out the exact length of a year was off by .007801 days each year had God not put the stars in the heavens as points of reference, which (not coincidentally) is exactly what He said He did in His Word. 

 

We are blessed beyond measure because He does make all things new each year. The snow covers the ground now and the earth is frozen beneath it, but that freeze-thaw cycle softens the earth and allows the seeds to reach down into it and draw up water and nutrients when spring comes. 

 

And, as the songs of praise and the teaching of His Word will tell you on Kinship Christian Radio, He makes us new also. 

 

We go through cycles and seasons of cold and dark but the warmth and light of Jesus is assured to us. We are part of His plan. 

 

He shines upon us so that we can grow and produce fruit.

 

The glory of His plan is that we can reflect that light to others as we are renewed in Him, not just once a year, but each new day. 

 

Today’s Praise

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3: 4-7 (ESV)

 

What if Christmas?

 

I’m not ashamed to admit I found it difficult to go into work on Wednesday after four solid days of Christmas. The transition was a bit jarring.

 

And it got me to thinking “What if we were designed and built for Christmas?”

 

Obviously, we like all the wonderful food we enjoy at Christmas, so I don’t think it’s a big stretch at all to surmise that God built into us an innate desire for Christmas cookies. Okay, so maybe I cannot point to a specific gene that causes cravings for green frosting and multi-colored sprinkles on a tree-shaped cookie, but it sure feels like something I was born with. 

 

And what about gift-giving?  What if we were actually designed and built to experience the joy of giving gifts? What if that thrill we get when we see someone enjoying a gift we gave them is something God put in us?

 

What if the joy of just being with family and people we love is something God intended us to experience?

 

What if singing praises to Him and His only Son Jesus is something He intended us to enjoy for all eternity?

 

What if He intended us to exist for all eternity in peace and harmony and love with Him and with each other with a deep, deep everlasting joy in our hearts?

 

What if that feeling we had as we stood in the church on Christmas Eve with a candle in our hand singing “Silent Night” isn’t supposed to be a once-a-year thing but an eternal thing?

 

What if heaven is like Christmas?

 

What if it’s even better?

 

Today’s Praise

The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Revelation 21: 18-25 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

Baby King

 

One of the Christmas gifts I most enjoy is the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Christmas Concert. 

 

Yes, I pay for the tickets and I always take my lovely wife (Mrs. Hallelujah Jones) as a Christmas present to her, but each and every year I have attended I have received the gift of tears of joy and praise.

The concert was held last Saturday at Grace Church in Eden Prairie with featured artist Jason Gray.

 

And the choir! 

 

No doubt you’ve enjoyed Jason Gray’s songs on Kinship Christian Radio, and he is certainly a wonderful and respected Christian artist, but I would  respectfully maintain that the 350 people in the choir rescued and recovering from addiction by the power of Jesus Christ deserve equal billing. 

What turned on the water works for me this year was Gray and the choir singing “Baby King.” 

 

It’s one of those songs you like the minute you hear it, but has a much deeper impact once you pay attention to the lyrics:

Ring every bell, shout out the message 
All hail the coming of Jesus 
Lord of us all, small and defenseless 
Power comes swaddled in meekness 
So don’t be afraid, He came as a baby King

When Gray introduced the song, he said he thought God sent Jesus as a small and defenseless little baby so we would not be afraid when God stepped into this world with us.

 

And that makes me think of the verse in Luke 2 when the angels appeared to the shepherds:

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (v9, NIV)

 

Terrified.

 

Most translations use that word, but also used is “filled with great fear,” “terribly frightened,” “greatly frightened,” and of course the KJV’s “sore afraid.”

 

Sore afraid. 

 

That’s the shepherd’s reaction to one, single angel who has come to announce good news, peace on earth good will to men. And the mortal men in his presence are so scared it hurts.

 

Gray has a valid point. If our omniscient, omnipotent, glorious, look-upon-His-face-and-die God who created all the stars and all the planets and suns and galaxies simply by speaking them into being had come down among from His throne in heaven with its flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder how would we have reacted? (Do take a look in Revelation 4 and read what God’s throne looks like.)

 

But He didn’t.

 

God sent his Son as a humble little baby in a manger. Seven or eight pounds of God in the flesh. The Lord of heaven and earth unable to walk, talk, feed himself, or take care of himself in any way.  Defenseless. Small. Weak.

 

Humble.

 

God sent His Son, his only Son, to be a son of man that we would be able to be sons and daughters of the One True Father. 

 

Jesus came down from His throne in heaven that we might be able to go up to His throne and join Him forever.

 

He left His kingdom that the kingdom could come to earth.

 

He came so that He could die for us so that we would never die.

 

Jesus was born so that we could be reborn.

 

And there was the proof of that amazing rebirth standing right there in front of me. There were 350 souls standing in front of me who had been spiritually dead, who very well could have ended up physically dead, had that little baby not come to earth and saved them.

 

And they were singing His praises amid tears of joy.

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

So, ring every bell, shout out the message 
All hail the coming of Jesus 
Lord of us all, small and defenseless 
Power comes swaddled in meekness 
So don’t be afraid, He came as a baby King
So don’t be afraid
He came as a baby King!

(Photo used by permission, Mn Adult and Teen Challenge)

 

 

Fallibility and the Bells

 

 

One of the things God is very, very faithful to do in my life is steadfastly remind me that I’m not all that and a bag of chips. 

 

Case in point: I was recently talking with Allen Jones (no relation other than “brother in Christ”) and we were heartily agreeing on how much we liked “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Of course, (having been an English major) I mentioned the gravity and beauty of the lyrics of this song written by Walt Whitman during the Civil War.

 

Brother Jones (while agreeing with me as to the grandeur of the lyrics) gently and respectfully corrected me, pointing out that I had understandably confused Walt Whitman with William Wordsworth –the true author of the lyrics we enjoyed so much.

 

I thought little of it, as I am accustomed to being wrong on a regular basis, until Monday morning when I heard Allen speaking on the radio about our conversation. He had been preparing what would undoubtedly have been a glorious dissertation on the worthy words penned by Wordsworth only to discover that “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” was written, in point of fact, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

 

(As it turns out, Wordsworth had passed from this earth more than a decade prior to the beginning of the Civil War and lived in England his entire life, making it highly unlikely that he was the author of the song.)

 

So, we were both wrong.

 

Now that we have correctly established the authorship of the classic song, the story of how it came into being is worthy of rediscovering.

 

Longfellow originally penned the famous words as a poem in 1863 during the height of the Civil War under the title “Christmas Bells.” It was published in 1865 in a magazine for young people called “Our Young Folks.” It was not until 1872 that his poem was set to music by an English organist named John Baptiste Calkin. 

 

When Bing Crosby (no relation to Beth Crosby of Kinship Christian Radio fame) recorded the song as a single in 1956,  its place in modern American musical history was forever solidified. 

 

But (should you ever be engaged in a Christmas trivia contest) what most people don’t know about the song is that the original song was a heart-wrenching lament about death and the Civil War. 

 

Longfellow was deeply in love with his wife, Fanny Appleton, and had gone to great lengths to get her to agree to marry him. In 1861, an accident in their home caused her dress to catch fire and, despite his heroic attempts to save her, she died of her injuries. Longfellow’s face was burned so badly from trying to save her that he could no longer shave. The trademark beard he grew afterward was not out of fashion, but out of necessity. 

 

Although his face did heal after Fanny’s death, his heart never did. At one point, he wrote that he was “inwardly bleeding to death.” His grief was so great that he worried he would go insane. He begged not to be sent to an asylum.

 

In 1863, just two years after Fanny’s death, his beloved son Charles Appleton Longfellow enlisted in the Union Army against his father’s wishes.  Henry had long been an abolitionist, but the thought of losing his son so soon after the death of his beloved Fanny, was almost overwhelming. The Civil War was infamously bloody and horrific. Men frequently died of diseases spread in the camps of both sides and a bullet wound to the arm or leg meant almost certain amputation as the science of medicine lagged far behind the technology to inflict ever more horrific, devastating, and painful wounds. 

 

In November of the same year he enlisted, Charles was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia. Although he would eventually recover, Henry’s grief is painfully evident in stanzas four and five of the originally-published poem. These verses are omitted from the Christmas song we sing today:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South, 
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

 

But we do include verse six:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said; 
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

And in that verse, we all share in Longfellow’s despair. We know he’s right. Hate is strong. And in that truth, we have to face that question every atheist asks of Christians: “How can a loving God allow such terrible things to happen?”

 

But the triumph and the glory of it all resounds from verse seven:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

 

Jesus came to earth! He is the very righteousness of God! He is the one, just like the angel announced, who brings peace on earth, good will to men! He is our very hope and our salvation! 

 

Indeed, God is not dead nor does He sleep! 

 

God sent His only begotten Son to earth for us! Our hope does not rest on fallible and fragile men like me or any mortal who ever walked this earth. Jesus lives and reigns to this day and all who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior can rest and rejoice that His righteousness prevails forever! 

 

AMEN!!

Today’s Praise

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14 (KJV)