God’s Delight

There’s a question on the Kinship Christian Radio Facebook page right now asking, “What is your go-to worship song when you’re feeling overwhelmed?” 

 

It’s an excellent question to ask not only to get a handle on what you like to hear and what lifts up, supports, and encourages you, it’s also a question that glorifies God by turning on the little light bulb in everyone’s head about the power of the Holy Spirit moving through music. 

 

I’m very sure God likes music. The longest book in the Bible (Psalms) is a song book. Music is mentioned and included from Genesis to Revelation. Matthew 26:30 mentions Jesus and his disciples singing together. We are urged, even commanded, to make a joyful noise unto the LORD with a wide variety of instruments . (See Psalm 98.)

 

As you may have guessed, I am a huge fan of Christian music. My current favorite is “Child of Love” by We The Kingdom. It’s my typical up-tempo, unfettered praise-of-God song that gets me singing along, chair dancing, and even playing the drums on the steering wheel — in the privacy of my own vehicle.  God has blessed me and gifted me in many, many ways. A golden singing voice, perfect pitch, and a flawless sense of rhythm are not among those gifts. 

 

And that’s okay.

 

What God has given me is a deep, deep appreciation for the messages conveyed in music. While “Child of Love” may come off at first listen as just your typical feel-good, happy-thoughts Contemporary Christian toe-tapper, it has some pretty hefty theological density. In the space of four minutes and ten seconds, it makes reference to the parable of the prodigal son, choosing the narrow path, the lies the adversary tells us, shouting His praises from the mountain tops, freedom in Jesus Christ, Jesus calling us friends, the account of Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace being rescued by Jesus, Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus, and the assurance and permanence of Jesus’ love and relationship with us.  (See Romans 8:38.)

 

And throughout all that glorious, wonderful theology is the assurance that I am a child of love. 

 

Paul and John both wrote powerfully about that adoption as children of God throughout the new testament, but it’s especially powerful in the book of Ephesians.  

 

That’s almost certainly because of what happened in Ephesus. We know that both Paul and John spent considerable time in Ephesus. When Paul introduced the people of Ephesus to Jesus Christ, it so changed them that they went out and picked up abandoned, dying babies from the trash heaps and manure piles of their community and adopted them into their own families. (More details here: https://kinshipradio.org/home/2019/02/07/christians-at-the-dump/ )

 

And then, we read in Ephesians 1:5 that it was God’s plan all along to add abandoned and unwanted dying children to the list of tax collectors and prostitutes, fisherman and shepherds, murderers and fiends, exiles and prodigals he would adopt not just as children, but as heirs of His kingdom: 

 

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (NLT)

 

And, as a dear sister in Christ recently pointed out to me, all of this gave God great pleasure! Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance defines the Greek word “εὐδοκίαν” (eudokian) translated here as “great pleasure” as, “satisfaction, i.e. delight, or kindness, wish, purpose.”

 

Delight! God took delight in adopting you and me into His family! He planned it from the beginning and carried it out with His own Son through a cross and an empty tomb. 

 

So, yes, that calls for some toe-tapping, chair dancing, steering-wheel thumping JOY! 

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

 

Today’s Praise

I’m gonna climb a mountain!

I’m gonna shout about it!

I am a child of love!

Lyrics from “Child of Love” by We The Kingdom.

 

National Day of Prayer

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV)

 

Kinship Christian Radio will air a live broadcast from the 2021 National Day of Prayer event on Thursday evening, May 6th at 7:00 pm on the theme, “Lord Pour Out Your Love, Life and Liberty.” This two-hour special will feature comments and features, along with times of prayer and worship from guests including Anne Graham Lotz, Andrew Palau, Greg Laurie, Tony Evans, Nick Hall, Shane and Shane and many others.

 

There are also about a dozen events taking place all across the Kinship listening area for the National Day of Prayer. You can find those here: https://kinshipradio.org/home/national-day-of-prayer-2021/

 

That verse above catches my ear because I have been praying the fruits of the Spirit over our nation for over a year now. What began at 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis last year spread anger, hate, destruction, and chaos across our state, the nation, and the whole world. It was as if the powers and principalities in the heavenly realms had concentrated in that intersection in that city and spread outward from that epicenter in a swirling maelstrom of all that is unholy. 

 

It was –in many ways– shocking. 

 

At first, I didn’t know what to to pray. But then it seemed the only thing I could pray into that situation was love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

 

I went to the intersection of 38th and Chicago on June 19th last year and found the Holy Spirit at work there. I found worship and praise and people being baptized in a livestock watering tank right there on the street. I found white people and black people loving and forgiving each other. I found riot turned into revival at ground-zero of a global spiritual battle. 

 

We didn’t hear much about that on the national news media, but Jay Rudolph reported on it on Kinship Christian radio, I wrote a blog post about it (https://kinshipradio.org/home/2020/06/25/unity/) and numerous Christian websites and news outlets covered the story. That revival is still going on. The people involved have not ceased their efforts and many souls continue to be saved. 

 

So, the Spirit of the Lord does not slumber. He does not sleep. That same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation, that God breathed into Adam when He formed him from the dust of the ground, that raised Jesus from the dead, that was given to us and is the seal and guarantee of our inheritance in heaven is still moving and working in our world today.

 

Jesus is still changing the world. 

 

So, yes, LORD, pour out your Holy Spirit on us, on our families, on our neighborhoods and towns, on our states, over all our nation and all the world! Bring many souls to freedom in Christ Jesus! Draw many souls to yourself LORD, that they would no longer walk in fear and darkness and hate but bring love, life, and liberty to all! AMEN!

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 1:19-23 (NLT)

The Way and Being In the Way

As the Official Big-Shot Blog Writer and Editor-in-Chief of the Kinship Christian Radio Blog-o-Sphere Universe, you would think I would be extraordinarily knowledgeable and informed about all things pertaining to Kinship Christian Radio, including (but certainly not limited to) the Twelfth Annual KJLY Women’s Conference held this past Saturday at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato.

 

You would think that.

 

If so, you would be wrong. I caught maybe three percent of this event. I know that there were over 300 women in attendance, that the food was delicious, that there were snacks and beverages in abundance at all times absolutely everywhere throughout the venue, that the choices of dressing for the salad were ranch, sun-dried tomato, and herb peppercorn–because I told approximately one hundred ladies those were their choices in my official capacity as Salad Dressing Dispenser Person. I was actually at the event for about five hours, but the reason I don’t really know much about all that went on was because I was a helper, not a participant. 

 

I did catch some of the Looney Lutherans while I was helping get lunch ready via the large television screen in the lunchroom. From this, I was able to determine two things: A. The Looney Lutherans are indeed looney, and; B. In the grand scheme of Lutheran food groups, “All roads lead to hotdish.” (Fact checked and verified.)

 

I spent a lot of time carrying things, moving things, bringing things to places, looking for answers to questions, and just generally attempting to be helpful. I also spent many minutes attempting to compensate for my special gift of Being in The Way. 

 

It seems that whenever and wherever I am (especially if the “wherever” is a kitchen) there is nowhere within that location where I can locate this Temple of the Holy Spirit that is not in the direct path of and therefore a stumbling block to Persons Who Are Actually Getting Things Done. (PWAAGTD) 

 

I have noticed this ever since I was a child. 

 

And, even though I know that the featured speaker Alli Worthington is a nationally-known speaker, author, podcaster, and blogger, I missed 97% of what she said.

 

Late in the day, during a brief lull when I was able to sit down, I caught this tiny snippet of her message and in it she said that God doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes here on this earth. He involves us in His plans because He loves us.

 

Now, I’ve heard that basic concept expressed before. There’s a song by Tenth Avenue North and another one by Casting Crowns that play on Kinship Christian Radio that deliver that very message.

 

But Worthington illustrated it by talking about a mother preparing a meal in the kitchen and asking her young child to help. Mom doesn’t need that child to help her to be able to prepare the meal. Mom asks that young child to participate in preparing the meal because she loves that child. 

 

And suddenly, I understood why I was always in the way when I was in the kitchen.

 

I’m in the way when I’m in the kitchen and not helping. If I’m in there to sneak a cookie for myself or just to stand around because that’s where everybody else is, it’s no wonder I’m in the way.

 

No wonder my Lutheran Grandma would sigh when I was leaning up against the drawer with the potholders in it while the beeper on the stove was insistently proclaiming the hotdish had been in the oven for exactly one hour at 350.

 

But, if I’m actually involved in helping, I am no longer a stumbling block. I am one of the PWAAGTD. 

 

If I accept God’s offer to be involved in helping, I’m the guy opening the drawer and handing Grandma the potholder. I’m the one stirring the bananas into the red Jello®. (Okay, maybe I’m getting a little big-headed there. Stirring the bananas in is above my pay grade. Sorry. I’m probably more like the guy carrying the dish to the table after grandma puts the Cool Whip® on it.)

 

But anyway, the point is God calls each one of us into His plan of loving the world, not because He needs us, but because He loves us. Instead of Being In the Way, we become part of The Way.

 

And isn’t that where we would all prefer to be? 

 

Today’s Praise

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

 

(Hotdish image courtesy of Pixabay, which by the way was impossible to find using the word “hotdish.” Apparently, there’s a nefarious plot seeping through the dark corners of the internet to change the name of this beloved and staple food to “casserole.” Beware.)

Follow

 

Follow.

 

There’s another one of those “Christian” words we’re not naturally very fond of. 

 

In the context of our culture, it’s far more desirable to be a leader, a warrior — a champion for truth, justice, and all that is good and right while vanquishing the evil enemy’s horrific and nefarious plot for world domination.

 

Meanwhile, outside of cartoon land, Ryan Freed asked a very intriguing question of Kinship Christian Radio’s listeners on Monday morning: “What one thing would you tell a new believer to Christianity?”

 

Everyone who responded had an excellent answer. More than one stressed the importance of reading the Word. (That would have been my initial response.) Prayer was also mentioned more than once.  Someone else said to tell at least one person a day about your faith. One person said to tell them to start listening to KJLY.  And more than one person stressed the importance of current Christians supporting, accepting,  and helping the new believer. 

 

The funny thing is, once I let the question really sink in and envisioned myself in a situation where I was face-to-face with a new believer, I think I would give them just one single word of advice:

 

Follow.

 

Just follow Jesus.

 

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus using exactly the same words when He called Matthew.

 

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9 (NIV)

 

Jesus didn’t give Matthew a lengthy sales pitch. There was no long dissertation on all the souls that needed to be saved or the glory that would await him. In fact, Matthew would go from being a rich albeit unscrupulous tax collector to wandering along behind a homeless street preacher with quite probably no income at all. 

 

Likewise for Simon Peter and Andrew:

 

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4: 18-19. (ESV)

 

Same story for James and John:

 

And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4: 20-21 (ESV)

 

And Philip:

 

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43 (ESV)

 

Only for the calling of Nathanael do we find a different story and it’s described right after the calling of Philip:

 

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:44-51 (ESV)

 

Jesus promised Nathanael that he would see and experience glorious, wonderful things –things beyond his imagination.

 

I have not seen heaven opened and angels ascending and descending on Jesus, but I have seen and experienced amazing, glorious, wonderful things simply by following Jesus. 

 

I have seen children healed and souls saved. I have seen healing of the pain and loss of loved ones gone from this earth far too soon. I have seen people healed and cured by no other explanation other than the power of prayer and the love of Jesus. I have seen abused children who absolutely believed that there was no such thing as love come to live lives surrounded by love, to be saved by the love of Jesus Christ, and to go on to share that love with others.

 

I have seen addicts give up their addictions by the power of Jesus.

 

I have been one of those addicts.

 

And I have been granted the privilege, the amazing miracle of being given a taste, a brief touch of a love that is impossible for any human being to fully comprehend or describe. It is a love that burns from the top of the mountain as it did to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is a love that’s not just reckless –it’s relentless, majestic,  totally powerful, almighty, inexpressible love. It is a love so so wide, so long, so high, so deep, if you were to touch, if it were to touch you, you would not be able to hold back the tears.

 

It is an infinite love.

 

And that is the love the disciples of Jesus didn’t just experience–they lived out. 

 

They did that by following Jesus. They listened to His words until those words were part of their hearts and souls. He taught them to pray. They listened to Him tell others about the Kingdom of God. They watched Him accept, support, and heal the weak and the downtrodden, the outcasts of society. And they watched Him unfold the glory of God’s plan to save all humanity by His death and resurrection. 

 

And His disciples, His followers, were forever changed. They travelled the known world telling and showing others the love of Jesus. And that created more people who followed Jesus. And those disciples discipled other disciples and so on and so on until that one life lived in complete and utter unimaginable love changed the world more than any other life before or since in all the history of the world.

 

I will probably never be able to express that love as fully or completely as I should. I fail time and time again.

 

But the people who have been truly and simply following Jesus and allowing themselves to be led by Him have been champions for truth, justice, and righteousness in opposition to the enemy of our souls for the past 2,000 years despite all their flaws and failures.

 

So, dear new believer, my advice to you is to simply follow Jesus. You will falter and you will fall down, but He will pick you back up. All of the absolutely correct advice previously mentioned above will flow from simply following Him and being His disciple.

 

And as you follow, you will encounter other disciples who are following Him, too. Together, you will learn and grow and discover things you never imagined.

 

And one day, when you are not expecting it or looking for it, that amazing, glorious, astoundingly powerful love that defies all description will reveal itself to you in a way that brings you to tears that you cannot stop or control.

 

And you will never be the same.

 

Today’s Praise

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

The Fable of Muddy-Foot Jake

It started out as an ordinary drive to work last Wednesday. 

 

A light rain was falling from the cold, gray sky. Temps were in the mid-40’s, I suppose, so no threat of the dreaded freezing drizzle common at this time of year in Kinship Christian Radio land. I was on the same road traveling the same speed I always travel. Cruise control engaged and Ryan Freed was playing something good on the radio. All was well.

 

As I came up over the little hill just before the road dipped slightly into the river valley, I detected something in the road ahead. An animal of some sort. 

 

I tapped the brake to disengage the cruise control. 

 

A second or two passed and I could see it was two animals. One in my lane and the other already making its way into the ditch on the right side of the road.

 

Turkeys.

 

Even though it seemed clear they would both be off the roadway by the time I got close enough to worry about them, my right foot hovered over the brake pedal. Years of driving in the presence of wildlife has conditioned me to approach these situations with an abundance of caution.

 

Sure enough, in another second or two, I saw a third turkey making his way out of the ditch on the left side, intent on joining his two turkey compadres on the other side of the road.

 

My right foot applied the brake firmly, but not yet in panic mode.

 

Two heartbeats passed and it was clear this turkey was not going to stop and let me pass –nor had he decided to avoid my 4,000 pound vehicle hurtling along at speeds he could not fathom by turning around and going back into the ditch.

 

A voice in the back of my head, doing its best impression of Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk said, “Evasive maneuvers, Mr. Sulu.”

 

I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter and applied more pressure to the brake pedal.

 

Two more heartbeats passed and I was now close enough to see that there was something very odd about this turkey. He was a young male (a “Jake,” in turkey parlance) and His feet were covered in huge globs of mud. He must have been walking in the plowed field next to the road prior to attempting to cross it.

 

If you can imagine a turkey trying to run wearing snowshoes, that’s what Muddy-Foot Jake looked like as he struggled to achieve his objective.

 

By now, I was very firmly applying the brake and was waiting maybe one more heartbeat to decide if I was going to swerve left or right. And then, Jake did something I did not expect.

 

That turkey opened up his big, broad wings and with two powerful strokes lifted himself off the ground, shook the mud off his feet, and flew right around the front of my vehicle into the south ditch to join his two brothers. 

 

The voice in the back of my head said, “Oh yeah, wild turkeys can fly.*” And I drove on to work.

 

I’ve thought about that encounter for several days now and it occurs to me I’ve been a muddy-footed turkey in the middle of the road of life more than once. 

 

I’ve found myself in situations that seemed like there was no way everything was going to turn out okay. I have recently had numerous friends and relatives in medical situations that looked like they would soon be face-to-face with Jesus and prayers on their behalf certainly seemed to change an almost-certain outcome. 

 

Now, maybe the deliverance of Muddy-Foot Jake wasn’t strictly-speaking a miracle. God made turkeys with the ability to fly and enough sense to know when to fly. But that turkey’s fate was hanging in the balance of fractions of a second. There were a lot of things that could have gone horribly wrong for ol’ Muddy-Foot Jake on that rainy Wednesday morning, but they didn’t.

 

And, at any given moment in my life, there are hundreds if not thousands of ways that God is protecting and blessing me. If I had any idea of how many things God is upholding and arranging at any given moment to make my life possible and productive and fruitful for His kingdom, the knowledge would probably be more than this turkey could bear. 

 

All of which brings me to back to the inescapable and certain conclusion that God is always worthy of our praise. Every moment, every heartbeat, every second of our lives is made possible in Him and through Him.

 

He is indeed worthy of all our praise. 

 

Today’s Praise

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) 

 

 

 

 

* Take note, dear readers, that even though this is a radio blog, I did not go off on a 700-word bunny trail at this point culminating in Arthur Carlson of WKRP in Cincinnati saying, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” You’re welcome.

The Church Gone Sideways

On the morning of March 23, 2021, the container ship Ever Given was headed through the Suez Canal when something went horribly wrong and it became wedged diagonally in the canal.

 

If you listen to SRN News on Kinship Christian Radio (or any other media source for that matter) you know that the ship remained stuck sideways in the canal for six long days. Shipping through the canal came to a complete standstill as the 1,312 foot vessel completely blocked the 673 foot-wide canal. 

 

The cause of the mishap still remains a matter of speculation. Some say a sudden gust of wind from a sandstorm caused the ship to “lose the ability to steer.” Officials say other factors involved in the mishap may include “technical or human error.” Whatever the cause, the cost of the Ever Given going sideways is estimated at one billion dollars. 

 

At the same time news of the Ever Given was breaking, SRN News was also reporting on a poll by the Barna Group that found that 51% of U.S. church-goers do not know what The Great Commission is:

 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28: 19&20a (NLT)

 

The details of the poll are even worse. In reality, only 17% of U.S. churchgoers say they know what The Great Commission is and can explain it. Another 25% say they know what it means but cannot explain it and 6% chose the response, “not sure.” When given a choice of five verses and asked to pick which one is The Great Commission, fully 64% either admit they do not know or chose the wrong verse. 

 

The irony of the whole situation is that The Great Commission is exactly and precisely about the Church making disciples –disciples who should absolutely know what their purpose and mission is in the whole grand scheme of what it is to be a disciple of the LORD Jesus Christ.

 

It appears the Church has somehow “lost the ability to steer” and gotten itself wedged sideways in the path, even more so than the Ever Given did.

 

Don’t get me wrong on this. When I say “the Church” I mean the Church Universal. I mean the people who make up the body of Christ.  I mean you and me. 

 

There’s a line in Jesus, Friend of Sinners, by Casting Crowns that goes:

The world is on their way to you,

But they’re tripping over me.

 

When Lent rolled around this year, I decided to give up being political on social media because of what I read in Luke 20: 20-26. Jesus threw the money with Caesar’s face on it back in the faces of those who tried to trap Him with it and instead turned the topic to what belongs to God. (Luke 20: 20-26.)

 

Jesus absolutely shunned the political. And yet He was executed for entirely political reasons. 

 

Even though I am just one person, what I say (even on social media) has the power to heal or destroy, to unite or divide.

 

And, when I think about that part of The Great Commission where Jesus said, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” there’s a verse I cannot ignore:

 

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34 (NLT)

 

It’s so easy to get myself sideways on the political comments with which I disagree on social media. But responding in kind to prove I’m right and someone else is wrong is exactly the kind of thing that blocks the path to Jesus. It becomes about me instead of about the love of Jesus.

 

The way I look at it, the problem with church-goers not knowing what the Great Commission is has nothing to do with the availability of that information. Every pastor I’ve ever known has taught those verses.


The problem comes from the Church not living out The Great Commission. We who know what it is often think it’s about over-seas missions, and it is. But that’s not all. The Great Commission applies just as equally to our neighbor as it does to the guy in Timbuktu. 

 

The love that held Jesus to the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit that rose Him from the grave changed the world more than anything had ever changed the world before or since.

 

As His disciples, that love and that power lives in us –and Jesus is still changing the world in and through His disciples.

 

All we have to do is let the Captain, Jesus, steer the boat. 

 

Today’s Praise

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12 (NIV)

The Veil

 

Of all the things we observe and remember during Holy Week, for some reason the veil of the temple being torn in two is calling out to me this year.

 

Don’t get me wrong here –the cross and the empty tomb are the main point of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

 

But that veil…

 

The veil of the temple was what separated the main temple from the Holy of Holies. Inside the Holy of Holies was God’s territory. Only one human being was allowed back in there and only once a year to make sacrifice for the sins of the people. The only individual allowed into the very presence of God was the High Priest and he had to be an actual descendant of Aaron. He had to have purified himself thoroughly through a long list of requirements and regulations or he would die in the presence of God. They put bells on his clothing and tied a rope around his ankle so that if God did strike him dead for being unclean, others would know because his bells had stopped jingling and they could pull him out by the rope tied to his ankle. 

 

To say this was serious is an understatement of Biblical proportions.

 

The veil that separated the main temple from the Holy of Holies was made according to very specific requirements given in the book of Exodus. The veil in the temple in Jerusalem was 60 feet high and 30 feet wide –meaning its square footage was greater than the footprint of the average American home. It was woven of 72 cords, each composed of 24 threads of fine twisted linen in blue and purple and scarlet. It took 12,000 snails of a very certain species to make a single thimble-full of the dye required to produce those colors in the threads of the veil. It had beautiful scenes of cherubim and other heavenly themes woven into it. Production of a single veil for the temple required the work 82 young ladies specially trained for the purpose working for six months. When finished, the veil was four inches thick and required 300 priests to move it around. It hung from a solid stone lintel (in essence the biggest curtain rod anyone had ever heard of) weighing 60,000 pounds. 

 

And God tore it in two.

 

At the very moment that Jesus died, immediately after He proclaimed “It is finished!” (John 19:30), in the instant in time when He gave up his spirit:

 

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart,  and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. Matthew 27:51 & 52 (NLT)

 

And everything changed.

 

In that moment, all who would believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior were granted direct access to God. All the sacrifices all the priests had made for all the years prior to that were done –over because the perfect sacrifice had been made for us. No longer would a High Priest with bells on his robe and a rope around his ankle be the only person who could come before God the Father. No longer would the veil be necessary because our relationship with God had been forever healed and made whole and holy. 

 

The High Priest who made that sacrifice for us had not entered a replica of heaven or the place where God dwelt once a year, He was and is the King who is a resident and rightful heir to the very Throne Room of God.

 

And through His sacrifice, through His death on that cross, we are granted the right to not only come before that throne, but to come before it boldly.

 

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)

 

Boldly. 

 

The Greek word used is παρρησίας (parrēsias) and it means all out-spokenness, i.e. frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication, assurance.

 

That is just astounding. 

 

After all humanity had done, has done, and will do, that God would not only allow us to come before Him like that but allow His Son to endure all of the very worst attributes of humanity in order not just to make it possible for us but to orchestrate all of it for our benefit defies anyone’s ability to come up with words adequate to describe it.

 

It’s beyond amazing grace. 

 

The only response I can think of to being granted that kind of access to God is to come before that throne with bold and raucous praise, thanking and glorifying Him that He made a way for me to be who I could never be on my own. 

 

Today’s Praise

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

 

Photo: Above-ground graves cover the Mount of Olives facing the city of Jerusalem. Image by Teun de Jager from Pixabay

The Day No One Celebrates

This is the day no one in Christendom celebrates.

 

This, the Wednesday before Palm Sunday, is the day the church forgot.

 

Search as I might, I could find no denomination, no sect, no faction of Christianity that celebrates–or even makes a note on their church calendar– that this is the day that Lazarus died.

 

Now, there are millions of Christians in Russia, Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopa, Sudan, and parts of Asia and India that celebrate Lazarus Saturday.  Traditionally, this was when hermits would come out of their solitary abodes and venture to the monastery for Holy Week observances. In Greece and Cyprus, they even bake special bread called “lazarakia” shaped like a man wrapped in grave clothes to be eaten on Lazarus Saturday.

 

It’s certainly understandable that people would want to celebrate the day that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It was an amazing miracle.

 

Lazarus had been dead for four days. When Jesus finally did arrive in Bethany where Mary and Martha and the former Lazarus had lived, and He ordered that stone be rolled away from the tomb, they warned Him that was going to stink. (John 11:39)

 

Some translations mince their words and say “there will be an odor” but the Greek word is ὄζει (ozei) and it means an offensive, putrid stench.

 

But Jesus called a rotten, stinking, dead corpse out of the grave and back into life. Jewish custom held that a person’s soul resided in or with the dead body for up to three days, but by the time a person started to rot, the soul had long departed the body. No one could deny that this was a miracle only God Himself could accomplish.

 

But see, no one knew that was going to happen back on Wednesday. No one knew that, on the day that Lazarus died, God was setting in motion a chain of events that would change the world more than any other event in all the history of the world.

 

When Lazarus died on that Wednesday, it looked like Jesus had failed. Lazarus and his sisters loved Jesus. They believed He was the Messiah. They were sure of it. Jesus had completely changed their lives. I’m certain Mary and Martha were not just hurt, but absolutely devastated when their brother died. 

 

The depth of both Martha and Mary’s grief is obvious. Both of them say if Jesus had only been there with them, Lazarus would not have died. (John 11: 21 & 32) I’m sure they both felt this was not supposed to happen. Why hadn’t Jesus been there? Didn’t He know all things? He had done many miracles in their presence. Why would He allow this terrible thing to happen?

 

So it’s understandable that we don’t celebrate the death of Lazarus. I get that. 

 

But the death of Lazarus is such an amazing example of how God works things out for His glory.

 

Yes, everyone involved grieved when Lazarus died. Even Jesus wept. It was a devastating event.

 

But a man who had been a stinking, rotten corpse standing alive among his friends and neighbors and family is a miracle that cannot be denied. Yes, water turned into wine, a storm at sea miraculously calmed, the lame made to walk and the blind granted their site are amazing –but a dead man come alive is irrefutable.

 

That’s why there was such a procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Lazarus was among the crowd marching into Jerusalem over the Mount of Olives. 

 

Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. John 12: 17&18 (NLT)

 

Prior to this, the Pharisees and religious leaders had tried to claim Jesus was a nut case or a blasphemer or demon-possessed or anything but the promised Messiah. But a living, breathing Lazarus made them very, very nervous indeed. When they learned what had happened, they could no longer afford to be cautious. They had to take action.

 

Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” John 11:47&48 (NLT)

 

They were afraid they would lose their wealth and their political power. Jesus was a threat, not just to the traditions and the routine of Jewish life, but to the ruling political class in all of Israel. The plot to kill Jesus was a political necessity to them.

 

Then, when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy written in Zechariah 9:9 complete with a crowd shouting His praises and hailing him as King, AND the dead man raised to life in the crowd with him, they could take it no more. 

 

When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. John 12: 9-11 (NLT)

 

Palm Sunday was the last straw. 

 

Jesus –and Lazarus– had to die.

 

And none of Palm Sunday would have happened if Lazarus hadn’t died on the Wednesday before.

 

Yes, today is the day no one celebrates. And we so easily forget that even when the times are dark and it seems like all is lost and nothing will ever be good again, God has a plan.

 

In the midst of our sorrow and our grief and heartache, God has a plan. 

 

And I cannot help but imagine what it was like to talk to Lazarus for the rest of his life on earth. 

 

In terms of “witness,” I can imagine no one other than Jesus Himself as more powerful, more compelling, in that regard. 

 

But the thing is, we are all Lazarus. We have all been raised from death to life. We were all once dead in our sins, but have passed from death to life in Him. 

 

We were all once stinking, rotten corpses who now live and move and have our being in the author of life, the one who raised the dead to life, Jesus Christ.

 

So, while we may not celebrate this day, let’s remember our brother Lazarus on this day –for we are more like him than we know.

 

Today’s Praise

Come on and rise up, take a breath, you’re alive now!
Can’t you hear the voice of Jesus calling us?
Out from the grave like Lazarus!
You’re brand new, the power of death couldn’t hold you!
Can’t you hear the voice of Jesus calling us!
Out from the grave like Lazarus!

 

(Lyrics from “Rise Up” by Cain –currently playing on Kinship Christian Radio)

 

(Photo of Church of St. Lazarus in Larnaca, Cyprus, by Dimitri Svetsikas)

On Being an Alien

 

 

Last week, as I was listening to “In the Market with Janet Parshall” on Kinship Christian Radio, I happened to catch her guest Nancy Pearcey as she was talking about Paul’s letter to the Philippians. She was making specific reference to Philippians 3:20 in which Paul reminds his readers:

 

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. (NLT)

 

A lot of people read that verse and think to themselves, “That’s right –and I can’t wait to get to my real home.” But Pearcey made the point that Paul was writing to Roman citizens living in a Roman colony in Greece. They would have known that their objective was not to return to Rome, but to infuse that Greek, Philippian culture with Roman culture.

 

They were settlers there. Philippi sits on the northern end of the Aegean Sea. The Romans had conquered it and settled it about a hundred years before Paul wrote his letter to the people living there. In fact, if you look at the verse in context, Paul is clearly telling the settlers there not to live like the original inhabitants, but to pattern their lives after his and learn from his example by living godly lives focused on Jesus Christ.

 

We are supposed to be different. 

 

The Apostle Peter agrees, having written:

 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)

 

Jesus repeatedly made reference to the Kingdom of God and He made it quite clear that it was much different than any earthly kingdom. Even when He was facing certain death, He did not hide it from Pilate:

 

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36 (NLT)

 

It does seem other-worldly. In Ephesians, Paul wrote:

 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Ephesians 2:19 (ESV)

 

Speaking of aliens, one of my favorite movies (which is probably now old enough to be considered a classic) is “Men in Black.” In it, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star as undercover agents tasked with preventing aliens from destroying the earth while simultaneously preventing the general public from knowing that there are millions of aliens secretly living on earth disguised as people and pets. One of those pets is a little pug named Frank who is an unwilling informant.

 

But see, the thing is, too many of us Christians try and be the aliens from that movie. We try and blend in with the world, living almost undercover among our friends and neighbors without actually saying the name “Jesus” out loud –or living differently. Much like Frank, we’re unwilling to give up that kind of information unless someone shakes it out of us somehow.

 

I will confess, it can be difficult to start up a conversation about Jesus. When I was in Israel, I wanted to interview normal Israeli people for this blog. I found one of the best ways to do that was to wear one of my favorite Hawaiian shirts and simply begin conversations with people by saying, “Hi, I’m pretty sure you can tell I’m not from here. Would you mind talking to me for a few minutes?” (Having a pen and paper in my hand also helped.)

 

Well over 90% of the time, the sight of a big goofy American in a Hawaiian shirt would illicit a chuckle, break down a few defenses, and end up in some absolutely wonderful conversations.

 

But, while that worked in a foreign land where I was clearly out of place, it can actually be more difficult for us in the everyday world in which we live and work. 

 

That’s where relentless love comes in. True, genuine love and care for another human being is not a gimmick. It’s not a “hook” that we use to try and “sell” Jesus. It’s listening to other people’s burdens. It’s rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. It’s praying for them, right then and there when they need it, not saying you’ll pray for them and then forgetting to do so hours later. It’s the things Paul and Peter and Jesus talked about. It’s being real with people and truly loving them in the midst of their joy and sorrow and pain and triumph –even if we disagree with their choices, their lifestyles, their politics.

 

It’s coming to the hard reality that you do not have to agree with someone to love them. It’s seeing the image of God in them even when all the “stuff” of this world is trying to cover it up –and loving them anyway.

 

In a culture that is growing increasingly divided and hostile toward one another, that would truly make us look like we are more than a little different.

 

No one said being an alien was easy.

 

Today’s Praise

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

Multiplication

One of my favorite songs on Kinship Christian Radio is “Multiplied” by Needtobreathe.

 

I particularly like the lyric, 

“God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied.”

 

It is a very good song, and I’ll have to confess that one of the reasons I probably like it so much is that it was kind of the theme song of my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic in 2015. The team’s leader, Jim Levine, frequently talked about our Lord being a God of multiplication before I had even heard the song on the radio. 

 

God did multiply His blessings on that mission trip. He multiplied my faith, my love for him, and my amazement of just how good and loving and powerful He really is. His possibilities are truly endless.

 

That same kind of multiplication has taken place with Kinship Christian Radio since its beginnings in 1983.

 

What started with one small businessman named Maury having a recurring dream of a radio tower tower with the words, “JESUS IS LORD” on it multiplied some prayers among his friends. God heard those prayers and He opened doors and multiplied His blessings and that radio tower in Maury’s dream became a radio station in Blue Earth with a tower with the words he saw in his dream poised on a hill above Interstate 90 where thousands and thousands –even millions– would see those words.

 

Over the years, what started with a handful of listeners to that small station in Blue Earth grew and multiplied. Volunteers and listeners and staff continued to bathe the ministry in prayer until today the radio signals from Kinship Christian Radio can be heard over almost all of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. All-in-all, it is possible for over one million people to receive that radio signal through its eight full-power and 14 translator (repeater) stations at any given moment.

 

And, with advancements in the internet, it is now technically possible for the 3.4 billion people in the world who have access to the world wide web to listen to Kinship Christian Radio.

 

That is some serious multiplication of Hallelujahs and they do literally stretch across the skies! 

 

Now, God has opened another door for Kinship Christian Radio. A building on the site of what was formerly a Christian bookstore on Madison Avenue in Mankato recently became available, making it possible for the ministry to open another location there. The site offers easy access and excellent visibility in a city well known as a regional hub. It’s also centrally-located in the Kinship Christian Radio listening area and will be able to serve new listeners in the western and southern suburbs of Minneapolis and growing listenership in Rochester, Owatonna, New Ulm, and Marshall.

 

You can also look forward to the new location allowing the ministry the ability to more effectively stage events, concerts, and promotions from the heart of the Minnesota River Valley.

 

The site in Blue Earth will retain that tower standing next to I-90 with words “JESUS IS LORD” proclaiming that glorious, life-changing message. 

 

Over the course of the spring and early summer, interior remodeling will take place at the new site so that it can eventually serve as the new office and studio location. It’s anticipated that initial broadcasts and operations will begin there around July 1, 2021. 

 

Executive Director Matt Dorfner asks that Kinship listeners “join in the prayer that this new and exciting expansion of the ministry will be used by the Lord for the extension of His Kingdom purposes and the impactful presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

 

AMEN!

 

Lord, let these Hallelujahs be multiplied again and again! AMEN!

 

Today’s Praise

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV)