How to Develop Biblical Decision-Making Skills

You know how sometimes things in the Bible just keep coming up in your life?

 

Well, for me, I keep bumping into this concept in the Bible of casting lots.

 

This goes way back to Exodus where God has told Moses (in great and specific detail) how to construct the tabernacle and all its furnishings and even how his brother, Aaron, is to be dressed as high priest. This includes an ephod (a long, sleeveless garment) to which is attached a breastplate which is adorned with twelve precious stones engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. When we get to Exodus 28:30, we find this:

And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly. (ESV)

 

Exactly what the Urim and Thummim were is unknown in this day and age. What we do know is that they were used in the casting of lots, which is mentioned 70 times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament.

 

As far as we can tell from context, casting lots was a lot like rolling dice or flipping a coin. Some people believe they were one light stone and one dark stone, identical in size and shape, put into a pouch in the breastplate and withdrawn by the priest to reveal yes or no answers and/or determine guilt or innocence. The words “urim” and “thummim” have various translations and derivations, but they essentially mean, “cursed” or “faultless.” An example of using lots to determine guilt or innocence is found in Joshua 7 and in Joshua 14 we see the Urim and Thummim being employed for the very weighty decisions of dividing up the land of Israel among the 12 tribes.

 

They are also mentioned in Proverbs 16:33, where we find:

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

 

This leads me to believe there was more than one way to cast lots. Obviously, casting something into one’s lap is different than a priest reaching into a pouch and picking out a stone.

 

Whatever the case, the exact mechanism isn’t known, but we do know that people at the time believed God was responsible for the outcome of what the lots showed. The disciples cast lots to pick a replacement for Judas Iscariot. (Acts 1:26)

 

And in that, I find something amazing.

 

I have been on more than one committee formed to study a situation and make a decision which very easily could have been made with the flip of a coin. Typically, such a committee meets over and over again while vacillating between the choices at hand, spends a great deal of time trying to smooth over and mitigate the ensuing and inevitable personality conflicts, gathers endless conflicting information and opinions, and finally comes to the conclusion they think the boss is most likely to agree with.

 

God, on the other hand, has a much more efficient method.

 

“Flip a coin. I got this, folks.” (My paraphrase.)

 

It’s a beautiful, genius way to handle things.

 

I mean, if we believe that God is absolutely sovereign and in control of anything and everything, what are we worried about? If He can create the entire universe simply by speaking it into being, why can’t HE decide if the carpet in the sanctuary should be light beige or dark beige?

 

(Actually, if we truly gave Him a choice, I think He’d pick blue and purple and scarlet with threads of gold woven in like in Exodus 26. But I digress.)

 

The glory of the whole plan is that a decision gets made. God, in His incredible wisdom, mercy, and grace spares us from endless meetings and the ensuing drama of personality conflicts.

 

We roll the dice, we flip the coin, and we move on.

 

Done.

 

As I have aged, I’ve come to realize that many of the decisions I have agonized over really didn’t matter. I could have been just as happy with either decision I could have made and, on more than one occasion, the inability to make a decision resulted in not making a decision, which was effectively a decision to do nothing.

 

And, more often than not, that turned out to be the worst possible decision.

 

Obvious exceptions to this are accepting Jesus into my life and marrying my lovely wife, both of which I can categorically state are not to my glory, but His.

 

Not that long ago, somebody posted something on Facebook that was of the same kind of pure genius. This person noted that when a man and woman try to decide where they should go out to eat, the ensuing discussion can rival the Nobel Peace Prize selection process for drama and time consumed. This Solomon-like individual suggested that the man say to the woman, “Honey, guess where I am taking you to dinner?”

 

And whatever she said, that is where they ate.

 

Genius.

 

Today’s Praise

“Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” 1 Chronicles 19:13 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

Grace Wins

 

We’ve all heard the news: Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was convicted of murder in the death of Botham Jean.

 

The trial lasted a week.

 

The jury deliberated less than a day.

 

And in that time, the media coverage was relentless.

 

There was outrage and their were protests.

 

And then Botham’s brother, Brandt Jean, took the stand to give a victim impact statement and said:

“If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.

And I don’t think anyone can say it — again I’m speaking for myself and not on behalf of my family — but I love you just like anyone else.

And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did, but I personally want the best for you. And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do.

And the best would be: give your life to Christ.

I’m not going to say anything else. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.

Again, I love you as a person. And I don’t wish anything bad on you.

I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?”

 

And then the judge allowed Brandt Jean to give Amber Guyger a hug.

 

And in that moment, Jesus changed everything.

 

In that moment, grace won.

 

All the hate and division and wedges the enemy of our souls had been driving between us forever were carried away in a tsunami of grace.

 

You could almost hear Jesus saying, “It is finished.”

 

And there was reconciliation.

 

There was forgiveness and grace where it was not earned, where it was not deserved, where no one expected it.

 

And in that moment, what had been a senseless death was suddenly used by God to teach us all what Jesus really looks like.

 

Brandt Jean is only 18 years old. When you watch the tape of him speaking those words of grace, you can tell he’s not saying those words for his own glory. If anything, it seemed to me he couldn’t quite believe that he was there in that time, in that place, saying what he was saying.  He seemed uncomfortable at best.

 

But there he was.

 

And after he gave that convicted murderer, thmurderer of his own brother, a hug.

 

And Amber Guyger sobbed uncontrollably.

 

After that, Judge Tammy Kemp consoled the Jean family, and then she left the courtroom and came back with her own Bible and gave it to Guyger, pointing out John 3:16 and assuring her that she could be forgiven, that she could change her life.

 

And the onlookers and the lawyers in the courtroom were in tears.

 

Because that’s what grace, –the real, true grace of Jesus Christ– does to your soul.

 

Since then, pundits and lawyers and people who were not there have raised a number of “concerns.” There were complaints and protests from The Freedom From Religion Foundation. And the media tried to make this too, a circus.

 

But what cannot be changed is that Jesus was right there in that courtroom and He changed lives, just like He has been doing for 2,000 years. Jesus stepped in where the best we have to offer is rumors and lies and innuendo and hate and He poured out eternal mercy and grace and truth and love.

 

And the darkness did not understand it, nor could it stop it.

 

Today’s Praise

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)

 

 

So long Twin’s Baseball! By Allen Jones

So long Bomba Squad, rally squirrel, and the incredible Minnesota Twin’s 2019 baseball season.  The word disappointed would not quite sum up my feelings today after the Twins ended their playoff push with three straight losses to the terrible, awful, and dare I say evil New York Yankees.

The truth is, the Yankees are an incredible baseball team, I just have a hard time allowing myself to admit that through my burning hatred of that particular ball club.  I’m not exaggerating either when I say…

I HATE THE YANKEES!
I despise their large contracts, ridiculously good bull pen, and players who never seem to want to smile in their official pictures.

Normally when I watch a baseball game I really enjoy appreciating what makes an opposing team so good, but not with the Yankees.  I have too much hatred in my heart to appreciate anything about the Bronx Bombers.

At least that’s how I felt until I saw a heartfelt post on social media by a friend this morning.  My friend Joe was born and raised in New Jersey and is a die hard New York Yankees fan.  Joe shared a picture of himself, his son, and his dad at Yankee stadium some years ago before his father passed away.  No gloating, no terrible comments about the Twins, just a son remembering a special moment with his dad who is no longer here.

It was in that moment that all hatred for the New York Yankees vanished and I remembered why I love the game of baseball so much in the first place.  It’s a kid’s game.  A game fathers and sons have been playing and sharing for generations.  Mothers and daughters have been sharing it too and I think that’s only going to increase as the sport moves forward.  Special memories with family and loved ones have been created around the game of baseball for well over a century and that’s not going to change anytime soon.  I suddenly remembered what unites all baseball fans, regardless of their favorite team, and I was quickly aware of how exhausted I was by focusing on what divides us instead, especially over the last three Twin’s games.

As a culture, we are constantly being bombarded with what divides us.  What divides our world, our country, and our churches, but what about all that unites us?  How about our desire to be valued, loved, and to be seen as worthy in this life?  How about our desire to take care of our families and raise children who won’t go astray?  How about our desire to make a difference in this tired and broken old world?

How about Jesus Christ?

No, not everyone believes in Him, follows Him, is saved by Him, but everyone is affected by him.  In fact, you could say the whole world spins on the axis that is Jesus Christ.  Everyone will face a singular and pivotal question in their life… Will you accept and believe in the Son of God, and his life saving message and sacrifice?

The world seems a lot more simple and profound when gazing through the Christ lens.  It’s not about sides or teams, it’s about souls being saved.  We will all have different thoughts, opinions, theology, interpretations even, but the gospel of Jesus Christ unites us all, and will affect us all, especially at the end of this life.

I just pray when I get to heaven, I don’t find out that Jesus is actually a Yankees fan.

What Good is the Church?

 

 

A dear pastor friend of mine recently posted that question on his blog.

 

The moment I saw it, I knew I needed to write about it, not because I have somehow been called by God to defend His Church, but that I could have the answer to that question in my own heart. 

Volumes could be written on the subject and probably have. A case could be made that there probably is no greater question in our world today.

 

And it’s no mistake that this question came from a pastor who is like a pit-bull with a bone when it come to the truth. Pastor Tim will gnaw on that bone of truth and grind his teeth right down to nubbins to get to the truth –the real truth, the whole truth, the nothing-but-the-truth. God’s own truth. He’s a lot like some of the pastors you hear preaching on Kinship Christian Radio.

 

So, as we start gnawing on this bone, the first and real meat of the issue is that He is worthy.

 

The Church exists to praise and honor the Lord Jesus Christ because He is worthy of ALL praise, glory, and honor:

 

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3 (NIV)

 

Everything in all the entire universe was made in and through and for Jesus Christ. He is the only begotten Son of God who died on a cross to take away all our sins that we would have eternal life and be reconciled to God the Father. This is only possible through our Lord and Savior who rose from the grave ALIVE, having defeated sin, death, and the devil. All of this is not of our own doing in any way, shape, or form and absolutely, precisely, totally  NONE of that glory goes to anyone other than the LORD Jesus Christ. 

 

Period.

 

He is worthy of a Church that worships Him and glorifies Him and that is the primary good that any group of believers can bring to this world because it is what we were created for. We were meant to love God, to worship Him, to have fellowship with Him. He was meant to be our God and we are meant to be His people. This is the primary good of the Church.

 

Secondly, we are family. 

 

We are adopted into the family of God when we believe. We are no longer children of the darkness. We have been adopted into the family of God, sealed with His own Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the inheritance to come in the next life (Ephesians 1:13) and, as such, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

So, why would a family not meet together on a regular basis? Why would a family, which is knit together in love by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, not sit down and share a meal together? I’m not talking about potlucks, here folks. I’m talking about Holy Communion. This is where we are truly family. This is coming together and doing this seemingly simple but oh-so-powerful act of familial love in remembrance of the One who made us a family with His broken body and shed blood. 

 

And in that family celebration, we worship Him as a family, singing songs of joy and glory and praise to Him! We sit and we listen and absorb and put into our hearts, into our souls, the deep and glorious and wondrous, awesome meaning found in His Word. 

 

The good of the Church is to come together as a family to strengthen, to build up, to encourage and grow ourselves and others into deeper and yet deeper familial relationships. 

 

Thirdly, and I know that I may take some flak on this, the good of the church is to do good works.

 

Now, let me be absolutely clear that we are NOT saved by good works. (See paragraph above with capital letters in it.) But, we clearly saw Jesus doing good works during His ministry here on earth and He (and his apostles) clearly tell us that doing good works are important:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26 (NIV)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

 

We are designed and built to love God and to love others. We are predestined for good works! Love does not sit on its hands while others are in need of help. We go out beyond the walls of our comfortable building and we help them, even if it means we are uncomfortable in the process. And this is where the fellowship of believers is vital, for we can do so much more as a team, a family of believers rushing to the aid of people in need, rather than a little ole me sitting behind a TV muttering “that’s too bad” while I munch another fistful of Ultra-Crispy Carb-O-Puffs.

 

This is what disciples do. They follow the Lord Jesus Christ listening to all He says and doings all He tells them to do. The Church exists to create disciples of and in all nations. There are no examples of disciples doing nothing. Even when they were locked in prison, boiled in oil, flogged, whipped, beaten, even when they were exiled to far away islands, they were still doing good works.

 

Kinship Christian Radio is an example of the Church doing good works. The ministry is not the church, nor is it to take the place of the church. It is the Church doing what the Church should do and can do through the fellowship of believers. 

 

Fourthly, the Church exists for the purpose of unity among the brethren. I know it may seem an odd thing to say given all the division among the various denominations, but we are given an example of how disagreements in the weighty matters of the Church are to be dealt with in Acts 15.

 

As the early Church began to grow, some were teaching that new believers had to be circumcised according to the law of Moses to be saved.  Paul and Barnabas disagreed with this vehemently, and so a meeting of all the church leaders was called in Jerusalem where the issue was thoroughly discussed. Yes, it’s clear that the discussion was certainly emotional and probably quite loud at times, but they eventually came to an agreement and it has been so ever since. 

 

So, the good of the church is also that we can come together and resolve our differences. Whether we are practicing that as we should is something for reflection.

 

In the end, the good of the Church is that Jesus is LORD. It is His Church, because if He is Lord, then He is LORD of all. Since all things were created in Him and through Him and for Him, then anything and everything is under His Lordship. There is nothing that has been left undone. There is nothing in heaven or in earth that is not His. When He said, from that cross hanging between heaven and earth, “IT IS FINISHED!” it was truly finished. The veil was torn and the enmity between God and man was resolved.

 

Finished. 

 

And with that finished work, He left here His Church, that her people would speak the Good News, that all would know that there was nothing they need to do but believe to be saved. And out of that joy, out of the great Gospel news, the Church is left here to share that joy in all we do and say until that day when He returns and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that

JESUS IS LORD!

 

Today’s Praise

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)

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Overcomer

 

God does not believe in coincidence.

 

I have written that before –more than once.

 

Last Friday night, I sat in a nice, warm dry movie theater and watched yet another excellent Christian film by the Kendrick brothers. It’s well-written, well-produced, well-acted, and just over all very well done. 

 

You and your family should go see it as soon as you are able.

 

At the very same time I was watching this movie, sitting there next to my wonderful wife and munching on popcorn while sipping a root beer, I had brothers and sisters in Christ in southeast Texas being overcome with flood waters destroying their homes –again.

 

You may remember that about 11 months ago, I went on a mission trip to Vidor, Texas where I helped rebuild a home devastated by the effects of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. I spent the week cutting floor tile, mixing thinset mortar to hold the tile to the floor, and just generally doing what I could to help this family that had been living in an RV trailer in their backyard for over a year to get back into their home. At the end of my week there, the work that I and numerous others had done did indeed result in that family being able to move back into their home.

 

I remember them posting a video on Facebook of all the wonderful food they were finally able to cook in their new kitchen for Thanksgiving.

 

Last Thursday, that same family posted a video of them wading in rubber boots through eight inches of flood water, walking atop the very tile I had helped install. 

 

By the time Tropical Depression Imelda moved out of the Vidor area a couple of days ago, she had dumped a total of 40 inches of rain on homes and families that had not fully recovered from the effects of Harvey. Most homes had water three feet deep in them this past weekend.

 

Pastor Skipper Sauls of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, his family, his church, and volunteers from all over the country had been involved in repairing over 250 homes damaged by Harvey.

 

He currently estimates that maybe seven of those homes escaped damage from Imelda.

 

Sauls and his church and his family had gotten very, very good at repairing what Harvey had done, but in a sense, what Imelda did was even more cruel because it means just when the end seemed to be in sight, just when most people were getting back to “normal” life, now it starts all over. 

 

And my brothers and sisters in Christ whom I came to know and love and pray for every day are in danger of being overcome, not by the flood waters, but by just being worn down. 

 

In the movie, “Overcomer” there is a young lady who comes to faith in Jesus and she is told to go to the book of Ephesians and write down every thing Paul says a believer in Christ is, and when that scene took place in that movie it took my breath away and I started once again to cry those Holy Spirit tears. 

 

Because, you see, for over a year the Holy Spirit has been absolutely haunting me with the first part of the book of Ephesians. In the past year, I have preached the same message from it in my home church, in the Dominican Republic, in Guatemala, and in Israel.

 

God has been sending me all over this world with the message that He has adopted his people into His very own family as His very own children sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of their inheritance of eternal life and that when that happens, when the presence of Jesus comes into your life making you a child of God, it changes the world.

 

When Jesus came into the lives of the people of Ephesus, they started picking up abandoned babies off the trash heaps and the dung piles and adopting them as their own children, just as God had done for them when they accepted Jesus as the LORD and Savior. 

 

Jesus changed the world for the people of Ephesus two thousand years ago and He is still doing it today.

 

Jesus is still changing the world.

 

The title of the blog post I wrote about Vidor was, “Kin” and it was about being adopted into the family of God. The connection with Kinship Christian Radio is both obvious and glorious. 

 

So, even though my family in Vidor, Texas is still chosen, adopted, freed, united with Christ, recipients of an inheritance from God, His holy people, made full and complete by Christ, been made alive when they were dead,  are examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward them, God’s masterpiece, been created anew, been brought near to God when they were far away, united into one people, no longer strangers and foreigners, made citizens along with all God’s holy people, adopted into His own family, joined together in Him, and being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit, they still hurt.

 

Even though none of those glorious, wonderful things God has given them can ever be taken away, even though the gifts they received from God through the power of the blood of His only begotten Son cannot be washed away by any flood no matter how high or how deep, they still hurt.

 

Pastor Sauls says there is a smell that comes with a flood like this. It’s the smell of mold growing behind soaking wet drywall, of wet couch cushions and sopping wet mattresses. 

 

He says the smell was gone, but now it’s back. 

 

It’s that lingering smell, that hurt that was gone –that they thought was gone forever –that’s back.

 

Yes, they hurt and they are in danger of losing heart –as any one of us would be in that situation.

 

So, brothers and sisters of the largest family in the world, the kinship of Christians, I beseech you to pray for them. I beseech you to pray, as Pastor Sauls asked them in a video, to not grow weary in doing good. Call on the Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters to bless and encourage and help siblings in the faith you have never met. 

 

Pray so that your prayers are an aroma rising before the throne of God. Pray that the lingering smell of despair and hopelessness would be overcome by the fragrance of Christ. 

 

And, if you are so inclined, contact me as there are about two dozen of us going there to help them October 18-26. We had been planning this trip long before Imelda even had a name, and we have room or can make room for more. 

 

Today’s Praise

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20&21 (NLT)

 

Last year’s blog on the Vidor Trip:  https://kinshipradio.org/home/2018/10/25/kin/

 

(Photo used by permission from anonymous source.)

IMHO

 

 

One of the most obvious things about the ubiquity and prominence of social media in our culture today is the ease and ability of people to voice their opinions. From a historical perspective, it seems almost inevitable that we would find a way to make it easier and more effective to let our opinions be known.

 

From the very inception of this country, we have been a people of strong opinions who voiced those opinions with what seems like utter abandon.

 

The Declaration of Independence was, for all intents and purposes, the American Colonists telling King George III exactly what they thought of him, his tyrannical despotism, his myriad taxes, and what he could do with them. 

 

At the very heart of our country’s principles, we have protected freedom of speech and freedom of the press and freedom of religion precisely so that one could not be jailed or otherwise silenced for spouting one’s opinion of the leadership of this country.

 

It used to be that this was done primarily with a soapbox in a public place or with a pen and paper via a Letter to the Editor of the local newspaper. The ability to disseminate one’s opinion grew exponentially with the arrival of radio and television right around the time I was born. It still took some effort, but the size of the audiences reached grew to millions and millions.

 

And now, within only the last generation or so, the ability to critique any and every aspect of life has been made available to virtually every person at any time in almost any place. 

 

Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media have made it possible to comment on and draw even billions of people into discussions about politics, social concerns, celebrity lifestyles, and even the apparent color of a dress in amazingly short periods of time.

 

It seems everyone has an opinion, that they are not afraid to voice that opinion, and that they are quite, quite certain their opinion is the correct one in any given situation. 

 

Whether this has made us more opinionated, more deeply divided, or more informed is a subject that everyone seems to have an opinion about. (Yes, we veen have opinions about our opinions. 

 

At the same time, some companies have become wealthy beyond our imaginations by mining the opinions we hold of the products and services we buy.  Even though opinions seem to be more plentiful than ever, they have become a literal gold mine to companies who sell our opinions to companies that want to know how they can better provide what we want.

 

And by now, I’m sure all of you highly-opinionated folks know all of the proceeding was leading up to a cleverly-designed and constructed lead-in to an opinion piece about Kinship Christian Radio’s September Survey. 

 

Yes! In an age when opinions are as common as cat memes on Facebook, Kinship Christian Radio wants to know what you think of their ministry! 

 

There are questions about when you listen, what you like, what you don’t like, who you like, what can be done to make the ministry better, and some places where you can just ramble on endlessly about various aspects of the ministry. You can even ask to set up a time to talk directly to the Executive Director. (Who, I promise, is nothing like King George III.) 

 

The point is, your opinion is wanted and valuable. This is not a clever marketing gimmick to get you to buy more salad oil, copper-infused support hose, or an extended warranty for your vehicle. The things you put on the survey will be seriously considered and used to make Kinship Christian Radio better for you and for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

For those of you on Kinship Christian Radio’s mailing list, you should already have received your survey in the mail. If you want a survey mailed to you, you can email the ministry at kjly@kjly.com or call the main office at 507-526-3233.

 

AND this is also the very first year ever that you can use the power of the internet to participate in the September Survey! Simply click the link below or copy and paste    it into your browser. https://kinshipradio.org/home/september-survey-2019/

 

(Ummm, on that note, I would like the people who read the surveys to note that when I first started filling mine out, I was a bit mischievous and somehow, totally accidentally I assure you, prematurely submitted my survey after identifying myself as “Rocket J. Squirrel.” I confess and repent of this and beg your forgiveness.)

 

For those of you considering self-identifying as cartoon characters, I would encourage you to use the provision on the survey to remain anonymous.

 

AND when you participate in the September Survey, (if, in your opinion, you would like to be considered eligible) you will be entered into a drawing to win a David Jeremiah Study Bible AND not one but two (Yes, TWO!) tickets to the amazingly popular Women’s Conference in April! The general public cannot even BUY tickets for the Women’s Conference until March! A total of three people will each win the study Bible and two tickets! 

 

Employees of Kinship Christian Radio and their families (and, most assuredly, those who self-identify as fictional cartoon characters) are NOT eligible for valuable prizes!

 

Today’s Praise

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Romans 14:1 (ESV)

 

 

A Beggar in the Presence of a King

 

 

 

You may have noticed that you did not have a brand-new, glorious, thought-provoking, and/or spiritually encouraging blog post from yours truly last week. 

 

That’s because I was in Itasca County for my annual fishing vacation. 

 

For me, the lakes and big piney woods of northern Minnesota work to recharge, refresh, and bring peace to my soul. There’s just something about that particular place on this earth that connects with my inner being and brings me closer to God.

 

And who among us is not moved by a glorious red and orange and pink sunset over a glass-flat lake mirroring and doubling the colors while a loon makes its echoing call? What soul is not awed by white pines towering like the columns of God’s own cathedral over a rocky shore with ancient boulders hunching their backs in the clean, clear water of a pristine lake?

 

Yes, there is a peace and a refreshment that comes from this place.

 

The part that amazes, confounds, and flummoxes me is that a week’s worth of this glorious, wonderful peace can evaporate in less than an hour of driving on I-494 on the way home.

 

Here I am, driving along listening to some glorious God-honoring song on Kinship Christian Radio when suddenly, there’s a lady in a Ford Escape attempting to merge at 45 mph while eating something with a spoon while she is driving and just like that, I’m leaning on my horn and the brakes and the left turn signal all at the same time.  

 

Less than five miles later, I’ve got a guy in a Toyota Tundra in front of me alternating between the brakes and the accelerator every seven seconds because he’s got his phone pressed up against his ear arguing with someone who probably also didn’t get the memo that hands-free is now mandatory while driving.

 

And suddenly, I have completely forgotten that I just spent an entire week in a place where it seemed God went out of His way to smile upon me.

 

Now, it didn’t take long (somewhere around Jordan, I think) for me to realize that I am no better than the lady with the spoon or the guy with the cell phone. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God and (as I have written before) it is one of the great mysteries of the human soul that the most difficult place in the world for a self-identifying Christian to actually act like a real Christian is behind the wheel of their own motor vehicle. 

 

It’s why I do not have a Jesus fish on the back of my Highlander.

 

If the Apostle Paul were alive today, it would not surprise me one iota if he were to write these words:

“So I find this principle at work: Although I want to do good as I drive, evil sits in the passenger’s seat. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and my right foot and my hand that slams the horn button and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched motorist I am! Who will rescue me from this body that burns with seething anger against my fellow motorists?” 

  

It was not until the next day, as I was driving to church while listening to Matt Dorfner’s program, “Word Wise” (10:00 a.m. every Sunday) that I realized the real gravity of my anger. Pastor Jack Hayford was preaching on the familiar parable Jesus told about the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35 where a king forgives a servant of an enormous debt (probably about six million dollars by today’s values) and that same servant goes out and begins choking a fellow servant who owes him a mere fraction of that.

 

And it occurred to me that, even though my fellow motorists didn’t know it, my anger at them is really no different than grabbing them by the throat and trying to squeeze the very life out of them because of what was in my heart at the time.

 

Here I am, forgiven and freed by the blood of Christ and blessed beyond all measure of what I truly deserve, and I’m enraged with people who very well could be brothers and sisters in Christ for infractions so minor in comparison to my own sins it would be impossible to stand before my God and my Savior and justify my actions to any degree whatsoever.

 

And all because I had to disengage my cruise control or use my brakes? 

 

Really?

 

Sometimes, all you can do is look down at your shoes and admit you are wrong and that the Holy Spirit, writing through Paul, was right. (And this time, I will not change the words.)

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)

 

Note that this single sentence begins and ends with the same phrase.

 

And in the gift of that humility, a song about grace came on the radio that I had heard before.

 

But the words stuck a little deeper than they ever had.

 

Today’s Praise

If grace was a kingdom
I stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all the mistakes that I’ve made
Oh but I heard a whisper
As Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown”
Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours
The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use
It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me
Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours
Grace is a kingdom
With gates open wide
There’s a seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside.
(Lyrics to “Broken Things” by Matthew West)
(Photo by Jessica Jones, used by permission.)
–>>>Oh, also, just a reminder that it’s September Survey time! Your input on the ministry of Kinship Christian Radio is valuable, important, and wanted. AND, for the first time ever, you can fill out the survey online! Here’s a link:  https://kinshipradio.org/home/september-survey-2019/

 

The Call

 

 

 

 

I have been reading and thinking lately about being called.

 

Paul had a clear call on the road to Damascus when Jesus came to him in a flash of light and asked him why he was persecuting Him.

 

In 1505, Martin Luther had a bolt of lightning strike the ground near him and he immediately pledged to become a monk.

 

In the summer of 1983, I was asleep in a pup tent in Murdo, South Dakota, when a tornado passed over me –and I promised God I would give up my sinful lifestyle and start living the way I knew He wanted me to. (There are no atheists in fox holes or in pup tents underneath a tornado.)

 

As I got on my 1973 Honda CB450 the following morning and rode away, I thought there was no way I could ever keep the promises I had made to God in the dark of night with only eight dollars worth of polyethylene fabric to protect me.

 

But God had other ideas.

 

He saw to it that all the awful, stupid, and worthless things I was doing with my life lead to a point where one day I looked in the mirror and what I saw was something I no longer wanted to be.

 

And that’s when He changed me. Jesus changed me.

 

Within two years of that night in Murdo, I had quit drinking and drugs and I was in college on a path which He had planned for me long ago. Did I know every step of that path and see exactly where he was leading me to be some 35 years later?

 

Absolutely not.

 

But He has watched over me and blessed me and gently led me along His path for all this time. And, just to be clear, none of this is to my glory. I didn’t save me. Jesus saved me.

 

He used my wife, my daughter, and countless pastors, missionaries, authors, teachers, and just plain people of God to change me and save me and bring me to this point. Some of those people of God work in Christian radio.

 

Even writing this blog came about because my finances were in bad shape. I prayed, “Lord, what should do? I’m struggling to pay the bills.” And God said, (In a very still and calm voice.) “You’re a writer, Dan. You should write.”

 

So I did that. I started writing things about Jesus and God and faith and things I found in my Bible. I kept at it for two months but my finances didn’t get any better. So, I prayed again, “Lord, you told me to write, so I have been writing but it’s not getting better.”

 

And God said, (In the same voice.) “Dan, no one is reading what you write. You should find someone to read it.”

 

So, I contacted a friend of mine who was the Editor of a local magazine and Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner and asked both if they needed someone to write Christian stuff.

 

My Editor friend didn’t respond, but Mr. Dorfner quickly returned my email and asked if I would like to be the Editor and Writer of the Kinship Christian Radio Blog, which did not exist at all at the time.

 

I said, “Yes, yes I would.”

 

(I didn’t need a tornado to pass over me a second time to come up with that answer.)

 

As it turned out, the position Mr. Dorfner offered me was as a volunteer. Yes, loyal and faithful readers, I have been writing this blog for many years for exactly no salary. Zero. Zip. Nada.

 

And I have absolutely no problem with that at all! Shortly after beginning to write this blog, my financial situation miraculously improved but God had far greater plans for me than merely helping me to stop spending money on stupid stuff and paying off debt.

 

The spiritual rewards have been far, far greater than any amount of money could have purchased.

 

Because you see, when one sits down to write, it’s absolutely essential that one knows what one is writing about. I cannot just make up the facts I cite, I cannot fake what the Bible really says, and I often cannot react to events around me in a way that my sinful flesh would want to react. It means I have had to examine myself before God Himself so that the words I put on this page are not my undoing when I stand before Him in the throne room of heaven. (See Isaiah 6:1-8)

 

As a result, writing this blog has caused me to grow and develop as a Christian. I have learned things looking stuff up for this blog that I would have never gotten around to knowing had I not been doing it. Why is it okay for me to eat shrimp when the Bible clearly forbids it in Leviticus 11:9&10? I found the answer in Acts 15 and wrote about it years ago. How are we to respond to immoral people infiltrating the church and corrupting it? The answer is in Jude 20-23 and I wrote about it last week.

 

In doing so, I have also been overwhelmed by the great and mighty, awesome, glorious grandeur of the love of God:

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  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: 18&19 (NLT)

 

When you really start to ponder verses like that, where Paul writes about the love of God as if it had physical dimensions and you realize that it really does –and not just the regular three dimensions, but a fourth one too–it’s awe-inspiring. It’s amazing. It changes your life.

 

And when you hear that kind of grandeur and glory in songs on Kinship Christian Radio and you really start to absorb the lyrics of a song like “Revelation Song” or “Reckless Love” it’s like an itch you’ve got that makes you want to share it and talk about it and write about it and see that joy and amazement in others in the family of brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

And when God had me brought me to that place, then He sent me out on a mission trip. And He showed me that the love of Jesus and the family and kingdom of God crossed all the barriers and borders of nations, color, race, ethnicity, and any artificial lines we have drawn between us. He showed me that we will all someday rise from the grave one people with one Father, one Savior, and one Holy Spirit–all encompassed in one eternal, glorious, majestic, omnipotent, omniscient God.

 

After that first mission trip and what I experienced, I told God, “Lord, I will go wherever you send me.”

 

And God said, “Giddy up.” (Paraphrase)

 

Since then, He keeps sending me. He has blessed me with so many places and people and ministries and churches I can no longer pray for all of them at one sitting. He has poured out so many blessings on me I have been moved to tears over and over again. I have learned and seen the power of prayer. I have seen Him do things that can only be attributed to Him. I have come to the conclusion that I do not believe in a God of coincidence but One of such power and glory and immeasurable love that nothing, absolutely NOTHING is impossible for Him.

 

And when I look in my Bible for people who were “called” to do His will, I find a guy named Moses who was pretty sure God had the wrong guy, but finally had to go do what God told him to do when he ran out of excuses and objections. I find Joseph who was just a kid with crazy dreams. I find Gideon, who needed God to give him a sign –twice. I find Jonah, who was so sure God had the wrong guy he ran the other way and ended up on a beach smelling like fish vomit. There are more, but none of them I have found was the teacher’s pet sitting in the front row with his hand up going, “Oooo! OOO!! Pick me! Pick meeeee!”

 

When I get to the New Testament and I see Jesus calling his disciples, I find a bunch of fisherman, a tax collector, a political rabble-rouser, a murderous Pharisee, and (my favorite disciple) an impulsive guy who often spoke and acted without really thinking about what he was doing or saying. None of them ran up to Him and volunteered for their calling. There was a rich young guy who asked about being a disciple, but he ended up walking away dejected and humbled. Some of them were called as Jesus just walked by and said, “Come, follow me.”

 

Because that’s what a disciple does. We’re just following the Leader. His rightful place is King of the Universe. He is glorious and holy and perfect and He has the Words of eternal life. He is LORD.

 

Yes, JESUS is LORD… and I will never forget that my rightful place was a guy in a pup tent underneath a tornado who is no better than any other sinner rescued for HIS glory!

 

But see, this isn’t just about me. I believe every sinner He has saved is called to something. He has plans for each and everyone one of us and they are good and glorious plans you would not believe if I had the power to tell you right now. We find out what those plans are not by making our own plans, but simply by faithfully following Him wherever He leads us.

 

TO HIS GLORY!

AMEN!

 

Today’s Praise

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

(Tornado drawing by author.)

 

 

 

 

 

Contend

I have just returned from my second MANCAMP.

 

Yes, it is properly spelled in all caps.

 

MANCAMP involves men doing manly things at Pinehaven Christian Assembly near Park Rapids, MN. This includes shooting, hiking, biking, motorcycling, golfing, fishing, eating prime rib, enjoying manly fellowship, praying,  praising the LORD, and growing in wisdom and knowledge. 

 

The theme this year was “Contend,” and was based on Jude 1:3:

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (NIV) 

 

Now, the word “contend” is defined in this passage as “to struggle for.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers says, “The word is a graphic one, implying standing over a thing to fight in its defense.” 

 

So, how do we contend for the faith? 

 

I think the word carries the implication of not only courage, but also a dogged persistence.

 

It would also seem, given the reference to fighting, that it would imply that we should perhaps even be somewhat contentious.

 

Indeed, taken in context, the tiny book of Jude is a short letter exhorting an unknown church to mend it’s ways. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, says he is writing because some ungodly people have slipped in among the congregation and convinced some that God’s marvelous grace allows people to live ungodly lives. They claim authority from their own dreams, engage in immorality, defy authority, scoff at heavenly things, and indulge their animal-like natures. (Sound familiar?)

 

Their blatant immorality makes a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. Any witness or example they might have had as Christians set apart for  good works, grace, mercy, and truth is negated by their immorality. They are also braggarts who grumble and complain incessantly.

 

Jude writes, 

“When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots.  They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.” (Verses 12&13, NLT.)

 

It would certainly seem that any good Christian would want people like this kicked out of “their” church. A certain amount of contentiousness would not only be understandable, but seem fully and totally justified. I could easily see a meeting of the elders of the church escalating past contentiousness right into shouting, foot-stomping, and outright vitriol with shouts of “We’ve got to do something about this!”

But the thing is, the church Jude was writing to didn’t get where it was overnight. Jude says immoral people had slipped in unseen, indicating that the disease afflicting it was that most dangerous and perilous of all threats to Christianity: Apathy.

 

The LORD makes it quite clear how He feels about the lukewarm, complacent church in Revelation 3 when he addresses the Church at Laodicea: So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (V. 16, NLT)

 

So, how are we to purge our churches, yes even our society, of ungodly and immoral behavior while still being the salt and the light we are called to be? How can we be strict and contend righteously for the faith while still being known by all the world for our great love for God and for all people?

 

Jude answers that in two parts. Verses 20 and 21 address the relationships among the faithful. Verses 22 and 23 addresses the relationship with the immoral. We do not just kick them out, we attempt to rescue them: 

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (NLT)

So, we are called to love and support and to help each other, being careful not to be dragged into sin ourselves.

 

We are called to contend, but not against each other. We are called to contend, to fight, to battle for each other. 

 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

 

Today’s Praise

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:57&58 (NLT)

 

It’s Not About Religion…

..it’s about relationship.

 

We’ve all seem this meme many times and I certainly do not disagree with it, but lately I have come to believe it is far, far deeper than that.

 

The book of Ephesians has been on my heart for a long time now.

 

I wrote about it way back in February and it continues to just haunt me.

 

Like a Holy Ghost, it haunts me. 

 

To recap: Back In February, I wrote about Paul’s continued and repeated reference to adoption throughout the book of Ephesians. I explained that, at the time Paul founded the church in Ephesus, Roman law allowed excess and unwanted babies to be left outside to die –and people did just that. 

 

Babies who were the product of incest or rape or were deformed or illegitimate or children of infidelity or poverty or just inconvenient were left on the trash heaps and dung heaps to die. Sometimes, they were eaten by feral dogs.

 

But when Paul introduced the people of Ephesus to Jesus and they accepted Him as their Lord and Savior, Jesus changed everything. Those new believers, those born-again new creations in Christ started picking those babies up, saving their lives, and legally adopting them as their own dearly-loved children. 

 

And, under Roman law, an adopted child could not be disinherited like a naturally-born child. Their inheritance was guaranteed the moment the adoption papers were stamped with the Roman government’s official seal.

 

That’s why Paul wrote things like this:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13&14 (NIV) 

 

What the believers in Ephesus were doing was exactly what God does for each of us. It’s an amazingly beautiful and full and complete picture of how Jesus changes everything.

 

And, 2000 years later, Jesus is still changing the world. I cannot and will not apologize for being haunted by the picture and the thought of what happened in Ephesus, but something hit me right between the eyes recently when a friend who was preaching mentioned Luke 18: 16 & 17:

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. ” Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (NIV)

 

Now, when most people think about this verse, they say Jesus meant we need to come to him like innocent children, with trust and even the joy a child has in experiencing something wonderful. 

 

Those are certainly valid ways of looking at that verse, but I had a strong impression of a little child running into his or her father’s arms. Even though I have heard that verse, many, many times in my life, this time it felt like Jesus was calling us to come as family.

 

Real family.

 

And as I think about that concept of “family” all of Scripture resounds with that word.

 

It’s why we call Him “Father.”

 

It’s why we call each other “brother” and “sister.”

 

Even the Lord’s Supper now makes me think of a family sitting down to a meal.

 

It’s how God designed us to live: Father, mother, children. Family.

 

Worship now takes on the light of a family coming together in reunion and celebration. 

 

It resounds throughout the Bible. It makes me and every one of us members of the same family starting with Adam and Eve, through Noah and his family, through David, and Solomon, and Joseph and Mary….and Jesus. 

 

And suddenly, all those long lists of “begats” and long lists of lineage make a little more sense. 

 

And, even though I’ve known and loved the parable of the prodigal son for a long time, suddenly it has new depth and richness. The child who ran off and renounced his membership in the family, the child who was dead to the family is now ALIVE and restored as a full and complete member of the family! He’s ALIVE! 

 

Even when Jesus talked about how He longed to gather the children of Jerusalem “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” that’s an image of a family. 

 

Of course! It’s about family!

 

It means we have a family that covers the entire world. It means we have brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Belize and Rwanda, in China and Sweden, in the Philippines and Australia and Canada. The earth is covered with over two BILLION fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and there are new brothers and sisters being brought into the family every day, every hour, every moment of every day. 

 

It means there are potential brothers and sisters everywhere you look. Some may be family right now, and some may be waiting to come into the family as a result of God working through your witness. 

 

It means the depth of love we are to have for each other is the love of a functional, working, loving family where we support and encourage and fight for each other to the point where we are willing to pick babies up off the dung heaps, clean them up, and sign the legal papers to adopt them as our own rather than let them be eaten by dogs. 

 

It’s the kind of love that changes the world. It’s about Jesus changing the world.

 

So, yes, it’s not about religion, it’s about relationship — as a FAMILY!

 

And that, brothers and sisters in Christ, is why it’s called Kinship Christian Radio. 

 

Today’s Praise

And I will be your Father,

and you will be my sons and daughters,

says the LORD Almighty. 2 corinthians 6:18 (NLT)

 

Photo by Tracy Jones. Used with permission.