Dear Brother or Sister

Dear Brother or Sister,

 

I’m sorry that we spent so many years not talking to each other.

 

I’m sorry that, early in your life when I should have been there, I was not. I have an excuse for my behavior, but it doesn’t matter. The fact is, I was wrong.

 

I’m sorry that some people, calling themselves “Christians,” introduced you to a bunch of rituals and rules that amounted to a long list of things you cannot do but never introduced you to the love of God in Jesus.

 

See, because that hole in your life you know exists, that you freely admit you have, that’s a God-shaped hole. That’s where Jesus is supposed to be in your life. And yes, there’s supposed to be a bunch of people with him (me included) who will love you and support you and be a real family for you.

 

God designed us and built us to love him and to love each other. Jesus said that’s the biggest thing –and yes, he said it was a rule, but it’s a good and glorious rule.

 

If only we would do that one thing like we’re supposed to, all the other things would kind of fall into place without a lot of effort on anybody’s part. 

 

Yes, I know you’ve noticed there a lot of people in this world who get that wrong and I will not deny I am one of them.

 

Actually, everybody is one of them. 

 

Nobody gets it right. Ever. Not even close. 

 

But here’s the Good News: (And yes, Jesus actually calls it that) Even though everyone of us is a jerk who utterly, miserably, terribly, epically fail at this loving each other thing, he loves us anyway. 

 

I know. It makes no sense. 

 

But he does. He loves us enough to die for us. 

 

And he did.

 

See, he didn’t just say he loved us, he died for us in this horrific and terrible and painful and totally unfair way so that we would see how good he is a how bad we really are. 

 

And we are bad. Really bad.

 

But he didn’t stay dead. 

 

Yeah, that’s where the miracle part comes in. Jesus rose from the dead.

 

And that’s where the power comes in. See, because if death can’t kill God, if we can’t kill God even when he lets us, nothing can. Nothing is impossible for him. 

 

He can fill that hole in you life. He can crush that demon that torments you and won’t let you go. He can take the chains off you and set you free!

 

I know this because he did it for me. I told you that and I meant it. Jesus totally changed my life, and (this is amazing) I did not have to make myself perfect or even good before he took all the stuff I had done that was eating me alive and wiped it away! Yes, he forgave me (get this) when I did not deserve it!

 

That’s what I meant when I said there is nothing we can do to make ourselves good enough for God, because he has already done it for us! He paid the price for every rotten, hideous, stupid, mean, hateful, terrible, awful thing that anybody has ever done or ever will do.

 

And he did it so that we could love like we are supposed to –like he designed and built us to love. 

 

That’s why I told you not to call me “religious.”

 

Here, this is what Jesus said to the “religious” people who hounded him and told him he wasn’t good enough:

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” Matthew 23:24 (NIV)

 

And what he meant by that is that all these big-shot religious “leaders” who thought they knew everything there was to know about God had spent so much time and effort making up their own little rules to beat people over the head with, they had forgotten and totally missed the main point –which was to love God and love each other! 

 

And that’s why believing in Jesus isn’t about religion. It’s about relationship. 

 

It’s about love. 

 

It’s possible, and it’s good. It’s very, very good.

 

I’ll write more later. In the meantime, try reading the book of John. It’s good stuff. Pay attention to the kind of people Jesus clearly loves. It’s not the people who think they’re perfect.

 

Oh, and Kinship Christian Radio has great stuff on it, too. You can even listen online. www.kinshipradio.org

 

Love, 

Dan

 

Today’s Praise

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:17 (NIV)

Photo by Tracy Jones. Used by permission.

On Being a Disciple

Okay, this has the potential to be a long, rambling bunny trail with numerous thorny patches, but pull up a chair and I’ll try and be as succinct as possible.

 

About five years ago, I went on my first mission trip and I fell in love with a whole bunch of people in the Dominican Republic. Many of them used social media and so, because I could maintain contact with them afterwards without cost to them or me, I joined Facebook. (Something I thought I would never do.)

 

As a result of being on Facebook, I “friended” a pastor I knew from Albert Lea, who was friends with a missionary from Australia now living in the Twin Cities, who also got added to my list of Facebook friends.

 

The Australian missionary was friends with a pastor in Uganda who posted a video of a worship service that the Holy Spirit absolutely poured out of. I distinctly remember watching that video of people singing in a language that might as well have been Martian and absolutely and positively not only hearing the Holy Spirit, but undeniably feeling His presence right there with me thousands of miles away. (It’s that same Holy Spirit you hear coming over the airwaves on Kinship Christian Radio.)

 

Of course, I extended an offer of friendship to pastor Dauson, and he accepted. 

 

I soon learned that Dauson, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were transforming Uganda.

 

In an area where farming was considered menial labor and not worthy of “normal” people, Dauson was growing bananas, catfish, corn, and numerous other crops –and people were being lifted out of poverty because of it. The food and the income made education of the children possible. It made clean water attainable. 

 

Within a few short years, the government of Uganda recognized Dauson’s work and others from all over the nation were coming to him to learn how they too could make people’s lives better.

 

Now, of course, I promised to give you the short version, so I left out the parts where things broke down and there was no money to fix them or the children’s teachers hadn’t been paid in some time but they kept teaching because they believed in what they were doing, or ….

 

Well, you get the idea.

 

So, when these things happened, Dauson would kindly use the private message feature of Facebook and tell me about them and we would pray together and, well… somehow, the LORD would always provide. 

 

A couple of days ago, Dauson told me the solar water pump broke down and they hadn’t had water at the farm in some time. A new pump had been ordered from the manufacturer and it was ready to be picked up, but they were just $200 short. So, I prayed with him and we talked, and then one day when the most pressing matter on my mind is the possibility of growing elderberries in my back yard, Dauson writes:

 

“Can you pray about coming to Uganda?”

 

“Coming to Uganda? Me?”

 

(pause)

 

“Dauson why do you ask this?”

 

“I am always praying to God to lead me to the right people who are ready to be used by God in Uganda.” 

 

“And God told you to ask me?” 

 

“Yes.”

 

Great.

 

See, when I got back from that first mission trip, I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I absolutely knew I was supposed to be doing whatever it was God wanted me to do, so I told God, “Lord, I will go wherever you send me.”

 

And God said, “Giddy up.” (That’s a paraphrase.)

 

And, in that moment, I became a disciple.

 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just stepped smack-dab into one of the hot-button topics of modern Christianity. In this era of what appears to be waning Christianity in the Western world, church leaders have been looking for ways to create, grow, and foster disciples. There are scores of books and programs out there on the topic. I’m even involved in one right now.

 

But, to me, being a disciple is simple: I follow Jesus.

 

When I look at my Bible and see what a disciple was in Jesus day, it was just someone who followed Jesus wherever He went, listened to Him, and did what Jesus told him to do.

 

The Jesus recruitment process for disciples was amazingly uncomplicated:

“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.” Matthew 4:18-22 (NLT)

 

No resume, no interview, no questions about their education, no criminal background check. Just, “Follow me.”

 

Now, let’s not sell the original disciples short, here. They left homes and families and jobs and wandered around with this itinerant preacher with no visible means of support for three years while He talked about things like “the Kingdom of God,” insulted the highest religious leaders in the land, healed epileptics and paralytics and lepers, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, cast out demons, and (let us not forget) raised the dead!

 

Being a modern disciple is slightly less dramatic, but I have seen miracles, folks. I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit and seen souls come to salvation. I have been filled to overflowing with love and joy and peace and poured out tears for the lost on the very stones of Israel. I have fed orphans and praised God from the heights where He humiliated false prophets.

 

And it has blessed me beyond measure or description.

 

I have been given this glorious, tremendous, amazing freedom because I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to be a big shot. I’m just a guy following the Lord of Everything! I’m just going where He sends me.

 

Sure, I plan and I work, and I do my best, but there is no performance anxiety because it’s not in my own strength or talent or ability.  I do not have to consider fellowship with God something to be grasped. I don’t have to strive because it’s not for my glory, it’s for His glory! 

 

I’m following the One for whom nothing is impossible!

 

So, when Dauson says God told him to ask me to come to Uganda, all I need to say –all I can say is– “Thy will be done.”

 

(And I’m allowed to smile when I say that.)

 

 

Today’s Praise

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

Photo of Pastor Dauson Musasizi of Kingdom Life Church and Busoga Farmer’s Resource Centre, Busembatia, Uganda with children attending the school made possible by farming. (Used by permission.)

A New Year

I’m not against the New Year.

 

Really, I’m not.

 

I mean, I guess that celebrating one more rotation around the sun is a fairly good idea, what with all the implications of getting to start over and maybe do better this time, but it’s not like you or I have any control over the earth’s orbit. 

 

So, the sentiment is all well and good, but let’s face it: A vast percentage of the North American pubic will wake up on the very first day of this brand-new, shiny New Year suffering from headache, nausea, dehydration, and/or regret –which are exactly the kinds of things people make resolutions about saying they are never going to do those things again.

 

And that’s the thing about hedonism. It’s a cruel, cruel religion.

 

It makes promises it can never keep –like if you’d only dig a little deeper, you’d finally get out of that hole you’re in.

 

Oh, how we do disappoint ourselves.

 

Eventually, it gets to the point where we loathe ourselves because even though we try and try, we keep falling back down again. Every time we promise ourselves we’ll never do THAT again, the moment we recover from the ill effects of doing that, we convince ourselves we can do that one more time, only this time, it will be glorious!

 

But it never is, is it?

 

So, we end up standing before the judge we call ourselves condemning ourselves for being weak and useless and… well, stupid.

 

If I write about this in such a way that it sounds a little too personal, it’s because it is. 

 

I was that guy. 

 

It’s personal because I was that failure. I was that guy who couldn’t quit. I was the stupid loser who never got it right.

 

Maybe that’s why I’m no fan of celebrating this holiday. Because it’s not a Holy Day. It’s a day of bad memories.

 

But, as I ponder all this, I really need to share with you something John Lynch shared with me in his book, “On My Worst Day.” 

 

(I haven’t even finished reading this book, and it’s already one of my favorites.)

 

Anyway, Lynch drew my attention to Zechariah 3:1-2:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (NIV)

 

So, we have the high priest Joshua, Satan, and Jesus standing before the LORD God. Satan (the Great Accuser) is all set to accuse Joshua, but the LORD God won’t even hear of it! In the NLT, the translation is, ““I, the LORD, reject your accusations, Satan.”

 

Joshua has been snatched from the fire. He has been rescued and saved. He will NOT be burned up in the fire.

 

In the following verses, Joshua is relieved of his filthy clothing and given clean clothes to stand before the LORD. His sins are taken away, and he is told that if he is obedient, he will be given authority over the Temple and its courtyards. He is allowed to walk among the holiest ones around God’s own throne. He is told that what he has experienced is a symbol of things to come.

 

And, he is promised that the LORD will remove the sins of all people of the land in a single day. 

 

That day came for me some 36 years ago.

 

Jesus took all my sins away. The voice of the accuser and all his claims were rendered null and void. God refuses to even listen to what I have been forgiven of. I was a stick snatched from the fire. He cleaned me up, put fresh clothes on me and to this day lets me walk among His holy ones. I’m not in charge of the Temple or its courts, but I am His child and He is my Father and God.

 

And I am free. 

 

It’s a glorious freedom and I am so grateful I no longer live in a hole I dug for myself. I didn’t get a New Year. I got a New Life.

 

If, on this first day of the New Year, you are where I was, if you are stuck in a cold, dark hole of your own making, there is a way out and His name is Jesus. You will find Him in your Bible and on Kinship Christian Radio. 

 

He can and will silence the accuser of your soul and pull you up out of that hole.

 

Today’s Praise

“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. Zechariah 2: 10&11 (NIV)

 

 

Light of the World, Part Two

Just two weeks ago, I posted a blog about Christmas lights and their symbolism of Jesus as the light of the world.  https://kinshipradio.org/home/2019/12/12/light-of-the-world/

 

Very shortly thereafter, a friend of mine on social media posted a link to a blog titled “Joyful and Triumphant” written by Dave Gipson in which he makes almost exactly the same point. http://davegipson.net/joyful-and-triumphant/

 

Gipson, however, related a very interesting story about what happened when a school district in Kentucky attempted to put on a live production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” (Which, not incidentally, is my favorite television Christmas program and which I wrote about in 2012  https://kinshipradio.org/home/2012/12/11/putting-christ-back-in-christmas/ and in 2017  https://kinshipradio.org/home/2017/11/30/christmas-as-invasion/ )

 

It seems while the play was still in practice, someone complained about the Bible verse Linus recites near the end of the show (Luke 2: 8-14) and threatened a lawsuit. Of course, the school caved in and it was decided that the show would go on, but the young man playing Linus was instructed to simply stand on stage silently during the time when the Bible passage should be recited and then after several moments of what only could have been described as the most awkward silence ever, give the famous line, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” 

Obviously, that would make the whole play meaningless –but that’s not what happened. As Gipson recounts it:

“Just as the boy playing Linus came to his lines quoting Scripture but paused, it was then a sound began to waft through the auditorium like the singing of the Whos from Whoville. Someone in the audience stood and began reciting the Luke passage, then another joined in. And then another. Soon the whole room is standing and reciting along.

When the boy ending the moment by saying, “That’s what Christmas is about, Charlie Brown”, a cheer went up from the audience. The Grinch had tried to steal Christmas, only to start a celebration!”

 

Gipson’s point was the same as mine. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out! God Himself came as a little baby in a manger in the dark of night and shone a light that is still changing the world 2000 years later. 

 

The light of the Christmas star, the light of the Christmas angel, the light of the armies of heaven, the light of the glory of the LORD God, the light of JESUS still shines in the darkness! 

 

Today’s Praise 

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

 

 

 

Note: Two years after “The Charlie Brown Incident,” the Kentucky State Legislature passed a bill clarifying that religious expression of this kind is legal in Kentucky public schools. The governor signed it into law on March 20, 2017.

Come and See What God Has Done

My lovely wife and I attended the 12th annual Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Christmas Concert last Saturday night.

As always, it was wonderful.

 

As always, it brought me to tears.

 

And I cannot help but think about all the people who, at this joyous and glorious time of year, are having a blue Christmas. 

While many of us can’t wait for the joy of celebrating the coming of our Savior to earth to save us from our sins, others have great difficulty coping with the loss of loved ones, broken relationships, and the loneliness associated with those situations. 

 

And that’s exactly why this concert is so uplifting.

 

Because, when Jesus saves someone from an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, it doesn’t just change one life. It breaks a cycle of addiction and sin and despair that most likely has been going on for generations and would continue to go on for future generations if the enemy of our souls continued to have his way.

 

Jesus restores families, he heals relationships, he gives sight to the blind, and he really and truly does raise the dead to life. A vast majority of those 300 people on that stage will tell you they would probably have been dead in the very near future if Jesus hadn’t saved them and adopted them as children of the One True God.

 

Many of the people in that choir already have children and most will eventually have children. If not for what Jesus does through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, those children would have parents who are addicts and would likely grow up to be addicts themselves.

 

But that horrific cycle of destruction and hopelessness ends when Jesus changes a life. For all who suffer from depression at this time of the year, here, standing before a couple of thousand people, was the answer. 

 

The answer is the love, the hope, the miracle of Jesus Christ who changes everything. 

 

And that’s why I cried when a lady named Amanda sang in this beautiful, brave and clear voice,

“Noel, Noel. Come and see what God has done.”

 

Indeed, it was what God had done.

 

Throughout the night, people got on stage and testified about the abuse, the neglect, the rejection, the bullying, and all the things that made them want to find a way to numb the pain caused by what they had suffered. And God, through the love of Jesus Christ, was healing them so they didn’t have to be numb anymore to survive.

 

The featured artist of the night was the band Unspoken. At one point, lead singer Chad Mattson related that he had been sober for 17 years by the power of Jesus Christ. He said Jesus changed his life back then in a 12’x12′ room in the Dominican Republic. And then he shared Ephesians 3:20 with those who were in the process of having their lives changed:

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. (NLT)

 

And then Unspoken sang their chart-topping song, “Reason.” (Which I am sure you have heard on Kinship Christian Radio at some point.) The whole song has excellent lyrics, but these especially caught my attention:

If we could pull back the curtain of Heaven
We would see His hand on everything
Every hour every minute every second He’s always been in it
Don’t let a shadow of a doubt take hold
Hold on to what you already know
He put that hunger in your heart
He put that fire in your soul
His love is the reason
To keep on believing
Yes, Jesus is indeed the reason to keep on believing. 
And Jesus is the reason that this season, this time when we celebrate Jesus come to earth in the most humble and lowly way one could imagine, is the time to sing and celebrate the glorious and amazing and powerful wonders of His love. 

As the concert neared it’s end, a man named Arturo took the stage and, in this deep, booming, powerful voice just belted out the song, “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music. 

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
You drown my fears in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God!

 

So, to all those in Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge whose Christmas present is the Holy Spirit affixing His seal, His guarantee on their adoption papers making them His own dear children, all of us at Kinship Christian Radio say, “Welcome to the family of God.” 

 

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. Ephesians 1:13b&14 (NLT) 

 

Photo by Tracy Jones. Used with permission.

Light of the World

 

 

 

People love Christmas lights.

 

Even the most hard-core Grinch, even the Scroogiest Scrooge can’t help but appreciate the beauty of all the multicolored lights on homes, businesses, churches, trees, bushes, fences, and virtually anything on which a light can be hung.

 

And, I will grant you that many of these displays often seem to have nothing to do with Jesus.

 

But they do.

 

The tradition goes back to the first Christmas trees, when people would put candles in them to symbolize Jesus as the light of the world.

 

So, even the most full-on Griswold display of excessive electrical consumption with all of its depictions of snowmen and Santa and elves and reindeer and all the things your Bible never mentions have their origins in the Lord and Savior of the world. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 (NIV)

 

Indeed, the darkness has no chance against the light because the darkness isn’t actually a thing. Darkness is the absence of light. While the frequency, the wavelength, the color, the intensity, and even the speed of light can be measured and studied, darkness has none of those properties.

 

Darkness is, literally, nothing.

 

There are places on this earth where life can exist in darkness, but its most often not total darkness and the life that does exist there is strange and twisted, hideous and macabre, lacking in beauty and color.

 

Going back to John 1:5, the word most often translated “overcome” is rendered “comprehended,” “apprehended,” “put it out,” “overtake,” and “perceive.”  The Greek word is κατέλαβεν (katelaben) and Strong’s defines is as “to take eagerly, i.e. seize, possess, etc.”

 

Indeed, the darkness has never seized hold of or taken possession of the light that is Jesus Christ. The darkness cannot snatch away the light because the presence of light destroys and negates the darkness. The darkness cannot even comprehend or begin to understand the brilliance, the marvelous and majestic glory, of the light.

 

And, when we associated light with glory, I cannot help but think of the angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds:

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified…” Luke 2:9 (NLT)

 

They were terrified. There, in the dark of night, in the rocky hill country outside of Bethlehem, some lowly shepherds had Heaven open up before them and all the light of the eternal throne room of the One True God shine down upon them as an angel spoke to them. And they were terrified.

 

As the KJV puts it, “sore afraid.”

 

So scared it hurt.

 

The light is indeed marvelous. All life on earth, even the life that lives in near darkness, depends on the light for life. Light and life are inexorably linked together. 

 

Light was the very first thing God spoke into existence. 

 

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:3&4 (NIV)

 

And when God gave us His Son to be the light of the world, He put a light in the sky to announce His birth and guide men to Him.

 

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1&2 (NLT)

 

And, after they had talked to Herod and inquired where the could find Jesus, verses nine and ten tell us:

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 

 

Yes, they were filled with joy. 

 

Even though the darkness tries to forget about the light, the light still shines in the darkness and the darkness never had a chance against the light.

 

It flees. The darkness is utterly destroyed –wiped out by the light. 

 

So, when you look upon those Christmas lights, remember that they are about Jesus. Every bulb, every twinkle, every sprinkle put on a Christmas cookie symbolizes Jesus, the Light of World.

 

And remember that we are called to be that light:

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5: 14-16 (NLT)

 

And, just as the light was the first thing that God spoke into being, the light will be there for all eternity:

 

Today’s Praise

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. Revelation 21:23&24 (NIV)

That Christmas Spirit

Listening to Allen Jones on Kinship Christian Radio the week before Thanksgiving was like… like a writer struggling to come up with words to describe a junkie anticipating his next fix without offending the junkie.

 

Now, before I irreparably offend Allen, let me be clear that I am NOT in any way talking about drugs or any illegal substance of any kind here, but one could pretty easily tell that Mr. Allen Jones was seriously jonesin’ for some Christmas music last week.

 

I love Allen like he’s family, (we are related only as brothers in Christ) but I could tell he had put himself on a leash that was as tight as a banjo string strung between a sleigh containing every present Santa would deliver on Christmas eve in all the world and a hundred dozen magical flying reindeer. 

 

Don’t get me wrong. This is a good thing. 

 

If you’ve ever listened to a radio announcer who hated playing Christmas music on a different radio station, you would be grateful that Mr. Allen’s Christmas Spirit seems unquenchable. 

 

By the way, there’s a reason I capitalized “Spirit” in the last sentence. 

 

As I wrote on this blog about three years ago, the Christmas Spirit is the Holy Spirit.

 

If you think I’m doing a little stretching of my own, keep reading.

 

Let’s go all the way back to some Old Testament prophesy: 

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD– (Isaiah 11:2 NIV)

 

Yes, Isaiah prophesied that the Holy Spirit would rest on Jesus. That’s not surprising from where we sit now.

 

But look what Matthew says about how Mary come to be with child:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18 ESV)

 

And surely, we all remember this conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel:

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:31-35 NIV)

 

After Jesus is born, there’s an old guy who’s been hanging out in the temple forever and: 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2: 25-32 NIV)

 

That’s three times in three consecutive sentences that Luke tells us what was going on in Simeon was the work of the Holy Spirit!

 

Still not convinced? Try this on for size:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5: 22&23 NIV)

 

Did you get a little Christmas glow when you read that?

 

I thought so.

 

Yes, Virginia, the Christmas Spirit is indeed the Holy Spirit. 

 

And that’s why this time of year is our best chance of letting people see Jesus in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot talk anyone into believing in Jesus, but the Father can draw people to Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

The glorious part of this is that we do not have to try to grab on to God to shine with the light of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to grasp at being godly, for if we empty ourselves of pride and arrogance and receive the Holy Spirit like servants humbly and obediently receiving a precious gift, Jesus draws people to Himself. 

 

We just have to let Him.

 

So, this Christmas, do not let the busyness or the rush or the hectic dashing about quench the fire of the Holy Spirit in you. Let those Christmas songs sink in and fill you with a glow that will make others wonder why you’re like that. Encourage and fan the flames of the Holy Spirit in others. If a co-worker is quietly playing Christmas songs at their desk, ask them to turn it up. Share some Christmas cookies early. Go to a Christmas concert and invite some friends. Invite a friend to church two weeks BEFORE Christmas! Give someone a gift who would never expect to receive one. Donate generously to a charity. Do your shopping while humming –or better yet singing out loud– a Christmas carol!

 

Or go on one of Kinship’s social media pages and participate in our Kinship Christmas Carol Takover by posting a video of yourself singing a Christmas Carol!

 

What are they going to do? Throw you in jail for having too much Christmas Holy Spirit? 

 

Today’s Praise

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 (NIV)

 

Praisegiving

The Sea of Galilee, taken from the Mount of Beatitudes. (Photo by author.)

 

There have only been a few times in my life when I got a glimpse of the real magnitude of the love of God.

 

The first one was when I was maybe nine years old. I don’t remember if it was a Sunday School or Vacation Bible School, but I remember being flooded with peace and joy and light and love –and I knew it was Jesus. I knew I had been saved.

 

The second time was much, much later. I was on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic in 2015. It’s a very long story, but I had been sick and I was thanking a sister in Christ for taking care of me. I spoke almost no Spanish and she spoke almost no English. I had a two-dollar Spanish-English dictionary in my hand and she looked me in the eye and said something in Spanish that started with “Denada” and ended with “amo.” 

 

I didn’t need that $2 dictionary to know she had said, “You’re welcome. It is all done in love.” 

 

And in that moment, the Holy Spirit poured out on me an overwhelming sense of the magnitude of God’s love for me and all people.

 

And it changed me forever. 

 

It happened again in May when I went to Israel. I cannot explain why, but the Mount of Ascension and especially the Sea of Galilee brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I’m talking about uncontrollable, pouring-out-my-heart blubbering tears.

 

And then, just a couple of days ago, I was praying and God again showed me how much He loves. This time it was just a little gasp, just a brief moment of having my breath taken away –but it reminded me of all those other times He gave me a glimpse of what lies on the other side of this dim reflection in the mirror. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

 

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that in all those cases where I tried to describe how big God’s love is, I really didn’t do a very good job of it. 

 

That’s because it is impossible to describe. Words are not enough.

 

Some of my favorite songs have tried to describe it:

“Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens,” sang Third Day. 

 

“Your love, it is extravagant,” sang Casting Crowns.

 

Cory Asbury sang God’s love  is “reckless” as He leaves the ninety-nine and comes searching for the one lost sheep.

 

In “Oh How He Loves Us” David Crowder  sings:

And He is jealous for me.
Love’s like a hurricane. I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.

 

A beautiful old hymn called “The Love of God is Greater Far” (which I’ve heard on Kinship Christian Radio sung by Mercy Me) says that if all the sky were parchment and all the seas were filled with ink and every reed on earth were a pen and every man on earth a scribe, to write the love of God would drain the oceans dry. It ends with, “Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.”

  

And while they are all beautiful, glorious songs, and even though the Holy Spirit does move through word and song, none of them describes the love of God completely and adequately.

 

Of course, there are many verses in Scripture that speak of God’s love:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

 

 Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:26 

 

Certainly, those verses give us some of the attributes of God’s love for us, and they are all true…but as for really describing that love in all it’s fullness, I’m still coming up short.

 

One of my favorite set of verses is Ephesians 3: 17b-19:

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

 

Paul writes as if the love of God has physical dimensions –and hopes that the Ephesians will know it, but openly acknowledges he cannot adequately describe it because it surpasses knowledge.

 

And that’s because there are really are no words to describe that which is infinite. 

 

In purely human terms, it is impossible to truly, fully, adequately understand or describe the infinite love of an infinite God.

 

But there is one thing that shows us the width, the length, the height, the depth, of God’s love for us:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

It is that image of Jesus on the cross, that moment when the sky went dark and the rocks split in two and the dead came out of their graves and the curtain of the temple was torn in two and He cried out, “It is finished!”

 

Because in that moment, in that one moment that changed the history of the world more than any other moment in history, our sins were forgiven and His love brought us back to Him as the sons and the daughters we were meant to be. In that moment, when we had done nothing to earn it or deserve it, love conquered all the sin and darkness and hate and evil that this world would ever generate. 

 

In that moment of infinite love, that pinnacle moment of the ultimate public display of affection, He did what we could not do. He described His love for us in a moment that could never be forgotten or denied. 

 

He wrote it on our hearts, signed it in His blood, proved it to all the world forever when He stepped out of the tomb alive, and sealed it with a guarantee from his own Holy Spirit for every soul that would come to believe in Him.

 

So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving and thank Him for food and clothing and homes and family and all the innumerable physical blessings He has poured out on us in His great love, let us celebrate a Praisegiving for a love of our very souls that we don’t have the words to adequately express. 

 

Today’s Praise

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. 1 John 4: 15-16 

 

(All Bible verses above are NIV)

 

Godtown

 

 

For regular readers of this blog, you may remember that I went on a trip to Israel last May with about 30 other people. Three of those people were affiliated with a ministry called, “Godtown.”

 

That’s a pretty interesting name for a ministry and I was, of course, intrigued.

 

They also have a cool logo that says, “Love God, Love People,” so how could I resist that? 

 

Well, it took me about six months, but last week I finally followed up on my curiosity after a dear sister posted a video of ministry actually taking place in Godtown.

 

Godtown is a community of about 30 missionaries living in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood of St. Paul called “Frogtown.” It’s very near the State Capital along University Avenue in the Thomas-Dale neighborhood. I was unable to find any historical documentation regarding an abundance of frogs. 

 

The missionaries of Godtown minister to and evangelize in the local community and they send out missionaries to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world. It’s a training ground for missionaries to grow and learn and be equipped to shine the love of Jesus Christ locally and globally.

 

One of their goals is to reduce crime in the neighborhood by building relationships through their Safe City Project. This involves a community center, two community gardens, and a wide variety of events throughout the year to bring people together. They help with food, shelter, alcohol and drug addiction, domestic violence, and basically all of the human needs a ministry of this kind encounters.

 

The buildings where the missionaries live where purchased and renovated by Godtown. In addition, they have been involved in the renovation or repair of about twenty other houses in the neighborhood.

 

They also host teams from local churches who wish to participate in their ministry, and they send missionaries out to local churches to engage them in the Great Commission and serve as a mission base. 

 

Obviously, that’s all right in my wheelhouse, but why am I writing about this on the Kinship Christian Radio blog?

 

Certainly, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and it is absolutely wonderful to see what Godtown is doing in the name of our Savior because it encourages and lifts us all up, but there’s another connection that made me grin from ear to ear.

 

You may remember that KJLY, Kinship Christian Radio’s first station, started with a recurring dream that came to a farmer named Maury Schwen in the early 80’s in which he saw a radio tower with the words “JESUS IS LORD” on it. Through much prayer by many people, Kinship Christian Radio came into being and was blessed by the LORD over and over. 

 

In a strikingly similar way, a lady named Jen Tolo had a recurring dream of a dilapidated house with a golden cross hovering over it. She and her husband, John, found that house under the golden cross of the Church of St. Agnes in Frogtown. It was in foreclosure at the time and they didn’t have the money to buy it, but through much prayer, God made a way and Godtown was eventually born. 

 

When I stopped in on the people of Godtown one morning last week along with my friend and brother Kenny Ortiz, I wanted to get an idea of who they were and what they were doing and if there was a way to partner with them in fanning the flames of the Holy Spirit in local churches around the state.

 

Kenny and I were immediately welcomed in like family. They started with an hour of heartfelt praise, then began studying Scripture and talking about how to effectively present their testimonies. As they went around the room telling how they came to be in Godtown, it was amazing how many had been drawn there by a dream of some kind. 

 

God does truly work in mysterious and amazing ways.

 

We talked, we laughed, we basked in the glow of the Holy Spirit, we went out to lunch where I experienced a delicious Vietnamese soup called phở for the first time, we ministered to a homeless man looking for work, and before I knew it, I had spent six hours with some wonderful people I now count as family.

 

In the end, I was quite certain this had not been my last trip to Godtown.

 

Today’s Praise

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14 (NIV)

 

Answers. Light. Hope!

 

It is once again time for KinshiChristian Radio’s Share-A-Thon! 

 

 

It’s a glorious, wonderful, amazing, and very busy time for the staff of Kinship Christian Radio. 

 

Of course, I very much enjoy the various food-related events associated with Share-A-Thin… (Oops. I think that was a wishful-thinking Freudian typo just there.) 

 

As I was saying, there’s some really good food associated with Share-A-Thon, and everyone is welcome and encouraged to partake. 

 

Here’s the schedule of food and fellowship events:

KJCY Soup and Sweets at Family Life Center in Osage – Door Prizes – Special Gifts for the Kids! Tuesday, Nov. 12  4:30 – 7PM.

KJLY Soup and Sweets at New Creation World Outreach Church in North Mankato – Homemade Soup, Chili & Pie – Door Prizes  Wednesday, Nov. 13 from 11AM – 1:30PM

KJIA Soup and Sweets at Spirit Lake Presbyterian Church – Make Your Own Sundaes – Door Prizes – Special Gifts for the Kids  Thursday, Nov. 14 from 4:30 – 7PM

KJYL Share A Thon BBQ at the studio in Goldfield – A BBQ with all the fixin’s!  Thursday, Nov. 14 from 5 – 7PM

Gene’s BBQ the final night of Share-A-Thon at the KJLY studio in Blue Earth – BBQ Ribs, Potato Salad – Beans – Chips – Dessert  Thursday, Nov. 14 from 4:30 – 7PM

 

Now, while I certainly do enjoy the food and being with Kinship staff and listeners, my favorite part of Share-A-Thon are the listener testimonies on the air. The ways in which people have found answers, light, and hope through the ministry of Kinship Christian Radio are truly a wonderful testament to the work of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

 

It’s both humbling to know He uses ordinary people to accomplish His purposes and glorifying to Him to see the power manifest in the lives of friend and neighbors all around us. 

 

You will hear of lives changed and transformed, of wounds healed, of broken hearts made whole. And all of it is made possible by words and music sent out over ordinary radio waves. What’s not ordinary is that He uses those radio waves to deliver answers, light, and hope into lives so in need of His love.

 

It really is a miracle.

 

And it happens every day.

 

Long ago, I heard a pastor on KJLY say that praise of the LORD creates an atmosphere the enemy cannot move through. 

 

As I put that into practice, I started to pray every day that the LORD would enable me and help me to live a life of praise to Him. 

 

And that changed my life because living a life of praise fills me with gratitude and joy –and that is a far, far better way to live one’s life than grumbling and complaining and constantly waiting for things to get good enough that I have nothing to complain about.

 

A recent news story on Kinship Christian Radio told about how scientists have “discovered” that people who are grateful are healthier, happier, and live longer. 

 

Those of us who are living a life of gratitude are not surprised by this news. 

 

That’s an example of a good answer.

 

I’ve also found myself lifted up on more than one occasion by just the right song at just the right time with just the right lyric. When Bear Rinehart of NeedtoBreathe sings, “God of mercy, sweet loooooove of mine, I have surrendered to your design” in the song “Multiplied” a light goes on every time. 

 

“Oh yeah, HIS design,” says the little voice in head.

 

And all of this gives me hope because I know He loves me, His ways are better and higher than my ways, and He’s got this. All I have to do is be a disciple. 

 

The disciple is not in charge. He just follows Jesus, learns from Him, and goes where He sends him. 

 

It’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

 

And so, dear readers, enjoy Share-A-Thon. Come spend some time with the staff, listen to the testimonies and all that takes place over the airwaves, and share what the Holy Spirit leads you to share with the ministry.  It’s not mandatory. It’s a joy.

 

 

Today’s Praise

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)