An Epistle to the Church on Facebook

This letter is from Dan, chosen to be a humble disciple of Christ Jesus,

 

To God’s Church on Facebook, and to all of His people on social media in all the world.

 

Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

I thank God, maker of all that is and was and ever will be for all God’s holy people on Facebook. I see your posts of God’s holy Word, submitted for all the world to see, to be encouraged by, to learn and grow in all the spiritual gifts. I see that you do not grow discouraged, even when you do not get as many “likes” or “shares” as you think would be deserving of passages of Scripture.

 

But I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, be careful when you post Scripture outside its context. We all agree that John 3:16 is beautiful and glorious! God did indeed love the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but will have eternal life! Amen! But when you post this, do not forget in your hearts John 3:17 –that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through Him. 

 

This is equally glorious and you would do well to remember that much of the unbelieving world struggles with condemnation and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness planted in them by our enemy, Satan. Many are those who feel they can never be forgiven because they believe their sins are too great for even God to forgive. You bear the message of hope and healing to these people. I urge you, beloved in the Lord, to make every effort to bring them all the glorious hope that is in Christ Jesus, not just a morsel –but the full banquet!

 

It is well to post the words of Christ with flowers and sunsets behind them, for these things are beautiful and good. Against such things there is no law. But do not let flowers and sunsets suffice for the substance, the glorious eternal power of the Gospel in all its fullness. Always be ready with an answer, a testimony, a heart-felt witness of what Christ has done in your life and how He saved you. Do not leave brothers and sisters with crumbs when you yourself are fed from the king’s table.

 

And do not be afraid to admit that you are sinner, or that you do not have all the answers. Fear not your weakness and your suffering for God has placed others out there in the wispy and ethereal cloud of the internet who are weak and suffering and broken just as you are. He has put all of us into such a great cloud that we might witness to one another, lift up, support, and encourage one another. This is all to the praise of His glory!

 

Never forget that your words and all you post can be seen all over the world. This is indeed a great miracle, for with it the family of God can share in its joys and sorrows as never before. And we are a family exceedingly large! From the far reaches of India where the apostle Thomas brought the Gospel so long ago, to Nepal, and Africa, and the distant islands  of the seas, and Brazil, and Guatemala and places your ancestors have never been we can see and understand how these the members of our own family in Christ live and work and struggle to survive. We can see them rejoicing and dancing and praising the LORD! 

 

In this, I hope that you come to know that the family we share in Christ looks like all the people of the earth. You have grown up seeing and believing that one’s family is made up of people whose outward appearance is much like our own, but the truth is God loves all people and He has celebrated His love of variety by creating people in many different colors and forms that His praises would arise from the earth in great variety and exceeding abundance to the glory of His power and majesty! 

 

So do not look on those who have a different appearance from you as somehow beneath you. This is sin. You know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So there is no one better than any other.

 

Even so, He has seen fit to save us all through His son, Jesus Christ. Does He not pour out the same Holy Spirit on all who believe? Who then are you to look upon another as less than you? Did not Christ die for all? Indeed He did, so do not empty the cross of its power over all the earth and all its peoples.

 

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that Facebook carries with it a great temptation to think of the words you see from others as merely words. You are tempted as never before to respond to these words without consideration of how your own words will be perceived and what harm they could do to the soul of another. For those words do come from the heart and soul of another person made in the image of God. And do not forget that while you may able to pour out great wrath in many eloquent and powerful words upon someone and possibly even “win” (in your own mind) an argument on Facebook against someone you’ve never met, there could be thousands who see these words and make no comment at all, but have seen your callous disregard for the soul of another that your own ego may be satisfied.

 

One of the saints, a leader in the Church at Bethany, has said to the believers who follow him on Facebook, “Do not post things on Facebook that would get you punched in the face had you said them in person.” This is great wisdom and should be taken to heart at all times. 

 

In the same way, an answer given in love and mercy and grace could draw many souls to Christ without you ever knowing. So exercise restraint in all you say on Facebook and think on the eternal impact your words carry. Remember that you are an ambassador for Christ and that you will give an account of all your idle words on the day of judgement.

 

Do not post inflammatory or hateful or false things, lest you be dragged off in chains and put into Facebook jail. But do not be afraid to post the truth of God in love. If then you are put in Facebook jail, it is to His glory.

 

As for politics, you know that there is a great deal of strife and division among your countrymen. Always stand for truth and justice and mercy. Walk humbly with your God and understand that another person will never be able to comprehend, as all God’s people should,  how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love God in Christ Jesus when your post is literally a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire.

 

Know that God’s plan can and will prevail without you scolding, shaming, screaming righteous anger in all caps, being more holy or “woke” than thou, or in any way expressing the superiority of your opinion over the opinion of another. Please brothers and sisters, learn the difference between your opinion and God’s truth.

 

Be slow to post, careful in what you say, and consider how what you post could possibly by misunderstood. 

 

If you must post a meme, let it be something that edifies, enlightens, and encourages. Humor is good, but not if it comes at the expense of another person’s dignity or worth. 

 

I was tempted to forbid all your memes, but I have chosen to encourage grace by showing grace. I am eternally grateful that you have finally grown weary of that lady yelling and the white cat. Do not fall back into that, please.

 

Seriously. Please. 

 

Oh, and dad jokes are always okay. 

 

Did you hear the one about the guy who takes a can of wasp spray up to the counter and asks the lady, “Excuse me, ma’am, is this good for wasps?” and the lady says, “No sir. It kills them.”

 

That cracks me up.

 

Today’s Praise

Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness. May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 6:23&24 (NLT)

 

*Credit (or blame) for the inspiration for this piece goes to Pastor Tim Ogle of Litchfield, MN.  The “punched in the face” comment is attributable to Pastor Kenny Ortiz, who is originally from The City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and now resides somewhere in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thank you to both.

Unity

I’m guessing most of you who were listening to Kinship Christian Radio last week heard Kinship News Director Jay Rudolph report on the revival that’s breaking out at the site of the George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis.

 

And for those of you who may have missed the blog I wrote at the beginning of this month, I have missionary friends in the Twin Cities who are involved in that revival. I went and helped them with a food distribution in the Twin Cities and drove past some of the damage created by the fires and looting when I was there three weeks ago, but chickened out when it came to walking into the epi-center of the global spiritual war that started at 38th and Chicago. 

 

My missionary friends from Godtown had been posting video of what was taking place for some time. Last Friday was Juneteenth–the celebration of June 19, 1865 when, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers told the slaves at Galveston, Texas that they were free. 

 

Jay’s report was the final nudge from the Holy Spirit.  I took off early from work and arrived at the Unity Revival Rally just after 4:30 p.m.

What I found were people of virtually all colors, races, and ethnicities gathered together to praise God and come together in the love of Jesus Christ. There was music and there was dancing. Dr. Charles Karuku and Pastor Joshua Giles preached powerfully on unity and freedom and the love of Jesus and two people standing right in front of me asked to be baptized in a water tank right there on the street.

 

And we stood, black and white and brown and beige and tan and every human color, hand in hand and we prayed that this nation and we would be changed. We prayed repentance of the sins of the past and we asked for and received forgiveness. We pledged our love for one another –and we meant it. I was holding hands with a young man called “Nibs” from Antigua and Barbuda who I now know as a true brother in Christ.  (Nibs, if you are reading this, please leave a comment. I should have given you my email address.)

As I drove away, I realized what a miracle I had just witnessed.

 

The site where George Floyd died could have very easily been a continued center of hatred and division and violence. This place was and is ground-zero for a global spiritual war. It could have been a place where things got worse, but Jesus stepped in. The Holy Spirit answered our prayers and now it is a place of reconciliation and healing and brotherhood. It is our first and best hope for “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

 

Today’s Praise

And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!” 1 Kings 18:39 (NLT)

 

Abba

 

Some months ago, I read “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging” by Brennan Manning.

 

I’ve written about Brennan Manning before, (April 4 of this year) but here’s a refresher in case you forgot: If that name rings a bell but you can’t quite place it, it’s because Brennan Manning also wrote “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” an excellent book which had a profound influence on Rich Mullins and his music. Manning was (he passed away in 2013) a Jesuit priest, a US Marine, and a reformed alcoholic. His books are filled with a deep, deep longing for people to have a real and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and emphatically, boldly, and unashamedly welcomes the tax collectors and prostitutes of this world into the kingdom of heaven ahead of any and all Pharisees.

 

With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, you will no doubt hear many songs and teachings on Kinship Christian radio about our earthly fathers and our heavenly Father. So, I thought it would be a good time to share some of Manning’s insights on the character and nature of our heavenly Abba Father and who we are in His eyes:

 

“Scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by tenderness.”

 

“The engaged mind, illuminated by truth, awakens awareness; the engaged heart, affected by love, awakens passion. May I say once more – this essential energy of the soul is not an ecstatic trance, high emotion or a sanguine stance toward life: It is a fierce longing for God, an unyielding resolve to live in and out of our belovedness. “

 

“[The] insistence on the absolutely indiscriminate nature of compassion within the Kingdom is the dominant perspective of almost all of Jesus’ teaching.
What is indiscriminate compassion? ‘Take a look at a rose. Is is possible for the rose to say, “I’ll offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people”? Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light? It could do that only be ceasing to be a lamp. And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature — even to the one who seeks to cut it down. This is the first quality of compassion — its indiscriminate character.’ (Anthony DeMello, The Way to Love)…
What makes the Kingdom come is heartfelt compassion: a way of tenderness that knows no frontiers, no labels, no compartmentalizing, and no sectarian divisions.”

 

“When belonging to an elite group eclipses the love of God, when I draw life and meaning from any source other than my belovedness, I am spiritually dead. When God gets relegated to second place behind any bauble or trinket, I have swapped the pearl of great price for painted fragments of glass.”

 

“My identity as Abba’s child is not an abstraction or a tap dance into religiosity. It is the core truth of my existence. Living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness profoundly affects my perception of reality, the way I respond to people and their life situations. How I treat my brothers and sisters from day to day, whether they be Caucasian, African, Asian, or Hispanic; how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street; how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike; how I deal with ordinary people in their ordinary unbelief on an ordinary day will speak the truth of who I am more poignantly than the pro-life sticker on the bumper of my car. We are not for life simply because we are warding off death. We are sons and daughters of the Most High and maturing in tenderness to the extent that we are for others—all others—to the extent that no human flesh is strange to us, to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love, to the extent that for us there are no “others.”

 

Nowhere in Scripture is the indiscriminate compassion, the unrelenting tenderness, the reckless all-consuming love of God more evident than in that one verse we all know so well:

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 NIV

 

Yes, God the Father, the Abba of all, gave up His one and only Son –His perfect and blameless Son– and allowed him to be subjected to unspeakable pain and degradation and cruelty so that you and I could have eternal life that we did not deserve, could not earn, and can never repay. 

 

That is the heart of a true Father. 

 

It’s a standard I know can never fully achieve in this life.

 

But I can try.

 

Today’s Praise

And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6 (NLT)

 

 

Do!

I’m currently reading, “Core 52, A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Build Your Bible IQ in a Year” by Mark E. Moore. It is excellent, and I was particularly struck by last week’s study on The Golden Rule.

 

Moore says that, hundreds of years before Jesus, Confucius supposedly said, “Do not do to others what you would not wish done to yourself.” And, somewhere between Malachi and Matthew, it was written in the book of Tobit, “What you hate, do not do to anyone.” Later, a rabbi named Hillel was challenged to explain the whole of the Torah while standing on one foot and said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary.”

 

All three are variations of the same thought, and Moore refers to them as “The Silver Rule” because there is difference between them and the Golden Rule Jesus taught us:

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31 (NIV)

 

The difference is “Do.”

 

All three versions of The Silver Rule would have you in perfect compliance with it while sitting on your couch flipping channels between “The Flintstones” and “Wheel of Fortune.

 

The Golden Rule of Christianity, has you up and off the couch doing something to help others. Christianity is not a passive, sedentary, “do-nothing” lifestyle.

 

Now, I know many of us want to be more active in the practice of our faith, but what to do?

 

Fortunately for you, there is something you can do because it’s June Letter Month!

 

That’s right! You can pick up an actual pen and paper like (or a stone slab and chisel in the case of Fred and Barney) and write an actual letter, OR you can just click on the link below and have at it like you’re George Jetson in the twenty-fourth-and-a-half century! (If that reference is lost on you, Google it.)

 

 

But what to write about?

 

That’s the beautiful part! There are no rules, no forms, no set format! It’s a letter-writing free-for-all! Tell the folks that bring you Kinship Christian Radio what you like! Tell them your favorite Roller Derby star! Tell them about your family or how Jesus has changed your life or your most amazing rhubarb recipe! Do you collect June Bugs that have crashed into the porch light and been stunned? Tell us all about it! (You may send a photo, but please do not send us actual June Bugs, please.) Offer a suggestion for improving the ministry! Comment on your favorite announcer! Send us a prayer! Virtually anything and everything is lawful. (See 1 Corinthians 1:23 )

 

But that’s not all! If you send a donation in with your letter, you get to choose from one of six fabulous prizes! (TaaDa!)

 

A CD by Charles Billingsly called, “I Was Made for This.”

A book by Beth Moore called, “Whispers of Hope, 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer”

A CD of Top Christian Hits by Toby Mac, Danny Gokey, Lauren Daigle, Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Crowder, Hillsong United, and more!

A book by Lisa Terkeurst called, “Uninvited, Living Loved When You Feel Less Then, Left Out and Lonely.”

A CD of Resurrection Hymns, or

A book by Kathryn Slattery of 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids.

 

Today’s Praise

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

War

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to Minneapolis and St. Paul last Thursday to do what I could do to help with all that is going on there.

 

Because many grocery stores have been destroyed in the violence, some people don’t have a place to buy food, so I helped with a food distribution with my brothers and sisters in Christ at Godtown. (Godtown is a community of about 30 missionaries living in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood of St. Paul called “Frogtown.” They minister to and evangelize in the local community and send out missionaries to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world. See the Nov. 21, 2019 blog post for more details.)

 

Because the donation to Godtown had been so generous (and God multiplies blessings) we were also able to take some “extra” food to a nearby church that was also having a free food distribution.

 

After that, a dear sister in Christ led me to CityView church in Minneapolis where they are praising God and praying almost constantly.  Very powerful praise and prayer is rising up there.

 

And then, I tried to drive down to 38th and Chicago, which is the epicenter of all that has taken place recently. The streets were packed. Cars were parked bumper to bumper for blocks. Barricades had been erected to prevent people from driving directly into the center of the conflict.

 

As I drove, I saw business after business boarded up. The blank canvases of wood over windows had almost all been spray-painted with some kind of message. “Justice for George Floyd” and “BLM” were by far the most common. Many, many businesses had also indicated they were local or minority owned in the hope they would be spared from destruction. Fairly common was the symbol for anarchy. (The letter “A” with a circle around it.) There were also a significant number of places where I saw slogans of a deep-seated and profane anger for the police, including “KILL COPS.”

 

I did not park the car and walk into these areas. I later found out many people were praying for my safety. Perhaps they should have prayed courage for me instead, but that’s a topic for another time.

 

The drive home gave me two hours to think about what I had just seen and experienced. I had Kinship Christian Radio playing as I drove. Somewhere north of St. Peter, Matt Dorfner played a song called, “Come On Down” by David Huff which exhorts the Holy Spirit to come into our world in power.

 

It was at that moment I realized that I had been at ground-zero of a global spiritual war.

 

The outcry and the violence resulting from the death of George Floyd were and still are echoing all over the world.

 

According to the Star Tribune, at least 530 businesses have been damaged in the Twin Cities, with at least 67 completely destroyed by fire. Peaceful protests have been mixed with violence and looting all over the world. Curfews were ordered all over the country to quell the violence. There have been numerous deaths, including reports of police officers being ambushed.

 

There’s also a national discussion going on, which started with the Minneapolis City Council, about “defunding” and even disbanding police departments.

 

We are clearly seeing the efforts of he who comes to steal and kill and destroy.

 

As I sat in the safety of my own home, far from the mayhem in the metroplex, I came across a photo online of graffiti on a concrete wall that said, “THIS IS WAR.”

 

And indeed it is.

 

But in the midst of it, my friends at Godtown and numerous other Christians on the front lines of this war are posting pictures online of praise and worship and healing. They are posting pictures of people coming to Jesus and they say they are coming “left and right.” They are posting pictures of baptisms and they are saying revival is breaking out in the midst of this!

 

God has said He can use what others intend for evil for good. He has shown us again and again that He is a mighty, holy, everlasting, and powerful God. The enemy may have started a war, but we know the victory belongs to the LORD! We know Jesus is victorious having conquered sin, death, and the devil. We know we are more than conquerors!

 

Pray without ceasing, brothers and sisters. Pray that the LORD would pour out His Holy Spirit on Minneapolis, on St. Paul, on Minnesota, on the United States, and on the whole world. Do not be disheartened by what you hear in the media, and do not underestimate the power of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!

 

Today’s Praise

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
can avail against the LORD.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the LORD.  Proverbs 21:30-31 (ESV)

 

Conquering the Concept of “Us Versus Them.”

 

I wrote for five hours Monday night trying to come up with a blog post that did George Floyd justice and brought glory to God. When I hit 2,000 words, I went to bed frustrated that I had not even come close.

 

On Tuesday morning, there was even more to address.

 

I came to the conclusion that I cannot possibly address all that is involved. So, I will leave you with this:

 

  1. Our black brothers and sisters have indeed faced discrimination, racism, and intolerable injustice in our society. The image of a white police officer with his knee to the neck of George Floyd to the point of his death has become a literal image of what they feel they have faced all their lives, and in the lives of their ancestors as far back as anyone can remember.
  2. There is far more going on here than any one person knows. There are forces at work that are intentionally remaining hidden in their purposes and methods –from the far ends of both sides of the political spectrum, possibly from beyond our borders, and certainly from principalities and powers in the heavenly realms.  The words “agent provocateur” are relevant.
  3. The acts of looting and destruction –although certainly the work of he who comes to steal, kill, and destroy– do not change #1. (See #2.)
  4. It is incredibly difficult to hear the still, small voice of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth over all the yelling. The media, whose job it is to help us find and know this truth, is instead part of the problem. 
  5. There are those among us who would rather not deal with or face any of the above. This is a sin. (See all of Ezekiel 33.)
  6. The answer, as always, is Jesus. Only the love of God in the person and cross of Jesus Christ can bring repentance and reconciliation.
  7. We need to repent in our hearts, pray fervently and without ceasing, and have the courage and motivation to actually go out and establish relationships with the people who have been harmed. We cannot and should not segregate and insulate ourselves from the reality that these are real people, created in the image of Christ, and we absolutely need to overcome and conquer the concept of “us” versus “them.”

LORD, we repent of our sins of complacency. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have faced injustice and harm for far too long and we have not loved them as we should! Lord, have mercy on us and help us to love them as you have taught us to love! Help us to be a people who seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. In your infinite mercy, LORD Jesus, we pray that you would send out your Holy Spirit over all our land and pour out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control! AMEN!  

 

Today’s Praise

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21 (NIV) 

Red Swenson and Prince Valiant

We built our family home on the shore of a lake that had been drained over a hundred years ago. As a result, our yard to the east (Or “the lower back yard” as I call it.) is lush and fertile. It had never been farmed, so once the trees, brush, nettles, and giant ragweed had been cleared and planted to grass and a garden established, it left an area with thick green grass and tomato plants that bend even the stoutest cages every year under the weight of their abundance.

 

Directly outside my bedroom window,  about thirty feet from the house, there was a small tree that had died. A wood vine had grown up that tree and curled around the top.  The result looked like one of those trees we all used to draw in kindergarten —a lollipop tree, if you will. It wasn’t something I or my wife had planned. God just kind of blessed us with it.

 

We decided a small pond would look wonderful in front of that lollipop tree, and a friend gave us a number of pond liners. (Lawn ponds were all the rage as this was taking place.) So, one day I set about digging said pond with my tractor and bucket.

 

I soon had a pretty large hole and, just as I was getting to the point where it looked about the right size, I got a little too close to that wood vine, hooked it by the root, and inadvertently killed it.

 

Guys and power tools. It’s an age-old story.

 

So, I decided a grape vine would be a wonderful replacement for the wood vine. It would look wonderful and I would get to make grape jelly as a bonus. And who doesn’t like toast with homemade grape jelly, right?

 

This necessitated a trip to the local nursery where I picked out a variety of grape vine called “Red Swenson.”

 

I planted “old Red” right where the wood vine used to grow, and he climbed up that little dead tree and became lush and green that first summer. He yielded a bounteous crop of beautiful grapes his second summer and I had to go buy some fine netting to keep the birds from enjoying the crop before I could make jelly from them.

 

I did indeed make jelly and it was delicious.  There were so many grapes, I put the excess in plastic bags and froze them.

 

(Side note: At some point in this story, I came to my senses and filled in the hole where the pond was supposed to go. I believe this occurred once I fully understood the maintenance requirements of a pond –as did all the people who had once made ponds in one’s yard all the rage.)

 

Red continued to flourish, but the little dead tree rotted off at the base and one day I found Red lying in the lawn. I tried propping up Red and the remains of the little tree with a steel fence post, but it was unstable and looked like a one-legged man with a cane.

 

So, I decided to replace the dead tree with a cross.

 

It seemed so fitting. The theme of grapes and grapevines are woven throughout the Bible. Jesus even used a grapevine as a metaphor for Himself.

 

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NLT)

 

So, I bought some cedar posts and built a cross in my backyard.

 

Red trained easily to the new cross arbor and grew and thrived there. Each morning when I wake up and look out my bedroom window, I am treated to the sight of a cross covered in a lush grape vine.

 

And then, as the years wore on, Red stopped bearing grapes. He would get little green clusters in the early spring that were supposed to turn into my jelly-making fruit, but they would shrivel up and produce nothing.

 

I thought I was pruning Red wrong, so I studied up on that, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.

 

I asked questions of people who knew about these things and did internet searches, but to no avail. I considered possible problems with fertility and pH, or perhaps some interaction with the cedar of the cross, but none of that made any sense.

 

Alas, it seemed to me that old Red was just worn out.

 

So, I went to the nursery and decided on a new variety called, “Valiant,”  which my wife quickly dubbed “Prince Valiant.” The tag said Prince Valiant was winter hardy to -40, so there were no worries there. Further research said Valiant was developed (are you reading this Allen Jones?) in South Dakota and would yield 20-40 pounds of grapes per year!

 

That all sounded very good, so last Friday night as the sun was setting, I decided to dig up old Red and put Prince Valiant in his rightful place of honor. I had 15 minutes before dark, but how long could it take to dig a hole for a little grape vine, right?

 

As I attempted to sink the shovel into the soil next to old Red, I quickly discovered why he was no longer yielding.

 

I had long known there were some little forest-dwelling plants growing at the base of that cross, but they actually looked nice and I had never thought they amounted to much.

 

I was wrong.

 

There we actual trees intertwined and intermingled with Red’s vine!

 

It quickly got dark and it was obvious I would have to reassess and regroup the next day.

 

The following morning, I came back with a shovel, a hand ax, and a pickax. As I got to work, I discovered that in the little space Red occupied there were no less than TEN trees that had their roots intertwined with Reds! One of those trees was over an inch in diameter at the base!

 

I had been sorely, sorely neglectful.

 

Now, for any of you who have done any of this kind of work before, you know that even a very small tree with a trunk less than the diameter of a pencil is not something you can just pull up like a radish or a carrot. I could see that I had pruned off some of these small trees at ground level before, but their roots had already been established, and they simply grew up again stronger and more invasive than before.

 

And I could not help but remember Luke 3:9:

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (NIV)

 

No, one does not remove even a small tree by yanking it out. It requires digging down and chopping out the roots with an ax. There is sweat and straining. It is hard, dirty work, but it is the only way.

 

And in that moment, literally kneeling at the foot of a cross with an ax in my hand, with dirt flying and the “thud” of the ax cutting through roots, I understood the harsh reality of that Bible verse.

 

Sin is not something to be waved off with a casual pass of the hand. It may look like nothing much, it may hide, it may even look not so bad in the right light, but it saps away, it steals from us, and it destroys what God intended for us.

 

Sin prevents us from bearing the fruit God enjoys.

 

—0—

 

It turned out there was no way to remove the roots of those invading trees without also removing Red. I had to pry him out with the pickax. If plants could scream, I’m sure Red would have been heard miles away.

 

Now, I do not know if Red will ever produce fruit again, but I dug a hole on the edge of the yard where he would have more sunshine and less competition from trees and carefully planted and watered him. I pounded in a steel fence post to once again prop him up temporarily. I felt I owed him that since his lack of fruitfulness was far more my fault than his. As I write this two days later, God has sent both rain and sunshine on him and his leaves have not withered. I believe he may have even grown a couple of new leaves. Time will tell.

 

And yes, Prince Valiant now sits at the foot of the cross. On a whim, I looked up the definition of “valiant.” It means “possessing or showing courage or determination.” So yes, dear Prince, I promise to be more courageous and determined to pull out those little tiny weeds before they become giant trees that choke you out and negate your fruitfulness.

 

 

Today’s Praise

Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.”

“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9 (NLT)

 

 

 

The “Right Time” is Now

 

 

Last week, I wrote that I hoped that we would not return to “normal” as we transition out of this COVID19 pandemic.

 

This week, you may have heard a news story on Kinship Christian Radio that about two-thirds of American Christians believe that God is using this situation to tell people to change how they live.

 

Salem Radio News reported that a recent poll by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research “found that 31% of Americans who believe in God feel strongly that the virus is a sign of God telling humanity to change, with the same number feeling that somewhat.”

 

Well, HALLELUJAH!

 

Digging a little deeper on the AP-NORC website, the poll also found that among those with a religious affiliation, 61% are now doing things like looking after their neighbors versus 39% who were doing those things prior to pandemic. 

 

So, not only do Christians believe God is telling them that they should change how they live, they are actually putting that belief into action and doing so! 

 

Again, HALLELUJAH!

 

In yet another corner of the internet, I found another group called The Joshua Fund that conducted a similar poll and reported “A stunning 44.3% of poll respondents said they believe the coronavirus and resulting economic meltdown is a “wake up call for us to turn back to faith in God,” signs of “coming judgment,” or both.”

 

The same group also says, “Fully one-in-five non-Christians (21.5%) polled said the crisis is causing them to start reading the Bible and listen to Bible teaching and Christian sermons online even though they usually don’t, search online to learn more about Bible prophecy and God’s plan for the future of mankind, and have more spiritual conversations with family and friends.”

 

While we are all familiar with various media reports of how Christianity is shrinking in the United States, what’s buried in the statistics is that while somewhere around 25% (polls vary) of Americans say they have “no religious affiliation” (the “Nones” as they are called) in 2017 Pew Research found that 72% of the “Nones” believe in God, a higher power, or spiritual force.

 

It’s not that the “Nones” are atheists who flatly deny the existence of God. Pew found only 3.1% of Americans claim to be actual atheists. (2014 study) No, the “Nones” are, by and large, people who are still open to the possibility of God but have not yet fully found Him in all His glory.

 

And THAT’s where you and Kinship Christian Radio come in. Now is the time to engage friends, relatives, coworkers and any human being with a soul in genuine, heartfelt, loving conversations about Jesus Christ.

 

Please understand that I am not talking about standing in a shopping mall and handing out tracts. I’m talking about praying that the Holy Spirit would open doors for those conversations through genuine, natural, caring acts of love and compassion.

 

There are a lot of people out there who need the love of Jesus Christ more than ever. There are people who work with the public every day and live in fear of catching the virus. There are people who don’t know how they are going to make it through this. There are people isolated and lonely. There are people so in need of a friend, of some form of human interaction, they are suffering with physical symptoms. There are people who need a miracle.

 

There are people in need of you.

 

It’s time for an outpouring of love, support, encouragement, and joy in realizing the blessings we do have. It’s time to be willing to give that cool cup of water, to feed and clothe the poor and the widows and orphans, to wash the feet of sinners.

 

It time for the Church to truly be the body, the hands and feet, of Jesus Christ.

 

It’s time to rejoice that God has awakened people and given us all the opportunity for repentance and revival.

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT)

Let’s NOT Go Back to “Normal”

 

I know many of you are wishing for, longing for, even praying for things to get back to “normal.”

 

I am praying they do not.

 

As a dear pastor friend pointed out recently, our version of “normal” is not at all what God considers normal.

 

We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

That’s God’s “normal.” The way things are done in His heaven, before His throne, are what He designed to be our normal. 

 

But we chose a different path.

 

We have not been doing things on earth as they are done in heaven. Not even close.

 

And, in my opinion, I think it looks to God like we’re not even trying to do things His way. 

 

I just listened to Alistair Begg preach on Kinship Christian Radio about Jonah being sent to Nineveh to tell them to repent. Now, as you know, Jonah resisted God’s command and ended up on a beach smelling like fish vomit which convinced him that he very well should indeed go and tell the people of Nineveh –who worshiped the fish-god Dagon– that they should repent immediately. 

 

God knew exactly what He was doing with Jonah. He knew Jonah would resist Him. He knew he’d be thrown into the sea and He sent that fish to swallow Jonah and He commanded that fish to spit him out on the beach.

 

And He knew Nineveh would repent. 

 

What that means is that Nineveh’s “normal” changed.

 

Nineveh was never again “normal.”

 

I have been praying for awakening, repentance, and revival in this nation and in the world for some years now. And, in the midst of those prayers, I have known that for such a thing to occur, there very well could be pain and suffering and anguish. People do not change their “normal” when they are comfortable and safe — no matter how abnormal it is in God’s eyes.

 

So, yes, I hope that as society begins to open back up and we are allowed to intermingle (as is necessary for society to survive) I hope we never again take gathering together for worship for granted. I hope we appreciate and value our fellowship, our collective praise, our sharing of the Lord’s Supper, as something we do all the time without thinking about it or appreciating what a wonderful, glorious, marvelous privilege it is to hear your brother or sister in Christ singing praises to God right next to you, or sharing the right hand of fellowship, or having face-to-face relationships with members of the body of Christ right there in that place we have come to call “sanctuary.”

 

I hope we never forget that, even though each of us may have a home church, the Church Universal exists in our souls and all who believe in Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior are of that one Church, forever joined together as true kin, true family whether we reside in Winnebago, Washington, or Wuhan.

 

I hope we never again rush out of church, or skip church entirely, to watch or participate in an event which we have elevated to the point of idolatry. 

 

I hope we never again consider what is put before us as “entertainment” as having no influence on our relationship with our God.

 

I hope we carefully consider and appreciate what it takes for others to provide a meal for us in public place, and what it means for the human race to be able to sit together and share a meal and a relationship with another human being in that public place.

 

I hope we never again take for granted what is put into the hearts and minds of our children as they are taught to be mature, responsible citizens of our towns, our states, and our nation. 

 

I hope we never again take for granted the freedoms God granted us out of His limitless grace when He allowed this country to be formed and governed by the people of the country, in relationship with one another, rather than be ruled and subjugated by petty tyrants and dictators.

 

I hope we understand and never forget that each and every one of us are essential to the survival and well-being of each other — in the creation, manufacture, preparation, delivery, protection, and provision of every good and service we need and enjoy for a full and productive life. 

 

I hope we have learned to appreciate and love each other as children of God, adopted into His own family, heirs to eternal life, restored to a healthy relationship with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

 

I hope we will have learned to disagree with one another in a civil, responsible, mature, and loving manner with the underlying truth in mind that other people are not our enemies, but the real enemy is he who came to steal, kill, and destroy our relationships with others and with our God. 

 

I hope we are haunted by the Holy Spirit for the lost souls of this world. I hope that, having been prevented from traveling the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we burn with an unquenchable fire to fulfill that Great Commission. I hope that, having been sequestered in our homes, we cannot wait to get out and preach the Gospel and be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to every friend and neighbor and down-trodden and widowed and orphaned soul the Holy Spirit puts in our path whether he or she be next door or thousands of miles away.

 

And I hope that, whatever happens, the Church will never again relapse into the groggy, sedated, lukewarm mush that forsakes the love of Jesus Christ for the sake of what flawed and fallible humanity has come to call “normal.”

 

God’s “normal” is eternal. 

Today’s Praise

Jonah’s Anger at the LORD’s Mercy

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.  Jonah 4:1&2 (NLT)

NDOP

 

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14

 

The National Day or Prayer is Thursday, May 7. For most of you who read this when I post it on Wednesday night, that means the National Day of prayer is tomorrow!

 

This is anything but an ordinary NDOP. There were rumors that it wasn’t going to take place at all, but that’s not true. HALLELUJAH!

 

If ever we needed a National Day of Prayer, NOW is the time! If ever there was a time to cry out to the LORD, NOW is that time!

 

I believe the LORD has the attention of large numbers of people right now. I mean, look at the situation: For years, the people organizing the NDOP have told us the seven “mountains” of influence we should pray for are: the Church, the Family, Education, the Media, Government, the Military, and Business.

 

COVID19 has shaken the very foundations of every one of those mountains.

 

Our very society has been shaken to its roots, and I personally do not believe I serve a God of coincidence. I believe something will come out of this, and I do not believe it will leave anyone lukewarm. I pray fervently that out of this pestilence will come a time of awakening, repentance, and revival to His glory! 

 

Kinship Christian Radio will be airing the National Day of Prayer Broadcast on all of our stations from 7-9 p.m. Please do tune in and join brothers and sisters in Christ from across the nation in praying for this country that was founded as “One Nation Under God.”

 

There are a variety of other events going on as well. They can be found here: https://kinshipradio.org/home/national-day-of-prayer-2020/

 

In the meantime, please join me in praying this prayer supplied by Kathy Branzell, President of the National Day of Prayer Task Force:

 

Lord, we exist to give You glory. We exist

because of Your glory, and in Your glory, as

our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. We

give you thanks and praise for every breath

and moment You have given to us. We

repent of our sin; for the shameful things

we have done against You and for our

silence when we did not speak up to

proclaim Your Name, profess Your Word,

or protect and practice Your will.

We ask Your forgiveness.

We pray that the knowledge of the glory of

the Lord will spread across our nation and

the entire earth as we seek Your Kingdom

and righteousness; as we walk in

obedience to You, and in humble unity,

love one another. Jesus, the Bible says that

You are “the knowledge of the glory of the

Lord.” You have taught us to pray,

commanded us to love, and commissioned

us to share Your gospel of grace. Your

glory fills our hearts and families, it

overflows into our neighborhoods,

workplaces, campuses, churches,

entertainment, and media. We give thanks

for our military and ask that Your glory

would spread to, and through them as they

preserve freedom around the world. We

pray for our government, that all of our

leaders and laws would be filled with Your

glory, that they would magnify Your Holy

Word and honor Your will and ways. We

pray that Your grace and glory would

spread to bring hope to the hopeless, and

love where there is hurt and hate. God, use

us as we pray your promise, that “the earth

will be filled with the knowledge of the

glory of the Lord as the waters

cover the sea.” In Jesus Name, Amen!

Today’s Praise

The LORD frustrates the plans of the nations

and thwarts all their schemes.

But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever;

his intentions can never be shaken.

What joy for the nation whose God is the LORD,

whose people he has chosen as his inheritance. 

Psalm 33: 10-12 (NLT)