It’s Not About Religion…

..it’s about relationship.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Like a Holy Ghost, it haunts me. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That’s why Paul wrote things like this:

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Real family.

 

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

 

It’s why we call Him “Father.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Of course! It’s about family!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Today’s Praise

And I will be your Father,

and you will be my sons and daughters,

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

 

Photo by Tracy Jones. Used with permission.

“I’m With the Band.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I distinctly remember the day I started listening to Kinship Christian Radio.

 

I don’t remember the exact year or the day of the week, but I was driving my car, listening to the “Classic Rock” station and they were playing some song I’d heard countless times before by Bon Jovi or some similar hair band and, as I actually paid attention to the lyrics that glorified sin, I thought to myself, “Man, is that stupid.” 

 

I started turning the dial, came across KJLY, and I think the first song that I really actually listened to was by Casting Crowns. 

 

And, just like that, I was done with secular rock-n-roll radio forever.

 

I had called myself a Christian for some years prior to that, but the rejection of the music that was the anthem of my former life of sin took an amazingly short time to leave a bad enough taste in my mouth to spit it out, literally, for good. 

 

I had another shocking epiphany when I realized how empty, vacant, and nonsensical the lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven” were:

“And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven.”

 

What?

 

I’m pretty sure the deepest meaning we can garner from those lyrics is directly correlated to an estimate of the quantity of the substances being abused at the time they were written. 

 

It was good to be free of the rock-n-roll monkey on my back and, as I grew in my faith, Casting Crowns was right there with me.

 

Kinship Radio Announcer Beth Crosby gave me my first Casting Crowns CD and I discovered a richness and joy in music I had never known before.

 

Oddly, during all this time, I never got to see them in concert. Something always came up. So, when I learned last winter that they were going to be at the Freeborn County Fair on August 2 of this year, I was one of the first to go online and buy tickets –and I got seats in Row I, Seats 1&2 for me and my lovely wife. (That’s Row I as in “I am cheap, ” not Roman Numeral I as in “Incredible.”)

 

Yes, I got the best seats in the cheap seats.

 

But then, shortly before the concert, I was asked to help at the merchandise table. (That’s “merch table” to the hip, band type dudes who speak the lingo.) I gladly agreed to volunteer, which meant I got to give away the tickets I’d bought and bless someone else. It also means I will be able to put on my resume: “Merchandiser for Casting Crowns, Summer, 2019.” And for about four hours of my life, I could have told people, “Yeah, I’m with the band.”

 

I could have, but I didn’t.

 

As I and other volunteers were being trained on how to sell T-shirts, hats, books, CDs, and other souvenirs from the concert, the young man in charge of all this, named John Michael, asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to be in charge of selling the T-shirts that were on clearance. Well, as we all know, I kind of have a minor reputation for “thriftiness” (See: “Incredibly Cheap.”) so this seemed right in my wheelhouse and I volunteered. 

 

As John Michael was instructing me on the details of the clearance T-shirts, (“They are all $15. The smallest size is in that box and the biggest size is in that box.”) I asked John Michael,

“So, how long have you been doing this?”

“About ten years,” he said.

“And how on this earth did you ever come to have a job selling Casting Crowns merchandise?”

“My dad’s in the band.”

“Really, which one is he?”

“He’s the lead singer.”

YOUR DAD is Mark Hall?” 

“Yes.”

 

It also turned out that John Michael is a fine young man whose presence I greatly enjoyed. He has a gentleness with joy and confidence without arrogance about him that makes a person feel welcome in his presence.

 

All throughout the night, as I enjoyed worshiping with the crowd and my favorite band, I was thinking of things I could ask John Michael to tell his dad for me.

 

I thought of telling him that, over the twenty years I’ve been listening to every song they’ve ever recorded, the lyrics to their songs have stuck with me, ministered to my soul, and I’ve pointed others to the music of Casting Crowns to minister to their souls.

 

I thought about telling him that, in my opinion, no band today has the richness and depth of solid theology that we see in the lyrics of Casting Crowns songs from their very beginnings to the present day.

 

I thought about telling him how the message of “Who Am I?” that God doesn’t need me, but gloriously, miraculously, He wants me has blessed me. I thought about how the message that every tear I’ve cried He holds in His hand from “Praise You in the Storm” has blessed so many people I’ve met who have suffered from anguish and depression.

 

I thought about telling John Michael how I had stood on the Mount of Ascension outside Jerusalem and as far as my eye could see in every direction, I had heard Jesus calling His people to come to Him as I cried tears of longing and of joy.

 

And, in the middle of the concert, when they were playing the only song they played that night that you won’t hear on the radio but has somehow been just this one song stuck in my heart for six months, a song I listen to almost every day, this man came up to the merch table and wanted to know if I could recommend something to help him through what he was feeling since his son had committed suicide three months ago.

 

I prayed for that man and he told me that his son hadn’t been himself for ten years. He said he knew his son was a believer and he knew his son was finally at peace. I told that man I had lost a son when he was only twelve days old, but I knew that my son wasn’t gone — he was waiting for me in a place where we would both spend eternity praising Jesus. And we both agreed there was lasting joy in that.

 

Later, I told John Michael that I had been thinking of all kinds of things for him to tell his dad, but I wasn’t going to do that to him there and now. I told him I would write it in this blog.

 

And so, John Michael and Mark Hall and all of Casting Crowns, thank you.

 

Thank you that you’re all part of a ministry that started with a name about humility and praise of our Lord Jesus. Thank you that the very name of your band reminds us that one day kings and queens and royalty will stand before the Lord Jesus and they will all fall down before Him and the 24 elders praising Jesus forever will throw their crowns at His feet in worship and praise. Thank you that it’s all about Jesus and Only Jesus. Thank you for reminding us that all an empty world can sell is empty dreams, but Jesus is the only name to remember. Thank you for this enormous circle of faith and trust in Jesus that, twenty years later, still says as clearly as it ever has, that we’re all just nobodies trying to tell everybody about Somebody who saved our souls.

 

Thank you that a man who had just lost his son walked away with a CD with a song called “Only Jesus” that says:

All the kingdoms built, all the trophies won
Will crumble into dust when it’s said and done
‘Cause all that really mattered
Did I live the truth to the ones I love?
Was my life the proof that there is only One
Whose name will last forever?

 

Today’s Praise

Lord, let Your fire make holy these lips unclean
Shine down in all Your glory, awaken me.

(From “Awaken Me” by Mark Hall and Seth Mosley — the song that followed me through the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Israel, and home.)

Photo of the Kinship “Merch Crew” by Tracy Jones, used with permission. (Blogger is the homeless-looking guy in the Hawaiian shirt.)

 

Happy IS Possible!

Last week, someone posted a link to an article entitled “Humans aren’t designed to be happy — so stop trying.”

 

Okay, I normally don’t jump right to “demonic influence” when I see something on the internet because I resist giving the enemy of our souls more credit than he deserves, but this… this gave me a visceral reaction.

 

The author, Beth Daley, starts by misunderstanding the phrase “pursuit of happiness” as mentioned as one of the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence as something derived from the fulfillment of our biological and material needs. (Unsurprisingly, Daley does not mention that the document clearly and unambiguously states that these rights are endowed to us by our Creator.)

 

As I have written before, the phrase “pursuit of happiness” is probably far more spiritual in its intent than we’re willing to admit in an age of hedonism, but the people who wrote the Declaration coupled that phrase with “life” and “liberty” in a vision of a people able to not only live quite, peaceable lives earning an honest living, but also working out their own salvation.

 

Daley goes on to site the experience of Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba in the tenth century, who achieved great military and cultural accomplishments, as well as great power and two harems. He made a point of tabulating the total number of days in his entire life that he was happy and, at some point, decided that they “amounted to precisely 14.”

 

Any Christian who’s read the book of Ecclesiastes could have seen that one coming roughly 1800 years before the Caliph figured out that the acquisition of material pleasures was a vanity and “a chasing after wind.” No big surprise there. Hedonism is a failed path to happiness. 

 

Then Daley goes into how evolution actually designed us to be miserable because, “depression as an adaptation plays a useful role in times of adversity, by helping the depressed individual disengage from risky and hopeless situations in which he or she cannot win. Depressive ruminations can also have a problem solving function during difficult times.”

 

First of all, clinical depression is a complex and serious medical condition often caused by something physically not working as it should inside the brain. It can be debilitating or worse. People are far more likely to make decisions harmful to them than beneficial while depressed. Depression as an evolutionary advantage is intellectually dishonest at its core and insidiously harmful to those struggling to be healed from it. It’s like saying cancer or a broken leg carries an evolutionary advantage.

 

Next Daley gives us this: “The current global happiness industry has some of its roots in Christian morality codes, many of which will tell us that there is a moral reason for any unhappiness we may experience. This, they will often say, is due to our own moral shortcomings, selfishness and materialism. They preach a state of virtuous psychological balance through renunciation, detachment and holding back desire.”

 

First of all, the “happiness industry” would go broke selling “renunciation, detachment and holding back desire.” Second, I actually feel bad for Daley and for Christianity in that this is how Jesus is perceived. 

 

Yes, we renounce sin and the selfish things of this world –precisely because God, in His wisdom, knows those things can never bring us true happiness. But when we detach ourselves from the temporary and transient things of this world, we find true happiness in the unseen and eternal nature of a loving God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We do not hold back our desire for Jesus, but find a full and abundant and glorious life in Him!

 

When I first saw this article, I skimmed it and quickly passed it off, but it came back to mind as I was listening to Alistair Begg on Kinship Christian Radio around lunch time. (By the way, if some evolutionist can explain why a Scottish accent brings me joy, I’d be willing to listen.)  Anyway, Alistair was talking about the Heidelberg Catechism and how it teaches us that we need know only three things to pass from this world to the next having lived a happy life: “…first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.”

 

As Alistair would say, “And there you have it, dear ones.”

 

It’s gratitude. 

 

It’s joy in knowing that despite how messed up and broken and hopeless you (and everyone else) is, God has set you free! You don’t have to strive, you don’t have to fight, you don’t even have to acquire wealth, money, power, or harems! 

 

Gratitude! Thanking and praising God is the key to happiness. It’s what causes prison walls to crumble! Gratitude and praise are the only logical response to the realization of what God has done for you and I through Christ Jesus!

 

And guess what? Psychological study after study has shown that consistent positive interactions, particularly ones that involve gratitude, increase happiness and decrease levels of depression. There are actual measurable increases of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin in the brain when we practice gratitude and praise God.  

 

When you read secular articles about how to practice gratitude to help with depression, its amazing how much the recommended therapy sounds like things Christians have been doing for 2000 years, including advice to “count your blessings,” “appreciate others” and “give thanks out loud before meals.” 

 

The apostle Paul probably had more reason to be depressed than anyone we personally know, and yet when he wrote to the Philippians that he had learned to be content “in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11&12 NIV)

 

But Paul was not merely content. No, his advice to the Philippians reads like a prescription for happiness: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

 

Today’s Praise

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. (Psalm 89:15 NLT)

(Photo by author. 🙂 )

 

 

The Dog Blog

As I am sure you have probably already heard, Kinship Christian Radio is sponsoring a big, exciting, amazing “Dog Days Competition” from now until August 8.

 

All you have to do to participate is take a cute or funny picture of your pet and post it on the Kinship Facebook page or email it to the general email address. The winner will be chosen by the vast North American General Public and will receive a 25 dollar gift certificate to your local pet store and a hardcover book by Max Lucado called “Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms”!

 

The winner will be announced on August 12 on the Kinship Facebook page.

 

Many of you already know that the phrase “dog days of summer” originated with the ancient Greeks and is a reference to the position of Sirius, the dog star, in the summer sky. This usually coincides with the hottest days of summer.

 

Of course, the competition and the phrase got me to thinking about dogs, and that got me to thinking about my brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic.

 

Yes, that seems like quite a stretch, so please allow me to explain.

 

On my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic, we hired a tour guide to take us around the Colonial Section of Santo Domingo, the capital, so we could learn something of the history and culture of our hosts.

 

We’ve all been told that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, but what we often forget is that Columbus did not land on Plymouth Rock or anywhere near the United States. No, Columbus landed on a large island he called Hispaniola, which was later divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The capital city, Santo Domingo, was built in 1496 and the home of Diego Columbus (Christopher’s son) still stands there as does the oldest cathedral in the Americas.

 

At one point, our tour guide told us the word “Domincan” means “dog of God.”

 

I found that repellent and even demeaning as I could not think of any Bible verses that cast dogs in a positive light, let alone imagine why God would need a guard dog or anything like it. So, because I’m the guy who can’t let things like that just go away without ever thinking about them ever again, I looked it up.

 

What I found was that the Dominicans were a group of friars and nuns within the Roman Catholic Church founded by Saint Dominic in 1215. (That’s over 300 years before the Reformation, so there were no Lutherans at the time, folks.) They were an order of preachers founded to preach the Gospel.

 

Okay, that’s wonderful, but there’s no dog connection there, so what gives? As it turns out, the word “Dominican” is actually a pun for “Domini canes” which means “dog/hound of God” in Latin

 

Of course! How could I have missed such an obvious connection, given my extensive knowledge and daily us of Latin? 

 

It also means “dog of God” is just a nickname based on a pun. 

 

But, wait a minute. I’m still left with the nagging thought of all those Bible verses I remember about dogs that are less than flattering:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. (Proverbs 26:11)

He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” (1 Samuel 17:43a)

Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. (Psalm 22:20)

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)

 

Indeed, many Bible scholars have noted that, at the time the Old Testament was written, to call someone a dog was to call them evil and imply they were of very low status. It is said this is so because at that time most of the dogs of ancient Israel ran wild and usually in packs. They probably survived largely on carrion, garbage, and scraps. While the dog is not listed as a ritually unclean animal in the Bible, eating carrion and (presumably) garbage was an unclean behavior.

 

Somewhere around the second century before Christ, Jewish and Greco-Roman art and literature begin to show the dog in a new and better light. Roman tombstones for pet dogs have even been found dating back almost 2000 years. The parable of Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) has dogs licking his sores. There is evidence that about this time, dogs came to be associated with healing.

 

There is also ample evidence that dogs were used in hunting and herding about this time, which would involve a considerable degree of interaction and companionship with humans.

 

The phrase “man’s best friend” in reference to dogs was coined by Frederick the Great of Prussia in the 18th Century and popularized by Ogden Nash in the 20th Century. Dogs only seemed to have gained the full measure of their immense popularity and reputations for faithfulness, companionship, and unconditional love after the discovery of the rabies vaccine in 1869. 

 

And so, it seems that our great love of our dogs is greatly and mostly attributable to the skills and blessings God has given us through veterinarians in our midst. (Yes, that is an obvious and transparent attempt to pander to a dear friend and fellow missionary.) 

 

Now that you have been filled with a vast knowledge of our beloved canine pets, remember to submit your adorable photos for consideration and the enjoyment of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Photos of cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, snakes, lizards, rabbits, pot-belly pigs, budgies, cockatiels, parrots, goldfishes, and whatever else you have are also allowed, but compared to a Chihuahua in plaid flannel…well, it’s probably a good thing I’m not eligible to compete.

 

Today’s Praise

 When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the LORD told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. Judges 7: 5&6 (NLT)

 

(Photo of Sophie in resplendent buffalo plaid by Tracy Jones, used with permission.)

 

Things We Say That Are Not Actually In The Bible

Pretty much anyone who listens to Kinship Christian Radio on a regular basis is aware that Announcer Allen Jones has an affinity for bears. 

Allen talks about bears, thinks about bears, sometimes allows himself to slightly resemble a bear (facial-hair wise), and even dreams about bears. 

Which is why, when I saw a metal sign for sale in a thrift store that said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Except for bears. Bears will kill you,” I knew I had to buy it for Allen. 

 

The sign got me to thinking about all the things we say all the time that are just not true. The phrase, “What does not kill me makes me stronger” is actually an aphorism taken from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols (1888) and, like much of what Nietzsche wrote, it’s flat-out wrong. Lots of stuff that doesn’t kill us makes us weaker and often does eventually kill us. 

 

The Bible doesn’t say anything like the Nietzsche quote. In fact, the verses that immediately come to my mind on this subject are:

“They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” John 16:2 (NIV)

and

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)

 

Perhaps the most misquoted verse in the Bible is, “Money is the root of all evil.”

No, boys and girls, no. Money is NOT the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 says,

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (NIV)

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. The real root of all evil is the pride inherent in the original sin that makes us want to be our own gods and do things our way. Money itself is not evil, but the love of it easily ensnares us.

 

Another common Bible misquote is “Do unto others as they do unto you” which is exactly the opposite of what the Bible says in Matthew 7:12:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

 

What about, “God helps them who help themselves?” 

Not in the Bible. Not even close. The quote is actually from an Aesop fable where Hercules says to a man whose wagon is stuck in the mud, “Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.” So, the quote is actually from a pagan fable talking about small “g” gods, not the LORD. Once again, the Bible, teaches exactly the opposite: 

“This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:5 (NIV)

 

Another one that was common some time ago was, “To thine own self be true” which is from Hamlet by Shakespeare and is not in the Bible at all. Lately, we have changed this to something along the lines of, “If you just believe in yourself, you can do anything.” This is common in a lot of movies and entertainment from Hollywood, but it’s an absolute lie. Again, the Bible teaches the opposite: 

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 (NIV)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)

 

Another one that is extraordinarily common is, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Actually, God will frequently give people more than they can handle by themselves so that they will come to him, as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:8&9: 

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (NIV)

Now, when it come to temptation, the Bible does say a way out will always be provided, but it will come from him, not us. 

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

 

Another one that’s common but flat out wrong (Sorry, “It’s a Wonderful Life”) is that when people go to heaven, they become angels who earn their wings. Nope. Angels are angels and people are people. 

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14 (NIV)

 

But the one phrase that really makes me cringe the most is probably one we all know does not come from the Bible.

If you think you have to “keep up with the Joneses,” I will gladly pull to the side and let you pass. I’m sure Allen would agree. 

Just be careful of the bears when you do.

 

Today’s Praise

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 NLT

(Photo of Allen Jones by Tracy Jones, used with permission.)

 

What You Don’t Know About Israel

Every time I hear the song “King” by Beckah Shae on Kinship Christian Radio, I think of Israel.

This is obviously because it contains the line, “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam.” (Hebrew for, ” Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe.”)

Regular readers of this blog know that I went to Israel in May and fell in love with the nation and it’s people.

 

As a natural outflow of my affection for the land that is the apple of God’s eye, I read up on some of Israel’s history and discovered that I knew almost nothing about how Israel came to be the Israel that it is today.

 

I think most Americans believe that the United Nations pretty much gave the country to the Jewish people after World War II because of Hitler and the Holocaust.

 

That’s not what happened at all. 

 

Israel has a very long and complicated history, much of which you can read about in your Bible. 

Abraham and his descendants first populated what would become Israel about 1800 BC. Moses led the children of Israel back to the Promised Land about 1300 BC. In 587 BC, Babylon invaded Israel and destroyed the first temple, which had been built by Solomon. The Persians conquered the Babylonians in 538 BC, and were in turn conquered by the Greeks in 333 BC. The Romans conquered the Greeks in 63 BC and destroyed the temple in 70 AD during a rebellion by the Jewish people which resulted in the Romans kicking the Jews out of Israel. A second revolt against the Romans took place in 132 AD, which the Romans put down. They then decimated the Jewish population. They renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and Judea as Palaestina to obliterate Jewish identification with the Land of Israel. 

 

When the Roman empire fell in 313 AD, Palestine came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire until 636 AD when it was conquered by Arabs, who ruled until 1099 when the Crusaders from Europe took over the region. Jewish immigration from Europe to Palestine increased greatly under European rule until 1291 when Egyptian and Syrian mercenary slaves called Mamluks ruled the land. They were defeated in 1516 by the Ottoman Empire (the Turks) which ruled Palestine for over 400 years, until 1918.  

 

During the First World War (1914-1918) the British reached an agreement with Arabs in the region to help them drive the Turks out of Palestine. In exchange for their cooperation in driving the Turks out, the British agreed to Arab independence of the region. However, once this had been accomplished, the British claimed the two sides had “different interpretations of the agreement” and they ended up sharing control of the area with the French. The Arabs considered this an act of betrayal.

 

This was further complicated by the “Balfour Declaration” of 1917 which promised British support for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine and a mandate the British achieved from the League of Nations in June of 1922 to continue control of the region. Palestine became “Mandatory Palestine.”

 

Meanwhile, a Jewish Zionist movement had been building in many areas around the world. Jews in Arab countries and Europe resurrected their native language, rededicated themselves to their national culture and prayer, and began moving back to the land of Israel in significant numbers in the 1920s.

 

In the 1930’s, Arab resistance to the Zionist movement and British rule began to build, culminating in the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. By the time the revolt concluded in March 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews, and 200 British had been killed and at least 15,000 Arabs were wounded. The revolt led to the formation of Israeli underground militias, primarily the Haganah. It also resulted in the belief that Jews and Arabs could never be reconciled, which gave rise to the idea of a partitioned country. The British also, in response to Arab opposition, issued the White Paper of 1939 which severely restricted Jewish land acquisition and immigration. The White Paper also convinced some parts of the Jewish community that the British were not to be trusted.

 

On June 10, 1940, Italy sided with Nazi Germany and declared war on the British Commonwealth. Within a month, Italy bombed Tel Aviv and Haifa in Mandatory Palestine, inflicting many casualties. 

 

Not surprisingly, Nazi Germany encouraged Arab leadership in Palestine to join them in their planned eradication of the Jews. Different factions of Jews within Palestine both aided and fought against the British during World War II.

 

Many Jews tried to flee Europe during WWII and immigrate to Palestine via ships and small boats. Many were successful, but their were also many who died as a result of Soviet torpedoes. The Royal Navy stopped many vessels and detained their passengers. When the war ended, their were 250,000 Jews stranded in “Displaced Persons” camps in Europe. President Harry Truman repeatedly requested that 100,000 Jews be granted immediate entry to Palestine, but the British maintained their ban on immigration.

 

At the end of WWII, there was strong Jewish resistance against continued British Rule of Mandatory Palestine. There were bombing, assassinations, and so much violence that 100,000 British troops were stationed there. The United States Congress delayed granting loans to the United Kingdom for reconstruction as a result of its policies. The situation became politically untenable and the British announced their desire to withdraw from Mandatory Palestine no later than the beginning of August, 1948.

 

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations approved a “Partition Plan” which divided Palestine up into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The resulting map had the two separate states intertwining and dividing each other into an incomprehensibly divisive and unworkable patchwork. Jerusalem would be a separate entity under UN control.

 

Nonetheless, Jews in Palestine accepted the plan with great rejoicing.

 

Arabs in Palestine utterly rejected the plan.

 

The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Britain accepted the plan, but the British announced they would not enforce it because the Arabs had rejected it. The UN resolution was a recommendation only and carried no force of law.

 

Immediately after the UN passed the resolution, civil war broke out in Mandatory Palestine and the British began to withdraw from the country. Fighting escalated and, early in 1948, the British announced that they were moving up the date of complete withdraw from Mandatory Palestine from August 1 to May 14, 1948. 

 

On March 25, 1948, President Harry S Truman urged the UN to take trusteeship of the area rather than partition it, saying “unfortunately, it has become clear that the partition plan cannot be carried out at this time by peaceful means… unless emergency action is taken, there will be no public authority in Palestine on that date capable of preserving law and order. Violence and bloodshed will descend upon the Holy Land. Large-scale fighting among the people of that country will be the inevitable result.”

 

British forces did withdraw on May 14, 1948 and future Jewish Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The Provisional Government of the State of Israel asked the United States for recognition and the US immediately replied, recognizing the provisional government as “the de facto authority.”

 

The following day, Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq marched their forces into the newly-formed State of Israel, starting the first Arab-Iraeli war. Israel had no heavy fighting equipment as they had not been a nation prior to that day. On May 29, 1948, Britain initiated an arms embargo via a United Nations resolution, but Czechoslovakia violated the resolution and supplied military hardware to Israel. 

 

Eventually, and against overwhelming odds, the Israeli army beat back the Arab forces. No peace agreements were ever signed, but permanent cease-fires were agreed to with the combative forces between February and July of 1949. 

 

Since then, there have been numerous battles over the land held by Israel, notably the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. 

 

In every instance, Israel has prevailed against overwhelming odds. 

 

Some would say “miraculously.”

 

 

Today’s Praise

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. Ezekiel 34:13 (NIV)

 

(Photo above is the valley of Jezreel, near Megiddo, where the Bible says the final battle of this world’s history will be fought. Taken by author.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Washington and Jesus

No doubt you will hear many references on Kinship Christian Radio on Independence Day in regard to God, our national freedom, and our freedom in Christ. 

 

It’s common in the secular media of our day to hold the view that our founding fathers were Diests who believed in a Creator God, but not the God of the Bible, and certainly not Jesus Christ.

 

I began to wonder about that several years ago when my family and I visited Washington, D.C. and George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. As I read the inscriptions carved in stone on the buildings and monuments and saw the references to Jesus Christ in our founding documents, it became abundantly obvious that this claim of Deism as the dominant religion of our founding fathers was utter nonsense. 

 

I was particularly struck by the plaque on George Washington’s tomb, located right there at Mount Vernon, which reads, “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. St John x1:25.26″

 

Those are Jesus’ own words –and they most certainly do not seem like the words one would find carved in stone on the tomb of a man who believed in a God but did not believe in Jesus Christ. 

 

So, I did a little more research and came across a book called, “George Washington: The Christian” by William J. Johnson. It is a compilation of some of Washington’s favorite prayers taken from a manuscript written in his own hand that sold at auction in 1891. It is not known if young George (who was twenty years old at the time) authored these prayers or copied them from another source. You can actually find it online at no cost.

 

In honor of Independence Day, our first President, and the freedom won for us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, here is George Washington’s Monday Morning Prayer:

O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul.

Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the ever lasting God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life.

Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the Gospel. Give me repentance from dead works. Pardon my wanderings, & direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber. But daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life. Bless my family, friends & kindred unite us all in praising & glorifying thee in all our works begun, continued, and ended, when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father. “

AMEN

 

Today’s Praise

PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF. LEV. XXV X

(Inscription on the Liberty Bell.)

(Photo of Mount Vernon by Tracy Jones)

The Truth

I had a rather interesting exchange with my lovely wife this morning.

 

We were in the bathroom, both getting ready for work, when I noticed a new box of facial tissues* on the counter.

 

“Oh! Thank you for putting out a new box of facial tissues*,” I said aloud.

 

She looked at me out of the corner or her eye and said, “Have you been avoiding taking that last facial tissue* out of the box so you wouldn’t have to put out a new box?

 

And then she looked me straight in the eye.

 

I looked away and said, “n… maybe.”

 

“Uh – huh.”

 

Several minutes later, while ironing my shirt, I said, “You know, the only reason I got in trouble there was because I was being nice to you for putting out a new box of facial tissues*.”

 

“No,” she said without hesitation, “you got in trouble because you’re lazy.”

 

“Yanno, this glass head thing kinda has it’s drawbacks,” I said.

 

And it’s true. 

 

When it comes to my wife, she can see right inside this old noggin. After 28 years, she can see exactly what’s going on between my ears at all times. A lot of the time, she knows what’s going on in there better than I do. 

 

Honestly, it can be kind of scary. 

 

Other times, it can be downright handy.

 

“Honey, have you seen my…um….um…”

 

“Your glasses are on your head.”

 

“Oh. So they are. Thanks, honey.”

 

Later that same day, Kinship Announcer Beth Crosby was talking about Jesus calling Himself, “The Truth” and she made the point that He gets to call Himself that name because He is exactly who He said He was and He proved it by rising up out of that grave. The tomb is empty. The grave cannot hold His body down.

 

Yes, Jesus is The Truth and yes, He does know us better than we know ourselves.

 

Sometimes, it’s hard when The Truth looks you square in the eye and you are forced to accept that truth whether you like it or not. It’s uncomfortable, but it changes you for the better. It’s something that’s needed, not for our comfort or our convenience, but for the good of our souls.

 

If not for The Truth telling us the truth, none of us would ever change.

 

I know I wouldn’t.

 

The miracle is that The Truth –even though it can see all the messed up, broken, weird, lazy, awful stuff inside us– still loves us with this undying, glorious, wonderful, amazing, holy, ridiculous love.

 

And for that, I am grateful beyond all measure. 

 

 

Today’s Praise

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love. 2 John 1:3 (NIV)

 

(Photo by the author.)

 

*My wife and I do not refer to them as “facial tissues,” but by the common brand name for the most popular kind of facial tissues, which is a Registered Trade Mark and (as I was repeatedly told in Big-Time Professional Writer’s School) would get me in all sorts and kinds of trouble if I were to use it in an off-handed, generic sort of way. Yes, there’s a scriptural application there, too. We will save that for another day if you don’t mind. Thank you very much. God bless you and thanks for reading. Yes. I know the facial tissues pictured are not the brand name I was referencing above. Thanks again!

 

To Boldy Go…

 

 

 

 

Blog Writer’s Log

Star date 17.6.19:01.19

Starship KCR104.5

 

Over half the designated parsec frame has elapsed since requests have gone out for written inter-personal communications and, although some responses have been received, the level of communiques is still below what we know is possible.

 

It appears the inhabitants of the planet below, while understandably engaged in familial matters such as graduations, weddings, beach parties, disco-dancing, baseball games, grilling, and an inexplicable activity referred to by the natives as “hanging out,” are unable to comply with our request for words strung together in subject-verb-object order and directed to our location either electronically or via the ancient methods involving wood fibers compressed into sheets and primitive writing instruments which apply a thin line of rapidly-drying colorant called, “ink.” 

 

The captain has put out a call for more power, but (in the words of our Chief Engineer) “we canna rejuvenate the dilithium crystals at this response rate” as he is “an engineer, not a magician, Jim!”  

 

We have no word on who “Jim” is. Current personnel logs show no crew member by that name, but past experience has shown a negative correlation between correcting the Chief Engineer when he gets like this and the success of any venture. 

 

Let us say some hard lessons have been learned in the past.

 

The entire Communications Staff has repeatedly sent various calls out over the airwaves via our signal-dispersing equipment, some even employing something called “humor” and we have met with some success, but we continue to strive for an even greater response rate. 

 

The Chief Science Officer has suggested using the Transporter to beam down to the planet and communicate directly with the inhabitants, but he concedes that our unexpected appearance could cause an emotional and illogical response among them. He has arranged for a user-friendly interface via the planet’s existing but primitive “World-wide web.” 

 

Our Tactical Officer’s only suggestions so far have been muttered in an indistinguishable and incoherent sub-dialect of Klingon. They have been no use to us so far.  

 

Meanwhile, the bridge crew continues to process responses garnered to this point. Reports of “heart-warming testimonies” and “genuine affection for our mission” are common and continue to boost moral among the entire crew. We yearn for each such message we receive and eagerly await their arrival each passing time unit. Tokens of our esteem specifically chose to show our gratitude will be sent to all who respond. 

 

We continue to thank Mission Control for all those involved. 

 

Respectfully signing off until further notice, Starship Pvt. Dan Jones

 

Translation: It’s still June Letter Month at Kinship Christian Radio and your emails and letters are needed and greatly appreciated! We thank our Lord Jesus Christ for every response!

 

Here’s a handy link to do so: 

https://kinship.secureallegiance.com/kinship/WebModule/Donate.aspx?P=JUNELETTER&PAGETYPE=PLG&CHECK=oyVw9hfpknaOH46n1rwE1L1YhDw50SikSh2nq0qouhg%3d

 

And, when you do so, you can choose from one of the following gifts:

 

Today’s Praise

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

The Third Plague

 

 

 

I refuse to complain about the gnats.

 

Granted, I have noticed them. But, after the brutality of last winter, I have resolved not to complain about these tiny insects no matter how annoying they get.

 

Let’s recap for a moment: I have a half-mile driveway (which I will grant you I knew would require some “winter maintenance” when I built the place) but I also have a 7,000-pound tractor and I still had to pay someone with a bigger tractor to open up my driveway, not once, but eight times last winter! Twice last winter I elected to spend the night in a hotel in Mankato rather than drive home in a blizzard. My wife and I were snowed in every single weekend during the month of January! And then, once it was over, when it was truly supposed to be over near the end of March, it came back for another month! So we got the joy of two brutal winters. 

 

I am from here, folks. I was born and raised in southern Minnesota and I am no stranger to layers and layers of plaid flannel, wool socks inside of more wool socks, and the life-saving attributes of a good pair of winter boots. I can go on for a half-hour on the introduction to the topic of “Winter Survival.”

 

So, no, I am not going to complain about teeny little insects that I do not have to plow in the dark of night when the wind is blowing 30 mph with temperatures so far below zero your ears will fall off if you go out there without ear flaps lined with the fur of dead animals inside your hat!

 

And as long as I am on a rant, the insects currently afflicting us are not even technically gnats. A true gnat looks like a miniature mosquito and it doesn’t even bite people. The insects we are experiencing now are called black flies. There are over 2,200 species and they typically have a life span of 1 – 3 weeks. Most require a meal of blood in order to reproduce, and (get this) they are abundant this year because of the plethora of snow we had last winter which produced an abundance of flowing water which they need to grow and mature. (So, we are back to “blame the winter.”)

 

Now, we should note at this point that the plague of gnats was one of the plagues God instructed Moses to call down on Egypt when Pharaoh would not release the children of Israel from their slavery. 

 

There are two interesting things about the plague of gnats: 1.) This was the first plague Pharaoh’s magicians could not duplicate. Turning water to blood and bringing forth a plague of frogs they could do. Gnats, no so much. 2.) Due to the way ancient Hebrew is translated, the passages could actually refer to lice, mosquitoes, or gnats. Most current scholars side with the gnats. 

 

The really interesting thing about the plagues God sent out against Egypt was that each one of them was a direct assault on one of the fake gods worshiped by the Egyptians:

Hapi, the Egyptian god of the Nile, could not prevent the Nile’s water from being turned to blood

Hecket, the god of fertility, water, and renewal had the head of a frog. She could not stop the plague of frogs that stunk up the land of Egypt with their decaying corpses.

Geb was the god of the dust of the earth. Moses struck the dust of the earth to bring forth the gnats and all the dust in Egypt turned to gnats.

Khepri, the Egyptian god of creation, movement of the sun, and rebirth had the head of a fly. He was powerless against the swarms of flies the Lord sent forth.

Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of love and protection was usually depicted with the head of a cow. She was powerless against the death of all livestock.

Isis, the Egyptian goddess of medicine and peace was powerless against the ashes that turned to boils and sores.

Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky could not stop the hail that rained down in the form of fire.

Seth, the Egyptian god of storms and disorder, had no dominion over the locusts sent from the sky.

Ra, the sun god, was powerless against three days of complete darkness.

And finally, Pharaoh himself, worshiped as the ultimate god over Egypt, said to be the very son of Ra himself manifest in the flesh, actually spoke that last plague of death upon his own son and all the first-born sons of Egypt.

And he was powerless to stop it. 

 

All of this reminds me that I have much to be grateful for. A few gnats (okay, black flies) really aren’t the end of the world, nor was last winter. The end of the world will come at a time that only the Father knows and it will make the gnats, last winter, and the ten plagues of Egypt look like a vacation at the beach by contrast.

 

In the meantime, Kinship Christian radio and you and I are supposed to be urging people to come to Jesus before it’s too late. While one might be able to make the case that complaining about the gnats is “weeping with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) I think it’s safe to say we will probably win more souls by being the salt and light Jesus called us to be.

 

Today’s Praise

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

 

(Photo by author. The pile of snow in my yard on 3/1/2019 I named “Mt. Non-Dom.” It took over a month before it finally melted.)