One of the songs on the New Music list at Kinship Radio is “In the House” by Crowder.

 

After we all spent a year not going to church because of COVID, the song beautifully reminds us of what church — what a really good church–is like.

 

In it, Crowder describes a church where anyone is comfortable, where anyone can find grace, where we just can’t help celebrating our salvation, where there is so much love and mercy and evidence of the glorious, indescribable love of God in Christ Jesus, you want to hang a “Home Sweet Home” sign in the narthex. 

 

But when I’ve drawn the attention of some of my pastor friends to that song, they haven’t had much to say. One said he wasn’t convinced that the church he served was very much like the church the song describes. 

 

Well, of course not. 

 

Churches are messy places made up of messy people. Church board meetings are filled with more talk of broken furnaces and faded carpet than they are of broken people and threadbare souls. We get caught up in the temporal issues of this world and almost forget about the mission we have to draw people to eternal glory.

 

Almost.

 

While no church is perfect, God is worshiped and glorified in those imperfect places. People do encounter His love in the pews and from the pulpit. We do pray and bless and help and truly care about each other. Do we do it imperfectly, poorly, and even forget to love like we should? Yes, but our example is a God who sees all that, knows it better than we know it ourselves, and still, even then, loves us enough to die for us.

 

So, yes, the song does describe a church that probably doesn’t actually, truly exist outside the idyllic, poetic world of a set of song lyrics.

 

But what if we used the song as an example, a template, of what we could be? What if just a couple of us tried to be that somebody who loves them and were waiting at the door when they walked in Sunday morning?

 

You can find an acoustic version of the song and an interview with Crowder and his thoughts on the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CqyfxNoRnU

Today’s Praise
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” Psalm 122:1 (ESV)

Last Friday evening, I met a man rummaging through a dumpster. He was wearing very dark sunglasses and had tattoos all over his arms, his neck, and his face. 

 

 

It was a construction/demolition dumpster, so he wasn’t rummaging for food. He’d managed to pull out some pieces of aluminum gutter and trim that probably had a scrap value of about two dollars. 

 

 

He told me his name was…. Well, he didn’t actually give me permission to use his name, so let’s say his name was “Dan.”

 

 

Dan said he just got out of jail. He said he’d gotten into a fight in a bar and it had completely ruined his life. He had no job and no real hope of being hired by anyone. He said he’d never fight again.

 

 

I talked with Dan for a little while, and encouraged him to go down to the local Salvation Army, as I had just spoken with a pastor who I knew was involved in a ministry there at that very moment. Dan didn’t want to go to the Salvation Army, so I asked if I could pray for him.

 

 

He said he was a Christian and he’d like it if I prayed for him. I did, and I asked God to bless him and lead him and guide him and protect him and give him a hope and a future.  I think Dan said, “Amen” when I finished but it didn’t seem very enthusiastic.

 

————0————

 

 

Come Sunday morning, I mentioned Dan to the folks at the church Bible Study. I described Dan and what had taken place and asked what our reaction would be if a tattooed man like Dan walked through the front door one Sunday morning. 

 

 

One lady said it would be difficult, but she would try very hard to accept him and welcome him.

 

 

Another man sitting next to me railed on how horrible it was that people now-a-days got tattoos like that and how he could just not understand how someone could do something like that to themselves.

 

 

I asked him if maybe tattooed Dan would be better of in a different church than ours.

 

 

“Maybe,” he muttered.

 

 

When the service began a couple of minutes later, the very first song we sang was “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury. We’ve played that song many, many times on Kinship Radio since it came out in 2018. It won many Christian music awards and it’s a favorite of mine. I have sung that song many times with brothers and sisters in Christ in Guatemala, at a Christian camp in northern Minnesota, in the Dominican Republic, in Israel, and in more than one local church. It holds many fond memories for me.

 

 

The song was not without controversy, however. That single word, “reckless” was a bone of contention for some believers. They said God is not reckless –that He knows exactly what He is doing. Asbury’s reply was that leaving the ninety-nine to go find that one lost sheep is indeed an action many people would consider reckless. 

 

 

I can see both sides of that argument, and I’m a guy who has words as kind of a “thing” in his life. In fact, I’m pretty sure words are the gift God gave me to do the things He wants me to do. So, looking at the song as a whole, I do not have a problem with the word “reckless” in the context of this song. It is indeed reckless to leave the ninety-nine and go off searching for one lost sheep. 

 

 

There’s no shadow you won’t light up
Mountain you won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall you won’t kick down
No lie you won’t tear down
Coming after me
The overwhelming, never-ending
Reckless love of God
It chases me down
Fights ’til I’m found
Leaves the ninety-nine

The apostle Stephen was reckless. (See Acts 7) One can make a legitimate case that Jesus chose Peter specifically because he was impulsive and reckless. And many of us would certainly say the way in which Jesus spoke to the Pharisees was beyond reckless, even incendiary.

 

Once Jesus had risen from the grave, given the Great Commission, and ascended into heaven, all of the apostles lived reckless lives. None of them feared death and all fully gave their lives over to Christ. 

 

——–0———-

 

 

Before even stepping into the church that morning, this is the verse I found in my daily devotions:

 

 

No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart. John 2:25 (NLT)

 

 

And as I thought about that verse, I realized that while tattooed Dan may have a marijuana leaf and flaming, screaming skulls clearly visible on the outside of his body, Jesus clearly sees and knows what’s tattooed on my heart. Non-tattooed Dan is no better than tattooed Dan and never has been. The difference is only what the human eye can see. The difference is on the outside only. Both tattooed Dan and non-tattooed Dan do indeed have a hope and a future because Jesus, even though He can see how disfigured and vandalized both our hearts are, loves both of us enough to light up every shadow in us, to climb every mountain of unbelief and despair, and to tear down every wall we’ve put up against Him so that we can be found and brought back amongst the ninety-nine. 

 

 

That’s reckless.  That’s love.

 

 

And I hope and I pray with all my heart that every lost soul who is broken and battered and convinced he or she has no hope and no future would one day step through the doors of a church that boldly, recklessly puts their fears aside and rushes to welcome that lost sheep back into the flock. 

 

 

Today’s Praise

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18a (ESV)

 

 

 

 

The newest member of our family is named “Jack.” 

 

Jack is about two feet tall and weighs about 70 lbs. You can tell from looking at him he’s mostly German Shepherd and about 15% horse.

 

Of course, I’m joking. In the big north woods of Itasca County there are number of lakes with funny names and one of them is Jack the Horse Lake, and so I tease Jack with this bit of trivia that is fascinating to no one but me. Jack is actually a very good dog. He’s even-tempered, obedient, house-trained, and has absolutely zero tendency to be noisy. He’s far bigger than the previous canine member of the family (a Chihuahua who had her own diminutive charm) so his size is quite a change for us. 

 

And, last Sunday morning, Jack the non-horse actually opened my spiritual eyes as I was ironing my church shirt.

 

I was in the laundry room, of course, and Jack (who is not normally allowed into the laundry room) had snuck in using his Ninja-like stealth to watch me iron that shirt. Jack is fascinated by everything I do. I assume that will diminish after he’s been a part of the family for more than two weeks, but he was watching intently as I smoothed out each and every wrinkle until he was distracted by all the items on the laundry room floor which he had not previously had occasion to sniff. Jack, like all dogs, loves sniffing things. Among those items was a jug of bleach.

 

As his nose drew near the bleach, I said,

 

“Jack.”

 

And Jack lifted his head and took a half-step back from the bleach.

 

Exactly one second later, Jack took a half-step forward and lowered his nose once again toward the bleach bottle. And I said,

 

“Jaaack.”

 

And Jack turned his face to me, looked me square in the eyes, and gave me the puppy-dog eyes. He very clearly and obviously said (in an entirely non-verbal way), “But I like sniffing stuff. I’m not hurting anybody. Please let me sniff the bleach.”

 

“No, Jack. Sorry. Bleach is bad for puppies. Move along, little doggie.”

 

And later, it occurred to me I had been giving God the puppy-dog eyes my whole life.

 

God told me not to sin. He’s very carefully explained all the things He knows that will hurt me or even kill me, but there is this part of my being that just can’t seem to resist trying each particular sin just once to see what it’s like. A lot of things don’t even technically seem like sin at the time. Chocolate donuts, chocolate-covered raisins, chocolate-covered peanut clusters… or pointing my finger at another human being in condemnation because I caught them in some sin I’m very, very sure is far worse than all the sins I’ve ever committed. 

 

God hates sin. That’s not a popular thing to say today because it carries with it that condemnation thing I was just talking about. God hates sin because it wounds, kills, and destroys the people He loves. In other words, all people. 

 

There’s not a one of the Ten Commandments that’s a victimless crime. Every one of those rules we find impossible to keep are there because God loves us and doesn’t want to see us with a snoot full of deadly Clorox. 

 

And, that’s why David said:

 

How I delight in your commands! How I love them! Psalm 119:47 (NLT)

 

This is probably why David is a man after God’s own heart and I’m the guy who bought a bag of chocolate-covered peanut clusters, squirreled them away in my desk at work thinking I could limit myself to one a day for a week or more and finished the entire bag that afternoon

 

That “chief of sinners” thing Paul wrote about in 1 Timothy 1:15 could have my actual name written between the lines. I have actually considered buying a T-shirt with Paul’s “wretched man lament” from Romans 7:24 printed on it. 

 

And that’s probably why Jesus taught us to pray that we would be lead away from temptation rather than praying we would simply resist temptations as they come along. Sometimes, it’s better if the laundry room door is closed, Jack. 

 

It’s hard to resist temptation. The people who put a box of six chocolate donuts on sale for $2.99 are not doing it to harm me. Unlike Jack, I have the ability to remember and to realize that  the plans God has for me are far more glorious, far more wonderful, far more pleasurable and fulfilling than the result of over-eating –or tearing down the soul of another human being made in His image in a vain attempt to elevate my own. 

 

Today’s Praise

But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:16&17 (NLT)

 

Many of us struggle with internal discipline and I am no exception.

 

At one point, I considered running for President of the Procrastinators Club of North America, but I never got around to it.

 

But seriously, folks, if you think about it, if God exists outside of time and He is eternal, He’s got all the time in the… well, in the universe. Technically, that’s not even accurate. God has all the time there is in infinity. 

 

So, God is not constrained by time. God has never been too early or too late for anything. His timing is always perfect, and yet, we humans are constantly praying for Him to do things quickly. The Bible is chock-full or verses urging God to act quickly.

 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

 

But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay. Psalm 40:17 (NIV)

 

Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name. Daniel 9:19 (NIV)

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had much success telling God to do things according to my time schedule. Now, maybe Peter, David, and Daniel had a little more clout with the Almighty than I do, but I’m thinking those verses are more examples of our LORD being mercifully willing to put up with human impatience than Him adjusting His schedule to fit ours. 

 

So, even though God is not constrained by time and we are made in His image, that doesn’t mean we have an eternity to get things done. The Bible is also very clear about procrastination:

 

Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NIV)

 

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

 

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4 (NIV)

 

Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. Proverbs 18:9 (ESV)

 

Ouch.

 

So, how does one develop the discipline to stop procrastinating? How do we get up off the couch, switch the TV off, and just do what we know should be done?

 

Some years ago, my lovely wife (who has a work ethic of legendary proportions and a zero-tolerance policy for lame excuses) taught me a phrase she acquired at some point in her upbringing which perfectly and succinctly summarizes all of the Biblical wisdom on procrastination:

 

“Suck it up, Buttercup.”

 

She was using this phrase long before that fancy big-shot sneaker company stole it and modified it into the much milder and less punchy, “Just do it. ®” slogan. 

 

Yes, it works for them and a bunch of guys who get paid millions of dollars to play with balls of various shapes and sizes, (and to whom I would never refer to as “Buttercup” to their faces) but somehow the negative air pressure floral slogan works as a better catch-phrase in my little corner of His Kingdom than some trendy swoosh-mark emblazoned on my tenny runners.

 

Perhaps it’s a bit too harsh for many of you, but when I have serious TV-face and, right after the commercial break I will find out what 100 people surveyed named as a body part they most often scratched (As reruns of “Family Feud” are my witness, I am not making that up.) I absolutely need something powerful and motivating to tear myself away from those mindless flickering pixels. 

 

The apostle James didn’t pull any punches on this one: 

 

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17 (NIV)

 

The glorious and wonderful (and often miraculous) part is that if I am obedient and faithful and just start doing what I know I should do, the Holy Spirit comes along and seems to fill in all the blanks and brings it to completion –and the result is to His glory, not mine!

 

Today’s Praise

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” Revelation 22:12 (NIV).

 

Just a  couple of years ago, I pulled into my favorite purveyor of gasoline, coffee, ice cream novelties, hot sandwiches, and various convenience items and discovered that they were now selling fried chicken.

 

That’s right. Fried chicken

 

 

I really like fried chicken. Even more than steak. Or popcorn. Or tacos.

 

And it wasn’t even bad fried chicken.

 

It was as if someone at Corporate Headquarters held a meeting where someone said, “Hey, you know that Dan Jones guy who is always coming in to our stores? I kinda like him. In fact, I really like him. What could we do to make Dan Jones happy?”

 

And, BOOM! Just like that, I could buy actual fried chicken in dozens of convenient locations at almost any time I wanted to. 

 

Well, that’s how Kinship Radio feels about you.

 

Yes, the people who bring you Christian music, teaching, and programming of all kinds all day every day not only like you, they actually want to know what you would like to hear over the radio ministry. They are seeking your input to come up with more ways to bring you programming specifically designed to bring joy to your life.

 

All during the month of September, if you click on this link https://kinshipradio.org/home/september-survey-2021/ fill out the September Survey to give your honest opinion of the ministry, your name will be entered into a drawing to win some pretty better-than-fried-chicken prizes including: a Versa Fitbit watch, Bose wireless headphones, Bose wireless speakers, wireless earbuds, and a devotional from The Chosen TV series. (“The Chosen”, by the way, is IMHO the best depiction of Jesus and His ministry I have ever seen on TV.)

 

If you prefer a paper survey, you can call 1-800-810-5559 and one will be mailed to you– because people who actually like you don’t require you to use the internet for a survey if you don’t want to. 

 

And (as if that wasn’t enough) the people who bring you Kinship Radio would also like you to meet the new Executive Director Jennifer Epperson at a number of free events throughout the listening area–that include free ice cream. Yes, free ice cream. 

 

Here’s a link to when and where all six of those Ice Cream Socials are being held: https://kinshipradio.org/home/ice-cream-social-events/

 

So, while I really like fried chicken, what’s going on with Kinship Radio this month is a whole lot better. It’s eternally better. 

 

Today’s Praise

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

A week in northern Minnesota where the trees are tall and the lakes are deep and clear does something supernatural to the soul.

 

The grandeur and the majesty of these places seems to call to a particular part of me. There is a peace, a warmth, like being inside some work of art created by God Himself for His glory and out of His boundless and eternal love.

 

It’s like being invited into the throne room.

 

On two separate occasions I had personal encounters with some very large fish. In both instances, I had maneuvered the boat to within about 30 feet of the reed line and was casting a lure up into the reeds. The water in these areas was clear and less than three feet deep, so I could easily see all that was unfolding. In the first instance, it was a northern pike about three feet long. The second time, it was a muskellunge somewhere between three and four feet long. Both times, the fish simply appeared. I did not see where either of them had come from, but each of them leisurely swam toward my lure for just a brief second as if to positively identify it, then effortlessly turned a few degrees and silently went on its way as if to say, “I see you have thrown something into my lake. It is of no interest to me.”

 

The sentinels of the throne room were undisturbed, indeed unconcerned, with my presence. 

 

The sun rose in the mornings among mist and fog and the rose glow of a new day. It set in glorious splendor, lighting the clouds from below with a calm but fiery brilliance of pink and blue and red and gold. The loons swam and fished and called to each other –all without me worrying about it or orchestrating it or checking my watch or my emails. 

 

And the pines towered over all of it, stretching their praises to the One who made it all. 

 

In this place, time makes its own pace. In this place, time is its own master. The eons roll on.

 

It took several days for the peace to really soak in. The striving and the busyness of life in the work-a-day world infects me and I don’t even realize it owns me, controls me, until its been gone long enough to remember what silence sounds like. 

 

I didn’t appreciate the true fullness of the blessing I had received until I began the drive home through the dappled forest of green and red and yellow. And, for some reason, (maybe it was because Revelation Song was playing) I began to think about the actual throne room and the songs and the praises of the angels that rise continually from them before the LORD our God. 
Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lightning rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only one who’s King 
(Partial lyrics from Revelation Song, written by Jennie Lee Riddle, sung by Kari Jobe.)
And it occurred to me that some of those angels had fallen away. Fully a third of them had rebelled against God, and now they were without the glorious, amazing hope and promise He had given me and all of humanity. 

 

A third of the angels whose natural home was Heaven itself, who existed with God outside of time in His throne room forever, had chosen to rebel against Him and join with the enemy of our souls in a war with God.  Those whom He created as His messengers, as the warriors of His angel armies, chose eternal exclusion and eventual destruction over eternity with the King of all that is, was, and ever will be.

 

They chose to live outside of His grace.

 

So great was their fall from that grace, so irredeemable their rebellion, that they will never be allowed back into the throne room. They are outside of grace forever.

 

Jesus did not die for them.

 

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. Hebrews 2:14-16 (NIV)

 

Something inside me wants me to have empathy for angels who chose to become demons, to have sympathy for the devil, but something else tells me not to concern myself with biting things that I can clearly see have hooks in them.

 

Today’s Praise

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom

and thanksgiving and honor

and power and strength belong to our God

forever and ever! Amen.”

Revelation 7: 11&12 (NLT)

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Cedar Point Resort and Campground, Marcell, MN.

I’ve been pondering the topic of freedom for some time now and, just before I sat down to write this, Kinship Radio was playing “Freedom” by Jesus Culture. The song is based on 2 Corinthians 3:17

 

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NLT)

 

Oddly, we as a nation based on freedom don’t talk about freedom much anymore. We seem to have forgotten the pioneering spirit that longed for freedom and exchanged it for promises of safety, security, and comfort. (“The Pioneer’s Way” by Kinship Radio Executive Director Jennifer Hayden Epperson is a worthy read.) 

 

But I think the concept of freedom is not only central to the ideology of this nation, but a core foundational aspect–perhaps the foundational aspect– of our relationship with God.

 

I have also lately come to the theological conclusion that an enormous chunk of Christianity can be illustrated, illuminated, and explained with Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)

 

That includes the topic of Christian freedom.

 

When the younger son asks his father for his share of the inheritance, he is essentially asking the father for permission to live his life as if the father were dead. An inheritance is not granted while the father still lives, yet the son asks for unlimited freedom. And that is what he gets. He leaves his father and goes off to live his life as if his father no longer exists. His father, although almost certainly knowing that the younger son will come to no good end, grants that son the freedom to go off and live as he pleases. The father waits and yearns for his son’s return, but nowhere in the parable does Jesus say that the son sent word or communicated with his father in any way while he was gone. For all the father knows, the son is as good as dead.

 

But, when the son “came to his senses” (verse 17) he comes up with a plan to return to his father and beg to be treated like one of his hired servants. The son is now willing to give up the freedom his father granted him in exchange for food, lodging, and a wage.

 

The father, rejoicing at the son’s return, not only restores the son’s freedom but his status as a member of the family as well.

 

The older brother, incensed by his father’s outpouring of mercy and grace, fumes at the father’s generosity and refuses to participate in the BBQ party with its rich food, music and dancing. 

 

The younger brother left seeking freedom, only to realize he had been free all along. The older brother, apparently jealous that he didn’t get to waste a huge chunk of pop’s money he didn’t get to waste a huge chunk of pop’s money on his own BBQ, is stomping, tooth-grinding mad at old Dad’s generosity because he’s always been the good kid and, well, he never got a party.

 

And…

 

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.” (NLT)

 

The older brother has always been free. This is the same father who granted the younger brother his inheritance (which would have been a third of all the father’s assets) simply because he asked. From what I can tell after thinking this over carefully, the older brother probably didn’t get his party and feast with his friends because he didn’t ask! Throughout the parable, pops was clearly shown to be more than generous with the party supplies. (No, we are not going down the Prosperity Gospel bunny trail from here.)

 

And so it is with our freedom. What kind of God would create people that He didn’t intend to be free? We long for freedom, we yearn to make our own choices –even if they are bad choices. It is an essential element of what it is to be human. God is not a puppet-master or a dictator or a tyrant. (This does not mean He cannot be very, very persuasive. Ask a guy called “Jonah.”)

 

When I wrote above that a huge chunk of Christian theology can be illustrated, illuminated, and explained with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, one aspect that the parable does not cover is justice. The younger brother did waste a third of dad’s assets, and the father forgives that debt without even mentioning it. But, what about that? Part of the older brother’s complaint is legitimate. There is a debt that is not repaid in the parable.  The younger brother, even though accepted back into the family, would probably live the remainder of his life trying to repay the debt of the money he wasted.

 

But the cross changes all that. Jesus told the Parable of Prodigal Son prior to the cross. The cross balances the scales of justice because Jesus pays the debt we could never repay. Nothing is owed. It is all paid, forever and ever and for all who will simply accept the gift of salvation by believing in Him.

 

The cross buys our freedom, cancels our debt, and sets us truly free.

 

The empty tomb is our proof that the freedom He bought for us is eternal. The Holy Spirit present in us is our seal and guarantee that we are heirs to that eternal freedom.

 

Today’s Praise

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you  free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1&2 (NIV)

 

 

I have just returned from MANCAMP. (And yes, it is properly spelled in all caps.)

 

MANCAMP is a Friday evening though Sunday morning event held at Pinehaven Christian Assembly on Long Lake just north of Park Rapids, Minnesota.

 

It’s a beautiful camp in the piney woods next to a gorgeous lake staffed by wonderful people.

 

The concept behind MANCAMP is to help and equip men to be better husbands, fathers, Christians, and men. There is praise and worship and excellent Bible teaching. (Uriah knew. More on this in an up-coming blog.) There is also fellowship between men practiced through bicycling, golf, fishing, hiking, and shooting. 

 

As if that wasn’t enough, the men attending are fed like kings. Friday night was pulled pork sandwiches with baked beans, a salad, a slice of watermelon, and chips. Saturday’s fare included a wonderful breakfast where they were not shy with the bacon, lunch with generous and tasty sub sandwiches, and supper that included prime rib (yes, prime rib), fried potatoes, grilled corn on the cob, watermelon, dinner roll, salad, and cheesecake with strawberries, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. Sunday’s breakfast was egg bake with sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, fruit, and an enormous frosted cinnamon roll.

 

Oh, and every night at about 9:00, there was ice cream with chocolate and nuts and strawberries and Monster cookie crumbles.

 

Actually, to say we were fed like kings is inaccurate. A king is fed food that is designed to show off the artistic culinary expertise of some chef for the purpose of impressing not only the king, but more importantly, his guests. A king’s meal has a lot more fluff to it than MANCAMP food. A king’s meal is also designed to ensure the chef is not clapped in irons and thrown in the dungeon.

 

No, we were fed like we were loved. In fact, I wrote on the MANCAMP evaluation form that I felt that at every moment every member of the staff actually liked me. It felt like, when they were planning this event, someone said, “Hey, yanno I bet Dan Jones would like prime rib and giant cinnamon rolls and bacon and bacon and…”

 

It’s one thing to love someone, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to actually like the person you love. 

 

It reminded me of Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. Grandma would cook an enormous dinner with roast beef and onions and potatoes and carrots and corn and sliced cucumbers with the white sauce on ’em, and fresh sliced tomatoes from the garden and pickles and beet pickles and bread and butter and about seven other delicious things and it all tasted so good I would eat until I was so full I almost hurt and then… And then Grandma would magically appear out of the sky with a pie in her hand and say, “Ooooh, and there’s pie.”

 

Once, I very foolishly said, “Oh Grandma, I’m so full, I couldn’t…”

 

And before I could finish my sentence, Grandma (with a look in her eye like I had just stomped on her heart) said, “It’s chocolate cream pie.”

 

With graham cracker crust.

 

My favorite pie. She knew that and made it just for me. 

 

So I had pie.

 

Now, the intent of this blog is not to make you incredibly hungry. 

 

The point is that God Himself feeds us like this every day. He spared no cost, He held nothing back in giving us His Son, His only Son, to spare us from our own sins and failures. He gave us Jesus, not just because He loves us (and He does) but because He genuinely likes people. 

 

God likes Dan Jones. Insert your name in that sentence. God likes Your Name Here.

 

Even when I don’t like myself, God still loves me. Sure, God may not like when I crush Grandma’s heart or do something stupid that drives a wedge between us, but He was the one who made the way back to Him. He was the one who came running to me when I was still a long, long way off.

 

And, through the body and blood of His own Son, He invites us to sit at His table and not just eat with him, but to commune with Him. We are invited to sit at the table as sons and daughters, as heirs to His kingdom, as the family He can’t wait to have over and pull out all the stops with all the best stuff He’s got. 

 

It’s a love beyond my ability to describe. It’s a love beyond anyone’s ability to fully comprehend. (Ephesians 3:19)

 

Now, I do not know if there will be prime rib in heaven, but if there’s chocolate cream pie with graham cracker crust, I’m gonna need a napkin to keep the tears of joy from washing the whipped cream off the top. 

 

Today’s Praise

In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies

will spread a wonderful feast

for all the people of the world.

It will be a delicious banquet

with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.

Isaiah 25:6 NLT

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay. Not a photo of the actual ice cream served at MANCAMP, but the ice cream served actually tasted better than this looks.

 

 

I woke up in the middle of the night with the distinct impression that I was supposed to write a blog this week about the Flintstones. 

 

That’s right, for some reason I feel compelled to write about the first prime-time cartoon sitcom series in American history — even though one would think it has absolutely nothing to do with Kinship Radio, Christianity, or Jesus.

 

“The Flintstones” aired on ABC from 1960-1966 and covered the wacky exploits of Fred Flintstone, his wife Wilma, and their neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble. Later, Fred and Wilma would have a daughter named Pebbles and Betty and Barney would adopt a little boy named Bamm-Bamm. 

 

As the theme song told us, the Flintstones were “the modern stone-age family.” They had cars which were powered by their feet…except in one episode where Fred fills his car up with Ethel from the trunk of a wooly mammoth named Ethel. They also had televisions made out of stone and the garbage disposal was a dinosaur under the sink which ate the things scraped off the plate.  All of this took place in a town called “Bedrock.”

 

Fred Flintstone was loud, brash, egotistical, and pretty much obnoxious in a wide variety of ways. He often came up with “get rich quick schemes” and would frequently lie and/or cheat to get what he wanted. 

 

He was also sexist. In my humble opinion, the most sexist statement ever uttered on network television came out of Fred Flintstone’s animated mouth when he said, (upon learning that Wilma had bought a minkosaurus stole on credit at a local store) “Wilma Flintstone, have you lost your mind? Now take that thing back before I sue the store for selling it to you!

 

Despite all his flaws, Fred’s best friend Barney was a true and loyal friend. And therein lies our first Biblical connection. “Barney” is the common nickname for someone with the given name “Barnabas.”  The disciple Barnabas is described in the book of Acts as “a generous giver, a faithful friend, a committed encourager, and a forgiving brother.” The cartoon Barney was all of those things to Fred, even when Fred was abusive, uncaring, greedy, and even foul-mouthed to him. (I believe Fred’s go-to cuss word was something like “rassa-frassa-blatza-natza” but I could be wrong on this one. I could find no definitive reference or spelling for this bit of historical information.)

 

But the thing about Fred Flintstone that was striking was that, despite all his flaws, in every episode of the series I can remember, Fred eventually comes to his senses, realizes how he has failed, and repents of his sins. This is followed by Wilma and the rest of the cast showing him grace, forgiving him, and rejoicing with him.

 

In short, each episode is a retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

 

Charles Dickens said the Parable of the Prodigal Son is the greatest short story ever told. And it has been re-told over and over and over again in different forms.  The Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden and Kid Rock have all recorded songs titled “Prodigal Son.” Even Shakespeare referenced it in two of his plays.

 

Whether the prodigal was Fred Flintstone or Ralph Kramden  or Beaver Cleaver or Jerry Seinfeld, it’s a story and theme that is timeless and everlasting. Each and every one of us is a prodigal. Sometimes every day of our lives. Each of us falls down and finds him or herself feeding pods to pigs instead of being crowned the Grand Poobah we thought we’d one day become.

 

Each of us longs to come home to the Father.

 

The glorious news is that the Father comes running every time. He puts sandals on our aching and bare feet, takes off our dirty clothes and gives us a fine robe, washes us up and puts a ring bearing His family crest on our finger, and throws a banquet with music and dancing for us when there was no way we deserve it or could have earned it.

 

And, come to think of it, maybe that’s why “YABBA-DABBA-DO!” sounds so much like “HALLELUJAH!”

 

Today’s Praise

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:31-32 (NLT)

As I was driving to work Monday morning through the fog, Kinship Radio Announcer Ryan Freed played “Best News Ever” by MercyMe and “Grace Wins” by Matthew West back-to-back. They are both excellent songs in their own right, but together they packed a powerful one-two theological punch. 

 

So many Christians I know struggle with guilt. It’s like a fog that has crept into their lives that causes them to struggle with feeling they’re not good enough, that they’re not doing this “Christianity” thing right, that perhaps they will step into eternity one day and Jesus will look them in the eye and say,  ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:23 NIV)

 

Some struggle with the guilt of their past. Some struggle with the guilt of continually being tempted by sin. Some struggle with the guilt of not doing enough for Jesus and the persistent thought that they don’t deserve His love. Some struggle with the guilt of having failed at something they tried to do for the Kingdom. 

 

In the light of Good News, that’s all hogwash.

 

Some say, “Don’t ask for help
God helps the ones who help themselves
Press on, get it right
Otherwise, get left behind”
Some say, He’s keeping score
So try hard, then try a little more
Hold up, if this were true
Explain to me what the cross is for.”

 

One of the names of the enemy of our souls is “The Great Accuser.” (See Revelation 12:10) His accusations are meant to disable us, to question who we are in God’s eyes, to render us ineffective.

 

But the best news ever, in the words of the song and in reality, is the fight’s already been won. The work’s already been done. Jesus died on the cross, an atoning sacrifice for every and all sins of those who believe, and He rose from the grave alive! 

 

Grace wins!

 

Jesus did it for you. He did what you and I could never do. 

 

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time!

 

The war between guilt and grace was waged two thousand years ago on a hill called Calvary and grace won! And, just as Matthew West sings, the proof is in every believer who has been made a new creation in Christ Jesus and has left the past behind. The guilt and shame, the striving to be good enough for God are gone forever and we are free!

 

We are children of the most high God, heirs to His kingdom, dearly-loved members of His own family. 

 

And so (Bible quiz time) there is now how much guilt, how much condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1 (NIV)

 

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

 

When Paul begged God to take away the thorn in his flesh, God’s reply was that His grace was sufficient for Paul and the Greek word for “sufficient” in this passage is Ἀρκεῖ which carries an underlying meaning of being not just sufficient, but able to ward off and assist and satisfy

 

Yes, God’s grace is indeed more than sufficient. It’s why John Newton called it amazing in yet another song that has stirred hearts and souls for a long, long time. 

 

And that grace, that amazing grace is so powerful it works for everybody in every circumstance. 

 

For the prodigal son
Grace Wins
For the woman at the well
Grace Wins
For the blind men and the beggar
Grace Wins
For always and forever
Grace Wins
For the lost out on the street
Grace Wins
For the worst part of you and me
Grace Wins
For the thief on the cross
Grace Wins
For a world that is lost
Grace Wins

 

Sometimes it’s hard to think of grace as powerful, but it is the gentle wind, the breath of God that clears away the fog and allows people to see themselves as God sees them–as loved and valued and accepted by our Abba Father.

 

And yes, that means we quit trying to be good enough for God, we quit trying to grab hold of and earn what He freely gives, and we submit our souls to the gift being offered to us.

 

It means letting Jesus be the LORD of all.  

 

And there is power in that beyond our ability to think or imagine. 

 

Today’s Praise

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3-8 (NLT)