Joyful Obedience

 

Kinship Christian Radio Announcer Beth Crosby was sharing some lovely thoughts and songs about obedience on Saturday morning that got me musing about that topic and its course throughout my life.

 

During my misspent youth, (and I am guessing I am not the Lone Ranger) I thought of obedience to God as something mandatory that, if not done correctly, would result in a big boot from the sky squashing me like a bug. 

 

All stick, no carrot.

 

I spent a lot of time rebelliously gnawing on the carrot while dancing around the stick.

 

Eventually, that phase was replaced by a kind of Red Green approach to obedience. (For those of you who have never watched the Red Green show on PBS, it’s about a gray-bearded “handyman” who stereotypically attempts to solve all of life’s problems with duct tape and misinformation.) The show is famous for “The Men’s Prayer:”

 

I’m a man

But I can change.

If I have to.

I guess.

 

While begrudging obedience is indeed obedience, it lends itself to disobedience when you’re pretty sure no one is looking. This, of course, is why someone famous (UCLA basketball coach John Wooden) once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is looking.” 

 

This is why you will find nothing even similar to “The Men’s Prayer” in your Bible. God, in point of fact, had some pretty stern words for those who practiced insincere, half-hearted obedience:

 

Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Isaiah 1:13 (NIV)

 

And I think that’s totally fair. The God who created everything, who rules the entire universe with mercy and grace, who knows absolutely everything about everything (including what you’re really thinking when you’re trying to look like you’re a perfect Christian), who took on human flesh and died to give us eternal life in a perfect relationship with Him –that God absolutely deserves our very, very best.

 

So, what does that look like?

 

Unfortunately, it’s taken me to the point in my life where the commercials on Jeopardy are aimed directly at my demographic to realize that obedience to God isn’t something designed to suck every ounce of fun out of life.

 

In fact, at the risk of having my Man-Card revoked, obedience is a great joy!

 

Look what David writes in Psalm 119:

 

Joyful are people of integrity,

who follow the instructions of the LORD.

Joyful are those who obey his laws

and search for him with all their hearts. (Vss. 1&2 NLT)

 

By the time he gets to verse 14, he’s absolutely gushing with praise of God’s rules:

 

I have rejoiced in your laws

as much as in riches.

I will study your commandments

and reflect on your ways.

I will delight in your decrees

and not forget your word. (Vss. 14-16 NLT)

 

And, as I reflect back on my life, the most joyful, meaningful, and best moments of my life have been when I have been doing what God called me to do. The things I did and experienced on mission trips, studying the Bible with other believers, times on the radio playing Jesus songs and talking about Jesus, times sharing Jesus with others, and times spent writing this blog have blessed me beyond measure. 

 

Times of love spent with my wife, my daughter, my family are times of obedience and walking in God’s will, too. 

 

Because, when we come right down to it, the greatest obedience is to obey those two greatest commandments I wrote about last week:

 

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)

 

Yes, we will have strife and trouble attempting to be obedient. Yes, the enemy of our souls, our own flesh, and the world will all do everything they can to distract us from this simple command to love, but we are assured that love wins. We are assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

He will never stop loving us. 

 

And, yes, even Jesus wasn’t always joyful when He was being obedient, but He was assured and resolute that doing the Father’s will was always, always the right thing to do.

 

Even when it was hard.

 

Even when it made Him sweat drops of blood. 

 

But, keep in mind that what Jesus suffered on that cross finished it. It is finished. Done. Complete. The debt is paid in full and not one of us will ever have to suffer what He suffered to accomplish what He accomplished. 

 

Obedience isn’t something we duct-tape onto our foreheads to prove what great Christians we are. It isn’t something we begrudgingly recite hoping that someday we will actually believe it. Obedience is the ultimate joy in knowing that the battle is won. It is really, truly finished. Our obedience is not something we have to do to earn what He has already bought and paid for. Our obedience is the joyful outpouring of appreciation and gratitude and total, real heartfelt joy as children –as family– of the King of kings and LORD of Lords!

 

The joy of obedience is why Silas and Paul could sit in that jail singing hymns after having been severely beaten until the earth shook and all the doors burst open and the chains fell off. 

 

The greatest joy ever to come into the world came out of Jesus’ obedience on that cross.

 

HALLELUJAH ABBA FATHER! 

 

Today’s Praise 

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2

 

Our Reward and Crown

After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)

 

A couple of weeks ago, I came across that verse and it just floored me. 

 

In my mind, it’s tied to this verse:

 

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6: 19&20 (ESV)

 

I’ve thought about that verse before and concluded that the treasure Jesus was talking about here was our relationships. Obviously, there are no physical, earthly treasures we can take to heaven with us. Every physical item of value on this earth will eventually return to dust. But surely the people we recognize here on earth will be people we recognize and know when we are in heaven. So, it makes sense that the relationships we had on this earth will be relationships we continue to have in heaven.

 

Now, in the verse from Thessalonians, Paul is addressing people who came to be believers because he and Silas and Timothy had brought them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and they believed. As such, the Thessalonians became brothers and sisters in Christ –part of the family of God. And Paul, writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says those believers will be his and Silas’ and Timothy’s joy and crown in heaven. 

 

The Thessalonians believers are treasures stored up in heaven for Paul and Silas and Timothy!

 

The souls of those people cannot be snatched from the hand of Jesus! (John 10:28) Their salvation is immune to and safe from moth and rust and decay –and from the thief who comes to steal! 

 

What’s more is that, since we will be granted eternal life, those relationships will be eternal as well. 

 

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

 

I was pondering all this last week when I was on vacation in northern Minnesota, surrounded by the incredible beauty of the lakes and forests that I love so much. I had been away from television sets and the news media for several days which resulted in a glorious and holy sense of peace and calm that results in an uncommon clarity of mind.

 

And it occurred to me that once again, it all comes down to love.

 

With the morning sun filtering through the trees and a bright blue sky above, I was struck by the enormous number of people I love and who love me. Of course I have friends and family, but the number of people I have met as a result of just going where God has sent me has added scores and scores of people to my life whom I did not know five years ago and I now count as people I genuinely love. There are people who brought me closer to the love of Jesus and people who I have shared  His love with.  There are so many I struggle to remember all of them in my daily prayers –but I try.

 

And I thought of all the people in the world and and all the people who love others and how the enormity of His love is really beyond my ability to comprehend.

 

And, just as I was having that thought, one of my favorite songs was playing:

 

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name
God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied
(from “Multiplied” by needtobreathe)
I have loved that song for a long time, but in this moment, I felt like I could not contain His love. It is like a blazing wildfire singing His name. His love does multiply and stretch across the skies in endless “Hallelujahs!” of praise and worship! The opportunity for loving other people in this lifetime is virtually limitless.
And, as I continued to listen to songs, I realized that every song on Kinship Christian Radio comes down to His love.
And so does every teaching and message.
All of everything here on this earth in our lifetimes comes down to love . It all comes down to love. 
And then I remembered what Jesus said when asked about the greatest commandment: 
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12: 30&31 (NIV) 
And in that moment, the commandment became not an onerous dictate but a beautiful and glorious and wonderful gift. We are commanded to love! It’s our mission and our purpose and our honor and our joy and our privilege! It is our very reason for being!
Love will be the reward and the crown we wear in heaven!  
It’s an infinite love. It’s beyond description. As Paul himself says, it is an enormity beyond the ability of the human mind to fully understand. And that is:
Today’s Praise
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 

Job’s Friends

I was thinking about Job on Sunday (which is a good thing because the Pastor was preaching about him at the time) and I had a bit of epiphany.

 

You remember Job, right? The Bible says he was “blameless and upright” which is a pretty tough thing to be. Job was God’s favorite guy on all the earth. He even bragged about Job to the devil himself. Satan responded that the only reason Job was such a good guy was that God had protected him and blessed him so much. The devil said if things got bad, Job would curse God to His face. God disagreed, and He gave the devil permission to torment Job to see what would happen.

 

The devil poured out all kinds of hideous, terrible evil against Job and his family but, just as God had said, Job never cursed God. Job’s wife even told him to, (and I quote) “Curse God and die.” Job asks her, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:9)

 

Now, even though Job refused to curse God and he maintained his integrity, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t miserable. The scene above with Job’s wife took place while Job was sitting in a pile of ashes while scraping his festering boils with a piece of broken pottery. 

 

Job was indeed miserable and in intense pain. He didn’t curse God, but he sure had some questions for Him. 

 

And into this scene walk three of Job’s friends. Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite heard of Job’s misfortune and came to “comfort and console him.” (Job 2:11) They sat in the dust with him for a solid week without saying a word. 

 

And that’s exactly what good friends should do.

 

In times of terrible misery and loss, there are no appropriate words. All you can do is be with that person to let them know you love them and care for them.

 

Finally, Job himself spoke up and cursed his very existence. The whole of chapter three is entirely Job lamenting his very birth, wishing he had never been born.

This is followed by 22 long chapters of Job’s friends accusing Job of being the problem and Job defending himself. Their reasoning is that God does not punish the innocent, so Job must deserve what’s happening to him. Job denies any wrong-doing, but his friends persist in trying convince him he deserves every bad thing that is happening to him.

 

And as I thought of all of this, it occurred to me that we, the United States of America, have become a nation of Job’s friends.   

 

As I watch the news and I read the comments online to various news stories, it certainly seems we are up to our proverbial ears in people condemning and demonizing other people when it is quite clear that there are a whole lot of Eliphazes, Bildads, and Zophars out there who have absolutely no problem sharing their opinions which are: A.) Clearly not helpful, and B.) Just plain wrong. 

 

And I’m no better than any of them! 

 

It’s so easy to go with your first, emotional reaction without stopping to think about it, consider how the other person will take it, or really take a long, hard look at your response as a witness for the Kingdom of God. 

 

Would someone who is trying to be the salt and light Jesus called them to be really call another child of God some of the names we commonly use for others on social media? 

 

This is why Jesus said anyone who calls another a fool is in danger of the fires of hell. (Matthew 5:22) That kind of hatred grows and builds, as we are clearly seeing in our society today. 

 

So, how are we to respond?

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

 

The love of Jesus Christ is always the answer.

 

I have found praying and practicing the fruits of the Holy Spirit into these situations very helpful. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control can do amazing things. 

 

And that last one –self-control– often means simply not posting any reply.

 

As those who love me the most will tell you, my biggest struggle is often just shutting up when I should shut up. 

Which brings me to the end of the book of Job. After living through all this terrible torment, Job cries out to God for an answer as to why all this awful stuff happened to him. God does answer him, but it’s in the form of 77 questions –all of which boil down to, “Who do you think you are, little man? Do you not think I know what I’m doing?” And, in His response, God never once tells Job about Satan and the higher purpose that was behind and the root of all that took place, because God doesn’t and shouldn’t have to explain Himself to the work of His hands. 

 

And Job is left with nothing left to say. He has to concede that God is God and he is not. 

 

In the very end, Job is restored to his former status as God’s favorite with all the blessings he had before and more –and that’s where most people end the story of Job.

 

But let’s not forget the real moral of the story:

 

Satan lost.

 

 

Today’s Praise

Then Job replied to the LORD:

“I know that you can do anything,

and no one can stop you.

You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’

It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,

things far too wonderful for me.

Job 42: 1-3 (NLT)

 

NOTE: While we are on the subject of opinions, please don’t forget that it’s September Survey time! The Kinship Christian Radio staff and management very much does want to hear your opinion about the ministry, AND, as a listener you are qualified to give it! Your thoughts and constructive criticism will be used to make the ministry better, which is absolutely essential to make the ministry more effective and able to share the love of Jesus Christ to everyone who tunes in! Simply click on this link to fill out your survey  now! 

 

 

 

Living Like Lazarus

Let me see, the list of items that will make 2020 one of the most memorable years in history so far has been: a global pandemic, a toilet paper shortage, murder hornets, a coin shortage, world-wide violence, CHAZ/CHOP, zombie cicadas, racial conflict, Chinese mystery seeds, rioting, Beirut blowing up, looting, a coin shortage, a yeast shortage, a pepperoni shortage, green-treated lumber shortage, and a double hurricane. 

 

I don’t think that’s even all of them …wait…. I forgot the canning lid shortage. 

 

Well, take a number and stand in line, Mr. Canning Lid Shortage.

 

Seriously, all of the shortages we’ve experienced so far are first-world problems. People in less affluent countries are experiencing shortages of the basic necessities of life.

 

From what I can tell, most of my friends, relatives, and neighbors here in this country are weathering all the challenges of 2020 reasonably well. 

 

But underneath it all, there’s this tension. It’s a kind of “one more day, and we’ll be closer to this all being over.” 

 

It’s understandable. This is not normal. This is not something we have any experience “getting through.” I remember hearing stories from my Grandma  and other relatives about the Great Depression and World War II, and I know this is no where near as bad, but this is real.  This is happening in my life.

 

And, as a result, we’re not really being great witnesses for Jesus in all of this.

 

We’re not singing until the foundations of the prison are shaken and the chains fall off all the prisoners. (Acts 16) Now, granted, not everyone can be Paul and Silas, but we have a unique opportunity to come off as either the most joyful people on earth or the most certifiably insane. 

 

I’ll take either if it brings glory to Jesus.

 

And then Lazarus popped into my head –probably because of that song, “Rise Up” by Essential Worship which is currently playing on Kinship Christian radio.

 

You remember Lazarus. He was the brother of Martha and Mary. They lived in Bethany, just a couple of miles from Jerusalem. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He purposely delayed going to Bethany. When He did go, He knew that Lazarus was already dead.

 

When He arrived in Bethany, there was a lot of weeping. Jesus Himself wept. And then, he called Lazarus out of the grave.

 

Dead four days, everybody thought by now Lazarus was a stinking, rotten corpse. 

 

But Jesus called him out of that grave and he once again walked among the living. 

 

And, in point of fact, it was the resurrection of Lazarus that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Pharisees. How could they refute a Messiah who raised people from the dead when Lazarus was right there, walking among the living? (John 12:10)

 

If you remember, when Jesus crossed the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a great crowd came out from Jerusalem to meet him because they had heard of the resurrection of Lazarus. And, there was a great crowd of people from Bethany with Him –and among them was Lazarus. The whole thing erupted in praise and shouts of “HOSANNA!” and palm branches being thrown on the ground when the two crowds met on the Mount of Olives. (And I tend to believe that spot is the exact spot mentioned in Zechariah 14:4) 

 

“Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” John 12: 17-19 (NLT)

 

Amid all the noise and shouts of praise, the Pharisees were absolutely livid at this display. They strictly urged Jesus to silence His followers, but “He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:40 (ESV)

 

And all this brings me back to Lazarus. 

 

What kind of attitude do you suppose Lazarus had for the rest of his life?

 

“Hey, aren’t you that guy Jesus raised from the dead?”

“Yes, I am Lazarus.”

“Were you really dead?”

“Yes! I was dead but now I’m alive!”

“What was that like?”

“Are you kidding? I’m ALIVE!! I was dead, but NOW I AM ALIVE!”

 

Do you think Lazarus had an effective witness story?

 

Do you think Lazarus maybe lived a life of joy and gratitude and praise for the rest of his life?

 

The Pharisees had planned to kill him too, (John 12:10&11) because how could anyone dispute the testimony of guy who had been dead for four days and now stood before you alive as anyone else? 

 

No, Lazarus was someone who could not simply be dismissed by some “logical” explanation or just be called a liar. A whole village was ready and willing to verify his testimony.

 

But here’s the deal: Each of us who are saved by faith in Jesus Christ are a Lazarus in and of ourselves. We were all dead in our sins and we have ALL been raised to life by Jesus Himself! We are all restored to life!

 

Each and every one of us has exactly the same testimony. Jesus gave us life. Jesus called each of us out of the grave, told us to take off our grave clothes and directed us to walk among the living proclaiming His praises! 

 

So, be it murder hornets, a global pandemic, or a shortage of canning jar lids, we’re all alive and we will live with the King of kings and Lord of lords in His heaven forever and ever. We’ll all experience physical death on this planet someday, but just like Jesus, the grave will not hold us, death will not conquer us. 

 

We have reason to rejoice like crazy people. We have reason to rejoice even in the midst of all that is happening all around us, no matter what 2020 might throw at us. 

 

HALLELUJAH! 

 

It’s time to live like Lazarus.

 

(The Eastern Orthodox churches teach that Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha escaped Judea and traveled to Cyprus where Lazarus became the first bishop of Kition and died of natural causes in 63 AD – 30 years after he was resurrected.)

 

Today’s Praise

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)

All Those People Going Somewhere…

I’ve started taking a walk in the mornings.

 

I resisted it for years out of a combination of denial and laziness, but it’s become abundantly obvious that I can no longer sustain a sedentary lifestyle without some pretty unpleasant side effects, including a shortened life span.

 

All temples require maintenance and the Bible clearly teaches that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

 

So, I get up early and I go for a walk. And, of course, I find that there are blessings I did not expect in doing what I did not want to do but should have been doing for years.

 

Monday morning was a good example.

 

It was a beautiful, clear, and cool morning with a gorgeous sunrise painting the sky golden and blue and white as the sun climbed over the eastern horizon. I looked up and, in that clear blue sky, the rising sun glinted off a commercial jet liner drawing an arrow-straight white line across the sky.

 

And I imagined the people on that jet-liner and I wondered if any of them were missionaries going to distant lands to share the love of Jesus to people far, far away.

 

It’s been over a year since I’ve been on a mission trip. The one I was scheduled to go on last May would have been my second time in Israel, but the pandemic cancelled that.

 

My heart yearns to go and serve the Lord.

 

And then I faintly remembered a fragment from song I’d heard on Kinship Christian Radio…

 

“All those people going somewhere…”

 

And I could not remember the name of the song or the rest of the lyrics, but the yearning did not go away.

 

So, when I had time a little later, I typed those words into a search and I remembered that it was Brandon Heath’s song “Give Me Your Eyes” and was very surprised to find how close that first verse fit what my heart was feeling:

 

Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city of lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touch down on the cold black-top
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breathe in the familiar shock of confusion and chaos
All those people going somewhere, why have I never cared?

 

But I have cared. The mission trips I’ve been on have indeed drawn me to care about others.

 

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give me your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

 

Indeed, mission trips have opened my heart for other people I never knew existed before. I mean, I’ve certainly known that other people existed in other countries, but actually going to them and meeting them and talking to them and worshiping with them and experiencing their lives with them in the time and place where they lived opened up a love in me for all humanity.

 

I came to know them as real people.

 

There are hundreds of people in my life right now that I genuinely love and pray for that I did not know five years ago and I would not know had I not simply said, “Okay, God” and gone where He sent me. It’s a lot like taking those walks in the morning. It seems like something that one would just as soon not do, but when you submit your will to Him and just do it, there are blessings that are multiplied both for me and for others. It’s truly just like Jesus said. The kingdom of God really is like a tiny seed that one plants and it grows and branches and provides blessing after blessing. (Matthew 13:31, Mark 4:31, Luke 13:19)

 

And then it occurred to me that the plane I saw probably wasn’t carrying missionaries to far-away lands because the pandemic was still mostly preventing that.

 

A little while later, a dear pastor friend posted a six-minute video on Facebook about how two people who were close to him passed away lately and he’s had the opportunity and the privilege to offer some recognition of the value of those lives and share some words of hope to their friends and family. He spoke about how Jesus lived out, “–or rather loved out– something that looked impossible.

 

In the midst of times that are hard and unpleasant and so painful that we would never willingly choose to experience them, Pastor Tim said, “…Jesus is the One that spoke the truth. And I don’t like the truth all the time. I don’t like the fact that there’s going to be trouble in this world, but there is. And I know that’s true. So I know that me not having fear because I know that Jesus has overcome the world and He’s poured His presence into people like you and me as we surrender our life to Him and receive the gifts that He gives us as new creations and as followers –into the world that He loved, so that He can love them through us and we can experience His power in our life. To me that’s a really big deal. That’s probably the best apologetic that I’ve ever found. I know a lot of things about the Bible and I can argue some historical facts, but one of the things that I have recognized is that nobody can argue against true love whenever we are just available and we know that the God who created us and the Jesus who reigns over eternity has promised that He’s going to use His presence in our lives to allow us to experience Him.”

 

And as he spoke those words, I was reminded once again that the love of God as expressed in the life, death, resurrection, and person of Jesus Christ is the most powerful force in the universe. I was reminded that, despite it all, despite all that hurts and all that we would rather avoid at all costs, Jesus has indeed overcome the world. Jesus is victorious and Jesus is indeed LORD.

So those people on that plane might not be missionaries going to Israel or Guatemala or the Dominican Republic or the Kingdom of Eswatini, but wherever that plane is going, there are people who need Jesus. There are people who need to know they are loved by the King of Universe, the Creator of all that is and was and is to come. There are people who need to know that love is real and it can be found in Jesus.

 

What that means is that the mission field is wherever you find it. In these days, right here and right now with all the conflict and the strife and the violence and the anger, there is a need beyond measure for genuine, real, heartfelt love for one another –even and especially for those who don’t know Jesus. Yes, when the Lord opens the door for me to travel to distant lands, I will go where He sends me. But right now, it seems as if He is sending me and everyone who loves and follows Jesus to our next-door neighbors.

When I asked Pastor Tim for permission to quote him for this blog, he was reluctant because when what he said is transcribed into the written word, it reads like he would end up being famous for yet another run-on sentence, so I’ll finish with his final thought:

 

“Do something to let someone know that you love ’em.”

 

Yes, going out and actually loving someone may seem like going out for a walk when we’d rather be sitting at the kitchen table with a donut and coffee, but it is not something any of us will ever regret if we will just do it.

 

It really is that simple.

 

Today’s Praise

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 (NIV)

 

 

Pastor Tim Ogle’s blog can be found here: https://becomingafollower.net/

Hide and Seek

Once upon a time, young Bobby and his dad were playing catch in the backyard when Bobby grew tired of the game.

 

“Hey Daddy,” he said, “I don’t want to play this game anymore.”

 

“Okay,” replied his father, “Do you want to play a different game?”

 

“Yeah! I want to play hide-and-seek!” said Bobby.

 

“Okay, how do you play?” 

 

“Well, I close my eyes and count to thirty while you go hide. Then, I try to find you,” explained Bobby.

 

So Bobby closed his eyes and counted to thirty. Then, he yelled, “Ready or not, here I come!” and he began looking all over the backyard for his father. 

 

His father wasn’t behind the tree or the bushes. He wasn’t inside the shed where he kept the mower, and he certainly hadn’t climbed up into the big oak tree in the backyard.

 

So, Bobby looked in the garage. His Daddy wasn’t inside the cars or under the cars, or anywhere in the garage. 

 

Now, Bobby thought that meant Daddy must have surely hidden in the front yard, probably behind that big bush next to the front door. 

 

But Bobby’s Daddy wasn’t there. He wasn’t anywhere in the front yard –or in the side yard either. 

 

Bobby’s eyes got moist and he wondered where his Daddy could be. He looked in the garage and the backyard again, but his Daddy wasn’t there. 

 

He began to cry.

 

And then Bobby began to wonder if his Daddy had gone across the street to the neighbors. He knew he wasn’t supposed to cross the street without an adult, but his Daddy was missing and this was serious.

 

Just then, he heard a voice. “Bobby, come in the house.” And he found his older brother was standing next to him, gently smiling.

 

“But, Daddy is missing!”

 

“Come in the house with me, Bobby. It’ll be okay.”

 

Sobbing, he went into the house and there was his Daddy sitting in his big chair just like he always was. He ran up to him and demanded, “Daddy! Why are you sitting in your chair here in the house when you said you would play Hide and Seek with me? That’s NOT how it works! You’re supposed to be hiding OUTSIDE where I can find you!”

 

And, in a fit of righteous five year-old anger, Bobby stamped his little foot at his Daddy.

 

His Daddy took him gently in his arms and said, “Son, all the time you were looking for me, I was watching from inside the house making sure you were safe.  When you were going to cross the street like you know you shouldn’t, I sent your brother to bring you to me. And all the time, I was right where I knew you would find me, where I always am, because I wanted you to know you will always be able to find me in this place where you are safe and we call home. I will always watch over you and protect you, Bobby, and I will never hide myself in a place where you cannot find me or you cannot go.” 

—–o—–

One of the things that is most difficult for people who don’t believe in God to understand is why God plays Hide and Seek with them. Why would God hide from us? If he really is God, why doesn’t he reveal Himself to us?  

 

But God does not hide. He is always right where He said He would be, in a place where He knows anyone can find Him if they will just give up looking in all the wrong places. God is always where He can be found if we will just come home. We have trouble finding Him because we try to make up the rules that we think God should follow when He has promised us before the game ever started that He will never abandon us or forsake us. 

 

He is as close as your Bible, your folded hands, your computer, your phone, or your radio dial. 

 

And he is waiting with open arms.

 

Today’s Praise

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

I Was Made for This

 

A couple of years ago, while I was on a mission trip to Guatemala, I was in the men’s sleeping quarters to grab my backpack, my five-dollar missionary Bible, and some other essentials to use as our team prepared to go out and bless some people and this quick, impromptu prayer just popped right out of my mouth, 

 

“Lord, I really, really like what I’m doing right now. Thank you.”

 

It was one of the most genuine prayers I have ever prayed. I was infinitely grateful to be doing what I was absolutely sure I should be doing where I should be doing it and when I should be doing it. I felt like I was designed and built for that moment, that place, that activity.

 

The recollection of that prayer and that time in my life came back to me when I heard, “I Was Made for This” by Charles Billingsley last week on Kinship Christian Radio. KCR has been playing the song for several weeks, but this was the first time I really heard it.

 

It’s a wonderful song in which Billingsley makes the point that all of creation was made to glorify God and He has done so with incredible beauty in the lakes and trees, the galaxies. “The mountains soar, the oceans roar, ” he writes, “But they are not enough to shout the praise of our Savior‘s grace.”

 

Indeed, only we are who are saved, only those made holy and pure in the blood of the Lamb can praise Him for our glorious redemption. Hallelujah!

 

And as I was pondering that thought, I thanked Him again for that moment in Guatemala. I thanked Him for all the mission trips He has sent me on. I thanked Him for the times I’ve been given the opportunity to preach His Word. I thanked Him for the times I’ve been allowed to be on Kinship Christian Radio playing Jesus songs and talking about Jesus. I thanked him for the opportunity to write this blog.

All of these are things I feel I was made for. God has given me the gift of words and He has greatly blessed me to be able to do things that are “in my wheelhouse” so to speak. They feel natural and the praise that comes out of them brings me joy. 

 

But the more I think about it, what about all the other things I do? I used to spend a lot of my life wishing I wasn’t doing what I was doing. Some of those things were sin, and I should not have been doing them. I was not made to sin.

 

But what about things like earning a living to support my family? What about mowing the lawn or washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom? 

Wasn’t I made to do those things too? 

 

And then I had a little bigger epiphany.

 

In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, the event is told of a Pharisee trying to trap Jesus. The teacher of the Law asks Him, 

 

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NLT)

 

When I remembered these verses it suddenly occurred to me that loving God and loving each other is not an onerous, difficult, requirement placed on us as a burden –it’s a glorious, wonderful gift! 

 

Loving God and loving each other is what we were made for! 

 

It’s our design, our meaning, our purpose in life! 

 

So mowing the lawn or washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom are expressions of our love for God and for each other. This was God’s plan all along. No wonder the disciples could sing and rejoice when they were beaten and thrown into prison! They knew that’s exactly what they were made for and everything that was happening to them was part of God’s plan. 

 

We are not accidents of nature or ships tossed about in the darkness by random waves. As long as we are operating in His will, He has us covered. That’s why we are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37) 

 

That’s why that little spontaneous prayer in Guatemala was so glorious. I had submitted myself to His plan with no thought whatsoever about complaining that I might have to wash a dish or clean a bathroom. 

 

And once again, I find that not only is there joy in all of this, there is this great, enormous, life-giving FREEDOM in serving God and giving myself up to Him that He would do with me whatever He wills! I’m not His slave, I am a member of His family! I am his child, an heir to the kingdom of heaven and I can call the God of the universe –the God who created absolutely everything to honor and praise Him–my Abba Father!

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

Lord, may I remember all of this when I am tempted to believe the lie that the gifts you put in my life are duties or obligations to be endured until something more pleasurable comes along. AMEN!

 

Today’s Praise

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 NLT

 

 

 

Creation sings a melody

To the maker of all life

The lakes and trees, the galaxies

Lift high the name of Christ

The mountains soar, the oceans roar,

But they are not enough

To shout the praise

Of our Savior’s grace

And the wonders of His love

I was made for this

I was made for this

I was made, oh I was made for this

Born to bless the name

Of the one who saves

For the glory is all His

I was made for this

The painted sky both day and night

How it makes His greatness known

Reminding us of His glorious

High and holy throne

Where angels sing to the King of kings

But there is so much more

Cause they can’t praise Him for His grace

That’s for those He died for

I was made for this

I was made for this

I was made, oh I was made for this

Born to bless the name

Of the one who saves

For the glory is all His

I was made for this

Worthy of the one who called me

Whose blood has made me clean

I’ll know forever as I sing

The song of the redeemed

I was made for this

I was made for this

Oh I was made for this

I was born to bless the name

Of the one who saves

For the glory is all His

I was made for this

 

This is No Time for the Church to Fail

 

It seems like every time we hear the news, whether it’s SRN News on Kinship Christian Radio or news from a secular source, it just seems to get worse. Nightly riots in Portland, cops being attacked by organized mobs in Chicago, police cars set on fire, Los Angeles, Richmond, Omaha, Denver, Seattle –the list of shootings, murder, and lawlessness goes on and on.

 

It’s disheartening. It’s disconcerting.

 

But as I was driving to church on Sunday morning, Dr. Mark Jobe hit me with four little words. “God is not confused.”

 

No, God knows exactly what He is doing.

 

Just a couple of days before that, I had been doing some research on revival (Yes, revival is still happening and is breaking out all over the world, including in this country.) and I came across an article in Charisma online magazine titled “Why the Church Must Not Miss This Revival Opportunity” by Dr. Gregory Reynolds.

 

Dr. Gregory D. Reynolds is the founder and senior pastor of House of Liberty Covenant Church, a multiethnic church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received his doctorate in theology with an emphasis on biblical ethnical studies and has been shepherding for more than 24 years.

 

The article flipped a switch in my head and turned on a light. Suddenly, I had a much better idea of what was going on.

 

Reynolds says that many of us, “are more familiar and comfortable with the word of God than we are in discerning the ways of God. But both are important. Moses did not just ask God to teach him His word, he asked God to teach him His ways (Ex. 33:13). God often moves in ways we are not expecting, and when He does, it frequently causes us to stumble.

 

What we are now experiencing is a move of God and the beginning of the revival we have long prayed for. The problem for many is that it is not coming in the form that was expected. Because this time, re-formation is proceeding the revival.”

 

The key is oppression. Specifically, God is setting people free from bondage and oppression. Jesus said it Himself:

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19 KJV)

 

Reynolds makes the point that, “Since dealing with oppression was such an integral part of Jesus’ ministry, it really should not surprise us that a greater level of the outpouring of His Spirit, in what we call revival today, would include these very characteristics of His presence and ministry. These characteristics of God’s moving and dealing with oppression are not new and have occurred many times before. A review of global history will remind us of two well-known examples: the dismantling of the oppressive Roman Empire and the defeat of Nazi Germany through the combined forces of the allied countries. In the United States, the Azusa Street revival, which began in 1906, was a forerunner and decades ahead of secular society regarding dealing with issues of race and ethnicity. Eyewitness and historian Frank Bartleman noted famously, “The color line was washed away in the blood” (Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles, 54).

 

(For those of you not familiar with the Azusa Street Revival, it took place in Los Angeles, California from April 6, 1906 to roughly 1915. It was lead by an one-eyed African-American preacher named William J. Seymour. Worship was held in “tumble down shack” that had most recently been used as a stable.  Anywhere from 300 to 1,500 people would attempt to fit into the building  and they were Black, White, Asian, Native American, immigrants, rich, poor, illiterate, and educated.  The intermingling of races and the group’s encouragement of women in leadership was considered remarkable, even scandalous, as 1906 was the height of the “Jim Crow” era of racial segregation  and fourteen years prior to women receiving suffrage in the United States. Today, there are more than 500 million Pentecostal and charismatic believers across the globe, and it is currently the fastest-growing form of Christianity in the world.)

 

Reynolds goes on to say, ” Over the decades, additional waves and moves of God have followed: the healing revival of 1946, the latter rain revival of 1948 and then the Jesus movement of 1967. It is important to recognize that these God- initiated waves advanced, grew and reached a moment in time when the consciousness of a generation was ignited and began to speak out against racism and institutional oppression. The movement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in that moment. The Freedom Riders were born in that moment. The Civil Rights and voting rights movements were born in that moment. Reformation was occurring, and revival was its partner.”

 

He goes on: “God moved globally again in the 1990s, dealing with oppression when sweeping changes manifested against communism with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the tearing down of the Berlin wall and the demolition of the racist apartheid systems in Australia and South Africa. All established, entrenched, seemingly immovable systems and symbols of oppression were torn down in what seemed like a split second. And now God is moving once again.”

 

Reynolds concludes with the following paragraphs: “This is a watershed moment in the history of this country. The church cannot reject this work of God against oppression and injustice. Neither can we allow the secular society to recognize, embrace and lead in this call to racial equity, as we have sadly done historically. (Emphasis added.) This can be the bedrock of the revival we have prayed for, for generations if we will listen, genuinely repent, embrace the moment and guide rather than reject the process.

 

For authentic unity to occur, we cannot ignore the things that keep us separated. We must intentionally address and remove them.

 

Historically, in this country, nothing has separated the church or society like the sin of racial division. All sin requires repentance, which is why all revival movements are characterized by it.

This is not just a revival moment for the people of God; it is also our repentance moment. This is a reformation moment regarding racial relations in the church. This is not a move of God that someone wants to be on the wrong side of.”

 

Not only do I agree with Reynolds, I believe the history he references is just a small part of God’s plan. I can see the very formation of this country with its Christian roots (See “The Mayflower Compact”), it focus and core belief that “all men are created equal” in its founding document, the Abolitionist Movement, and the Civil War all as part of God’s long-term plan to set people free and break the yoke of oppression.

 

What this all means is that we are living in a time when God is moving in powerful and mighty ways. Slavery existed as a human institution since before human beings had written history in every culture that ever existed on the planet. But slavery has now been outlawed over all the earth. THAT is a miracle that only Jesus Christ could have done.

 

The vestiges of slavery do still exist however. There is still racism and prejudice. Men still hate their brothers, just as Cain hated Abel.

 

But I believe that now is the day, that this is the time God is calling us to take the next step and love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

Reynolds is right. We, the people who are the Church of Jesus Christ, must not miss this opportunity to love.

Today’s Praise

The people who walk in darkness

will see a great light.

For those who live in a land of deep darkness,

a light will shine.

You will enlarge the nation of Israel,

and its people will rejoice.

They will rejoice before you

as people rejoice at the harvest

and like warriors dividing the plunder.

For you will break the yoke of their slavery

and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.

You will break the oppressor’s rod,

just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian

The boots of the warrior

and the uniforms bloodstained by war

will all be burned.

They will be fuel for the fire.

For a child is born to us,

a son is given to us.

The government will rest on his shoulders.

And he will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His government and its peace

will never end.

He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David

for all eternity.

The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies

will make this happen!

Isaiah 9: 2-7 (NLT)

 

 

Women Interrupted: When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan

The title, focus, theme, and plan for the 2020 Kinship Christian Radio Women’s Conference was chosen long, long before anyone had ever heard about COVID-19 or the ensuing global pandemic.

 

Now, I appreciate a good irony as much as anyone, but having to reschedule and completely re-envision an event called “Women Interrupted: When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan” entirely because nothing has gone according to plan since the initial idea of even having a plan absolutely pegs the irony meter to its maximum. 

 

Make no mistake, the Women’s Conference is taking place, and it will be held at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato –which is indeed part of the original plan. Registration will open on Monday, July 27 at 8:00 a.m. but that date was not part of the original plan, as the Women’s Conference itself had to be reschedule from its traditionally springtime date to Saturday, August 22nd. 

 

As I think about this and mentally page through my Bible, the entire book is about things not going according to the plans of human beings.

 

Moses didn’t think he was even the right guy to free his people from their bondage and slavery. He didn’t plan to send down those plagues on Egypt or part the Red Sea or wander in the desert for forty years.

 

Joshua didn’t plan to be thrown in a hole, sold to slave traders, and eventually be the most powerful man in Egypt aside from Pharoah.

 

When his family sent David to bring some food to the troops facing the Philistines, it’s a pretty good bet he hadn’t planned on killing a giant with a sling and a stone.  And it wasn’t his plan to be king of Israel.

 

Now, there was a guy in the Bible who had a plan and his name was Jonah. His plan was to run away from God because he didn’t want the Ninevites to repent –and he ended up on a beach smelling like the inside of a fish.

 

Thankfully, the people planning the women’s conference are much more obedient to the LORD than Jonah. (And I can assure, smell a whole lot better.) They have learned that obedience and faithfulness requires a certain degree of flexibility in being able to say, “Okay God.”

 

So, as I said before, registration opens up at 8:00 a.m. on July 27. The Women’s Conference will be held on Saturday, August 22nd. (At one point, the conference had been rescheduled to August 15, but that had to be changed to August 22. Again, the correct date is August 22.) 

 

Instead of 750 women in attendance as in previous years, social distancing rules will only allow 250 women to attend. This means registering in a timely manner is even more important than in previous years. Do NOT delay!

 

There is a limit of six tickets per person. 

 

Mini-sessions previously planned that involved making items and taking them with you at the end of the day will not be held because of the risk involved, but there will still be a variety of excellent mini-sessions available. Register early!

 

The main speaker will be Debbie Griffith, whose program “Everday Matters” is aired… ummm…  every day on Kinship Christian Radio. She has spoken at a previous Kinship Women’s Conference and did a wonderful job. We are looking forward to seeing her and hearing from her again.

 

The second main speaker will be Kirsten King, (that’s right, there are not one but TWO main speakers this year) who will lead a mini-session called, “Intimacy with God in His Word.”  She describes this as, “A session that will encourage you to grow deeper in your relationship with God with a practical, personal hands-on approach to reading and interacting with the Bible.  You will be equipped with take-home materials and ideas that will not only help you get started on this journey, but will encourage you to keep it up!” 

 

As always, there will indeed be lunch and delicious goodies, worship music in abundance, and unabashed pampering of the ladies in attendance. With all that has been going on in our world, giving ladies a chance to relax and refresh is a priority of this year’s event.

 

So, while nothing seems to have gone according to “the plan” in the planning of this year’s Women’s Conference, we know that God does indeed have a plan and it is far, far better than we could have hoped or imagined would come from our own plans.

 

Ask any Ninevite.

 

Today’s Praise

But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33:11 (NIV)

Is This Still Available?

 

We know a lot of people who listen to Kinship Christian Radio use Facebook because Facebook tells us how many of you see the things we post on Facebook.

 

So, I’m sure quite a few of you have experienced Facebook Marketplace, where you can put up for sale pretty much anything from a tube of lipstick to a slightly used intergalactic space ship. (Runs and drives. Some minor battle scars. $20,000,000 OBO.)

 

If you’ve got something for sale that someone (and by “someone” I mean anyone in the universe) wants, you will know very shortly because you will get a response. I sold a 1972 Schwinn Collegiate bicycle earlier this year in pretty short order. And, amazingly, people will negotiate a price based solely on your description and the pictures you post. So, when the buyer shows up, it’s pretty much an exchange of cash for merchandise with very little discussion usually ensuing.

 

That’s not to say the electronic part can’t be “interesting.” Shortly after I put the Schwinn up for sale, an individual offered me just slightly more than half my asking price of $95, which I politely declined. He then asked if I would take what he described as a “$400 leather jacket” in exchange for the bicycle. He explained that he had very little money and no means of transportation at all.

 

I had genuine empathy for the guy –which made it even easier to turn him down. That nearly 50 year-old Schwinn was a much better idea for a collector or the occasional nostalgia rider than for someone who intended to use it as daily transportation. And if that really was a $400 leather jacket, he would be a lot better off selling it for cash than trading it for a bicycle from the same era as Van Morrison.

 

One of the other things about Facebook marketplace is that when you go to inquire about an item up for sale, the default question it asks the seller is, “Is this still available?”

 

A few sellers apparently find this question annoying as their ads will include the admonition, “If it’s still posted, it’s still available.”

 

Oddly, people who use that phrase in their ads rarely have anything I’m looking to buy.

 

But the one thing that is truly odd about Facebook Marketplace is that when you put something up for sale, you will invariably get someone who asks, “Is this still available?” And you will reply, “Yes it is.”

 

And you will never hear from them again.

 

What? Did I somehow offend you by verifying I still have it? Did your wife/mother tell you “NO” after you asked about it? Why would you ask if its available and end the conversation after I answered in the affirmative? Why?

 

I’ve always wanted to reply a second time, twelve hours later, and say, “YES!! YES, I have the item! Would you care to ask a question about it or offer some kind explanation for your eerie, passive-aggressive silence?

 

But I never do.

 

And as I was pondering on this, it occurred to me a lot of us do this with Jesus.

 

“Hey Jesus, you know that “salvation of my soul” thing I heard about? Is that still available?”

 

And, of course, it is. Jesus is willing to accept you and save you anytime. The door is always open. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how bad or unforgivable you think you are, He will always take you in.

 

When I had fallen away, I often got myself into some kind of trouble, and in those moments of despair, I’d think about coming back to Jesus.  And I’d pray and ask Him to help me, and He would, and then when things got better I’d go back to my old ways.

 

And as I am writing this, the Holy Spirit is playing “There Was Jesus” by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton in the back of my mind:

 

When the life I built came crashing to the ground
When the friends I had were nowhere to be found
I couldn’t see it then but I can see it now
There was Jesus
In the waiting, in the searching
In the healing, in the hurting
Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces
Every minute, every moment
Where I’ve been or where I’m going
Even when I didn’t know it
Or couldn’t see it
There was Jesus
The thing is, I never did truly come back to Jesus until all the pieces were broken and it was obvious and inescapable that I would never, ever be able to put them back together again myself.
“Is that salvation thing still available, Jesus?”
“Yes, Dan, it’s always been available. I’ve been saving it for you.”
“Okay, well… I suppose this means it’s going to cost me. How much do you want, Jesus?”
“There is no cost. I already paid the price with my life. It’s a gift.”
Today’s Praise
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)