The Church of Eutychus

I believe God is revulsed by boring churches.

 

At the same time, I think there are very few things indeed that make the enemy of our souls happier than a church full of people who cannot force themselves to stay awake and pay attention.  A nice, warm, safe church where nothing ever happens, where no one ever experiences anything that rocks their little world, where you can come in, put your five bucks in the plate, and walk out mentally wearing your little “I Went to Church” button with a check-mark on the list of things you didn’t want to do but did anyway to be a “good person” is, in my opinion, a super-highway to hell paved with shiny –and useless– good intentions.

 

Many years ago, there was a pastor fresh out of Bible college who chose the most un-churched area in the country he could find and went door-to-door asking people two questions:

 

  1. Do you have a church home? (If they said they did, he thanked them and moved on to the next house. If they said, “No.” he asked them Question #2.)
  2. If you don’t go to church, why not?

 

The most common answers to Question #2 were: A.) All the church wants is my money. And, B.) It’s boring.

 

That Pastor was Rick Warren. And fifty years later, Saddleback Church in Orange County is the largest church in California and one of the largest in the nation. Almost 24,000 people attend each week. Over 50,000 people have been baptized since its founding.

 

Now, this blog is not about Saddleback Church. It’s not about any disagreements you or I may have with Saddleback’s pastor, it’s theology or techniques or marketing strategy.

 

Whatever Saddleback Church is, it is not boring. 

 

And, if you find Saddleback Church controversial, good!

 

Jesus was plenty controversial. If Jesus had not been controversial, He would never have been nailed to the cross. 

 

And that’s the point. The Bible is absolutely full of stuff that is most decidedly NOT boring. 

 

You can start the non-boring stuff in Genesis 1:1.

 

God created the entire universe and everything in it into being by simply speaking it into being. He created everything in the universe out of nothing but His spoken word. And, Jesus was there in the beginning when it all happened. (John 1:1) In fact, everything in the universe was created in Him and through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:16)

 

That’s pretty controversial. If we really look into that and all it entails, it’s anything but boring. 

 

Jesus was not afraid of controversy. He seemed to go out of his way to poke and prod the big-shots of His day. One does not call the people in power a nest of poisonous snakes and publicly, to their faces, ask them how they plan to avoid going to hell without ruffling a few feathers –or scales, as the case may be. (See Matthew 23.)

 

And, if you think the Old Testament is full of boring stuff, how about having the Youth Group study Judges 4 where a lady named Jael nails a guy’s head to the floor with a tent peg? As a bonus, there’s some pretty deep theology in that story about the role of women in the Church. 

 

God is not boring. Jesus is not boring. If church is boring it’s because we make it so

 

Yes, it’s far easier to avoid controversy. It’s far easier to live our lives in safe and mundane ways that never ask people to take a risk with their lives and really stop and think what it means that Jesus is LORD, just like it says on the Kinship Radio tower. 

 

See, because if Jesus really is LORD, He is LORD of all. There is no half-way. There is no doing things to get by until we die and can go to heaven and sit on clouds and play harps forever. (Now THAT would be boring!) No, if Jesus is LORD, He is LORD of everyone who ever lived and He came so that they could be saved! AND– He wants us to participate in telling people He did that.

 

He wants us to love people we don’t know, who may look different than us, who may do things we don’t like or don’t understand, who might even frighten us. 

 

God wants US involved in His plan to save the whole world! That’s an amazing, earth-shattering, world-changing concept! God WANTS you! He doesn’t need you because He can accomplish anything He wants without you, but He WANTS you involved to share in His joy, His grace, His mercy, His LOVE!! (Yes, that was worthy of two exclamation points.)

 

In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus speaks to the seven churches. He has a message for each of the churches, but the way I read it, the one church that seems to irritate Him the most is the boring church: 

 

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” Revelation 3:15&16 (NLT)

 

When we pad Christianity with a bunch of soft, safe, warm pillows, we rob the Gospel of its power and we cheat people out of the Kingdom of God. But, when we get over our fears of answering the tough questions, of acknowledging that we’re just as messed up as the rest of the world but somehow God’s grace in Jesus Christ makes it all alright, of admitting that we’re not perfect and it really doesn’t make sense that He loves each and every one of us anyway, the love in all of that destroys the last little speck of “boring” in the Church and we’ve got a shot at being real with people. 

 

Jesus came to restore humanity’s relationship with God. He came that we would be adopted into the family of God, that we would sit at His banquet table as heirs to His kingdom and eternally rejoice and enjoy the incredible, inconceivably glorious love and fellowship with Him that He intended for us since before He spoke all of this into being. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, (Luke 15: 11-32) I think it’s pretty clear Jesus implies there will be music and dancing at that banquet feast.

 

If you think that’s controversial, good. Let’s talk about. I guarantee neither of us will be bored. 

 

Today’s Praise

On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved. Acts 20:7-12 (NLT)

 

 

On Resisting Temptation and the Roadkill Hairbrush

Approximately a couple of decades ago, when my daughter was still in elementary school, she came home with a piece of paper indicating that head lice had been discovered among some of her classmates.

 

The sheet of paper contained a list of actions we should take as a family, including boiling all of our hair brushes. Although there was absolutely no evidence that any of us were infected, we were not the types to pick nits, (Yeah, I did that on purpose.) so we dutifully complied.

 

The next morning, my freshly-sanitized hair brush broke in half.

 

Now, I realize that a hair brush is a material object and there is no hair brush on this planet I will be taking to heaven with me, but this particular hair brush had been given to me by my dear saintly mother when I was but 13 years old. I had been brushing my hair with it (yes, in the exact same style) through no less than five US Presidents.

 

Of course, replacing a hair brush should be absolutely no problem at all in a land of outrageous, even decadent, abundance like ours.

 

Every big-box outlet in every town in America sells hair brushes for such ridiculously low prices that every citizen of this nation can easily afford to own their own personal hair brush, right? And while I did find that to be true, I also found myself stuck in a Goldilocks conundrum.

 

After brushing my hair with the same tool for longer than I would care to admit, I had become very accustomed to the exact degree of stiffness/softness of the bristles in that brush. I bought some hair brushes that were so soft they failed to detangle my hair. Others were so stiff they irritated my scalp.

 

And then one day, while shopping in a big-box store which has since failed and closed nation-wide, I found a brush with a wooden handle and 100% natural boar bristles. “Ahhh!” I thought to myself, “Stylish, attractive, and earth-friendly! This is sure to be THE hairbrush I will own for the remainder of my life!”

 

I smiled smugly as I left the store.

 

The very next morning, after exiting the shower, I began brushing through my hair with the newly-acquired brush and was quite pleased with the comfort and efficacy of said item when, suddenly, a strange smell caught my attention. “What IS that smell?” I thought to myself. “It smells like…like…roadkill, like a dead animal!”

 

Sure enough, I very shortly determined that the horribly repulsive smell now filling the bathroom was emanating from my shiny new hair brush. Apparently, our friends in Communist China had stolen the boar from a buzzard’s banquet and failed to deodorize the bristles before affixing them to the stylish handle.

 

The odor was so intense and repulsive I gave absolutely no thought at all to attempting to wash, cleanse, or otherwise deodorize this hideous affront to humanity.

 

No, it was going back to the store. I dug the packaging and the receipt out of the garbage and began to play out in my head all the things I would say when I returned the brush. I plotted my revenge at least until my lunch break from work.

 

Once in line at the Customer Service Area, I patiently waited my turn, stepped up, and presented the brush in the original packaging, with the receipt, to the lady behind the counter. Let’s say her name tag said, “Marge.”

 

“I’d like to return this hair brush, please. It smells like dead animals,” I said.

 

To my utter amazement, Marge placed the hair brush in a cart beside her, punched a few buttons, opened the cash register, and handed me $6.34 or whatever it was I had paid for the brush. She did not question me, she did not raise an eyebrow, she did not ask for any details, and she did not sniff the hair brush at all!

 

I was shocked. How could she NOT sniff the hair brush? What living human being would not seek to verify a claim like that when an item was returned? Who could possibly resist the temptation to smell a hair brush the customer claims smells like dead animals? Why was I being cheated out of seeing the look of horror and revulsion on her face when she inevitably succumbed to the temptation of smelling the hair brush?

 

As I look back on it now, there are a number of possible scenarios: 1.I was not the first person who had returned a hair brush with this problem and Marge did not need nor want to verify my story. 2. Marge was imminently wise and knew that there was absolutely no way she could win an argument under the premise, “No, it does not smell like dead animals. I smell nothing.” 3. Even if I was lying or experiencing olfactory hallucinations, it was not worth losing a customer over a $6.34 roadkill-scented hairbrush. 4. Marge was also due for her lunch break and had instantly made the choice that would result in me leaving the store as quickly as possible.

 

Whatever the case, Marge had resisted a temptation I would have succumbed to. I would have smelled the hair brush. And it would not have been pretty. It would have been stupid and pointless and accomplished nothing.

 

There are thousands of excellent reasons not to smell the hair brush and not a single good reason to have done it –but almost all of us would have done so, too.

 

Why are we like that? What is it in the human psyche that wants to try something we know is bad, just to see how bad it really is? Why do we revel in the bad? Why do we succumb to temptation and go there?

 

Years ago, I used to try to resist temptation by saying, “Satan, get behind me.” Of course, I said that because that’s what Jesus said when He was tempted by the devil. (Luke 4:9, Matthew 4:10)

And then one day, it occurred to me that I didn’t want Satan following me around all day. Furthermore, Jesus had most certainly NOT said, “Satan, go stand behind Dan Jones.” Jesus told Satan he belonged in His past –after and under the power and Lordship of Jesus.

 

So, I resolved that when I was tempted I would instead pray, “Satan, go stand behind Jesus.”

 

That puts Satan in his proper place, with Jesus standing between us. I face my Savior, the LORD of lords and King of kings, and revel in his power and mercy and grace and glory and I worship Him and Him alone.

 

And the enemy of my soul, the liar who comes to steal and kill and destroy, is relegated to the background and his mountain of stinking roadkill hairbrushes.

 

Today’s Praise

But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. Acts 2:24 (NLT)

My Jesus

On a recent trip to visit some very dear friends, I had an excellent conversation on the topic of “my.”

 

My friend mentioned this blog and, in doing so, referred to it as “your blog.”

 

I respectfully corrected her, saying it was not “my blog” but Kinship Radio’s blog.

 

She immediately conceded the point but noted that it’s common for people to speak of “my church” or any number of things that we and everyone else knows we don’t actually possess. And as we thought about this common manner of speaking, she made the point that its a symptom of our individualistic mindset.

 

And there was a point I had to concede. We are indeed a people who are very much self-centered. I grew up during “The Me Decade” (the 1970s) and I think its undeniable that our culture continues to focus predominantly on the glory of the individual.

 

And that’s not surprising. The very term “Me Decade” traces its roots back to an essay by Tom Wolfe published in the August 23, 1976, edition of New York magazine in which Wolfe promoted  –among other things– the idea that the hallucinogenic drug LSD would unveil the “true and real self.” Wolfe believed revelations experienced while under the influence of hallucinogens could compete with, and even surpass, religious revelations and would lead to real enlightenment and “The Third Great Awakening.”

 

Somehow, Wolfe reasoned, people would become more in tune and cognizant of the true meaning of what it meant to be fully human while under the influence of a drug that makes it difficult if not impossible to distinguish hallucinations from reality, sometimes leads to irreversible psychosis, and can produce unexpected and uncontrollable “flashbacks” which can last for last for minutes, hours, weeks, months, or years. 

 

Fifty-some years later, we have taken the concept of “my” to levels never before imagined. Look at the desktop of your computer. Do you have folders called, “My Pictures,” “My Documents,” “My Music?”

 

You can do an internet search with the word “My” in front of virtually any noun and find literally millions of websites that conform to that pattern.

 

And in all of this, as we have become more and more “me” focused, we have gradually and almost imperceptibly lost the concept that we are not about ourselves. “Me” does not and cannot exist without “we.” We all need each other –and that includes our need for self-actualization and self-fulfillment.

 

Jesus’ statement that the greatest commandment is to love the LORD with all that we are is followed by the command to love each other. (Mark 12:30-31)

 

The greatest commandment is not to love yourself. The answer is not within you, it’s within God and loving others. “You” are not even mentioned in those two most important commands. We are not designed and built as islands of self-love. 

 

Jesus did not come to earth and die on a cross to save you and you alone. Jesus did not shed every drop of blood for you. Those memes that say if you were the only person on earth, Jesus still would have died for you are wrong. God would never have made an earth where you were the only person on it. In fact, it specifically says that when there was only one person on earth, God saw that it was not good and made a second person to help the first person. (See Genesis 2:18-23.) There is nowhere in the Bible or in any line of thinking except some weird Hollywood movie where there is only one person left one earth. 

 

And after He had created two people, He told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) and He saw that it was indeed very good. (Genesis 1:31) 

 

Of course, sometime thereafter, the people He had created messed up the whole perfect plan because (I know you saw this coming.) –they did the exact same “me” thing that we’ve all been doing ever since then. They wanted to be their own gods. They wanted to be like God and decide for themselves what was good and wasn’t good. 

 

And, ever since, people like Tom Wolfe and you and ME have been trapping ourselves into the same kind of thinking. I didn’t come back to God until I had totally exhausted all of my best efforts to find “enlightenment” (or whatever ridiculous hippy or new-age term was fashionable at the time) and fallen flat on my face. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t truly understand what a very lousy, very inept, very imperfect god of my life I was until I was lying face-down in the very dust He made me from. 

 

I didn’t come anywhere near being “woke” until I woke up one morning unable to stand looking at myself in the mirror and came to the earth-shattering revelation that it’s not about me.

 

Whaaat?

 

But, what about Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior? What about the title of this post and that song they play on Kinship Radio by Anne Wilson titled, “My Jesus?”

 

Isn’t He MY Jesus?

 

Yes, Jesus is Anne Wilson’s Jesus. He’s my Jesus and your Jesus and the whole world’s Jesus. And the whole point of Wilson’s lyrics are, “Let me tell you about my Jesus.” The point of the song is sharing the power and the glory and the salvation and the infinite love that is in Jesus for each and every person who would receive Him as Savior and Lord. 

 

The point is not in keeping Jesus to yourself.

 

The point is His glory, not mine.

 

Today’s Praise

Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them. Isaiah 43:7 (NLT)

 

Come and See

 

Kinship Radio’s Executive Director Jennifer Hayden Epperson recently travelled to the National Religious Broadcasters Conference in Grapevine, Texas, and came back with a hat for little ole me. 

 

Now, of course, that was certainly not the main objective of her journey. She is, after all, the Chairwoman of the Radio Committee of NRB. So, she was an integral part of this yearly event that allows thousands of people involved in Christian broadcasting of all kinds to network with fellow Christian communicators from all over the country, became more equipped to grow their ministries, learn how to reach more people with the Gospel, and also learn how to engage you, the listeners, more effectively. (I know all these things are so because I copied and pasted most of those words from the NRB website.)

 

All of that is wonderful, excellent stuff indeed. 

 

But I still got a free hat. 

 

And it’s not just any hat. (Guys like hats. We don’t exactly know why, we just like hats. It might have something to do with the blog I wrote last week about emperors, pharaohs, and kings and stuff like that, but let’s not go down that bunny trail right now.) It’s a hat from “The Chosen” TV series. 

 

“The Chosen” is the best Jesus “stuff” I have ever seen. And, even though it calls itself a TV series, it is unlike any TV series before it because it is crowd funded. You go to the website, click some magic internet buttons, and watch it for free. If you like it (and you will) you can donate so other people can watch it for free. You can watch it on your phone, on your desktop computer, or on your television. The whole concept of how it’s funded has this wonderful, Biblical, “blessing others with the power of the Gospel” vibe that, come to think of it, is a whole lot like the way Kinship Radio operates.

 

As I said, “The Chosen” is the best Jesus stuff I’ve ever seen on TV. Yes, it’s better than The Ten Commandments with Charlton Hesston and Yul Brynner. Yes, better than that Mel Gibson film. 

 

There are all these great moments portrayed, like where Jesus’ mother is telling Him they are out of wine at the wedding at Cana, or the enormous catch of fish at the sea of Galilee, or the interaction between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, or Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus, or the Samaritan woman at the well, or when Andrew told His brother Simon that he had found the Messiah…

 

You remember Simon. He’s the disciple Jesus would call “Cephas” which means “rock” which we translate as “Peter.”

 

Now, in “The Chosen,” Peter is portrayed as impetuous, unruly, and completely unable to keep his mouth shut when he should. Peter is the guy who hasn’t quite got the concept of having a personal filter figured out. No sooner is a thought in the mind, but it’s out of the mouth.

 

I completely and totally identify with Peter.

 

My friend and learned pastor Tim Ogle often and freely refers to Peter as a “knucklehead.” I don’t think there’s a serious Bible scholar in the world who knows his beans who would argue that point. We love Peter, but c’mon Peter, cutting the guy’s ear off? Really?

 

Anyway, when “The Chosen” portrays this moment when Peter’s brother, Andrew, tells him he has found the Messiah, Peter’s response is “Yeah, yeah, right. Sure you have” or something like that. Andrew, instead of engaging Peter in a lengthy theological argument, simply says, “Come and see.”

 

And that’s what it says on the hat. “Come and see.”

 

Come and experience Jesus. Come and let Him convince you of who He really is. Come and see that Jesus has a place and purpose for knuckleheads like me, and it is glorious beyond all you could think or imagine.

 

Kinship Radio does the same thing. Come and listen. Hear the teaching and the music and the testimony of His people, of people whose lives have been changed by Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ. 

 

Come and listen. Even if you’re a knucklehead.

 

Especially if you’re a knucklehead.

 

And if you happen to see some goofy-looking guy wearing a black-and-white hat with the words “Come and See” on it, I won’t consider you a knucklehead for asking about it.

 

Today’s Praise

 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him. John 4: 29&30 (NLT)

 

 

Simon Peter (Shahar Issac) being a knucklehead and fishing at night on the Sabbath in episode 4, season 1 of  “The Chosen.” Photo courtesy of Creative Commons. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

Independence Day and Imago Dei

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

 

When the Declaration of Independence was written back in 1776, that was crazy talk. All men created equal? You think you have rights simply because you exist? King George III must have laughed right into his Bubble and Squeak –at first.

 

So where did Thomas Jefferson and the guys who signed that document get such revolutionary ideas?

 

Men had been ruled by emperors and pharaohs and kings for all of the 5,000 or so years of written history prior to that. Whatever the guy with the biggest, most expensive hat was called, it was common knowledge that the blacksmith, the block-layer, or the guy cleaning out the horse stalls was most certainly not his equal.  

 

There had been some talk and some experiments with people having rights and being allowed to rule themselves (kind of) in China and India and Athens, but things rather quickly went back to a big shot with a big army being the one who called the shots.

 

The Magna Carta, written in 1215 in England, granted some rights to some of the king’s subjects and is often cited as the beginning of rights and liberty for the governed –provided the king chose them to have those rights.

 

During the Renaissance in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries there was a focus by scholars on studying grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy in an attempt to purify and renew Christianity by returning to the simplicity of the New Testament.

 

There was also this crazy German monk in the 16th century named Martin Luther who challenged the concept that the Pope was infallible, and that the Church should not sell “Get Out of Hell” tickets (a.k.a. “Indulgences.”) to finance building cathedrals. He also had the temerity to posit that ordinary people had the right to read the Bible and think for themselves. 

 

The concept of people thinking for themselves was a key aspect of the Age of Enlightenment, which historians will tell you is where the folks who wrote the Declaration got their radical concepts of personal worth and rights. 

 

Early on in the Age of Enlightenment, England had a king named Charles I who was not very enlightened at all. His habit of imposing “forced loans” on people and imprisoning those who refused to pay eventually resulted in three civil wars. (And the loss of his head.)

 

In between the First English Civil War (1642-46) and the Second English Civil War (1648-49) a group called The Levellers gained influence in England by pioneering the use of pamphlets and petitions. (They were known to use the phrase “No king but King Jesus” in their literature –a phrase that would arise again as a banner and a battle cry during the Revolutionary War.) Their advocacy of individual rights and freedom was based on the Biblical concept of imago Dei –that we are all made in the image of God as it says in Genesis and therefore, we all have the right to the very things that would later be penned in the Declaration of Independence. 

 

That concept of imago Dei absolutely changed the world.

 

After the Revolutionary War, there was an enormous upwelling of the pursuit of freedom. Throughout the Americas and the Caribbean, former colonies of the French, the British, the Spanish, and the Portuguese became independent countries. 

 

The concept of imago Dei incited American and British Quakers to begin the Abolitionist movement to end slavery. The first draft of the Declaration of Independence called for the abolishment of slavery, but it was removed after contentious debate. Many of the states banned slavery very shortly after the country was formed.

 

And if people who didn’t own land and people who were slaves had been created in the image of God, didn’t that also apply to women? Aren’t they endowed by their Creator with the same unalienable rights?

 

Granted, we as a country have made terrible errors in carrying out the full and complete implications of every person being made in the image of God, but the power and the glory of that concept has given us a world far, far better than it was before. The errors we have made have come as a result of forgetting that concept rather than of practicing and implementing it.

 

King Jesus has and will continue to change the world and one day, all the crowns of all the kings of all the world will be cast at His feet.

 

So, if you happen to hear Kinship Radio playing “Image of God” by We Are Messengers this Independence Day weekend, remember how that concept changed the world. Remember that every person you meet is made in His image to be valued and appreciated and loved.

 

Today’s Praise

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

 

City on a Hill

Last Thursday night, a group of Kinship Radio supporters, radio ministry staff, pastors, and disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ gathered together at what will be the new studios for the ministry in Mankato. 

 

It’s still under construction, but despite the drywall dust, most of the interior walls are up. 

 

We gathered there, at the site of what had been the Lighthouse Bookstore for over 40 years, to pray over this place and dedicate it to the LORD.  We sang songs of praise and prayed and acknowledged that God’s hand had provided this specific location at this specific time for God’s purposes. It was anointed with salt and oil. We wrote God’s words on the walls. 

 

I felt the Holy Spirit present in power.

 

As all this was going on, I remembered that this area was called the Hilltop region of Mankato. In point of fact, the building we were in –860 Madison Avenue– sits at the very beginning, the crest, the pinnacle of what people call Mankato Hilltop. 

 

And I could not help but think that there could be no better place for His light –for the Word of the LORD, for His praises, for music proclaiming His glory, for teaching building up His people, for witness and testimony, for the life-giving and life-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to be broadcast from to all those who listen in northern Iowa, southern Minnesota, and all the world. 

 

Today’s Praise

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14 (NLT)

 

*Please note: At some point in the future, probably early this fall, when all the drywall dust has settled and all the carpet and furniture is in and the air conditioning is functional, Kinship Radio will host a public event for the new offices where we will once again pray and praise the LORD for His greatness and provision.

And don’t forget, it’s still June letter month! Here’s a link to send your letter to us: https://kinship.secureallegiance.com/kinship/WebModule/Donate.aspx?P=JUNELTR21&PAGETYPE=PLG&CHECK=oyVw9hfpknaK%2fyegIKYtia1gzMC6uhq5nDjkJobrCdg%3d

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Not long ago, I was talking to my boss (at my secular job) and I mentioned missionary work.

 

My boss looked at me, smiled, and said, “That’s what you want to be… when you grow up, right?”

 

I smiled and nodded and chuckled to my 62 year-old self.

 

Yes, LORD, here I am, send me.

 

My first mission trip was to the Dominican Republic in 2015. During the training for that experience, I asked some question of the missionary training the team that I absolutely cannot recall, but I do remember his answer, “Oh, this won’t be your last mission trip.”

 

He was more than right. That first mission trip changed me forever because the love of God reached down and touched my soul in its glorious, unimaginably infinite magnitude. I felt as if I had suddenly discovered why I existed.

 

I was so changed by that experience, I think I was back home for maybe 19 seconds before I googled, “How to become a missionary.”

 

The answer left me crestfallen, for every website I found said I had to become debt-free before I could be a missionary.

 

It made sense, as one could obviously not be living under flat rocks and eating bugs with the natives of deepest Oozambeckistan while mailing home a $947 house payment every month. 

 

It was a tough answer because I was not born into a wealthy family. In addition, I made a long series of stupid decisions during my life that have resulted in negative financial consequences. In fact, as I look back on it now, I have been in debt for all of my adult life –ever since I signed a $700 loan for a 1970 Mustang at a shady loan business at 20 kajillion percent interest at almost the exact moment I was old enough to do so without my parent’s permission.

 

(Some years later, a judge would find that loan company guilty of illegally requiring people like me to buy credit life insurance to get their loan. Their punishment was a mandate to issue vouchers for free credit life insurance to the people it had wronged. They mailed me a stack of over twenty of those useless vouchers.)

 

But the LORD is faithful and just. At some point, someone told me “You cannot out-give God.” Since that first mission trip, I have increased my giving, increased my time spent with Him, and tried to seek first the Kingdom of God before all things. I have learned that a disciple is someone who simply follows Jesus and trusts in Him for all things. And you know what? God has blessed me beyond all measure. I am not rich by any means, and I am not totally free of debt at this point, but that advice you hear on Moneywise everyday at 1:30 on Kinship Radio is good advice and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

 

God is making a way!

 

So as I approach retirement age, it looks like(God willing) I may be able to be some kind of a missionary on that golden day when I finally do grow up which, ironically, appears that it will be the first day I receive a Social Security check.

 

Now, I do not know exactly what that mission will look like. Maybe I will travel the world talking to people about Jesus, sharing his love, and come back home to write about it in this blog. Or maybe I will share it on the radio. Maybe, through the miracle of modern technology, I can be part of a team that broadcasts directly to the listeners here in Kinship Radio land on how the Holy Spirit is moving in distant countries. (Beth Crosby and Tom Wetzell and I did exactly that a few years ago from a dining room table in Sabana Perdida, Dominican Republic.) Maybe Jesus will have me interviewing a woman on the street in downtown Amboy, Minnesota. I don’t know where the LORD will send me or where Jesus will ask me to follow Him, but I am willing and I know if it’s His plan, there is no stopping it.

 

Food for thought: In what area might you stretch your faith muscles in anticipation for the Lord’s future mission for you? Your time with Him? In your
giving? Ask Him and He will be faithful to show you.

  

Today’s Praise

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT)

 

(The photo above is of a church in Dominican Republic which is near and dear to my heart. It’s named “La Capilla de la Victoria, which means, “The Chapel of the Victory.” Used by permission. More here: https://kinshipradio.org/home/2019/03/14/the-mega-church/ )

Flawless

It was a rough week. People I love were hurt in a way that only love can hurt. The wound is still so fresh and so deep that writing down the details now in blog for all the world to see would make the wound deeper and hurt more.

 

But, out of that pain and hurt came something I cannot keep to myself.

 

I was praying while I was driving to work for those people I love that the Holy Spirit would minister to them and console them in their grief and, in one of those rare moments of my life, I briefly felt the magnitude of God’s love touch me.

 

There are no words to adequately describe it. I can say that I knew deep in my soul that God loved the people I love more than I could ever imagine or comprehend.  The magnificence and power of it overwhelmed me and brought me to tears.

 

Paul wrote about that love gloriously in Ephesians 3: 

 

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. Vs. 18&19a (NLT)

 

Too great to understand fully. Amen, Paul. 

 

I’m certainly not going to try to outdo the guy who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else in trying to describe the love of God in Jesus Christ. Paul writes as if that love had physical dimensions, and not just the normal three–he writes as if the love of God has four dimensions –as if it transcends our comprehension of the universe itself!

 

It made my whole day entirely different. That the person in front of me was driving slightly slower than the speed limit and didn’t instantaneously notice that the light had turned green no longer mattered in the light of that love. People seemed different knowing how much they are loved by God.

 

Later in my day, I was once again driving and the song “Flawless” by MercyMe came over Kinship Christian Radio.

 

Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did

 

And my eyes started to sting again.

 

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless.

 

Oh LORD! Oh Jesus!  That you would love me so much that death on a cross was worth it to make me flawless is so beyond words!  That I could come before the God of the universe, the God of all, completely cleansed and made whole is… 

 

There is nothing I can say.

 

And as I was pondering all this, it occurred to me that of course I could not describe the love of God. For if God is infinite, His love can also be nothing but infinite. 

 

And flawless.

 

Today’s Praise

Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now I’m ok
Because the cross was enough.
(Lyrics from “Flawless” by MercyMe.)
God’s infinite love in Christ Jesus is what cures us. Please take a moment and tell us how the love of Jesus on Kinship Christian Radio has healed and cured you here: https://kinship.secureallegiance.com/kinship/WebModule/Donate.aspx?P=JUNELTR21&PAGETYPE=PLG&CHECK=oyVw9hfpknaK%2fyegIKYtia1gzMC6uhq5nDjkJobrCdg%3d

The Cure

It’s June Letter Month at Kinship Radio!

 

This year’s theme is, “Jesus is the cure.” So, write us a letter, tell us how Jesus is your cure, include a donation of any amount and you will receive an official Kinship Radio First Aid Pack and a CD by Unspoken which includes the song, “The Cure.”

 

Here’s a link with more info: https://kinship.secureallegiance.com/kinship/WebModule/Donate.aspx?P=JUNELTR21&PAGETYPE=PLG&CHECK=oyVw9hfpknaK%2fyegIKYtia1gzMC6uhq5nDjkJobrCdg%3d

 

I’ll start, but please keep in mind that yours can (and probably should) be entirely different.

 

I was raised in a home where my mom was a Christian and my dad was not. At the age of maybe seven or eight years old I met Jesus at Vacation Bible School. Although I remember very few of the details, the filling of light and love that day is something I will never forget.

 

When I was thirteen, my mother passed away as a result of breast cancer. By the time I graduated high school, I was a drug addict. I bought into the lies of the hippy culture of the time and I led a life of sin.

 

I knew deep in my heart that what I was doing was wrong. I often thought, and prayed, that I should change my ways and come back to Jesus, but I was unable to do so under my own power. 

 

And then one day, in the late summer of 1983, I was headed home from a motorcycle trip to Colorado when I spotted a campground behind the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota. (I remember the sign said Elvis’ motorcycle and many classic cars were on display in the museum.)

 

Now, if any of you have ever noticed, Murdo sits in the middle of all the flat boring nothingness in the center of South Dakota. I pitched my half-man pup tent (I call it a half-man pup tent because if I stretched out on my back, my feet would stick out the door.) as night fell and went to sleep.

 

At about 2:00 a.m., I was awakened by a thunderstorm. The wind pelted my little tent, threatening to tear it from the ground. I stuck my head in the peak off the tent and grabbed the corners as I knelt on all fours. The rain pelted my side, stinging through the thin tent material. I, my sleeping bag, and everything in the tent was rapidly becoming saturated.

 

And then it stopped.

 

The wind and the rain simply ceased. I waited a couple of minutes to see if it really was over. And then I heard it.

 

From off in the northwest, I heard a low rumble. It grew closer and closer until it sounded like there was a freight train directly over me.

 

Yes, it was a tornado.

 

Now, you may have heard it said that there are no atheists in fox holes. I can assure you, brothers and sisters, neither are there any atheists in half-man pup tents underneath a tornado. 

 

As I tried to hold the tent down and keep from being sucked into the swirling vortex above me, I cried out to God. And I promised God that if He would just save me, I would quit doing all the bad stuff I knew I shouldn’t be doing. I even promised God I would start going back to church.

 

Well, since you are reading this, you obviously know God did indeed spare my life that night. The tornado tore the roof off the Stuckey’s truck stop to the south of me, blew my motorcycle over, scattered picnic tables and cast iron fry pans throughout the campground, and spared my miserable life.

 

The funny thing is, I did not immediately follow through on all those promises I made to God that night. In fact, as I drove away in the clear morning sunshine, I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll never be able to keep all those promises I made to God.”

 

And God chuckled.

 

For, over the next two years, God let me descend further and further into sin. My life got worse and worse until one day, I looked in the mirror and knew I had hit the bottom of my existence. I knew only Jesus could save me and I pulled out my old Bible that had been given to me just before mom passed away and I started reading. 

 

And I got some other books, and God put me in contact with people who knew Jesus, and I did start going back to church and I began to find out who Jesus really was. 

 

It did not happen overnight. 

 

It’s been a long, slow process but in it, I have resolved to simply follow Jesus where He leads me. I do not cure myself. Jesus cures me a little bit more each day. 

 

And because of what Jesus has done in my life, I have been blessed beyond measure. Love has been multiplied in my life again and again through my family, through writing this blog, through studying His word, through the tapestry of worship and the Word on Kinship Radio, through the dozens and dozens of pastors and missionaries and simply disciples I have met and come to love over all these years. 

 

I have found love and peace and joy –unspeakable, miraculous joy– in following Jesus and allowing him to cure me.

 

Case-in-point: I recently responded to a survey sent to me by Bethany Global University in Minneapolis. BGU is a missionary training college, and it has been instrumental in many of the mission trips that have blessed me. In that survey, I offered to help their ministry in any way I could, whether it be by writing or preaching or evangelizing, or through my work experience with donated cars.

 

They responded quickly and asked if I would like to help with publicity on a 1965 Mustang that’s been donated and will soon be auctioned off –at the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota.

 

All I could do was smile at the power of the cure.

 

Today’s Praise

“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God. Jeremiah 3:22 (NIV)

Crocodile Click-Bait

In the early afternoon hours of August 25, 2010, a Let L-410 passenger aircraft owned and operated by Democratic Republic of the Congo airline company Filair was on its final approach to Bandundu Airport when a crocodile illegally smuggled aboard escaped inside the passenger’s compartment, causing the flight attendant and the passengers to rush to the front of the aircraft. The sudden shift in the plane’s center of gravity caused the pilot to lose control and the plane crashed into a house just .6 mile from the airport, killing 20 of the people aboard. 

 

There were only two survivors –one passenger and the crocodile. 

 

I found this story on one of the many click-bait pop-ups that frequent my social media news feed. It was among the “news items” in an article called “Freaky Deaths: 19 Bizarre Ways That People Have Kicked the Bucket.”

 

Now, I could launch into a lengthy tirade about sensational journalism and how this type of story panders to the morbid and shady sides of my character, but let me ask you a question first, dear readers:

 

When you read that first paragraph, how big was the crocodile? 

 

The part I left out in that opening paragraph was that the reptile in question was smuggled aboard inside a carry-on bag. (Either a duffel bag or “large sports bag” depending on the source.)

 

When I first read this story, the picture of the crocodile inside my head was at least six to eight feet long and I certainly pictured a mature, adult crocodile. 

 

Not so. In the dozens and dozens of news stories I found on this incident, not one listed any physical dimensions for the animal –although one in an Ethiopian language did refer to it as “a small crocodile.”

 

We do know that it was dispatched at the crash site with a machete, so obviously this was not the life-threatening, person-eating behemoth that popped into my head when I first read about it.

 

Not only does this tell us something about how modern “journalism” works, it’s also a great example of how our brains work in this broken and messed-up world. 

 

It’ so easy to inflate the size and severity of what I perceive as “problems” in my life. Instead of fending off the juvenile crocodiles that have escaped their duffel bags just as the plane is landing with a travel pillow or a seat cushion –and usher it out the door once the plan is safely on the ground– I am just as likely to stampede the cockpit of the aircraft in abject terror as the next guy. 

 

The horrible part of that scenario is that panic like that is contagious, and the next thing you know, everybody is in the cockpit screaming and the plane goes into an uncontrollable nose-dive. 

 

Even worse, (and to strain the metaphor to its utmost) the crocodile that caused all the commotion in the first place usually survives. 

 

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem in 1910 called “If” which said if you can remain calm and unflappable in the midst of chaos, the Earth and everything in it will be yours and you’ll be a Man. (It was 1910. Women weren’t even allowed to vote.) Just 12 years later (after women had successfully won the right to vote) someone parodied the Kipling poem with the line, “If you can keep your head when all those around you are losing theirs, you probably don’t fully understand the situation.” 

 

But Jesus does allow us to fully understand the situation. No matter what happens, Jesus is LORD –just like it says on the Kinship Radio tower in giant red letters. Jesus is the one who calms the storm. Jesus is the one in whom and for whom and through whom all things are created and live and move and have their being.

 

When the storm came up on Galilee and the disciples in that boat were sure they were going to die, four of those disciples were fishermen who were voicing a valid concern based on years of professional experience. These were not the hysterical rantings of people who didn’t know what they were talking about. They were absolutely qualified to make that assessment. They fully understood the situation. 

 

But Jesus woke up from His slumber, and brought the wind and the waves to a great calm simply by speaking, ‘Silence! Be still.” And then, He turned to His disciples, who I am absolutely certain were standing there with their mouths hanging open and, 

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40 (NIV)

 

And there was not a crocodile to be seen anywhere.

 

Today’s Praise

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” Mark 4:41 (NLT)