Reve’ Krengel of Good Thunder is sponsoring a Half Day of broadcasting today in honor of Armed Forces Day. Reve’ is also sponsoring today in memory of her husband, Jerome Krengel, who was a veteran; in honor of Luke, who was in the Air Force Reserves; and in honor of Ella, who is in the Air Force. Thank you, Reve’, for honoring the Armed Forces with your sponsorship today! God Bless You!
I’ve been wearing reading glasses (a.k.a. “cheaters”) for about 20 years now.
It’s not a big deal, and despite having a pair in virtually every room in my house and occasionally searching everywhere for that “lost” pair only to find them perched atop my increasingly absent-minded head, there aren’t a lot of drawbacks. They’re not expensive, they work well, and I can see to be able to do things like write long, rambling, seemingly pointless blogs. (Emphasis on “seemingly.”)
A couple of months ago, the vision in my right eye got a little blurrier than it had been, so I made an appointment to see an eye doctor thinking I’d probably just end up with some eyedrops and maybe have to go to prescription glasses after all these years of what has essentially been pretty normal vision. No worries, right?
The eye doctor took one look inside my right eye and said I had something going on in there that was above his pay grade. A subsequent trip to the ophthalmologist confirmed that I had experienced Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion (BRVO) in my right eye. BRVO is not curable with eyedrops and prescription lenses. Technically, it is “a blockage of one or more branches of the central retinal vein, which runs through the optic nerve.” That means things kind of blow up, swell up, and mess up in the back part of the eye where that whole “seeing” thing takes place.
It is not curable.
But, praise the LORD!, it is treatable!
In the 700 years since eyeglasses were first invented, modern medical science has come up with medicine which can reduce the swelling and greatly improve one’s vision. HALLELUJAH!
The medicine is delivered directly into the interior of the eyeball with a needle. Yes, that means they poke an actual needle in your eye.
You may have noticed that there was not an all-caps HALLELUJAH! behind that last sentence. Of course not. No one in their right mind would actually want a needle stuck in their eye. There is no marketing campaign in the world that could make that sound like fun –but it works!
When I was first tested, the vision in my left eye was 20/20 (normal) while the right eye tested at 20/1500. That’s not legally blind (Oh, I asked.) but it’s really, really bad.
One month after that first injection, my right eye tested at 20/60. And, after three months and testing a different drug, it’s now at 20/30. Now that’s a HALLELUJAH moment!
While my vision is greatly improved, there is still some distortion in my right eye which causes things in the center of my vision to look “pinched” or narrowed somewhat, but the brain is an amazing work of God. Somehow, when I have both eyes open, my brain knows that the picture my left eye is seeing is more correct than the picture my right eye is seeing and corrects for it. That’s why I barely noticed it when the right eye went completely haywire. Unless I closed my left eye, it was hard to tell the right eye even had a problem. As the vision in my right eye gets better, my brain occasionally swaps in some distorted info and things look funny, but closing my right eye and letting the left eye carry the load for a little while seems to reset the master control and all goes back to normal.
That is, until I was cleaning fish this weekend.
My brother and I have been catching fish together for many, many years and we particularly enjoy catching and eating northern pike. Properly cleaned northern pike are excellent table fare, but it requires removal of the “Y” bones. Done properly, it’s not that difficult and the result is more than worth the extra effort and precision required.
We were blessed to have caught enough northern pike this past weekend for a much-anticipated feast. It had been a beautiful, sunny day out on the water, I’d enjoyed some much longed-for comradery with my brother, and some fried fish sure sounded good at the end of the day.
But, as I began wielding the filet knife to remove those “Y” bones, I noticed it was much more difficult with the change in my vision. I started to get downcast as I worked, thinking that a skill that had taken many years of practice was so quickly lost. I began to mentally assure myself that it wasn’t the end of the world, that aging is a normal process, and I could still do a good job if I were to just go a little slower, pay a little more attention, and use my sense of touch a little more to make up for what I had lost in vision. “Suck it up, Buttercup. Be a grown-up and deal with it,” I told myself.
In the end, the stack of filets was done and I was fairly certain that I had done a reasonably good job. I was mentally preparing a speech to warn my brother that there might be one or two stray bones in those filets when I reached up to take my cheaters off…
..and discovered that I had been wearing my sunglasses the whole time I had been cleaning the fish.
And suddenly, I was internally embarrassed that my soul had immediately picked the worst case scenario when things weren’t going the way I wanted. I had imagined a future for myself based on a scenario I had constructed out of my own fears.
The biggest challenge I face every day is not coping with the effects of aging or the bone-headedness of remembering which glasses I’m wearing –it’s training my soul to live in the truth of who I really am. I am a child of the One True King. I am loved and blessed far, far more than I have ever earned or deserved. He has given me a rich life, a life to the full with joy beyond measure and peace beyond understanding.
And the apex of that joy and peace is being able to clearly see, with both eyes open, that sometimes the most appropriate response in the world is to laugh at myself.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (ESV)
Mid-May has always been a time of some conflict for me.
On the one hand, I’ve long adhered to May 15 as the first safe date for planting the garden. As long as I can remember planting a garden in Minnesota, I’ve never lost a tender garden plant to frost as long as I have planted on or after May 15.
On the other hand, that most revered, treasured, and honored of all secular holidays –Opening Day of Fishing Season– occurs on the weekend closest to May 15.
I say it’s a time of conflict, but it’s not really a tough decision. When the choice comes down to gardening or fishing, I will pick fishing. Every. Single. Time.
But I will feel ever-so-slightly guilty about it– certainly not while I’m fishing, but as I am planting the garden on the following weekend.
I really shouldn’t beat myself up on this one. The tomatoes don’t seem to mind being planted a week later and, if it gets to be late July or early August and I absolutely cannot wait another moment for a BLT with homegrown tomatoes before mine are ripe in the garden, there are people who planted their tomatoes instead of going fishing and will sell me as many as I want.
Gardening and fishing are a lot alike as both are hobbies that can and do produce food better than I can buy in the grocery store (No offense intended to all who make an honest living selling groceries. Thank you for all you do, and please continue reading.) but at far, far greater expense than what they charge for the same items in said grocery store. There is a very good reason I never find myself tempted to apply strict accounting procedures to the cost of freshly-caught walleye fillets.
Both gardening and fishing draw me to God.
“Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made.” (NLT)
God was the first gardener. And he put Adam in the garden to take care of it. God made man with a purpose and reason. Adam was not made to sit around and twiddle his thumbs.
Gardening was the first vocation. There is an ageless, undeniable connection to working the soil and producing food. The beauty of green, growing things is a timeless longing in the human soul.
Our souls have the same connection to water. Lakefront property has far greater value than landlocked property. We all love to sit by the lake or the ocean or the beach or the brook and have our souls stirred and calmed by that beauty.
At least four of the twelve Jesus called to be His disciples were fishermen. A great deal of His preaching, teaching, and healing took place within sight of or on the Sea of Galilee. He did miracles with great catches of fish, fed crowds with fish, arranged for a fish to be involved in paying taxes, ate fish with His disciples after His resurrection to show He wasn’t a ghost, and restored Peter over a morning shore lunch of fish. The earliest Christians even used the fish symbol to identify themselves to one another.
And I’m certainly not about to forget Jesus calling those fisherman to be disciples in Matthew 4:19:
“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”’ (ESV)
Or how He told The Parable of the Sower and, as He explains it in Mark 4:14, He says,
“The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others.” (NLT)
So, I’m not conflicted at all about why my soul seems to feed on gardening and fishing. It’s natural. Both are enormous blessings that enrich my life and generate a wholeness, a oneness and assurance that God is indeed good and He has given me great, great gifts and blessings to enjoy, but enjoying those gifts all for myself feels like being half a Christian.
Jesus has done amazing things in my life. I’ve seen Him do amazing things in the lives of others. I have felt the power of His presence, the glorious magnitude of His love for all people, I have heard Him call “Come” to the people of the world, I have been blessed to stand looking out over the Sea of Galilee and been moved to tears by all He is.
I cannot keep that to myself and call myself a Christian. I have been changed forever, born again, and a fresh cucumber or fried sunfish filet is thirty, sixty, a hundred times better knowing that it brings Him joy to pour out His blessings not just on me but on anyone and everyone who would accept Him as LORD and Savior.
If He would use me for His purposes by sending me out to share the glory of His love for all people, the only conflict that stands before me is which shoes to wear.
Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. (NLT)
“I suppose the only thing we can do now is pray.”
For many people, Christians included, prayer is often seen as the last resort, the thing we do when nothing else works, when all other hope is exhausted. But, that is most certainly not what God’s Word says, nor is it the way our country was founded. For that matter, it wasn’t the way Kinship Christian Radio was founded either.
This is the prayer said every day at Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington. It is taken from a letter he wrote to all the governors of all the states on June 8, 1783:
“I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have the United States in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Devine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. Amen”
I have been to Mount Vernon and I have seen the verse from John 11:25-26 engraved on the door of his tomb.
“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
Kinship Radio came into being because a man had a vision of a radio station with a tower proclaiming the words, “JESUS IS LORD.” The first thing he and his brothers and sisters in Christ did was pray about that vision and it is because of those prayers that God’s word and praise and worship and teaching go out over the airwaves night and day all year long.
No, prayer should never be the last resort. It should be the first step, the foundation on which all ministry, on which all our lives should be established and anchored in.
The National Day of Prayer was signed into being by President Harry Truman in 1952. It’s being observed this year on Thursday, May 5 and the theme is, “Exalt the Lord, who has established us.” It’s taken from Colossians 2:6-7:
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
It’s a glorious way to live, with every step we take originating in, with, through, and for Jesus Christ as we overflow with praise and thanksgiving.
People are gathering together to pray on this day throughout the Kinship listening area in many locations. Here’s a link to those events: https://kinshipradio.org/home/national-day-of-prayer-2022/
Throughout the day, Kinship Radio listeners will have an opportunity to text or call us with their prayers. There will be interviews with national and area event organizers on the importance of National Day of Prayer. You’ll find NDOP info on our social media pages as well and we will be airing the prayers of staff members throughout the day.
The National Day of Prayer website is here: https://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/
LORD, we thank you and praise you for all the many blessings you have poured out on us.
We thank you for this country, founded on your Word, your goodness, your mercy, and your grace. We ask that you would forgive us our sins and all the times we have strayed from your truth that is in Jesus Christ.
Help us, LORD, to be better, to follow Jesus wherever He leads us, to love you with all that we are, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you. Help us to live lives of gratitude and praise, to take delight in you, to shine with the love of Jesus that we as a nation would be as a city on a hill.
We ask that you bless all in positions of power and authority, that you would direct their hearts like streams of water in your hand to do your will, to the praise of your glory!
We ask that you would bless and protect, lead and guide, all those who serve in the military that they would be instruments of your mercy.
We ask that you would strengthen and build families to be models of your love for us –protecting fathers and mothers and sons and daughters and all family members throughout out nation.
We pray for all those who earn an honest living serving others. We ask that you would prosper them and help them and grant that our current problems with our economy would be solved without undue suffering.
We pray for our churches, asking that all who preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ would be strengthened and encouraged and granted divine wisdom, favor, and ability in bringing the love of Jesus Christ to all. We ask that all who preach to itching ears would listen to and heed your loving rebuke and correction.
We pray the truth, your truth and nothing but the truth into all the schools and all the media.
AMEN and HALLELUJAH! AMEN!
1 John 5:14&15
“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” (NLT)
All across the internet, people are having arguments. It’s like the new national sport.
And it’s so easy to get sucked into these debates and try to “win.”
A friend of mine recently posted a meme with a dramatic artist’s rendering of a jetliner crashing and the words, “There are believers who say there are no atheists when a plane falls. But the truth is that there is no prayer that prevents the plane from falling.” So, I did a quick search and easily found two articles where people testified that prayer saved them and others from dying in a plane crash. I posted the links without comment –even though every fiber of my being wanted to type out, “Neener, neener.“
Did I win?
It sure felt like it, but did that smug little feeling I enjoyed bring my atheist friend to his knees in fervent prayer seeking Jesus?
Maybe not so much.
When I was in Israel a couple of years ago, I had the honor and privilege of enjoying some wonderful conversations with Jewish people. On more than one occasion, I told the person I was speaking with, “I have resolved not to argue with the Jewish people. After all, from what I read in my Bible, you are the people who invented how to win an argument.”
That always brought a smile and wonderful conversation followed. I was, of course, referencing Abraham’s “argument” with God about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-33. Actually, it’s more of a negotiation than an argument, but God does eventually agree that He will not destroy Sodom if there are only ten righteous people in the whole city.
If we really think about it, Abraham didn’t actually “win” that argument because, well, we know how that all turned out. Negotiating with an omniscient God is kind of like playing Gin Rummy with someone who can see inside your head. You only think you’re winning.
In a recent Bible study, we were examining Mark 3 and verse 22 jumped off the page for me:
“But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”” (NLT)
In their opening argument, the Pharisees are already conceding that the people Jesus is healing A.) Are possessed by real demons from Satan, and B.) Jesus is indeed casting out those demons. They are not saying these are fake demons, that the people aren’t really possessed, or that Jesus isn’t actually casting out those demons.
From there, it’s a slam-dunk. Jesus gives them three illustrations (kingdom, family, house) that their argument doesn’t make sense. In His closing rebuttal, He makes the analogy that He is, not just figuratively but actually, stealing souls from Satan.
And then, in verse 28&29, He says:
“I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” (NLT)
Boom! Now, the tables are turned and it is the Pharisees who are standing there with the crowd looking at them thinking, “Yeah, whose side are you on, anyway?”
So, while it’s actually a great deal of fun to imagine oneself back in the first century watching Jesus make mince-meat of the big-shot, know-it-all, high and mighty religious lawyers, it’s very important to remember that eventually these people who could never win an argument against Him would have Him killed.
Every time they came up against Him in an argument they lost, and they lost bad. He humiliated them time and time again. He “poked the bear” until the bear wouldn’t take it anymore.
It’s almost like He was trying to get them to kill Him. Matthew 23:3:
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (NIV)
And that outright name-calling comes during a whole chapter of Jesus just tearing the Pharisees to ribbons for their hypocrisy and lawlessness.
So, while Jesus never lost an argument with the Pharisees, are we called to “win” arguments the way He did?
If our objective is to be crucified, He clearly showed us the way. But, even though there are plenty of Pharisees in this world even to this day, what about the tax collectors and the prostitutes? What about the drug addicts and the poor and the thieves hanging from the crosses next to us?
Is my friend who posted the plane meme a Pharisee worthy of humiliation or is he just a regular guy who hasn’t quite found the Jesus who is willing to die for him to restore his soul with the power and the truth of His love?
Are we to conquer the evil all around us by winning arguments, or did He call us to something else?
Didn’t He call us to be salt and light, to love God and our neighbors as ourselves, to preach the Good News?
Paul writes about winning arguments in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
It’s not about winning arguments the way the world does. Our own thoughts are our captives, that they would be obedient to Christ.
There is a blueprint and a plan for living this way. Paul outlines it and gives clear instruction in Romans 12. I encourage you to read the whole chapter slowly, carefully, and prayerfully, but the heart of the chapter is in verses 9&10:
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” (NLT)
And, when it seems like the plane is bound and determined to crash no matter what we do, do not forget verse 21:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NIV)
2 Corinthians 10:17&18
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (NLT)
I recently came across the words, “Christian hedonism” online and I kind of cringed.
The dictionary definition of “hedonism” is “the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.” At its heart, the word means sensual, not spiritual pleasure. So, to my way of thinking, the idea of Christian hedonism is kind of an oxymoron. As Christians, we are to focus our spirits on the unseen things, the spiritual things of this world, like it says in 2 Corinthians 4:18:
“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.” (NIV)
Now, I absolutely must concede that the pastor who has been using this phrase (apparently since the 1980’s) is a far more respected, astute, and theologically sharp individual than yours truly. I’m just some guy in a plaid flannel shirt pounding out a blog once a week, for goodness sake. And, I absolutely understand that the phrase is about delighting oneself in the LORD. It’s about having so much joy in what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, that our central and core reason for being is to rejoice in that salvation.
At this point, I’d like to go on record as being 100% in favor of that kind of joy. Yes and HALLELUJAH!
But, even having come to that epiphany, I was still not totally comfortable associating the word “hedonism” with Christianity, so I decided to have a conversation with my good friend Kenny The Theology Guy. (That is not his actual title. He’s a pastor and a teacher who does a podcast called “Theology for the Rest of Us.” So, while “The Theology Guy” is not his actual title, I think it works.)
Anyway, Kenny said that the origin of the phrase probably has its roots in a push-back against asceticism. That’s another one of those theology words normal people don’t use every day, so here’s what it means: “severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.”
You may remember that Martin Luther was said to have beaten himself with a stick in an attempt to “mortify the flesh,” share in the sufferings of Christ, and draw closer to God. While things like fasting and self-denial are certainly godly practices which can and do draw people closer to God, Jesus very clearly said one should not do those things to draw attention to oneself as holier or more devout than others. (Matthew 6:16) In fact, the whole idea is not to let your devotion to God obscure or cover over the joy that should be evident as someone saved by grace.
I think we’ve all met joyless Christians who were about as likely to draw people to Christ through their demeanor as an all-night blood-letting event at the local church complete with live leeches so, as I told Kenny, I’m “all in” on the anti-asceticism bandwagon.
But, even after a rousing and enjoyable conversation with Kenny, I still couldn’t see myself shouting the praises of Christian Hedonism from the rooftops. As I told Kenny, it still seemed a lot like using the words, “Christian serial-killer.” It just didn’t seem right.
It took me days to figure it out, but it finally dawned on me as Kinship Radio played “Every Act of Love” by Jason Gray:
“Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come”
Asceticism and Christian hedonism are both about me. They’re both like all those self-help books out there that try and tell you the seven ways Christianity can get you a brand new boat, make your teeth whiter, fill your life with adoring friends, and keep you from frying in hell like a deep-fried pork rind as a side bonus.
But real Christianity is not about me. It’s about Christ. It’s about Jesus. All things were not made in and through and for Dan Jones. The radiance and joy and wonder of eternal life and adoption into the Kingdom as sons and daughters of the One True King does not emanate and originate with me. The guy in the plaid flannel shirt is not the source of all the sunshine and rainbows that grace this planet.
Those things come from Jesus Christ. Our reason for existence and our incredible, amazing, indescribably joy and being part of His family comes from Him –and it is not the result of anything we have done. The glory is all His, all Him.
Jesus is LORD –and I am not.
Joy doesn’t come from us. It’s not a “believe in yourself” kind of thing no matter how much the purveyors of popular culture preach that particular lie. Joy does come from a kind of asceticism, but it’s not reveling in pain or punishment of one’s flesh. It’s setting aside the flesh, telling it to sit down and shut up and instead doing the very odd thing of loving others first without regard for your own joy and happiness.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (NIV)
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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. There is no commandment greater than these.”
All of this entirely backwards from what the world would tell us, but it works. The greatest moments of joy in my life have come from loving others. And yes, like a true hedonist, I cannot get enough of it. That joy is enthralling, exhilarating, addicting. But it’s not something I can produce for my own pleasure. If I do it to feel good about myself, or solely for the purpose of creating my own pleasure, it doesn’t work. It’s motive-dependent and it’s a hard lesson to learn, but you cannot fake yourself into true joy. It doesn’t come in a can or wrapped up in a neat little box with a bow on it.
It’s not something you get, it’s something you give.
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
Photo of statue courtesy of Pixabay. She’s part of a memorial to Martin Luther in Germany and looks truly shocked and horrified that I would use the words “Christian hedonism” in this blog.
There is a place in Jerusalem called The Garden Tomb. It’s a beautiful place with lush plants growing everywhere and a tomb that was unearthed in 1867 which undoubtedly was around when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem.
But it is almost certainly not the actual tomb of Jesus. The Garden Tomb was constructed some 700-800 years before Jesus was born, so while it existed while He was alive, it would not fit with Matthew 27:60 and John 19:41 both of which say Jesus was laid to rest in a new tomb made for Joseph of Arimethea.
Nonetheless, The Garden Tomb is an excellent example of what was around in Jesus’ day and many, many believers frequent the site to see it.
I was there with some of those believers in 2019. As we waited to go into the tomb and look around, I was involved in a conversation with a lady named Joy. (No, I am not making that up. That is her actual name.) I had not spent much time talking to her previously, but before long, we found ourselves laughing and joking –and we were promptly shushed. We smiled knowing we had been busted, acknowledged the reverence of those around us, and continued our conversation in more hushed tones –and moments later were promptly shushed again.
Joy and I were having difficulty containing our joy.
While those around us were practicing the reverence and respect reserved for graveyards, it seemed Joy and I could not help but notice that He was not in there! In fact, Jesus was not in any graveyard because the living do not abide among the dead.
I love that song we play on Kinship Radio by Elevation Worship called “Graves into Gardens” because I’ve been there. I’ve been in the graveyard turned into a garden.
“You turn graves into garden
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can”
He is the only one who can, and He does it over and over again.
As we talked, Joy and I discovered that we had both come out of very dark places in our lives and into His marvelous light. Our graveyard lives had been turned into gardens.
I recently read a devotional by Pastor John Piper titled, “The Joy of the Lord is Your Stronghold” in which he makes the point that, as Christians, we should be practicing serious joy.
“We call it serious joy not only because it coexists in the same heart, at the same time, with the gravity of reverence and the groaning of sin, but also because it is not peripheral but central — serious in the sense of centrally important. It is not the negligible caboose at the end of the train, but belongs to the very fuel that runs the engine. And when I say centrally important, I mean central to God’s very being — central to God’s ultimate purpose in creating the world — and therefore also central to God-glorifying Christian living.”
Joy as central to God’s ultimate purpose in creating the world…
What a concept.
Instead of viewing our lives as a “veil of tears” (as I’ve heard it expressed in one old hymn) or some punishment to be endured until at last we die and rest in peace, what if our mission and our purpose was not only to experience the overflowing joy Jesus came to give us (John 15:11) but to share it with others?
Jesus is not in that tomb in Jerusalem, and His lifeless body does not rest in peace anywhere because He is risen! He is risen indeed! He lives and moves and breathes to this day, bringing joy and peace untold to all who would simply accept Him as Lord and Savior. He continues to turn dark and foreboding graveyard lives into lush gardens of abundant, overflowing life!
Joy and I may have been shushed temporarily on that day in the Garden Tomb, but neither of us have quit talking about the joy that is in the Risen One, Jesus Christ, because we can’t help but proclaim the praises of the One who saved us from the grave and brought us into the garden He intended for us from the very beginning of time!
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. (NLT)
All across certain areas of the country, giant metal crosses have been popping up.
There’s even a website called “Crosses Across America” that tells the story of how some of the crosses came into being: “The Roadside Cross Ministry began in 1984 when the late Reverend Bernard Coffindaffer erected the first trio of gold and blue Crosses in Flatwoods, West Virginia, about 65 miles north of Charleston. The former businessman-turned-evangelist was called by the Lord on a trip to Israel to build the Crosses. He liquidated his business and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Coffindaffer spent nearly $3,000,000 planting Crosses in 29 states, the District of Columbia, Zambia and the Philippines until his death in 1993. “The Crosses stand to remind people that Jesus was crucified on a Cross at Calvary for our sins; there is hope in Jesus Christ; and, that He is soon coming again.””
The crosses Coffindaffer put up were always in groups of three –one large gold one in the center for Jesus and two smaller blue ones on each side for the thieves executed with Him.
During those last nine years of his life, Coffindaffer erected 1,900 crosses, and the work continues to this day throughout the nation.
Other people are erecting crosses also. A man named James Potter has been erecting crosses up to 120 feet tall in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and anywhere else he can. Potter says he’s put up so many crosses, he’s lost count.
And, inevitably, the crosses are not without controversy –but not like you might think.
Certainly one would expect atheist groups to object, but the crosses are on private, not public land, so I didn’t find articles about anti-Christian groups objecting to them.
No, my pastor friend who told me about the crosses said the objections he’s seen are from other Christians who publicly wonder whether the money spent on them wouldn’t be better used for a youth center or something like that.
I’ve encountered this kind of complaining before. After my first mission trip, I came across a few people online who argued that we shouldn’t do short-term mission trips because the money we spend on those trips would do more good if we were to give it directly to the people we were trying to benefit.
The problem with both those arguments is they sell God far short of what He’s actually capable of doing.
It’s not like the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and created the universe and everything in it is on a fixed income.
Years ago, I was telling a dear sister in Christ about a church that was forever falling short of its budget and worrying about where their next dollar was coming from. Her response: “Is God poor?”
And it’s not the church’s money anyway. It’s God’s money.
Does Paul sound like God’s on a tight budget when he wrote Ephesians 3:20?
“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.”
Jesus fed thousands with bread and fish that multiplied as He gave them out.
In 1 Kings 17, God multiplies the widow’s oil and flour through Elijah so it never ran out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We should most certainly not waste what God gives us. Good stewardship is part of being faithful and wise and diligent, but there is a distinct and certain difference between being wise and discerning with God’s resources and being a mean, hard-edged, skinflint.
My point is that, from what I have seen of how God works, it’s not an either-or thing. I think God can do both.
In the case of both the crosses and short-term mission trips, they can increase God’s glory, the fame of Jesus, and spur us on to doing greater and greater things in the name of Jesus. If we respond to the critics who say those things are a waste of money with anger and hatred, we are just as guilty as the ones who complain. But, if we respond in love and agree that our town could certainly benefit from a Christian youth center or become involved in fund-raising for the people who touched our hearts on that short-term mission trip, then God’s glory and His kingdom and His praises are multiplied.
As for how much, I’m reminded of what Jesus said in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:20:
“And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
This is a story for all of you who think that I, as your Kinship Radio blog-writer, am just a little bit holier than you. This is a story for everyone who read that headline and are preparing themselves for some great, deep, amazing spiritual insight by a guy who has an inside edge, an exclusive ear, to God’s inner-most thoughts and revelations.
Okay, so last week at work I was having one of those days when I was up to my Adam’s Apple in paperwork, the phone would not stop ringing, I was subjected to numerous questions I had already answered and could have been answered by the person asking the question if only they would open up the smallest can of Common Sense available, one of my co-workers walked into my office and flopped yet another form for me to fill out with the usual mandatory useless and unnecessary information, there were actual people standing in line outside my office waiting to talk to me, and then the phone had the unmitigated audacity to ring one more time!
I grabbed the phone and almost shouted, “Hello, this is Dan…” without adding the actual words “…and what kind of annoying problem do YOU have today?!?!” but almost certainly imparted that message with my tone of voice.
And the voice on the other end of the phone said, “Hello, this is Patience.”
I swallowed hard.
“Patience. Your actual name is Patience.”
“Yes, I was wondering if…”
And the eyes of my heart looked up to heaven and a small, humbled voice inside of me said, “Okay, God. I got it. Message received.”
Normally, this is where you would expect me to copy and paste one of those verses about love and mercy and grace and compassion and being called to be holy as He is Holy, but I’m not going to do that. The first thought in my mind is to post Paul’s wretched man lament. (See Romans 7:7-25) Actually, right now I feel like buying a wretched man T-shirt. (Yes, you can buy pretty much anything you can think of on the internet.)
But the second thought in my head is to praise God.
LORD, THANK YOU for sending your Holy Spirit to a lady whose actual name is Patience to call me at the exact moment I needed that message from you.
THANK YOU, LORD, for answering that prayer I pray every day to be the man you want me to be, that you designed me to be long before you even spoke the whole universe into being.
THANK YOU, for being subtle and kind when I need it and being so overwhelmingly obvious I can’t ignore it when you absolutely know nothing else would have worked at that time, in that circumstance. ( See Numbers 22:21-41.)
THANK YOU, that you have not given up on me, that you continue to teach me even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, even when it involves things like patience and humility that I would learn to serve you and the people you love just a little bit better each day.
AMEN and HALLELUJAH!
Thank you, LORD, that Romans 8:1 immediately follows Paul’s wretched man lament:
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)
If you caught any of SRN News on Kinship Radio in the last few months, you know that even while Russia was amassing troops all around Ukraine’s borders, the official statement coming out of Moscow was, “Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine.”
Then they invaded Ukraine.
Once they invaded, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is undertaking a “special military operation” in Ukraine saying his goal is to demilitarize and denazify the country but not occupy it.
That’s right, “denazify.”
For the record, there is a small, far-right neo-nazi group in Ukriane, but between May and August 2019, Ukraine was the only country other than Israel to have both a Jewish head of government – Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman – and a Jewish head of state, President Zelensky.
Three of Zelensky’s grandfather’s brothers were killed in the Holocaust and President Zelensky has been outspoken about his Jewish identity.
In 2018, the Pew Research Center found Ukraine to be the most accepting of Jews among all Central and Eastern European countries.
So, inside Russia, what’s going on in Ukraine is being sold as a humanitarian aid mission. And if you should happen to publicly doubt that, disagree with that, or organize a peaceful protest against this “humanitarian” mission, you will be arrested. About 14,000 Russians have already been arrested for protesting the war in Ukraine.
According to Aljazeera News, “The Kremlin passed a law brought into force on March 4 criminalizing independent war reporting and protests against the war, with penalties of up to 15 years.” The words “independent war reporting” mean reporting anything about the war the Kremlin has not approved.
Russia lied and is continuing to lie. That is a clear fact.
If you’re a Russian citizen, speaking that fact in public could land you in prison.
And all of this makes me think of Gideon, an Asherah Pole, and an axe.
Okay, I should probably explain that. In Judges 6, Gideon is threshing grain in a winepress because he’s trying to hide his activities from the Midianites, who have conquered and taken over the land. An angel appears to Gideon and says, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!” (Verse 12) The angel says Gideon can conquer the Midianites, but Gideon’s not really buying it. He tells the angel to stick around while he goes and gets an offering to the LORD. The angel agrees.
Gideon comes back with a cooked goat, the broth from the goat, and some bread. The angel instructs him to put the meat and the bread on the rock and pour the broth over it. Gideon does so and the angel touches the offering with the tip of his staff. The offering goes up in flames and the angel disappears.
Gideon is convinced the angel was real now, but he’s also convinced he’s going to die because he saw an angel. The LORD comes to him and tells him he will not die, and Gideon builds an altar on the spot.
Then we have verses 25-31:
“That night the LORD said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Then build an altar to the LORD your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”
So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had commanded. But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town.
Early the next morning, as the people of the town began to stir, someone discovered that the altar of Baal had been broken down and that the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down. In their place a new altar had been built, and on it were the remains of the bull that had been sacrificed. The people said to each other, “Who did this?” And after asking around and making a careful search, they learned that it was Gideon, the son of Joash
“Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of Joash. “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.”
But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted him, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!” (NLT)
The Asherah Pole and the altar of Baal were lies as surely as the lies Putin has been telling. The worship of Baal and Asherah was centered on idols and false gods of wood and stone. It focused on sexuality and included temple prostitutes and child sacrifice. It was a brutal, horrible religion. More than once, the LORD God warned His people to have nothing to do with it and they continued to return to it. The golden calf they made while Moses was on Mount Sinai was an incinerator for live babies to be sacrificed to Baal.
We may think ourselves far above such a brutal, pagan religion, but we have built up many Asherah poles and altars to Baal in the United States today. We have our temple prostitutes who receive our offerings of thanks and praise for how they thrill us. We spend between $10 and $12 billion on pornography every year and it destroys countless lives and marriages and, unlike tobacco and alcohol, it goes largely untaxed. If you really want to make a politician (or anyone else for that matter) really uncomfortable, start talking about taxing porn.
We have sacrificed over 63 million children on the altar of abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973. We have no excuse. The argument back then was that what was in a woman’s womb was an “unviable tissue mass.” Modern ultrasound has shown us that it is indeed a human being. Every genocide that’s ever taken place on the planet was justified by making the argument that the victims of that genocide were somehow less than human. It is an injustice beyond human comprehension that there have been 63 million voices silenced forever on the national debate about right to life. What would they say if they had not been denied the right to simply live?
We know and can clearly see that what is coming out of Russia is properly called propaganda –but we are victims of it ourselves.
And we have allowed it because we have believed the lies and bought into the propaganda. As a society, we actually like the propaganda.
When Gideon arose from his sleep to tear down the altars of Baal and to take his axe to that Asherah pole, he took ten servants with him. It was a big task, not just because there was much to be torn down, but because the plan included building an altar of worship and praise and sacrifice to the One True God. There was much to tear down and much to be built up.
And in the end, even though what seemed like the whole town wanted Gideon permanently cancelled, his father’s words did not condemn the people who came against his son. He directly challenged the false god Baal to come out and defend himself.
The light of truth does not run and hide from the darkness.
Gideon’s battle with the Midianites ends in Judges 7 when a mere 300 Israeli warriors surround the entire Midianite army in the dark, wave torches, break clay jars, and shout praises to the LORD. The Midianites kill each other with their swords and run screaming into the darkness.
I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (NLT)