Make Way for the King!

 

 

As we celebrate the coming of King Jesus all during the month of December on Kinship Christian Radio, I cannot help but think of the glory of this marvelous time of year.

 

If you think about it, this great and glorious King who created the universe and everything in it made His people free. He gave them a beautiful garden to live in and work in and care for. He did not create them as subjects, but as His own children who had a perfect relationship with Him, not as Tyrant King but as their loving Father. They were free to enjoy all the great bounty and marvelous benefits of the Garden with only one rule to obey: Do not, by eating of that one tree in the center of the garden, try to make yourselves kings. 

 

It was a completely reasonable and just rule.

 

In essence, the King asked that the children He had created, the people He loved and had given a perfect relationship with, not commit treason.

 

But they did.

 

And when they did, He did not cut them off from relationship with them. He did not disown them, but He did cast them out of the Garden.

 

In doing so, He gave them what they had asked for. He gave them the opportunity to be their own kings. He let them rule themselves with their new-found knowledge of good and evil.

 

And it became obvious that, despite how wise they thought they were, things went horribly wrong under their own rule. It went so wrong that all the people in all the earth did evil all the time, save for one man and his family. And, despite the thought that He should destroy them all, He started over again with just eight of them.

 

And when they started over, they still failed to rule themselves justly and righteously, and they were taken away as slaves. But He heard their cries, freed them from their slavery, and gave them just and righteous rules to live by that would bless them and help them if only they would obey.

 

But they could not obey. 

 

They took those rules and warped them and twisted them until the intent and the love and the care in those rules was wrung out of them and, instead of obeying because the rules were good, they made the rules king and glorified and worshiped the rules instead of the real King.

 

And, even though they thought they were honoring the King by keeping the rules, they forgot what the heart of the King was like. So they used the rules to elevate those in charge of the rules and to beat down everyone else.

 

But when enough time had passed and it was obvious that they had failed to be anywhere near as just and righteous and loving and glorious as their Father the King, He sent His only Son into His Kingdom to become King of the people He loved.

 

And the glory of that King was not that He would enforce the rules and make everyone obey not just in action, but out of hearts of gratitude and praise. No, the glory of the King who came was that He would keep all the rules Himself when thousands of years of history had shown they could not. He would live among us not as a tyrant or a dictator, but as a humble servant born in a manger. He would come not as a King who gathered subjects unto Himself by might or force, but as a lowly man who would wash the feet of those under Him. 

 

He would come as One who ruled in righteousness and peace and love. He would tell the people He loved that the Kingdom they were made for was not one of silver or gold or power or might, but one where loved ruled out of humility and joy. He would show these people whom He loved that this Kingdom was worth dying for, even if it meant that He would humble Himself and willingly allow the children He created to cruelly and unjustly murder Him because He was who He said He was. 

 

But the death His children had brought into His world by their treason would not triumph over Him. The darkness of evil and sin and death His own children had brought into the world would be cast out and cast down when He stepped out of the grave alive –just as He said He would.

 

And in doing so, He would open the door back into the paradise He intended from the beginning for all who would believe and confess the name of the rightful King of kings and Lord of lords. 

 

King Jesus!

 

Today’s Praise

Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

Hark! The herald-angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King”

 

It IS a Wonderful Life

 

Okay, my beloved readers, I am finally ready to confess and reveal a deep, dark secret about myself previously unknown to virtually anyone. 

 

Up until Sunday, November 25, 2018, I had never watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

 

 

I know, I know. Remain calm. It’s this huge Christmas classic that absolutely everybody loves, and I was previously guilty of a heinous heresy, but I have repented now and everything is going to be okay. 

 

After all, it is over two hours long and it seems like it was never on when I had that kind of time to sit around watching a black and white movie. Those excuses evaporated when I obtained the ability to stream movies via the internet and I found a superbly colorized version.

 

It really is a wonderful movie, as Steve Ware and Allen Jones were discussing on Monday morning. As Allen pointed out, it’s not 100% theologically correct, but hey, it’s Christmas and even though angels are not human beings who earn their wings whenever a bell rings, the larger point is theologically correct.

 

We all have much to be grateful for. We are all put here to bless others and love others. We are all loved by a good and gracious God who would do anything to save our souls. It really is a wonderful life God has given each of us!

 

So, I must confess that I am a convert. I am now a fan of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and I plan to watch it again.

 

It’s also really wonderful that Kinship Christian Radio is holding a contest during the Christmas season called “It’s a Wonderful Bell.” At random times throughout the Christmas season, the announcer will play a bell sound. If you are the first person to call the radio station at 800-810-5559, you will win a beautiful wooden bell Christmas ornament hand-made from an olive tree that grew in Bethlehem. 

 

So how cool is that?

 

But wait, (as the announcer might say) one of the times when you hear that bell, you could win the GRAND PRIZE of a collection of eight Christmas CD’s from artists that include (drum roll please) Lauren Daigle, Casting Crowns, Keith and Krysten Getty, and Steven Curtis Chapman.

 

Huh? Huh? 

 

That’s better than telling old man Potter what a miserable, mean-spirited, greedy old Grinch he is, right? (Yes, I’ve mixed some Christmas movie references there. I guess I got a little carried away.)

 

Annnnnnnd, for all the readers of this blog, I have the gift of Completely Useless “It’s a Wonderful Life” Movie Trivia which I found on the actual internet and you can use to amaze and confound your friends at Christmas parties everywhere. That’s right, at absolutely no charge to you, you will be one of only 14 people in this general area who know that:

  1. In a 1946 interview, Director Frank Capra said he didn’t even think of the story as a Christmas film when he first came upon it but he made the film, “to combat a modern trend toward atheism.”
  2. The film won only ONE Academy Award and it was in the Technical Achievement category for developing a new method of creating artificial snow. Before It’s a Wonderful Life, fake movie snow was mostly made from cornflakes painted white. It was so loud when stepped on that any snow-filled scenes with dialogue had to be re-dubbed afterwards. RKO studio’s head of special effects, Russell Shearman, developed a new compound, utilizing water, soap flakes, foamite and sugar.
  3. “Foamite” is a fire-extinguishing substance composed of licorice in a solution of bicarbonate of soda. 

So, enjoy the Christmas season brothers and sisters in Christ. Enjoy the nights by the fire watching movies and shows that bring back warm memories. Enjoy the Christmas music and preaching on Kinship Christian Radio and the warm feeling that comes from knowing that the One True God sent a baby named Jesus to be born in a manger that we would all, through belief and trust in Him, be granted the wonder of eternal life with him! 

 

HALLELUJAH!

 AMEN!

 

Today’s Praise

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21 (NLT)

 

Giving Thanks

 

 

The American Automobile Association reports that over 54 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles away from home over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s a 4.8 percent increase over last year, which is largely attributed to “higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president.

 

As Salem Radio News reported on Kinship Christian Radio last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 33rd annual survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $48.90 or less than $5.00 per person. This is a 22-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.12.

 

Likewise, leading economic indicators are up and unemployment is the lowest it has been since 1969. Interest rates are still low as is the rate of inflation. Poverty is on the decline. 

 

And, despite the way the media likes to portray it, most major measures of crime are down. 

 

We have much to be thankful for on many fronts. 

 

But, surprisingly, when Americans are asked what they are most grateful for with an opened-ended question that doesn’t ask them to name a “thing,”  almost none of the answers list any of the things above. Social media giant Twitter asked its users to complete the following sentence:

“I’m thankful for…”

And the results were:

  1. You
  2. Life
  3. People
  4. Family
  5. Everything
  6. Love
  7. Friends
  8. Everyone
  9. Today
  10. God

 

With the exception of “everything” (which is pretty all-encompassing) no one listed their possessions –or any material object for that matter.

 

Two weeks ago, I wrote that I had come to the conclusion that the treasures Jesus told us to store up for ourselves in heaven (Matthew 6:20) were the relationships we create, grow, and build while we live out our lives here on earth. We’re certainly not taking any of our earthly possessions with us when we go and the Bible says God uses gold to pave the streets in heaven, (Revelation 21:21) so I’m pretty sure even the best stuff we have here will be of little value in the eternal kingdom.

 

But I do firmly believe that we will know and recognize each other in our eternal home. I believe the relationships we forge here will be better and deeper and more real when we spend eternity with each other.

 

If you look at all of that travel we do for Thanksgiving, the purpose of the vast majority of it is to spend time with friends and family. All of our things and our material blessings are of little comparison to the value of the relationships in our lives. It has been said that no one lies on their death bed asking that their things be brought to them. 

 

That’s why we find so many verses in Scripture like these:

 

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— John 1:12 (NIV)

 

And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

 

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

 

…. he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– Ephesians 1:15

 

to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Galatians 4:5

 

Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17

 

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29

 

so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:7

 

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:6

 

And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ Acts 3:25

 

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5

 

It’s abundantly clear that all who believe in Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior are all sons and daughters. All who believe have been brought into the same family. We share the same Father who has adopted us into the family of God by the death and resurrection of His Son out of His great love for us and to the praise of His glory!

 

We will all spend eternity together praising Him. We will all be gathered into one place sharing a richness and a celebration of life and love that never ends. We will finally be united with each other and with Him as He intended from the beginning. The treasures we will revel in and celebrate will be the eternal relationships we have.

 

Love will finally reign completely, utterly, and without corruption of any kind.

 

And that, my beloved brothers and sisters –my kin, is the ultimate cause for giving thanks! 

 

Today’s Praise

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

(All scripture passages above are NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

 

 

 

Hallelujah! It’s Share-A-Thon!

It’s no secret that my favorite word is “Hallelujah.”

 

I type it on social media a lot… usually in all caps.

 

It also frequently comes up in conversation. 

 

And, of course, I can be get pretty free with it in a church or mission setting.

 

I ‘m not quite sure if I’m using it too much, but a pastor friend of mine did start calling me “Hallelujah Jones.”

 

But, you know, I’m okay with that.

 

The word “hallelujah” is derived from ancient Hebrew and means “Praise the LORD.” More specifically, it’s Hebrew roots mean to burst forth in shining praise of YHWH, (Yahweh) which is the sacred name of God.

 

Furthermore, if you put the word “Hallelujah” into an online translator,  it is recognizable in almost every one of the world’s languages from Afrikaans to Zulu. There are a few exceptions, but the wonderful thing is that pretty much everybody everywhere gets it.

 

 The glorious thing (literally) is that God is worthy to be praised! 

 

I like the nickname that pastor gave me because I have been praying for years that I would live a life taking delight in the Lord. I have specifically asked that I would live a life of praise to the LORD. So if that’s how I look to someone else, I say, “Hallelujah!”

 

And that’s why I like Kinship Christian Radio so much. It’s purpose, mission, and reason for existence is to bring shining praise to God 24 hours per day, seven days a week. It is ceaseless praise! 

 

And that’s why I like Share-A-Thon so much.

 

Once a year, God’s praises and the shining rejoicing of His glory are turned up as high as they can go at Kinship Christian Radio. Fellowship events are planned and carried out, prayer is intensified, songs of praise resound all the more, and testimonies of lives changed to His glory are shared over the air.

 

And yes, the listeners who support the ministry are encouraged to participate financially –and that’s worthy of an enormous HALLELUJAH because it means we’re all part of the ministry. It means we’re all involved in sharing the praise and glory of the LORD with each other not for our own glory or our own benefit but to lift up, support, encourage, bless, and save the souls of others.

 

At its very essence, Share-A-Thon is a celebration of a miracle. 

 

The miracle is that Jesus came to bring glory, honor, and praise to God the Father by leading a perfect, sinless life and loving us enough to die for us. And the glory of that miracle was multiplied and magnified and confirmed by His resurrection from the dead! 

 

Jesus lives!

 

Jesus is LORD!

 

And because He lives and He is LORD, all who believe are adopted into the family of God. We all share a heritage, a family tree, an inheritance. We end looking like a whole bunch of kinfolk who have this look in our eyes, in our smiles, and in our hearts that make us look a little like Jesus. 

 

And when the world sees that look, that “can’t quite put your finger on it but I know they have something different” family resemblance in us, HALLELUJAH! Brothers and sisters, HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” Revelation 19:6 (NIV)

 

 

Where the Wind Goes

 

 

 

There’s a line in the song “So Will I” by Hillsong that goes, “And if the wind goes where you send it, so will I.”

 

It’s a song we’ve played pretty frequently on Kinship Christian Radio, and I’ve actually prayed that lyric to the LORD more than once.

 

I’m convinced He heard that prayer and answered it in abundance because He sent me more places and more miles in this past year than I’ve traveled in all my previous years put together.

 

First, it was about 5600 miles to Guatemala City and back in March. Then, it was 4,000 miles to Halifax, Nova Scotia in May. That was followed by 500 miles to Pinehaven Christian Assembly near Park Rapids in August, and I followed all that up with 2200 miles to and from Vidor, Texas in October.

 

Now, I know there are a lot of other folks who have a lot more frequent flyer miles than I do, but for a guy who rarely left the state for the majority of my lifetime, the LORD has clearly been up to something in my life.

 

And I think I figured out what it is.

 

It’s people.

 

It’s relationships.

 

It’s love.

 

I met fifty orphan girls at Prince of Peace home for girls and a dozen staff members who loved them and cared for them. I met seven team members who traveled with me to that orphanage and loved them all.

 

I spent time with a dear couple my family loves in Nova Scotia and prayed a blessing over them that the LORD saw fit to grant in a miraculous and beautiful way.

 

I spent three days at MANCAMP with 50 other guys learning how we can love stronger, bolder, more authentically. That was immediately followed by three days with a dozen pastors healing and learning how they could love their flocks better and more effectively. 

 

And I spent a week with a team of 15 that linked with another team of 15 supported by a congregation of 50 or so as we repaired homes devastated by an awful flood.

 

All the miles I traveled don’t seem like much at all now in comparison to all the relationships I now have that I didn’t have before. 

 

My prayer list is enormous now and the thing is, these are not people who I didn’t know a year ago who are now acquaintances. These are people I didn’t know a year ago whom I now love.

 

It’s amazing.

 

When I was lost and had strayed from Christ so many years ago, there was a point when I didn’t think I was capable of loving anyone anymore. And now, the LORD has added hundreds of people to the list of people I not only love but will get to spend eternity with in heaven.

 

And I’m convinced that these relationships are the treasures Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:20.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (NIV)

 

We know we’re not going to take our cars, our homes, or our big screen televisions to heaven with us. We also know that God sent Jesus so that we could have a real and true relationship with Him. 

 

And its the love in those relationships, the love of being part of the family of brothers and sisters in Christ that is the real treasure. This is the treasure we find when we see Jesus in each other.

 

In all those travels this year, in all the relationships God gave me, they all involved eating together, praying together, singing together, worshiping together, laughing together, sharing His Word together, and loving together.

 

They all involved sharing together.

 

And brothers and sisters,  that’s what Share-a-thon is. Yes, we share this ministry with financial support, but the real linkage, the real relationship is the music and the Word and the time we spend together in relationship together. We are truly all kin. We are all related as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

 

There’s a list of Share-a-thon events below. I urge you to come to one or more of them to share the love of Jesus in your heart with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Come, and let us see Jesus in you.

 

KJYL BBQ: Wednesday, November 7, from 5-7:00 p.m. at the KJYL studio near Goldfield, Iowa.

KJCY’s Soup & Sweets Supper: Tuesday, November 13, from 4:30 to 7:00 PM at the Family Life Center located in the CMA Church in Osage, Iowa.

 KJLY’s Soup and Sweets Luncheon: Wednesday, November 14th, from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM at the New Creation World Outreach Church in Mankato

KJLY Spaghetti Supper: Wednesday, November 14, 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the KJLY studio in Blue Earth

KJIA Soup & Sweets Supper: Thursday, November 15th,  4:30 PM to 7:00 PM in the Fellowship Hall at the First Presbyterian Church in Spirit Lake.

Gene’s BBQ: Thursday, November 15, 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the KJLY studio in Blue Earth

 

Today’s Praise

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

 

 

 

Changing the World

 

 

Songs can change the world.

 

Case in point: Back in the 1980’s, music critics complained that glam-rocker David Lee Roth wrote all his songs about sex, partying, and cars. Roth, enraged by these accusations because he had clearly never written any song about cars up to that point, composed “Panama” which was about a race car called the Panama Express. It’s a typical, loud, shallow, hair band song from an era I’m happy to let slip away as a long-forgotten side-note to history, but it changed the world when the CIA played it (along with other songs of the era) at insanely high volume for ten days to flush Panamanian dictator General Manuel Noriega out of hiding in the Vatican Embassy and topple his government.

 

While that’s an amusing example of a song being used as a military weapon to change the world, there are plenty of songs that changed the world by changing the way people look at things.

 

When Elvis Presley first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, a prominent reviewer for The New York Times called his performance a “gross national disservice.” After Elvis came The Beatles in 1963 and The Rolling Stones in 1964.

 

And American music was changed forever.

 

Songs like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place” by The Animals and hundreds of others strongly influenced public opinion about the war in Vietnam. Along with those songs were many hundreds of others that conveyed the hippie culture of the 1960’s and 70’s. Mingled among them were songs about civil rights and women’s rights.

 

There’s no doubt those songs changed the culture –some for the good, and some for the bad we still cope with today.

 

That’s why, when Allen Jones mentioned the controversy about Christian artist Lauren Daigle’s appearance on the Ellen Show on Monday, it didn’t surprise me to see Christians debating it on social media.

 

Basically, some Christians say Daigle was wrong to appear on a show hosted by an openly homosexual host as it seems to endorse or approve of that “lifestyle.”

 

In my opinion, (and I can only speak about my opinion) it’s a victory.

 

And I say it’s a victory in the same way it was a victory for Elvis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s hardly debatable that the mainstream media has become decidedly anti-Jesus, but here was an immensely popular Christian artist singing openly, unabashedly, gloriously about Jesus not only rising from the grave, but continuing to save people from sin and death!

 

As Christians, this is the time to join Daigle in praising Jesus and witnessing to the power of the love of Jesus Christ. This is the time to express our joy that the nearly four million people who watch this show have heard the gospel beautifully and winsomely delivered. This is our chance to contact the network and ask to see and hear more artists like Daigle.

 

And, yes, that can indeed change the culture. Scientific studies had “discovered” that music is both a physical and emotional experience releasing oxytocin and dopamine creating powerful memories on a subconscious level. Music can also influence and aid in neuroplasticity, which can help heal the brain and rewire the way the brain works.

 

But, and more importantly, music influences one’s soul. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible mentions music. We are told in many, many verses to sing and make joyful music to the LORD. There’s a very good reason so much of the Bible is devoted to the Psalms with specific instructions for the instruments and the melodies used for various songs.

 

Make no mistake, the culture was changed away from the love of Jesus on purpose. The counter-culture of the previous era published manuals and books on how to influence culture to their way of thinking. Music was a part of that strategy. To a large degree, they have been successful, but the chink in their armor is that it is not sustainable. Eventually, sin and darkness are exposed for what they are. The darkness cannot prevail over the light of truth and love. (John 1:5)

 

Jesus knew that. Jesus showed us that.

 

The religious leaders of his day murmured among themselves about how Jesus polluted himself by eating with tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus told them the tax collectors and the prostitutes were entering the kingdom of heaven ahead of them.

 

True, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) to go and sin no more, but before that He got the Pharisees to drop their stones and their murderous plans and consider which of them was without sin. In the end no one, not even Jesus, stood in condemnation of her.

 

And it reminds me that I cannot look like Jesus with stones clenched in my fists.

 

I must never forget that the real enemy is not other people. The real enemy hides in the darkness because he cannot stand to be in the presence of the Light of the World.

 

Today’s Praise

I thought that I was too far gone
For everything I’ve done wrong
Yeah, I’m the one who dug this grave
But You called my name
You called my name

All at once I came alive
This beating heart, these open eyes
The grave let go
The darkness should have known…
You’re still rolling stones
Lyrics from “You’re Still Rolling Stones” by Lauren Daigle
Written by Dan Jones

Kin

 

 

 

I spent the past week talking funny. 

 

I was part of a team that went to Vidor, Texas, to help repair some of the homes devastated by Hurricane Harvey last year. Vidor is a town of about 10,000 tucked back into the corner of southeast Texas. It’s less than 25 miles from both the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana.

 

So, of course, I didn’t talk like folks that were from there. Granted, I did catch myself saying “y’all” once or twice and it was very easy to respond “Yessir,” and “Yes, ma’am,” when asked if I enjoyed the jambalaya, creole shrimp, blackened redfish, and/or gumbo. The people of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church were very loving, generous, and hospitable when it came to feeding the 30 of us like kings.

 

One of the words I noticed in their conversations was “kin.” No doubt those of you who are familiar with Kinship Christian Radio certainly know what that word means, but I’ve never heard anyone here in the frozen north casually remark, “Yessir, they’re kin.”

 

But it’s a very relevant word for what went on last week.

 

Before I left for Vidor, I did an internet search just to find out where it was. In doing so, I discovered that Vidor had at one time been a “sundown town” where black people were not welcome after dark –and it was enforced by the town police. The Ku Klux Klan had held a march there in 1993 protesting plans to bring African Americans into public housing.

 

It was one of the first things we talked about with Pastor Skipper Sauls when we arrived. While we were still in the parking lot, before we were even finished unloading our bags, the subject came up and Skipper did not dodge the question. He admitted that Vidor had indeed engaged in racism in its past. He grew up here and he remembered Klan events taking place when he was a child about 40 years ago. He said all that has changed now, and although there were probably still a few old racists  in this town, anyone and everyone was welcome in this church to experience the love of Jesus Christ.

 

But let me back up for a moment and give you some background: Hurricane Harvey came ashore on August 26, 2017, near Rockport, Texas, southwest of Vidor, with winds of 130 mph. The storm’s winds weakened shortly thereafter, but the megastorm slowed to a crawl and began dumping absolutely phenomenal amounts of rain over the course of the next two days. At one point, an official in nearby Tyler County announced: “Anyone who chooses to not [evacuate] cannot expect to be rescued and should write their social security numbers in permanent marker on their arm so their bodies can be identified. The loss of life and property is certain. GET OUT OR DIE!”

 

Before it was over, Houston had been saturated with over 30 inches of rain and Nederland, Texas, (right next to Vidor) measured over 60 inches of rainfall. The rain came so hard and so fast that the Army Corp of Engineers had opened the gates on reservoirs upstream from Vidor for fear that the levees holding back the waters would fail. With five feet of rainfall and the dam gates opened, the entire area was absolutely inundated.

 

Skipper took us on a tour of some of the areas where he and others from the church had rescued people using a boat. We stopped at one point and he showed us  the place where the boat’s propeller had hit the top of a stop sign beneath the flood waters. We turned down a side street and he showed us a video taken in that boat motoring along in that exact location. At one point, the motor hit a submerged object and they later found out it had broken the sunroof out of a parked car.

Of course, the damage to homes and cars was devastating. Most of the homes sit on concrete slabs just a couple of inches above ground level because the frost never enters the ground there. Even in homes that sit on blocks, all the carpet and all the drywall in virtually every home was destroyed.

 

Skipper has a background in construction and remodeling and the Lord opened doors for donated materials from numerous companies, ministries, and churches. I was among a crew of 15 that arrived at the church two days before another crew of 15 arrived to also participate in the work of restoring homes.

 

One crew was building a porch, another was hanging drywall in a different home, and I was working on a home in need of interior paint, kitchen counters, and floor tile. I was assigned to floor tile because I had some experience in that area.  Over the course of five days, we tiled four bedrooms, a bathroom and a half, a hallway, the laundry room, and a section of the main living area. It quickly became obvious that my “experience” with floor tile was approximately equal to my experience with flapping my arms and flying to the moon in comparison to what Skipper’s 16 year-old son, Isaac, knew about the subject. After five days, I can now truthfully say I know how to effectively mix up a five gallon bucket of thin-set mortar.

 

I can also say that, although I now have much more knowledge, there is no way my now 60 year-old body could be used to support my family as a professional tiler.

 

But much more importantly, I am the recipient of the incredible joy that comes from knowing that within a couple of days the family that has been living in an RV trailer in the backyard of their own home will be able to move out of that cramped space and cook meals, wash clothes, and sleep in their home.

 

They are beautiful people who helped us any way they could, lifting heavy tile, sweeping up dusty construction debris, and radiating appreciative smiles for all we did over the course of that week.

 

And as we all stood in that house for a final prayer and blessing over this home and this family, we were all tired and hot and aching and dusty and dirty.

 

And we all looked a little like Jesus.

 

We all looked and felt like kin.

 

And kin is thicker than how you talk or the color of your skin or the depth of the flood waters.

 

Today’s Praise

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God —children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12&13 (NIV)

 

 

 

Collusion, Lies, and Deceit

 

 

 

I recently became the unwitting victim of a vast conspiracy involving collusion at the highest levels. The plot against me involved lies and deception that stretched its nefarious tentacles even into my own church!

 

It all begin innocently enough. I attended Bible Study and church on Sunday morning, which was wonderful, heart-warming, and fulfilling. This was not out of the ordinary at all.

Another “ordinary” aspect of my Sundays is a trip to my in-laws where I ordinarily flop myself into a recliner and take a nap until late afternoon, after which we play a few hands of ordinary cards. After that, we ordinarily enjoy a lovely supper and maybe play another game of cards. 

 

It’s all very relaxing and I actually look forward to the rejuvenating effects of resting on the Sabbath just as the Lord told us to do. 

 

After church, my lovely wife (a.k.a MLW) informed me that our daughter (age 24) wanted to ride with us to her mom and dad’s place, but she couldn’t do so until 2:00 p.m. because she had to take a test for her online college class. There was nothing terribly out-of-the-ordinary about that, so I readily agreed as I enjoyed a bowl of left-over chili for lunch. After I finished my lunch, MLW said that her mom and dad’s Chihuahua (Rosie) had fleas, so our Chihuahua (Sophie, daughter of Rosie) would have to stay home. Again, not terribly out-of-the-ordinary. 

 

After lunch, I settled into my recliner and valiantly fought the urge to nap, despite a belly fully of chili and decades of habituated snoozing. Soon, it was two o-clock and MLW informed me that she had left her glasses at church, so we really should stop and pick them up. “No problem,” I said. “I have a key.” The church was on our way, so again, nothing unusual or weird going on here.

As we arrived at the church, I saw a young girl inside the church run past the door. I was not aware of any event going on at the church, but people frequently have events at the church that I have been told about but have forgotten were going to happen. Besides, it meant the door was probably already open.

 

MLW pulled up to the side door because there is construction going on at the front door and I found it unlocked, just as I had expected.

 

I walked down the short hall into the sanctuary and found about 50 people standing there, all of whom shouted “SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” the moment they saw me.

 

Among them were my in-laws, my brother, many members of our congregation, and many of the staff of Kinship Christian Radio –and almost all of them were wearing plaid flannel.

 

Something very OUT of the ordinary was going on here.

As I surveyed the situation, I found there was red and black plaid flannel everywhere. The table cloths were plaid flannel. There was a table piled with gifts wrapped in flannel. There was even a cake decorated in red and black plaid flannel inscribed with “Happy 60th Birthday Dan.”

 

It was approximately at this point that I became seriously aware that I was not going to get a nap that Sunday afternoon.

 

Upon further examination, I found a large piece of poster board with dozens of pictures of me throughout my life wearing plaid flannel and often holding fish I had caught. Some of the fish were fairly large and some were remarkably tiny. There were also some touching photos of me with my lovely wife and/or beautiful daughter. None of the pictures will ever put me in danger of being considered a hipster fashion guy, even though I was wearing plaid flannel a half-century before it finally became fashionable. Those in attendance had written birthday greetings and blessings around the margin of the photos.

 

My lovely wife and daughter along with many relatives and friends and brothers and sisters in Christ had conspired and colluded to deceive me. I later learned that the event required a full year of plotting and scheming to pull off.

 

And they were absolutely successful as I had no clue at all any of this was coming.

 

But, gradually, as I greeted those in attendance and opened gifts and accepted blessings and the occasional good-natured ribbing about being “over-the-hill” I did get a clue. All of this was done for me. All of this was because there are a whole lot of people in my life who actually and truly love me.

 

And that’s humbling because the whole time it was going on, I knew I didn’t earn it and I didn’t deserve it. 

 

My daughter wasn’t taking on online test, my wife had left her glasses at church on purpose, and Rosie didn’t have fleas. But the conspiracy was necessary because if I had known the truth, I would have tried to stop people who loved me from blessing me and that would have denied them the blessing of giving. 

 

One of the hardest lessons I have ever learned is to accept grace graciously and with gratitude. I still don’t do it very well. So, deepest thanks to all of you loving conspirators for your extraordinary love and skillfully-wrought plans.

 

Thank you.

 

May the Lord bless you as you have blessed me. 

 

Today’s Praise

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

Written by Dan Jones

On Being a Song

I think we’ve all met someone whose life seems to sing to us. 

I met a young lady this weekend who is coaching volleyball and has her players writing little notes of encouragement and delivering them to the players on the opposing team with a little piece of candy before the game –and she glows from within like a love song to Jesus.

 

And I know a man whose wealth of wisdom and knowledge convey the grandeur of God like a symphony.

 

Then, there’s another guy whose enthusiasm for the Lord and all Jesus has done is like a rock concert, complete with fireworks and a light show.

 

The reason I bring this up is that the other day, a couple of verses in Ephesians 5 jumped off the page like… well, like a passage you’ve read dozens of times and suddenly the words turn on a 5000 watt halogen stage light above your head.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Verses 18-20, NIV)

 

Taken in context, what’s happening in these verses is Paul telling the Ephesians how to look like real, actual followers of Christ. The part that got me was that little phrase, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” 

 

Now, there are a few Bible commentators who say this is meant to be a description of how we do worship when we are gathered together, but even those theologians have to admit that that is not at all what we get from the context or the literal translation of these passages. 

 

No, I believe Paul is telling the Ephesians to live with songs of praise to Jesus in their hearts at all times, such that it comes out as joy and gratitude direct from the Holy Spirit –not just when we sing, but in what we speak

 

I believe Paul is saying we should be a song.

 

I’ve never been a big fan of musicals. It always seemed odd that someone would write a movie where something is happening to some people and, in the midst of their everyday lives, they suddenly start singing and dancing. I once took a cinema class where the professor had us watch the 1952 classic romance-musical “Singing in the Rain.” In discussion afterward,  a classmate pointed out that the scene with the namesake song seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the movie. The professor confessed this was true and explained that, even though the song had nothing to do with the movie, it was such a good song the producers couldn’t bear to cut it.

 

I was extremely glad that my classmate had asked this question because I had been entertaining exactly the same thought, and now his grade was far more likely to suffer because of his obviously politically incorrect anti-musical bias. (Yes, that is a thing in college.) 

 

But Paul’s point is that God has absolutely everything to do with absolutely everything we experience as His children here on this earth. Bursting into singing of God’s glory and gratitude to the One who paid it all is absolutely relevant in every circumstance of our lives. Psalms and hymns and songs from the Spirit are never out of context in our lives. We always have ten thousand reasons to praise Him. 

 

And I hope by now there’s a song in your head:

May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you

 

Those are some of the lyrics from “Lifesong” by Casting Crowns and, even though it’s been playing on Kinship Christian Radio for thirteen years, I still enjoy hearing it. 

 

It’s one of those songs that just gets into you. You find yourself humming it or singing it even when you’re nowhere near the radio. It becomes part of you, like “Reckless Love” did this summer and “Multiplied” did a couple of years ago. 

 

I love those songs and many, many of the songs on Kinship Christian Radio because the Holy Spirit moves in them and through them in my soul. If you read that passage again, Paul says to speak with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs from the Spirit

 

And it’s the Spirit that changes people. It’s the Spirit that draws people to be saved. It’s the Spirit that convicts us without condemning us. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that is the guarantee of our inheritance as heirs to the kingdom of God. (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5)

 

And it is the presence of that Holy Spirit of Jesus in us that people can see in us when our lifesong sings to the praise of His glory. And it’s seeing that in us that draws people to Jesus.

 

So don’t be afraid to be a song. Go ahead and let your lifesong sing to Him.

 

Today’s Praise

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

 

 

 

“…for they know not what they do.”

 

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34a (NIV)

These are commonly acknowledged as the first words Jesus spoke from the cross, and they have always astounded me.

 

It’s dumb-founding that Jesus would plead for mercy for the very people who nailed him to the cross when those people stood all around him mocking him. That level of love, mercy, and grace is something I do not think I would have found anywhere within myself had I been in that position. 

 

As I studied this verse before beginning to write, I found that Elicott’s Commentary for English Readers expressed an opinion that Jesus’ prayer was for the unwitting soldiers who were just doing their jobs but, “Not Pilate, for he knew that he had condemned the innocent; not the chief priests and scribes, for their sin, too, was against light and knowledge.” 

 

Pilate knew he was condemning an innocent man to death. And the scribes and chief priests knew, somewhere in their hard hearts, that this was a political execution designed to preserve their power and authority. 

 

And the crowd knew what they were doing when they chose to have Barabas released as they cried out, “Let His blood be upon us and our children!”

 

But none of them really knew what they were  doing. 

 

None of them knew that they were involved in the execution of the actual Son of God. None of them knew that this death on the cross was the one of which prophesy had foretold for thousands of years. None of them knew that this death was a sacrificial atonement for all the sins of the world from the beginning of time to the end.

 

None of them knew that the death of this perfect, sinless, God-Man had been part of our omniscient God’s plan from the moment He spoke the universe into being. 

 

None of them knew that he would rise from the dead that coming Sunday morning and that the world would be forever changed.

 

But Jesus did.

 

The condemned criminal, his hands and feet pierced with nails, suffering from massive blood loss, beaten, punched, flogged, whipped, spit upon, hanging as the weight of his own body slowly asphyxiated him, knew that he was on that cross to purchase with his life the forgiveness of every man, woman, and child who would ever live on this planet.

 

He had seen first hand, with his own eyes, what man does when God takes on human form and walks among man. He had seen what man does when given the opportunity to stand in judgement of God. He had seen what man does when he puffs out his chest and decides that he knows exactly what God wants him to do. He had seen what man does when he convinces himself that he is God.

 

And that is that he kills God. 

 

And he kills God mercilessly, mockingly, maliciously. 

 

And that is why I believe that this prayer Jesus cried out was for all of humanity, not just those guilty in the moment, but all of us who share in the guilt of the necessity of his death.

 

And that makes it even more astounding. 

 

It’s astounding that humanity is capable of such an incredible level of depravity and its even more astounding that this depravity is exceeded only by his amazing love for us. 

 

And I have come to the conclusion that none of us know what we are really doing. I believe that none of us fully understand the real battles taking place against rulers and authorities and powers against the spiritual forces of evil in realms we can neither see nor understand while we are in this world. 

 

I know I don’t.

 

But I do know that this very Jesus, just before he willingly submitted himself to die at the hands of evil men for my sins and for your sins, gave us very clear instructions on how we should live among the evil that exists in this world:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15: 9-17 (NIV)

 

Today’s Praise

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)