Fried Eggs, Copper Socks, the Pandemic, and Jesus as LORD

 

Now that I’m working from home during the quarantine, I have Kinship Christian Radio on pretty much all the time.  But occasionally, my wife and I turn on the television.

 

I’ve hated the television for a long time.

 

I think it knows.

 

My wife found this great series called, “The Chosen” and it is truly wonderfully written, with faithfulness to Scripture yet excellent insight into the various personalities in the life of Jesus. The acting and production quality is also excellent –but there are only eight episodes so far.

 

Once the TV had us sitting there, and we’d watched all eight episodes of “The Chosen,” we watched them again. And then, because that was so good, the television somehow convinced us that there might be other good stuff on it.

 

It lied.

 

I found a channel that plays old Westerns, and those aren’t really so bad. Late one night, I even saw the John Wayne movie where there is a reference to “dog-faced pony soldiers.” The Duke had a mustache in it. It was either “Rio Grande” or “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” Not sure, but maybe Biden knows. Ummm… never mind.

 

My wife likes baking shows, and she found a series about “Britain’s Best Bakery.” It’s a competition to find (surprise) the best bakery in Britain. I learned about black pudding (blood sausage, eww) and the Oven-Bottom Stottie (A kind of bread. ) I was actually motivated to make an Oven-Bottom Stottie. It was pretty good. It’s also fun to say, “Oven-Bottom Stottie.” 

 

I have been doing so for days. 

 

With a British accent.

 

Oven-Bottom Stottie. Oven-Bottom Stottie.

 

Then there are times when, despite having 42 channels and access to literally thousands of internet-based viewing options, it’s an entertainment wasteland. 

 

But the real reason I know my TV hates me is because of the commercials. 

 

Over and over again, just as John Wayne is about to confront the bad guys, I am subjected (for the 99th time in two hours) to a four-minute diatribe on the dangers of talcum powder or herbicide or asbestos which has undoubtedly given me ovarian cancer or mesothelioma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which means I am entitled to millions, sometimes billions, of dollars if I will just call the friendly lawyers who are fighting like bulldogs or lions or wolves for my rights. 

 

And, if I owe the IRS more than $10,000 there’s a wonderful bunch of people who will get the IRS to accept a fraction of what I owe.

 

Then there’s the magic pill with the “man-boosting formula” and the other magic pill with “super-beta” herbal ingredient.

 

And let us not forget the endless stream of copper-based products which fry eggs as if they are floating on air and make support stockings that allow old dudes like me to dance the night away after a long day of being on my feet.

 

Oh, and car wax that makes a fried egg slide off the hood of your car like…well like the hood of your car was one of those copper pans. (I don’t know about you, but I just hate when I come out of the dance hall and there are a bunch of fried eggs stuck to the hood of my car.)

 

There’s also at least a half-dozen prescription medications for diseases I didn’t know I had, whose side effects seem far worse than the disease itself, but have really, really catchy jingles. 

 

And then, while you’re flicking channels to avoid the commercials, the “news” tries to suck you in. Remember when Ross Perot talked about the “giant sucking sound?” That was 22 years ago, and he was actually referencing American jobs being lost to NAFTA, but the giant sucking sound the media is making is the continued and relentless bad news about the current panicdemic.

 

I’m sorry. “Pandemic.” 

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. People are indeed dying. COVID19 is a real disease and we absolutely should do things which are intelligent and thoughtful and reasonable to minimize it’s harmful impact on society. No one wants anyone else to die.

 

But we should resist the temptation to deal with it like late-night TV commercials where our solutions are based on hype and panic and fear. 

 

I agree with Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner as he wrote on this blog about a month ago. Many idols in our society have come crashing down. I believe that more people are paying attention to God and are seeking Him more diligently. (Tyndale reports a 44% increase in Bible sales over last year at this time. Other Bible publishers report even larger increases.) 

 

I have a friend who is a licensed Christian Counselor who works with people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He says he is dealing with people who “will die or are dying or are being harmed by physical- and mental health-related issues directly due to all the ongoing social and economic restrictions placed on us by our state and federal governments.” He concedes this is a double-bind situation, where neither the choice of isolation or being infected with the virus are anything anyone would want to choose for another human being. 

 

I have another friend who is an Adjunct Professor at Bethany Global University who pointed out in a recent podcast that no Christian ever has to say they are “living in uncertain times.” We know how this ends. Now, we may not know how this chapter ends, but we know God is sovereign over all and we know who is victorious in the end.

 

We know that Jesus Christ is LORD, just like it says on the radio tower above Kinship Christian Radio’s main office in Blue Earth.

 

And, if Jesus is LORD, He is also King, just like my friend the pastor in Litchfield said in his sermon on Sunday. 

 

So, the intelligent and rational and thoughtful thing to do is to pray

 

Just like Matt Dorfner said a month ago, “The solution is in repentance and trust. In repenting of our personal and the culture’s sins and idols and asking God, who is Lord over all… including Coronavirus…for His mercy and rescue.”

 

As people in positions of power and authority decide how we emerge from this and begin the process of starting society (not just the economy) back up again, they will need supernatural wisdom and guidance. Only God can do that, and only our prayers will avail them in this regard. If we have learned anything so far, it has become abundantly clear that human beings are not omniscient. Praying that He will direct the hearts of our leaders like streams of water in His hands would not be uncalled for. (See Proverbs 21:1)

 

And, in that asking through prayer, there should also be some listening. If prayer is a conversation with God, we would do well to remember that the mark of a good conversationalist is the ability to listen. I confess that I often (far too often) approach prayer as talking at God instead of talking with God. Listening in prayer is part of the repentance that flows out of the humility one experiences as a result of knowing who is God and who is not. 

 

So, while my television probably doesn’t really hate me, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t love me either. In and of itself, it is not evil and millions of people do gain some benefit from it.  (I have also learned the concept of “The Disclaimer” from late-night TV commercials.) But one of the reasons I began writing this blog so long ago was to give myself something to do other than staring at that box. The television may not hate me, but I know Kinship Christian Radio carries the message of the love of God through His Son, Jesus Christ, in teaching and preaching, in witness, and in song.

 

And I guarantee you will not hear one commercial that claims to make fried eggs slide off the hood of your car.

 

Today’s Praise

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

The Road to Somewhere

 

Last Sunday, my friend and brother in Christ Pastor Brett Miller from Southeast Christian Church in Minneapolis posted a 23-minute sermon on You Tube titled “The Road to Somewhere.” In my humble opinion, I think its on par with the preaching and teaching you’d find on Kinship Christian Radio, so I’d like to share it with you.

 

But first, a little background on Pastor Brett Miller:

 

I met Pastor Brett a couple of years ago at MANCAMP in northern Minnesota. I’ve been on two mission trips where he has served in a leadership role. He is simultaneously level-headed and passionate about Jesus. He is also a Chaplain with the Minneapolis Police Department. I have nothing but respect for him.

 

Very shortly after churches could no longer meet in their physical buildings, Pastor Brett started video recording his Sunday sermons –as did an enormous number of pastors all over the world. But Pastor Brett changes the location each time. One was done from inside his garage and another from inside a completely empty Target Field. He has connections.

 

And he manages to do this without making it look like we are viewing “Bin Laden cave videos.” (His words.)

 

Anyway, “The Road to Somewhere” was filmed in downtown Minneapolis by a road with buses and bicycles going by in the background. Pastor Brett talks about those two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday as they talked about what had just happened in Jerusalem. (Luke 24: 13-24)

 

Pastor Brett says, “Those two disciples had watched Jesus minister in Jerusalem, they watched him teach, they watched him perform miracles, and they watched the rulers fan the flames of hate into an inferno, handing over Jesus to be sentenced to death by crucifixion. They watched Jesus carry the cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha. They watched him being nailed to the cross, lifted high. Cursed. And all that they’d hoped for, the hope that God’s glory would return, the dream that God’s people would be set free, it was all gone in an instant –beaten beyond recognition and crucified with Jesus. 

 

“And so, they left.”… The road they were on was not just away from Jerusalem, it was not just away physically, it was away spiritually. It was away from their faith. They were walking away, and as they walked, they talked, they reinforced one another’s distress. Everything they had hoped for, they were walking away hopeless.”

 

“They talked about what might have been, what could have been, what they saw happen, what didn’t happen, what they knew was supposed to happen and didn’t, and they were angry and they were sad, and they were depressed, and maybe they even said to themselves, “We will never be fooled again. I’m never gonna dream again, not like that. I’m not going to let my hopes get up, only to be crushed.”

 

“Despair is a dangerous place,” Pastor Brett continued. “If you’ve been there, you know. There’s a kind of momentum to it. There’s a power that pulls you deep, deep and then you think that’s all the deeper you can go, but then it goes deeper yet. It’s overwhelming.”

 

“And they had reason. What would you do? I don’t know what I would have done. If my perception would have been that all hope was lost, that everything was taken away, you know, I might have done, you might have done, what they did. You might take the first road out of town and talk and talk some more and not even see the destination or where you’re headed or how dark its going to get deeper and deeper and deeper…and deeper into the hole of despair.”

 

“And despair was all they could see.”

 

“They heard differently. They were there in Jerusalem. They had heard the reports. Jesus wasn’t in the tomb. Women they knew, women they trusted, women they had believed so long now they could not believe. They told them the angels had announced that Jesus was alive. They heard it but they couldn’t believe it. Their hope was crushed.”

 

“And the one thing, the most important thing of all –that Jesus was alive– they could not see.”

 

“Despair is a deadly disease and we need to be clear-eyed about it. America is in a very vulnerable place right now. It’s not just a virus, it’s not just in our isolation…it’s also in the dramatic increases in unemployment. If history is a teacher, despair will be a serious problem for hundreds of thousands of Americans in the coming weeks and months. It’s a dark road, a scary road.”

 

And then Pastor Brett starts talking about those two disciples when Jesus started walking with them on the road to Emmaus but they didn’t recognize him. They are astounded, even incredulous, that this stranger is seemingly the only person in the world who doesn’t know what just happened in Jerusalem.

 

“The one they had put all their hopes in was right there in front of them, but in their despair, they could not see.” Pastor Brett says that in the Greek, they acted like Jesus was the one who was in some kind of bubble, cut off from reality. 

 

“Isn’t that an interesting deal? They were the ones who didn’t know what had happened in Jerusalem, but they were convinced that they did. Despair can play a wicked game. It can twist reality. It can tell God that we know what’s going on more than God know what’s going on. And they believed in their despair…the way any of us are capable when we feel isolated and we feel alone and despair starts calling the shots.”

 

“Ever been there when you think you know better than God, where you’ve experienced something that God knows nothing about, if he’s even there at all? But in his grace, Jesus understands.”

 

And while they think they know all about what really happened, Jesus asks them to tell him about it.

 

“And so they did. They tell him everything except the one thing that changed everything, the one thing that was standing right there with them but they didn’t know. They even tell him, ‘It’s the third day now and we were paying attention. We know about the sign of Jonah, we know this. And its the third day and we’re alone.’ And they knew so much, they were experts at so much –except for the thing that mattered the most. The hope of the world. The Lamb of God, Jesus was right there with them.

 

He’s with us too, in our isolation, in our despair. And sometimes, we need some help remembering that. We’re all like that. 

 

Then Pastor Brett reminds us how Jesus showed those two disciples (and us) that we might be missing something, “And he went back to Moses and he walked through Moses, and he walked through all of the prophets and all of the scriptures that were pointing directly at Jesus and their hearts began to reawaken and they started coming up out of the pit of despair –they were reviving, they were resurrecting!”

 

“And they wanted to keep on visiting. they wanted to keep on talking, they pleaded with Jesus to stop with them at the end of their road. And in another one of those understated verses of Luke’s, ‘And so he stayed.'”

 

“Did you know that? Did you know if you ask Jesus to stay with you, he will stay with you? He won’t leave you. He won’t orphan you, he won’t abandon you. It might feel like it. The road might feel cold. It might feel dark. And you know what? It might be cold and dark. But that won’t stop Jesus. The cross couldn’t stop him. The grave wouldn’t stop him. Whatever you feel, whatever your pain, whatever your hurt, whatever your doubt, he will walk with you and he will stay with you.”

 

“In the end, it’s that moment at the table, that moment when Jesus breaks the bread and shares it with those two disciples when their eyes are opened and they suddenly realize that it is Jesus who has been with them all this time on this road of despair. It was not on the road, but at the table of fellowship and communion when Jesus gave thanks for the bread that their eyes were opened! And they ran back to Jerusalem to confess that they were wrong, that He had risen indeed! He is alive!” 

 

And the stories we share around that table about things that happened in our family, “Or that time we didn’t get to meet together because of a thing called the coronavirus, but that somehow, in the breaking of the bread, there was Jesus. “

 

“Whatever road we are on –apart for now as we may be– there’s a table waiting, and there’s a conversation that’s going to happen somewhere on the other side of the Jordan… you understand?”

 

“We are writing that conversation right now,” said Pastor Brett.

 

Today’s Praise

And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them,

Luke 24:33 (NLT)

 

 

No Denying

Of course, Resurrection Sunday had me thinking about Jesus rising from the grave. 

 

It’s the most glorious, amazing event in all of human history. There is no other event in all of humanity that has changed the course of human history more than that one empty tomb.

 

Nothing. 

 

If Jesus had not risen from the grave, He would have been forgotten as a nut-case who claimed to be the Son of God but turned out to be just another blaspheming heretic. 

 

But that’s not what happened.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed to world because Jesus did actually rise from the grave and He was actually who He said He was — the very Son of God.

 

And this is verifiable because large crowds of people saw Him after He rose from the dead and His disciples were eye-witnesses to His ministry, His death, and His resurrection.

 

The 13 apostles were the world’s first missionaries to the Christian faith. (The original twelve disciples, minus Judas, plus Matthias, plus Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus.) They traveled all over the known world of the time, telling people about Jesus even though they were often tortured and all but one of them was killed in the process. 

 

They were told by rulers and authorities wherever they went to stop preaching about Jesus, but not one of them denied Jesus or stopped preaching the Gospel. 

 

James the brother of John is the only apostle whose cause of death is given in the Bible: 

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. Acts 12:1-2 (NIV)

 

The deaths of the other apostles are sometimes recorded in other texts, or sometimes come to us through tradition.

 

Peter is said to have been crucified upside down in 64 A.D. by Emperor Nero. It is said Peter asked to be crucified upside down as he did not consider himself worthy of dying in the same manner as Christ.

 

Andrew is said to have been crucified on an X-shaped cross in the Greek city of Patras in 60 A.D. Legend has it that he preached the Gospel for three days while bound (not nailed) to this cross before he died.

 

Paul is generally accepted to have been beheaded by Nero sometime prior to 68 A.D.

 

Thomas is said to have died in Mylapore, India, on July 3, 72 AD after being pierced with a spear.

 

Matthew was most likely slain in Nadabah, Ethiopia, in 60 A.D. with a halberd (battle axe.) He could have also been burned, stoned, stabbed, or beheaded.

 

James, the brother of Jesus, may have been pushed off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem while preaching the Gospel, then beaten with a club and finally stoned to death. Or, he may have been crucified in the city of Ostrakine in Egypt. There is some controversy here.

 

Jude is said to have been killed with an ax in Syria after commanding demons to come out of idols.

 

Simon the Zealot’s death has multiple possibilities: He may have been crucified in Samaria, martyred in 65 A.D. in Persia, or in 61 A.D. in Britain, or sawed in half at some unknown location and time.

 

Matthias (the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot) may have been stoned by cannibals in Aethiopia (Georgia) or stoned by Jews in Jerusalem and then beheaded.

 

Philip’s death is hard to document. It appeared he died around 80 A.D. in the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis –possibly by being beheaded, or stoned, or being crucified upside down.

 

Bartholomew was said to have been beaten, crucified, skinned alive, and then beheaded –or some combination thereof.

 

The apostle John is said to have been the only one to have died of old age, but he had no easy life by any means. It is said he took care of Jesus’ mother, Mary, just as he promised at the cross. After Mary died, he then moved to Ephesus, where he wrote his three epistles. Tertullian, a Christian writer from the late second and early third century, wrote that John was brought into a coliseum and dunked in a vat of boiling oil. When he emerged unharmed, the entire coliseum converted to Christianity. He was then exiled to the mines on the island of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Eventually, he made it back to Ephesus and died an ordinary death sometime after 98 AD.

 

The point is that all of these people experienced amazing cruelty and not one of them denied Jesus. Had the resurrection of Jesus been a clever lie they made up to justify their previous involvement with Jesus, it is absolutely inconceivable that all of them would have stuck to that lie while enduring the kind of hideous cruelty they suffered. Every one of them remained faithful to the point of torture and death rather than renounce Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and Messiah.

 

And that brings me to the missionaries God has put in my life. Over just the past five years, through events I would have never dreamed of prior to simply saying, “Lord, I will go where you lead me,” I have been blessed and honored to have had over a hundred pastors and missionaries come into my life that I had never know before. I count these people as dearly loved brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Many of them have been pulled out of the countries where they were serving and brought back home because of COVID19. Their hearts ache to go back out into the mission field and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their hearts ache because those people, many of whom live on less than a dollar a day, have had their income drastically reduced far below that. Their hearts ache because people they love are suffering.

 

Many of the pastors the Lord has put in my life are struggling to adjust to bringing the Gospel to their flocks and the nation via social media or any safe means possible. They are working extra hours to find ways to minister to the people the Lord has charged them with. 

 

But even through all that is going on, there is this underlying feeling, almost a knowledge, that the ground is being prepared for a crop. It’s like, as we are all shut in our homes away from each other, there is this waiting –this anticipation that when we are all released from our chains of exile and isolation, a glorious new crop of believers is going to burst forth. 

 

We see the signs, though you have to look for them. There are reports that more people are attending church online than ever attended in person. There is a renewed interest in things spiritual. Bibles are selling at a record pace all over the country.

 

So, out of this situation no one would have chosen for ourselves, hearts and minds and souls are being softened and prepared for what is to come. Idols have come crashing down. There are flowers waiting to come up and the cold snow is beginning to melt away.

 

And yes, I count my brothers and sisters at Kinship Christian Radio as missionaries also, as they are working to bring the Gospel to anyone who has a radio or an internet connection anywhere in the world. 

 

Let us not forget to pray for all who bring the Good News to the world. Let us not forget to pray that the Holy Spirit would move in great power to bring a new time of awakening, repentance, and revival.

 

Today’s Praise

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:15 (ESV)

 

(Thanks to Ryan Nelson, who wrote an excellent piece on the fates of the apostles here: https://overviewbible.com/how-did-the-apostles-die/)

 

 

A Strong Wind Blowing

Like last fall’s leaves being blown around by the winds of spring, there are a lot of things swirling around in my head and in my soul.

 

Let me just list them and I’ll try connecting the dots later.

 

Last week, Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner wrote a blog post about why this COVID-19 pandemic is happening and what we can do about it. He pointed out that a lot of our world’s idols have come crashing down, there is a message for us in these events, and the solution is repentance and trust in our Lord.

 

I started reading a book entitled, “You Found Me” about how to reach the unchurched and others. In the very first part of the book, author Rick Richardson shares sobering statistics about the decline in church attendance and membership in America. The church in America appears to be a lot like Lazarus prior to Palm Sunday at this point.

 

And speaking of Lazarus, Kinship Christian Radio recently began playing a new song by the group Cain called “Rise Up” which is about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Here’s some of the lyrics:

“Can’t you hear the voice of Jesus calling us?

Out from the grave like Lazarus

Rise up, rise up, rise up!”

 

A quote from A.W. Tozer pops up on social media: “Keep a Christian from entering the church sanctuary and you have not in the least bit hindered his worship. We carry our sanctuary with us. We never leave it.”

 

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. In that whole story of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the part that always sticks in my heart is when the Pharisees tell Jesus to silence the crowd cheering for Him and Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40) That particularly struck me again this year when it was coupled with 1 Peter 2:5:

“…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

 

I cannot stop thinking about my beloved brother in Christ, Pastor Secundino Ulloa, (a.k.a “Papa Cundo”) who pastors the Altar of Jehovah Church in Sabana Perdida, Dominican Republic. I and two others from Kinship Christian Radio were in the Dominican Republic last year. Papa Cundo has been a pastor for over 40 years and, of all the people I know in all the world, I cannot think of anyone who embodies the Holy Spirit more than this guy. Even though he speaks almost no English and my level of Spanish proficiency is approximately equal to any given one year-old in his congregation, his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control are gloriously evident in everything he does and says.

 

During my time in the DR last year, there was a particular day on which a conversation was going on with a number of people about what causes the Church to grow. By a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit, I actually silenced my opinion on the subject long enough to ask (through our interpreter) that very question of Pastor Secundino. He said there were three things that caused the Church to grow: “The Holy Spirit, prayer, and the church going out beyond the walls of the church.”

 

That very night, Pastor Secundino took us to a location just half a block from where the Altar of Jehovah church is located. There is an intersection of two streets there, and in three of the four corners, there are “tiendas” which are little stores where people can buy many things. One of those things is alcohol and on this night (as most nights) many people were sitting on those three corners drinking and engaging in various forms of ungodly behavior I need not list. The people of the Altar of Jehovah church had picked up their stage and their sound equipment and many of their chairs and had set up their church on the fourth corner. They were singing and praising God and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ right their in the midst of a whole lot of people who really needed to hear that message.

 

When Papa Cundo says something, it’s not just talk.

 

And, in my mind and heart and soul, I see all of this as connected.

 

With churches no longer able to meet within the walls of the church building, churches must now be the Church. And by that I mean the Church Universal. Now is the time to realize that it was never about the pews and the stained glass windows. It’s about bringing the real and genuine love of Jesus Christ and His Gospel of truth out into a world that has been shaken to its core. It’s about being the living stones of the new temple that sing His praises and cannot be silenced!

 

Just in the last three weeks, we have seen the people of God change how they worship and pray so that anyone anywhere in the world with a phone can participate and hear the Gospel. God’s people have stepped up to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to bring joy and appreciation to lonely and isolated people in nursing homes, to tell people we took for granted our whole lives that we appreciate them driving trucks and stocking grocery store shelves and cleaning up public places and working long, stress-filled hours to care of the sick.

 

The Church is starting to look like Lazarus rising from the tomb and casting off the grave clothes.

 

We have had to be inventive, innovative, courageous –and we have had to exude love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control in order to make it from day-to-day. We have become conscious that God does indeed provide both our physical and spiritual daily bread on a daily basis. We have become grateful for jobs we used to complain about.

 

Almost all of the things we have taken for granted since our births are things that are being brought to mind. While there is a list of “essential jobs” it is becoming painfully obvious that we all really do need each other.

 

We have had to concede that we really can get along without a lot of things we used to hold in higher positions in our lives than we did our God.

 

It’s not easy.

 

But if this momentary affliction increases love, gratitude, and praise of God, if that brings about the awakening, repentance, and revival so many of us have been praying for for so long, it shows that God can and does cause good to arise out of evil.

 

Yes, a strong wind is blowing. And if it sweeps away a bunch of old, dead leaves so the new and fresh and beautiful flowers of spring can burst forth in all their glory, then AMEN and HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. Hebrews 12:28 (NLT)

Full Unedited interview with Keith Getty

It was such a blessing to speak with Keith last Friday about the pandemic, his incredible family, and his brand new song “Christ our Hope in Life and Death”.  Keith shares some amazing encouragement, advice for families during this time, and how God brought his new song into being! -Allen

“Why is this Covid-19 pandemic happening?”

If you dare say it, most people will suddenly go quiet and stare.  

 

  The stares may turn to glares.  Nevertheless, somebody has to speak the truth about the elephant in the room.  The elephant that most are claiming is really a Zebra or a Kangaroo or a Seahorse.  

 

  The elephant in the room is the question; Why is this Covid-19 pandemic happening?”

 

  I’ll embrace that risk and say that the Covid-19 is a message from God about the idols of our life, culture and world.  Furthermore, the sooner we receive this message and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, the sooner our country will be restored.  Think, for a moment, about the things which have been removed from our daily lives. One of first to go were Sports. Are sports bad?  No! But when they become an idol they become spiritually toxic. And when tens of millions of people look upon an NFL Sunday as “Gameday” rather than the Sabbath, sports are an idol.  

   The next idol to crumble has been entertainment.  Movie theatres, Broadway plays, music concerts. Gone.  Which was quickly followed by the demise of the entire leisure industry as cruise ships, vacations, hotels all closed.  Let’s not forget our obsession with money and security which are now on the brink of collapse. Finally, our freedom. We, who have long practiced the grand tradition of going wherever and whenever we want, are suddenly told to stay home.  

 

   Do you think God is trying to tell us something?  

 

   I believe He is.  And the message is that we, who have sown the wind, are now reaping the whirlwind.  I will share that truth. That said, I will also be super-quick to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ…that God is love and does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. (Lamentations 3:33).  And that His purpose with Covid-19, as with all of His chastisements, is not to punish but to turn …or return…people to Himself.  

 

   The solution to Covid-19 does not lay in Purell, social distancing or N95 masks.   The solution is in repentance and trust. In repenting of our personal and the culture’s sins and idols and asking God, who is Lord over all… including Coronavirus…for His mercy and rescue.

 

   If you are one who affirms this message, let me encourage you to join with like-minded people in sharing this message of the love of God with your family, friends and neighbors.  Let’s continue to extend God’s loving invitation to all to shelter under His wings of forgiveness, protection, deliverance, blessings and grace. 

 

Matt Dorfner 

Executive Director   

Kinship Christian Radio

Mordecai and The Great Rabbi

 

 

 

Lately, I’ve been reading, “Abba’s Child” by Brennan Manning. 

 

If that name rings a bell but you can’t quite place it, it’s because Brennan Manning also wrote “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” an excellent book which had a profound influence on Rich Mullins and his music. Manning was (he passed away in 2013) a Jesuit priest, a US Marine, and a reformed alcoholic. His books are filled with a deep, deep longing for people to have a real and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and emphatically, boldly, and unashamedly welcomed the tax collectors and prostitutes of this world into the kingdom of heaven ahead of any and all Pharisees.

 

In the middle of the book, Manning beautifully relates a short story about a young boy named Mordecai and his encounter with The Great Rabbi:

 

The story is told of a very pious Jewish couple. They had marred with great love, and the love never died. Their greatest hope was to have a child so their love could walk the earth with joy.

 

Yet there were difficulties. And since they were very pious, they prayed and prayed and prayed. Along with considerable other efforts, lo and behold, the wife conceived. When she conceived, she laughed louder than Sarah laughed when she conceived Isaac. And the child leapt in her womb more joyously the John leapt in the womb of Elizabeth when Mary visited her. And nine months later a delightful little boy came rumbling into the world. 

 

They named him Mordecai. He was rambunctious, zestful, gulping down the days and dreaming through the nights. The sun and the moon were his toys. He grew in age and wisdom and grace, until it was time to go to the synagogue and learn the Word of God.

The night before his studies were to begin, his parents sat Mordecai down and told him how important the Word of God was. They stressed that without the Word of God, Mordecai would be an autumn leaf in the winter’s wind. He listened, wide eyed. 

 

Yet the next day, he never arrived at the synagogue. Instead he found himself in the woods, swimming in the lake and climbing the trees. 

 

When he came home that night, the news had spread throughout the small village. Everyone knew of his shame. His parents were beside themselves. They did not know what to do.

 

So they called in the behavior modificationists to modify Mordecai’s behavior, until there was no behavior of Mordecai that was not modified. Nevertheless, the next day he found himself in the woods, swimming in the lake and climbing the trees.

 

So they called in the psychoanalysts, who unblocked Mordecai’s blockages, so there were no more blocks for Moredecai to be blocked by. 

 

Nevertheless, he found himself the next day, swimming in the lake and climbing the trees. 

 

His parents grieved for their beloved son. There seemed to be no hope.

 

At this time, the great Rabbi visited the village. And the parents said, “Ah! Perhaps the Great Rabbi.” So they took Mordecai to the Great Rabbi and told him their tale of woe. The Rabbi bellowed, “Leave the boy with me, and I will have a talking with him.”

 

It was bad enough that Mordecai would not go to the synagogue. But to leave their beloved son alone with this lion of a man was terrifying. However, they had come this far, and so they left him.

 

Now Mordecai stood in the halway, and the Great Rabbi stood in his parlor. He beckoned, “Boy, come here.” Trembling, Mordecai came forward.

 

And then the Great Rabbi picked him up and held him silently against his heart. 

 

His parents came to get Mordecai, and they took him home. The next day, he went to the synagogue to learn the Word of God. And when he was done, he went to the woods. And the Word of God became one with the words of the woods, which became one with the words of Mordecai. And he swam in the lake. And the Word of God became one with the words of the lake, which became one with the words of Mordecai. And he climbed the trees. And the Word of God became one with the words of the trees, which became one with the words of Mordecai.

 

And Mordecai himself grew up to become a great man. People who were seized with panic came to him and found peace. People who were without anybody came to him and found communion. People with no exits came to him and found a way out. And when they came to him he said, “I first learned the Word of God when the Great Rabbi held me silently against his heart.” “

 

Manning’s story of Mordecai and the Great Rabbi reminds me that no matter how much panic there is out there, no matter how alone I feel, no matter how it seems there is no exit, that Great Rabbi named Jesus will still silently hold me and let me listen to His heart beat. 

 

And I hear that heart beating in others in their prayers, in kind and encouraging words, in their good deeds done in genuine love, in the songs and teachings and testimonies on Kinship Christian Radio, and in pastor’s sermons now filling social media as the Gospel of Jesus Christ takes another giant leap into all the world. 

 

May you hear that heart beat also. And may the words and the love of the Great Rabbi become one with you.

 

 

Today’s Praise

Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!” John 1:49 (NLT)

 

Psalm 91 and the Miracle of Dunkirk

 

In the space of two weeks, out entire world has changed. It seems as if the world has shut down as we hunker in our bunkers waiting for this virus to just go away.

 

 

Kinship Christian Radio is still on the air, broadcasting into your bunker as we shelter in place. And I would be remiss if I did not add that it will continue to do so as radio stations are considered an essential service because communication in a situation like this is vital. 

 

 

Even more vital is prayer.

 

 

Certainly, Christians are praying all around the world. Some are praying that the virus would be eliminated by a vaccine or natural events. Some are praying for strength and fortitude to endure. Some are praying for provision while they wait to be able to go back to work and earn a living. Others are praying for solutions from government to help those in need. Still others are praying that God would use this to bring many souls to salvation. And then there are those praying that, in these troubled and turbulent times, they would be granted the ability to shine with the light of Jesus and be part of the solution.

 

 

If anything is clear as of this moment, it’s that despite all humanity’s claims of having answers and solutions readily available to quickly solve problems, this is not an example of the strength of our great human wisdom and power.

 

 

And that brings me to a book I read about eight years ago, called “Psalm 91, God’s Shield of Protection” by Peggy Joyce Ruth and Angela Ruth Schum. It’s about Psalm 91 and it is written specifically for military men and women and their loved ones. It explains God’s covenant of refuge and hope using stories and testimonies that demonstrate His protection of soldiers through Psalm 91.

 

 

In that book, there is an absolutely fascinating story about The Miracle of Dunkirk –something I do not remember being taught in History class. (Granted, I do not remember much of anything from History class.) 

 

 

It began with Germany invading Poland in September of 1939. France and the British Empire responded by declaring war on Germany shortly thereafter. Very little happened for about eight months and then, in May of 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. Three tank divisions rolled quickly through the Ardennes forest in France, headed for the English Channel. 

 

 

By May 21, over 300,000  British troops were trapped on the beaches and in the harbor of Dunkirk, France. The German Army was less than 12 miles away and the British and French troops were backed up against the English Channel with nowhere to go. On May 26, 1940, the King of England called for the entire nation to pray fervently for the trapped soldiers.

 

 

Winston Churchill told the British public that they would only be able to rescue less than one-tenth of those soldiers. The Nazis had sunk so many British ships in the harbor that destroyers and large military vessels could not get into the harbor. Even if they could, the beaches were so shallow that large ships could not get close enough for the men to swim to them.

 

 

Hitler’s army was advancing rapidly, both with tanks and airplanes, and all seemed hopeless. 

 

 

With the nation of England praying fervently, a funny thing happened.  One of Hitler’s generals ordered the advancing army of tanks to halt. Hitler even confirmed the order because both he and the general were afraid too many tanks would be lost in the swampy ground around Dunkirk.

 

 

Instead, Hitler decided to send in the Luftwaffe to shoot the soldiers from the air.

 

 

As England continued to pray, another funny thing happened. A dense fog rolled in, grounding most of the Luftwaffe’s planes.

 

 

And then, yet another funny thing happened –the 21 miles of open water separating England from France suddenly went as flat and calm as a small pond.

 

 

Every boat that would float was sent from England to Dunkirk to rescue those soldiers. Over 700 fishing boats, pleasure craft, and merchant marine craft participated.

 

 

Some Luftwaffe planes were able to get through the fog to bomb and strafe the beaches. But great numbers of the soldiers there had memorized Psalm 91 and they weren’t just praying it –they were shouting it at the top of their lungs.

 

 

Among them was a young chaplain who later told how he laid on the open beach for what seemed like forever as bullets and shrapnel rained down all around him. Stunned and dazed by the deafening roar of the concussions around him, he stood up in amazement to find –not a scratch on him and the perfect outline of his body in the sand. It was, he said, “the only smooth and undisturbed spot on the entire bullet-riddled beach.”

 

 

In the end, 338,226 British and French soldiers were rescued from Dunkirk over a period of nine days. 

 

The miraculous rescue of Dunkirk energized and encouraged the British people. There was such elation in Britain that Winston Churchill had to tell his people, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

 

 

While Churchill’s point is certainly true on it’s face, praise and gratitude to God is never inappropriate. 

 

 

And as I am reminded of the Miracle of Dunkirk,  I have resolved to pray Psalm 91 out loud as often as I can.

 

 

 

Today’s Praise

 

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High

will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

This I declare about the LORD:

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;

he is my God, and I trust him.

For he will rescue you from every trap

and protect you from deadly disease.

He will cover you with his feathers.

He will shelter you with his wings.

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,

nor the arrow that flies in the day.

Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,

nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

Though a thousand fall at your side,

though ten thousand are dying around you,

these evils will not touch you.

Just open your eyes,

and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the LORD your refuge,

if you make the Most High your shelter,

no evil will conquer you;

no plague will come near your home.

For he will order his angels

to protect you wherever you go.

They will hold you up with their hands

so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.

You will trample upon lions and cobras;

you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.

I will protect those who trust in my name.

When they call on me, I will answer;

I will be with them in trouble.

I will rescue and honor them.

I will reward them with a long life

and give them my salvation.”

(NLT)

When We Walk Through the Valley

 

 

Since I wrote this blog a week ago, it seems as if absolutely everything in our world has changed.

 

I don’t need to list the details of how COVID19 has changed our world because by the time this posts, they will have changed again. Even in an age when my words can be disseminated almost instantly, by the time you read them, they could very well be obsolete, irrelevant, even untrue.

 

And that’s a difficult situation for human beings to cope with. We depend on things staying relatively stable. We have a system, a certain way of doing things that works for us. When those things no longer work for us, there is a pain, resistance, searching for ways to avoid the change, denial, even anger…

 

Change is hard. 

 

And, in this particular situation, how do we separate what is reasonable and prudent and true from paranoia, hype, and over-reaction? From what I can tell with the limited intelligence God gave me, there is some of all of that out there.

 

I’m currently involved in a Bible study called Core 52. It aims to teach 52 core concepts in the Bible in 52 weeks. Last week, we were studying the 23rd Psalm.

 

Now, most of us think of Psalm 23 as a psalm of comfort, and it is. I think I read somewhere that it is the most commonly used Bible verse at funerals. And that makes sense.

 

But as I read through it before this whole coronavirus thing blew up in our faces, I came to believe it should be read almost with defiance in one’s voice –a taunt like David shouted at Goliath.

 

Let’s see if I can convey what I mean by doing a Eugene Peterson-style paraphrase:

The LORD is my shepherd! I shall NOT be in want!

He makes it possible for me to lay down in green pastures and beside still waters.

He restores my very soul.

He leads me on paths of righteousness for the glory of HIS name!

And, yes, even though I may end up walking through the very valley of the shadow of death on this journey,

I-will-fear-NO-EVIL!

For HIS weapons and HIS guidance and HIS direction guide me and comfort me!

The LORD GOD prepares a banquet for me in the very presence of my enemies!

He anoints my head with oil in love and mercy.

My cup overflows with His goodness and abundance!

And I know that this goodness and mercy and all these things will follow me all the days of my life,

Until I live with Him in His house forever!

 

AMEN! HALLELUJAH!

 

Late on Saturday night, (by which I mean about 10:25 p.m.) I heard Kinship Christian Radio Announcer Steve Ware talking about worry and worship. He was quoting pastor Rick Warren and the gist of what he was saying was that worship and worry are incompatible with each other. If you are worrying, you are not worshiping God. If you are worshiping God, you are not worrying. 

 

Now is the time, when all the world that is without God is worrying about what will happen next, for Christians to be seen worshiping God and going forth without fear. Now is the time when we should be offering to pick up groceries or run errands for the elderly. Now is the time when we should be offering sacrifice and comfort and confidence and level-headedness and joy (Yes I said JOY!) to others. Now is the time to show that these comparatively small and momentary afflictions really are nothing in the face of the eternal weight of glory that lies before us. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

 

As one of my best pastor friends said about the whole situation, “I aint skeered.”

 

Today’s Praise

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

Does God Like You?

 

Today, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

 

“In the past two weeks the number of cases outside China has increased thirteenfold and the number of affected countries has tripled,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.” 

 

Italy has shut down all travel in and out of the country and many other countries are implementing travel restrictions and are banning all large gatherings of people. Sporting events are being cancelled or being played without the fans present. Factory production in China and many other places has ground to a halt as workers have been told to stay home. The National Guard has been called out in New Rochelle, New York, to contain the virus.

 

Clearly, this is nothing to be taken lightly. We are advised to take this threat seriously, but not to panic.

 

Wash your hands, cough into your elbow, keep your hands off your face, but do not panic.

 

Despite those admonitions against panic, we hear of people emptying the shelves of their local super-centers of bottled water, face masks, paper towels, soap, pantry items and yes, even toilet paper. I saw a video recently of people loading toilet paper into their shopping carts as if this were Venezuela. 

 

Meanwhile, the stock market is bouncing around like a dodge ball at the mercy of a pack of over-zealous fifth-graders and the price of oil has fallen into the abyss as Russia and Saudi Arabia are having an epic spitting match. 

 

SRN News reported on Kinship Christian Radio that a New York hardware store was being charged with price-gouging because they were selling bottles of hand sanitizer for $80 each.

 

And if you were ever thinking of taking a cruise on a big, fancy ship, I’ll bet you a roll of toilet paper you’re not thinking of it now.

 

At the same time, the mainstream media seems to be relishing the advent of an inevitable global apocalypse.

 

So from where I sit right now,  humanity doesn’t seem very likable at all. 

 

But please, allow me to drastically switch gears if I may:

 

I have a friend and sister in Christ who has absolutely dedicated her life to pleasing God. She prays and fasts and tries to do her absolute best to be a person who will bring a smile to God’s face.

 

But recently, she fell short of the goal and it was devastating to her.

 

I tried to encourage her and lift her spirits, reminding her that no one is perfect. After many words, I told her that I was certain God still loved her.

 

Her reply was, “But God loves everybody.”

 

How could I argue with that? God does indeed love everyone and so, for my friend, their was little consolation in that. God loves people who absolutely hate Him. He desires that all would be saved, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. (1 Timothy 2:4)

 

And then, as I was reading “Abba’s Child” the author, Brennan Manning, made the absolutely astonishing claim that God likes people. Individual people. Nasty, panic-ridden, irrational, toilet paper-hoarding people. He writes:

 

“How would you respond if I asked you the question, “Do you honestly believe God likes you, not just loves you because theologically God has to love you?”

 

He goes on:

 

“Scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and the heart of God is defined by tenderness. “By the tender mercy (compassion) of our God who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79).”

 

Manning follows this with a Richard Foster quote in which he says that even that cold cup of water given to the least of one of these brings tears to the eyes of God. “Like the proud mother who is thrilled to receive a wilted bouquet of dandelions from her child, so God celebrates our feeble expressions of gratitude.”

 

Manning says that, if you could answer with gut-level honesty that your God not only loves you, but indeed likes you, “…you would experience a serene compassion for yourself that approximates the meaning of tenderness.”

 

And oh, how we could use that tenderness right now. 

 

When we strive and struggle and worry, we forget that He is the good shepherd. We forget that tender, compassionate, merciful shepherd who makes sure we have all we need, that leads us to green pastures and still waters. He does restore our souls and lead us in paths of righteousness to the glory of His name. And even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is no evil we need fear, for His mighty power is indeed there to comfort us.

 

With that knowledge, with the glorious assurance of the tenderness and compassion of a God who not only loves us, but indeed likes us, there is nothing to fear and no need at all for panic.

 

Not even from fear-mongering, price-gouging, toilet paper hoarders.

 

 

Today’s Praise

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.  (Psalm 23:5-6 ESV)