The Mega-Church

 

Sometimes, we are not at our best but we still have to function.

 

Case in point: I am currently battling a cold and recovering from a migraine at the same time.

 

Waaah.

 

I still need to write a blog. 

 

Actually, “need” is not the right word. I want to write the blog. I love writing this blog because God opens doors for my soul to discover and learn things I would not discover or learn by laying on the couch and making sounds like an expiring bovine while lamenting how terribly sick I am. There are immeasurable blessings to be found in being diligent and faithful to bless people other than yourself –even when it is slightly inconvenient to do so. 

 

To put it more succinctly: “Suck it up, buttercup.”

 

Yes, I know that is totally antithetical to American culture today. I know that there are vast corporations who have made kajillions (spellcheck says that is not a word) of dollars on the premise of giving me what I want, how I want it, and when I want it –which is always right now.

 

That’s all fine and well. Many people have jobs, support their families, and make life better for many other people because of companies like that.

 

But that’s not what we want in the Church.

 

The whole premise of the Gospel is based on eternal life AFTER this life. We are eternal beings living a temporal existence. I have posted these verses many times before:  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17 & 18 (ESV)

 

And, since a picture is worth a thousand words, that building in the picture above is a church in the Dominican Republic. One of my sisters in Christ recently posted that picture on Facebook with photos and video of over 30 people worshiping in that church. My friend and brother in Christ, Pastor Secundino Ulloa was shown preaching in that church and, even though my Spanish is not all that good, I am pretty sure he was saying that Jesus is the Word and the Word is life. 

 

With children chattering and sitting on their parent’s laps, with light shining in through the cracks in the walls and the holes in the rusty tin roof, the Word is life and the darkness cannot, does not, and will not extinguish it. The darkness trembles at this light that cannot be quenched. Ever.

 

When I asked the name of the church in that photo I was told it is “La Capilla de la Victoria, which means, “The Chapel of the Victory.”

 

It’s images like this that come to me when I am tempted to complain because my toast is not as perfectly golden as I would like it. It’s images like this that come to me when I am tempted to complain about… well, virtually anything. 

 

Our blessings are beyond measure. The Israelites complained in the dessert about the manna, even though it was the bread of life that had come down from heaven. No, it was not toasted perfectly golden brown. 

 

I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to complain about.

 

As far as I am concerned, the church in the picture is as grand and glorious as any mega-church I’ve ever been in because the King of kings and Lord of lords attends that church.

 

It is indeed the Chapel of The Victory because this LORD who came to earth was born in a stable as simple and humble as that chapel. He walked the dusty streets of Jerusalem, of Bethany, and of Samaria and preached the Good News. He died on a cross for your sins and for my sins. And He rose from the dead because death could not hold Him and the grave could not keep Him.

 

This humble Savior who did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped rose in complete Victory over sin, death, and the devil! 

 

He is the same LORD you hear about every day on Kinship Christian Radio and he is still saving souls and still changing the world!

 

Today’s Praise.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20 (ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

Disciples

 

 

 

I’m going to write the blog backwards this week by starting with the answer:

“Both.”

 

Now, I’m guessing at this point you would like me to divulge the question, but if I did that, why would you read more than the first two sentences?

 

And let us not forget that sometimes it is more important to know why we ask the question than it is to know the answer. ( I learned that, grasshopper, from watching that pop-culture font of Buddhist knowledge known as “Kung Fu” with David Carridine when I was 17 years old.) 

 

Okay, so the question is: Should the things you hear on Kinship Christian Radio be designed primarily to save the lost or to make disciples of current believers?

 

This topic of making disciples has been popping up off and on now in my life for a couple of months. It’s one of those things that keeps surfacing like a whale coming up for air. It’s always below the surface, it’s immense, and although it can remain submerged for quite some time, it can’t help but come up for air and breathe eventually.

 

Of course, just mentioning discipleship has most of you thinking of The Great Commission from Matthew 28:19: 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (NIV) 

 

If you think about that verse, it seems there is a tension there. We generally associate baptism with a new believer (or even an infant in some cases) whereas we use the word “discipleship” within Christianity to mean maturing and equipping a current believer into greater depths and expressions of their faith –including drawing others to faith.

 

Indeed, the Greek word used in the verse we translate as “disciple” is mathēteuō which means a student or a scholar of a teacher. There’s an apprenticeship facet to the word also. While the implication is that the disciple follows the teacher around for awhile and learns from him, eventually the disciple goes out on their own to teach and ends up with disciples of their own –but in the process, the disciple never stops learning and growing and becoming better in the discipline in which they have been instructed.

 

So, if you’ve been listening to Kinship Christian Radio all these years thinking that what you are hearing is broadcast as just nice Christian stuff someone thinks you will like, it goes much deeper than that. 

 

If that’s all Kinship Christian Radio was about, the programming could be a mile wide and an inch deep. Pop-culture happy thoughts, wisdom from clichés, and the occasional mention of a generic “higher power” would do that. 

 

But there’s really no power in that because there is no Jesus in that.

 

Of course, Kinship Christian Radio broadcasts the Gospel. If someone tunes in looking for Jesus, they will hear that God so loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but will have eternal life. That message is always present. That message is the leviathan of the ministry.

 

But the part of Kinship Christian Radio I really appreciate is that it helps me grow and mature and be equipped as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The teaching, the tapestry shared by the announcers, the programs, and even the music has a beauty, a majesty, a power,  that can only come from the work of the Holy Spirit. 

 

Kinship Christian Radio is the Church (capital C) going out beyond the walls of the church, as I wrote last week. It strives to be what it should be to convey how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love of Jesus Christ. 

 

And it is the immensity of that love that grows little fish of faith into whales that sing in awe of the depth and richness and glory of our LORD and Savior! 

 

AMEN!

 

Today’s Praise

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:11-15 (NIV)

 

 

 

Beyond the Walls

In the Colonial Section of Santo Domingo: (l to r) Back row: Sor Mercedes, Tom Wetzell, Cristian Del Rosario Urbaez, Joanna Urbaez, Pastor Secundino Ulloa; Middle row: Beth Crosby, Elpidio Zapata, Dan Jones, Alice Urbaez; Front row: Alberto de la Cruz, and Ysabel Paulino.

 

As many of you know, I’ve just returned from a five-day mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

 

And yes, I freely confess that I do not regret missing the snowmegeddon which has raised walls on either side of my driveway approaching a height sufficient to hold back an invasion of Mongol hordes.

  

But enough of that. 

 

The trip was glorious! HALLELUJAH!

 

As for the details, let’s get to it then.

 

I was joined by Kinship Announcer Beth Crosby and Tom Wetzell of the MICB Board of Directors.  (MICB stands for Minn-Iowa Christian Broadcasting and it is the legal name of the charitable organization under which all of the Kinship Christian radio stations are organized.)

 

Our intent was to meet with some Dominicans I had come in contact with as a result of previous mission trips who were operating a fledgling internet radio station called Radio Bendicion Digital. (Blessings Digital Radio) The trip was not financially sponsored by Kinship Christian Radio, but Tom and Beth and I all have a deep and abiding love of Christian radio and we thought maybe some of the things we knew from the radio ministry here might be helpful to the people operating Blessings Digital Radio. 

 

We went to offer what we could, as God allowed, asking that all would be to His glory.

 

What we found was a ministry deeply devoted to proclaiming the glory of the LORD, saving lost souls, growing disciples, and ministering to those in need. 

 

These are people who will spontaneously break out into worship or heartfelt prayer. They will stand in a circle holding hands and begin to pray, each calling out to the Lord in what seems like many different requests and praises, but it all comes back into focus in thanks and praise as they conclude their prayers. 

 

These are a people whose church will hold a one-hour Bible study on Sunday afternoon and follow it up with a three-hour service during which absolutely no one will fall asleep. Ever. The neighbors down the block will not fall asleep. 

 

When the Newsboys sang the line “Let the church live loud” in their song “We Believe,” that church is alive and well in the Dominican Republic.

 

Blessings Digital Radio broadcasts music and teaching and shares the love of Jesus Christ. Director Elpidio Zapata controls all the equipment needed from a single desktop.

 

Digital, internet-based radio has the advantage of not being tied to massive antennas spread out over a wide area. On the morning we were there, we could see his equipment registered about 2,000 people in the Santo Domingo area tuned in with many others listening all over the world including the United States, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, and even China.

 

But Blessings Digital Radio also has a heart for the needs of its community. Its people, many of whom are pastors, are involved in ministries for children, the disabled, unwed mothers, orphans, and other needs that have touched their hearts. The walls of the radio station do not contain them.

 

Those walls are in a small office up two dozen or so stairs above the busy streets of the nation’s Capital, Santo Domingo. For Ysabel Paulino, who broadcasts a program for people with disabilities called “Impactando Vidas” (“Impacting Lives”) that means her wheelchair must be carried up those stairs by two men. The stairs look like they would be very slippery if it rained and Ysabel said she had been injured on four different occasions going up or down those stairs. Handicap parking and accessible buildings simply do not exist in the Dominican Republic.

 

That doesn’t stop them.

 

At one point, we met with a pastor who had pledged a portion of her small church as a place where a new office could be built for Blessings Digital Radio. Walls would have to be constructed and the drum set would have to be moved, but Pastor Magandy and her congregation were willing to help the radio station. That office would be at ground level.

 

As we met with the pastor and talked about how all this could work, a Holy Spirit connection developed between Beth and Pastor Magandy and suddenly we all broke out into spontaneous worship singing “Aleluya” and “Cristo Viene” for I cannot remember how long. (“Cristo Viene” means “Christ Returns” and the implication is that it will happen soon.)

 

There were also many Spirit-led conversations, many of which occurred while our host, Pastor Secundino was driving us around Santo Domingo. 

 

Let me give you a little background on “driving us around Santo Domingo” before I get into the conversations.

 

The Dominican Republic has the second-highest rate of traffic deaths of any place in the world. Driving in Santo Domingo is absolute bedlam. There are about three million people who live in the area around the capital and they all seem to be going in different directions at the same time. There are virtually no stop signs, no street signs, no speed limit signs, and zero concept of leaving more than a gnat’s hair of space between the vehicle you are in and any vehicle around you. I counted a grand total of two stop lights in that city the whole time I was there.

 

“Vehicles” on the packed roads include everything from horse-drawn carts, three-wheeled bicycles loaded with 200 pounds of pineapples, thousands and thousands of small motorcycles and scooters that weave in and out of traffic like each one is driven by Dale Earnhardt, countless old (1991 to 1996) Toyota Corollas used as taxis and typically carrying seven or eight Dominicans, tiny Japanese trucks capable of no more than about 30 mph loaded eight feet tall with plantians, the occasional Land Rover or Mercedes, and full size semi-tractor trailers.

 

In official documents, it says they drive on the right side of the road just like we do. In practice, that concept is irrelevant. They drive where ever there is room to drive. 

 

In the middle of all of this are three gringos and varying numbers of Dominicans (including not one but two wonderful interpreters) in Pastor Secundino’s ten-passenger, four cylinder diesel van. The pastor’s real name is Secundino Ulloa, but a lot of us call him “Papa Cundo” because that’s a lot easier and more fun to say. 

 

And Papa Cundo proves that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are real. In the midst of all this swarming, frustrating, life-threatening utter chaos, Papa Cundo never once says a curse word, raises his voice, or loses his cool in any way. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control radiate from this guy under circumstances that would have me on my knees confessing my sins for days.

 

I know this because almost every time we went anywhere, I was riding shotgun. I arranged for Tom to take the right front seat once and he refused to do so ever again.

 

And, one day, while Papa Cundo is driving through all this, a conversation takes place in the back of the van about the church, what it should be, and how it comes to grow.

 

So, when the traffic is less life-threatening than usual and because I know he is wise in these matters, I asked Papa Cundo what causes the church to grow. And, through our interpreter, he said it was prayer and the fruits of the Spirit. 

 

It’s the church being the real church.

 

Shortly after that conversation, Beth interviewed Pastor Secundino for a Kinship Crossroads report. Using some of the radio technology we brought with us, we were able to sit at the Ulloa’s dining room table and have him tell Kinship Christian Radio listeners 2,000 miles away that the growth of the church, the effectiveness of the church, was about the church going out beyond the walls of the church.

 

And that night, we went to an event called a campaña (campaign) where the people of Secundino’s church picked up the stage and the keyboard and the lights and the sound system and the drum set and moved it down the block to an intersection in the street where there are several places where people commonly come to drink. They literally picked up the church and moved it out beyond the walls of the church. And they preached and they worshiped and they sang and they proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord right there in the street.

 

And they did it with great fervor and strength and joy.

 

They did it with a faith as strong and rich as a cup of Dominican coffee. They did it heartily, in a genuineness that satisfies your soul like a bowl of their national dish, sancocho.

 

They did it without fear or concern about being “too religious.”

 

They did it as if unto the LORD.

 

And as I sit and write this now, I know that the same Spirit is alive and well in Blessings Digital Radio. I know that the God my brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic call “todopoderoso” is the same totally powerful, almighty God who can and does save the lost through the death and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ.

 

And so, I join them in their praise and worship shouting, ALELUYA! GLORIA DIOS! ALELUYA!

 

Today’s Praise

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11 (NIV)

 

 

Who Is This Guy?

I’ve been writing this blog now for several years. I’m not even exactly sure how long it’s been. Maybe five years? 

 

I sit down once a week and try to come up with something that has something to do with Kinship Christian Radio that will encourage you, something that will help you grow closer to Jesus, something that will bring glory to God.

 

But who am I?

 

If I’m honest with myself and with you, I gotta tell you, I’m pretty much just a big dumb guy in a plaid flannel shirt.

 

I don’t mean to be self-deprecating here. I know I’m not all that stupid in terms of measurable human intelligence, but really, the knowledge of even the smartest human being on the planet is pretty much a big nothing-burger in comparison to the astounding wisdom and intellect that created even the simplest organism on the planet, let alone the entire universe. 

 

I saw a post on an atheist-Christian debate site where someone said “Theology should come back to science…” and I was astounded at the level of arrogance humanity has come to. As if “science” were inerrant, omniscient, and not the product of flawed human beings. 

 

Aren’t these the same people who took decades to decide if eggs were good or bad for us? (The American Heart Association now says, yes, eggs are good for you –but only one per day and it’s better if they are not part of a Western diet. I kid you not.)  And the butter vs. margarine debate? Seriously, we do not have the time to go there.

 

So, I have no illusions that I’m a big shot or a big deal. In fact, whenever I even get close to that kind of arrogance, God is faithful to put some obvious reminder of my own fallibility into my path. 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

 

The verse doesn’t even say fear of the LORD is wisdom. It says fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. 

 

So, when I pulled out in front of that car the other day and the guy almost hit me and my life flashed in front of my eyes for a second, God was saying, “Okay, we have a place to start now.” (I paraphrase.)

 

And with all of this fallibility of mine and the certain knowledge that I will indeed pass from this earth some day, in steps Jesus.

 

In steps God in the flesh.

 

When Jesus was having that last supper with his disciples and he washed their feet and things were suddenly getting very, very real he told them he was going away and they could not go with him, but he would come back. He commanded them to love one another, and Peter insisted he would go with him. Peter pledged his very life to Jesus and Jesus looked Peter in the face and told Peter he would disown him not once, but three times. 

 

He then tells the disciples (who had to be sitting there with swaying jaws by this time) that they should not let their hearts be troubled because he was going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house so that they could be with him. And he says to them:

“You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:4 (NIV)

 

And they don’t! They’re baffled!

 

Thomas, old doubting Thomas, looks at him and says,

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

 

These guys are as clueless as me. They have no concept, no clue. Who is this guy?

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (Verses 6&7)

 

Boom!

 

Jesus has come right out and said He is God! That’s who this guy is!

 

Of course, they still don’t get it and he basically has to get out the crayons and draw them a picture. For the rest of John 14, Jesus details what that means and tells them the Holy Spirit will come and color in that picture for them.

 

And that’s who I am. 

 

No, I’m not the Holy Spirit. I’m the guy God has given a crayon. 

 

In my tiny little way, in the futility of my weak human ability, God has put his very own Holy Spirit in me that I might be given a glimpse, a taste, a hint, a sliver of light in a dark world that I can search and strive and look under rocks to try and find the right combination of words and phrases to be able to begin to describe the all-surpassing greatness of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, glorious, amazing God and the height, the depth, the length, the breadth of his astounding, awe-inspiring love for all of us in His only Son, Jesus Christ! 

 

God doesn’t need me. He wants me! 

 

He gave me this gift to use. This is what I am supposed to be doing. 

 

And the thing is, He gave each and every one of you gifts too! As you tune into Kinship Christian Radio, you hear and experience the gifts he gave the announcers, the preachers, the teachers, the musicians, and every voice that comes over your radio.

 

You have a gift, too. You’ve been given something, some color of crayon, some way to share the love of Jesus in this life! Even if it’s baking cookies, bandaging a bloody knee, taking a kid fishing, speaking a kind word, saying a prayer with a hurting soul, traveling to distant lands, painting a bathroom, or painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we have all been given some kind of gift that can shine the love of Jesus into another life! 

 

God has a plan for you. God has given you a gift. Any voice that says your gift isn’t good enough or doesn’t count is the voice of the liar. 

 

You are valuable. You are loved

 

Share what you have been given because it doesn’t belong to just you.

 

Today’s Praise

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:6-15 (NLT)

Christians at the Dump

 

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Ephesians.  In it, the apostle Paul uses some of his grandest and most glorious language to describe the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

 

Running under that current of God’s marvelous plan and astounding love there’s an underlying image in Ephesians that’s something we probably don’t catch immediately, but would have been part of the inherent imagery of first-century Ephesus. Paul mentions it almost immediately:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— Ephesians 1:3-5 (NIV)

 

That mention of adoption in this passage is not a casual reference on Paul’s part.

 

At the time, if a Roman citizen adopted a child, it was a legally-binding arrangement. A natural child could be disinherited, but an adopted child was an heir for life. Adoption was not something entered into lightly.

 

As Paul continues through his letter to the Ephesians, he repeatedly reinforces the idea that our adoption was predestined, that we are sealed as children of God, that we are unified into one family, that our inheritance as heirs is guaranteed, that we were formerly dead and uncircumcised, that we are saved by the grace of God, that we are members of God’s household, that we are no longer foreigners and strangers but members of God’s own family, and that we are God’s handiwork created to do good works which He planned for us to do since the beginning of time itself.

 

Those are all wonderful, glorious thoughts –and all in stark, glaring contrast to a newborn baby left on a dung heap to die.

 

You see, in first-century Ephesus and throughout the Roman empire, it was absolutely legal to dispose of excess or unwanted babies simply by leaving them at the garbage dump or local dung heap to die of exposure. It was expected and carried no social stigma, especially if the child was deformed, illegitimate, a child of infidelity,  the family was poor, there was family conflict, or was just guilty of being one of too many children.

 

Sometimes the infant was devoured by the dogs that scavenged public places. Sometimes, the child was picked up by slavers and sold as a pet, a play companion for another child, or a prostitute. The great temple of Artemis in Ephesus mentioned in Acts 19 had many temple prostitutes.

 

Into all of this steps the apostle Paul, who plants and grows and nurtures the people of the church in Ephesus.

 

It was those believers, from that church in Ephesus, who quietly started adopting and caring for those abandoned babies from the dung heap and the garbage dump as their own children.

 

And, throughout the words Paul writes to these people whom he never stops thanking God for, I can see the imagery of those children rescued from certain death or worse. One can only imagine the kind of Christians those formerly abandoned and left-to-die children would someday become.

 

The compassion and the love and the self-sacrifice of those believers did not go unnoticed. Many noticed how “The Way” had changed people and they also came to believe in Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior.

 

And the kingdom of God grew and spread putting forth leaves and branches and fruit.

 

So, brothers and sisters, as we hear on Kinship Christian Radio and the news all around us about what has happened in the great temples of our present culture,  let it remind us that the we are not to be overcome by evil, but we are to overcome evil with good.

 

For thus is the kingdom of God. 

 

Today’s Praise

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

 

 

 

Broken Glass

As I was reaching into the cupboard Monday morning for a coffee cup, I accidentally knocked a different coffee cup off the shelf. It fell to the counter-top and shattered into hundreds, maybe thousands, of pieces.

It was an unusual cup in that it was made of thick glass, not ceramic like most coffee cups. I’m guessing it was that heat-resistant glass used in cookware. It broke into pieces of all sizes. Some large, some medium, some small, and some that appeared to be microscopic. 

I say, “microscopic” because as I looked at the counter-top, I could see tiny glints of light in certain places where I could not see the actual piece of glass causing those glints of light.

I remember thinking (in my pre-dawn, pre-caffeinated condition of extraordinary grogginess) “Oh great. This is going to be a pain to clean up.”

And it was. 

Once I got some slippers on my feet and a broom in my hand, I discovered the shrapnel from the cup covered a large area of the kitchen. I swept the floor first, then mopped the floor. The floor mats (luckily not carpeted) in front of the sink and counter would go outside for a vigorous pounding.

Moving on to the counter-top, I considered the stick of butter sitting there. It was missing only one small pat, which had graced a serving of carrots from the roast last night.

Almost a whole stick of butter.

In my mind’s eye, I could see myself carefully scraping a thin layer off all six sides to save that stick of butter from being wasted… and then a small, still voice in my head said,

“Exactly how much broken glass is acceptable in your butter, Dan?”

And then I threw that stick of butter away.

Later, as I was wishing I had been more careful as I reached for that morning coffee cup, it occurred to me that the stick of butter answered a question that had come up in Bible Study the day before. 

We had been talking about when God called Moses through the burning bush to go back into Egypt and free the Israelites from their slavery. God answers all of Moses’ questions and objections, Moses tells his father-in-law, Jethro, that he is going back to Egypt, Jethro says, “Go in peace” and Moses and the caravan are on their way. Moses has been called, God’s great plan to save His people has been put into place and then, seemingly out of the blue, Exodus 4:24 says:

At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. (ESV)

What?

That seems rather unexpected and harsh.

As it turns out, the reason for all of this is that Moses had not circumcised his second son. God had commanded that the sons of His people would be circumcised. Moses’ wife, Zipporah, came from a different culture where men were circumcised before marriage, not shortly after birth. So, for Moses, leaving that child uncircumcised was sin. It was disobedience to God. Moses could not go on this grand mission the LORD Himself had called him to if he was unrepentant of sin –any sin, no matter how good the reason and no matter how microscopic.

We instinctively, completely, and totally understand and agree that the  acceptable level of broken glass in a stick of butter is absolutely none. Zero. Not one of us would knowingly and willingly accept or use a stick of butter with any shattered glass in it all. Zero tolerance.

And yet, somehow, we believe those tiny voices that say the we should willingly allow and accept small amounts of sin in our lives, in our culture, in our nation.

And we allow the acceptable amount of sin to grow as we become desensitized to the broken glass that slowly tears us apart as it increases the internal bleeding that God told us would lead to certain death.

But we cannot speak life and truth and joy and peace to others with shards of broken glass in our gullets.

The bad news is that we stink at being sinless. Everyone of us will some day knock that coffee cup off the shelf before we have come to our full senses.

The good news is that there was someone whom God sent who was and is sinless. There was someone who can not just remove the shards of broken glass, but can make it as if we never knocked that cup off the shelf in the first place.

As every preacher on Kinship Christian Radio will tell you, Jesus removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) Because of Jesus, our sins are not just forgiven, the Father willingly forgets them. (Hebrews 8:12) When we repent and confess our sins, we are washed clean and stand before the judge of all humanity not just “not guilty” but innocent and dearly loved. We are redeemed and set free!

Today’s Praise 

And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24 (BSB)

HALLELUJAH!

 

 

 

Future Radio

 

When I was about 12 years old, I bought an enormous radio at a garage sale with a wooden case and the ability to receive not just the AM radio stations everyone listened to, but also short-wave and other radio bandwidths.

Inside this amazing device were glass tubes that glowed with an eerie orange light when I turned it on. They emitted enough heat to warm your hands on a cold winter’s night.

I found if I hooked a wire up to the connection on the back labeled “ANT” (“antenna”) and fastened the other end of that wire to my metal bed frame, I could pick up people talking in other languages and even rapid clicking noises I assumed to be Morse Code. 

I never did learn Morse Code, but that old radio was great fun.

At about the same time in my young life, there was a program on CBS hosted by Walter Cronkite called, “The 21st Century” in which America’s most trusted journalist showed us things like the home of the future, where the TV screen was three feet wide and you could turn it on and off and change the channels with a control panel that looked like it had been transplanted into the home from Mission Control at Cape Canaveral. 

Well, we’re now 19 years into the 21st Century and the reality is more amazing than Walter (or I) would have ever imagined.

Each of us now walks around with a computer in their pocket or purse that can not only call people on the phone, it can also forecast the weather, inform you of world events, do your shopping, take pictures and video, direct you to your precise location, and do thousands of other things. 

The Dick Tracy phone-on-the-wrist thing actually fell short of the reality of the situation.

And radio?

While many of us still listen to broadcast radio, especially in our cars, the days of glowing vacuum tubes are long gone. The most recent figures I can find are from a study done by Edison Research in 2015 and indicate that fully 53% of Americans listen to internet radio at least some of the time.

Kinship Christian Radio has been available via the internet since 2006 and we know the number of people listening in this way is growing.

Internet radio has some huge advantages, mostly in the amount of equipment needed. Obviously, an internet radio station doesn’t need a huge tower that consumes enormous amounts of electricity to broadcast its signal. All that’s needed is a reliable internet connection, a microphone, and some sound equipment.

It’s kind of like rocket science that’s user-friendly.

And, it’s growing world-wide. There are thousands upon thousands of internet radio stations all over the world. If you want to listen to smooth jazz from Argentina, it’s out there. Bollywood, rockabilly, manele, raggaeton, dubstep, tejano, jpop, trance, polka, chill, and scores of kinds of music I’ve never heard of are available. (Okay, I know what polka is, but I had to Google many of those to figure out what they were. “Manele” is Romanian folk music, by the way.)

What this means for Christians is that the Word and music praising God are rapidly growing all over the world. Believers in countries where Christianity is illegal could now be listening to Kinship Christian Radio. In countries that don’t have the luxury of our incredible wealth and freedom of speech, they now have access to the Gospel via the internet and their phones.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion people currently have smartphones. 

Internet radio could very well do for the Gospel what Johannes Gutenberg did for the Bible with the invention of the printing press. The potential is amazing.

Also amazingly, God has opened a door for me to be involved in this. Through my previous mission trips to the Dominican Republic, I’ve come into contact with some people in that country who have started an internet radio station called Radio Bendicion Digital. (Blessings Digital Radio.) The station is still in its infancy, but it is growing and its people are dedicated to the LORD and the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’ll be travelling to the Dominican Republic next month along with two others with radio experience (at our own expense) to share how God has blessed Kinship Christian Radio and the things that have been learned from 36 years of bringing worship and the Word to listeners like you. 

Your prayers that our mission trip would bring honor and glory to the name of Jesus Christ are needed and greatly appreciated. 

To the saving of souls, HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Isaiah 12:5 (NIV)

 

 

FREE Prize Inside!

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1: 3-6 (NIV)

I was reading these verses the other night and was absolutely struck by the grandeur and the magnitude of these words.

We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We are chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight! He predestined us for adoption in accordance with His pleasure and will –to the praise of His glorious grace!

And, as I continued to read in this very first chapter of Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, the glory and the majesty of what he says continues to build.  Grace is lavished upon us, he makes known to us the mystery of his will, and all of this will bring unity to all things in heaven and earth! All of this is sealed and our adoption as children is guaranteed by the presence of the God’s own Holy Spirit in us –the very same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead! And all is to the praise of His glory!

The astounding idea that God had a plan for me before He ever spoke the universe into being and the magnificence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and absolute sovereignty continued to soak into my soul for days afterward.

These are amazing thoughts indeed.

And it made me think back to when I had strayed from Him.

At one time, I was involved in all kinds of things that I thought were “fun” but in retrospect now seem as utterly ridiculous, embarrassing, and worthless as… Well, as a plastic sheriff’s badge.

Allow me to explain.

When I was a kid, it was not uncommon for boxes of breakfast cereal to be adorned with the words “FREE Prize Inside!” Children (me included) would mercilessly beg their parents to purchase Cap’n Sugar’s Super-Frosted Magic Atomic Cowboy Marshmallow Planets or any of dozens of cereals that were in on the free prize bandwagon.  (Now that I think about it, doesn’t the slogan, “They’re magically delicious™ ” have a suspiciously occult undertone? Nevermind. I digress.)

Even though the commercials during my Saturday morning cartoons always said these high-fructose breakfast treats were “part of a balanced breakfast,” neither I nor any other kid in America were tugging on their mom’s skirt because of the “nine essential nutrients in every bowlful.”  We wanted the plastic sheriff’s badge inside!

And we wanted it now.

Begging to open the package and acquire the prize inside started the instant the grocery bags were out of the car and on the kitchen table. Alas, mom refused to let me plunge my dirty little mitts into the box immediately and absolutely vetoed having breakfast cereal for supper. It took what seemed like weeks of eating the same cereal every morning (sometimes two bowls) before finally, FINALLY I found the prize at the bottom of the box. (Yes, Virginia, all the way at the very, very bottom of the box.)

Once in my eager little paw now coursing with those nine essential nutrients and enough sugar to lift a Saturn V rocket off the launch pad, I was finally in possession of what every kid on the block wanted and yessiree Bob, I was cool!

With that plastic Sheriff’s badge in hand, I dug in my toy box until I found my plastic cowboy hat and my plastic cowboy boots and my plastic six-shooters. Then, I had mom pin that plastic badge right over my heart on my plastic cowboy vest.  Once mom left the playroom, I waved my plastic six-shooters around and said (In the deepest voice an eight year-old could muster.) “That’s right Bart, this town aint big enough for da both of us.”

POW! POW! POW!

Take that, Black Bart!

As imaginary Black Bart lay still and lifeless in the dust of that imaginary one-horse town, I calmly blew the imaginary gun smoke from the end of the plastic barrel.

Without saying a word, my eyes and the cool expression on my face said, “That’s right, folks, I’ve saved the day once again. Go back to your homes and your families. Your wives and your daughters are safe once again. Black Bart will trouble you no more.”

(This would be a really great time for Kinship Christian Radio to be playing the theme song from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” in the background, but I doubt that will happen.)

The only problem was, before Black Bart could be placed in a pine box and lowered into the ground, the pin broke off the back of that plastic star and the only alternative anyone could come up with was Scotch-taping it to my plastic cowboy vest.

But super-cool dead-eye gunfighters do not Scotch tape their badges to their vests.

And that’s the problem.

The badge was a lie.

There’s nothing wrong with an eight year-old kid developing his imagination, but at some point, we all have to grow up and face reality.

All that stuff I thought was cool and fun when I strayed away from the Lord was a lie. All those things I thought I wanted to do because they felt good were actually shallow and embarrassing and worthless in comparison to the reality of the all-surpassing greatness of God and who I am in Christ.

All those things were a plastic sheriff’s badge buried at the bottom of a box of sugary lies.

God did not create me to kill bad guys with a plastic six-shooter. He designed me before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be blessed with every spiritual blessing, to be adopted into his own family with his own Holy Spirit living in me as a guarantee, to have his grace lavished upon me, to know the mystery of his will that will bring all things in heaven and earth into unity through Jesus Christ!

He did all these things to the praise of His glory –not mine!

And, even though he knows my natural tendency is to long to pin that plastic sheriff’s badge back on my chest, he has opened doors for me to demonstrate and share the depth, the height, the length, the width of His love in His Son, Jesus Christ!  He has helped me to see that plastic sheriff’s badge for what it really is in comparison to the amazing, astounding, glorious, awesome of reality of who he really is!

And the truth of the reality is so much greater than the lie!

HALLELUJAH!

 Today’s Praise

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21 (NIV)

 

 

 

The Gray Days

January in Kinship Christian Radioland can be tough.

After the joy of the first snowfall and the wonder of the glorious Christmas season, many of us experience a kind of post-holiday come-down. The days start to get kind of gray and sometimes we go more than a couple of days without actually seeing the sun at all. 

That has an actual biological effect on people. I’m sure most of you have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where treatment involves the use of special lamps to help people through a very real depression caused by lack of sunlight. (If you are experiencing low energy, depression almost every day, insomnia, or thoughts of suicide, you should certainly seek medical attention knowing there is effective help for you.)

As a Christian, our need for sunlight does not surprise me at all as the Bible mentions numerous times that when we are saved, we become children of the Kingdom of Light. Jesus calls himself the Light of the World and we find in the book of Revelation that there will never be any darkness in heaven.  (Revelation 21:23)

We need light. We were built to walk in the light.

So, as part of the service I offer here as Kinship Christian Radio’s blog writer, for those of you who are experiencing the post-Christmas let-down, here are some tips to help you through the grayness of the coming days:

PRAISE THE LORD! I have written many times about the preacher I heard on Kinship Christian Radio many years ago who said, “Praise of the LORD creates an atmosphere the enemy cannot move through.” In my personal experience, I have found praise to be an effective weapon in the spiritual battle we all face every day. The enemy of your soul would very much like to incapacitate you by whatever means possible. Praise of God affirms that God is in control, that He is almighty, omniscient, omnipotent, and loves you so much He would send His only Son to die for you so that YOU could have eternal life! HALLELUJAH! He’s an amazing and wonderful God and He is WORTHY of all our praise! James 4:7b says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” I can think of no better resistance against that old dragon than honest, heartfelt, intensive, unrelenting praise of the LORD our God! HALLELUJAH! It also feels great and does wonders to revitalize a lagging soul.

HALLELUJAH! Look for times and places to say “HALLELUJAH!” Many of us spend much of our lives mired in the swamp of negativity. One of the best ways to counter this tendency is look for the positive and actually use the word “Hallelujah” out loud. Even people who object to “Merry Christmas” or “God bless you” seldom indicate disapproval of a well-timed “Hallelujah!” (Please keep in mind that your face should also look like you mean “Hallelujah” when you use the word. Otherwise, it’s just sarcasm.)

GOD KNOWS. Look, we’re all human beings. We can’t be on the mountain top 100% of the time. God knows how you feel and why you feel like you do. Trust Him and know that it won’t be like this all the time. May is coming. Honest. (Do resist the temptation to count the days until it comes.) It will be here all in God’s time and He is totally in control. Use this as a time to rest and recharge when you’re snowed in. A cup of hot chocolate in your favorite mug, a good book, and a warm blanket are not sinful. 

HELP SOMEONE. One of the best ways to make the winter go faster is to spend some time helping others. Grab your shovel and help your neighbor shovel out. Volunteer at a local charity or Christian radio station. (Yes, that was a rather obvious hint.)

YOU ARE NOT THE LONE RANGER. Great Bible verse on this topic, Tonto: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) What you are experiencing happens to us all, but there’s a promise in that verse and it is true.

KINSHIP CHRISTIAN RADIO. Okay, most of you already know this but the songs of praise and the preaching of the Word on Kinship Christian Radio will often miraculously (Yes, I chose that word on purpose) feed your soul exactly what it needs exactly when it needs it.

MISSION TRIP. This one may not be for everyone, but I find that going where God sends me to multiply the love of Jesus recharges my HALLELUJAH generator for many months and even years to come. Be aware, however, that a mission trip done solely for the purpose of escaping the frozen tundra is not a properly-done mission trip. If that’s your objective and you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with a tropical vacation.

I hope all of this helps, and if you’d like to share your tips for coping with the long, gray winter feel free to do so in the comments below. 

Today’s Praise

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 5:8-10 (NIV)

 

Happy Arbitrary Point in Earth’s Orbit

 

Ever wonder why January 1 starts a new year? 

 

I mean, why this specific point in earth’s rotation around the sun? Wouldn’t it seem more logical to begin our calendars at the beginning of one of the seasons –like spring, for example?

 

As it turns out, it used to. 

 

According to history.com, the ancient Roman calendar did begin the new year in March, but it was woefully inaccurate as it was based on the moon’s rotation around the earth rather than the earth’s rotation around the sun. This was further complicated by officials in the Roman government occasionally adding days to the calendar to extend political terms or interfere with elections. 

 

So, in 45 B.C., Julius Caesar decreed that 45 days would be added to that year which meant that 46 B.C. would begin in January instead of March. He also decreed that, once every four years, an extra day would be added to February to account for a year actually being 365 and one-fourth days.

 

That worked well for a very long time until it was discovered that the year was actually 365.242199 days, not 365.25. The tiny error meant that about 1600 years after implementation, the calendar was off by 10 days. In 1582, at the direction of Pope Gregory XIII, the current calendar was implemented.

 

So, why is an accurate calendar important anyway?

 

God gives us the answer in some of the very first verses of the Bible:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, … Genesis 1:14 (ESV)

 

Our food comes from the earth. So, knowing when to plant that food is very, very important. We take this for granted now because there is always an abundance of food in the grocery store, but an accurate knowledge of the signs and the seasons was crucial to our ancestors –and still is.

 

The glorious cosmic ballet of the earth rotating around the sun as it tilts ever so slightly back and forth while the moon rotates around the earth is all part of God’s plan. The plants that grow and feed us are regulated and dependent on changes in day length associated with this grand ballet. Everything is interconnected and linked in a glorious, wonderful web of life so amazing and complex that (despite how smart we think we are) we still do not fully understand.

 

We never would have figured out the exact length of a year was off by .007801 days each year had God not put the stars in the heavens as points of reference, which (not coincidentally) is exactly what He said He did in His Word. 

 

We are blessed beyond measure because He does make all things new each year. The snow covers the ground now and the earth is frozen beneath it, but that freeze-thaw cycle softens the earth and allows the seeds to reach down into it and draw up water and nutrients when spring comes. 

 

And, as the songs of praise and the teaching of His Word will tell you on Kinship Christian Radio, He makes us new also. 

 

We go through cycles and seasons of cold and dark but the warmth and light of Jesus is assured to us. We are part of His plan. 

 

He shines upon us so that we can grow and produce fruit.

 

The glory of His plan is that we can reflect that light to others as we are renewed in Him, not just once a year, but each new day. 

 

Today’s Praise

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3: 4-7 (ESV)