The Sovereignty of God and the Couch

 

Through a series of seeming “coincidences” which have God’s fingerprints all over them, I recently found myself in a discussion with about a dozen pastors about our free will and the sovereignty of God.

 

The topic first came up when I was on a mission trip to Guatemala in March, then again in May when I felt compelled to write about it here. And now here I am in August with the subject having invited itself to come in and sit right beside me on the couch like this big, smiling elephant in the room.

 

To recap, what I wrote back in May was that I had come to believe that God had granted total, absolute free will to human beings while simultaneously retaining absolute sovereignty (and thereby control) over every aspect of life in the world as we know it.

 

While this seems to be a logical impossibility, I maintain that God is God and He is absolutely able to make all things work for the good of those who love Him and is more than capable of achieving His goals and plans no matter what we do. 

 

That’s all fine and well, but if that’s true –if God is going to achieve His purposes and goals no matter what we do– then why not just kick back on the couch next to the elephant with a large bag of dill pickle flavored potato chips, hide under the pillows, and watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island for the rest of our lives?

 

I mean, why do anything at all? God wins in the end, right? Why does He need me? The more I do, the more I’m bound to mess it up anyway, right? 

 

First of all, sitting on the couch watching TV and eating junk will kill you. (Not to mention you’re now stuck with an uninvited elephant on your couch for the rest of your very short life.)

 

Second of all, we were made for a purpose. God did not put Adam in the Garden of Eden with a couch and a bag of potato chips. 

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

 

Adam had a job. He had a purpose. God had a plan for him from the moment He created him.

 

None of that changes when Jesus arrives. In fact, He says that He came that we would have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) Jesus says no one lights a lamp and hides it:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

 

Doing good works is the natural result of having an actual, real relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We are not saved by good works, as other religions teach –we are designed and built for them.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

 

That word “workmanship,” suggests a hands-on, special craftsmanship in our design. Other translations use the word “masterpiece” and that certainly fits in this context, especially given that we were designed in His image.

 

But that verse also says that we, His masterpieces, were created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of doing works, which God prepared in advance for us to do as a way of life!

 

We were designed and built for a purpose!

 

We are not some accident of the primordial ooze. God had a plan for each and everyone of us from the very moment He spoke the universe into being. 

 

That’s why anything we put in place of God as an idol, be it money, sex, power, drugs, alcohol, food, television, or whatever just doesn’t work out for us. Those things elevated to the status of idol will tear us down and tear us apart. Walking in the works He made for us to do builds up our souls and knits us together in love.

 

Of all the apostles, I think I most identify with Peter. Yes, impetuous (and often stupid) Peter is my guy. The first guy to speak up and say something, even if it’s stupid. 

 

“Hey Jesus, you want we should build some shelters for you and Elijah and Moses up here on the mount of transfiguration?”

 

Peter is the first guy to swing the sword and lop off some other guy’s ear, the first guy to think he can walk on water, the first guy to tell Jesus not to wash his feet, and the first guy to tell Jesus He absolutely cannot go off and die on a cross.

 

And yes, he was the first guy to tell Jesus he would never deny him.

 

But he did.

 

And after all that was said and done, Jesus restored stupid, impulsive, loud-mouthed Peter over a meal of fish on the beach and Peter used those gifts to spread the Good News so far and so wide that it’s still growing and saving souls 2000 years later. 

 

His fellow apostles likewise would not just sit down and shut up about Jesus even to the point of being stabbed, stoned, beaten with rods, clubbed, imprisoned, crucified, beheaded, or boiled in oil.

 

And, I think I can say without fear of contradiction, none of those guys ever sat on a couch eating potato chips because they were afraid they might mess up God’s plan. Likewise, Kinship Christian Radio is not brought to you by people who spend all of their time watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island. (Note use of the word “all.”)

 

It’s true that God doesn’t need any of us to accomplish His plans. I believe He involves us in His plans because He loves us and wants us to experience the glorious, wonderful, abundant, and glorious life He planned for us from the beginning!

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time–to show us his grace through Christ Jesus

2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT)

Written by Dan Jones

MANCAMP

 

I have just returned from MANCAMP. 

 

No, that’s not an acronym. It’s MANCAMP, where they were not afraid to type the name of the event in all caps. 

 

We were issued MANCAMP dog tags at check-in.

 

There was running and biking and hiking and golf and shooting and fishing and all sorts of very manly activities. I fished pretty much all day Saturday, taking a break only for a lunch of build-your-own sub sandwiches. This was followed by an evening meal (by now I hope you see this coming) of prime rib. 

 

There was also no shortage of excellent preaching and testimony on God’s strength in our weakness and wonderful music and praise over the three day event. (We sang “Reckless Love” three times. Seriously. Three times.)

 

It’s as if the event was designed by Dan Jones for Dan Jones. 

 

“So,” you ask, “When did the Kinship Christian Radio blog become an advertising venue for a camp at Pine Haven Christian Assembly just six miles from Park Rapids in northern Minnesota?”

 

An excellent question, dear readers. I’m glad you asked. 

 

But first, a disclaimer: The opinions you are about to read are solely my own and do not reflect the official position of Kinship Christian Radio, it’s Board of Directors, or any other staff member other than your’s truly. Period. 

 

It is my opinion that Kinship Christian Radio and Pine Haven Christian Assembly are very, very similar  in that both are staffed and supported by people who aren’t just pretending to be Christians. Both organizations obviously rely on prayer and the guidance and blessings of the Holy Spirit to carry out their respective missions. Both organizations also enjoy the blessing of truly dedicated and talented people to serve others in Jesus’ name and to His glory. 

 

And both organizations are powerful and effective because they are supported by people like you who give of themselves because they have submitted their lives to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

 

And, even if you’re female, that takes a lot of manly courage. 

 

 Today’s Praise

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

 

Doing It Wrong

I have a tendency to do it wrong.

 

We all do. 

 

Lately, I’ve been reading “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller and he makes an astoundingly correct observation in that huge portions of what Jesus said in the four gospels are addressed to people who were doing this whole “religion” thing wrong.

 

Jesus spent a lot of time absolutely chewing out the scribes, the Herodians, the Saducees, and especially the Pharisees.

 

And what He was most upset about was how they got it absolutely wrong:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15 (NIV)

 

He wasn’t even tactful about it:

“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it. One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” Luke 11:44-46 (NIV)

 

He had even harsher words than “unmarked graves” for them:

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matthew 23:33 (NIV)

 

And one of my personal favorites:

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” Matthew 23:24 (NIV)

 

He’s basically saying the Pharisees wouldn’t get it if “it” was put in a big box with a ribbon around it and a bow on top and labeled “IT.”

 

Timothy Keller also wrote “The Prodigal God” which is an entire book about the parable of the prodigal son. In it, he correctly points out that Jesus told that parable to and for the Pharisees.

 

Yes, the story clearly illustrates that God the Father takes back sinners who have strayed away and welcomes them into the family with great love and compassion, but if you remember correctly, the parable does not end with the prodigal son being given a robe and sandals and a ring and a huge party. The parable ends with the “good” son working himself up into a perfect hissy fit about the perceived injustice of the “bad” son getting away with his indiscretions. 

 

Luke 15 starts like this:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: (Verses 1-3a)

 

Jesus then tells the parable of the lost sheep, followed by the parable of the lost coin, and then the parable of the prodigal son, which ends like this:

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him. “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Verses 28-32.)

 

The parable is a direct reply to their mutterings about welcoming and eating with sinners. In the end, Jesus never says the angry older brother ever relents and joins the celebration. He is left standing outside the party grumbling and muttering in his anger and self-righteous pride. 

 

I’ve long found part of the father’s reply absolutely astounding: “and all that I have is yours.” 

 

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are adopted as sons and daughters of the God of all creation. (John 1: 12) And, as such, he calls us heirs. (Romans 8:17, Galatians 3:29, Ephesians 3:6, and Hebrews 6:17.) If we are heirs as soon as we are adopted, as soon as we believe, then all that is in the kingdom of God is ours right here and now.

 

The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, to whom everything in the universe belongs, has adopted us into his family and made us heirs to everything He has. He is still God and sovereign over all, but He has shown us incredible generosity! If we consider what we have for blessings in this world, it’s very, very clear that He has poured out great love and mercy toward us in the many gifts we enjoy every day. 

 

The part the Pharisees got wrong is that they thought they could earn and thereby deserve all those blessings and the blessings of heaven by following the Law –and that’s the danger we all face every day. If we look upon all the gifts He has given us and believe they are ours because we have somehow earned them or deserve them, we are guilty of the same self-righteousness and pride the Pharisees practiced. Worse yet, if that self-righteous pride is visible to others (and it always is) we are doing it horribly wrong.

 

The father did indeed invite the sanctimonious older brother into the banquet. But, as that angry sibling stood outside the door muttering and grumbling in the darkness about how all that joy for his own brother was somehow an injustice to him, the greatest tragedy was that he was not holding that door open for others to enter.

 

Today’s Praise

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17 (ESV)

Written by Dan Jones

 

 

HMBC

Bulldog Dog Canine Grey Cartoon Pet Animal

 

My friend Kenny has a tattoo just below the collar of his shirt.

 

Yes, I know that caught you by surprise, but bear with me.

 

Kenny’s tattoo is four simple letters: HMBC.

 

When asked, he explains that it stands for “Hold Me By the Collar” and it’s a prayer to God.

 

His explanation never ends the discussion –it’s always met with blank stares that long for further explanation.

 

And Kenny will explain if pressed: ” Some dogs are okay if kept on a long leash. Other dogs need a short leash. Me, I need to be held by the collar. Lord, hold me by the collar.”

 

That’s kind of how feel about mission trips. I would do mission trips full-time if the Lord opened a door that allowed it.

 

I’m not complaining. I am blessed to be where I am and who knows what the future will be? God is good and I will go where He sends me. 

 

But, I honestly do have this itch, this longing, this yearning to go and do as He bids me.

 

That’s why I totally “get” what Paul writes in the opening of Romans:

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. Romans 1: 7-10 (NIV)

 

I get it, Paul. I can feel your longing. Sign me up! I’ll go with you, brother!

 

The thing is, at first reading it seems like Paul has been to Rome before this. But he had not. It’s commonly accepted that Peter founded the church at Rome, not Paul. But Paul yearned to be with the believers in Rome.

 

But why? 

 

The Gospel had already been preached there. The faith of the Roman church was by now famous, having been reported all over the world. 

 

In addition, Paul wrote those words when he was in Corinth. He had  collected a gift for famine relief for the church in Jerusalem –which is in the opposite direction as Rome. It was an important gift because it meant Gentile believers in the newly-established church where sending support to the church in Jerusalem consisting of mostly Jewish believers. It also meant that if Paul was going to be able to go to Rome, it would be a journey of many thousands of miles, many months, and not insignificant expense. ( He also wanted to go on to Spain after spending time in Rome.)

 

So why did Paul so desperately wanted to go to Rome? Why was this so important to him? He tells us in verses 11 and 12:

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 

 

He didn’t say he wanted to bring a team and build them a church or a hospital. His longing didn’t have anything to do with the physical needs of himself or the Romans. His intent was entirely spiritual. 

 

And then, he gives us this in verse 13:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

 

And it’s at this point that I have an actual picture in my head of Paul the bull dog being held by the collar.

 

That mutual encouragement, that growing and building of the faith, that infectious incredible power of the Holy Spirit that happens when two groups of believers get together and His praises and His glory are multiplied in them through mutual faith is very hard to put into words, but there are songs on Kinship Christian Radio that come very close to fully communicating it:

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain
Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name
God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Hallelujahs be multiplied
(from “Multiplied” by NeedtoBreathe.)
Yes, multiplied. 
That multiplied praise and glory to God is such an incredible draw, such an enormous pull on one’s soul, that Paul would eventually accept and even orchestrate being brought to the Romans in chains rather than not go at all. (See Acts 25.)
Yes, the Roman church needed proper teaching and instruction, which Paul addressed in his letter to them. But he was straining at his collar for the sheer joy of encouraging them and being encouraged by them. 
Lord, hold me by the collar, but point me in the direction you want me to go when you do let me loose.
AMEN!
Today’s Praise
I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. Romans 15:29 (NIV)
Written by Dan Jones

Cucumber Evangelism

Cucumbers, Vegetables, Green, Healthy, Fresh, Eating

 

The other day, I was out puttering in the garden when I happened to look down at one of my cucumber plants and there, as if by magic, was a large cucumber.

 

I looked under the leaves and found three more, each of which was about eight inches long.

 

And there was another large one over on a different plant, too! …and a couple more I better pick before they get too big!

 

Now, it’s not amazing that there would be cucumbers in my garden since I planted cucumbers, (obviously) but the amazing part was that I was pretty sure there weren’t any cucumbers at all in the garden just a couple of days before this.

 

And a couple of days after I picked those four large cucumbers, I went and looked and found ten cucumbers of perfect pickling size!

 

It’s like they just magically appear.

 

I wondered if the vines were setting fruit (okay, vegetables) in the dark of night, while I was sleeping, for the sole purpose of sneaking up on me with this unexpected abundance. 

 

Foop! Cucumber. Foop! Cucumber. FOOP! BIG cucumber. Foop! Foop! Foop!

 

Day 1: No visible cucumbers.

Day 2: Cucumbers everywhere!

 

One day, I am living a cucumberless existence not even considering that it’s about time I should be checking the garden for cucumbers and the next day I have so many I’m giving them away!

 

You probably knew where I was going with this from the moment you read the title, and you’re right.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (ESV)

 

When we are filled with the love of Jesus, we can’t help but speak out of the abundance of that love. We produce fruit the way the cucumbers in my garden produce cylindrical green vegetables. 

 

Jesus himself used a very similar metaphor:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)

 

It’s natural. It’s organic. It feeds and sustains us and the people who receive the gift we give when we love. It supernaturally yields far more than we would expect it to.

“And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:20 (ESV)

 

Some weeding is necessary to produce that crop.

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:8 (ESV)

 

Cucumbers are not violent or vicious vegetables. No one has ever met a cucumber that was biased or hypocritical.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17 (ESV)

 

Cucumbers abound and overflow with good things. They are completely legal in all 50 states.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22&23 (ESV)

 

As long as I’m posting Bible quotes, annnnnd the Kinship Christian radio staff is currently sporting a fine trivia prize wheel at local county fairs, it may just behoove you to know that the Bible does indeed mention cucumbers:

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” Jeremiah 10:5 (NIV)

 

Today’s Praise

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apostate Atheist

 

A famous 1978 Gallup poll found that 4percent of Americans drop out of active religious participation at some point in their lives –but the same poll also found that 80% of them return to organized religion later in life.

 

 

 

The media is very fond of citing the first part of that sentence as evidence that Christianity is dying, but they very rarely even address the second part of that sentence.

 

Another, more recent poll (2008) conducted by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life found that 44% of Americans adults had switched denominations at some time. 

 

The Wall Street Journal lamented this, saying, “There are reasons to find this statistic troubling. People who leave one denomination for another may be more concerned with fulfilling their boutique church-going desires than with meeting the moral obligations of a religious group or the demands of a doctrine.”

 

That’s a very dismal assessment of Christianity in America by a major newspaper, and the rest of the media was quick to parrot the increasing shallowness of spirituality in America. Even some pastors jumped on board bemoaning the lamentable state of faith in America.

 

The only problem is, it’s flat-out wrong.

 

In his book, “What Americans Really Believe,” Randy Stark and researchers at Baylor University compared statistics on memberships within the various denominations from 1962 to 2000 and found that Americans were indeed leaving churches in great numbers, but they were leaving liberal Protestant denominations and moving to more conservative Protestant, Pentecostal, and non-denominational churches. 

 

In point of fact, the fastest-growing denomination in America is non-denominationalism. 

 

Throughout his book, Stark cites statistic after statistic that the American people are moving to more conservative, Bible-based churches and beliefs. 

 

Even more interesting is that people who attend “megachurches” are not the inch-deep, mile-wide Christians they are accused of being. People in megachurches are more likely to believe that heaven absolutely exists, that they are assured of their salvation, that hell exists, and that the devil exists. They are also more likely to attend services weekly or more often, tithe, or attend a Bible-study group. They are also far more likely to share their faith friends or strangers.

 

But what really caught my attention was the chapter on atheism.

 

Now, we are not talking about people who say, “I’m not sure if there is a God or not” because that person would be an agnostic. True atheists are people who are certain there is no god (big G or small g) at all. 

 

The thing is, the Richard Dawkins’ of the world are a tiny, tiny minority and they are not growing, despite all their very vocal proselytizing on the internet and television talk shows.

 

Back in the early 1700’s English “freethinker” Thomas Woolston prophesied that religion would be gone by 1900. Voltaire (1694 – 1778) thought that religion would be dead within 50 years and the distinguished Max Müller wrote in 1778, “Every day, every week, every month, every quarter, the most widely read journals seem just now to vie with each other in telling us that the time for religion is past, that faith is a hallucination of an infantile disease, that the gods have been found out and exploded.”

 

They were all wrong.

 

Polls and surveys by Gallup, American Piety, GSS, and Baylor from 1944 to 2007 have found the percentage of Americans who are certain there is no God have hovered between  three and six percent. And the best current data indicates that only about 3.1% of Americans are avowed atheists.

 

And, lest you believe that the rest of the world has decided there is no God and we are archaic and behind-the-times in comparison to “more enlightened” societies, the World Values Surveys of 2001-2002 show that almost every nation in the world has an atheism rate well below 10%. Most nations are in the 4-5% range, with only France (14%), Japan (12%), and China (14%) above ten percent.

 

The data from China is absolutely astounding in that under the Communist regime, atheism was the official government religion. In a country where not publicly being an atheist could get you imprisoned or shot, only 14%  (that’s one in seven) acknowledge atheism as their belief system.

 

Equally interesting is Russia, where only 4% of the population admits to being atheist after decades upon decades of government-enforced atheism. Clearly those government mandates did have some effect as, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, the number of Orthodox Christians rose from 31% to 72%.

 

What all this means is that there are a lot of apostate atheists in the world.

 

It’s also obvious that God is not dead in America or the world, brothers and sisters –far from it. Kinship Christian Radio exists precisely because He is alive and well and it is all to His glory.

 

What this means from the standpoint of our evangelism and our witness is that we are not a small, fringe community of religious nut-cases. The vast, vast majority of the people we see on the street each day already know in their heart-of-hearts that God exists. 

 

What they may not know is the degree to which God loves them. Only 30% of our fellow Americans are sure they will get into heaven. About 27% do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and about 25% do not believe that God is concerned with their personal well-being or the well-being of the world. About one-third of Americans do not know or believe the way to be saved is to confess their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior.

 

That means there are two-thirds of us who can tell the other third the truth. We don’t need to club the atheists into submission because, just as the Bible says, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen!” (Romans 1:20) Our gentle and respectful witness (1 Peter 3:15) destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5) when we speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

 

HALLELUJAH!

 

Today’s Praise

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

 

 

Ninja Christianity

 

Last week, in an effort to incite my brothers and sisters in Christ into blatant acts of evangelism, I wrote about “one-way missionaries” who packed their belongings into their own coffins as they went off to almost certain death. I also included a quote from Charles Spurgeon about sinners going to hell only by leaping over our dead bodies with our arms wrapped around their knees.

 

Apparently some of you found this, shall we say, less than “uplifting and encouraging.” 

 

Okay, I get it. I may have been a bit heavy-handed in my approach. 

 

It’s actually understandable. 

 

Many people view evangelism as “not their calling.” 

 

It’s uncomfortable and it can backfire on you. Many people fear destroying a functional and comfortable relationship by coming off as a “religious nut case.”

So, let’s take another approach.

 

I propose that instead of thinking of yourself as a street preacher with a “REPENT! THE END IS NEAR!” sign draped around your neck, you instead think of yourself as a Christian Ninja. 

 

Now, we should be very, very clear that I am most certainly NOT advocating killing anyone at any time for any reason. Ever. The ninjas were assassins, among other things. That is not where I am going with this.

 

I am also most certainly NOT making reference to mutant cartoon turtles.

 

Real ninjas existed in feudal Japan from the 15th to the 17th century. They practiced espionage, sabotage, infiltration, and guerrilla warfare. (I’m intentionally leaving out “assassination” as I just said. This is not a perfect analogy. Work with me here.)

 

So, what I’m proposing is that we infiltrate the culture with the love and peace and joy of Jesus Christ. 

 

No, I’m not proposing that we wear black outfits and learn to sneak around at night without making a sound. 

 

Our culture is one in which over 95% of the people already believe in God. They may have a distorted view of God, but the vast, vast majority already believe God exists.

 

We are already in the culture and we already blend in. Most Christians are indistinguishable from the rest of the population. We’ve already got the stealth thing figured out.

 

We’ve also already got the espionage thing figured out. The unsaved population makes no secret whatsoever about their world-view. They broadcast it 24 hours a day, seven days a week on those noisy boxes all the furniture in their living rooms are aimed towards. Odds are, our living rooms look just like theirs. 

 

I’m proposing is that we get better at sabotage and guerrilla warfare.

 

Here’s an example:

When a friend tells you about something awful that happened to them or someone they love, instead of saying, “I will pray for you,” pray for them right then and there

 

This sounds really difficult, but it’s not. You already care about them, and you do truly want to ask God to help them, so it’s not that hard. Yes, there is a Biblical admonition about praying in public for your own glory, but that’s not at all what you are doing. You are not going to pray loudly, screaming “HALLELUJAH” and drawing attention to yourself. You’re really and truly showing love, care, and compassion to a friend by asking the all-powerful God of the universe to please help them. You’ve transformed yourself from someone who says they are going to pray for your friend, to someone who is actually doing it, right there in their presence. 

 

And don’t worry if your friend is saved or not. If they are saved, not only are you loving them, you are demonstrating that they can do it too. Imagine a world where believers openly pray for each other on a regular basis, even if other people may see them do so. If they are not saved, you are demonstrating not only love but bravery as well. 

 

Ninjas are brave. That part of the analogy fits.

 

Or, let’s say someone mentions “karma.” This is where you pull out your ninja sword and say, “Actually, the Bible does say that what you sow is what you reap.” The person will say, “Really?” and then you get to say, “Yes, Galatians 6:7 says, ‘Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.'” You then go on the explain that it doesn’t have anything to do with reincarnation like “karma” does, but you’ve just used the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, (Ephesians 6:17) and God has promised that His Word will never come back void, because it will always accomplish what He intended. (Isaiah 55:11)

 

This means you have to keep your sword sharp by studying and memorizing the Word. Kinship Christian Radio can help with that, because the Word is mentioned and referenced all the time.

 

As you become better with your sword, you will be amazed at how many everyday occurrences have a Bible verse that applies. Soon you will be slicing and dicing with the Word like it’s a Ginsu knife. (Trivia: The word “ginsu” is a made-up word that sounds like it has something to do with ninjas but was actually made up by the inventor of the knives who later said that the meaning of the word was “I never have to work again.”) 

 

Speaking of trivia, let’s say somebody mentions ninjas. This is your opportunity to mention that, at the time actual ninjas existed, it was said that they were capable of walking on water. While this is doubtful, you now have the opportunity to talk about Jesus walking on water and rescuing Peter from his doubt. (Matthew 14:22-32)

 

But perhaps the most effective forms of sabotage and guerrilla warfare are showing love and kindness when it is least expected. 

 

I recently gave away a couple of chainsaws. They had some value, but it wasn’t an enormous amount. I was trying to sell them online when a man contacted me who asked that I give them to him for free. I said, “Sure, if you need them, you can have them.” We agreed to meet at a public place halfway between our two homes (Ninjas do not put themselves in unnecessary danger.) and then I said that I really liked the Coca Cola in bottles available at a certain restaurant which I knew was owned by a brother in Christ. I told this man that he did not have to, but if he would like to bring me a gift in exchange for the gift I was giving him, that would be really nice. I also mentioned the owners name –which gave that brother an opportunity to establish a relationship and witness to him.

 

When he arrived, he had TWO bottles of Coca Cola and he was very happy. I told him Jesus loved him and his family and said, “God bless you” as he walked to his vehicle with the chainsaws. He was all smiles. His daughter, who had seen and understood all that was taking place, looked at me like I was crazy.

 

Ninja mission accomplished!

 

In another event a couple of days prior to that, a dear sister in Christ named Sarah had made a favorable comment on a Facebook page to some coffee roasters in Florida. I also made a comment suggesting that since I knew Sarah to be a wonderful person of outstanding character that the coffee-roasting company should send her a large quantity of free coffee and the tools to make it. The coffee roasters responded by saying I seemed like “a pretty upstanding guy” and I should buy her some free coffee. 

 

So, I donned my ninja gear and said I would certainly do that! I bought Sarah a $22 bag of coffee and she was delighted. She teased me that the coffee roasters had certainly “got” me, and I replied that it may seem that I had been “got” but a dear friend was overjoyed and happy and a couple of guys in Florida trying to make an honest living had sold a bag of coffee. I ended by saying, “…when life is not all about me, it’s all good.” (See the guerrilla warfare of sneaking a Christian precept in there?)

 

The conversation continued on as others joined in and even the coffee guys used the word “love” to describe the conversation. Sarah then mentioned going on a mission trip, to which I replied, “I will go where the Lord sends me!” 

 

And yet another ninja mission was accomplished! 

 

In this world where God has promised that light will overcome darkness, we do not have to sneak around like ninjas in the dark. We can boldly love one another and the Holy Spirit will present opportunities for us to witness by acts of kindness and love. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will give us the words and the courage to engage in acts that sabotage the enemy’s plans for hatred and evil. We don’t need nunchucks and shurikens when we have the Word of God and the love of Jesus Christ. 

 

And if you think about it, the ultimate ninja was Jesus. By his death and resurrection, He sabotaged the devil’s plans to destroy us all. Not even His closest friends saw it coming, even though He clearly and plainly told them it would take place. His love won out in the guerrilla war for our souls, not on a conventional battlefield, but on a hill called “The Place of the Skull” and in a graveyard where a tomb sat empty.

 

Today’s Praise

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 1 John 4:17

Written by Dan Jones

 

Evangelism

 

“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

The quote above is commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (founder of the Franciscan order of monks) and is commonly understood to mean that our actions are far more effective in bringing the gospel to the lost than our words.

 

The only problem (as Glenn T. Stanton points out in his “Factchecker” blog) is that there’s a very good chance St. Francis never said it.

 

Now, it is most certainly true that a “Christian” who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk isn’t an effective Christian at all. In fact, Jesus had some pretty strong words about hypocrites. (See Matthew 24:45-51, among many others.)

 

Beth Crosby mentioned some non-hypocrite Christians on Kinship Christian Radio recently as she talked about “one-way missionaries.” These were people who ventured into the mission field in the early 19th century packing their luggage into coffins rather than suitcases because they knew they would not return.

 

One of those brave souls was Methodist missionary James Calvert (1813-1892), who committed his life to reaching the indigenous peoples of the Fiji Islands. It is widely reported that upon his voyage, the ship’s captain warned him to turn back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” Calvert purportedly replied, “We died before we came here.” –a reference to Galatians 2:20.

 

Another missionary of the time who packed a coffin rather than a suitcase was A.W. Milne (1785-1822). He set sail for the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, aware that the headhunters there had martyred every missionary before him. Milne also said he did not fear for his life because he had already died to himself.

 

He lived among that tribe for 35 years. When he died, they buried him in the middle of the village and inscribed this on his tombstone:

“When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.”

 

At the time, much of Africa was known as “the white man’s graveyard” as Europeans had almost no resistance to malaria and it was almost always fatal. Still, missionaries continued to evangelize Africa and today that continent is seeing rapid growth of evangelical Christianity as a result of indigenous missionaries.

 

In the early twentieth century, there was a missionary born into a wealthy family who gave up all his riches to bring the Gospel to the unreached people of India, China, and Africa. Charles Thomas Studd  (1860 -1931) advocated a manly, risk-taking brand of evangelism that brought him much criticism, but also brought many souls to Christ. He is famously known for having said:

“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

 

And, as long as we’re talking about famous missionary quotes, the pinnacle of all of them is from (of course) Charles Hayden Spurgeon who said:

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Wow.

 

It’s easy to look back on the lives of those missionaries from 200 years ago (or more) and think that the era of real evangelism is long past, but the truth is that there are still about 400,000 Christian missionaries in the world today.

 

True, probably none of them pack their luggage in coffins, but they have given up the luxury and the ease we take for granted every day to change the world for Christ.

 

One of them is a dear friend I met this spring named Alyssa Ann Andre, who took the picture you see above. Andre is a missionary at Prince of Peace Home for Girls in Guatemala. As I wrote about in the March 29 blog post of this year, the girls at this home have experienced some terrible situations that could have easily destroyed their very souls. But the staff of Prince of Peace rescue them with the love of Jesus Christ. They change their lives. They bring light into the darkness, and what that means is that those girls who experienced some of the ugliest situations we can imagine can go on to raise good and godly families.

 

And that can change the world.

 

It changes the world because it breaks the cycle of evil and darkness and pain and hopelessness. Jesus does indeed break those chains! Jesus is indeed the answer!

 

The reason I asked Alyssa if I could use that wonderful picture she took is because of a tiny detail in the upper right corner of the picture. As you can see, a Guatemalan man who is obviously living in poverty and squalor is doing something with a tarp, probably having something to do with garbage. But just above the garbage can next to the tarp, there is a hanging basket with a flower in it. Now, maybe it’s a fake plastic flower, but it doesn’t matter.

 

Somebody put that flower there. On purpose.

 

Somebody put an object of beauty in a place of utter, desperate, soul-crushing poverty.

 

Our souls long for that beauty because our souls were designed and built for the ultimate place of beauty –heaven.

 

We were designed and built to live forever with our God, in mansions of glory with streets of gold and rivers as clear as crystal. We were designed to live in a place where the Light of World shines on us every day.

 

The thing is, all around us there are people who have their heads stuck in tarps filled with the garbage of this world. They are looking for beauty and truth and joy and peace among the things of man when, if they would just look up, they would find what eludes them down here in the garbage heap.

 

That’s why words are necessary.

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Once again, it all comes down to love. That’s all it takes. That is the whole Gospel. That is the One Thing all those people traveled all those miles and died to be able to speak to other people. For God so loved the world.

 

Those missionaries who packed their belongings into their coffins and went off to certain death did it out of love. They went off knowing they would probably die of malaria for love. They willingly worked a yard from hell out of love. They asked that if even one soul should get into hell unprayed for and unwarned, that it would be over their dead bodies.

 

And missionaries like Alyssa still do it out of love. They give up home and family and comfort and all the stuff we take for granted to live where God has called them to be because of the love of Jesus. They have their hearts broken by what they see around them every day because they know Jesus wins in the end. They know the darkness cannot extinguish the light, but they need to be encouraged and reminded that love never gives up.

 

And that is why it is my responsibility to be a missionary right where I am, even if its in this place where I am blessed beyond measure with so much comfort and wealth and blessings beyond measure. For you see, there is just as much danger to souls here where we have more than we need than in places where people are so poor they know the only way to survive is to rely on God.

 

The irony of the first world is that we have more and better garbage to distract us from the beauty that we could see if only we too would just look up.

 

Today’s Praise

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

Freedom

 

It was a hot Saturday afternoon near the end of June as I climbed aboard my unmistakably orange 1964 Allis Chalmers D19 tractor. I was wearing camouflage pants, one of my favorite Hawaiian shirts with bold red and white flowers, blue thrift store running shoes with neon-green heels, and a classic John Deere hat in (of course) John Deere green.


Mowing the ditches alongside the driveway meant being out in the full sun, so I had dressed for comfort with utter, absolute disregard for any sense of “Fashion” whatsoever. 
 
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that my choice of clothing would have sent shock waves through the Fashion Universe had even a single member of the General Public laid horrified eyes on me. 
 
My lovely wife, who was off on an important adventure far from home, was probably fully able to psychically sense the crime I was committing against  all that is fashionable and right and was almost certainly fervently praying safety over me, lest the First Responders find me unconscious and unresponsive and attired in what many would have assumed to be a Halloween costume conceived in such poor taste that the only appropriate response would have been abject pity.
 
But me –I was completely oblivious. 
 
Mowing along in the blazing summer sun, the 262 cubic inches of pre-pollution-control six-cylinder cast-iron and steel happily hummed along, chewing up the tall grass as I joyfully ran a tune I had recently enjoyed on Kinship Christian Radio through my head again and again. (“Dance in Your Freedom” by Oaks Worship)
 
And I was happy, because I was indeed free. 
 
I was on my own land, out of sight of the rest of humanity and there was no fear that any Fashion Nazi could possibly convince a judge to grant him or her a search warrant for any degree of Fashion Crime Against Humanity –not even Dressing in Total Disregard of All That is Uncool.
 
But this is not the kind of freedom we celebrate on this Independence Day. 
 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
 
Those words from the Declaration of Independence were Earth-shattering in their day. Thirteen upstart colonies, populated by people who were supposed to be loyal to the King of England, were telling him not only that ALL men are created equal (meaning his Lordship the King was no better than any of them) but that their rights were derived from God above and NOT the King! This was treasonous.
Furthermore, these persons who were supposed to be the King’s subjects had the effrontery to contend that they had every right to be alive, to be FREE, and to pursue their own happiness.
 
And there, in that last little phrase, we lose something in the translation. For you see, in 1776, “the pursuit of happiness” did not mean the acquisition of enormous houses, brand new cars, and all the latest, most fashionable running shoes with neon-green heels.
 
No, at the time, the phrase not only meant that the founders intended to have the right to pursue (please note that the right does not guarantee the actual acquisition of “happiness,” but only the right to pursue it) not only the physical needs for survival but the moral component of a complete and full life.
 
James Madison wrote this in 1789 about “happiness:”
There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation, than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. Taking the word “interest” as synonymous with “ultimate happiness,” in which sense it is qualified with every necessary moral ingredient, the proposition is no doubt true. But taking it in its popular sense, as referring to the immediate augmentation of property and wealth, nothing can be more false. 
The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 affirms that “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality, and . . . these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality.”
So, too, Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 affirms that “religion, morality, and knowledge” are “essential to the happiness of mankind.”
 
So you see, when the founders of our country made the initial declaration of its founding, at its very core was the concept of a right, guaranteed by God, to find God and His goodness.
 
And there is no greater freedom than that!
 
When one realizes that God sent His only Son to die for us, and that by believing in Him, we are adopted as sons and daughters of the Founder of the Universe, what can possibly concern us? If we are guaranteed eternal life, and promised that we will never slip from His hand, and that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him, what could possibly be more freeing than that?
 
If we believe the God of all that is and was and will ever be is totally sovereign and in control, how can we not shout “HALLELUJAH” for the freedom He has given us in Christ!
 
And, as if to make His point even more fully and adamantly, He has given us a country where we are free to worship Him. We are free to speak of His love and His mercy and His grace whenever and wherever the Spirit of evangelism moves us to do so without fear of any king or ruler or human authority.
 
And we can even do it dressed like the poster boy for thatboyjustaintrightinthehead.com
 
Today’s Praise

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Luke 4:18&19 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

Juuuuune Letter Month!

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

 

That’s another example of a quote which sounds like it’s in the Bible, but it is not. In fact, it probably originated with the Earl of Chesterfield in 1749. Mark Twain famously corrupted it in a criticism of Benjamin Franklin when he changed it to, “Never put off until tomorrow, that which you can put off until the day after tomorrow.”

 

And so we come to why am writing a blog post about June Letter Month which will be published with all of three days left in the month of June. If procrastination were an Olympic event, I would be participating next year.

 

Now, there are plenty of Bible verses that tell us to be industrious and work as all things are for the Lord, but the point can also be made that there are many verses that tell us to wait patiently on the Lord. Patience is actually listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

 

And, let us not forget that it took Noah 120 years to build that ark!

 

Then, there’s 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (NIV)

 

Sometimes, not doing something when you had planned to is actually the work of the Lord, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1 and in Acts 16.

 

Now, there’s a pretty good chance I’m making excuses and rationalizing my procrastination but I do want to make the point that it’s not too late to send a June Letter to Kinship Christian Radio! 

 

First, it’s a really great idea because it encourages and lifts up your brothers and sisters in Christ who bring you Kinship Christian Radio! 

 

Second, it’s really easy! Simply copy and paste this link into your browser and, Bingo! fill out the fields and you’ll have a June letter done in no time at all!  https://kinshipradio.org/home/june-letter-month-2018/

 

I can even help! Just insert your own words where I have placed underlined words in the following paragraph and you can copy and paste it into the letter field on the website:

“Dear Kinship Christian Radio, Thank you so much for your wonderful, uplifting and encouraging  ministry! It greatly helps me as I listen in my hovercraft every time I eat a radish sandwich with eels. I very much enjoy that deeply disturbed man who writes the blog as does my budgie, Melvin. God bless you and keep up the spackling compound! Bob’s your uncle! Sincerely, Madame Rocket J. Squirrel, esq.” 

 P.S. Please find attached a gift of six million pounds, sterling.

 

There! Wasn’t that easy?

 

Third, now that you have written your letter, and included a small gift (six million pounds sterling was just a suggestion), you can choose from any of the nine fabulous gifts the fine folks at Kinship Christian Radio would love to send you. These include music CDs from Kari Jobe, Hannah Kerr, or Sara Groves. There are also six books to choose from: “Overcoming Toxic Parenting” by Rick Johnson, “Bible Devotions for Bedtime” by Daniel Partner, “3 Minute Devotions for Teen Girls“, “3 Minute Devotions for Teen Guys“, “God Is Able” – by Priscilla Shirer, and the classic and sophisticated “The Screwtape Letters” – by none other than C. S. Lewis.

 

Well, what are you waiting for? You’re almost out of time!

 

Today’s Praise

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:5&6 ESV

Written by Dan Jones