Collusion, Lies, and Deceit

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Something very OUT of the ordinary was going on here.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thank you.

 

May the Lord bless you as you have blessed me. 

 

Today’s Praise

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

Written by Dan Jones

On Being a Song

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I believe Paul is saying we should be a song.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Today’s Praise

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

 

 

 

“…for they know not what they do.”

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But none of them really knew what they were  doing. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But Jesus did.

 

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

 

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

 

And that is that he kills God. 

 

And he kills God mercilessly, mockingly, maliciously. 

 

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

 

And that makes it even more astounding. 

 

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

 

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

 

I know I don’t.

 

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

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

 

Today’s Praise

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

 

Failure

Thumb, Hand, Down, Face, Emotion, Emoticon

I may spur a contentious theological debate with this statement, but I believe a Sunday afternoon nap is biblically mandated. (Exodus 20:8-11)

 

Okay, I may stretching the hermaneutics with that a little, but it’s a proven fact that naps are good for you and human beings do have an actual need to rest every seven days. These are true facts “discovered” by people who apparently have jobs figuring out that the things God told us thousands of years ago are actually true.

 

Anyway, as I reclined in my easy chair this past Sunday, I flicked on the TV and discovered that the Vikings were losing to the Packers by a score of something like 21 to 7. I noted that there was about 2:37 left in the third quarter, which made it very easy to decided to shut the TV off and commence with a nap devoid of any concern whatsoever for what I assumed would be the usual outcome of a contest between these two perennial rivals.

 

I awoke to find that there was only thirty seconds left in the game and the score was tied.

 

“Well, huh. That’s unusual,” I thought to myself.

 

If you saw that game, you know the outcome resulted in a tie after ten minutes of overtime chiefly because the Viking’s kicker Daniel Carlson missed a fairly easy field goal that would have won the game. 

 

It was his third miss of the day and the very last image I saw of Carlson was a close-up of his whole face filling my television screen as he very obviously shouted an unprintable expletive.

 

At about 3:30 on Monday, the Vikings management announced that Carlson “doesn’t have a future with the team.”

 

He was placed on waivers and the Vikings hired a different kicker.

 

Just like that.

 

Now, I’m not a “football guy.” I even stink at that game we played in high school where you fold up a triangle of paper and try to flick it with your finger through your buddy’s finger goal posts across the table.

 

I am in no way qualified to pass judgement on Daniel Carlson, nor would I want to be.

 

And I thank our dear God that He does not place us on waivers after three mistakes in a row. If that were the case, I would have been kicked out of Christianity before I got out of middle school.

 

Kinship Christian Radio Announcer Beth Crosby recently told how Walt Disney was fired as a newspaper editor because he had no imagination and had no good ideas, Elvis Presley was fired on his first night of singing because the club owner thought he had no talent and should go back to driving trucks, and Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive.

 

And in the midst of all this, there’s a Bible verse that keeps popping up in my life. Even when I’m not looking for it, something will happen to remind me of it. It keeps coming to mind, over and over again. And today, a friend posted this exact verse on Facebook right in front of me:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

 

And yes, I used that very same verse in a blog I wrote three weeks ago.

 

I still find that verse astounding. Why did God create us to do good works? Does He need us to do things for Him? Obviously, the omnipotent God of the universe could accomplish whatever He wants without this particular Dan Jones doing those things. There’s more than one Dan Jones in this world. So, why me? Does He take some kind of joy in watching me do these things?

 

I do believe God enjoys and delights in each of us as we do these things. The first part of the verse is often translated that we are God’s “masterpiece.” Surely, a masterpiece is meant to shared and enjoyed.

 

Or, did God give me a bunch of good things to do because He knew that even though I would need a nap every Sunday afternoon for the health of my mind and body, He also knew that it was just as essential that my soul would experience the incredible joy of growing closer to Him by doing the glorious things He has given me to do as a gift?

 

Could it be that I was not designed from the very beginning of the universe to sit in my easy chair and watch television all day every day?

 

And, could it be that as each of us do what He designed us to do, His blessings and His love and His truth and His mercy and His glory are multiplied and grow as we bless others? 

 

That’s the reason the verse is so astounding. Because in it, I get a sense of the plans God had from the moment He spoke everything and everyone into being –and it stretches from the nothingness of the moment before the beginning of time out into amazing fullness of eternity

 

And the plan includes every one of us –including what looks like failure in that very small moment but is dwarfed and revealed as all part of the plan in the eternal weight of glory that is the LORD our God. 

 

None of us are failures in God’s eyes. None of us are rejected by God after one mistake or three in one day, or a million mistakes in a lifetime. All of us are dearly loved, treasured, and so valuable that He would and did die for us –just as He planned from the moment He said, “Let there be light.”

 

Which brings me back once again to the incredible freedom and confidence and joy we have in knowing God knows exactly what He is doing in us and with us and through us, even if we don’t know right in this very moment what marvelous thing He will call us to do in the next year or month or day or hour.

 

And this is why there is such joy in saying, “Okay, God.”

 

HALLELUJAH!

Today’s Praise

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)

Bo’s Cafe

 

It’s no secret that I like food.

 

Like many people, resisting eating too much food is a temptation I struggle with.

 

But, thank God, I also have a taste for spiritual food.

 

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my experience at a conference with about a dozen pastors. I came out of that with a recommended reading list of about a half-dozen books, which is a very good thing as I often find myself searching for something to read (in addition to the Bible) with some spiritual “meat” on its bones.

 

Among those books was one called, “Bo’s Cafe” by John Lynch, Bill Thrall, and Bruce McNicol. 

 

I normally read non-fiction explorations of various aspects of spirituality or theology. I have even read countless sermons going back hundreds of years. So, “Bo’s Cafe” was a bit different for me as it is a novel.

 

But, it’s a very well-written novel.

 

It’s about a highly-successful businessman named Steven who has a highly unsuccessful marriage, which is not a terribly unique plot line for a Christian novel, but the book works with that concept in a unique and effective way.

 

It starts with a couple of very funny and engaging scenes mixed in with a bit of mystery. That was skillfully done, but then I found one of the main characters is fond of wearing Hawaiian shirts and drives a 1970 Buick Electra. (It’s like Lynch, Thrall, and McNicol had looked into my closet and my DMV records.)

 

The other thing that made it seem as if the book was written with Dan Jones as its specific audience was that it has this kind John Steinbeck vibe to it. Many, many years ago, one of the books that I greatly admired was Steinbeck’s classic, “Cannery Row” which is set, just like this book, in California.

 

It was Cannery Row that made me say to myself, “Man, I want to learn to write like that guy.”

 

And right about the time I’m trying to put my finger on why I like the writing style of “Bo’s Cafe” so much, the authors come right out and quote Steinbeck:

“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” (Page 107)

 

Okay guys, you totally got me there.

 

And that’s what the novel is about. 

 

We have this concept, I should say, “I have had this concept…” that Christianity is about being perfect.

 

While the temptation to be a multi-millionaire has never been extraordinarily strong in my life, one of the most difficult things in my early Christian life was coming to grips with the fact that God didn’t make me perfect the minute I believed in Jesus Christ. 

 

I still sinned!

 

Paul’s incomparable angst in Romans 7: 14-25 could have been my life verses at one point. I even publicly stated that I should have Paul’s “wretched man” lament printed on a T-shirt. (They actually do make such a thing.)

 

And that’s what the main character, Steven, struggles with throughout the book.

 

His anger and his shame are destroying him and his wife, and it’s only through the conversations he has with the colorful and compelling characters in the book that the lights begin to come on through the understanding and communication of grace, mercy, compassion, freedom, and love.

 

In the end, “Bo’s Cafe” serves up a hearty feast of meaty spiritual food.  The dialogue of authentic love and real fellowship and true brotherhood between the characters beautifully illustrates what real Christian relationships should look and taste like. There’s a refreshing honesty and a powerful depth in who the characters become as the novel draws to a close. There’s even a strong whiff of what a real church looks like. 

 

And that’s why I think “Bo’s Cafe” is a fitting and apt subject for the Kinship Christian Radio blog. None of us became perfect the minute we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. None of us become fully sanctified by listening to a song or a sermon or a testimony on the radio –but they are all part of the process. They all add up. They are all part of the life-long, glorious, wonderful journey we take as brothers and sisters with the Lord as our Father, Jesus as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit as our Guide. 

 

Until we all sit around the table with Him in the light of eternity.

 

Today’s Praise

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? Luke 24: 30-31 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

 

It’s September Survey Time!

 

As a listener of Kinship Christian Radio, your opinion of the ministry is always valuable, but in September, you are encouraged to share it more than ever!

 

All of the surveys have already been mailed out, so if you have not received one by now, you can obtain one by calling 800-810-5559. Your opinions, input, advice, and preferences will be used to make the ministry of Kinship Christian Radio better meet your needs, the needs of the others, and to bring glory to God! HALLELUJAH!

 

As the official Kinship Christian Radio blogger, I have somehow obtained access to the actual survey and am prepared to share with you, my valued readers, some of my responses to some (not all) of the questions:

I am male and married. (That’s right, ladies, I am happily “taken.”)

 

I have been listening for over ten years.

 

On a scale of one to ten, I rate the importance of news broadcasts a 9. (I am grateful for Salem Radio News.)

Yes, I have a “try not to miss it” type program or feature. (Steve and Allen’s conversations at 7:36 a.m. each weekday morning. Oh, and Beth Crosby’s “Wings of Worship” is also very good, and I really like “Creation Moments” at 7:45 weekday mornings, and that Scottish preacher (Alistair Begg) in the evenings, oh and Ravi Zacharias on Sunday (Let My People Think) and, (even though I’m usually in church) the one Matt Dorfner does on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.) Oh, and I almost forgot about Mission Network News. I really like that.

 

No, I do not have an Alexa, or an Echo Dot, although I did notice one in someone’s else’s bathroom once and said, “Alexa, play ‘Reckless Love’, by Cory Asbury” and it DID! (I still laugh to myself about that….Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t share that part on the survey. Probably best to use a pencil rather than a pen, right?)

 

Oh, and here’s a question on how often I listen on the weekends, whether I have a favorite weekend program, whether I’d like a daily 30-minute program about money, investing, and Christian stewardship, what aspects of Share-a-Thon I most enjoy (Listener testimonies!), whether I have a favorite Christian song I’d like to be considered for addition to the KCR music library, (Yes! ‘Worship the Great I Am’ by Kari Jobe!) and how I would rate Kinship Christian Radio on a scale of one to ten. (I would say 9.995, just because nothing on this earth is perfect –including my objectivity.) 

 

Oh, and there’s even a question about adding more news about missionaries. (Yes, more please!)

 

Annnnnd, the final question is “Would you like your name entered in our September Survey Grand Prize drawing?” Well, of course I would like a chance to win an Apple I-Watch, an I-Pod, or an I-Pod Mini! (However, I am ineligible because of my extremely prestigious position here at the blog –but that increases your odds!)

 

So fill out you survey and return it as soon as possible! They really do want to know what you think!

 

Today’s Praise

Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD. Psalm 106:48 (NIV)

Written by Dan Jones

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