Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Big Science

by Dan Jones


Science has undoubtedly produced an immeasurable number of benefits for mankind and I am most certainly not anti-science.

After all, countless diseases have been all but eradicated and we enjoy longer, healthier, and more productive lives than any people who have ever lived on this planet precisely because of science. (Well, except back in the days of Adam and Enosh and Methuselah and Noah. Oh and Shem and Peleg and Nahor and Abraham.)

In 1820, Hans Christian Orsted discovered that a current passed through a wire will deflect the needle of a compass. This became the basis for subsequent discoveries and inventions including the electric motor and (eventually) the very device you are using to read this blog—and the one you use to listen to Kinship Christian Radio.

In 1859, Louis Pasteur conclusively proved that life does not spontaneously generate from non-life, which lead to our current understanding of germs, bacteria, and disease. He is why, to this day, milk is pasteurized before you buy it in the store.

In 1953, Crick and Watson discovered the helical structure of DNA and opened our eyes to the incredible complexity and the enormous amount of information stored in the genetic code of every living creature from the tiniest virus to the 120-ton blue whale.

Science has been so successful at making our lives better and discovering things that there are people alive today who refuse to believe in God precisely because science cannot prove His existence.
(Although just four years ago, after 40 years of research and an estimated cost of $13.25 billion, science did prove with 99.999% certainty the existence of the Higgs boson, a.k.a. “the God particle”—but scientists hate that name.)

But the thing is, science is a human endeavor.

And science can absolutely verify that human beings are fallible.

We make mistakes. We have biases. We’re easily swayed, deceived, corrupted and just plain flat-out wrong about all kinds of things.

Remember when science told us not to eat butter because it was bad for us—and then later told us to go ahead and eat butter because there was bad stuff in margarine? It turns out that debate was never really solved.

The same thing happened with eggs.

And then, there’s the dark chocolate scam.

Just last year, the media was all abuzz with the health benefits of eating dark chocolate, claiming that consumption of the delightful treat could even help you lose weight!  As it turns out, a scientist intentionally fed the media (pun intended) bogus information for the express purpose of pointing out how easily the media is deceived by junk science.

And then we have the revelation that science is subject to greed and corruption and political pressure just like any other human endeavor and even the peer review process may not be a completely effective way to prevent errors. There is a fascinating article on the subject here: http://theweek.com/articles/618141/big-science-broken

And no one can dispute that despite what many consider our vast and lofty knowledge is but a tiny, perhaps even infinitesimal, fraction of all that there is to be known.

When I consider all the things we don’t know that the God who spoke the universe into being does know, it seems to me that we are like a toddler playing on the living room floor who has managed to stack one wooden block on top of another and proudly proclaimed that he knows how the pyramids were built.

Which is another thing we still don’t know.

Today’s Praise
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7 NIV)





Monday, August 22, 2016

Kingdom Builders by Allen Jones



I often find God’s workings in the most miniscule everyday details.  

Like a Squirrel.

The Gray Squirrel specifically.  Were you aware that the gray squirrel only recovers about 26 percent of the nuts it hides away?  26 percent!

That’s like going to the grocery story, then losing 74 percent of what you just bought!  

Why are these little guys so forgetful?  Well, it benefits the growth of trees for one thing.  Every time a squirrel forgets to dig up a nut, it could become a great, mighty oak.

It's like squirrels are natural little farmers, going around planting seeds...then forgetting about it.

Because of this forgetful habit it allows plants and trees to flourish, expanding forests and the ecosystem.

Yet in terms of survival instincts, you would think there memory would have improved overtime.  But they haven’t!  And unhindered  woods continue to flourish through the help of absent minded squirrels.

I can’t help but see the signs of our great creator in this. The forgetful squirrel creating the expansion of forests, and in fact his own home, by forgetting where he hid his nuts.

It’s incredible!  


"For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,"

Our God has made all things,  and that includes our forgetful furry friends that help provide a home for squirrels and animals alike by growing unintentional trees, that then provide life giving oxygen to the entire earth!

Even the most minuscule of details, screams of the greatness of God when we really look at it!

Even in the everyday occurrences in our own lives, you can see God’s hand guiding (what we may call) the smallest of details.

A chance to open a door for a stranger, that then sparks a friendly conversation, that then leads to you sharing your faith, and BOOM!...a seed is planted.

You thought you were just opening the door, but in fact you were expanding the kingdom of God, little squirrel.

Because of God, squirrels aren’t just forgetful, humorous, little fellows...they’re forest builders.

Because of God, you aren’t just Suzy the shop clerk, or Frank the car mechanic.  Because of God, I’m not just Allen the radio guy...because of God, we’re kingdom builders, and everyday we have opportunities to grow the kingdom of God, in the smallest, most minuscule ways.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reverence and Awe

by Dan Jones



In the heart of Itasca County, in the middle of what most of us would call “Up North,” there is a little lake right up against Highway 38 called Kremer Lake. It’s visible from the road and I’m sure most people winding their way along who are brave enough to take their eyes off the “S” curves are probably aware that it’s a pretty little lake.

That is indeed what first caught my attention about Kremer Lake, but I was further intrigued when I found that it's managed as a trout lake.

You see, even though it’s only 76 acres, Kremer Lake is 86 feet deep.

Most trout species perish in water temperatures above 77°F and they are said to be unable to grow in temps above 68°F. The optimal temperature for trout to thrive is right around 60°F.

So, because Kremer is deep and clear and cold, trout survive and grow there.

Access to the lake is by foot only. The trail is not long, but it is steep and twisting and there is a small area at the end of the trail where people fish from shore.

I tried that last year.

The technique involves light line, a pretty heavy slip sinker, a plain hook, a nightcrawler, and the longest possible cast one can make without flinging the bait off the hook.

Then you sit and wait.

While you wait, you wonder if you’ve cast out far enough to get your bait into deep enough water to be in the right water temperature and whether a trout will find your lowly nightcrawler lying on the bottom.

In the meantime, you do get to admire the beauty of the lake.

Because Kremer Lake is surrounded entirely by National Forest, there’s not a single cabin on the lake. All 2.17 miles of shoreline is dominated by towering White Pine, enormous Norway pine, and majestic Balsam Fir.

I did not catch a fish out of that beautiful little lake last year, even though I sat and enjoyed the view from shore for nigh unto three hours.

So, in my vacation preparations this year, I resolved to take my kayak along as doing so would allow me to fish a much greater area of the lake and hopefully catch a trout.

Now, I have not used the kayak since approximately 2011 because I am (to be quite frank) growing old and fat and lazy.

There’s no other way to look at it, folks. It’s what’s happening.

The temple of the Holy Spirit I am supposed to be stewarding as for the Lord is sagging and in need of some rebuilding.

I’ve started exercising and I am making a concerted effort not to eat myself to death, so dragging the kayak along fit into my “new, healthier me” plans.

Plus, there is just something so wrong about not being able to fish effectively because I am too fat. Priorities, boys and girls. Priorities.

So, yes, I wrestled that kayak down that twisted path and over the roots of the pine trees and plopped it beside the shore of that lake. There were a half-dozen folks (some wearing Hawkeyes hats) shore fishing who witnessed me do it and repeatedly offered to help out of what I initially considered kindness but now upon reflection surely could have been sympathy.

Then, I made another trip for the fishing pole and the bait.

And another trip for the paddle.

And, after some grunting and shoving and what I could feel as open-mouthed staring at me, I was out paddling on the lake!
 
For about 45 seconds.

Then, it was back to shore, back up the Trail of Tears to the truck for the life jacket I had forgotten, back down the trail, and more grunting and shoving and flailing with the paddle until, YES!! I was on the lake and actually ready to fish.

About the time I made that first cast, I noticed the Hawkeye fans had packed up and were leaving.  Again, upon reflection, this was totally understandable because after a show like that, why would they stick around and risk possibly having to swim out in that cold, cold water to rescue the fat guy upside down in the teeny plastic boat?

Well, I did not tip over.

And once I got situated and comfortable, I noticed something.

Kremer Lake wasn’t just pretty.

It was gorgeous.

The water I was literally sitting on glowed this indescribable clear blue-green-aqua-turquoise-emerald color. The clouds puffed along in wisps of brilliant white in a bright blue sky. And those pines and firs stood in utter majesty around that lake guarding it like dark sentinels that whispered of the ages they had spent sinking their relentless roots into the rocky red soil.

I felt like I was sitting in the middle of an enormous 76-acre emerald set 86 feet deep into the throne of God.

And I realized He had created all this.

God spoke all of this into being.

This was not something that just accidently turned out to be grand and glorious and marvelous and awesome beyond words.

And I knew that life teemed in the waters below me and in the forests around me and in the air above me.

And all that life was dependent and reliant and intertwined with all the other life around it.

And it was no accident.

It was for His glory.

All of creation does testify to His glory.

Everything that has breath does praise the LORD!

And then the tip of my fishing pole twitched a little bit, and I let some line out, and a few moments later I held in my hand the gift of a silvery rainbow.

And there is reverence and awe.


Today’s Praise
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28 NIV



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

No King But King Jesus

by Dan Jones

In his book, “Excused Absence” Pastor Douglas Wilson mentions that “No King but King Jesus” was the battle cry of the Revolutionary War.

Having attended a reputable but fairly typical public school, I was pretty sure I had never heard this mentioned in American History class, so I resolved to do some research.

Lo and behold, it is indeed true!

In the course of my studies, I also stumbled across some other rather interesting quotes:

The First Charter of Virginia (written April 10, 1606) states that the purpose of establishing the colony was “the propagating of Christian Religion.”

The Second Charter of Virginia (May 23, 1609) again state the intended purpose was, “Conversion and reduction of the people in those parts unto the true worship of God and the Christian Religion.”

From the Mayflower Compact (Nov. 11, 1620): “In ye name of God, Amen.  We whose names are underwritten,… having undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith…”

From the First Charter of Massachusetts (March 4, 1629) “ For the directing, ruling, and disposeing of all other Matters and Things, whereby our said People… maie be soe religiously, peaceable, and civilly governed, as their good life and orderlie Conversation, maie wynn and incite the Natives of the Country to the Knowledg and Obedience of the onlie true God and Savior of Mankinde, and the Christian Fayth, which, in our Royall Intention, and the Adventurers free profession, is the principall Ende of this Plantation…”

The Constitution of Connecticut (January 14, 1639) specifically states those involved “enter into Combination and Confederation together, to meinteine and presearve the libberty and purity of the Gospell of our Lord Jesus…”

The residents of Exeter, New Hampshire, (August 4, 1639) in forming a local government there, did so “…in the name of Christ and in the sight of God…”

The Constitution of the New England Confederation (May 19, 1643), as covenanted together by the colonists of New Plymouth, New Haven, Massachusetts & Connecticut, stated: “Whereas we all came to these parts of America with the same end and aim, namely, to advance the Kingdome of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

The Charter of Rhode Island and Providence plantations (July 8, 1663) states: “We submit our persons, lives, and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given us in His Holy Word.

The Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania (1682) speaks of a “new and Spiritual government” and “Christian Liberty.”

The Charter of Privileges of Pennsylvania (1701) states that “all persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, shall be capable to serve this government in any capacity, both legislatively or executively.”

So Christianity, and specifically the Lord Jesus Christ, were the foundations upon which the colonies were founded and the basis for the rejection of monarchy.

In 1773, shadow governments in all thirteen colonies were meeting to coordinate responses to England and share plans for a revolution. It was these Committees of Correspondence that, in 1774, began sounding the cry, “No King but King Jesus” across all the colonies.

It was a rallying cry. It was a banner which would lead men to willingly become traitors to the Crown of England. They were tortured, murdered, their property seized, their homes looted and burned, and their sons died fighting not just for freedom—but for Christian freedom.

And that is why, on July 2, 1776, these men who had given up everything to form a new country based on the Lordship of Jesus Christ would create a document called the Declaration of Independence proclaiming in no uncertain terms, that the unalienable rights of men to be free were self-evident, having been granted by God Himself, who is the Supreme Judge.

On August 2, 1776, the day when members of the Continental Congress were signing that declaration, Samuel Adams proclaimed:  “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient.  He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”

We have come many years since that day and we seem to have forgotten how precious is that freedom for which so much blood was spilled.

And the cry of that blood shouts across the ages at the irony of John 19:15:
But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered. (NIV)

Today’s Praise
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:16




Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Creepy Crawlies

by Dan Jones


We Christians have spent a lot of time and words talking about being a light.

Granted, there’s a good reason for that.  Jesus calls Himself “the light of the world” in John 8:12.

We are told that those who walk in darkness “have seen a great light.” (Matthew 4:16)

John says the light had come into the world and darkness can never prevail against it.  (John 1:5)

We are told not to hide our light but to put it on a stand so that people will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:15-16)

All that sounds very good and it’s all true.

But on these warm summer nights, if you’ve ever left the porch light on for more than about 20 seconds, you know what is drawn out of the darkness into that light.

Yes, it’s the creepy crawlies.

We have a small dog that lives in our home with us.  Actually, that sentence should rightfully say that my wife and I have allowed a nine-pound dog to live in our home and rule as Queen over us.

Her wants and needs are pretty much Royal Decree and she rules from her throne on the couch clothed in her Royal Blanket while she languishes in perpetual Ease and Majesty, occasionally enjoying a Treat and always being given the requisite attention, stroking, petting and scratching behind her royal ears due a True Sovereign.

Of course, Her Highness has to be let outside each night after the evening news before we head off to bed. And, because I have to watch to verify that the mission is accomplished and she has not been unduly insulted or distracted from her duty by the impertinence of that scoundrel and knave known as “The Cat” before she is let it, the light must be on.

Of course, the very thought of letting “Her Majesty” outside to do her business in the dark is preposterous.

“In the dark? Surely you jest.”

“We are not amused.”

Most nights at this time of year, I don’t go out there and stand among the bugs as it seems they are just as strongly attracted to my ears as they are to the porch light.

And, even if I have the lights off inside, it seems it’s impossible to let Her Majesty in without also inviting a wide assortment of moths and mosquitoes inside to share my…I mean the dog’s…castle with us.

Sadly, when I think about letting my light shine, I have more in common with Her Majesty than I would like to admit.

I mean, Jesus is great and everything, but what if someone, you know….kind of creepy wants to talk to me about Him?

Sure, it would be great to be a witness for Jesus, but really--some of those people who need Him most are kind of….well, you know what I mean.

Isn’t there a way we could just turn the light on and those people could come to the light and just stay out there with all the other bugs?

And, some of them could be dangerous. You know, there’s that Zika thing going around.

Or something really awful—like a June bug or a tree frog could get in!!

I guess I could cope with a moth or two, but not a TREE FROG!! AAACCCK!!

What’s that?

Well, yes… I guess I was kind of a tree frog myself at one time.

And, yes, I was outside in the darkness until the One True King let me into His kingdom and saved me and gave me a hope and future and loved me when I in no way deserved it.

And yes, now that you mention it, I am no better than any other creepy-crawly who falls short of the glory of God.

Today’s Praise
"Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Matthew 21:31b (NIV)




(Thanks to Pastor Maurice Staley for the inspiration for this blog.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Nobodies

by Dan Jones

Have you ever heard of Maurice Hillerman?

Of course not.  But Maurice Hillerman was a microbiologist who developed vaccines for measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chicken pox, meningitis, pneumonia, a certain type of influenza, and many others.

Hillerman is credited for saving more lives than any other scientist of the 20th century, and you and I have never heard of him.

How about Witold Pelecki?

Witold Pelecki volunteered to be put in Auschwitz when no one knew for sure what Nazi Germany was doing in the now-infamous death camp.

What about James Harrison of Australia?

Nope, never heard of him.

At the age of 14, Harrison needed chest surgery which required 13 liters of blood to save his life. Afterwards, he vowed to donate blood regularly when he reached the age of 18—which he did. Shortly after he began donating, it was discovered that his blood contained an extremely rare antibody which is the only known cure for treating Rhesus disease in unborn children. He has donated blood 1077 times and, as a result, has saved the lives of nearly 2.4 million children.

What about this guy, named Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov?



Not a chance.

On October 27, 1962 during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a Russian nuclear submarine was surrounded by a fleet of US destroyers—which they could have easily wiped out with their nuclear weapons. However, Russian military protocol required a unanimous vote of all three top officers to use those nukes. It was Arkhipov, a mere second-in-command, who opposed use of the nuclear weapons and persuaded the other two officers to surface and give in to the US demands.

If not for Arkhipov’s single vote, the use of that nuclear weapon would have almost certainly led to WWIII and the death of half the population of the entire world.

While we often think of the George Washingtons and the Adolph Hitlers of this world as having the biggest impacts on the history of the world, normal every-day people just doing their jobs or just being who they are can have enormous, world-changing impacts.

How about Connie Fevold?

Well, I don’t expect anyone to know who that it is, because she was my eighth-grade English teacher.

You see, Connie Fevold encouraged me to write and helped me to believe that someone like you might someday actually want to read the words God gave me to put on a page.

So, even though you have never met her and you didn’t even know she existed until you just read that last sentence, she is having an impact on your life right now.

Thanks, Connie.

The point is, each and every one of us has an impact on each and every one of the rest of us, even if we are not microbiologists, or undercover POW’s, or have a rare blood antigen, or are officers on a nuclear submarine.

Our lives do matter and they do make a difference and they do change other people’s lives in ways that we can never know or understand at the time we are doing them. And, those impacts ripple and ebb and flow and change lives, not just in the here and now, but possibly across generations.

That’s why we are told to be salt and light.

That’s why we are told to love each other.

Need I remind you that the single biggest impact of any single life on all of humanity in all the history of humanity was by an unheard-of nobody son of a carpenter from Nazareth?

Today’s Praise
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:32 ESV


(Much of the information on this page came from https://www.quora.com/Who-are-some-little-known-people-that-changed-the-world .)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Wreck of the Fedora

by Dan Jones



My family and I recently returned from a week-long vacation in the Bayfield, Wisconsin area.

Lake Superior is a beautiful and stirring masterpiece of God’s grandeur and glory and the Apostle Islands area is yet another example of His stunning creation.

One of the many activities we enjoyed was a glass-bottom boat tour which not only gave us a good look at the beautiful scenery and some light houses, but also took us to some shipwrecks.  Our Captain served as tour guide, narrating the story of each shipwreck.

The story of the Fedora particularly caught my attention.

The Fedora was built in 1889 and was no small boat for her time. She was nearly as long as a football field at 282.2 feet, and she was 41.5 feet wide and 20.1 feet deep. She listed a gross tonnage of 1848.1 and was powered by a 900 horsepower steam engine.  

She was considered by the marine insurance companies of the day to be one of the safest vessels on the water.

On the night of September 20, 1901, with respected Captain Frank A. Frick at the helm, she was headed from Duluth on her way to Ashland, Wisconsin. Although she had hauled many loads of grain along this same route, she was empty on this trip as she was scheduled to pick up a load of iron ore in Ashland and take it down to the lower lakes.

The Fedora had left Duluth on the afternoon of that day and had rounded the northern tip of Wisconsin, making her way through the Apostle Islands in the West Channel. It was a windy and cold Friday night and her crew of 17 was looking forward to a short shore leave in Ashland if time allowed.

As she passed between Basswood Island and Red Cliff Bay, a kerosene lamp in the engine room exploded. (This was considered a freak accident as kerosene lamps don’t normally explode.)

The fire quickly spread to oil cans stored in the engine room and, fanned by a strong southeast wind, the entire engine room was quickly engulfed in flame.

The engine room was quickly evacuated, but Captain Frick now had a very serious problem.  The Fedora was equipped with pumps and hoses for fighting fires on board, but they were located in the engine room—where no one could get to them because of the fire.

In addition, the throttle control for that 900 horsepower steam engine was located, not in the helm in the bow of the boat with Captain Frick, but in the engine room back in the stern.

And while almost all of the Fedora’s structure that came in contact with the water was made of iron, almost all of her structure above the water line was solid oak.

At that point, the Fedora was an enormous flaming torch running full steam ahead without a single option that would not end in certain disaster.

To his credit, Captain Frick kept his wits about him and ran the Fedora aground less than a hundred yards from shore.  He would later recount that the enormous flames from the burning ship “illuminated the lake for a great distance” and helped him see “a place of vantage to beach our sinking ship.”

All seventeen aboard were able to board the life boats and make it safely to shore where all they could do was sit and helplessly watch the vessel burn to the waterline.

And I can’t help but wonder if our beloved nation is a Fedora.  

Recent events certainly make it seem that there is a fire in the engine room which we are powerless to extinguish while we continue to plow through dangerous waters at full steam ahead with our inevitable and ignoble destination brightly illuminated by the fires of our own burning.

We have trusted in the strength and might of our iron hull for many years, but our decks have always been made of wood.

I fear that if we don’t or won’t or can’t trust the very ones who are here to serve and protect, even if some should make it to the life boats, will we have no other option available but to sit and watch her burn?

Matthew 24:12 says that because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. Respect for and even appreciation of the law is the decking on which we walk every day.

We are blessed that the laws of man in this country were founded on the laws of God. When we reject those laws and the people who uphold them, we embrace lawlessness-- which will inevitably lead us to a place in which all of our available options lead to certain disaster.

It does not have to be this way. We have the benefit of history to tell us not to design ships where the fire-fighting equipment is housed in the same room as the flammable liquids. We know better than to put the throttle and the steering wheel at opposite ends of the ship.

In the same way, we know the precepts and the laws God gave us are good and are good for us. The “modern” rejections of God’s laws are not modern at all. People have strayed from these laws many times throughout history and we keep coming back to them precisely because they are good for us individually and for society as a whole.

There is always time to repent.

There is always time to call upon the One who can calm the storm.

Today’s Praise
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 ESV


(Many of the details about the wreck of the Fedora are from James M. Keller’s book, The “Unholy” Apostles.)