Wednesday, January 11, 2017

You Lose

by Dan Jones

Dylann Roof, the 22 year-old high school drop-out who killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015, was sentenced to death today in U.S. District Court.

He expressed no regret for his actions, and has even admitted that his intent was to start a race war.

He intended to plant seeds of hate.

But he lost. 

He lost because, one by one, the family members of the people he mercilessly killed stood up in court and publicly offered him forgiveness.

Even though Roof admitted he killed these people because they were black, and specifically chose a church because he knew they would be unarmed-- even though he admitted he had not shed a single tear for the people he killed, their loved ones told him they could not be brought to hate him.

Felicia Sanders, who survived by pretending to be dead, clutched the tattered and bloody Bible she held that day while she told Roof she forgave him.

And Roof could not look any of those people in the eye.

And when you read the comments in the news stories about this online, people are amazed at this forgiveness. Where we would normally see comments that disparage Christianity or even mock God, today we see admiration and wonder at how anyone could possibly bring themselves to forgive someone whose sole intent was evil.

And they are correct. We do not have it in ourselves to forgive this kind of evil. Only the power of God's Holy Spirit could do that.  

So, you lose, Dylann Roof.

You did not create a race war. You did not stoke and feed the fires of hate. You did not start another Civil War.

But more importantly, the biggest loser is the real enemy. 

You see, Dylann, the devil doesn't have an answer to forgiveness. He doesn't have a mocking comment to the power of the love of Jesus Christ.

There is nothing that can be said to, "I forgive you" that promotes or furthers the cause of the one who is a thief, a liar, and a murderer. 

Even if you don't want their forgiveness, even if you do not accept it, love still wins.

And I will pray, Dylann Roof, that before you are executed the power of the Holy Spirit comes over you and draws you to the foot of the cross where you will confess your sin and Jesus will forgive you, not because you are worthy of it, but so that He would be glorified.

And so that the devil will lose one more time.

Today's Praise

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5 NIV

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy Eternity

(Replica of an ancient Viking calendar.)

I'm not very much for celebrating the New Year.

I mean, if you think about it, it's all rather arbitrary and a little ridiculous, isn't it? 

"Oh look, our planet has revolved around the sun one more time. Let's rejoice, make an enormous amount of noise, perhaps launch some explosive devices with colorful burning minerals, and imbibe large quantities of alcohol in celebration of this new beginning."

That never seemed like a totally logic response to such a common and predictable astrological event.

Our current Gregorian Calendar wasn't even adopted until 1582, and not everyone in the Western World all signed on to it at the same time anyway. Prior to that, the Julian Calendar (implemented by Julius Caesar) where the New Year began on March 1, had been in use since 45 B.C. The exact date of our New year has been hopping around the calendar since the dawn of written history and many different cultures and faiths celebrate the "New Year" at different times of the year.

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is in September.

The Chinese New Year is in late January or early February.

Muslims won't celebrate a New Year until September 21.

Buddhists celebrate the New Year after the first full moon in April.

And, in Ethiopia, it's September 11, after the end of the big rains.

Since Earth's orbit around the sun is roughly circular, one can pick pretty much anywhere as a starting point and it really doesn't matter. 

Our obsession with keeping accurate time probably has a lot to do with our equally obsessive compulsion for accurate records. Human beings seem to have a need for knowing who was king when and for how long, in addition to recording crop harvests.

Now, that all has certain practical applications, and I certainly understand why we would keep track of time.

But, the other day, a song on Kinship Christian Radio opened something in my soul that just floored me.

The song is "Live on Forever" by The Afters and it's about eternity.

Specifically, it is about the fact that we are designed to live forever. 

We are designed for eternity. 

Our Bibles not only say that eternity is real, but that what is eternal is more real than what we are experiencing right now:

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

And in that moment, when that song that I had heard before but never really paid attention to broke through my everyday, same-as-usual drive to work, I realized that eternity is not just real for me.

Every human being ever born is designed for eternity. Each and every one of us will live forever in one place or another. All of the rushing around, all of the focus on all the stuff around us, all of our record-keeping and planning is incredible minutiae compared to eternity.

The endlessness of the eternal stretched before me, awed me, and I now realize that this eternity in our souls is the design of not just an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God, but of an eternal God.

That's why the one thing every child in Sunday School memorizes, the one thing we as Christians all know no matter our denomination, the one thing we hang our faith on, is that same verse that promises that whosoever believes in Jesus Christ shall not perish, but will have eternal life.

And so, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin another orbit around the light the gives us life, I leave you with the words 
"Happy Eternity."

Today's Praise

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

In His service and to His glory-- Dan Jones <><

Thursday, December 29, 2016


by Dan Jones

I've been pondering snow.

No, not because I have to shovel it or push it off my driveway, but because someone posted a picture a single snowflake online. 

We've all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. Now, there are scientists who will debate that point, citing that in all the history of the universe, the law of very large numbers states that two identical snowflakes could very well exist. Other scientists point out that there are over 100 identifiable features in snowflakes, which gives us 10 to the 158th (that's a 1 followed by 158 zeroes) possible combinations, which is twice the number of atoms in the universe, meaning it is far more likely that no two absolutely identical snowflakes ever existed.

And, almost everyone knows that snowflakes form as a result of water vapor condensing on a particle of dust high up in the clouds.

But what I did not know was that different snowflakes form at different temperatures and different humidity levels, and the classic snowflake is actually the result of that snowflake being subjected to different conditions as it rises and falls through the clouds.

So, the history of the snowflake can be told by the form it takes. It's origin is at the center and the most recent event at the edges.

All snowflakes start out as six-sided plates due to the trinitarian nature of the water molecule. Sometimes, they form hexagonal tubes, columns, needles, or even solid prisms.

But our "classic" snowflake, as it moves through different temperature and humidity conditions within the cloud, forms arms or "dendrites" off the points of each of those six sides.

Under the right conditions, incredible intricacies develop as the water molecules attach to the dendritic arms and the amazing crystalline structure forms.

Ribs, ridges, grooves, and spikes form as well as features that look amazingly like darts, rockets, duck feet, and even tiny anchors. 

All of this takes place in less than twenty minutes and the resulting forms can be breathtakingly beautiful. 

But we can only see them if we look for them. Of the billions of snowflakes that fall to earth each year, no one ever looks at the vast majority of them.

This incredible, astounding, even miraculous beauty is all around us and almost no one notices. 

In fact, many of us (including me) will complain about having to move that snow away from places we would prefer it didn't accumulate. 

And, we will go to great trouble and expense  to move that snow without ever once thinking that every one of those microscopic cathedrals of glory bear the very fingerprint of God.

If we stop and think of the beauty God put into something He designed to fall to earth only to be broken by the wind, trampled under foot, and eventually to melt away, what kind of beauty will we find when arrive in the place He has prepared in advance for us to live forever with Him?

Today's Praise

He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.
(Psalm 147: 16-18)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Still Christmas

by Dan Jones

Our society is notorious for commercializing Christmas.

But despite all the Griswoldian lighting displays, shopping mall Santas, ubiquitous snowmen, and great big shiny aluminum Christmas trees, Jesus still manages to be at the center of it all. 

Despite attempts to be more inclusive and more politically correct, "Happy Holidays" has not replaced "Merry Christmas." 

Yes Virginia, Christmas is still about Christ.

Christmas still glows and shines and warms people's hearts. Christmas still reminds us that God loved us so much, He sent His one and only Son to be born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger. 

Christmas still shows us that humility and undying love are still triumphant on this silent, holy night when glory streams from heaven afar and heavenly hosts sing "Alleluia!" 

Christmas still reminds us that this child, this offspring of a virgin's womb, this Godhead veiled in flesh, this incarnate deity, this Jesus, still reconciles God and sinners.

The King of Kings still brings salvation, and loving hearts still enthrone him. This, this is still Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

He still rules the world with truth and grace and He still makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness. And yes, the wonders of His love are still with us.

The bells still peal so loud and deep, God is not dead nor does He sleep, the wrong shall still fail, the right shall still prevail, with peace on earth good will to men.

Yes, across the ages we still hear the Christmas angels tell, He has still come to abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.

We still experience the thrill of hope, the weary world still rejoices, and yonder still breaks a new and glorious morn. We are still drawn to fall on our knees on this, the night that is still the night divine.

And those words from Luke 2:11 are still the greatest, most glorious, most incredible and earth-shattering world-changing proclamation ever spoken over this fallen and broken world:

Today's Praise

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Gift of Meat

by Dan Jones

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a little bit of, shall we say, "an odd duck."

It's true. 

I do enjoy things just a wee bit obtuse. Odd bits of trivia tend to pique my interest and I have been known to fixate on them for hours, days, and yes, even years.

So it is with my habit of giving the gift of meat at Christmas.

Some of my dearly loved family members (you know who you are) think it strange, even eccentric, that when a Christmas party comes along where we are to exchange $5 or $10 gifts, I have no problem making a decision on what to buy for such a festivity and will eagerly and with great joy purchase a steak from a favorite purveyor of said beef-based happiness. 

Now, while some of you may recoil at the thought of a pound of flesh (or slightly less, given current prices) as a gift celebrating the birth of our Savior, I would like to point out that the recipient of said gift is often quite pleased with such a thoughtful and savory beneficence.

Once, when my family decided a Christmas gift exchange needed a theme and chose "My Favorite Game" as that theme, I participated by giving an enormous quantity of beef, bacon, and fowl under the guise that my favorite game was indeed, "Meat Raffle."

And yes, I did chuckle a tiny bit maniacally when I devised the carnivorous caper.

What makes the whole "gift of meat" a personal tradition and even more appealing to me is its connection to an obscure bit of trivia, hidden deep in the recesses of an ancient Christmas Carol.

The song "Good King Wenceslas" has its origins in the 10th century when a king by that name really did exist in Bohemia and was known far and wide as a very good king.

In fact, a cult sprang up around him in his native land and also in England shortly after his death that centered on a righteous king whose power stems from his great piety and princely vigor.

The song about Good King Wenceslas didn't come about until 1853 (about 900 years after his death) and was written by John Mason Neale, an English hymn-writer. The music used was from a 13th century song about spring time. While there is no indication that the events in the song ever actually took place, they are in keeping with the character and spirit of this legendary king.

The song is a ballad which begins with the good king looking out on The Feast of Steven, which was held on the day after Christmas and was a celebration of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. (See Act's 7)

As the song begins, it is a cold winter night, the frost is described as "cruel," and  "the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even." As Wenceslas is looking out, a poor man comes into sight, "gathering winter fuel." (Picking up sticks and twigs for fire wood.)

After the initial stanza, the song then alternates stanzas between the king speaking to his page and the page replying to the king. (A page was typically a young boy between the ages of seven and 14 who was in training to become a squire and, eventually, perhaps a knight. This "training" consisted primarily of being a servant to a noble of some sort.)

In the second stanza, Good King Wenceslas asks his page who this poor man is and where he lives. The page replies that the man lives "a good league hence" (about three miles) "underneath the mountain" and "right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain." (This apparently means the peasant lived at the base of the mountain, right where the tree line began. Saint Agnes was a Bohemian princess known for charity, a denial of fleshly pleasures, and a rejection of luxury and comfort.)

And it is then that Good King Wenceslas says to his page, "Bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither. Thou and I shall see him dine, when we bear them thither."

As the song goes on, the two venture forth through the bitter cold and wind of the night. At one point, the night grows darker, colder, and the wind blows stronger. The young page complains that his heart is failing him and he can go no longer.

The king replies that the page should walk behind him, following in his footsteps, treading in them boldly. If he will do so, "Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

The song continues, "In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted. Heat was in the very sod, which the saint had printed."

Those stanzas are an obvious allegory for following in Jesus' footsteps and are an encouragement that when it seems that it's just us against the cold, cruel world, we will find the life-sustaining strength and warmth to go on from those very footsteps if we will just walk in them.

As it turns out, the story of the "Righteous Good King Wenceslas" is, in fact, an allegory for the true Righteous Good King Jesus.

It may seem odd to us that the song does not conclude with the two reaching the poor man, but it doesn't have to, as it is assumed this took place. 

The final stanza assures us that if we bless the poor we will find that we are blessed by doing so. 

And so, if you find yourself in possession of a steak at a gift-exchange where I am present, know that while it may seem odd, even a bit eccentric, it come from the sod on which I have trod.

Today's Praise

Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. 
Deuteronomy 15:10 NLT