Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mysterious Ways

by Dan Jones

We’ve all heard that “God works in mysterious ways,” but this is another one of those phrases we’re all sure is in our Bibles somewhere-- but it’s not.

The phrase is actually a misquote of a line in an English hymn written in 1773 by William Cowper. The actual lyric is, “God moves in mysterious ways.”

Cowper was correct, though. God does indeed move in mysterious ways, and he was probably thinking of Isaiah 55: 8-9 as he penned those words:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Just this past weekend, I was at the center of God’s mysterious ways and I’m still amazed and smiling about the whole thing even though it was a long string of events that didn’t work out anything like I planned.

I had planned to be fishing in the Brainerd area, but that didn’t work out. So, since the weather was going to be gorgeous and I had not gone fishing opening weekend (shocking in itself) I decided to hook up the boat and head up to the Willmar area where I had “discovered” a beautiful little lake hardly anyone fished. (It has a very tiny and difficult public access.)

And since I didn’t want to drive almost three hours one way, fish for a partial day, and drive back another three hours, that meant I would “camp out” Friday and Saturday night.  (My “camping out” means I sleep in the back of the pickup.)

While I still appreciate a certain degree of wilderness “adventure,” I’ve also become somewhat lazy in my advanced age.  So, part of the plan was to buy a cheap electric fry pan to avoid lugging along the small charcoal grill, the charcoal, and the lighter fluid I normally use in these situations.

You can cook a fine breakfast in an electric fry pan and they work very well for frying fish, I reasoned.

Almost all the sites in public campgrounds are wired and I was going to want electricity anyway to run the heater I put inside the pickup where I slept.  (Yes, I take an electric heater when it’s going to be 50 degrees at night. The name is “Dan Jones,” not “Daniel Boone.”)

I had done some research and found Sibley State Park was less than 10 miles from the lake. I had never been there before, but our Minnesota State Parks have been good to me before.

So, after spending all day Thursday getting stuff done around the yard (Can’t go fishing until the tomatoes are in, right?) and getting the boat, motor, and trailer ready (Oh yeah, I have to fix the trolling motor hold-down that broke last fall.) I was ready to leave first thing Friday morning.

Of course, I would pray before I left on such a journey for my safety and the safety of my family—and I prayed, as I often do, that I would be a witness and a light to everyone I met.

I remember thinking the “witness” thing was pretty unlikely since I was going to be fishing alone.

I left home right on schedule at 8:00 Friday morning, stopped and got the electric fry pan, and all went well. Kinship Christian Radio was playing some wonderful praise songs as I drove along and I arrived at the lake, launched the boat without any major drama, and started the motor to find all was working well.

The fish, however, were not working at all. I could actually see some of them up near shore and they were not at all interested in biting. I did catch one small bass by accident but it most assuredly was not destined for my brand-new $18.96 electric frying pan.

After several hours of beating the fishing equivalent of a dead horse, I decided I should probably get registered at the campground before there were no sites left.

Upon arrival at Sibley State Park, the lady checking me in (Marge) was very nice but the State’s computer kept insisting that I was from Hamby, Texas instead of Amboy, Minnesota. Finally someone came to her aid, sternly rebuked the computer, and I was allowed to select my campsite.

My choices were sites 14, 15, 47, or 48. None of this meant anything to me as I had never been in the campground before, but since my lovely wife will often answer “14” whenever she has no idea of the correct answer, (or sometimes just to be a smartyboots) I said, “14, Marge. I’m sure 14 will be lovely.”

Marge confirmed 14 was a great site and off I went.

As I was backing the truck in, I noticed there was a lady setting up a tent in the adjoining site. She immediately struck up a conversation and turned out to be a very nice person, even offering to “spot me” as I backed the boat into the campsite.

She told me she had been coming to Sibley State Park since she was a little girl and was a wealth of knowledge as to the location of the various amenities at the park.  I remember thinking it odd that she seemed to be alone, but so was I, so who am I to judge?

We talked for a bit, and she offered me a beer, for which I thanked her kindly but explained that I had been sober for over 30 years. That often makes people uncomfortable, so I also explained that I don’t have a problem with people who can responsibly enjoy adult beverages and she shouldn’t feel bad.

(Jesus didn’t turn water into Grape Nehi, boys and girls.)

She was intrigued by my sobriety and asked several questions including, “What was the hardest part?”

She caught me off guard with that because I hadn’t really thought about it in 30 years, so I answered, “I suppose resisting the temptation, but that’s a pretty easy answer.”

She made it clear she recognized that as a non-answer.

So, I decided to just shoot it to her straight.

“The hardest part was realizing I couldn’t do it myself. I could not do it in my own strength. It was God. Jesus saved me.”

I could tell that shocked her. People don’t bring up Jesus ten minutes after having just met. But hey, she asked and it was the truth.

We continued to talk and she revealed that she had just lost her job the day before. She had spent quite a while crying and then decided to come to the park and camp for reasons not entirely known to her.  

Perhaps she needed some quiet time. Perhaps being in a place of pleasant and safe memories from her childhood was what she craved.

Perhaps the Lord moves in mysterious ways.

It was growing later in the afternoon, and I still did not have any fish for that frying pan. Plus, there was another lake I wanted to explore.

At the second lake, I caught eleven northern pike and one bass—all of which were also too small to end up in that frying pan.

Well, being a seasoned fisherman, I had also brought along some pork chops and some potatoes. One does not count one’s fish before they are caught. That’s like making sure you have a camera and a net in the boat—a virtual guarantee you will catch nothing.

So, I went back to the campground fishless.

The lady (whom I will call “Ruth” to protect her anonymity) was still there and had been joined by another lady (whom I shall call “Naomi”) and Naomi’s son, Brian. (Yes, I know that’s not the name of Naomi’s son in the Bible, but “Mahlon” and “Chilion” are hard to type. It’s not a direct analogy anyway.) Naomi had been Ruth’s best friend for a dozen years and had come to support her and be with her.

Ruth and I were talking as I removed the frying pan from its box and I admitted my utter failure as a fisherman, but I had a back-up plan involving pork chops. She explained that she had been to a pizza place and they had mistakenly omitted green olives on her pizza and so they had made her a second one with the correct ingredients. This meant she had two pizzas instead of one, and she invited me to share in this unexpected and fortuitous abundance.

Now, I like pizza, and I enjoy just about any kind of pizza (other than plain cheese) but I have this “issue” with cold pizza. Yes, I know, many of you think cold pizza is better than hot pizza and I’m some kind of weirdo for not liking cold pizza. That’s why I said it’s an “issue.”

So, I readily agreed and even offered to heat up the pizza…yes, in my brand-spanky-new electric fry pan.

It was a fine plan and I was quite pleased with myself.

I proceeded to drag out the extension cord and prepare to turn creepy cold pizza into a gourmet delight when Ruth just had to ask me something and interrupted my plans.

She wanted to know more about this God thing. She wanted to know how Jesus had saved me. She wanted to hear my testimony.

And so, there I was sitting in Sibley State Park telling Ruth how I had strayed from the Lord as a young man and, one summer night in 1983 in a campground in Murdo, South Dakota, a tornado had passed over my pup tent and I had promised the LORD God that if He would save my miserable life, I would quit living this sinful life I had chosen for myself.

I told her when I left that campground I was sure there was no way I could keep those promises I made to God when I feared for my very life, but God saw to it that I did. I told her that within two years of making those promises, He had set my feet on the path of a new and so much better life.

And since then, He has blessed me beyond measure and I know for a very certain fact that Jesus loves me and that He always will.

I told Ruth that God loves her too. That He always has and He always will. I told Ruth that it was no accident she had come to Sibley State Park at this time nor was it any accident that I had chosen campsite 14 and showed up at the exact time she was pitching her tent.  I told her that the still, small voice that told her to come to this place at this time was the voice of the Holy Spirit and that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is our guarantee that Jesus will save us. I told her that even though she thought she was without faith, listening to that voice and obeying it was indeed faith and that she would be saved. I told her that God does not believe in coincidence.

And Ruth was in tears.

And then, I understood why all of these plans I had made and how they actually turned out were not my plan at all, but His plan.

And His plan was greater and more glorious and more wonderful than anything I could have planned.

And part of that plan was that many months before, somewhere in an electric frying pan factory in some distant corner of China, someone forgot to pack the cord in the box with the pan that I would buy on that day.

And I would enjoy the best-tasting cold pizza I had ever had in my life, knowing that I was put here on this earth, at this place and at this time, not for my purposes, but for His.

God bless you, Ruth.

Today’s Praise

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fire and Brimstone

by Dan Jones

Almost 40 years ago or so, I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room when the WCCO TV News played the song, “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” as part of a news story. Yes, this is when Dave Moore and Bud Kraehling did the evening news and weather.

My dear, saintly grandmother (God rest her soul) wondered aloud why God had tarried so long in sending fiery wrath and judgement upon this errant nation of ours.

I guess the answer is that God is merciful and kind, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

By the way, that phrase occurs in Exodus 34:6, Psalm 103:8, Numbers 14:18, Joel 2:13, Psalm 86:15, Nehemiah 9:17, Jonah 4:2, and Psalm 145:8. The Bible doesn’t repeat stuff because the prophets sometimes run out of material.

And surely, that whole Sodom and Gomorrah rain of fire and brimstone thing ended when Jesus died on the cross and God’s wrath was satisfied once and for all, right?

But still, as the evening news grows worse and worse each passing day, don’t we need something to turn us around? Don’t we need God to do something dramatic and drastic and earth-shattering to get people’s attention and bring them back to faith and righteous living?

We are obsessed with sin of all kinds.

We are lustful and prideful. We brag and we kill and destroy. We neglect what is important and chase after silly things that won’t last past tomorrow. We focus our lives on me, me, me and we crush and put down anyone who would stand between us and our “happiness.”

As if we knew what would make us truly happy.

You can sit in front of your TV on any given night and press the button as the channels alternate between various combinations and permutations of murder and sex and greed.  Take your pick. They’re all pretty much variations on the same theme.

But, here and there, God’s people still exist.

There are still moms and dads who teach their children right from wrong. There are still people who love justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly with their God.

They just don’t end up on the evening news.

Well, actually, they do.

The evening news does occasionally run a “human interest” story where someone is doing something good and kind and righteous.

And it’s considered “newsworthy” because it’s portrayed as unusual.

But when they interview the man or the woman who is feeding the hungry or clothing the poor or who pulled the helpless baby out of the sinking car, they invariably say it’s “no big deal” or “I’m just doing what needs to be done” because self-denial does not seek self-glorification.

Love does not envy. Love is not boastful or proud.

Yes, that’s in the Bible. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

The thing is, it’s not unusual. Love and goodness are not abnormal in America.

They just don’t have press agents.

All around you, there are people doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing. There are people who love God and honor Him with their lives.

I know some of them.  Some of them are my co-workers. Some of them are pastors. Some of them are ordinary people doing ordinary jobs. Some of them work at a radio station. Some of them are "retired."

They’re not flashy and people with cameras don’t follow them around, but they are out there—and they are not giving up.

They see the same things you see, and they mourn for those who are lost and have gone astray. They continue to love them even when they don’t deserve it.

Because none of us deserve it.

They continue to pray for those whose lives are mired in the muck of sin and self-loathing.

Because we’ve all been in that muck at some point.

And sometimes, they despair too because it seems they are so outnumbered it seems like they are having no effect.

But they also know a lie when they hear it. And, they know who is called the father of lies.

They know who the real enemy is.

And they know that the love and mercy of the Lord is so vast that He agreed to spare the overwhelmingly evil population of Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous people could be found.

So, even if it seems like evil vastly outnumbers righteousness, the Lord’s promise that there is great power in the prayers of the righteous is true.

And even a small amount of salt can preserve much from destruction and decay.

And so, while we all have our peaks and our valleys, we know that we can walk through the valley of the shadow and fear no evil.

Because even a very, very small light cannot be extinguished by the even the deepest shadows of darkness—especially when that light comes from the One True Light.

Today’s Praise
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 NIV




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fishing



by Dan Jones


This Saturday marks the most revered, most treasured, most sacrosanct of all Minnesota’s secular high holy days: Fishing Opener. (Cue choir of walleyes singing in the background.)

It’s so important that, since 1948, both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Minnesota are required to fish on that day, under penalty of moral outrage and public indignation from now until the day after eternity.

The Governor and an entourage of hundreds (often including members of both political parties) are shepherded to a specially-chosen lake where professional guides put them on fish that even politicians can catch.

Mostly. 

But not always. 

More than one Governor has been skunked on Opener (walleye choir again please) but it’s very embarrassing for the entire state--like being beaten by the Packers at a home game.

In the snow.

On Thanksgiving Day.

I know of what I speak on this subject because fishing used to be a very big deal to me. (If I had a therapist, that last sentence would have been considered a “breakthrough.”)  

Kinship Announcer Allen Jones wrote some very kind things about me and about this blog in a recent piece in the Kinship Journal, for which I graciously and humbly thank him. The Other Mr. Jones mentioned in those comments that at one time, I had plans to be a fishing journalist.

That is true. But more precisely, I wanted to be a writer for In-Fisherman magazine. At the time (and I believe still to this day) In-Fisherman was and is regarded as the best freshwater fishing magazine in the world. Their focus was on the science of catching fish and they pioneered many breakthroughs in angling. It was the magazine Minnesota fishing legend Al Linder built and it forever changed how people catch fish not just here in the Land of 10,000 lakes, but all around the world.

My efforts to achieve this goal included five years at Mankato State University (Yes, four-year college.) with a major in English, Concentration in Writing, and a minor in Biology, Concentration in Freshwater Ecosystems.

I loved fishing. Even as a poor college student with very limited funds, a part-time job, and no boat, (I think I did get a canoe my junior year…err…fourth year, which I then traded for a leaky 12-footer with an ancient 5hp Johnson in my fifth year) I managed to go fishing 3-6 days a week.

I studied fish. I lived fish. I had a fish-related job. I ate fish. I had a pet fish living in the Biology Lab. I dreamed of fish.

And then, it happened.

Before I had even finished college, In-Fisherman accepted one of my proposals for an article.

I spent two years researching what sunfish ate and, in February of 1992, Dan Jones was published in In-Fisherman magazine with a 12-page article entitled “Bluegills Eat Bugs.”  (One more time with the walleye choir, maestro.)

Okay, so the title’s not War and Peace, but it was a big deal back then.

(For those of you who are just dying to know, the primary food of the bluegill sunfish is chironomids, the larval stage of those pesky gnats that bother you at the lake --and I’ll have you know I looked inside a lot of sunfish stomachs to ascertain that information.)

In fact, I was kind of a big deal. I was asked to public places to talk about fishing. Tackle companies sent me so much free tackle to mention in the article I still have a LOT of it to this day.  I was on speaking terms with Doug Stange, Editor-In-Chief of In-Fisherman publications. There was even a picture of Al Lindner in the article I wrote holding a massive bluegill.

And, I was paid the princely sum of five hundred green cash American dollars for that article, which I promptly went out and spent on a 1972 Herter’s Yukon boat ($50), a trailer for the boat ($300), and a 9.5hp Johnson motor ($160).

Yes, all was going just according to my little plan. I was going to be rich. I was going to be famous. Doug Stange had already asked me to write another article for the magazine. I was on my way.

But that wasn’t God’s plan.

Through a number of events too long and too painful to go into in a blog this size, I came to realize traveling all over the country and possibly the world catching scads of enormous fish using the newest and the best tackle given to me for free wasn’t the most important thing in the world.

Fishing is not the most important thing in the world.

Love is.
And today, almost a quarter of a century later, I would not trade the love of Jesus and the love of family with which I have been so richly blessed for all the fame and fortune and riches and fish in the world.

Yes, I gave up a dream I had back then, but it turns out God had a better plan for me when I couldn’t see it or even begin to dream how good it would be.  I have learned to love and trust in Him and Him alone and I am confident that wherever He leads me from here is exactly where He wants me to be.

Thank you, Lord. (Cue angel choir.)

<><
 
Today’s Praise
 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. John 21:11 NIV




Wednesday, May 4, 2016

National Day of Prayer



The 65th Annual National Day of Prayer is Thursday, May5. The chosen theme is Wake Up America! 

The selected verse is Isaiah 58:1a:
Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Honorary Chairman Dr. Tony Evans has written a special prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, we come to You today as a humble people desperate for Your supernatural intervention on behalf of our beloved nation.  First, we thank You for all the blessings You have bestowed on our land, blessings that have allowed us to bring so much good and benefit to not only our own citizens but also to the rest of the world. The very ideals upon which this country was founded were based on biblical truths, no matter how some try to rewrite history to deny that very fact today.
This is why our hearts are so broken over how You continue to be marginalized and dismissed by both our people and our institutions. We are also saddened by the fact that Your people have contributed greatly to the spiritual apathy that now engulfs us. Our satisfaction in remaining religious without being fully committed to living out the truths of Your Word has caused us to become co-conspirators with the forces of evil that are destroying us as a society.
It is for this reason that we personally and collectively repent of our carnality and recommit ourselves to becoming visible and verbal disciples of Jesus Christ. Enable us, by Your Spirit, to no longer be secret agent Christians but rather to publicly declare and live out Your truth in a spirit of love so that You feel welcome in our country once again.
Thank You for Your promise to hear our prayers when we call to You with hearts of repentance and obedience, which is how we are appealing to You today, Father. On behalf of Your church, we affirm afresh the priority You are to us that You would fill every dimension of our lives as we seek to bring You glory through the advancement of Your kingdom in our personal lives, our family lives, and in the lives of our churches and our government leaders. We confidently invite heaven’s intervention into all the affairs of our nation and we praise You in advance for Your answer.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.”
There are a number of National Day of Prayer gatherings scheduled throughout the Kinship Christian Radio listening area. They are listed on the Kinship Community Calendar page here http://www.kjly.com/comcal.php

In addition, Kinship Christian Radio will broadcast a two-hour, live concert of prayer from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, called One Cry Prayer Summit, Generations United for Awakening.  This will include teaching on prayer, interviews with ministry leaders from around the country, and worship music performed from Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

Now is the time. We absolutely must wake up and stop being “secret agent Christians,” in Dr. Evan’s words.

If you want more information, or wish to be more deeply involved, here is the National Day of Prayer website: http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/
Today’s Praise

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:9 NIV


Friday, April 29, 2016

What's better than the force being with you? by Dan Jones




The LORD Be With You
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:3 NIV
…to be with me…
Those four words in that verse recently jumped right out at me. It was an “ahah” moment.
Even though I’ve heard and read that verse many times, this Sunday in church I suddenly got “it.”
More than once and in many different ways, I have not gotten “it” -- not even if it was wrapped up with pretty paper in a big box with a big red bow and an enormous sign that said, “IT.”
And, when I occasionally do get one of those moments, my head can rush ahead and forward and behind what the pastor is saying, often ending somewhere off to the side or chasing a wild goose into the setting sun.
In this case, my head went from the beginning of time to the end of time and on into eternity.
Literally.
Because it made me think, “Yes! God created us to be with Him in the first place!”
That was the purpose, the plan, the grand design of all time! God creates us in His own image to be with Him and to love and to be loved—that love would be multiplied forever.
So it makes perfect, absolute, and beautiful sense that there would be a plan to be with Him for all eternity even after we fell.
Yes, it wouldn’t be easy and it would look absolutely awful during the process, but once it was over and it had worked, it would be beautiful beyond comprehension.
Kings and kingdoms would submit themselves to the One who had submitted to death on a cross, all so we could be with Him forever.
And that made me think about how we say, “The Lord be with you.”
And also with you. (Or, “And also with your spirit.”)
There’s even a name for it: “Dominus vobiscum,” which is Latin for (of course) “The Lord be with you.” 
It’s been used in Christian Liturgical services for so long I couldn’t find a historical record of its first inclusion. Perhaps its most famous usage in the Bible is in the book of Ruth when Boaz uses it to greet the workers in his field, which makes the phrase at least 3,000 years old.
It also occurs in the book of Samuel, when Saul says it to David as he sends him out to battle Goliath. (The book of Samuel was written at about the same time as the book of Ruth. In fact, it is thought that Samuel probably wrote the book of Ruth.)
So, its use dates way, way back. In some churches, the phrase may not be uttered in a church service by anyone who is anyone less than a deacon.
I think it’s an incredibly beautiful thing to say to another human being and I would even go so far as to try and start a trend of saying it to each other on a day-to-day basis.
I know there are many people out there who could sure use it as they go out to do battle with the Goliaths in their lives each day.
I even think we should start saying it to politicians and lawyers and judges and celebrities and police and activists and people in the media as a genuine and heartfelt prayer.
As I was pondering all this and trying to decide what to write, Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner was at the controls at the radio station and “just happened” to play a song I had not heard for some time.
It’s called “City of Gold” and it’s by the group City of Gold. The song is about the time when we will be with the Lord forever, and its lyrics are Today’s Praise:
Soon your trials will be over
Offered up by mercy's hand
A better view from where you stand
Going to another land

The sweetest welcome from the Father
Gathered up and carried home
We are past this time of waiting
Come let us bow before Your throne

We will meet in the Golden City in the New Jerusalem
All our pain and all our tears will be no more
We will stand with the hosts of heaven
And cry holy is the Lamb
We will worship and adore You evermore

Never can the powers of darkness
Neither death nor even life
Let nothing ever separate us
From the holy love of God

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Problem with Righteousness

by Dan Jones

In the days of my misspent youth, it was not at all uncommon to hear someone say, “Wow, that was righteous, man.”

Of course, back then “righteous” was a slang term for “cool” and it had absolutely nothing to do with the way the Bible uses the word.

Today, no one ever uses that word.

It is decidedly “unrighteous” to use the word “righteous” because somehow we automatically jump over the true meaning of that word to the word “self-righteous” which is a word automatically associated with “bigot” and/or “intolerant.”

And I don’t need to tell you that in today’s society, that is a very bad thing indeed.

So what does “righteous” mean?

The dictionary defines it as “morally right or justifiable.” But the Bible adds another aspect to the meaning.

In the New Testament, the Greek Word is "dikaious" which means “just in the eyes of God, approved by God, and in conformity with God’s own being.”  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is "tssadiq" and means, “just, blameless, and innocent.” All the Biblical meanings carry with them the idea that it is God alone and one’s relationship with God that determines one’s righteousness.

All of those things used to be attributes that people strived for, but they now seem so old-fashioned and, well, just ….egotistical and judgmental.

There’s an excellent example of how society views righteousness in R.C. Sproul’s book, “The Holiness of God.” 

Now, granted, Sproul wrote the book when Gerald Ford was President, but it still works today:

“A well-known professional golfer was playing in a tournament with President Gerald Ford, fellow pro Jack Nicklaus, and Billy Graham. After the round was over, one of the other pros on the tour asked, "Hey, what was it like playing with the President and Billy Graham?" The pro said with disgust, "I don't need Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat!" With that he headed for the practice tee. His friend followed, and after the golfer had pounded out his fury on a bucket of golf balls, he asked, "Was Billy a little rough on you out there?" The pro sighed and said with embarrassment, "No, he didn't even mention religion." Astonishingly, Billy Graham had said nothing about God, Jesus, or religion, yet the pro stomped away after the game accusing Billy of trying to ram religion down his throat.”

I think we can all agree that Billy Graham is generally considered a righteous man by just about everyone. The story wonderfully illustrates how people react to righteousness today.

The thing is, the word occurs over 500 times in the Bible, so it’s not a minor concept by any means. (Interesting side note: Biblegateway shows the word 536 times in the ESV, 510 times in the KJV, 493 times in the NIV, 257 times in the New Living Translation, 107 times in The Message, and just twice in the Easy to Read Bible.)

I recently posted something on Facebook and mentioned the need for the nation to repent—and was roundly accused of shoving sin in people’s faces. 

And there’s the deal.

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NIV)

Not one of us is truly righteous. The very idea of being righteous makes us uncomfortable because we know we can never meet the standard.  The Bible tells us so in Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Acts, Romans, and many others.

It’s literally in our DNA. We are born unrighteous. We can’t help it.

And so, there is this temptation to only focus on the positive aspects of Christianity—to turn our eyes away from our sin. We’d much rather look on the perfection and the love of Jesus and believe that God understands we can’t help it. He understands, right? As long as we believe that Jesus loves us, it’ll all be okay, right? God doesn’t make junk, right? We’re not really sinning, right?

But, there’s a problem with that.

If all we have to do is love Jesus, why the cross?

Why the beating and the mocking and that awful crown of thorns and the nails and the spear in the side?  Why all that blood? Why would he be hanging there on that cross dying this horrible death, crying out that his God, his own Father, had forsaken and abandoned him?

The cross is offensive. It’s awful. It hurts just to think about it. It hurts in our soul.

But a God of justice cannot simply ignore sin.  As little children, we all cried out at some point, “It’s not fair!”  We want a just and a fair God, but what is fair when we have thumbed our noses at God and declared ourselves to be the final and ultimate judges of what is right and wrong—even if the Bible clearly calls it sin?

What is fair when God has told us that the wages of sin is death? (Romans 6:23)

The image of Jesus on the cross is the most unfair moment in all of human history.  A holy and perfect God, come down to earth, never having committed a single sin in his entire life, mercilessly killed in our place to take away the sin of the whole world –past, present, and future.

"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

“…so that we might live for righteousness.”

It’s the response. It’s what we do in gratitude and thanksgiving and praise for what Jesus, in the incredible mercy and grace of a loving God, did when he paid the debt we could never pay ourselves.

Righteousness is not a club we raise to crush the ungodly.  Righteousness is indeed credited to us by faith (Galatians 3:11) but true faith is moved to act righteously. (James 2:21-26) Righteousness is the joyful response of a people set free from the laws we could never uphold. Righteousness is not the condemnation of sinnners (John 3:17) but visible evidence that the old man has died and a new creation has been born (2 Cor. 5:17) and lives to the glory and praise of the LORD, our God!

And if that righteousness causes someone to go out and mercilessly club a bucket of golf balls into oblivion, that might be how the Holy Spirit works on that day.

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