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.)


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Shoes

by Dan Jones



And, I must confess, I’ve kind of had a fixation on shoes lately.

See, I had this pair of old tennis shoes that fit me so wonderfully I wore them pretty much every day. Well, not to church, but as often as I could.

They had molded themselves to my feet. I didn’t even have to tie them and untie them each time I wore them because my feet just fell into them. It seemed as if they willingly embraced my feet.

Then one day, I stepped on some damp ground and my sock was instantly wet.

At first I was confused.

I hadn’t stepped into puddle. It was just damp ground. Water had not come over the top of the shoe. Why was my foot wet?

Upon investigation, I found that the sole of the shoe had split. There was an opening almost the entire width of the shoe right across the ball of my foot.

Now, my frugality is legendary. I have been called “the cheapest man in the world” because of my insistence in ordering off the dollar menu. (Back when there was a dollar menu.) So, of course, I thought about fixing my beloved shoes with some form of high-tech shoe glue. But alas, it was obvious glue wasn’t going to fix my problem.

After coping with the denial, there was the inevitable anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance that it was time to have a funeral for my shoes.

But then came the task of replacing the shoes.

Now, I do have other shoes, but none of them were good enough.

And, it’s not like I don’t have access to other shoes. There is a thrift store very near to where I work, which (amazingly) is where the beloved shoes had come from in the first place.

It’s so near that I can check it every day for replacement shoes.

I’m also a big fan of online shopping for shoes. Well, maybe “shopping” isn’t exactly the right word, because that implies that one would actually purchase something in relatively short order. What I do is more like online shoe stalking.

I have noticed that one can get a very, very good pair of shoes online if one checks every day for that one time when the shoe I want suddenly drops to the magic “Dan Jones price.” (Please recall my frugality at this point.)

Okay, so sometimes that magic price means I have to accept a shoe that is not in my first choice of color and it may take several days, even weeks, for that magic price to occur. And, sometimes the magical price doesn’t include free shipping—which means it’s not the magic price at all, but a scam, a ruse designed to rip me off.

There is a flaw in my little plan, however. During the stalking process, I am not wearing shoes that embrace my feet. And, in my latest quest for shoe Nirvana, I purchased a number of shoes that appeared to be wonderful shoes that turned out to be false prophet shoes.

There were shoes I tried on in the store that seemed perfectly fine at that time, but once I got them home and wore them for a full day, they hurt my feet. At least two pair that I bought at the thrift store I wore for a day or two and then re-donated back to the very same store.

I even bought one pair online (at a very attractive price) that made my back hurt because they didn’t provide a proper foundation for me.

So, I bought a pair of insoles that promised to provide the support and cushion that would transform these cheap shoes into the shoes I had been seeking all this time.

Not only was that a lie, when I considered what I had spent on the shoes plus the inserts, the total cost was far above “the magic price.”

Actually, when I stopped to consider all the money I had spent on shoes that weren’t the right shoes, I had spent far more than what I would have paid if I had just bought what I knew to be excellent shoes in the first place.

By now, you’ve probably figured out where I’m going with this because we have all done this.

We’ve all at some point searched and strived for something other than Jesus, whether it was drugs or alcohol or materialism or the worship of self in whatever form that took. It can even be said that it appears that this is what our society as a whole is doing even as I write this.

We can try on different philosophies and religions and world views that seem attractive and right for us and we may even find some that seem to be a great bargain, but in the end, when our feet are blistered and the pain in our back is more than we can bear, we will remember that the right answer is and always has been the gospel of peace—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Praise


Yet the LORD says, "During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. Deut 29:5 NIV

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jesus is Lord

by Dan Jones

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

On a radio tower in the heart of Kinship Christian Radio’s listenership area, giant red letters proclaim JESUS IS LORD.

Those three words convey so much meaning and have so much power, it’s difficult to put it on the page.

Of course, they mean that Jesus is God.

They mean that Jesus is the Lord of all creation. Jesus, who was in the beginning with God. The very Word of God through whom and by whom and for all things were made. In whom was the life of all mankind who is and was and always will be the light of all mankind. He is the light the darkness can never overcome and the light that does and will light up heaven for all eternity. (John 1: 1-5)

That Jesus.

That Lord.

And that very Lord, who created the universe and everything in it, took on human flesh, came to this earth, walked among us, and let us torture and kill Him.

So that we would be saved.

It means that when we say, “Jesus is Lord” we have put Jesus in His rightful position in our lives as Lord and Master of all we are. It means that we owe not just our lives to Him, but our very souls.

It means there is no higher power, no greater force in all the universe than the God who humbled himself and took the punishment we deserved.

It means that we have stopped living for ourselves and we have devoted the lives He gave us, even our everlasting souls, not to ourselves and the pursuit of earthly pleasures, but to an eternity of praise and devotion to Him and Him alone.

Saying “Jesus is Lord” is not the secret password to a lifetime of health and wealth and little smiley-face emoticons. Indeed, claiming Jesus is Lord could get you persecuted, tortured, or even killed.  In fact, the Bible guarantees that bad things will happen to you when you claim Jesus as Lord.

So, in a world that’s all about the gratification, the pleasure, even the worship of “self,” are we nuts?

In a word, “Yes.”

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19 NIV)

As we see the events of the world unfolding around us we are tempted to think that Jesus is not Lord of this earth.

We are tempted to believe the enemy of our souls is winning, but I tell you the truth, JESUS IS LORD!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

He has overcome the world!

If you are tempted in any way, whether it be to despair, to sin, to lose heart or faith in any way, speak those words out loud.

Jesus is Lord!

Do not be afraid.  

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 9-11 NIV)

That says every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord—including the knees and the tongues of the enemies of Jesus!

There is protection, there is guidance, there is joy, there is peace, and there is power in those words!

So speak them without fear. Shout them out loud!

JESUS IS LORD!

Amen!

Today’s Praise
Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3 NIV


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Beast Mode

by Dan Jones

I attended a local parade this weekend where there was a young man seated next to me wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a drawing of a gorilla’s face in full roar. The gorilla was wearing sunglasses and a hat. Written in large letters on the underside of the visor of the hat were the words, “BEAST MODE.”

Now, the young man wearing the shirt wasn’t acting like a beast, as he thanked those passing out candy on a regular basis, but it got me to pondering recent events.

Last week, a two-year old boy playing in the water at a Walt Disney World hotel near Orlando was attacked and killed by an alligator. The boy’s father ran into the water and fought with the reptile in an effort to free his son, sustaining injuries to his arms and hands as he tried to force the alligator’s jaws open and free his child.

It was a horrific, terrible, awful incident and one can only imagine the incredible grief these parents must feel.  I pray God will comfort them and help them to heal from this.

Now, there was considerable “parent-shaming” on the internet after this incident as people apparently sought to defend the alligator from what alligators naturally do.

The area where the boy was playing was a white sand beach on “Seven Seas Lagoon” right next to the hotel with a patio nearby. True, Disney had put up signs saying “No Swimming” but it did allow and even encourage fishing, power boating, and even paddle boating in the area. Even though it was called a “lagoon” it is a man-made lake. Numerous others who have visited this area were never warned, nor was there any hint, that alligators posed a danger in this body of water, even though authorities caught and “euthanized” five alligators from Seven Seas Lagoon right after the incident.

But it is the irony of this event that I cannot escape.

For almost 90 years now, Walt Disney and Walt Disney Productions have popularized cartoon portrayals of animals as people who are kinder, gentler, and more lovable than actual people.

This is called “anthropomorphism” and we are very, very fond of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Like almost every American of my generation and generations before me and after me, I grew up watching Walt Disney cartoons. And yes, Walt Disney had always been synonymous with wholesomeness—as were characters like Mickey Mouse, Bambi, Thumper, etc.

And our culture took that concept of the wholesome, altruistic, happy and carefree (and sometimes it even seemed “sinless”) animal and ran with it.

Coupled with various nature films throughout the years, and the shift in our society from a rural to an urban culture, we have become a society that is apparently fonder of animals than we are of each other. A 2015 Gallup Poll found 32% of Americans felt animals should have the same rights as people.

Public outrage over a dentist shooting a lion last year in Africa and the shooting of Harambe the gorilla just recently were epic—even tsunamic. 

Meanwhile, there is virtually no comparable outrage over the 44 people who are murdered each day in this country.

In point of fact, we as a society find the murder of other human beings to be our preferred form of entertainment, as about half of the top shows on television are about that very subject.

At one time, humanity sought to differentiate itself from “animalistic behavior” by practicing things like chastity, altruism, self-restraint, and even self-denial. These were seen as uniquely human traits, expressing the best in our humanity. Indeed, the word “humanity” has at its essence the idea of denying “the self” in favor of the good of others first.

Not coincidentally, as we have come to admire the behavior of animals above that of the human race, the human race has become increasingly animalistic to the point where we now believe that it is not possible to restrain ourselves from the behaviors we previously considered “primitive” and harmful to society as a whole.

Is this all Walt Disney’s fault?

Certainly not.

One would have to have the morals of a baboon to write that kind of thing about “The Happiest Place on Earth®.”

Today’s Praise
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Prayer

by Dan Jones

Father in heaven, it’s happened again.

By now, we are almost numb to it. It’s becoming a regular occurrence.
Lord, we are heartbroken not just at the events and the loss of life in Orlando, but at how our hearts are becoming calloused to it.  We are calloused by the media’s constant, persistent, unrelenting coverage of it. 

We are calloused by the politicians and the lobbyists and the “advocates” all vying to take center stage and persuade us what should be done to “fix this” once and for all. We are calloused to how much we hate those on “the other side” of the political spectrum.

The enemy is so crafty, Lord. He knows just which buttons to push to get us to bite and devour each other. He knows we will become emotional and lash out at each other. He knows we will do things motivated by hate or anger or fear or all of the above.

And meanwhile, the real enemy plots his next move, knowing he can move us little by little to even greater anger and hate and fear.

Or apathy.

The enemy knows with each evil act, he can claim that the evil in the hearts of men is because there is no god—and certainly no One True God.  

He knows there will be people on his side who will claim that such evil proves You do not exist.

And at the same time, he will laugh because if people believe You do not exist, they certainly will not give the real enemy of our souls a second thought.

But the mistake the enemy always makes is underestimating Jesus.

He made the same mistake when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He made the same mistake when he convinced Judas that Jesus wasn’t really the Messiah. He made the same mistake when he got the crowd to yell, “CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY!”

And that is that what is intended for evil, Father, you can use for good.

Lord, we don’t see it now. What we see now looks like evil and nothing but evil. We cannot imagine what good will possibly come of this, but we trust in You and You alone.

Perhaps you have allowed this that your children would finally come together and pray for those who are deceived.  We know more Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus Christ right now than in all of the history of Islam. 

We know there has been a tremendous increase in Muslims coming to Christ since a group of your people began to pray for them during their month of Ramadan, which is right now.

So, Father, as you have told us to do, we will pray that those who call themselves enemies of the cross and those who walk in darkness will not be cursed but that they will be blessed with salvation.
  • We pray that Muslims who are questioning their faith will meet others who have walked that journey and found it led them to Christ.
  • We pray your Holy Spirit will send dreams and visions of Jesus to Muslims which they can neither forget nor ignore.
  • We pray that Muslims who decide to follow Jesus will find fellowship with believers who will love them and support them and guide them in the faith.
  • We pray that the millions leaving their homelands in search of a new life may find new life in Christ at their destinations.
  • We pray for peace in areas where people are having to flee their homeland.
  • We pray that if any of us should encounter anyone who shows any signs of anger or hatred with Jesus or with those called by His name, that we would have the courage to reach out to them and witness to the love of Jesus Christ.
  • We pray for new Muslim believers to grow in unity, encourage one another in fellowship and love and to be lights for others.
  • We praise you, Father for the movements of Muslims to Christ in this century and pray that the pace of these movements would heighten and expand.
  • We pray for fellow Christians to resist the temptation to exchange hatred for hatred, hostility for hostility.
  • We pray we would speak and act with hearts of flesh and, no matter how outrageous or provocative the news might become, we would not allow our hearts to grow calloused and cold.
  • We pray, Father, that you will lead individual believers in Christ to Muslim individuals whom they can and will love in Jesus’ name.
  • We pray provision and protection and guidance over all who are bringing the true gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims all over the world.
  • We pray you would make us willing to forgive those who would kill us, even to the point of washing their feet, that they would be saved.
  • We pray that in all things, in all ways, in all we do and say, your will would be done and that the kingdom and the power and the glory would be yours and your alone.
AMEN!

Today’s Praise
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40: 1-3

Portions of the above prayer were taken from 30daysprayer.com website.