Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Would I Give



This isn’t easy.

I’ve prayed the Holy Spirt would give me the words, but they are like bags of sand—too heavy to lift, so they must be dragged out, one at a time, and heaped up.

Twenty-one Christians lost their lives on a beach at the hands of evil last week.

The Coptic Church has already declared them martyrs.

Some of them could be seen mouthing the words “Lord Jesus Christ” before they were murdered.

The people who murdered them specifically labeled this act of Satan, “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.”

And, just yesterday, I read that they have kidnapped somewhere between 70 and 150 Syrian Christians.

They say they are on a holy mission for Allah.

But, like all that Satan says and does, that is a lie.

This is about hatred.

Hatred written in big, bold, red letters.

And, that’s where it gets hard to drag out the words.

Because when I come before Jesus on my knees and ask Him to grant that the Holy Spirit would tell me what to pray for these men, the answer is in Jesus’ own words-- and the words of the One who died and rose again to take away my sins choke me like dried blood in my throat.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

They are hard words to speak. Like bags of sand, I have to wrestle and fight to put each one into place.

But those words, like bags of sand next to a rising river, keep the flood of hate and evil from sweeping over and destroying my soul.

Please pray with me:

Father in heaven, the One True God, who sent your only begotten Son to take away the sin of the world, you have told us to bless our enemies and not to curse them. You have told us not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.

Lord Jesus, you never said it would be easy to follow you.  Lamb of God, we take up the cross and ask that you would bless all those who persecute, torture, and kill your people with salvation.

We ask that your Holy Spirit would soften their hearts, bring them to repentance, and that they would spend eternity in heaven praising the holy name of Jesus—the only name by which men are saved.

We ask that your light and your truth would shine into the darkness and open their eyes, their ears, and their hearts to the lies. We ask that you would deliver them from the evil one. We ask that you would send them dreams and visions of Jesus that they cannot deny or ignore.

Father, we ask that you would prevent these people from further sin by disabling their communications, their equipment, and their weapons. We ask that all who support them or who refrain from speaking out against them would be granted the courage and the ability to tell them, “No, we will not be a part of this.”

To the praise of your glory, Amen.

Today’s Praise

Because "Father, Forgive" are the words Jesus moaned
When He gave everything that He owned.


(Lyrics from “Everything That I Own” by Jason Gray)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

If I Ever See a Christian...

I recently came across the following story on studylight.org and it really got me to thinking about what people see in me:

“Dr. Harry Ironside told about a missionary in China who was translating the New Testament into the Chinese language. He was assisted by an eminent Chinese scholar, a Confuscianist, who had never before been exposed to Christianity. 

Week after week and month after month they sat side by side working through the Biblical text.

When the project was nearly completed, the missionary told his friend, “You have been of great help to me. I could never have gotten along without you.  Now I want to ask you a question. As we have gone together through the New Testament, hasn’t the beauty of Christianity touched you? Wouldn’t you like to become a Christian?”

The Confucianist replied, “Yes, Christianity does appeal to me. I think it presents the most wonderful system of ethics I have ever known. I believe that if I ever saw a Christian, I might become more interested in becoming one myself.”

“But,” exclaimed the missionary, “I am a Christian!”

“You?” The scholar replied. “You, a Christian? I hope you will not take offense, but I must tell you that I have observed you and listened to you from the beginning. If I understand the New Testament, a Christian is one who follows Jesus: and Jesus said, ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

“You cannot be a Christian, for I have listened to you as you have talked about others in an unkind way. I have observed, too, that whereas your New Testament says that God will supply all your needs, you do not trust Him. You worry about this and about that: and if your check is a day late, you become dreadfully concerned. No, you cannot be a Christian. But I think if I ever see one, I should like to be one.”

Pierced to the heart, the missionary broke down, sobbed out a confession, and asked God for forgiveness. He asked for the scholar’s forgiveness as well. 

This man was so broken that the Confucianist later remarked, “Well, perhaps I have seen a Christian after all.”
(Used by permission.)

Today’s Praise

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:5 ESV)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Disturbing


There’s an old Monty Python skit where a couple who appear to be lovers or perhaps newlyweds are seated at an outdoor restaurant and an odd-looking reverend with a suitcase walks up to them and asks, “Excuse me, do you mind if I join you?”

You can tell by their expressions that they would really rather be alone, but because they don’t want to be rude, they invite him to sit down.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” He asks. “Are you sure I won’t be disturbing you?”

The couple, again being very polite, invites him to sit down.

He asks them three times if he will be disturbing them.

You can tell they are disturbed just by the frequency of his use of the word “disturbing.” Still, they insist that he join them.

The reverend sits down and immediately begins waving his hands around and says, “A lot of people are far less understanding than you are. A lot of people take offense when I even talk to them, let alone when I specifically tell them about my being disturbing.”

The couple squirms in their seats.

He then begins doing some very disturbing things like pinching them on the cheeks, pulling dishes out of a suitcase and breaking them on the table, and waving odd things around—all while singing, “DOO DOO DO DOO” in a very loud voice.

Lately, I kind of feel like that reverend.

I think I have a condition called “Jesus” and some people find it a bit disturbing.

Honestly, I’m not trying to make people squirm. I’m really trying very hard not to pinch people on the cheek and say, “God loves you!”

I want to talk to people about Jesus. I want to discuss the Bible and all the little nuances and details of how amazing the LORD is and the incredible richness, height, depth, breadth, and lengths of His love.
I want to break some plates and wake people up and sing praise songs really loud and just be obnoxiously zealous for the LORD!

See?

I’m doing it now.  Did you feel yourself squirm just a bit?

Most people are polite and just put up with me, hoping I’ll move on to something else. And, I usually do-- when I can eventually tell I’m disturbing them.

It even happens in church when I say, “Hallelujah!”
And nobody else does.

Maybe, eventually, I will settle back down into my polite, Midwestern self that avoids any public display of emotion (especially about religion!) and stop making people feel so uncomfortable.

But I hope not.

Today’s Praise

Come! Let us sing joyfully to the LORD!
Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us shout with songs of praise to him.
For the LORD is an awesome God;
a great king above all divine beings.
He holds in his hand the lowest parts of the earth
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea that he made belongs to him,
along with the dry land that his hands formed.
Come! Let us worship and bow down;
 (Psalm 95: 1-6 ISV)


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Smoke and Fire



Sometimes, the Lord puts certain themes in my life that repeat themselves over and over for weeks, sometimes months.


Lately, that theme is smoke and fire.


First, there was that song by Needtobreathe called “Multiplied”with the line, “Your love will surely come find us, like blazing wildfires singing your name.


Then, there was the church service in the Dominican Republic where I wrote that the congregation was absolutely on fire for Jesus.


Oh, and then Kinship Christian Radio’s Steve Ware picked “On Fire” by Sanctus Real for the “God Speaking to Me” song. (“Want to feel the power of Jesus’ name, Set me on fire.”)


Then, an elderly lady in my home church said she felt that lately, instead of her going to church, the Church had been coming to her. That glowed brightly in my soul.


Next, I got a copy of the book “The God Who Smokes” by Tim Stoner after a dear sister in Christ brought it to my attention. (It’s not at all what the author’s name and the book’s title makes you think.)


I’m only half-way through reading it, but Stoner writes like those blazing wildfires in the Needtobreathe song.


His premise is that God is most definitely NOT some “divine doting auntie in Heaven full of sweetness and smiles, who sees war and corruption and violence and racism and says, ‘Well, boys will be boys. Would you care for another blessing, dearie?’”


No, Stoner contends that God is completely justified in His anger over our wanton sin, idolatry, and lawlessness. He smokes and burns with an intense and passionate jealousy as a husband for a wife He loves above all else because of His infinite, intense, and passionate love for us.


“He really believes that He is the most worthy, most majestic, magnificent, glorious, stunningly beautiful being in the universe. And He is fixated on the certainty that only He deserves worship—that to Him alone belong honor, glory, and praise forever and ever. With red-rimmed, stinging eyes and burning hair, all we can say is—He is right.” (page 83.)


Stoner concludes each chapter with a Blessing for his readers. This one is from the chapter entitled, “God is an Earthquake.”


May the Mighty Lion of Judah,

The Holy King of heaven,

The Righteous Judge,

who will weigh the nations and everyone in them in perfect scales,

fill you with the true, deep, rich,

utterly delightful and comforting knowledge of Himself.

May you, childlike, kneel;

may you lovingly trust,

even when He shatters your box and singes your hair.

May you, lost in wonder, worship, love, and adore.

May the God who roars and sings

calm you fears and soothe your pain and set you straight.

And, in reverential, trembling awe

may you kiss the Son and with sturdy faith

confidently say:

I am His and He is mine.


Today’s Praise

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV)





Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Overwhelmed



 
My wife and I returned from our mission to the Dominican Republic late Saturday night. We made it to church on time on Sunday morning, but something odd began happening before we finished singing the first song.

As I sang “Hail to the King,” my eyes began to burn and tingle. By the end of the song, tears were running down my cheeks. I looked over at my wife and the same thing was happening to her.

The second song was “We Believe” by The Newsboys. When we got to the line “Let the church live loud,” I needed a tissue.

Several, in fact.

The pastor, knowing that we had just returned from the mission, asked us to come up and explain our tears.

We tried, but all we could really say was that we were overwhelmed.

With tears falling on the pages of Ephesians 3, I tried to explain to the congregation by reading this:

18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (NLT)

What had happened in the Dominican Republic is that my wife and I had gotten a glimpse, an inkling, a taste of just how immense, how majestic, how immeasurable, how beyond awesome is the love of God.

Even now, I struggle with trying to find the words to describe it to you, so I’ll give you a few examples.

We attended a service at the Altar of God Church at about 5:00 p.m. on our second full day. (Some Dominicans hold their weekly church services on Sunday evening, rather than Sunday mornings.)

The church service itself embodied the word “zeal.” I can say with great confidence that no one falls asleep during a service at that church—even though it lasts for about three hours.

The woman asked to preach spoke about 1 Kings 17:8-24 where the flour and oil never ran out and Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead.  She preached with a fire of the Holy Spirit that was relentless, adamant, and powerful.

During her sermon, she mentioned that her two-year-old daughter was ill and had not eaten in two days.

After the service, we prayed that Jesus would touch this child and heal her. Little Katy was obviously pale and weak at the time.

We went back to the pastor’s house where we were staying and, before we had finished supper, a happy, bouncy Katy was in the kitchen healed by Jesus and asking for something to eat.

Later in the week, we were in the small mountain village of Manabao, helping with a children’s ministry and eight children accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The next day, in the same church in Manabao, I was miraculously not only able to sing, but was asked to lead others in singing! (Anyone who has ever heard me sing knows this is indeed a miracle.)

Numerous times, the Lord put people and events in our lives that made it clear He was opening doors for us to tell others about His infinite love for them. This happened again and again, even on the flights to and from our destination.

In one case, I was sitting next to a man on the plane who was the administrator of a number of dental clinics for the poor. He had it on his heart to start dental ministries for the poor in other countries, but he had never met an “ordinary person” who was going on a mission and didn’t think it was possible for him to do so. I encouraged him by telling him if I could do it, he certainly could. I am certain if the Lord wants to extend His mercy through this man’s talents, He will most certainly do so.

All through the week, we could tell the prayers of those who had sent us were reaching God. The prayers of one woman were being emailed to us. Over and over, we saw themes, words, and phrases that appeared in her prayers in our lives and our ministry. Even lyrics of the songs that were on our hearts were in her prayers, though she had no way of knowing we were singing them repeatedly.

One of those songs was “Multiplied” by Needtobreath.

Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name
God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied.

And that was the most amazing part. The love of Jesus surely did come find us and it did not add to itself—it multiplied. These were not coincidences. They were God incidences.

The love of God in our Dominican hosts fed us and filled us. It was present and palpable. We could hear it and see it and feel it and taste it and we could reach out and touch it.  

Today, there are dozens of people in my life whom I genuinely love that I did not even know two weeks ago. I already miss them and long for them.

I went to the Dominican Republic to bring whatever I could, but I returned overwhelmed and overflowing.

Today’s Praise

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38 NIV)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thrive

Mission team member Kellie Gerdts with some precious Dominican children.

I was recently blessed to be asked to participate in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic through Bethany Global Short Term Missions. The following blog post was written about a week ago in Santo Domingo, on the team’s second full day there.

When I first heard the Casting Crown’s song, “Thrive”, I liked it, but my “Christian radar” went up. We were made to thrive?

Really?

There are Christians all over the world who are definitely NOT thriving. Poverty, pollution, illness, disease, corruption and all forms of evil afflict God’s people all over the world.

Faith in Jesus definitely does not guarantee an easy life. Jesus said in this world, we will have trouble. (John 16:33)

My first impression of the Dominican Republic is that this is a place where people are not thriving.

Santo Domingo is a crowded city of three million people. The homes are concrete block that would never pass a building inspection in the U.S.

They have running water, but it is cold water only. Many homes have black plastic tanks on the roofs to supply water to the home when the power goes out—and the power goes out at some point pretty much every day.

And the traffic!

The traffic can only be described as absolute automotive anarchy.
The streets are narrow and almost all have no street signs, no stop signs, and no speed limit signs. People often park on the sidewalk. There are police here, but they are so vastly outnumbered as to be of little effect.

It’s like the entire city is a maze of a million round-a-bouts filled with cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, street carts, an occasional horse-drawn cart, and tens of thousands of buzzing little motorcycles weaving in and out of the ceaseless bumper-to-bumper melee.

There is litter everywhere because of the poverty and a simple lack of what is necessary to deal with it effectively.

In short, it looks like these people are doing anything but thriving.

But at the end of the first full day of being inundated and overwhelmed and having my heart broken by what I perceived as misery all around me, we attended a church service at the Altar of God church.

What we experienced was a people whose faith is thriving.

There is such love for the Lord here in these people. Their praises rise again and again with shouts of “Gloria Diós!” and “Aleyuya Jesús!”

This is a church and a people of God on fire for Jesus! The Holy Spirit is here in power, burning and growing and shining with brilliant light.

So, while the temporary things of the flesh here seem chaotic and weak and poor, the LORD’s passion and love for his people is indeed thriving and sending down deep and eternal roots.

Where my heart broke for the earthly conditions here, my soul is jealous of their zeal for the One who died and rose again to save us all.

GLORIA DIÓS! ALEYUYA JESÚS!

Today’s Praise
Shine like the sun,
Make darkness run and hide,
We were made to thrive!

(Lyrics from "Thrive" by Casting Crowns)


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Walking on Water


 
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 ESV)

As I was pondering the miracle of Jesus walking on the water and Peter coming to Him, it occurred to me that all who serve the LORD are walking on water.

While popular culture would have us believe that everything can be explained by “natural forces” acting over billions of years, there are miracles outside the realm of “natural” explanations all around us every day.

Kinship Christian Radio is one of those miracles.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with how this ministry all began, but it started with one man’s vision of a radio tower with the words “JESUS IS LORD” on it.

He and a number of others who saw a need for Christian radio in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa got together and prayed. None of them had any experience in radio. None of them were multi-millionaires. None of them had ever done anything like this before.

What they did not know was that the Lord was stirring more than their own hearts. Various churches and prayer groups in the area were also praying for Christian radio at the same time.

They put up their own property as collateral to finance the beginnings of what would later grow and be blessed into a ministry bringing the Word of the LORD over the airwaves to an area containing 900,000 souls.

All throughout this ministry, it has been bathed in prayer and the focus has never diverted from broadcasting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, if these people had relied on the conventional wisdom of our day, no one would have thought it possible that a radio station funded entirely by donations and based on an old farm site outside tiny Blue Earth, Minnesota, would have lasted more than a couple of years.

Almost anyone would have predicted that all involved were stepping out of the safety of their financial boats and into a howling storm that would cause them to lose everything they had and sink into the sea of bankruptcy.

They stepped out of the boat, right into the wind and waves.

Now, I wasn’t involved in the ministry back then, and I don’t know if any of them ever became terrified, but I do know they kept their eyes on Jesus and never relented from prayer.

Kinship Christian Radio Executive Director Matt Dorfner recently announced that the ministry has acquired two more translators to broadcast that Gospel message—and they are located in Elko and Bloomington, Minnesota.

With the addition of these two Metro-area repeaters, the ministry of Kinship Christian Radio will increase from 900,000 potential listeners to two million!

How’s that for walking on water?

Today’s Praise

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves


To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth


(Lyrics from “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns.)

 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

After Christmas


The after-Christmas blog can be one of the hardest to write of the year because we’re all kind of coming down from all the season brings. It’s not uncommon to draw a blank when it comes to this post.

But today they played a song on Kinship Christian radio I had not heard before. It’s called “Christmas All the Time” by Jason Bare and the words say it better than any post I could write.

(I could not find the official lyrics online, so I transcribed these directly from the song. My apologies to Mr. Bare for any errors I may have made.)

 
As I’m walking down the street,
I hear the bells of charity.
To the man in red and white,
I give my change tonight.

There’s a family at my church
and the father can’t find work,
So I give them food to eat
to get them through the week.

There’s something about the season,
that makes us care a little more,
and give more than we had before.
There are so many reasons,
to make this happen all throughout the year.

I want to love everywhere I go,
I want to touch a heart that needs hope.
Let the savior of this broken world,
live through my life.
And let me love, let me love,
Like its Christmas all the time.

In a cardboard house they lay,
men and women hope and pray,
for a warmer place to sleep.
On a snowy Christmas eve,
in the shelter line I stand,
serving those who need a hand.
And  like the gifts the wisemen bring
I’m giving everything.

There’s something about the season,
that makes us care a little more
and give more than we had before.
There are so many reasons,
that we should do this more than once a year.

I want to love everywhere I go.
I want to touch a heart that needs hope.
Let the savior of this broken world live through my life,
and let me love, let me love,
Like its Christmas all the time.

This baby born in Bethlehem,
taught us how to be a friend,
to the least of these along the way.
We need to find a need and meet it,
find a hurt and heal it,
share the Christ in Christmas every day.

I want to love everywhere I go,
I want to touch
a heart that needs hope.
Let the savior of this broken world live through my life.
And let me love, let me love,
like its Christmas all the time.

Today’s Praise
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 ESV)

 

 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Present




My wife is not buying me a Christmas present this year and I’m not buying one for her.

 
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that we’re having some kind of marital strife, let me assure you that is not the case at all.

 
Sometime just before Thanksgiving, we were asked to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

 
My first thought was, “We can’t afford that.” (Actually, that’s my first reaction to just about anything.)

 
My lovely wife and daughter will tell you that I am painfully, excruciatingly cheap.  When my daughter was younger, if she somehow cajoled me into buying lunch, I would agree only if all involved (including any friends she had along) ordered no more than three items each off the dollar menu.

 
For some reason, she found this embarrassing--even irritating.

 
You will note that I said, “my first thought” was we couldn’t afford it. After 23 years of marriage, I am now occasionally capable of not actually voicing my first thought.  The fine art of shutting up has taken me many, many years to put into practice—and I’m still woefully inept at this essential marriage skill.

 
What actually came out of my mouth was something like, “Well, if the Lord wants us to go to the Dominican Republic, we will go to the Dominican Republic.”

 
Thank you, Holy Spirit!

 
We investigated, we asked questions, we prayed about it, and we were lead to start the process.

 
One of the things I learned was that the cost was going to be about $1622. Each.

 
Now, I have been greatly blessed by the Lord, our God, and my family is not in want in any way, but I am not a rich man. To me, $3244 is a very large sum indeed.

 
Still, as I told my wife, we serve a God of abundance and if He wants us to go, He will provide what is necessary.

 
Of course, with those kinds of funds needed, some cuts to the family budget were called for. Hence, the agreement between my wife and I to not spend money on Christmas presents for each other.

 
The organization sending us provided us a sample fund-raising letter and others on the mission team gave great advice on how to go about it. I wrote the letter, we bought stamps, and my wife (an absolute master of organizational skills) developed a spread sheet mail-merge database and sent them out.

 
In all, about 75 letters went out.

 
Within ten days, friends, relatives, co-workers, and members of our church provided 97% of the amount needed—and we know there are still checks in the mail.

 
Hallelujah!

 
It’s incredible! It’s miraculous!

 
If I didn’t know God was involved, I would not have believed the response.  I am overwhelmed at the generosity shown both by the people involved and the Holy Spirit who moved hearts and souls to help us go and serve the Lord.

 
So, there’s not going to be a new power tool under the Christmas tree with my name on it this year.

 
But the gift I have is that the Lord, the King of kings, came down from His throne as a tiny baby wrapped in cloth and laid in an animal’s feeding trough.  He brought the whole world the good news that He would take away the sins of all who believe and give them the gift of eternal life!

 
Yes, the gift I have is that He has entrusted me and my wife to bring that most incredible, miraculous, beautiful message to others.

 
It’s a message we can all share this Christmas, even if we don’t travel 2400 miles to do it.

 
Today’s Praise
Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we've projected
A child in a manger?

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl
Just a child
Is this who we've waited for?


Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?


Only one did that for me.

 

Lyrics from “How Many Kings” by DownHere