Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Cross and The Sword

by Dan Jones


One of the criticisms of Christianity is that, as it is currently practiced in our culture, it's not really very masculine. In fact, there are those who say the Church in America has been "feminized."

They point to contemporary Christian music and charge that many of the songs could as easily be any sappy love song ever written with the name of Jesus substituted for the name of the girl next door. 

They long for the days when we sang, "Onward Christian Soldiers" and we were ready to march into war.

They'd like a little more sword in their faith, please.

As it happens, while these thoughts were milling around in my head, this set of verses came up:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:34-38 ESV

Now, there we have some verses with a sword in them!

It sure sounds like it's going to be an epic battle here. A man will be against his own father, conflict and battle will be within our own homes and families, and lives will be laid down for the cause of Christ. 

But, let's notice who is swinging the sword in these verses.

The speaker here is Jesus. So, it is Jesus who is swinging the sword. He is the one setting homes and families against each other, not the disciples He is sending out. 

And, while Jesus is swinging that big, macho sword, what are His disciples doing?


They're lugging a cross and following Him

It's important to note here that Jesus is giving the speech to His disciples as he sends them out to witness to the lost in Israel, before He was crucified.

He's even saying this to them before He even hinted that He would die on a cross. He is sending them out with no equipment whatsoever--not even an extra shirt or an extra pair of sandals. He tells them not to take a walking stick or even a single penny with them. He sends them out with absolutely nothing, telling them that they will be flogged and beaten and dragged into court.

But, even as He tells them how bad it's going to get, He tells them not to be afraid--because they won't need any of that stuff.

Later He will ask them when they were sent out, if they had lacked anything and they will have to admit there was nothing they needed. This is in Luke 22:35 and, in the very next verse, He tells them if they don't have a sword, they should sell a cloak and go buy one. 

They say they have two and Jesus says that is enough. (v. 38)

This is immediately before they go to Gethsemane to pray, where Jesus is arrested, and where Peter hacks off the ear of Malchus. The disciples asked if they should fight with those swords,

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51 ESV)

But what about the sword we are told to carry as part of the armor of God from Ephesians 6?

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (v.17 NIV)

The sword is the last item listed in the armor of God in these verses and it is specifically identified as the word of God, which then makes me think of this verse:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

So, as Christians, we wield a sword far more effective, far more powerful, far more awesome than anything made of iron or steel and wrought by human hands.

And, that very sword will show up again in the greatest battle of all eternity:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
(Revelation 19:11-16 NIV)

Today's Praise
Onward Christian soldiers
Marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before
Onward then, ye people
Join our happy throng
Blend with ours your voices
In our triumph song
Christ the royal master
Leads against the foe
Forward into battle
See His banners go
Crowns and Thrones may perish
Kingdoms rise and wane
But the cross of Jesus
Constant will remain
"Onward, Christian Soldiers" by Sabine Baring-Gould (Words, 1865) and Arthur Sullivan (music, 1872)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Power

by Dan Jones


For most, Thanksgiving is a holiday associated with a great abundance of food, football, and a lengthy nap on the couch.

There may even be a vague sense of gratitude that gently wafts through our turkey-induced comas like a warm, fuzzy, stuffing-scented fog.

But the thought of Thanksgiving as something exciting and powerful?

No, thank you very much, we'd rather have another helping of mashed potatoes... or some of that gelatinous cranberry goo from the can. 


Yes, God is good. Did you save room for pie?

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100: 4-5 KJV

Right, all generations. Thanks for the cheese ball, Lord.


I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30 NIV

Okay, as long as the songs are during the commercials--or at half-time. But not too loud if people are napping.

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:1-2 


Wait a minute, there's no shouting to God at Thanksgiving. Definitely no shouting, please. 

And no angels with trumpets. None of that.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but it sure seems the way the Bible describes thanksgiving and how we actually practice it are in some degree of conflict with our cultural traditions here.
 
Now, I know I'm just a lowly blog-writer and I am very sure if I went to my family Thanksgiving, stood up, and declared in a loud voice,"YOU'RE DOING THANKSGIVING WRONG!followed by erupting into the chorus of "Shout to the LORD," while shaking a tambourine, I would probably do very little to advance the cause of Christ among my relatives.


There is such a thing as "too much, too fast." 
People can change, but they usually change slowly and incrementally over time.


So, as you venture out over the river and through the woods, may the joy of the LORD fill your heart. May you shine the light of Jesus Christ for all to see. May the joy of the LORD be evident in all you do and say. May you bring laughter and warmth and joy wherever you go. May the Holy Spirit fill you to overflowing with thanksgiving and praise.

And, if you can't resist humming a few bars of some fabulous praise song during a lull in the festivities or letting a "Hallelujah" slip out at some good news imparted, well, God bless you.

Today's Praise
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
Psalm 8:1-2 NIV
  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mainstream

by Dan Jones


One of the lessons of November 8, 2016, is that the mainstream media is not infallible.

I actually heard a member of the media say during the midst of things not turning out at all like they thought they were going to turn out (and I quote) "The smarty-smart people were wrong."

Indeed, they were.

And it's certainly tempting to go off on a long lecture about the pride and arrogance of people who think they are very, very smart and the resulting humility that comes from being very, very wrong.

But that's not my purpose.

No, where I am going with this is the difference between the mainstream and the river of life. 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. Psalm 46:4 NIV


There has been much talk over the past decades of secular society, as if God can be separated and apart from certain aspects of our lives.

But if God did indeed create the earth and everything in it, the universe all around us, and every human being on this earth, how can anything be "secular" at all?

And, if we believe Jesus is real, if He really did step down from His throne and die to take away all our sins so the we would have eternal life, how could we possibly consider the eighty or so years that we spend in this temporary life anywhere nearly as important as our eternal life?

Which is why I am so very grateful that there is an alternative to the mainstream media which provides news and information, teaching, worship, and praise 24 hours per day every day of the year.

Yes, I am horribly biased in this regard, but unlike the "smarty-smart people" I will freely admit to that bias.

I think Kinship Christian Radio is an absolutely wonderful thing, and I praise the LORD God not only that it exists, but that we still live in a country where it can exist. 

As you read this, Kinship Christian Radio is holding its annual Shareathon where funds are raised from people like you so that it can continue to broadcast that river of life to thousands and thousands of people.

All it takes is a phone call to 800-810-5559 or a click on the home page http://www.kinshipradio.org/ to show your financial support. 

And while even one dollar is helpful and greatly appreciated, even more important to the ministry of Kinship Christian Radio are your continued prayers for blessing, protection, and guidance throughout the year. 

AMEN and HALLELUJAH!

Today's Praise

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1 NIV








Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Before and After

by Dan Jones

This is a tough blog to write.

What you may not know is that I write these blogs on Monday night and they are published on Wednesday. Normally, that's not a big deal because things don't change too much from Monday to Wednesday.

But this week... well, things are going to change big-time in that three-day period.

When I push that "publish" button on Wednesday, we will have elected a new president and set a course for the country that everyone will be talking about.

But I can't know what that is right now.

And then it occurs to me that no matter how it all turns out, one thing is absolutely certain:

We will have no less need of Jesus.

Whatever happens, none of the candidates running has campaigned on the promise of being our Messiah. 

Our spiritual and moral decline started long ago and our real enemy is hard at work to see that it continues.

For a moment, I contemplated great number of believers responding to the election by donning camel-hair frocks stained with dribbles of honey and bug parts and standing in the wilderness calling for the broods of vipers to produce fruit worthy of repentance.

But then Jeremy Camp's song, "The Same Power" came over the radio and the lyrics spoke a different message:


"The same power that rose Jesus from the grave 
The same power that commands the dead to wake 
Lives in us, lives in us 
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks 
The same power that can calm a raging sea 
Lives in us, lives in us 
He lives in us, lives in us

We have hope 
That His promises are true 
In His strength 
There is nothing we can’t do 
Yes, we know 
There are greater things in store 
We will not be overtaken 
We will not be overcome 

Greater is He that is living in me 
He’s conquered our enemy 
No power of darkness 
No weapon prevails 
We stand here in victory."

No matter what happens, Jesus will still be Jesus. He will be the same yesterday, today, and forever.

No matter what happens, we will need to be saltier and shine more brightly. We will need to be more set-apart, more conscious of the impression we make on those around us, more willing to share our testimony and our witness in a nation that is increasingly more intent on trusting in the "wisdom" of humanity than the wisdom of God.

We will need to be more forgiving, more willing to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. We will need to be more consoling, more encouraging, more generous, and more willing to wash feet.

We will need to be more loving.

And for that, we will need more Holy Spirit.

Today's Praise

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:17-21 NIV)