Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Sickness and the Glory

by Dan Jones



This is my third day of having a fairly bad cold. I'm stuck sitting in my recliner, blowing my nose, taking various medications, and sleeping. Sometimes I watch some television, but that's pretty depressing because, well it's television. 

I can eat, but being sick is no fun. 

Doesn't God know I have things to do? Why doesn't he heal me so I can get up and... well, do something more important than sitting in a chair?

It's even hard to write when I'm sniffling all the time. My head is stuffy, and it's difficult to form thoughts any of you would want to read about.

Okay, so how about some Scripture?

This is Ephesians 1:3-14:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Now lest you think I have elected to write a blog on predestination and predeterminism, which these passages certainly mention, that is not my intent at all.

God gets the glory. 

We are rescued to the praise of HIS glory.

Yes, God loves us. Yes, he saved us because he loves us. Yes, Jesus died to save us. Yes, he could have called ten thousand angels and not died on that cross, but then where would we be? And where would be the glory in that?

I don't think we even begin to understand the magnitude of His glory. I know I don't. 

When I am sitting in that recliner all whiny and annoying because I have a minor affliction (which will almost certainly pass) maybe, just maybe, it's God's way of giving me time to reflect on who should really be getting the glory.

Today's Praise

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Acts 2: 32-33

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dan Jones

by Dan Jones

While on a recent mission trip, I noticed that my Dominican brothers and sisters were referring to me as "Dan Jones." 

Not just "Dan," but the whole name. Dan Jones. 

And it tended to all blend together into one word.

Danjonz.

Now, it is true that in their culture, pretty much no one has a one-syllable nickname. When I first told them my name was "Dan," the look on their faces was if they were waiting for the punchline. I explained that it was the same name in the Old Testament as the prophet Daniel. This was an acceptable answer, and they began calling me "Daniyel."

That lasted for maybe a couple of hours.

I even noticed that my fellow team members were calling me by full name, even when I hadn't done anything wrong.

I had some time to ponder this as I was painting the metal steps on the outside of the Altar of God Community Church and it came to me as to why this was so.

It is because of my lovely wife, but it is all my fault.

You see, I suffer from a common condition among men which I am choosing to call, "Intense Concentration Hearing Impairment" or ICHI. 

When I am doing something which requires intense concentration, say reading the back of a cereal box while eating breakfast, my brain is able to disconnect my auditory nerves so as to be able to devote my full and absolute attention to important and earth-changing questions such as discerning what part of the ingredients in Grape Nuts are actually derived from grapes. 

Or nuts.

This is an extremely valuable trait, as many times it has allowed me to ascertain the answers to questions I would have never been able to figure out, had I been born with a "normal" human brain.

For example, the answer to the Grape Nuts questions is: "None."

You're welcome.

Now, should someone (in this example, my previously mentioned lovely and treasured wife) require my attention during such an important study of packaged cereal ingredients because the furnace is making a noise like fully-loaded Peterbuilt applying the Jake Brake on a 45-degree incline, there is a totally understandable delay during the time it takes for my brain to reconnect my auditory nerves to my ears. 

As a result, prying my attention away from said cereal box requires MLW to use the following technique:

"Dan... Dan... DAN JONES!"

To which I will respond with, "Huh?"

This is such a frequent occurrence that she has learned to skip the time-wasting and redundant use of my unaccompanied first name and now exclusively uses my full name when she deems it necessary.

"Dan Jones, are you really going to wear socks with sandals?"

To which I find myself responding: "The Dominican Republic does not want to see Dan Jones's naked feet."

And, of course, other people in the general vicinity also quickly learn that this is the only effective way to garner my attention, which has now understandably lead to an entire island nation referring to me as Danjones.

One of our team members on the mission trip named "Rachel" (whom the Dominicans refer to as "Raquel") brought a large number of puppets to use in skits for the children, one of which looked like an elderly gentleman with white hair, a mustache, and glasses --and which my team members (without any hesitation or consultation on my part) instantly named "Dan Jones."

And, because Rachel is a generous and loving dear Christian woman, she taught our Dominican brothers and sisters how to use and care for the puppets. 

And then she agreed to leave many of the puppets there for them to use, including Dan Jones.

And Dan Jones is happy and blessed that Dan Jones has taken up permanent residence in the country and with the people he has grown to love. 

Today's Praise
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)










Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wattebällchenkegler

By Dan Jones

The Germans seem to have a knack for coming up with words that precisely describe aspects of life the rest of the world just doesn't have a word for.

"Schadenfreude," which means to take joy in someone else's misery, is one example many of us are familiar with. 

Another, less known example, is "vershclimmbessern" which refers to the act making something worse by trying to fix it --often with tape. 

I could see that one becoming popular in my little corner of the world. 

But one that recently caught my attention is "wattebällchenkegler," which literally translates to "one who bowls with cotton balls."

And I wonder if we don't approach our relationship with God like watteb√§llchenkeglers.

I'm not the first one to point out the incredible difference between the reaction of football fans at a game on Sunday afternoon to the reaction of a church congregation worshiping God on Sunday morning.

Just last Sunday, there were over 75,000 fans gathered in one place at one time screaming and yelling for "their" team (often at the top of their lungs) --and they paid an average price of about $5000 each for the privilege of doing so.

Granted, it was a phenomenal, amazing game, and I do not hate those who like football, but how does even a game like that compare to the God who created the universe and everything in it?

There are billions and billions of stars and planets and galaxies in that universe and He knows them all by name. He created them. He spoke them into being.

All that is and was and ever will be are His. He is amazing in His ability to create endless variety and incredible beauty and astounding complexity that is all interlinked and interconnected--including the very people who are down on that field each attempting to move a little oblong ball in the direction they desire.

And all of it is an expression of His infinite love and His magnificent, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, glorious, holy, incorruptible, perfect and almighty power.

For heaven's sake, He is God.

He burns and rages and glows with perfection so completely beyond our ability to even comprehend it that we would die at the very sight of Him had He Himself not took on flesh and died in our place to save us from our pitiful attempts to try and be like Him.

And He has said He will not be mocked and He will not share his glory with another.

So, when we begrudgingly slip five bucks in the plate and we feel all self-conscious and embarrassed to speak an "Hallelujah" or an "Amen" loud enough for even the person in the pew behind us to hear, it seems like bowling with cotton balls would be an exaggerated description of our praise.

Today's Praise

"I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols." Isaiah 42:8 (NIV)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Todopoderoso

by Dan Jones

I have just returned from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and it was glorious.

I and my team members helped construct a platform for the front of the church, we painted some metal steps at the side and the front of the church, we brought them shoes and dresses and blankets for children, we brought them 40 pounds of extension cords and a case of Spanish Bibles, and we attended a three-hour church service where the praise and worship blazed and smoldered and thundered like the top of Mt Sinai in the book of Exodus.

We put on puppet shows, taught the church members how to use the puppets, and gave them puppets. We had a team member who gave them free violin lessons. 

We did various craft projects with children and youth, including something called "The Wordless Book" which is simply squares of felt colored black, red, white, gold, and green.

We explained that the gold square represents the streets of gold in heaven where we were meant to live. The black square represents sin, when darkness and death came into the world. The red square represents the blood of Jesus, which cleanses us from sin. The white square represents the purity of that cleanliness, and the green square reminds us that we should continue to grow in Christ.

And through it all, we enjoyed this wonderful, glorious, holy relationship with our Dominican hosts. I truly felt like we were brothers and sisters (hermanos) in Christ. 

One day, a brother from the church shared a delicious cold beverage he had made himself from local sugar cane and natural ingredients. It tasted a little like ginger ale and was very refreshing. 

There was always a helping hand no matter what we did, always joy, always laughter, always love.

And this love and atmosphere of family was never more apparent than at meal times.

Dominican food is delicious and our hostess (the pastor's wife) and her crew of cocineros are fabulous cooks. There was fresh fruit at every meal, delicious juices made fresh from that fruit, hearty and healthy dishes, a few things to keep us from getting too homesick (pizza and donuts) and traditional Dominican dishes that rely on excellent flavor rather than an abundance of spice. 

Perhaps my favorite of the traditional dishes was Moro de Guandules, which is rice with an unusual bean.

The English name for guandules is "pigeon pea" and they are grown throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America in tropical and sub-tropical regions. They have a delicious, rich flavor and have been found to have an excellent, life-sustaining balance of proteins and nutrients. The plants themselves fix nitrogen and actually enhance the soil where they are grown.

Although popular over much of the world, Dominicans are especially fond of guandules and consider them a gift from God. 

One day, after yet another excellent meal which included guandules, we went to a neighborhood that just a few years ago had the reputation as the most dangerous barrio in all of the Dominican Republic. We met in a church where light shone through holes in the tin roof and the Holy Spirit was still at work poking holes in the darkness of the drug culture and saving souls nobody thought could or would be saved.

We walked through that neighborhood praying for the people there with the Pastor and some elders leading the way and six Dominican ladies (none of whom were over five feet tall) covering our backs like F-14 fighter pilots with Bibles.

As we rounded a corner, we found ourselves in the presence of some of the local drug lords. The man leading us through that neighborhood had been one of them before Jesus saved him and changed his life. 

And the drug dealers recognized him and asked us to pray for them.

So we did.

And as I pondered all that was taking place around us, one of the Spanish words that I managed to learn kept coming to mind:

Todopoderoso.

The word translates as "almighty" in English, but I think the Spanish version packs a little more "punch" as it makes me think "totally powerful."

And He is totally powerful in everything.

His love rescues drug lords from sin and darkness and certain death. His love unites and binds into family people from two different cultures thousands of miles apart. His love brings joy and love and fellowship among people who do not even share a common language. His love joins His people in praise and worship as they proclaim His glory.

And I even found His love proclaimed in the humble pigeon pea. For, you see, one of the brothers of the church had planted guandules right beside the church. And, as I was taking a break from painting the steps on that church as black as they make black paint, I noticed that when the flower of the pigeon pea first emerges from the plant it is as deep a red as the blood of Christ, but as the white light of the sun shines upon it, that flower opens to a glorious, heavenly gold. 

And from that golden flower comes a green and growing fruit that brings life in abundance.

Today's Praise

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 1:19-23 (NLT)






Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Christianity Doomed

by Dan Jones



Well, folks, it's pretty much all over but the crying.

Christianity is officially doomed as of last week. As reported by Salem Radio News on Kinship Christian Radio, The American Humanist Association wrote a nine-page letter to the Joplin, Missouri, school district officially objecting to a middle-school Bible Study where Christians were handing out...donuts.

That's right. Donuts.

So, the humanists have finally figured it out and now that we can no longer lure people to salvation with donuts, we stand about as much chance of ever converting another sinner as the Vikings have of winning a Super Bowl(r).

That's right, we got nothing.

Zero, nada, zip.

We'll never be able to lure unsuspecting people to Jesus by offering things like forgiveness, salvation, love, the peace that passes all understanding, joy, and even eternal life without first enticing them with delicious deep-fried pastries.

After all these centuries, after all the martyrs who have died, after all the songs and hymns, after all those who have dedicated their lives to Christ, after all the people who have been rescued from a lifetime of sin and misery, after all our carefully laid plans to deflect attention away from our secret weapon, the humanists have finally figured out that the true source of Christianity's life-changing appeal is donuts.

Perhaps they caught on because of the NET Bible translation of Leviticus 2:7:

If your offering is a grain offering made in a pan, it must be made of choice wheat flour deep fried in olive oil. 

(The NET Bible is the only translation that specifically mentions deep frying.)

Hopefully, an inter-denominational investigation will reveal who leaked this information and justice will be swift and sure. At the very least, who ever is guilty of this hideous breach of security should be restricted to plain cake donuts with no frosting.

Yes, you read that right. No frosting for the heretics! 

We may still have a very tiny chance of recovering from this, provided no one tells them about the coffee.

Today's Praise

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. Numbers 11:7-8 ESV








Wednesday, January 11, 2017

You Lose

by Dan Jones



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

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

He intended to plant seeds of hate.

But he lost. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, you lose, Dylann Roof.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so that the devil will lose one more time.

Today's Praise

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