Category Archives: Figures of Influence

My Favorite Christmas Character

We act out the Christmas story with Josh’s side of the family every Christmas.  We have scripts, make-shift costumes and props, the whole nine yards.  Our girls have to take turns playing Mary because she’s “highly favored” by both God and little girls alike.  Mary has always been a favorite of mine too, though I must admit, I’ve got a new-found favorite – the dark horse, Joseph!

oa_holding_heavenLast year I taught a series called “Casting Christmas” and had great fun researching the back-story of the Biblical birth narratives.   In my research I came across an author who called Joseph a “theological nuisance.”  Is he even necessary?  Jesus really only needed Mary to be His earthly mother because He already had a heavenly Father.

Even though I disagree with this viewpoint, it inspired me to dig deeper into my research about this mysterious man that was given the position of greatest influence in Jesus’ early life.

Today I’ll just share my favorite “aha” moment with you; It’s based on Matthew 1:19,
“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Being “faithful to the law” meant a few things in this context.

First it meant that Joseph knew the Jewish laws about relationships.  When a husband suspected his wife of cheating he turned to Numbers 5.  Here the protocol is spelled out and it’s a humiliating, disciplinary procedure performed by a priest where the woman “drinks the bitter waters that bring the curse” basically subjecting herself to the consequences of her sin (assuming she has sinned).  After the lawful “bitter waters” procedure was carried out by a priest, it was not uncommon for the discipline to get out of hand with the other villagers bringing their own ‘discipline’.

The sinning woman was usually brought into a public place and made into an object lesson.  Her clothes were torn, her hair let down, her jewelry removed, and passersby (especially other women and younger girls) were encouraged to stare.  Hence the phrase in Matthew 1:19 of “public disgrace.”

Secondly, being “faithful to the law” meant that Joseph knew the second half of Deuteronomy 22 which explains the consequence of infidelity – death by stoning.

Here’s where it gets heavy. Since Mary was pregnant, Joseph couldn’t just apply the rules about “the bitter waters” because those were for suspected unfaithfulness.  Joseph didn’t just suspect her of unfaithfulness.  She was pregnant – all suspicions were confirmed!  Now he had the cold, hard truth that she had been unfaithful, or so he thought. Being “faithful to the law” meant that the expectation on Joseph as a pious Jew was to carry out the law and hand his bride over to be publicly disgraced and stoned to death.

Joseph’s tentative decision to “divorce her quietly” is, in my opinion, one of the best unsung acts of mercy in the Bible.

Mary had broken his heart. He had every right to be furious, humiliated, outraged.  He had every reason to seek revenge for Mary’s unfaithfulness.  He was lawfully justified in stoning her to death and yet two things stayed his hand – mercy and unconditional love.  He was in love with his bride and his love was without conditions.  Even though he KNEW she’d sinned against him, he chose to extend mercy to her, and to save her life because he loved her.
Imagine Joseph’s relief!   When the angel tells him to take Mary as his wife because the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the original Greek implies that Joseph immediately went out and brought Mary home as his bride.

Does this remind you of someone?

“I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the LORD.” – The words of the LORD, recorded by the prophet Hosea in chapter 2:19-20

Does someone in your life need mercy from you today?  Is there a more a grace-filled way for you to resolve a situation?  My prayer is that we can follow the examples of both Jesus’ earthly father and His Heavenly Father being a people of “unfailing love and compassion” this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!  Crystal Nachtigall

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Death is not Dying

This week, Pastor Ed Willems found this encouraging video about a mother’s message before she died of cancer. We would encourage you to watch this video and take something from it to focus on this next week, month, or year. Below is the shortened version:

If you would like to hear her whole talk and learn more about her battle with cancer, you can go to her blog:

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Making a Lasting Impact—It’s Simple.

I’ve been at Bethany for 3 ½ years and I love it here.  I love the incredible pastoral staff I get to work with.  I love the students that I minister to.  I love the volunteers I work with week in and week out in Jr. High and in High school.  I love the people in this church who make up our community of believers.

So the question is why.  Why do I love them?  What makes me care?

The answer is just as simple as the question.  Because of the relationships I have.

I have some great memories with different people here at Bethany.  Most of them are with students and volunteer staff with the youth, but there is one instance at Bethany that I’ve cherished and that I’d like to highlight.

My first week at Bethany was 3 weeks before I was hired.  I went to the first service because I was going to another church at 11am because for the first time in my entire life, I didn’t have a church family.  That morning I was really nervous.  I was also trying to be inconspicuous.  I didn’t want anyone to treat me differently because I was a candidate for the youth pastor position.  I wanted to see what the church was like as someone who just walked in.  And I’ll never forget what happened.  I was sitting near the back of the church and the lady in front of me talked to me.  And she didn’t stop talking to me.  She asked me questions about who I was, where I was from, and even told me that there was another service at a later time that probably had music that I would like a little more.  She then invited me to sit by her.

Before I came to Bethany, I went to 4-5 churches that I had heard great things about and only at two of them did someone actually talk to me. But Bev talked to me.  She instantly cared.  Now she’s on my prayer team and prays for me consistently.

Bev McDannald didn’t really do anything that was out of the ordinary.  Or maybe she did.  And maybe the fact that talking to someone who is new at our church is something that should be changed.  Make it a point to talk to people who are new, even if it makes you feel a little uncomfortable.

VBS is quickly approaching and greeters are needed.  All that’s being asked is that we talk to people and care about them. Then we talk to them again the next night when they drop off their kids.  Then on Sunday, June 17th when they come for the kids singing during service, they’ll know someone and you can talk to them again.  For me, it made all the difference.  I’m confident that it will also make a lasting impact on someone who doesn’t have a church and doesn’t know Jesus at all.  But people are needed.  Be the Bev McDannald who ends up in a blog years down the road because you cared enough to talk to someone.

Thanks Bev.  I appreciate you.

Jason Kinzel

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Joseph Kony 2012

If you have anything to do with social media, you’ll know that the biggest thing online right now is not the presidency, sports, or anything else that we pour too much time and energy into.

For the first time in quite a while, facebook and twitter are blowing up over something that is important, but it has been going on for years.  When I say years, I mean it’s been happening since I was in diapers.

If you don’t know what I’m referring to, please take 30 minutes and watch this video.

There are so many questions that I have after watching the video:

Why are we just finding out about this atrocity?

What is my role in participation?

What is our role as Christians?  As the Church?

How can he justify his actions?  Does he even have a conscience?

There are certain things in life that sometimes we want to forget about.  In all honesty, we want to “un-see” them.  Why?  There can be many reasons.  It’s because our guilt takes over.  It’s because we don’t have time to care about things that are so far away and don’t effect the way we live our life on a day-to-day basis.  It’s because we’ve exceeded our “spiritual bandwagon” things to do for the year.  It’s because it doesn’t let us be apathetic.

As American’s, our bubble is good and safe.  It’s the “American Dream”.  It’s our house, picket fence, trophy wife and kids.  Our bubble does not let things like this come in.  We push them away because they are hard and it disrupts our life.  My question is this:

What do we do when our “American Dream” is disrupted?

As a follower of Christ, I try and orient my life around things Jesus said and did.  And as I’m reading through the New Testament, I see Jesus constantly caring about those who are not able to help themselves.  I see him doing something about the injustice in the lives of people.  I see him loving those who need to be loved.

Since this video was posted, there have been just as many people critiquing this video and “Invisible Children” as there are people who want to make a change.  Just the other night, the co-founder was dealing with health issues that apparently caused him to do some things he shouldn’t have.  What they’re doing isn’t perfect.  It just isn’t.  There’s no getting around it.  This post isn’t perfect and probably has a bunch of holes in it, but are we not going to do something about this just because it’s not perfect?  If that was the case, nothing would ever get done anywhere.

So what are we going to do?  Are we going to care?  Are we going to do something?

Tim Neufeld, my advisor at FPU, posted something on his facebook in response to the video that rang true in my heart.

The problem with creating awareness about any social issue via social media is that one might think tweeting or posting about the issue makes him or her an activist, and thus alleviates any guilt over the issue…  Activism is not only changing one’s beliefs but also orienting one’s lifestyle in a way that changes the unjust system causing the issue.

A part of me wants to think that by writing this blog post, that I’ve done my part.  I’ve hopefully made more people aware of this, and now they can inform more people, and we can do what the video says, “Make Joseph Kony famous”.  But if that’s where it ends, then I drastically need to change the way I think.  Writing this post doesn’t mean I’ve done my job.  Re-posting this on facebook doesn’t mean that everything is okay and that my conscience can be cleared because I did my part.

Writing something or saying something is great.  It is.  But it can’t stop there.

We have to do something.

We also have to pray.  We have to pray for these kids who are being forced to kill their parents.  We have to pray for these kids who don’t want to sleep because they are scared.  We have to pray for this evil man, that a miracle happens and that he stops.  We have to pray that we don’t become apathetic, and that we will in fact, do something.

Jason Kinzel

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Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow.  Unless you have been living under a rock (or don’t watch any TV) you know that he is one of the biggest names not only in sports, but in the social media as well.  While Tebow is the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, he is also a Christian who consistently proclaims his faith with boldness.

If you watch ESPN (like I do) you’ll know that people either love or hate Tebow.  Shows like “Sports Nation” talk about Tebow almost every episode and it shows that most fans love him because he is a competitor and because he knows how to win football games. However, many people believe that he will not even be a quarterback next year in the NFL due to his lack of consistency in throwing the ball. For huge sports fans like me, here is a fun stat to support this belief: during the regular season, his passer rating, was the 28th best passer rating, which is the equivalent to being in the bottom 15% of throwing quarterbacks.

As far as the media goes, he is the person to talk about.  He was recently voted the “Most Popular Active American Athlete” by an ESPN sports poll. Because of Tim, many people are now participating in the act of “Tebowing”.  What is “Tebowing”?  According to, it is “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”  There are thousands of people who are “Tebowing”.  High school students in Long Island even got suspended for “Tebowing” because they would be “Tebowing” in the hallways between classes, making it difficult for other students to get to class. Actions like “Tebowing” have caused Tebow to be referenced recently in a Saturday Night Live skit where “Jesus” suggested that he “take it down a notch” in regards to how he always speaks openly about his faith.

            With all of that said, it is easy to see that Tim Tebow is making a profound impact on the world. Whether you love or hate him, something exciting happened.  To start you should know that Tebow’s favorite verse is John 3:16, which his black eye tape referenced in college. John 3:16 also seemed to be the theme of his first playoff start. In the game, not only did he complete 316 yards of passing, but the offensive coordinator who was calling the plays was named John, his receiver who caught the final touchdown pass was born on Christmas, in the final quarter the overnight TV rating was 31.6, the only interception was thrown by the other quarterback was on 3rd down and 16 yards, and lastly, four of the referees were named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Because of this people all over Twitter and Facebook began talking about the “coincidence” or “divine help” and were wondering if God helped Tebow and the Broncos win the game.  But that wasn’t the only thing.  The best thing that happened was that by Monday morning the number one Google search was John 3:16.  That means that hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions read these words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life”.  Now I don’t actually think that all of those people accepted Christ because of this, or even that 1% did, but Tim Tebow is planting seeds in the lives of millions of people.  He was blessed with a gift and he is using his gift to glorify God in everything he does.

You might be able to tell by now that I am a big Tim Tebow fan.  There are few players in sports who are as compelling to watch as him.  Not only that, but there are even less sports figures who claim to be followers of Christ that live it out.  I know I will never be able to play in the NFL and will probably never have the type of platform that Tebow has to speak into the lives of people everywhere, but I pray that I will use the platform I do have every single day to impact as many lives as I can.

Pastor Jason Kinzel

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