What is the Church, or where is the Church? Both of those are loaded questions. Of course, they both have simple answers. We are the Church, those of the Way, born new through Christ. Its location is the gathering of those of the Way. These are the prominent answers of the western church, and although they are correct, they are also far from right.
i could spend hours writing out the answers, but the problem with the western church is our answers. They are too theological and represent vast knowledge but lack simple wisdom, in the sense that the people who need to know don’t want that theological answer. They want simple, not for lack of intelligence but because they lack interest, and they aren’t coming to the Church to find out. What they see, doesn’t match what they are told, so what hope is there in that? Why would they want to be apart of something steeped in hypocrisy?
When i moved into my little apartment, my new neighbor and i struck up a friendship. We will sit out on our shared deck and talk about life. One day he shared his passion for pool. He once upon a time was a ranked semi-pro pool player and participated in a U.S. Amateur Open Pool Tournament; he owns a million pool cues!
One Sunday i was headed to Church and then to drive. It would be my first Sunday in town in some time as i have spent many weekends on the road between here and Colorado with my family during my mom’s final performance this side of heaven. i was going to try a local Church out but as i was returning from a morning walk with my ride or die, Shiloh, he is a six-year-old mini-Aussie, and perhaps the coolest dog on the planet. Anyway, as i was entering my apartment, my neighbor was exiting his. “Hey, I am going to Bugz’s to shoot some pool, do you want to go?” Now for those who don’t know, Bugz’s is a bar/casino.
At first, i started to make an excuse for why i couldn’t go. After all, it was Sunday; one doesn’t go to a bar on a Sunday and definitely not to shoot pool! But something grabbed my tongue, and i ended up saying, “Yes, i will meet you there in a few.” And so i did. He shot pool while i pushed balls around with a stick. He showed me some ways to hit and plan and see the table as a whole, each shot, although, individual, is part of a greater plan. Even if you mess up, there are ways to redeem your previous shot. Don’t waste opportunities and sometimes the easiest shot is not the one you take, defense can be a good strategy, don’t slam your stick on the table, sorry, pool cue.
We talked about a lot of things around that pool table. Life, current events, Jesus, each moment was blessed. It reminded me of something; This is the church. It is living in community. It isn’t a place or a building or a set time. It is lived in the heart of the believer and pours out in moments of time, every encounter, every conversation, each relationship. Jesus in me, Jesus through me, because Jesus is for me.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
i am not discouraging the assembling together of the saints. i am a firm believer in that! The Church should gather in groups to share life and worship. But as i have written previously, the Church cannot just be a building; it is not a set time; it is every moment, every encounter, every decision. Choose to be the Church today, love the unlovable, show mercy and grace, walk humbly.
The title is not just clickbait, i did actually spend the evening with a “professional” prostitute; actually, i am not sure how she would title her profession, but you get the idea. i guess i should explain how we met before you all jump to conclusions, as is human nature. i picked her up in my car off the street, well it was a parking lot, her and her little dog, a Yorkie, super cute and i think she liked me, still talking about the Yorkie. Just to make it easier to read, let’s give my new friend a name, let’s call her Elaine. If anyone has ever watched Seinfeld, you might get that reference. Elaine jumped right into the car . . .
Elaine: “hey, baby, how’s your day?”
me: “i am good, staying busy! How’s your day going?”
Elaine: “****! They were supposed to have my order ready to pick up, but it’s not ready. It will be later today, they say. I don’t have anywhere to go, and I can’t just wait here so I am going back to my hotel.”
me: “Well, that’s a bummer. Although, you are at the second-best hotel in town.”
Elaine: “Best! Hotel in town, have you layed in there beds?”
me: “Can’t say that i have. i am guessing you like their beds?!”
Elaine: “Yes, I have a great bed at home, but I think theirs just might be more comfortable than mine!”
We continued to talk about life, as i do with everyone i pick up, and i pick up a lot of people. Elaine was my first . . . how do i say this without sounding disparaging? Um, an escort or just prostitute? At this point, i was yet unaware of her profession, however. In fact, we reached her hotel, i was preparing to drop her off when she propositioned me.
Elaine: “I don’t know if you can do this but would you be willing to pick up my special order when it’s ready and bring it to me?”
me: “Well, i suppose, but i can’t promise that i will be available to do it, i might be busy.”
Elaine: “Oh, it’s ok, baby, there’s no rush. You would just be saving me round trip fare. Besides, I would much rather pay you.”
me: “Ok, that’s fine, i would be glad to do it.”
Elaine: “Give me your number, sweety, so I can text you when it’s ready.”
At this point, we exchanged numbers, and i waited for her to text me that it was ready to pick up. The rest of the day passed, i drove till 1:30 am. No text.
The next day . . . or as it was 1:30 am when i stopped, later that day, i did receive a text. Her item was ready, she had contacted the store and changed the name to mine, and i went and picked it up. i met her where i had dropped her off the day before. She handed me some money for my trouble, a sweet smile, and a “thank you.” i responded with the typical response of, “you’re welcome,” and i drove away. i was still oblivious to what she did for a living. She was to me just a sweet lady, who needed help with picking up an order, and i am a helpful guy.
Fast forward to 8:07 pm the same day as the item drop off.
Text Message from Elaine:
Elaine: “Hey CJ, I have two questions for you… First of all, are you free tonight? Ps – thank you again for picking up my order the other day btw.”
me: “i can be whats up And you are welcome”
Elaine: “Thanks.. I could use someone to drive me but to Gillette… Yes, I know. But I’ll pay cash upfront (when you pick me up..)
me: “Wyoming? 😳 i could do it tomorrow but the turn around tonight i just don’t think i could do it.”
Elaine: “Okay. I have a ride tomorrow but I also have someone who wants to see me tonight which would be lucrative and worth it for me to find a ride.”
(This was my first clue, but i shook it off, telling myself, “don’t project that onto anyone.”)
me: “How much are you thinking?”
Elaine: “200? You tell me.. Plus gas..”
me: “i am in the middle of a delivery and i will need to go home and let my dog out When did you wanna leave?”
Elaine: “Ok… Let me confirm with my client. Hang on..”
i thought to myself, “maybe she is a masseuse or something, late-night clients, though?” i wasn’t so much confused as i was just hoping that it wasn’t what i was thinking. At this point i prayed, “Lord, i don’t know what is going on here but if you want to use me in this situation, first, help me not to miss what you are doing. Second, help me not to screw up what you are doing. Lastly, help me to be faithful to You, in Jesus name . . . amen.”
Elaine: “Okay, so they flaked. I hate when that happens. Sorry to bug ya.”
me: “No worries”
Elaine: “Thanks for being kosher…. “Ya .. I thought I had something going on here. But it turns out I don’t. So it got a little happy when I’m had a prospect even though they were in Gillette!”
me: Always kosher and happy to help out . . . The world needs more nice people
Elaine: “Amen! “I find that people really suck more times than not “I don’t understand what’s so hard about doing what you say? Why say it to begin with! #facepalm
“well I don’t know what you have going on or what your home life is like butt if you would like to grab a drink at some point this evening I -evidently- am free and would like to.
At this point, i paused, “Lord, this is a terrible idea! And yet i believe you put me here, in this situation, on purpose. So, give me grace, give me wisdom, give me strength. In Jesus Name . . . amen.” i then agreed to meet her, and i did. We went to one of the billion casinos that Billings has, and she won $160—some luck. We eventually talked about her profession. i asked if i could ask her questions. She agreed. We talked about why? She was very candid with her response. It boiled down to money. i attempted to express that life was more than money and “things” (possessions). As we walked her dog, i invited her to my blog . . . she would later text me for the information again, and i sent her a link. i have no idea what she is thinking. There is a good chance she is reading this right now! And if (YOU are), i hope that i did not offend you, “Elaine,” and i meant every word i said to you. You are loved!
In sharing the following verse, i am in no way elevating myself to Jesus. However, Jesus, through us, should encourage us to do and be and go and serve and love . . .
36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (New King James Version).
This morning my downstairs neighbor told me she thinks we have a rodent between the floors because when i am gone, she can hear gnawing. “When you leave that rodent comes out and gnaws on wires or something for hours,” i suggested it may be Shiloh, my mini Aussie, gnawing on his bone, he has two really yummy bones; not that i would know, they just look yummy. Anyway, she did not agree. Growing up, we lived in several apartments. One thing about them is everything, every noise, anytime you drop even a pin; it’s like setting off an atomic bomb or something. Knowing this i attempt to walk softly and minimize my clumsiness. When Shiloh does enjoy his bone, he uses his paw to press it firmly to the floor so that he can, well, gnaw on it. i am fairly certain this is the rodent.
my bike was stolen from my porch or deck or landing, whatever it’s called. i was away, you know if you have read any of my previous posts, at my parent’s home. When i returned, it was the first thing i noticed. It had a tire lock on it and a flat tire, so i am not sure how they managed to run off with it, but one thing is for sure, they did not ride off into the sunset. i hope they needed it, Jesus said, if someone steals your coat, give them your tunic as well. Basically, a tunic is a shirt, so if someone steals your coat, give them your shirt as well. In this instance, i should probably put a sign on my deck that says, “here is the key to the lock on the bike you stole.” Maybe add a footnote, “thanks for being my final excuse not to ride it.”
my apartment is so tiny it is like a studio; only it has a wall between the bedroom and the living room. i lived in a very small apartment when i first moved to Wasilla, AK. It was two bedrooms and although the square footage is probably not much more than this place . . . it now feels like a mansion in comparison. Have you ever seen the sketch, Joe’s Apartment? i am not recommending it, i just remember bits of it from my younger years. i don’t even know what the premise was except that Joe, the guy living in the apartment, had made a bond with the many roaches residing with him. Except for the fact i keep my home clean, and i don’t have roaches, and my name isn’t Joe, it’s basically the same thing. Although, it does appear that i have at least one R.O.U.S. that comes out when i leave. So who knows maybe a T.V. Show in the works, “cj’s apartment.”
Why am i telling you these random things? Well, here goes; You never know what life is growing to throw at you. One minute, a family, a big house, and the next . . . um, not, that. One could easily give up, some do, but the story doesn’t have to end there or here. Each day, every moment really is another opportunity to see the good, to choose joy, to do what is just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. A lot of introspection has and is going on in my tiny apartment. i suspect that will continue for some time. The one constant in my life, Jesus, i know He will always be with me. His mercy is new every morning, and His love is sure.
Here is a final note, don’t put your hope and your joy and your worth in possession, or influence, or others, YOUR WORTH is in knowing the LORD and in His presence, period.
“”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34 ESV
my mom died today. How does one say that simply, without sounding callous? Really, just her body died as her spirit lives on. And although i said, goodbye, i also said, see you later.
Some say that faith in God or any god, for that matter, is a waste of time. Or they will say, “whatever helps you cope.” For those of us with faith, believing in the Great I Am, there is a comfort that comes when a fellow believer passes, even if that person is family, in my case i call her mom. So yes, it does help us cope. However, it’s so much more than that as well.
my mom’s joy is her testimony, as i wrote previously (see here). Her joy through tragedy in her own life. This has been my witness of my mom. It’s a lesson learned. She also taught us to fight, to not give up, and to get up each time you get knocked down, just keep getting up. She’s known for singing, and one song comes up every time in family discussions, “I Woke Up This Morning Feeling Fine.” She taught herself the piano and played by ear. Whenever there was a piano, which was often, you would hear her play, and without fail, this song echoed down the halls.
That is the assurance that comes in knowing Jesus. It’s unexplainable, but the peace, the comfort, the joy, the hope, the knowing . . . it’s amazing. For those that feel this is just a way to cope than so be it. For those of us, that know . . . It’s everything.
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13 ESV
i recently visited a gated community with twenty-four-hour manned security. You had to have credentials to enter the community. Do you live there? If not, you have to be on the “list.” In order to live in this community, you need to pay and pay a lot i am sure! i can’t imagine the homeowners association costs, they had a pool with lifeguards, tennis courts, trails, and a park, the upkeep alone on those things is enough to send the HOA costs through the roof, not to mention the twenty-four-hour manned guard shack. Now factor in the cost of the home! Folks actually live like this! i felt like such a peasant when i was there like i should be bowing and saying things like, “your majesty,” or “yes, my lord.” But everyone in that development paid to be there and paid a lot. To get on the “list,” which is temporary, you have to have a reason, and someone has to have told the gate guard you were coming, they had to put you on the “list.” But again, it was only temporary; only residents were allowed to stay, those that paid to be there.
The Kingdom of heaven will be even greater than this housing development. What about the cost? It is also very high. However, that price has already been paid. You just need to get your name on the list, and this list isn’t temporary. Who paid the price for us? Well, Jesus. Why? Well, love, that is the answer He loves you, me, us, so much, He paid the price for us to live in the Kingdom. So how do we get on the list? The book of Romans says; “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:13) It is believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. Peter is recorded as saying this in the book of Acts, written by Luke. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Peter was quoting Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
Why the need? There is an issue of sin that needs to be dealt with, and it goes all the way back to the garden and the beginning of time recorded in Scripture. We are all born into sin, for which we become accountable when we reach an age of understanding. It is at this point a price is required. Either you attempt to pay for it yourself, which is impossible, or you call on the one who paid the price for you already.
my mom is on the list. She has called upon the name of the Lord. She dedicated her life to His service. When she arrived at the gate, the guard opened it and welcomed her home. i am thankful for this assurance. Although i will miss my mom, and i will miss her, that is temporary! For this wasn’t a goodbye, it was a see you later! Thanks to the blood of Jesus.
You, too, can have this assurance. If you don’t already, comment below or send me a message depending on where you see this, and i will gladly answer any questions you might have. You are so so loved. But let me stress this, everyone serves something, what is it that you serve? A system, a government, money, fame, etc. Joshua (In the book titled after him, the 6th book of the Bible) at the end of an epic speech says this; “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
The difference will be simple; it’s either “goodbye” or “see you later.”
To my mom, “i will see you later!” To you, i hope for the same.
my mother is dying. Six months, that’s the best the doctors think. Being a pastor i have sat with countless families as they have said goodbye to a loved one. i have been there to support, pray with/for, encourage, and cry with them. i have helped with final arrangements, from just giving ideas to even taking on the full planning of a funeral for those who just didn’t know or couldn’t plan it themselves. Now here i am with my mom, and its as if i am completely clueless. my brother has taken on the significant role of caretaker during these days of home hospice, nurses do come in, a few days a week, to check on things, but the day to day care, my brother has taken on, and all i can say is WOW! He amazes me. Again, i am clueless, i can’t even think of what to do. my sister is here as well, and she has stepped right in, and i just sit back . . . oh, i do some, when asked, or the task is obvious.
Did i mention that i have sat with many a family in this very situation and have had the whereabouts to know what, how, when, where, to do, and or give support. It’s like i am frozen here. i feel helpless, and it makes me feel selfish because the only one here who is genuinely “helpless” is my mom. Stuck in bed, dependent on her family and a team of nurses. i have tried and will continue to try and do all that i can, i am trying to change my mindset, move in different ways, trust more, pray more, be more . . . aware?!? Is that the right word? i don’t know. i want to honor her the best i can, for she has been the joy and inspiration of the family.
The commandment in scripture to “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) is actually in reference to older or elderly parents, of course, the principle can also be applied to children and their parents. Although we mostly refer to it in the latter, it definitely is more the former. i stated above, i want to desperately honor my father and certainly now more than ever my mother in these final days. i believe that i have done a fair job to this point of my life, but at the same time, i think of all the times i fell short in this area. my mom would say if asked, that she is proud of me. That makes me happy, but i wonder, is it warranted? Have i earned it?
Jesus didn’t, nor does He expect us to earn His forgiveness. He gave freely of Himself on the cross to make us righteous and holy. What a gift! There is a song by Steffany Gretzinger called, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” WOW! What a powerful song and a fantastic voice! The opening lines of the song are so powerful; the song opens like this: (i will link to a video of the song at the bottom)
“If my heart could tell a story If my life would sing a song If I have a testimony If I have anything at all
No one ever cared for me like Jesus His faithful hand has held me all this way And when I’m old and gray and all my days are number on the earth Let it be known, in You alone My joy was found Oh my joy, my joy
Let my children tell their children Let this be their memory That all my treasure was in heaven and You were everything to me
This song is my mom. This has been her testimony, and it has been my challenge. i can’t listen to this song without getting lost in memories where my mom’s joy filled the air. She has been the bedrock of our family, the glue if you will, and she did it all with joy. And that joy was founded in her faith in Jesus. Her legacy, her testimony, can be found in this song by Steffany Gretzinger, and i am glad that i stumbled upon it. i hope that it blesses you and challenges you as much as it has me. i pray this becomes my testimony as well, for no one ever cared for me like Jesus . . . and Jesus, through my mom, is her testimony. May Jesus, through me, be mine.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
i have been attending church for my entire life. my grandfather was a pastor, evangelist, author, conference superintendent, and for a time was the director of interracial evangelism from 1956-1964. The family, my parents, and siblings traveled and sang in Church’s growing up, i went to camps, retreats, advances, and conferences. In my introduction, i talk about how i have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the church, and i choose to love her anyway. This is still true. i do love the church and will always love the church and do all i can to serve her. However, i am bidding the westernized church a farewell. It has become an institution, in my opinion, and it has left the ideals of Christ for a capitalist mindset, and i can’t take it anymore. Over twenty years in fulltime ministry with various experiences within the church as pastor, teacher, evangelist, and when i needed them, they wanted to know when they would get their money. Well, the check is in the mail.
When the concern for ones well being is superseded by money, or persuaded by gossip, that is a clear indicator that things have gone astray. (Let me be clear it wasn’t the whole church, some individuals clearly cared for me and desired for my well being even giving of themselves to help). That is what the “church” is supposed to be, yet when money is at stake, it is that issue that takes center stage, and that is just sad. i recently drove past a church that was building a new facility. A large sanctuary. i wondered for what? An hour a week, two at best. Maybe multiple services, but even still, is that genuinely justifiable? The amount of money that goes into a new build for minimal use could go for so much more. What about a rehab center? A homeless shelter, transitional housing, a halfway house? Oh, but where will we meet? How will we collect money to pay the bills and upkeep on the buildings we use once or twice a week or on craft day? How about VBS we have to have VBS! Where will all those children go?
Here’s the reality. The church is only a priority when it’s not hunting season, football, NASCAR, or whatever other sport happens to be on when Sunday rolls around. i use to get frustrated with such things, but now i think, “where could true organic ministry have happened?” Certainly not in the stale hollows of a building where gossip prevails. Or the woah is me attitude that permeates the fellowship with spiritual neediness, or should i say greediness? Yes, spiritual greediness is huge in the “church.” i am not being fed, i don’t like the music, why didn’t i get a hand out when you passed out food? The sermons are too long. i can’t anymore with this mindset, let them have their tired old established religion, just give me Jesus.
The above letter received is just one example of the attitude within the church today. By the way, many of the parents would say that their children loved the services. Which i find rather amusing, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “let the little children come and do not hinder them.” Jesus had a heart for the youth and i believe He knew, “better get them while they are young because the older they get, the lazier they are in their faith.” It’s sad, but oh so true. To the last point in the letter above, “people will likely stop attending.” This veiled threat is tiresome, please, for all that is holy, stop attending!” But, really, i am actually for the reverse or opposite now, let these selfish people have the dusty building and let the true church step out and be the church, for it isn’t in a building.
i am starting a Bible study in my home in the coming weeks. In so doing we that gather will have the fellowship that the Word encourages, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) We will also be able to encourage one another on to love and good deeds without the worry of financing a building. We will be taking our meals together as the early church did in Acts, and we will bathe each other in prayer. In fact, i have had a more organic ministry in the last two months than the previous two years, that is for sure. In fact, i would even say that it has been more simple, more faithful to the Word, than perhaps much of the ministries i have been apart of where a board reigns, money dictates, and a building governs.
i believe it is critical that we begin to do this more and more! The church in western culture is a waste of time and space! And to the final part of the verse in Hebrews, “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This is now, if you can’t see the Day is drawing near, then you probably have taken offense to this post, and to that i simply say, i am sorry. However, i only write what i am inspired to write, and i am only governed by the will of the Spirit of God, the one who reigns from on high.
When i was younger, teenage, i smoked. i did so for several years. One day i decided to stop, and i did! i know for a lot of people quitting didn’t come so easily, or it’s still a struggle for them to this day. i get it some because quitting other things has been a struggle for me. Social Media, for instance. i have wanted to unplug from social media for some time, and so during this present time in my life of transition, in basically every area of my life, i decided now is the time. However, given my knowledge that it was not going to be easily done, i took it step by step. First, i deactivated and deleted Snapchat, and Instagram, followed by Facebook and most recently Twitter. Wow! What a difference it has made in how i socialize, how i view the world, how i view other people!
So i don’t have a choice but to give you the same advice. Unplug and tune in . . . Tune in to what is around you without the influence of others telling you what you should think about it. i justified my thoughts on Social Media because i wanted to see the news of the day without watching the news of the day because quite frankly, the news on TV is terrible and mostly not true. How do i know it’s not . . . Well, for the last 2 months i have been seeing things with my own eyes, having conversations with people directly in touch with or involved in or a part of . . . and then drawing conclusions with my own mind and guess what; things are not as bad as we are being told.
Oh, sure, things are bad. Life is hard! i know this, the virus is real, it is taking the lives of family and friends, not mine, praise the Lord. However, even with that, so does a lot of things, my mom for instance is in a fragile place currently as she battles cancer. In the case of this virus, things just aren’t adding up. It took me unplugging and tuning in to discover for myself. i still get news from all sources. i watch news clips without the talking heads. Read articles and read between the lines and passed the clear bias of the author, hate and fear are powerful bias’. Do you know what else i do? i have conversations with people and simply ask non-threatening questions like, “interesting perspective, i hadn’t heard that, what do you think about that based on what you have seen?” WOW, the responses i think even shock the one saying it. It is a simple tool to get people to “think critically,” which is a lost form of thinking with the way the news is now told to us rather than reported. There is a vast difference between the two!
Wanna know how i think Jesus would report the news or tell a story? Well, i don’t have to tell you what i think, i will point to what i know in Scripture. John 1:39, “Jesus said, ‘come and see.’ . . . Now i know, one, this isn’t the full verse, and two, Jesus was referring to where He lived when asked, but still, this answer resonates with authority, “COME AND SEE!” Later, Philip says to Nathanael nearly the same thing, “Come and see for yourself.” This is a lost practice in our culture and that of the world, really. We no longer see things for ourselves, but instead, we listen to what we are told without question. We need to stop, unplug, and tune in. In other words, we need to “Go and See for ourselves.”
He said, “sit,” and he sat. He said, “lay down,” and he laid down. He said, “roll over,” and he rolled over. He said, “beg,” and he sat up, leaned back slightly with his paws up as he looked longingly into his master’s eyes. He said, “BANG!” And he fell back and played dead. It is amazing what you can teach a dog to do. And these are just simple tricks. i have seen some dog acts where i think the dogs are part human or something. Dogs are trained to help police, military, the blind, and disabled, they are used as emotional support animals in hospitals, and homes. They are remarkable animals. They are always happy to see you, no matter how long you have been gone, 10 seconds, 10 hours, or 10 days. Even 10 months or more! i have watched some emotional videos of soldiers coming home after deployment, and their dogs go absolutely insane with joy. “Dogs, a man’s best friend,” that is what they say anyway.
i have had a few dogs in my lifetime. None could do many tricks. Shake, sit, and lay down, simple commands were about it. You know what most of them could do, though? Get into the trash, relieve themselves in the house, bark at nothing, dig up the yard, shed all over the house more fur than could possibly be imagined, and yet they never went bald, if i were only so lucky. Yet in all of this, they were loved, correction quickly forgotten, and belly rubbings promptly reinstated. Why all this for a dog? Loyalty, that is really the only word i can come up with, loyalty. Dogs are loyal to the very end. It is what makes forgiving them so easy. If only we were able to forgive others as quickly if only others were so loyal.
The parable of the Prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32 tells a tale of a greedy and ungrateful son. He wanted his inheritance while his father still lived. His father obliged. After squandering his inheritance, he found himself destitute and wishing he could even just eat like the pigs. But not even that was offered. He reasoned to go home where his father’s servants had food to spare. Determined to seek his father’s forgiveness and beg to be treated like one of his servants, he set out for his former home. What greeted him, he was not prepared. His father gave him the best, returned the family ring, and killed the fatted calf in celebration for his son, who was dead, was now alive again. Not dead in the physical sense but gone in the emotional sense had returned humbled by life with sorrow in his soul.
Jesus goes on in this story to relate it to how our Heavenly Father looks at us. We are not dogs, trained to do this or that, but we are dogs that even when we mess up, love is just behind the correction. Forgiveness awaits the sorrowful, repentant heart. Never be so proud to come home, never feel so lost that you can’t seek the Father. The Lord, who loves you, waits eagerly for you, He is watching the horizon for a glimpse of your approach. When He sees you, He runs to meet you, love you, and celebrate your return! Come to Jesus! Come back to Jesus! He longs to have mercy on you.
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied Him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?'” Malachi 2:17
This looks and sounds a lot like what we have today in our culture. It is in fact what is warned about in Isaiah 5:20 That in the last days. . . “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And not just in the Old Testament writings but also in the New. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3 And in 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” There are so many more, but i will only add one last warning from Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Have we as a culture wearied the Lord by watering down His grace because we have removed judgment? Rather than wrestle with challenging topics, we simply say, “God is love.” There is no denying that, seems a legitimate way to end an argument. However, it is a false hope for without judgment, there is no grace, and without repentance, there is no hope for mercy. As history always does, it is repeating itself again. i worry that as a culture, and by that i mean Christian Culture, that we are wearying the Lord with our acceptance of evil as good or just our lack of ability to call evil, evil by saying, “God is love.”
Our battle, as written in Ephesians 6:12 (quoted below in the ESV), is one in which the ruler of this world, Satan, fighting for our heart in an epic spiritual battle that attempts to deceive us into believing the lie, “Did God really say . . .?”
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.“
Awake! God is not mocked! Sanctify yourself and work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You are loved so much that God, through Jesus Christ, made a way for us to enter into the holiness of God; Even still, we are being called to be holy by a holy God.
Johann Sebastian Bach – 1685-1750 – Known as one of the greatest composers of all time drew much of his influence from classic hymns of his day using them to write Cantatas for the Lutheran Church as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. His work, of course, far more reaching than this still drew from his religious roots. As in the case of many great musicians and composers, his work was never truly finished, as displayed in his latter days, he spent most of his time coping, transcribing, expanding or programming music in an older polyphonic style until his death. Great work is never truly finished; there is always room for the master to tweak and expand.
Our life is much like a symphony that the Lord is writing. Each life is unique, gifted, and beautiful in its own way and never truly finished until the day one hears, “well done, good and faithful servant.” For many of us putting on the new self is a one time deal and then we are just marking time. We sit impatiently waiting in the quiet ticking of a hand-less clock, for the Lord’s return. We were not created to sit stagnant in time waiting; rather, we were created for such a time as this! Each day when we wake up, the day is half over. “There was evening, and there was morning . . .” This is how time is recorded in Scripture; Sunset marks the beginning of a new day. While the world sleeps, God is busy laying out His will for us. He has been setting things up and now in the middle of the day asks us to join Him. Our lives are His masterpiece. Until we cross over to the other side, we are a work in progress of the Thomaskantor.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,[a] both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11
So, stop thinking you are perfect or that you need to be perfect. Stop thinking there is nothing you can do or there isn’t anything to do. Stop thinking you are useless, or washed up, or worn out. And start asking the Lord, what are You up to today, Lord? What work do you have for me to do, inwardly and outwardly?