Moments in which you are given the opportunity to self evaluate need to be taken like you are making cold brew. Coffee that is cold brewed is steeped for 24 hours. Whereas a coffee pot or perk, even a pour-over are relatively instant . . . of course there is instant, but is that even coffee? In brewing cold brew coffee, you use a filter of some sort, like a teabag, and let the coffee grounds sit in the coffee. That’s it. There is no real secret: filter, coffee, cold water, and 24 hours.
In your moment of self-evaluation, you will need just a few things. A good filter, i would suggest you use the Word; everything in your life should be filtered through Jesus and God’s Word. You will need coffee, the substance, the experience, the action, the situation that is being evaluated. You will need cold water, clear your mind of distraction. Finally, you will need time; you should never rush but consider everything in order to get an accurate evaluation.
The Word will keep you honest. Life is life, and there is nothing new under the sun. God already knows, so lay out your life bare as you evaluate it. You will be distracted, you will be challenged, and you will want to walk away if you are really taking the evaluation of your life seriously. Therefore it will take time, time to clear your mind, time to remove distractions, and time to sit and listen.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God . . .” It is an excellent place to start as you sit in the counsel of the Word. Be still before the Lord and know that He is God, that He already knows, and He cares for you. Psalm 1:2 says, “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.” The Word, although difficult at times, to understand, to follow, to take in, should still be delighted in. You should meditate on all of it, and as you read it in order to filter your life through it if you find something in it that is disagreeable to you . . . i can assure you, you are the one that is wrong and not the Word of God.
That is part of self-evaluation that nobody likes. The part in which, as one’s life is laid bare before God and His Word, there is no doubt conviction. That conviction isn’t intended to harm, but to grow you. Every situation in life is a learning opportunity to learn and grow. It can be very uncomfortable and feel very lonely; these two things are why many refuse even to attempt self-evaluation. Psalm 4:4 says, “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” It is in these moments, pure, open, honest moments, that life is found, and growth can happen.
Psalm 19:14 “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
“The End is Near! Repent and Believe in the Name of Jesus!” i can see the apocalyptic signs now. You know the ones in all the movies about calamity and destruction. Of course, they are always portrayed as the morons, even if there is significant destruction. There was a street preacher the other day on a major intersection in Billings. He was standing on a ladder, he had a microphone, and his message was, “repent!” It got me to thinking and that is always a dangerous thing.
Way back in January, i had been watching the “YouTube” fringe news, and as i did, i became aware of the impending pandemic, even as many in the mainstream either didn’t report it or said there is nothing to see here. i began to stock up on things just in case. Not in an alarming way and not all at once, just a little here and a little there is all. i told those close to me, “hey, it might be nothing, but better safe than sorry.” i also mentioned some other things, and those things, although without fanfare, did come about as well.
i am not Nostradamus, i don’t pretend to know the future; however, i think 2021 is about to tell 2020, “Hold my Beer!”
i have a gut feeling i am not the only one who thinks this way. i also have a feeling that as others become more vocal, we will be portrayed, like the movies, as morons, kooks, and extremists. They will say things like, “how many times has the world almost ended since 2000? Remember Y2K? And who could argue? We have been desensitized and, in a sense, programmed to react this way. But even this is prophetic.
“knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.“” 2 Peter 3:3-4 ESV
i am simply writing this to say, stay alert, stay vigilant, stay in the word . . . And it wouldn’t hurt to maybe stock up on things like water, non-perishable foods, vitamins, and some paper products. Be smart. Have a plan. If 2020 is any indication, 2021 is going to be a wild ride, and i have a feeling we aren’t long for the Trumpet blast.
“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:50-52
i was recently eating at a restaurant where they served chips and salsa. i love good chips and salsa, but who doesn’t, right? Anyway, as i anticipated the chips and salsa arriving at my table, i was hoping they would be warm. Why? Because that would indicate that they had been in the warmer and, therefore, would be crispy. Interestingly, last night i was out at a restaurant that served bread before the meal, again i found myself hoping that the bread would arrive warm. Why? Because that would indicate that they had ensured that freshness by warming it.
Have you ever had a slightly stale chip or piece of bread? A stale chip can be a little soft, whereas a stale piece of bread can be a bit firm or hard—the remedy for both heat. If you put the chip in the oven for a bit, it will crispen up . . . whereas the bread, if done correctly, will soften. Both will taste fresh again. A warm chip dipped in salsa is as heavenly as a warm piece of bread that melts the butter as you spread it on.
The Christian life can be much the same thing. Believe it or not. We can find ourselves stale, in a place where we are too soft, or we have grown to firm or hard. Both positions are not good or healthy. And just like chips and bread, the solution to our problem is heat. How many worship songs do you know that talk about “Fire?” Are you feeling a bit flimsy in your walk with Jesus? Turn up the heat! Do you feel your heart hardening, especially seeing what is going on in this world? Turn up the heat!
We are called to stand firm in our faith and be at the ready with compassion. We are called to be prepared in season and out of season. It is easy to lose that freshness of when we first came to know Jesus; it’s also easy to lose that refreshing feeling you get from a camp or retreat or even a good sermon. Especially now, with all these restrictions and long periods of isolation. One could very easily find themselves growing stale in their faith or walk with the Lord.
In fact, with the way the world is going, this verse seems rather fitting: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Peter gives a remedy: “Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time of restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.” Acts 3:19-21
If you find yourself in a stale relationship with Jesus. If you find yourself growing weak or arrogant, you might want to repent and allow the Spirit of the Lord to refresh you. And keep yourself in the warmer.
“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence, there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:8-11
This is not the time to allow ourselves to grow cold or stale. We need to remain HOT and FRESH for the battle that is before us. People who are looking for answers are not looking for stale Christianity. They want something real, authentic, refreshing, and pure. The Lord is coming again . . . Whether that is in our generation or one to come, the time is short . . . when He does, i pray He finds us faithfully about the Kingdom’s work.
As the world around us crumbles, and as my life seemingly crumbled around me, i can only say, “i am beyond blessed.” How can one make such a statement, how can i make such a statement? Easily! But first, you need to know the road i choose to travel. my road is much like yours in many ways, yet completely different, and that is the mystery of life. Everyone is the same, and yet completely different. To think otherwise is to be a fool. Furthermore, everyone is on a journey, influenced by others, affected by decisions, changed by events.
How one traverses these life influences and how these things imprint one’s life is one hundred percent the choice of the individual. It is called taking responsibility, being self-aware, and stopping to breathe and to use a skill often left in the annals of history, critical-thinking. You may not be able to stop what happens to you, but you can definitely determine how you respond to it.
Romans 15:13 —May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 12:12 —Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Philippians 4:4 —Rejoice in the Lord alwyas; again I will say, Rejoice.
Galatians 5:22-23 —But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .
Life might suck. Lord knows my 2020 has! i have shared before, besides all that is going on with the world, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died four months later. Through a series of events, i find myself yet again divorced. It has forced me to step away from full-time vocational ministry after 20 plus years! This is the first summer that i have not had any of my son’s with me. With all the travel back and forth to visit my mom and be with family for the last four months, my finances are shaky at best. i have been eating out more. Taco Bell, mainly, as i am on a very tight budget, and i can get a meal for $3.50, which is actually far less than if i went to the store. Because when i cook like i did this morning, i make food for a family, and it reminds me of the fact i am alone. So how is it that i can say that i am beyond blessed?! Because of the road, i choose to travel, and on this road, i am never truly alone.
If not for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within me, i would not. It is the hope that i carry within me that allows me to have joy unspeakable. i can’t even fully explain it. All i know is that i have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and an opportunity each moment to choose Jesus, to choose joy, to stand and say, “i am beyond blessed.” And it is true, no matter my circumstances, i am beyond blessed. You can be too! If you choose.
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).
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.
Sitting with my mom as she withers away is the most difficult thing i have ever done. Today, i sat with her and we listened to hymns together (some Christmas because my mom loves Christmas) as we held hands . . . She slept, i cried. Each hymn so sweet and just brought back so many memories. When i was younger we traveled as a family and sang in churches. One particular summer that i recall is my favorite summer of all time. i lived in two shirts and one pair of jeans, although i am sure i had more. The two shirts were from the movie, “Return of the Jedi”. Both were softball style shirts (if that makes sense) one was blue, that one was my favorite, the other red. i also lived in a fifth-wheel trailer.
That summer between concerts i remember the road trips, the stops, the hikes, the sandwiches, we ate so many sandwiches! i remember setting up for the concerts, eating at all the potlucks, so many potlucks, and the tearing down. i remember every concert was exactly the same and yet completely different and that is the best i can describe them. Shawnee our German Shepherd was the best traveler! She and i were buds. i remember all the family and old friends of my parents that we saw, some for me, meeting them for the first time. We even did a mini concert at the home of a cousin or family friend.
i remember all the historical sights we visited, some recently destroyed because humanity has gone mad. So many state and national parks too. i learned so much and am so thankful for those memories. It is the source of my appreciation for music and music of all kinds but especially my fondness of the hymns. my mom’s voice echoing through the sanctuary’s of big churches and little churches . . . Brick churches and log “cabin” churches, old wooden chapels and fancy plush churches. Her voice was angelic, she will definitely be featured in the heavenly choir where i am sure she will be found shortly upon her arrival into heaven.
Music is her life blood i think. my mom loves music. In heaven, the Bible says that the angels sing around the thrown. This will definitely be where mom is found. She will have that old voice back, strength in her bones, and air in her lungs, as she sings out around the thrown joining in with the angel choir, a new song! It is this image that fills my mind and heart with comfort and peace. i am reminded of Jesus words at what is referred to as the sermon on the mount.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)
In these final days, moments, with my mom i am thankful for these words from Jesus. May His Kingdom come, may He reign in our hearts and minds and lives forever and ever, amen. Be blessed today knowing that He cares for you. How do i know? Because of sandwiches, so many sandwiches! He comforts through His word, through His Spirit, and through memories, so many great memories! i love you mom, may you enter your much deserved reward in peace; May your heavenly concert tour be as full of joy as our earthly ones.
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.