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Posts Tagged ‘Baptizm’

In my attempts to understand and work through the hard times that kept coming last week, God put people and answers in my path that has led me to some really key spiritual discoveries. These discoveries are huge, they are something I have battled with all of my life, and have finally found resolution to them, in a very long and winding road that led all the way back to a seven day long migraine headache.

After the first attack, when I answered the Spirits call, and was immediately struck down, I did not recognize it as an attack, much in the way we did not recognize the first plane to strike the world trade center as an act of terrorism but more as just a plane hitting a building. But after the second time when the Spirit called (refer to previous post) and the second immediate attack I knew something was up, something was wrong and I was under attack.

I wrote some of what I was going through in my blog, and you all responded with concern. Larry wrote me an email with some thoughts that sent me down the path of discovery though. He wrote  ” When I state that your migraines (and most migraines) are caused by a demon, this does not mean that you personally have a demon in you because your inner man is filled with the Greater One. And Jesus does not share space with a demon or Satan. (Only unsaved people can house a demon in them.)

 

But instead, it means that somehow a demon has influence over you. I think of it as a string attached to a door into your soul (mind, emotions, memory, etc.) or your flesh. Somehow this demon can pull on the string to open that door at certain times. Usually, the string is attached because of sin or a curse. So, I always tell people to ask the Lord, “Why does this demon have a right to attack me? What have I done? Or is it something that someone else has done which now affects me?”

This is the Holy Spirit’s job to help you and disclose these things to you.

Once, you know why the demon is able attack you, then you can go on the offense.

 

Hmmm, I thought, demons. Well, God uses angels all the time, I certainly don’t expect the devil to be everywhere at once, of course he uses the evil equivalent of angels to get his dirty work done, but how. I am a good person right? But I do have sin, and it got me to thinking, and it caused me to do some self-examination.

I meet with a group of guys once a week, we open up with one another, we share things that we are having issues with, family issues, work issues, spiritual issues, and we hold each other accountable. It works very well, most of the time, we share much of our deepest problems and pains, but one thing that I realized, is that you can only be held accountable for what you share, and if you don’t share something, then you are hanging on to it, and I still had a couple of things I was hanging on to.

To many of the people who know me, I am outgoing and friendly, to my neighbors I am generous and open, to my accountability brothers an open book, but the truth is, they were misled. They thought they were standing in the open vault of my secrets, but on the back wall there was a book case with a false wall, behind it was the door to the real vault where I kept the remainder of my real deep dark secrets. In that vault were the insecurities, the shame of things I had done and still did in secret, the things no one knew about that I had never confessed, and that I had been terrified anyone would ever know about. As my accountability friends would mill about the faux vault drinking their latte’s I would stand in front of the false wall with my arms spread casually over the bookcase, my heart racing the whole time for fear that one of my friends would stumble and fall on the latch that would open the false wall, exposing the real me for who I was, a sinner, not worthy of heaven, not worthy of anything.

Larry’s letter was so clarifying to me, we weren’t being “truly” accountable, I don’t know why, I know we were trying, but I just wasn’t able to open up “that” deep with these brothers. I do trust these men, maybe the problem is all mine, but the simple fact is this, the devil knows me, he knows my sin and he knows my weaknesses. Yes, I have grown over the years, but trust me; the devil was making the most of what he had. Like having a string to a trapdoor that even I was not aware of he was accessing me through my weakness. Unfortunately I found that there were some things that I don’t share with my accountability brothers. Ahhhh, says Satan, gocha, a rift with the believers, something they don’t feel comfortable with.

There are things, not much just a couple that I share with no one and I keep buried deep inside. So it all began to come together, I had wondered how Satan was hitting me so hard when I was a faithful servant of his, and Larry’s clue led me to the conclusion.

It was at the close of day seven of the migraine, and I was exhausted, spent, and my mind was working slowly. My balance is funky these days, so I decided to shave and shower before bed, four fifteen comes early, and I try to cut my “getting ready for work in the morning” time down. As I showered, I was not thinking about any of these things, but instead “do I have fresh jeans and a shirt laundered for work tomorrow” as I soaped up.

This is what I just love about the Holy Spirit, He interrupts, he doesn’t wait, and tap his toe humming a Barry Manilow, Maniloe, Manilo whatever tune? Who cares, I think you know what I mean. He just comes right in, anyway, so I was washing what hair I have left, and I heard a voice in my head, and here are the words that were given to me by the Holy Spirit in the shower. “The Keys to the Kingdom lie with you Jim”. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly what God wanted me to do. In order to stop this demon from torturing my family and I, we needed to treat it like any common household pest, figure out how it is getting in, and then close that door.

For the most part, I am an open book, and am open about my past, my sin, etc. but there is that small little vault that I still keep locked to the world, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out where the trapdoor was that the demons were sneaking in through. The Holy Spirit had told me what I had to do, the “Keys to the Kingdom” (gosh, isn’t that a cool line) were in transparency, because true accountability came “only” with true transparency.

I love my guys, my accountability guys, I really do. I don’t know why I can’t go that extra step, maybe one day, maybe because I am the old guy in the group, I don’t know. When I got out of the shower, I was exuberant, I couldn’t wait to follow through, I texted Larry thanking him for leading me here, to this final answer. I felt the final small hole in my heart begin to fill in as I went out on to my back patio and called Tom. Tom and I have been friends since the fifth grade, we are very close. He lives a couple hundred miles away, but we are closer than ever, he is the best man I know. He is the guy I had chosen, I called him up, and I told him he was the only friend that I felt comfortable really telling everything to, and then I opened the vault, loaded the last couple boxes of dirt onto a dolly, and wheeled them over to the incinerator. When we were finished, I left the Vault open, and I poured cement into the trapdoors, the ones that had been tripping me up for decades, causing guilt for decades, I was closing them forever.

As Christ followers, it becomes cliché to say that we die to self, but last week I feel I did, several times. But the last time I died to self, the new guy doesn’t even feel like the old guy, and I don’t mean only spiritually, I mean physically, I don’t feel like me anymore. You may ask yourself “what’s wrong with this guy that he can take something as simple as a migraine headache and turn it into a battle between the forces of good and evil”, and my answer to you will be, I didn’t, they did. I have asked myself that same question, why me, why now. The answer is God does what He does for a reason, and while it may or may not make sense now, it always does later. I am just blessed, mine makes sense now. So, this post is quite a long and winding road, but in synopsis;

As the Holy Spirit put it, we may all have the “Keys to the Kingdom”,

But first, we must be

Transparent

In order to be transparent, we must first

Open the Vault

While we are in there, we must burn the garbage, empty the vault, and

Seal the Trapdoors

We can’t go it alone, we even need someone more than God, we need a friend.

Be Accountable To Someone

When you close the trapdoors that the devil sneaks into your life through, he will have no secret means by which to ambush you personally. Living “fully” transparent will make you a much more effective soul winner for Christ, no holds barred, All In. Even though I had the migraine last week, I would still have to say that last week was the best week of my life to date. God Bless-JFT

P.S. I would like to give special thanks to my brother, friend, and mentor, Larry Nevenhoven for his wise counsel last week. Without his words, I would not have found my way out of the maze.

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Fitz was an old warhorse, a chain-smoking graduate of Annapolis Naval Academy who was first my mentor, then my peer, then my boss, then the worst enemy I have ever had. A small man with a large IQ and a Napoleon complex who always felt he should have been controlling the Atlantic fleet rather than a power plant, he was out to prove he was large and in charge. He had thrown our friendship out the window along with that of any other friendship he had garnered over his thirty plus years working here at the power plant. Fitz was Roman Catholic, and had railed against my faith, calling me an infidel. He was angry at the world because it had taken him so long to achieve in life, but now he was powerful and he was planning on leaving his mark . His reign lasted six years, and by the time a wise new manager struck him down, we were all like abused dogs that had been beaten one too many times, trusting no one and fleeing like rats from a sinking ship when he would enter the room. When Fitz’s last day finally came a couple months later, it was bittersweet. We had once been friends, but those days were long gone, replaced by many memories of abuse and anger. The cake and ice cream social they had in the lunch room was only attended by management. Management were required to attend functions of this type, but for everyone else it was optional, and so everyone else stayed in. I was working that day, and I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to him. That was three and a half years ago.

Twenty-two months ago, Fitz was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. About eighteen months ago, I went to see him, I didn’t call, I just showed up. He was leery at first, non-trusting, wondering what I wanted, but then I just came right out and started talking straight. I said words like “God”, and “love”, and “Forgive”. He softened up, the old Navy salt wore off and he started crying and told me he was really scared. He told me that his wife Christy had left him, and that she had then gotten cancer too. And that he was more worried for her than for himself. He heaved as he told me all of this and poured his heart out and the enemy faded, and my friend reappeared. He had surgery, and so far he is making it, he thinks he will live, I doubt it, but God can do anything. This past Saturday, as I was fighting a small headache, the Holy Spirit called me to attention. I felt the nudge to call my old enemy Fitz on the phone and encourage him, and so I answered the Spirit’s call.

Fitz was delighted beyond measure when I called him, we talked for over an hour and I had to say goodbye three times before I was able to get off of the phone. When I did get off the phone, it was time for church. Church last Saturday was not an average worship service, it was one of those that you will remember for the rest of your life, it was one of those that leave you with a memory forever. As soon as it ended, I was struck down hard, violently, and painfully. My mind was scrambled and I wound up in the hospital. It was Saturday night and I would wander in a fog for seven days.

Later in the week on Wednesday evening I felt like my head was in a vice all day, but I hated being closed up in the house all the time, this is day five. I got up and looked out of the front window as Eddie, my neighbor (the cop) was watering his lawn across the street. For some reason, I felt the Spirit leading me to go talk to him, because he was sad and he needed to talk. I crossed the street and greeted him, he did seem sad. I didn’t tell him that I have a secret agent called the Holy Spirit that feeds me information about him, but rather, I ask how things are going with Patty, his new wife. She has been battling with her ex for custody of her two daughters. It has been dragging on for near three years now, and it is straining their marriage. Eddie is hurting as he relates how he just doesn’t know what to do, he has failed before, and he doesn’t want to fail again, he wants it to work. In the mean time, my wife pulls up at our house from work, glad to see me up and around. She respects that Eddie and I am talking, waves and goes into the house.

After Eddie and I have talked for a while, I ask if he and I can go into his garage, and he says we can. He has a piece of carpet there to catch oil drippings, and both of us knelt, and placed our arms around each other’s shoulders, as brothers in Christ should do, and then we prayed. We prayed for his marriage to Patti that God would bless it richly, we prayed that God would be with her two teen-aged daughters and help them to be okay despite the war between their parents. We prayed that the judges would make wise decisions, and that God would give Eddie the wisdom to be a good husband and a God centered man. Tears of relief streamed down Eddies face as we laid his cares at Jesus feet there on the floor of his garage, and when I said “Amen” Eddie was noticeably lighter as we got back to our feet and said our goodbyes.

My headache increased again as I crossed the street and entered my own garage, as the sun set on the fifth day of the worst migraine headache I have ever had in my life. My wife sat at the table with the mail in front of her and a grim look on her face as I kissed her on top of the head quietly. Is something wrong I asked? “Yes” she said as she handed me the letter that had already been opened. Looking at it I noticed the return address was that of my father, who would turn eighty in two weeks and my step mother who was in her early seventies. What was this all about I wondered?

They were splitting up; they were married almost seventeen years, getting together after my own mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1994. She had written the letter which they had sent to everyone in the entire family, and told me that she felt that they had committed adultery prior to their marriage, and the elders at their legalistic church agreed with them. They had set a date and would go before the entire church and confess their shame and ask forgiveness, then legally separate. My jaw dropped, I was shocked that this could happen in a church that bore the name of Christ. I immediately called them.

She answered the phone, and sounded weepy. I asked her what was going on, and we began to talk. As the conversation unfolded, I asked her if they had engaged in an affair while my mother had been alive, and she said no. I then said that they must have been intimate when they were dating then, and she responded that they were not, they had waited. When was this “adultery” then I asked. She said that when they were dating, they had lusted, and referring the scripture    Matt.5:28 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Here is the problem with that, adultery is reserved for the married folk. If you are married, and you have an extramarital affair, you have committed adultery, but if you are single, it is fornication. Now when it comes to lust”, or any sin for that matter, I say to the legalistic of the world READ JOHN 8:7 BEFORE YOU TELL  80 YEAR OLD MEN TO GO GET A DIVORCE YOU HIPOCRITES!  Just Sayin’  Now, for your reading pleasure, John 8:7 “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I was able to tell her about the blood of Christ, and how it was shed for us, How she did not commit adultery, and how even if she did, God forgives her. How if she commits a sin, she doesn’t have to notify everyone in the world about it and repent to them, God is the important one. In the end, they cancelled the separation, and stayed married.

The Migraine ended after seven days, the dizziness remains, focus remains elusive, I am not the same. It was a week of battles, but in the end, I think the devil came out worse, haha.

God Bless-JFT

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Definition of beliefs, this has been on my mind a lot lately. As I sit at my cluttered desk, across from my wife, sitting at her not as cluttered desk, I think about my blog. I began my blog a couple of years ago, inspired to write about God. I never thought about even the remotest of possibilities that I would eventually post over two hundred and sixty articles, as I call them. How could I even come up with the material, certainly not without divine intervention, but divine intervention “would” in fact come, and the posts would be written.

Recently, I had a comment from a reader that caused me to really stop and think about “why” I write what I do. My blog, “thoughts on being a Christ follower” is meant to be an encouragement to others, to be uplifting to those who follow Christ already. It is also meant to be thought provoking to those who are investigating Christ as a Savior, and is meant to plant a seed to those who do not know Christ at all, a seed planted in love. God has been so good to me in my life, teaching in love through experiences I have been placed in. So again I ask why, why do I write this Blog?

As a child, raised up in “the Church” as I knew it, we were known as non-denominational, because that implies that there was no headquarters from which all of the franchise congregations were run. I never really knew what non-denominational was, because it was one of those things that the adults “assumed” we knew. Truth was, they probably didn’t know what it meant either. It was assumed that you would get baptized between the ages of ten and twelve, if you were early; they doubted you truly knew what you were doing. If you were late, they began to worry that you were going to go the other way. So, I chose to be baptized at the age of ten, coincidentally on the evening following the baptism of two of my good friends, no peer pressure though 😉 . I just kind of felt it was the thing to do, you know.

After I was baptized, I really did feel white as snow as I rose from those waters, and I did know I loved God. I then began the life of being a pre-teen Christian. Here was the drill, after you became a Christian (baptism), you were then expected to tow the line, and walk sinless. In doing so, sometimes you would occasionally stumble, leading to a collection of sins that would begin to mar your soul. Even one sin on your soul makes you unfit for Heaven, or so we were told, so upon stumbling you would then be lost again. I used to see it like this, a sin was a black dot on my soul, as time would go by; I would begin to look like a Dalmatian. When I just couldn’t live with myself anymore, I would need to go to plan “B”, which would involve taking a walk at the alter call. Every service, twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, the preacher would give an alter call, anyone who wanted to be baptized, or needed the prayers of the church would head for the front pew during the singing of the invitation hymn. As a preteen boy, then as a teen, I spent a lot of time on that front pew, having the congregation pray for my “restoration”. It was so self-defeating, saved on Sunday, lost from Monday on.

Conscious of how often I would make the trek to the front, I began to think “what’s the point”, I am a bad person. I obviously have no self-control I would think because I spend the vast majority of my time standing on the trapdoor to hell. You can’t go up front every week, if I was there as often as I needed to be I would be getting my mail there. So I began to be comfortable with being lost most of the time, and I would actually wish that I would die directly after going forward one day, I mean, if it didn’t happen that way, what were the odds of winding up in Heaven?

From where I stand now, it would be easy to look back at those folks and be angry with them for forgetting to mention the gift of Grace. But in truth, I think they were just the same as many other generations of religious before them, they thought they were doing what was right, they were holding to tradition. I am grateful to God that I was able to break from tradition and ask those hard questions, and that I turned back to the only place where “all” of the answers lie, The Bible. The problem with holding to tradition is that tradition makes us lazy, when we just keep doing what we’ve always done, then we stop thinking about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and God gets lost in our repetition. As followers of Christ, we don’t have the option of becoming lazy where God’s word is concerned, and we do have an obligation to make sure that what we tell others is true and accurate. There is only one way we can do that, and that is by studying God’s Word. Our relationship to God is a personal one, it is a One on one thing with God. Being misled because you chose to let someone else put their own spin on God’s Word without knowing it yourself is not acceptable, we must know what we believe, and we must know why we believe it. We will also be held to a higher level of accountability by God when we share our faith with others, this is an “incentive” for us to make sure that what we tell them is accurate and correct.

I know what it is like to walk around without hope, I know what it is like to feel dirty and worthless. I know what it is like to “know” that you are going to hell no matter how hard you try to be good, and that on our best day, we still aren’t good enough to “earn” Heaven. I fail to understand how the wonderful message of Christ and His sacrifice for us can be missed when we all read the same Bible, but somehow it does. And that is why I write this blog, because I want to do everything I can to tell people the good news, that you don’t have to walk around in hopelessness as I did. That you don’t go in and out of salvation daily and that God knows what we face, and that is why He gave us the gift of His Son, because He knows it is not possible for us to tow the line. We needed help, we needed a “get out of hell free card”, and that card is crimson, that card is Jesus blood. I want people to know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that we might have the gift of eternal life”. He loves us that much!

So that is why I write what I do, because I want you to know what I know, that God loves us. The decision to follow Christ is a decision that only “you” can make, but I hope if you have read my blog that it will encourage you in that direction, to make that decision. While I sometimes write short fiction stories, make no mistake, they are not written to entertain you, they were written with the purpose of causing you to think, ask questions, and seek answers. I love God, and I love you, and I want you to have the opportunity to know the peace inside that God has blessed me with. The word “hope” of salvation has never really done it for me, in my mind failing to capture my true thoughts. “Anticipation” of salvation is more like it, confident in the power of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s promise. Hope has a question mark attached to it, and I have spent too much of my life stumbling around in the gray area already. There are no question marks attached to God’s promise as I know it, so rejoice in the anticipation of our final resting place. Rejoice in knowing that you are bought and paid for, rejoice in knowing where you will spend your eternity, “if” you will only accept Gods gift of His Son.

God Bless-JFT

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I can’t sleep, I am working nights this week, and should sleep days, but sometimes it just doesn’t take. I meander about the house, then it comes to me, I need to ride. It is 112 degrees or so outside, but hey, I am used to it, I saddle up my bicycle and head out into the heat, headed for my mountain trail. I have my camelback full of water, and a bottle extra, I will be fine.

As I hit the trailhead near my home, I think to myself that it is hotter than usual, but I am comforted by the water on my back, and the fact that I have ridden this trail a hundred times or so in the last six months. I power up the first part, the mountain known as lung buster hill until I reach the saddle and have a choice, go left and be done with the ride soon, or take the four mile uphill trail to my right and tough it out. I go right.

I ride off into the heat that only the sonoran desert gives, giving more than I feel I have, but I stick with it. I am alone, my faithful riding partner at home down the street from where I live. As I near the halfway point, I look down and to my horror see that my bicycle pump is gone, and the whole mindset of my ride changes instantly. I was feeling bold prior to that, but now I have fear. That little bike pump when it was still on my bike was like the spare inner tube I have in my pack, it was a lifeline to safety, and now I am without it. I begin to ride slower, being more careful of the ground I am traveling. When I see a sharp rock, I veer to the side, for fear of puncturing a wheel, I worry about errant cactus pods in the trail, and I no longer ride with gusto

If I get a flat, it doesn’t matter whether I have a spare tube, I have no means to air it up. My water supply is based on a quick trip through the mountains, not on having to walk out. The desert southwest is full of stories of hikers who have gotten into trouble and died from exposure before they could get to help, I am one flat tire from being that guy.

I finish the trail, get back on the road that leads to my home, and finish the ride with no incident. I find my bike pump in the garage where my bike resides, I don’t remember taking it off, but I guess I did.

This is a parable of sorts, based loosely on truth, the ride was real, but I only wondered what it would be like had I lost my pump. Being ADD, it is common for me to lose track of things that are important, like reading the Bible daily, like spending much time in prayer. These things are easy to remember when life is good, when there are no bumps or flat tires. When life gets hectic, when we are forced into working more, spreading ourselves thin and we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed, what suffers?

For me it has been my daily Bible reading, for me it has been the deep time spent in prayer to my Lord and Savior, and for me, they are my spare tire and bike pump that will get me through the desert in life. Without them, I am nothing less than a skeleton under cactus, a victim scattered by the buzzards.

Summers are always tougher for me, for reasons I cannot explain. For some reason, I always seem to get overwhelmed, and the things that are so important to me take the back burner. A very dear friend and brother in Christ was called home this week, and I am dealing with his affairs with his widow, and need to give the eulogy at his memorial. I feel so empty inside, as his loss was unexpected. This is a time when it would have been better if I was steeped in the word, but I had allowed it to take a back burner. This is a time when it would have been better if my prayer life had been better, but it too had taken a back seat to other things in my life. Had I not let them slip back, they would have been the cool waters that soothed me through the long walk in the desert; they may have been the pump that buoyed my tires back to life.

Remember friends, the Bible and its regular reading gives us strength that we need to power through the desert of life. Prayer is the life giving fluid that will refresh us and give us the strength we need to make it back home. If they are not front and center always, then you will one day be stranded in the desert of life.

God Bless-JFT

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I stood at the mailbox looking at the plain envelope with no return address on it, wondering if it was junk mail or not. Real letters usually have a return address on them, so it is probably just an ad. Curiosity always gets the best of me though, so I rip it open anyway. A single letter with a small paragraph is on the page, and I catch my breath as I begin to read.

The letter addresses me by name, and goes on to tell me that this is to serve as formal notification that I am being evicted from life, my life will end Saturday morning at eleven thirteen AM. I stare at the paper thinking “could this possibly be true, who can know that? I also think briefly”This is Monday” so I read on. The letter thanks me for being a servant of Christ and the one and only true God and telling me that I have been awarded a home in Heaven with Them. The letter gets “really interesting” then as it goes on to tell me that my family are all going to join me when their time is up. But, I will have an opportunity to bring six additional people with me who are named in the letter, but there are conditions.

First off, I need to tell them about God “this week” as there is no time to waste. The letter also tells me that they are currently “not” saved and will spend their eternity in hell if I do not intervene. One is my best friend, another is a co-worker that I only really know as an acquaintance, and another is a boss that I really don’t like. One is a teenage friend of my daughters, and another is a single mother who lives next door. The last is the most frightening, it is my mother. The letter then said that the conditions are as follows. I am not allowed to tell anyone that my life will be ending or show the letter to them. I am not allowed to ask anyone to come to Christ; they must ask me how they can become Christians. I am not allowed to use any resources from the church, or bring them there. I am only allowed to use one thing, the Bible in my quest. In closing, the letter then says if I hit a snag, pray about it, sincerely, God.

I look around the neighborhood for the prankster, but there is no-one to be seen. I feel like my spine is covered in ice as I walk back to my house, stunned at the thought that this might actually be a letter from God. As I walk onto my driveway, the young single mother pulls in next door and gets out of her car. I look down at my hand, still clutching the letter and my voice quivers as I say “hello” and walk over to her driveway. I am terrified as I try to think of the words to say, but they come, and they keep coming. We talk casually for a while and I tell her about the Christ I follow, and how He has changed my life, how I have hope where there was once none, peace where there was never peace before, love for and from others that I never imagined. I managed to do all of this without even quoting a scripture one. She then looked at me and said she would like to learn more, she had never heard about any of this.

When I finally entered the house, the phone was ringing. I answered it, and it was my mom, she wanted to know if I would be available to have lunch with her tomorrow, and I didn’t hesitate to answer yes. As the week wore on, I found myself in a position to talk to all of the people on the list, and the words flowed as they had with the young single mother I had first spoken with. My mother told me that she had wanted to have lunch, because she had become more aware of her frailty lately, and she didn’t want to waste what time she had left, she wanted to know more about God.

I prayed every day, sometimes seemingly constantly from early morning to late at night, and when I would fall asleep finally, I would dream about God, my friends and the ticking clock. The week flew by, and when Friday evening came, all six of my lost friends had come to Christ; I had fulfilled God’s wishes by being available to Him. I sat contentedly in my recliner, looking at my lovely wife clipping coupons at the table, and thought to myself, “I am ready now”. That night, I went to bed and slept a deep and relaxing sleep, one without dreams and woke at eight the next morning. I sat at the breakfast table feeling healthy and fine, wondering how I would go out in three hours as my wife came in from the yard. She had a stack of mail in her hands and told me there was an unmarked letter in it for me, probably just ad’s.

I tore it open immediately and knew instantly it was from Him, same paper, and same font. I began reading voraciously through the letter, and here is what it said. Jim, you have shown Me that you can in fact be a productive worker in My kingdom. You answered the call I gave to you and have shown me that you have what it takes to be a soul winner for My Son, a fisher of men. I have decided to extend your life beyond the date written in My book, because I think you need a second chance. Being a follower of My Son is required to enter the kingdom, but to get the best seats, you have to be a worker, it is called “building treasures in Heaven”. You had seats in the nosebleed section before, but you are moving closer to the field now. While I have allowed your life to continue, remember this, every day is “somebody’s” last day, the day when the book of their life will be sealed forever. Go get em’ Jimbo! Love, God!

JFT

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We have been meeting in secret for months now, six to be exact. The other villagers think we may have crossed over to “the Way”, but they are not certain. We meet in the huts with the white men in the middle of the night, reading the words of “the way” by candlelight so as not to provoke suspicion. There are seventeen of us who have seen the light. We have discovered the truth after so many years of reciting the satanic manuscripts, agreeing with people who told stories of killing the infidels to the glory of Allah. Now we gain our strength through the stories that the white men tell us. There are also others from our village who have followed “the Way” privately, who have become learned at the scriptures, and they help us to understand in a way that the white men can’t. They study diligently to become proficient in the verses so they can spread stories of “The Christ Man” to villages far and wide. We used to only have hate and hypocrisy, now we have love for one another. We meet each other’s needs regularly now, and show kindness to all.
We have set out as a group of seventeen tonight. There are two of our village pastors that will be meeting us outside the village near the large stand of trees. No lights of any kind are allowed, no talking as we move through the bush. After moving silently toward the rendezvous, we will meet up with the others near the small brook a kilometer outside the village. My son and daughter are so happy to be going to the river to openly profess their commitment, they have a sack with white robes inside that they want to wear when they arise from the water. They wanted to wear the robes on the journey, but it is too dangerous, there are still roving bands of killers who are just lying in wait for a group like ours.
We are at the trees now, under the canopy nearest the side where the branches droop to the ground, taking cover. Our village pastors were a little late, but then we pushed on to the brook to meet the other villagers. After confirming the coast was clear, we moved on toward the river.  We walked in silence by the brook, the babbling water giving us cover of noise. For a while we do not have to worry so much about snapping a twig under foot. The cool air near the brook refreshed us, some stopped to drink deeply of its fruits, sating our thirst. Then we travelled on, nearing the river, and not long until sunrise.
The river is slow moving, this is the place we come as a family to swim on warm summer days. We bring food and several families will spend the day lying on the grass under the trees, enjoying the cool breeze. This is where my wife and I would come to sit beneath the trees when we were courting, planning of our life together. Tonight, it is where we will be immersed in Baptism for remission of sins, an outward expression of our inward faith. We are all so happy, yet somber at the same time, reflecting on the sacrifice that was made that we may know salvation. My wife and I delight in the knowledge that our children will know “The Christ Man” Now, instead of later in life like us, how much better their lives will be for it, knowing “The Way” now. My son wants to be a pastor, like Umar the villager. Umar found “The Way” several years ago and takes great risks to spread the Word far and wide. Umar is now taking the first of us into the river, the sky is getting light in the east as he immerses the first few. As one after another of our brothers and sisters comes out of the water, we embrace. We are forever joined in eternity as children of the living God. Now twelve of us have gone, and soon my son and daughter go, my heart is singing. Next my wife, my best friend, my lover goes, as tears of joy flood my eyes. Now it is I, the last to go, and then I am immersed. I feel so light and perfectly spotless as I arise from the water. I embrace with my family, my friends, my relatives, we are one.
There is noise at the shore, I look and see Sani and his men at the shore, they wait with angry expressions showing in the early morning light. They are silent, they just stare as we begin wading toward the shore, our  son and daughter dressed in their white robes, look like angels as the sun breaks the horizon. Sani and his men shout curses at us and wave their machetes at us, commanding us to curse “the Way” or die. Umar the pastor is the first to reach them, he holds his arms out and looks beyond them as they slaughter him in cold blood. Next comes my sister and her two girls, they calmly walk toward Sani’s men and are cut down like the stalks of sugar cane we harvest. My friends and family are crying gently as go forth, leaving this world for the Promised Land as they bravely walk forward. As I look at my wife, son, and daughter, I see their sweet faces and feel the impending pain of our loss from this world, calmness surrounds me, and then I see Him. Beyond Sani and his men, “The Christ Man” awaits, a smile of love and warmth on his face, but also of pain and sorrow, sorrowful of what awaits us, but rejoicing for us that we will soon be with him. As my wife reaches Sani, she looks back to me, and her face reflects a peace that surpasses all understanding, then she crosses over and stands with “The Christ Man”. My daughter reaches Sani’s captain, then over his shoulder I see her Jump into the arms of her heavenly father, my son then steps up to one of Sani’s soldiers, and bravely stands his ground, as the coward sends him to stand to the right of his heavenly father. They are all wearing the robes now, whiter than ever, my friends and family standing behind the marauding killers. But they are not sad, they are all grinning, some are beconing me, laughing, and “The Christ Man” is now grinning ear to ear, waving me on. As I reach Sani, I reach out, place my hand on his shoulder, and give it a squeeze and tell him it is okay, I forgive him. He backs up, has a look of horror on his face at what would make a man who has just lost his family say something like that, then his face changes back to the Sani I know, and finishes it for me. I look around, and “The Christ Man” is with me now, he places his arms around me and says, come go with me to meet my father now. And all of us begin the journey together, the journey of a lifetime, in a place of eternal Bliss.
Sani and his men throw our remains into the current of the river, there will be nothing to show what happened here. As he and his men start back into the bush, he thinks for a moment about Manase and what he said in the end. How could a man, albeit an infidel, forgive the killer of his children, the killer of his friends, the killer of his wife? Allah offers no peace like the peace in the eyes of Manase as he walked to his slaughter. I know to think such thoughts are an affront to Allah, but Allah rewards killing the infidel, but does not offer peace to those who are going into slaughter. Sani will think of this later when away from the others, Sani will have to consider this more deeply, find the secret to their peace. As he plunders their belongings, he finds a small book which he immediately pockets. He will look at it tonight in the privacy of his hut.

God Bless

JFT

This ficticious story was inspired by real events that occurred in Jos Nigeria in early 2010

(Previously posted but re-edited)

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Well, what are you going to do, the soccer game is going into overtime, and we cannot leave now, Matt would not understand, so we choose the game, and settle in until the end. We normally go to church on Saturday nights and serve on the Sunday morning. Josh has already hinted that he will not be going to church tomorrow, as football season is in full swing not, and he has a couple of games that he just can’t miss. Josh is settled into his chair, his jersey on, bowl of popcorn and a bottle of cold beer ready for kickoff. Our little girl Megan comes out in her Sunday best  dress, but she is confused, no-one else is dressed up, so I have to explain to her that there were more important things we had to do today, but we know Jesus will understand, because he loves us so much, Megan nods then goes back to her room to change.

Twenty Years Later

Megan is working very hard, she manages a women’s store, actually three of them in her region. She puts in seventy hour weeks, and hardly has time for her new husband Steve. They took a short week off for a honeymoon, but she checked in with the office even while on honeymoon, not wanting to lose control of her department even while away. Steve is somewhat annoyed at Megan’s dedication to her job, mostly because you have to compete with it to get any of her time. Last week Steve wanted to go to a church in the area that they had moved into, it has services Saturday night and Sunday too. He thought it would help to grow together in church, but Megan had no desire to go. When she was growing up, her father always showed the importance of going to church “when” an NFL game wasn’t on. There were fishing trips, soccer games and tournaments that always seemed to conflict with church, and she had noticed they had always won out. Church was dead last in their lives, something you did when no-one was playing, when soccer, baseball, and basketball seasons aren’t going, then you can stop by, if you have nothing better to do. That is how she had decided to run her family.

I have come to wonder about this, allowing sports or other items to get in the way of the fellowship. I have read recently in the book of Luke 9:57-62 about the urgency in picking up our crosses, denying ourselves and following Christ. The scripture reads;

57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

 58Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

 59He said to another man, “Follow me.”
      But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

 60Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

 62Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

This man wanted to lay his father to rest, yet Jesus told him “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” My footnotes state that he is referring to the spiritually dead burying the physically dead. Jesus wants us to begin the work in earnest, not dawdling but boldly stepping up. When we place things in our schedule that conflict with our worshipping God, are we not being urgent?

God Bless

JFT

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