Come, Entertain Me

 

CPC Flower ArrangementThe word come, when read in the Bible about Christ’s enjoining His disciples to follow Him, became their first step in living the Christian life. It is a disciple of Jesus’ first step. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” In Mark 1:17-18 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” We do not walk with Christ without following His teachings and direction.
I anticipate worship in a Christian church to be of my Lord Jesus Christ, to ask for forgiveness of my sins, and to take in the whole Word of God. And as I leave the church doors, I fully expect the Holy Spirit to go with me and keep me strong in the faith and use what I heard and learned to navigate through the channels in life. I expect that when I am in fellowship with other believers, I will be comforted, heard, even advised and disciplined by those who know and live the Word of God. I expect that other Christians will use their experiences based upon God’s Word to uplift me and help to direct my life. I pray that I will do the same for them. I pray that I will always comfort others, listen to others, advise and help direct others based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
In a conversation with an individual a year or so ago, after a Sunday service, a comment was made to me that went something like this:
- I know I am a very quiet and non-social person, and I have been coming here for years, but I look around and always feel there are clicks/groups and there is no sense of desire by those clicks/groups to be changed by adding another person to them.-
I wonder how church can sometimes feel like another social gathering or social club. Can we come to be entertained rather than to be taught? Do we turn away from following Christ when we don’t like something we hear from the Scriptures because it is contrary to what our culture teaches us? Doesn’t everyone ask, “Is God trying to speak to me here?” “Don’t I have something to learn if I am following Jesus?” “Could I be mistaken in my beliefs?”
When we are following Christ in church we should react like those who first heard Jesus, “And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” We should come to church to obey Jesus Christ, learn His truths, His ways and how to live His life. To follow Jesus is to get closer to Him, advance towards His will, and to draw near to His holiness and goodness. In doing so, we are changed and Christ changes the world through us. We come to church to worship God and to follow Him, not to be entertained or just because we have friends or family there.
I was reading an article (Entertained to Death? Is seeker-driven entertainment a viable option for Growing your Church? By Eric Barger) about how many;
“compromising leaders help propagate lukewarm “religious” followers with no sense of Godly Biblical standards who miss the awe, reverence and supernatural power of God”. “Perhaps due to shrinking attendance and growing expenses, some evangelicals have slowly adopted the notion of “giving the people what they want” as their church plan. Now seen as “old fashioned”, “outdated” and “negative” are the Biblical ideals of discipleship, doctrine, righteousness, victory over evil and the conquering of sin. At any rate, this is the underlying rational being forwarded by a number of today’s popular growth gurus. Those whose books and teaching have lead the Church away from Biblical thinking have probably done so without overtly malicious intent. Nevertheless, the popularizations of the so-called “positive gospels” have come from a non-historical basis, a mix of bad theology and a “change or die” church growth mentality.”
I have been listening and learning from my husband Earl, a God-fearing man for over 16 years. Earl & Bob BeanHe has been preaching for 29 years. Every time he steps behind the pulpit I expect to hear God speaking to me. And every time for 16 years, I hear this man being used as a vessel by God to bring His Word to me. When I come to church, I expect the music, Bible verses, confessions and offerings all to be about worshiping God, not entertaining me. I’ve delved into the Bible for years. I read it annually and continue to study it in depth. I am given great insight by God in those Words and revelations as He determines. I would be aghast if Earl were to ever “compromise” Scriptures just to satisfy some political base in the pews.
If we watch the clock or are like those participants that “didn’t get anything out of that one, preacher,” perhaps we need to seek God more than we do our lunch. Perhaps that twelve noon kickoff tailgate party with friends was going through our minds, and we missed what was meant for us. Perhaps what was preached was from God to us, but we just didn’t agree with it or like the way it was presented. Jesus never said, “Come and be entertained.” He didn’t say, “If you agree with Me, then you might want to try it.”  Psalm 95 is powerful, and I commend it for reading and devotional study – but in particular verses 6-8; “come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God. And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah.”
Come to the house of The Lord. Come and hear His voice. Come and hear the uncompromised Word of God. Come and bow down to Jesus. Come to Him and expect no entertainment in return. But do expect forgiveness, eternal life, and a new and abundant life in Christ.

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Low Man on the Totem Pole and No Problem with That!

Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another.”

In VanCouver Canada 2012

In VanCouver Canada 2012

A lot of people may have a huge problem with the scripture above. Why? Because probably most people want to be served, not to be a servant.

We are a society that focuses on self and pleasing ourselves, and this is a far cry from the example that Christ gave us to serve others. We are taught in our Christian belief that once we become a Christian, we have a new nature alongside our old nature; we begin to reflect on the very acts and manner of Christ. We can choose between following our old desires and lusts or following the Holy Spirit within us.

Once God calls us and enables us, it’s easy to accept Christ as our Savior and trust Him to save us. The Holy Spirit moves us to do so. But Christians sometimes stop right there. They understand that acceptance of Christ offers forgiveness of sins – past, present and future. But Christians may count on this gift from God to see them through life -regardless of whether they continue to follow their old natures. But the Holy Spirit prompts followers of Jesus to change their focus on self. The Spirit continues to educate and change us into what God intends for us to be in Christ. The freedom we have in following Christ transforms us into wanting to be more like Him – not doing anything our old nature tells us to do and simply receiving forgiveness. This spiritual transformation freely allows us to shed what we once considered important: ourselves, and sense that others are also equally important to Christ. That transformation leads us to not only listen to His voice, but to move us into service to others. The service that He calls us to engage varies greatly. Some are called into the mission fields, others to the pulpit, and to many other less visible positions in the church.

I have to say at this stage in my Christian walk, I am content to simply be a servant of The Lord. And I’m even happier to be called to be engaged in positions that most folks would consider low on the totem pole. Give me the opportunity to meet and greet new people coming into our church. Give me the opportunity to go out into the community and help feed the hungry. Give me the opportunity to visit folks in the hospital or bring a meal to those who are experiencing illness at home. Give me the opportunity to hold the hand of an elderly person or to hug someone who doesn’t get a hug from anyone else, and I am genuinely happy.

I have recently been granted the wonderful opportunity to help our new members become more connected and integrated into our church family. I am helping them to find those small groups, circles, ministries, members, and committees that they feel God may be asking them to serve. God might use me to help them find their God-given gifts to share with others.

I love being with God’s people, doing what God has called me to do. I know that God has given me the gift of hospitality, and I am currently planning a dinner party for these wonderful new members, just so we can get to know them better. These are the people that God has given me to lift up in pray and care, and what a magnificent pleasure to be in Christ’s service even low on the totem pole!

Be the One in Ten Christians that have…

The rest of the sentence is, read the Bible!  The Church as a whole, is biblically illiterate.  Ouch, that hurts!

Different research shows slightly different results to the question, “What percent of Christians have read the whole Bible?”  But nevertheless the Spiritual blood of Christians in America is anemic.  Only 1-3 in 10 professed Christians, have ever read the Bible in its entirety.  That means that although every person’s opinion is valid and important, not every Christian’s opinion is informed by the word of God.  Only about 10%-30% even know what God says. 

God expects more of us.  Paul told the young Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable to teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Hasn’t God given us His word that we might understand Him a little better than we would otherwise?  Every other year, I read the Bible in full.  I can honestly say there are a couple books – Numbers being one- that are very dry and extremely difficult to get through.  But this should not discourage us from reading this wonderful set of love letters that God has so graciously bestowed upon us.  I have read the Bible in a number of different ways: cover to cover, New Testament then Old Testament, and the use of Robert Roberts one year study, which offers a reading of the Old Testament and two readings of the New Testament in a year.  This year I have chosen The One Year Bible for Women using the New Living Translation.  It breaks the Bible up so you are reading Old and New Testaments along with Psalms and Proverbs each day.  I haven’t quite figured out the “for women” part of the title yet, perhaps it’s the pink accents.

God has a voice; He has chosen to speak to us in a most personal way.  He has given us a book full of wisdom and love along with guides for the ways we should live our lives.  If we don’t dive in and seek His truths, we will never know.  We will never be able to discuss Christ and His fullness to others that may be seeking Him.

As a pastor’s wife that has read her Bible numerous times, I still have difficulty understanding some of its messages.  But each time I read it, God enlightens me to new insights that He has for me to learn.  He has also given me a great source for learning – my pastor.  Christians are blessed to be offered free counseling by their pastors.  Our pastors are there to help spiritually guide us and to preach and teach those parts that may be difficult to understand.  God has put our pastors in place for this purpose among others.  So don’t be afraid to seek out your pastor to help you.

This year, why not make a New Years’ resolution to read your Bible in full?  Let’s get the percentage of Bible readers up and be able to live as per 2 Timothy 2:15.  “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth.”

 

Friends, To Have and to Hold…..!

I recently read the book, Desperate Pastors’ Wives by Ginger Kolbaba & Christy Scannell.  I found out about the book while browsing a website I joined specifically for pastors’ wives.  It had some very positive reviews by women who are in the ministry, and I felt that perhaps I might glean some insight into whether my experiences were the same as my comrades.

The book begins by enlightening the reader that pastors’ wives (a.k.a. PWs) are many times without real friends.  Then we meet four PWs who put their trust in one another over a long period of time and eventually there is created a deep and wonderfully honest friendship. PWs can relate to each other.  PWs know and understand the difficulties of the ministry.

The focus of this book has described my life for the past thirteen years.  I have struggled with befriending anyone since becoming a PW.  I have begged God to bless me with a true Christian friend for all of these years. 

Prior to becoming a pastor’s wife, I had close friends.  I still have my oldest friend Valerie (we’ve known each other for 44 years) and my friend Beverly (we’ve known each other for 22 years).  But these friends are not near in proximity nor do we share our everyday lives any longer.  We talk or email every few months, catching up, but none of the depth of our lives is expressed in such short periods of time.  And now, as the wife of a pastor, with my own ministry, I tend not to think that they want to hear about everything that is going on in my life because of the uniqueness of being a PW.

I reconciled myself to the fact that Earl was just going to have to do as my best friend.  And actually, for all intents and purposes, Earl really is my best friend.  He knows all about me and certainly listens and shares with me on an everyday basis and deals with all my annoying habits and many faults.  But right now, I’m talking GIRLFRIEND! 

Once I became a PW, I noticed people to be more reserved about themselves around me.  Everybody is truly pleasant and certainly may be inquiring about me, but very few bring you into their lives and share who they are in such a way as to develop a close relationship.  However more recently, I have met a couple of women who seem to want to maintain a closer relationship with an alien PW like me.

Carol is a friend from our Morrow Church pastorate. It took six years at that ministry before we actually met.  Although I don’t get to see Carol but a couple times a year, we do have dinner and try to catch up.  We laugh and we usually cry in just a mere 2 hour time frame, but we are uplifted by each other’s company and God’s Holy Spirit.  God is the One Who has brought us together – not the call of being a PW.  We met when our kids started dating and our daughter invited Carol & her husband to church.  God answered that prayer for me.  Within six months of meeting Carol, Earl and I were called to our next ministry.  Since Carol, we’ve had two more pastorates. 

It wasn’t until we came to James Island Presbyterian, that I met a wonderful woman named Kristi.  Kristi is real.  Kristi is true and honest. Kristi speaks her mind!  The first time we met, she and her husband took Earl and me out for dinner and the first thing she said to me was “It’s been a heck of a day; I’m having a glass of wine, how about you?”….We hit it off immediately.  Kristi is in the ministry too.  Her husband is the Associate in Ministry at our church.  Kristi knows….and understands!  Kristi is yet again, a God answered prayer. 

If we have patience and trust in God, I believe that He will bring into our lives the people who will help us traverse through God’s difficult ministry trails.  I give God my thanks for giving me the patience to wait on Him and for giving me the friends that He has chosen for me…. in His perfect time.

John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

I Need My Pastor….

“Earl, I need to talk to my pastor.”

Whereas my husband is a counselor to many when it comes to spiritual, life and relational issues, does anyone wonder who the pastor’s wife goes to for such help?  Most people would probably recommend some independent, Christian counselor.  Is it possible for a spouse to be your pastor and counselor?

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, a.k.a Clergy Appreciation Month.  With a few clicks of the mouse and very little research, I found that Pastors have been unofficially” recognized the second Sunday each October since around 1992.  Funny thing, we have been officially celebrating Groundhog Day since February 2, 1887!   Is it possible that we are more apt to put our focus upon a rodent who supposedly predicts the future over our Pastors who help us to find a personal relationship with our Creator and encourage us and help us to grow in our faith in Jesus Christ?  I’m just saying…

I see very few churches that even recognize the month let alone a day for Pastor appreciation.  Ever since I have known Earl, whenever someone mentions Pastor Appreciation Month, he quickly tries to refocus it into an employee appreciation month.  But my husband, without fail, will be there for everyone else with just the ring of the phone or a knock on the door.  His ministry is to preach the Word of Christ to all who will listen and to witness to those who cross his path.  He will hear your joy; celebrating with you, and he will comfort you in pain; crying with you in grief.  He will preach the Bible to the very foundation of what it stands for, and he will not be ashamed of it.

There are many times I have looked at my pastor husband and said “I need my pastor”.  It is astounding how quickly, as I watch his face, he transforms into my pastor.  That’s right!  As a member of the congregation for which he serves, I too claim Earl as my pastor and sometimes, even my counselor.  And Earl knows enough to understand that his wife needs a pastor too.  Not many people think about that fact.  But I do.

I love Earl – My husband.  I appreciate and respect Earl – My pastor.

I want to reach out and let my pastor know how much I appreciate him.  He has counseled me, he has strengthened me in my spiritual journey, and he has educated me in spiritual discernment and theology.  He has pointed out to me God’s Holy Word during times of trials, and he has prayed for me and prayed for me and prayed for me.

Hebrews 13:7 (NASB)

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

What has your pastor done for you?  More than a groundhog, I feel sure.  I’m just saying…

Blessings and peace…..Laura

Come, Have Dinner with Me!

Deutsch: Gastronomie om Schlosshotel

        It was Friday night and as many know, Friday is date night for Earl and me each week.  But last week it was a little different.

     Earl began CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) classes at the end of August, and they last until December 18th.   This past weekend was his first of eight, overnight, on-call volunteer times.

     So we decided that we would have a date night on Thursday night.  We tried a restaurant in downtown, Charleston.  We love sampling the food at different restaurants, and I almost always prefer Italian.  Unfortunately, we left the restaurant $60 poorer and still hungry.     Whoever heard of leaving an Italian restaurant hungry?         

                                                                           

Friday is also Earl’s day off (on call 24/7 always, but we say it’s his day off), so he got up early, worked on his computer, went into the office (he feels guilty now that he takes a day or two for the chaplaincy program, so he goes in on Friday)….then he came home and worked on one of his many auto projects before dressing to the nine’s and heading to the hospital. 

Before leaving he asked me, “Would you come to the hospital and have dinner with me?”  OK, I’ll be honest here, as the pastor’s wife, my first thought was not positive.  It was more like “What?  You’ve got to be kidding!”  But even as he was asking, and I was rejecting, I knew without a doubt, I would be going with him.

It’s not often that I deny Earl his heartfelt requests, and anybody who knows me, knows this is true.  But why would I deny myself an opportunity to spend a little time with Earl, even if it is in a hospital cafeteria?  As many people know, a pastor’s family life is very difficult.  Check out the blog-post here that I wrote concerning statistics on a pastor’s life and family.  So with this knowledge, I know not to make our life any more difficult than it already is.  If I’m given an opportunity to be with him, and I can do it, I’m there! 

When I met him at the St. Francis Hospital cafeteria, I must say that we enjoyed a fabulous fish dinner with rice and greens along with drinks and bread – all for less than $10.  The meal was fabulous!  My date continued on with a tour of the chapel, the CPE offices, and then I was brought upstairs to see where he would be spending the night.  It was in a small room on a tiny little single bed.  Earl is 6’2”, and this was not going to be comfortable for him to say the least.  Not only that, but the bed wasn’t even made up.  Ghee-gads!  Earl and I spent a few minutes locating the linens and then without a second thought, I was making up his bed for him. 

I figure it this way, I feel so blessed that God has given me a few things in this life to oversee, whereas Earl has been given much to oversee.  I certainly want to make sure that I do all I can for such a caring, compassionate and humble pastor, so that he can touch the souls of those in distress and those that are depressed and dispirited, by the Spirit of God that works through him.

Matthew 9:36 NASB

36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

Do You Have a Bag of Regrets?

How many of us can look back on our lives and say that we don’t have any regrets?  I most certainly cannot.

I had a friend that wrote a letter to me about 10-12 years ago, and one of the statements that she made was, “I have no regrets in my life.”  Wow.  This is a woman that I went all the way through school with.  She married, had children, owned a business, and was an elder of her church.  How can someone go through life and look back and say that all the choices he or she made were the correct ones – no regrets? 

I regret things all the time.  I seem to have a whole bag of them.

1)      the tone of my voice when I’m irritated and take it out on someone else;

2)      not making more friends;

3)      having too much pride – causing me to hold back an apology that is due someone;

4)      not giving enough of myself to the needy;

5)      denying God when He’s asked me to do something that was out of my comfort zone;

6)      not getting involved in a particular mission that God has laid on my heart for 13 plus years. 

I believe there are different kinds of regret.  Some are regrets concerning decisions we’ve made in our lives that didn’t help us out personally.  Other regrets concern decisions we’ve made that didn’t better someone else.

My regrets revolve around the decisions I’ve made that didn’t make someone else’s life a little better or a little easier.  I’ve been somewhat selfish in that regard, and I’ve regretted that tremendously.  But that is a regret that can be eased from the burden that I drag around with me.  It doesn’t need to be over my shoulder, weighing me down.  I can move forward in life and work on helping the next person that comes along that is in need of Christian grace and love.  I have His love because God has blessed me with it abundantly.  So why not share it with those who need it most?

I have no regrets for me personally.  I don’t regret poor decisions that I made that hurt or hindered me.  I don’t regret decisions that I made that didn’t prosper me.  I give thanks to God that He used my decisions to grant me experiences in order that I can help someone else who needs the same grace that I received from God.

I can move forward, making my future decisions better, based on the experience from my past.  God doesn’t want us to have regrets after we have been forgiven.  He wants us to live from this day onward for the better – looking forward to the goal – of being like Jesus Christ and looking forward to the prize– of being with Jesus Christ, not looking back and holding onto regrets. I’ve dropped my bag of regrets……with no regret!

13… But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, Philippians 3:13

A LIFE of AUDITS

As the Financial Controller for a small security business in Atlanta for the past 13 years, I have endured multiple audits annually.  An audit is an extensive and methodical examination of all of the books, records and accounts that support the financial statements.   In most circumstances, they are costly and time consuming.  Audits I’ve dealt with have been done by outside accountants with insurance companies, Department of Labor, commercial finance and our own accountant.  All these audits are done in order to determine basically whether I am doing my job correctly and that there is no cooking of the books.

Two months ago, two days prior to leaving on a two week vacation, I received a call from the State of Georgia – Department of Revenue – Sales Tax Division.  They would be coming  August 13 for two days to two weeks to audit every aspect of our company books, to determine that as an agent for the State of Georgia that we were paying the state all that was due to them.  The audit was for a three year period, May 2009 – July 2012.  Let the panic set it!!

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”  This verse has played a very important part of my life for decades.  I believe God Himself provided me with this wonderful opportunity of work and because He wanted me here, doing this work, I would commit the work that He gave me, to His service.  All that I do, I mentally determine that it is for God.  Just as pastors, elders, church leaders take the position that God gave them, knowing that the work is in His name and for His service.  We should  understand that the work God has given us is actually for Him!

Therefore I went into this audit for the state with prayer and I asked fellow Christians for their prayers also.  Though I was told it could take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, I anticipated 2 weeks and I PRAYED for 2 days.  I spent the last two months preparing for this audit.  It disrupted my normal routine of working remotely from Charleston, and I had to travel to Atlanta more often and stay longer.  I was commuting to Atlanta on Sundays after the worship service and returning on Friday or Saturday in order to be home for next Sunday’s services.  And I was still trying to minister to Earl and to God’s people as He also directed me.  And through it all, God kept me safe in my additional travels.

On Monday, August 13, my auditor appeared at 9 AM, but by Wednesday, August 15, my auditor was finished with the on-site field audit!  Do I hear an Amen?   My prayer was definitely answered that in two days the on-site audit was completed.  After all was said and done, I had done my job to the best of my abilities and with careful preparation and the help of my staff; we were able to provide all the information in an organized and detailed presentation. 

After prayer and praise to God, He gave me a thought to ponder.  Shouldn’t each of His children review the life they are living and after careful consideration, preparation and detailed determination be able to present themselves to God for audit?  God is the only judge Who can determine whether they are doing the job He gave them to do, and whether they do their job to the best of their abilities.  Aren’t we all really living a life that is to be fully audited by God?   Thank the Lord, our books will be found clean through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Message of the Beatitudes – Seven- Peacemaker

     “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”  Matthew 5:9

     So here I am, wondering, do I have what it takes to be a “PEACEMAKER”?

     There could be a difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper.  It might be helpful to distinguish between them.  Personally, I believe a peacekeeper is one who tries to a great extent to avoid conflict. This is someone who will not cause waves in a situation.  They just want to keep the peace.  I believe that I might be basically just a peacekeeper. 

     On the contrary, I believe a peacemaker may even have to bring conflict to the surface between individuals to help reconcile any differences.  These are people who are not afraid to iron things out.

The key difference is; a peacekeeper knows that conflict exists but tries to avoid any flare-ups between parties.  A peacemaker takes the potentially hazardous conflict and attempts to reconcile the parties by putting an end to the controversy.

I believe peacemaking requires more Christian attributes and gifts than does peacekeeping.  Peacemaking requires forgiveness whereas peacekeeping may avoid the discussion of forgiveness altogether.  Does someone have to ask for forgiveness before reconciliation takes place?  I believe so.  I have discussed this with Earl.  I have determined that he is correct when he says forgiveness has to be asked for before one can forgive or be truly reconciled.   Doesn’t God call people to repent and ask forgiveness from Him?   I’ve argued that I can forgive people regardless of whether they’ve asked for it or not.  This really is wrong.  What I’ve actually done is made peace within myself in order to avoid conflict from without.  This is a peacekeeper’s way of dealing with situations.  It may even be an insult to tell an individual, “I’ve forgiven you,” when he or she may actually believe that I need to ask for forgiveness from them!  People are not truly reconciled by just making peace within ourselves.

This is where a peacemaker makes all the difference.  Instead of burying my head in the sand and pretending discord doesn’t exist, I need to vocalize how I’m feeling and get the feelings of the other person involved.  Then, with a Christ-like attitude, begin to understand and work on improving the situation that has caused such a struggle in the relationship.

Jesus was very clear about this during the Sermon on the Mount verses, again Matthew 5.  Look at verses 23-24 “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”    

This is a very serious directive that Jesus has given us.  It could quite possibly be put like this way.  If you are in church and The Spirit reminds you that you and your brother or sister are at odds, leave church before offering yourself to God and be reconciled with your sister or brother and then come back and be reconciled with God.    Our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters is so important to God that He doesn’t accept our worship until we have truly reconciled with our sisters and brothers – provided, of course that it is possible to reconcile with them!  Paul said it this way, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”  God’s ministry and goal for all individuals is reconciliation.  That is not just reconciliation with Him, but between all of us.  How do we expect God to reconcile with us in our sins, when we can’t even reconcile with each other for wrong doings?

Peacemaking is a never ending requirement during this lifetime in order to be like sons of God.  This is the ministry of Christ that He has given to us. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Let us look to His ministry of reconciliation whenever and wherever it is possible – as far as it depends on us – through Christ our Lord.

BE STRONG and BE COURAGEOUS

“Be Strong and Courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

I have had a very hectic and draining couple of weeks.  But I can only attempt to understand the distress, pressures and heartache that my pastor husband, Earl, has endured.

We live and minister in Charleston, SC, and I work for a company in Atlanta, GA.  Last week, I was needed in Atlanta for the week, coming back to Charleston on Saturday.  On Palm Sunday, Earl received a call that no one ever wants to receive.  His father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer only 2 months prior, had passed away.  With Holy Week ahead of him, we quickly made the arrangements to get to St. Louis on Monday morning, very early.

Upon arriving, Earl and I, his sister and brother-in-law and Earl’s mother, went to make the arrangements with the funeral home.  After spending most of the day there, the decisions had been made, but then they had to find a burial plot, where further hours were spent with more decisions being made.  Earl’s mother was a really strong woman that day and handled herself with pure grace.  She was strong, she was courageous!

Earl’s mother made a request of Earl that I would never have been able to fulfill.  She asked him to do the service for his father.  Earl was grieving, Earl was trying to be the strong son.  Earl was uncertain he could fulfill her request.  But she insisted.  Earl’s stress was intensified.  How could he possibly do his own father’s service and make it as meaningful for the family as he had done for so many other families in the past?  This request prompted me to remember how Earl was as a child.  He wanted to be superman; he donned his cape and climbed atop the garage so he could save the world and make everything right.

 

Earl had to go into super pastor mode, so he went into prayer and asked God for His presence.  He pastored his family; he gently and compassionately questioned them about their stories about his father.  He took in the stories and on Wednesday, he took those stories and developed them into a tribute to his father that was inspiring, loving and heart- felt by each person in the chapel. He began his eulogy with a prayer that so touched me that I will never forget his request.  He asked God to give him the spirit of a preacher and the heart of a grateful son.  Earl stood strong, he was courageous! 

God’s timing in the passing of Earl’s father was too soon for us, but oh so perfect for Him. Earl’s father suffers no more.  Earl will always remember that God took Aubrey home on Palm Sunday.  Earl mentioned that his father triumphantly entered Paradise on the day we celebrate Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem so long ago.  Jesus came in order that we too could triumphantly enter the gates of heaven.  Earl’s father lived a life full of compassion, love and gentleness the very personality of Jesus.  Earl’s father lived a life of giving and helping and being there for those that came across his path.  Earl’s father lived a life that most would shy away from, for Earl’s father did not live for self, but Aubrey lived for others.  Aubrey lived strong, he was courageous!

Easter is now upon Earl.  The day after burying his father, Earl was presenting the Maundy Thursday service to a fellowship hall full of our Charleston family.  Our congregation offered him more time to stay with his mother and take care of family business.  Our congregation offered a gift so very extraordinary, they gave that gift unselfishly, knowing that Holy Week was here.  But in Earl’s eyes, his church family in Charleston needed him now.  He needed to be back in the fellowship of his flock, helping to lead them into the Easter season, in the remembrance of the Resurrection of Christ, the most holy week of the year. He let the Lord lead him.  He knew that he had to be strong and courageous for his flock.  For he knows, “the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

May you be strong and courageous through all of life’s trials and tribulations and may you always know that the Lord will go ahead of you and will always be with you. In Christ we can be strong and courageous!

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