Brokenhearted on Valentine' Day

      It’s been 6 months since my wife Deb, went home to be with the Lord. We were married 40 years. I wish I could say that it’s getting easier. But that isn’t true. I can still remember being bedside when she took her last breath, along with the sensation of her hand going limp in mine, when she passed. There are some things you never forget. I have learned a lot about grief during this time. I always thought that grief was the enemy, when loss is really the villain here. Grief is the mechanism God gives us to process loss. Grief is normal, natural and necessary. Still, there are steps in this process that are difficult to endure. For example, denial is not the first stage of grief, but a feeling that comes and goes quite unexpectedly. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, hoping that all of this is just a bad dream. But, if I slide my hand over to the cold, empty side of the bed, the reality of grief quickly takes hold. 

     I have experienced loss before this. My parents, brother and my in-laws have all passed away. However, losing your spouse is different. Through all those experiences, my wife and I walked together, holding each other up. Now I walk this path of grief, alone. I’m not writing this to make you feel sorry for me, but to help you think about life, love and second chances. If the Lord came to me and said, “You can have your wife back, but you must be willing to relive all the difficult times of your marriage.” I would do it, without hesitation. I realize that some of you are struggling with hurtful marriages. There are times when you believe that ending it, would be far better than living with your pain. Believe me, that’s not true. It’s far better to fight hard for your marriage, then to surrender. There is no victory in giving up, only defeat and sadness. You might be wondering where the Lord is, in all of this. He is right here with me. He never left. Jesus is the reason why I have been able to keep going. One verse that has been a frequent source of comfort to me is Ps. 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

     Today is Valentine’ Day, so early this morning, I went to the cemetery. I brought a single, red rose and placed it at my wife’s grave. I stood there a while and cried there a while. Then I asked the Lord to hold Deb close, since I no longer can. I also asked the Lord to give me the strength to turn and leave. The strength to keep going forward into a new and different life, the likes of which, I can’t imagine. If you’re reading this on Valentine’s Day or any other day, don’t miss your chance to say, ‘I love you’ to your spouse. Write a letter, do something, anything, while you still have the opportunity. Don’t wait! Time is NOT on your side. Happy Valentine’ Day, Sweetheart. I love you and miss you, more than words can ever say.

The Unavoidable, Inevitable

      A man had a dream that he was chasing the sun. The reason for his quest was that he believed he couldn’t exist without the sun’ warmth and light. But, no matter how hard or fast he ran, the sun was too far ahead and eventually set in the west. When the man turned around all he could see was darkness. He stood there, gripped by fear. Just then, a traveler walked past the terrified man. This traveler was heading east, into the darkness. “Where are you going asked the terrified man?” The traveler said, “I’m going into the darkness.” “Why do that? asked the frightened man.” You don’t know what’s in there!”

      It’s only natural to want to avoid the darkness of human pain and suffering. We will do anything to put distance between ourselves and the scary, harmful unknown. We’ve all heard stories. We’ve seen those who entered the darkness, knowingly. We’ve watched how that journey impacted them. It’s clear that everyone has a choice when it comes to going into the darkness. We can run as fast as we can to keep some distance between ourselves and what I like to call the “unavoidable, inevitable”. Or like the traveler we can walk into the darkness willingly. I’m convinced that when Jesus was praying those agonizing prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was staring into the darkness. It’s clear that the Savior didn’t like what he saw, so He asked to be excused from the journey. In Matt.26:39, Jesus prayed; “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. (We tend to slide to quickly into the next part of this verse.) Yet, I want your will to be done, not mine.”  (So, lets hit the pause button.) Do you think that Jesus had any reservations about going into the darkness? I believe His humanity certainly did. Who wants to suffer the pain of hurting and loss? No one. But running from the darkness only postpones, you guessed it, the “unavoidable, inevitable”. Sooner or later, we have to turn and face what we fear. More than face it, we have to move through it. I wonder if Jesus realized that the only way He could become the “Light of the world”, was by passing through the darkness. I think He did, and that’s why He went. So, what darkness are you staring at, as you read this? Maybe you’ve been running from it so long, you have to turn around and remember what it is. Believe me, it’s still there. Remember what I called it? The “unavoidable, inevitable”. You see the traveler in our story was on the right path. That’s why he answered the terrified man this way. “That’s right said the traveler, I don’t know what’s in there. But I know that God will meet me in the darkness. Besides, the only way to find the light again is to go through the darkness.”

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, ...”               Psalm 107:13-15 (NIV)

 

Christ cried too.

      It’s the question I hear all too often, since my wife Deb, passed away. People ask, “How are you?” I’m tempted to answer, “How do you think I am?”  The answer to both questions is, “I’m terrible, because I’m grieving”. Without a doubt, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Sometimes the Christian community is afraid to acknowledge personal pain. Somewhere the message was given that Christians don’t suffer. They keep on trusting God. As if trusting God cancels out suffering. Take it from me, it doesn’t! Grieving is hard work. Every morning, grief waits for me at the foot of my bed. It embraces me as soon as I wake up. It hangs all over me, throughout the day. Weighing me down. Holding me back. Sometimes making it hard to breathe. I know what you might be thinking. Where’s the victory? Sometimes the victory is making it through the day, the next hour, or taking the next step or breath.

     Right now I’m reading a book by C.S. Lewis entitled; “A Grief Observed”. It’s Lewis’ account of his grieving process, after his wife dies from cancer.  Lewis writes; “The act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” That pretty much sums it up. Death + absence = grief. However, there is one Bible story that keeps coming back to me. This is the account in John 11, where Jesus comes to Lazarus’s grave to resurrect him. In v33 we read, When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Now Jesus knew that He was going to bring Lazarus back to life. He could have turned and said, “Hey, lighten up! Things are going to work out.” Instead of ducking grief, Jesus takes it full in the face. The impact of grief upon Jesus is just two words found in v35. “Jesus wept.” I guess it’s OK for me to weep, since Jesus did. Please don’t judge anyone because of their tears. Christ cried too. Since He did, I know that my Savior understands. He didn’t run from sorrow and I know He will meet me in the midst of mine. He will also meet you in the midst of your pain. How do I know for sure? I know because He’s already been there, so He knows the way in and out. He finds each of us in our sorrow. Picking us up. Helping us take another step and even another breath. Eventually the day will come, when we find ourselves upright again, stronger than before, with a strength that comes only from Him.

Bonhoeffer on Grief

‘There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.’ – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What Do you Say to Someone Who' Hurting?

 

       We all been in this situation. Someone we know or love is going through a crisis. So, we feel compelled to say something that might comfort, inspire or support them. We fumble for the right words, because there is this nagging feeling that something has to be said to show we care.

      Well, allow me to make some suggestions about how to handle this delicate conversation. Let me begin by describing what not to say.  Don’t say’ “I know how you feel.” Or “I know exactly what you’re going through.” The truth is, you don’t. Even if you’ve had a similar experience, no two people can feel the same way in any given situation. The Lord has made us unique creatures who navigate life differently. Grief, anger, sadness or love are experienced based on personality type, life experience and emotional make-up. Trying to relate to someone’ pain by mentioning your pain is very risky. Recently, we had a medical professional visit our home who told us a story about how her friend passed away under similar circumstances. It was clear that her wounds were fresh, since it wasn’t long before she was in tears, with her grief spilling out all over us. Neither Deb nor I knew what to do. We are not in a place, right now, where we could have comforted this person in her grief. Later, we talked about how uncomfortable we felt and how unprofessional this was.

     Here’s another suggestion. If someone is hurting badly, don’t ask them, How are you?” Or How are you doing?” The answer is obvious, they’re hurting! If you feel compelled to say something, try this. “Is there anything you need?” Do you have something specific I can pray for?” A simply, “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.”, will suffice. If you don’t know what to say, then practice what my counselor/friend calls “sacred silence”. This means coming alongside someone without the need to say anything. Sometimes people who are hurting, just want to talk, and they want us listen. They don’t need our advice as much as they need our undivided attention. We can demonstrate that we care by giving someone the opportunity to speak freely, without judgment or a desire to correct or redirect their perceptions. If they are in crisis it’s reasonable to assume that thinking clearly isn’t easy for them to do. Give grace allowances to those who are trying to find their way, amidst their pain.

     One last thing. I want to make it clear that no one in our church family has said or done anything that prompted me to write this blog. I simply wanted to pass along what we learned, onto others. Everyone has been caring and loving, the way a church family should be. I thank each of you for that. So what do the Chericos need? Prayer, prayer and more prayer. Prayer for peace. Prayer for wisdom. Prayer that we can find Jesus in the midst of our pain, as our family and extended family face this crisis together. I talked to Deb this morning and she said, for the first time, that she excited about going to home to heaven, but she feels guilty about leaving her family behind. Please pray that her excitement will overshadow anything else, as she prepares for the Lord Jesus to call her home. Thank you.

Serving the Savior Together,

Pastor John

Coming to a full stop!

     I have to admit, I like punctuation. I can’t write without it. Punctuation gives order & emphasis to any sentence. I am a firm believer that if you want to make a point, use a well-sharpened sentence, with punctuation! This is why the (? , ! ;  and the .) are my friends, especially the ‘period’. I even try to use correct punctuation when emailing and texting. Foolish? Maybe a little.

     This is why, a recent article in the newspaper entitled; “The end of punctuation, period!!!”, has me worried. According to the author, the ‘period’ is quickly becoming passé. In fact, the writer makes his point by writing his entire article without using a ‘period’, on purpose! This article says that the ‘period’ “is being felled in the barrage of instant messaging that has become synonymous with the digital age.” In other words, texting is single-handedly eliminating the “period”. So, do we need it?  What’s the purpose of the “period”, anyway? A period signals a full stop in a sentence. Without it, we create a run-on a sentence like this one: Today life is filled with the unexpected that can come at us at any moment from any side without warning causing anyone to be blindsided by a plethora of problematic circumstances culminating in a barrage of challenges & difficulties leaving us exhausted like the way you feel after reading this sentence because…….  (I think you see what happens when a full stop in a sentence is ignored.)

     But, what about applying a “full stop” to life? After all, don’t you feel that life is like a run on sentence? Things don’t stop. Demands keep coming. Expectations explode everywhere. Do this! Be there! Get this done! Don’t delay! Don’t forget! God has an answer to this problem. In fact, He invented it. God’ idea of a full-stop is called the Sabbath. A single day of rest in each week, where we cease working. Sound familiar? The purpose of a Sabbath is to give the heart and mind a rest from the demands of work, in order to enjoy what’s been accomplished. A Sabbath is an affirmation that you believe that with God in the next week, you can be successful in six days, without over doing it by working 7! So, when we fill up the Sabbath with additional duties and responsibilities that drain us like work does, then we miss out on the Sabbath, God created. It also means we don’t trust God’ ability to provide us with enough time and energy to get things done in the coming week. The Sabbath is something the Lord knows we need. In your heart of hearts, you know that its desperately needed, isn’t it? If you feel that one day tumbles into another and one week collides with the next, then you are missing that ‘full stop’ called the Sabbath, period!!! In my next blog, I will continue this discussion on the importance of the Sabbath. So, for now ponder this passage in Deut. 5:15; You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (ESV)

The Circle of Revival

     The world seems to be a mess and society is busy finger-pointing at almost everyone and everything from the government to religion to the economy, as the reason. What’s happening in our culture today goes deeper than politics, race or social differences. The real problem is that personal rights have become more important than personal responsibility. Whatever someone wants or thinks they need, the state or government feels obliged to give it to them. There is no thought toward working for something, no incentive to earn it, because people believe that life owes them whatever they desire.

    Today, what someone believes is true, is more important than the actual truth. If an eight-year boy believes that he is a kangaroo & begins hopping around. Eventually, someone would sit the kid down & set the him straight. But if an eight-year boy decides he’s a girl, society says, what he feels is justification to help him make that transition. It doesn’t matter that he’s only eight, or that he might be very confused, needing some guidance. This inconsistency points out both the foolishness and danger of ungodly logic.

     When people lose sight of God, they lose sight of the truth. They are blinded by personal desires, seeking to satisfy their sinful inclinations. They are not guided by honor, trust or faith. They are driven by selfishness, satisfied only by excess, which is all consuming. So, when you turn on the news & cringe at what you see, remember this.

     Behind the scenes, happy to fan the flames of moral destruction, the forces of darkness are hard at work. The Dark Prince can always be found alongside of bullies, dictators, mass murders and anyone bent on harming other people. Any belief system that is fixated on destroying those who are different, is a breeding ground for evil. Evil always thrives in an atmosphere of anger, hatred, intolerance, immorality and social crisis. For this reason, we are certainly a society in crisis. So how do we begin to change the world? First, we need to make sure we’re part of the solution, but not part of the problem. We need to examine our heart. We need to explore those remote regions of our inner self to insure that we are not becoming indifferent to the Lord or critical toward others. This was the motivation behind David prayer found in Ps 139:23-24; Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

     The two things David is praying for is examination and direction. Divine examination is imperative since we can easily fool ourselves, while godly direction is crucial since there is so much in the world than can lead us astray. There is only one path in life that is right. Only one way to go, only one way to walk. We are called to “walk as Jesus walked”, His was a walk of obedience. Someone once said if you want revival, take a piece of chalk and draw a circle on the ground. Then step into the circle and begin praying that revival begins within the circle first.

Not a Magic Lamp!

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”. John 15:7

       In this passage, Jesus is telling us that answered prayer is contingent upon our spiritual connectedness with Him. This means maintaining a consistent relationship of daily dependence upon Him, alone. This is why prayer isn’t asking God for a favor, answered prayer confirms that we are in God’s favor, that we are in Him and He is in us. Answered prayer affirms that our connection with God through Christ is real. This connection grants us the privilege of having our prayers answered. So, if you doubt if you’re connected to the One True Vine, then examine your prayer life. If you can point to situations where your prayers have been answered, then you’re connected to Jesus Christ. Answered prayer is God’s affirmation that we belong to Him, that we are in Him and He is in us.

      However, prayer isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s not some magic lamp that we rub, expecting that all our dreams will come true. The fact is, sometimes our dreams can actually do us harm by hindering our spiritual growth. Prayer is not about getting what we want, it’s about wanting whatever we get. We should want whatever we get from the Lord because we recognize its always His best. This means praying “not my will, but yours be done” and meaning it. When we pray in the name of Jesus it means we are praying that these answers are empowered by Him to fulfill His purposes. Only when we want what the Lord wants and accept with the Lord gives, are we truly abiding in or remaining in Jesus.

 

Prince is gone.......

      It’s been a few weeks, since I’ve driven past Prince’s recording studio, Paisley Palace. I did so shortly after his death. However, a few days ago, I drove past again. This time the scene was quite different. Gone are the enormous TV trucks with their giant satellite dishes. Also gone are the long lines of adoring fans & curiosity seekers. I saw only a handful of people milling about. The perimeter fence around the compound, is covered with sentiments of grief and affection left by thousands of people. However, these tokens of admiration have gone through quite a change. The flowers stuck in the fence have wilted or fallen to the ground. The signs and posters are sagging, with their messages blurred by the weather. Hundreds of purple, star shaped, Mylar balloons or now underinflated or just pitifully flat, flapping sadly in the wind. I imagine that inside, Prince’s studio is quiet and dark. The many instruments he once brought to life, are now gathering dust. There will no more songs to be recorded. No more concerts to be given. No more surprise guest appearances to be made. All of this points to one grim fact. Prince is gone and he’s not coming back!

      Once again I am struck by the contrast between the musical icon Prince and the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Our Jesus is not dead. He is very much alive, in His resurrection body, truly a God with skin on. Our Jesus isn’t t idle, according to Romans 8:34, Jesus is actively standing “at the right of God interceding for us.” Praying for each of us by name! Jesus is also busy preparing a place for us in heaven. Here is what he said in John 14:2; “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

     So, let’s review the facts. We have a Prince who is very much alive. A Prince who is committed to helping us deal with the struggles of life, by praying for us. He is also preparing a heavenly home for us and He is a Prince who is coming again. Not just coming again, He’s coming back for us! Jesus also said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3). Let’s not forget that because our Prince is God, this makes Him ever-present with us through his abiding Spirit, each and every day.  Jesus has promised to “never leave us or forsake us”. This is a promise made and kept. It seems to me, that we have the best of both worlds, since our Jesus is the Prince of princes in this world and the next, not forgetting that He is also the King of kings. Come, Lord Jesus, we are ready & joyfully anticipating Your royal return!

Rabbits should eat dandelions!

Why don’t rabbits eat dandelions? It’s really a simple request, that would benefit all concerned. Let me back up. In my neighborhood, we have our share of wild rabbits. You can see them scamper about at dusk and early in the morning. The rabbits in my neighborhood like to eat flowers, particularly my wife’s tulips. Of course, this doesn’t go over very well. So I wonder why they don’t eat dandelions instead. I have a wonderful assortment in my grass. These bunnies are more than welcome to dine on this pesky weed, that won’t go away. They could eat until their furry bellies are full. But alas, the dandelions flourish, while the tulips are headed for extinction.

      I guess when we look around there are many situations that can get to us. Like, why does the car behind me have to tailgate me? Why is there a person on the “5 Items or less” check out aisle with 8 items? How come every major highway in the Twin Cites seems to be under construction? Yes, the list of unanswered questions goes on and on, all of which highlight life’s little annoyances. But it’s really the way you look at it. Wouldn’t it be better to see the grass and not focus on the weeds? Maybe acknowledging that my driving habits annoy others would change my perspective. What about talking kindly to the people on line, rather than counting items would help. Now the highway is different story. Without construction, roads would become dangerous, even impassable. It’s a necessity. 

     I guess it all boils down to what we set our sights on, as we go through life. Certainly there is enough out there to make you crazy, if you let it! I think it’s about focus, or fine-tuning our minds. I think this is what Paul meant when he said, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Phil 4:8 (NLT) Who knows, maybe dandelions were once beautiful flowers, that became a weed, only after “The Fall”. If this is true, then Adam should take care of my lawn!

Right in the Middle!

       It's something you’re read, without giving it a second thought. It just didn’t jump out at you at the time. Ironically, it’s in the middle of the single sadness moment in the history of the world, found in Gen. 3. It pinpoints the location of ‘The Fall’ of Adam and Eve.  Yes, we know this happened in Eden’s garden. But where in the garden? Where was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil located? In her conversation with the devil, Eve reveals its exact whereabouts in Gen 3:3. Eve says, “you must not eat fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden,” You would think that God would have tucked such a deadly tree in the back of some dense forest. Maybe place it up high, on the top of some hard to reach mountain, jutting out on a rock ledge. Not so. You find it smack in the middle of the garden. Right in the middle of the daily comings and goings of Adam and Eve. Was the Lord God setting them up for failure? Purposely baiting a trap where the victims would find it? That doesn’t sound like our God.

      Stop and think about where you find temptation today? In the middle of your thought life. In the middle of your conversations. In the middle of your internet search or TV channel surfing. In middle of a coffee shop, shopping mall or even a grocery store. The opportunity to say, do or think the wrong thing is front and center, within our daily living. Smack in the middle of life, as we know it! So, is this God’s cruel cosmic joke on us? Certainly not. Evil is real, therefore temptation exists.  However, temptation is not sin. Temptation is an ungodly opportunity to do the wrong thing. But temptation is also a godly opportunity to do the right thing. To experience victory instead of defeat, self-control instead of self-indulgence. Temptation can be an encounter where you witness your positive Christ-inspired spiritual growth and development in the Christian life. Take to heart of what the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor.10:13-14 (NIV)

 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

The Apostle Paul is telling us that temptation is bearable and escapable. The reason why this is true is because we always have a choice. The Lord will always faithfully provide a grace-filled strategy to cope with and conquer temptation. So get ready. Be ready! The challenge to overcome evil by rejecting temptation is just around the corner. Remember, it might turn up in the middle of the very next thing you do.

"The Artist Formerly Known As...."

     The world is shocked, Prince is dead. Last night, I drove past Prince’s music studio in Chanhassen, it was quite a spectacle. The road is closed and maintained by the obvious presence of law enforcement. Massive TV trucks with huge satellite dishes fill the street in front of the compound. The area near the building is packed with faithful fans. They walk in long, solemn lines, with some carrying flowers. These flowers and other expressions of grief adorn the fence. The faithful congregate near the main gate to show their respect. There are tears of sadness over Prince’ passing. I suspect this ritual of remembrance and respect will go on for quite a while.

     However, I am struck by the contrast of public response when another prince died, the Prince of Peace. When Jesus died, no long line of faithful teary-eyed followers mourned the end His life. There were no flowers placed in remembrance of His death.  Only a handful of supporters showed up at His burial.  His passing left the faithful confused and frightened, while some were relieved that Jesus was gone. They viewed it, as a problem solved.

     Please understand that I recognize the talent of the late Prince. He made a vast contribution to the world of music. Truly, he was a musical icon. Still I am often dumb-founded by the adulation the world heaps on celebrities. They are revered, even worshipped by their loyal fans. Oftentimes their lives suffer from many dysfunctions that people over look. It is rumored, and I hope for the sake of Prince’s family that drugs are not the cause of his death. If it’s true, Prince might join the long list of musical notables whose life ended this way. The short list is Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Elvis Presley and Amy Winehouse, just to name a few. The world fails to comprehend that personal wholeness has nothing to do with fame or a fat bank account. Frequently, those who have so much, suffer the most, since all they have can’t fill the void in their lives. Tradically, they try to numb the pain with a host of destructive behaviors that only make a bad situation worse. Again, I hope the last chapter in Prince’s life, will not read this way.

     So how can we counteract the terrible toll life can take on us? What strategy can stem the tide of daily stress? Here is the answer. Love Jesus. Live for Him. Let His peace reign in your heart. It’s the only way to hold your own in this troublesome world. Jesus said, "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27 NLT) I can’t speak to the spiritual condition of the “The Artist Formally Known As”. However, by now he understands that there is only one Prince in heaven, the Prince of Peace, who sustains us in this life and the next. - PJC

15 more years

  

     A friend of mine for over 20 yrs., recently passed away. His name is Norris Nelson. Norris loved God’s word, especially the book of Isaiah. His favorite verse comes from Isa. 41:10. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

     Norris learned early on, that the only way to handle the difficulties of life is to acknowledge and depend on his ever present God. He also understood that becoming dismayed or discouraged is best handled through an ongoing relationship with the One True God, who can handle anything and do everything.  When Norris grew weak, as we all do, when he didn’t know where to turn or what to do, he took hold of God’s hand and was strengthened, he was helped up, by an Almighty God who always shows up. This was a lifelong process.

     So let me tell you how Norris Nelson lived. In Norris’ bible, Isaiah 38 had some interesting comments made by him. This is the story of King Hezekiah “who became ill to the point of death”. The prophet Isaiah showed up to deliver this message from the Lord: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover. Not the kind of news anyone wants to hear.

     Hezekiah was an extraordinary man of faith, since the first thing he does is turn to the Lord in prayer. There’s a simply lesson here. When we face life’s struggles make sure that prayer is our first response not our last resort. This was Hezekiah prayer. Remember, O Lord, how I walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes. The Lord promptly responded by telling Isaiah to inform Hezekiah that he would be given 15 more years of life. In the margin of his bible, Norris wrote right near this passage the year, 2001. Then Norris wrote his age at the time which was 76. Below that number he wrote 15, then a line and when you add 76 + 15= 91. Norris passed away last week at the age of 91. Can I say for sure that Norris had an agreement with the Lord for another 15 years? I don’t know. But it wouldn’t surprise me. I am certain that Norris is with his Lord in heaven right now!

     Unfortunately, in our culture today, straight talk about heaven and hell is frowned upon. It’s just too intrusive, even rude. Well, I can’t think of anything more intrusive and rude than death. Furthermore, our society is frantic about PC, you know political correctness. Many believe our language should be accepting and inclusive. We should focus on what we have in common, instead of highlighting our differences. Personally I’m not so worried about being politically correct. I am more concerned about being BC, biblically correct. The fact remains that when we look closely at our differences, therein lies the truth. The truth is not concept or a belief system, The Truth is a person. Since Jesus Himself said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  That’s exactly what Christ said. Then in that very next sentence Jesus also said this, No one can come to the Father except through me.

     Whoops, that’s not very politically correct now is it? Sounds like we just slammed the door on what some people believe. In fact, some would say that’s pretty narrow minded. Jesus would agree with that, since Christ also said in Matt 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Wow, a narrow road and a small gate doesn’t sound very promising, until we read what Christ says in John 10:9 Jesus says; I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.

     Norris walked that narrow path his entire life, because he came to the realization that no one can save themselves. Norris realized that it’s not about rules or rituals, it’s about relationship with the One True God, through his Son Jesus Christ. Norris knew that he needed Savior, which enabled him, when the time came, to walk through that narrow gate. For that reason alone, Norris is with his Savior and Lord even now.

     So where will you be when your life is over?  If you Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, asking Him to be Your Savior and Lord, you will know where you will be, you will be saved. This is a decision each of us needs to make, sooner rather than later. Since none of us knows for sure, if we have 15 more years or for that matter, even 15 more minutes.

     Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." That name is Jesus Christ. If Norris was here right now he would look you in the eye and ask you, “Who is Jesus Christ to you?” Knowing about Jesus isn’t enough. Asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior is the beginning of a lifetime of walking in faith with the One True God. A lifetime that ends with the promise of eternal life. Remember, God always keeps His promises. Of course, this is something Norris already knows.  Rest in the splendor of heaven, my friend.

(Excepts taken from the message I preached at Norris Nelson’ funeral- 4/11/16)

  

    

 

 

Easter Only?

 On Easter Sunday, our church enjoyed a surge in attendance, as many churches often do. This year our weekly attendance doubled. Doubled! However, a few weeks later, it’s business as usual, as our numbers drift back to normal. To be honest, normal bugs me. I guess some people believe that coming to church once or twice a year is sufficient. Imagine if God decided that He needed a break from us. If the Lord took just one day off, creation would fly into chaos. Planets would collide. Stars would fall from the sky. Ocean tides would surge uncontrollably. The Laws of Physics would be temporarily suspended. If the law of gravity ceased to exist for even a moment, everybody and everything would drift helplessly into space. God keeps things together. He also keeps us together. Together is what church is about. It’s not about the offering it’s about community. It’s not about songs or long winded sermons it’s about spending time with people who care for each other, pray for each other and share the ups and downs of life with each other. Most importantly it’s about worshiping the One True God, Jesus Christ who gave us everything we need in this life, and the next. We should display our gratitude by regularly showing that the Lord God is worthy of our respect and admiration. That’s what ‘worship’ means. It means that someone is worthy, honorable and deserving of attention. I know, life gets busy, even crazy sometimes. We become squeezed by the tyranny of the urgent.  So the Lord God slides down on our “To Do” list until He slips from sight. Once that happens people are losing out on so much. It’s not about the numbers on any given Sunday. It’s about people losing out on a God who believes that community is so important. Another word for community is relationships. The Lords wants us to have a 24/7, 365 days a year relationship with Him and with His people. When we don’t choose to make that a priority, so much is lost. That’ what really bugs me! Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10:25)