I Want to go back to Church

Without question the last few weeks have been poles apart from others in my now lengthy life, and I quite expect that until my last day on earth has come and gone, I will never experience such ones again. Additionally, I am of the strong opinion that you who read here join me in this state of affairs. From east to west and north to south our amazing planet has been affected by COVID-19. We have been turned upside down and shaken to our core as this pandemic has swept through the peoples of the world.

New words, phrases and other concerns envelop us. We practice social distancing, cover our faces with masks, spray our mail with disinfectants, renew our understanding of our constitution, learn of new internet tools, deal with emptied grocery shelves, giggle about toilet paper hoarding, grapple with human rights and with being quarantined–among a myriad other issues.

I will deal with none of these in this post–except at a slant. The quarantine has nixed group gatherings including church services. For weeks now I have not been to church, and I’m missing it dreadfully. Oh, we’ve had live-streaming of preaching and teaching and choir singing and other music. We have watched baptisms in bathtubs and in nearly deserted church sanctuaries. We have paid our tithe and given our offerings over the internet. We have been spiritually stirred, intensified our personal devotions, and have had numerous prayer meetings in our living rooms. Candid discussions have evolved that speak to the positive results of this situation. I believe all that . . .but I want to go back to church.

I want to be with you. I want to shake your hand and hug your neck. I want to see what you’re wearing today and how you’ve styled your hair. I want to open my Bible and follow my pastor as he delivers the Word of God–and as he spouts off those phrases he uses all the time. I want to feel the fidget of the youngsters, observe the flirting lowered eyes of the beautiful young ladies, admire the strength and handsomeness of the young men. I want to pray with you. I want to admire you who struggle with walkers and pain and poverty. I want to hear the choir and the soloists and the keyboard and the drums and read the words on the screen and sing with you. I want to dig in my purse for my dollars and when the pan or the bag is passed, I want to drop it in.

I want to hold your baby.

I want to pray with you. I want to stand by you and weep, and take your hand.

I want to be there–in the church of the living God–as His intense presence moves over the congregation . . .and sometimes we know angels are there . . .and we are silent, not daring to speak. I want to be there when animated joy elicits words of praise that rise from our throats . . .our hands are raised . . .hallelujahs ring. Dance. I want to see you dance in worship, as only you can.

I want to interact with young families and see them pose for pictures after the worship service. I want to go out to eat with you, and plan outings and parties, and tell you how much you mean to me.

I want to have fun and honor you and cherish you.

Yep, I’m done with it. As wonderful as this live-streaming and such has been I’m through with it. As soon as we get the permissive word, on Saturday night I will lay out my clothes and choose my shoes and my purse, and I will set out my little red Bible. On Sunday morning we will not be late, but will rush to our sanctuary, our church, our people. Once again, an exhilarated group now, we will enter into His majestic courts. Our praise will fill the temple.

The human mind cannot fully discern the ways of God, indeed one who would claim to grasp even a small understanding of His existence would likely be viewed with a quizzical eye. It would be as the foolishness of one lifting a grain of sand from an ocean floor, analyzing that speck and claiming then to have full understanding of the seas of the world.  Profoundly did Isaiah note in 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

From my WIP Dream Shards

On page 128 in my copy of his classic book of criticism, The Art of Writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a distinguished Englishman of letters, writes: “In studying literature, and still more in studying to write it, distrust all classification! (Exclamation point his.) All classifying of literature intrudes “science” upon an art, and is artificially “scientific” . . .”

Surely, somewhere, someone has written similar words of caution to those who may be attracted to attempts at the classification of the working of the Spirit of God, and thereby to intrude science upon the Divine. Though my observations are at best anecdotal, I am convinced of the truth of this matter: The Divine, the Soulish things, the operation of God the creator of all that exists (and beyond) are beyond our full comprehension, and of a certainty cannot be accurately analyzed by any human scientific method.

With such thoughts already on my mind, I listened yesterday to Pastor Robert Traylor, a missionary, as he related supernatural events in his life that is leading to the establishment of an Apostolic church in St. Petersburg, Russia. According to his own words, this gentleman, a mere 13 years ago, was a drug addict with his face turned completely away from God. Now he is a minister of the Gospel, and during the 2 1/2 years he has been working in Russia has accomplished what seems impossible, including the procuring of resident papers and the owning of property, debt-free, on which he will build a home and a church. Should you have occasion to hear this man, you will be blessed and your faith will be increased.

So, whether you are a believer or yet remain a skeptic, I submit that God’s ways are far above ours, eons beyond scientific lenses, fashioned of the ethereal, extending beyond our grasp, and quite beyond our comprehension. Yet we see enough, we feel enough, we read enough to know we have tapped into Truth, unfathomable, though it may be.

The Mystery of Apostolic Preaching

Many years ago, I considered the matter long and hard, scrutinized its details, examined its ramifications, and came to a conclusion that even after this lengthy period of time has elapsed I remain sure of. There is nothing in this world like Apostolic preaching. Nothing. Hear me: Nothing. Anointed preaching is of another world. It goes beyond mere sentences found in a dictionary or printed on a Bible page. It exceeds words formed in his mouth and spat from the tongue of a human being. There is something about an Apostolic preacher that takes on the heavenly, and as a lightening spear alters drastically a black sky, so is that man  transformed into an apparatus of divine deliverance. The Voice of God is heard.

Such a thing happened last week in Louisville, KY. at the National Youth Congress of the United Pentecostal Church Int. Watch here as a young man named Cortt Chavis, formed from the dust of the earth, is transformed into a pendant of glory. There is no earthly explanation.

 

Two Kids in the Bible

Thinking about two kids in the Bible this morning: One was little Jesus who played about stacks of boards, and who let sawdust filter through His fingers in His dad’s shop. The other kid handed over his lunch of “sardines and crackers” and that One from the carpenter’s shop, big now, with His own hands, blessed that food and, miraculously, it multiplied. And they sat down and had lunch.

Oh, by the way, there were 5000 of those who munched from that one order. And one more thing: There were 12 baskets full of “sardines and crackers” left over when they were all filled. Amazing. Impossible. True. (Wonder if that little boy took home any of the leftovers? Wonder what his mom said?)

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Jesus Really is the Light

Because of a world full of gross evil and confusion that encroaches on all of us, it is tempting to focus on those negative and admittedly frightening elements. Rather, we should find tranquility as we recall that Jesus really is the light of the world.

I was reminded of this wonderful piece of knowledge early this morning when I arose around 5:30. Rain had begun sometime during the night, I wanted to see it, so after I opened the front drapes I turned on the yard light and the Christmas lights we have draped around the deck railing. I also clicked the switch that turned on the wreath that is hanging on our inside stair wall.

The light that shined now through our front windows was incredible. The shot above was taken through that window, not only revealing the light outside, but a reflection of the wreath–shows in the top part of the photograph. Photographers call all that unfocused light bokeh. I go along with that, but insist on adding that every fragment of light we have is because of God, for Jesus is the light of the world.

I turned then for a inside shot of the wreath on the stair wall, and saw again more light than what is actually there. In the big wreath there are only three large balls. The others are reflections, as are many of the glowing points from the twinkle lights. Neat, huh. Magic. Nature. Laws of science. God.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12

I’m wishing you a blessed Christmas season. Relax. Remember that Jesus truly is the light of the world.

Moved By the Holy Ghost

“I had my hands in sink water when it happened,” he told me. “I began to tremble and knew something unique, something unexpected, was happening. I left the bathroom, sat on the edge of the bed, and picked up my phone that I use for making notes. I began to write, the words tumbling from me, rushing as a river.”

Those were the words a person very close to me related two days ago. “May I send the entire piece to you?” he asked, and when I read the long poem, I began to weep, recognizing that God had spoken to my loved one in a powerful, personal way.

Under an unction from God, the Bible was written by men–prophets, kings, evangelists, and apostles. “. . . holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 1 Peter 1.21. The Bible is complete; nothing is to be added, nothing is to be removed. Yet it is hard to imagine any sincere Christian denying that God still speaks to people–sometimes in profound and direct ways. Holy men today are moved by the Holy Ghost; such anointing and revelation is of the Divine, and one trembles in its manifestation.

I am aware of several such occasions. I recall once many years ago that my husband came in the house, leaving the lawn mower he had been using, and sitting down to write a message that God was giving him. Jerry is a great speaker, but is not known for his writing abilities; indeed, he will say he finds no pleasure in such exercises. But the Spirit of God moved on him that day, and he wrote. On other occasions, God has spoken specifically to Jerry, one of which I will relate here. The incident was when God was letting Jerry know it was time for us to resign our church in Garden Grove, CA. and to assume the pastorate in Rialto, CA. Having absolutely no knowledge of impending change, he dreamed that Pastor Murray Layne was resigning the church in Rialto. The dream was so vivid and its effects so gripping throughout the next day that, although feeling awkward, he called Pastor Layne. Pastor Layne was stunned, and believed Jerry to be teasing him. He has just been elected pastor in Mesquite, TX. (The details of this scenario are found in my book, Road Tales.)

It never fails to impact me when I learn of God speaking to someone in a way that would be difficult for anyone to dispute as being supernatural. Such experiences graphically remind me that this life is but a moment. In a second we will be gone. Reality is unseen and of the Holy.

Recognition of His Place

He was alone. The night hours arrived; the man looked about for a spot to rest, saw a likely place, and stretched himself on the ground. He would spend the night here. Quickly he fell asleep, and then began the dream.  It was a majestic dream, one that would forever change the life of the young man. A tall ladder set in the earth extended into the heavens with angels flitting up and down. At the very top stood the Lord who spoke to Jacob, “…I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac…”

It was a strange place for such an encounter, an unusual setting, and when Jacob had settled himself onto his stone pillow that black night, it is unlikely that he was anticipating a remarkable visit with God Almighty. Indeed his later words in the text indicate his surprise at such an occurrence. For in that solitary wilderness on the road to Padanaram as he made the trek to find a wife, God shook Jacob’s world with the startling words:

“And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”

Genesis 28: 14-15

No doubt with a jerk and with a pounding heart, Jacob woke from his sleep, the vivid dream reverberating in his head: He sat upright to declare, “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.”  I didn’t know God would be here, had no idea. He looked about at this most unlikely of places, where little thought or idea of God’s spectacular presence would be anticipated, stunned at the vision, at the promise.

What a lesson is ours today. It may be in a youth service with a tender-faced boy who struggles through his first sermon or in a Sunday school class or around a dinner table or on our couch in a dark hour before dawn or in a hospital waiting room or in a mid-week Bible study group that doesn’t seem at all spectacular—it may be in any of these simple places where God will visit us, where He will draw us aside, and where He will whisper into our ears the Promise, the Plan.

Let us be aware. Let us listen…for we too may walk away and say with Jacob, “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.”

Jesus Is For Losers

I don’t know who Stephen Jones is, but he is reputed in a great post on Half Write to have originated this title. In a comment there Gary reminded me of this scripture.

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:39

Perused strictly from a carnal understanding, this portion of scripture makes no sense at all, but when spiritually understood, it is a Christian’s promise of the most glorious assurance. It is a spectacular announcement that goes to the heart of Hope and entangles itself with the eternal, extending into that not comprehended by mere mortal thinking.

It’s one of God’s gleaming principles: lose your life and you will find it! So, yes, Jesus is for losers. We give up the “pleasures of sin,” and gain instead splendor and glory–not only in Heaven, but in a life lived on this earth in a godly, righteous, fulfilling manner.

Along the way we lose other things. Love it!

We lose drunkenness and carousing. We lose wretched morning after hangovers. We lose brawls in our homes and sleepless nights and hiding in the dark. We lose the fear of passing a police car on the street, of hearing the dreaded knock of authorities on our door, of the lack of peace when we slip into our beds at night. We lose the horrific thought of standing before God, unprepared. We lose drug-induced comas and vomiting into the midnight gutter. We lose homelessness, and friendlessness. We lose too the posibility of hearing the words, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

We’re losers, alright, happy, joyful, Heaven-bound losers.

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End of the Journey

Ending of the Journey, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

She was never a close friend of mine, but through Jerry’s ministerial relationship with her son Leon Frost, who pastors The First Pentecostal Church of Bakersfield, I met her some years ago, and often spoke briefly with her when I visited that church. I do not even know her first name, but when I heard of her death a couple of weeks ago, I was saddened.

The sadness has little to do with her; rather it circles ’round her family and her friends, for I know they are grieved at her passing, and when again, I visit that beautiful church in Bakersfield, I, too, will miss my little visit with that beautiful, white-haired woman of God. Her lovely face invariably radiated with love and care, and, although she was quite elderly, when I was there, she seemed to make it a point to come where I sat and to speak with me. She made me feel she went out of her way to visit with me, but I strongly suspect she had the knack of making everyone think she was special, and that this godly woman had gone out of her way to speak to her.

Death is much like the end of a journey, and although we don’t go into its reaches with suitcase and other travel gear, we do take one thing with us–an important record–the tale of our life. When we make the trek to the other side and have ended our journey, we unpack, and there in the presence of God–our record is handed, and is told.

My little friend from Bakersfield, Ca. has negotiated the final trip and now stands in the presence of God. Her journey is done, her suitcase is empty. Surely it is a glorious day.

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