HERE … having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which is contrary to us. He has NOW taken out of the way (EVERY SIN) having nailed it to the CROSS..so far be it from me to boast except in the CROSS of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Colossians 2:15 Galatians 6:14
I praise magnify and adore the LORD with other brothers and sisters in a small storefront building . The building sits in a small Florida town . It faces south to a railroad track and west to a park. The park surrounds a small pond . In the park ,a statute of Ray Charles sits immovable like a royal guard . Day and night brother Ray is poised playing a piano . Ready to strike notes we never ever hear . His head is tilted slightly upward as a reminder that something blind ,weak, and insignificant became insightful and strong right here in Greenville Florida.
“That’s not really Ray Charles ” we teach the young ones . “it’s just a thing to remind us about him” we say.
But ,Ray Charles is not the only great story from Greenville. There are volumes of stories flowing from this town about God and Jesus and all the Holy Ghost’s battles in this town. If there were a statue for every story in Greenville from every spiritual battle and every valiant warrior, we could rebuild ,yet again ,the legacy of Rome. But now how many of The Lord’s sit stoically still with hands poised ready ? How many spiritual statues await with eager longing?(1)
The Cross Invisible
The stories rumble from the ground with every passing train. Out and over and in the building where I worship there are dramas . Many twisting and turning tales of faith filled fights that became healings of bodies and minds and spirits. They are valiant stories. Stories of folks pulling out the Sword to cauterize addictions. They are gentle stories . Stories of full grown folks becoming children again in the arms of “Abba” “Daddy” their God and Father . (2) There are volumes of stories on the shelves of time in a spiritual space .
A story about a wooden cross first began for me ,in my living room, where a remnant of my church family first met. . We were meeting 50 miles away from Greenville . We came from many places together in a place that had no name. But, God gives everything a name. So ,one day , He gave a name for our meeting to a young man .(3) The young man was so excited to have the name that he wrote it inside a big Bible dictionary. He wrote ” to the church of the Tuesday nights” It was easy for us to live up to that name. We met Tuesday after Tuesday night. And, when we invited folks to come, they always remembered what night to come by our name.
In the “church of the Tuesday nights” , Brother Chris preached and teached behind a flowery green end-table topped with a cross and his bible. We bent our kness on a green rug and we believed with Jesus for everything God promised. That was a story from long ago.
Pepsi stains and watermarks speckle both table and cross now . They stand tucked away in a small room silently speaking a story better than my writing could ever tell. They gather dust like ashes while I drive to Greenville on Sunday morning.
When we moved to the building in Greenville, we did not have a table or a cross. It was all new because Pastor and his family were bringing something new to Greenville. He had a podium for his bible and a new name for his meeting. We didn’t have a cross and we weren’t called a church. We were named “Renewed Life Outreach Center”.
I thought a lot about why it might be named “center” and not “church”. I was old thinking when I was younger. And in those days I always would give questions to heaven where answers either come down or where the question would be held hostage. It was before I learned to TRUST.
This particular question was kept hostage with no earthly answer. But when I prayed I had to call it something. So, with Jesus I called it “His church”. (4) But when I was around folks, I would forget the name so often that I would call it silly names like “skeeter hawk revival” . And sometimes ,when I wrote a check, I would write “Renewed Life Outreach CHURCH”.
But God , in His mercy, would not let me hurt my head thinking about why we weren’t called church too long .He held the question in His heavenly grip and slowly released an answer to me.
He began speaking first, in Corinth where Paul first had “church”. He took me there where I saw how the apostle Paul set up a place to meet right in a center of the town of Corinth . It was an open storefront and just like my “church” , it was first used as a market .
No one in Corinth that I met could tell me what Paul called his church . At least they could not tell me what it was called before Paul wrote to us “the church of God in Corinth”.(5) Maybe he called it a “meeting place” they said.
From reading his letters to these Corinthian folks it surely was some kind of a meeting place! It was a meeting place for the dead in sin to be made alive in Christ. It was a meeting place of deliverance from the sevenfold troubles of pride , gluttony, lust, greed, sloth, wrath and envy that caused divisions among folks in this first congregation.(6) It was such a meeting place for exchanging “the old” for “the new” that it could have easily been named “Renewed Life Outreach Center” . And Paul , the preacher, might have easily stood at the doorway of the enterance advertising ” cash in those rags for robes, renew your life here”
And, like Renewed Life outreach center, he probably didn’t have a cross in his building either. He seemed to talk about the cross as a message and not an object. He wrote words about it’s invisible effect but never as an object to wear or draw .(6)
In fact, folks around Corinth told me that they did not have any crosses in town for a long time. Things of life ,like fishes and peacocks ,spoke the effect of the cross from one believer to another. https://churchpop.com/2015/08/14/8-ancient-christian-symbols-and-their-hidden-meanings/ Rumors , rubble and written books all say that the cross was an object of shame in the early church. It did not speak of freedom but ,instead ,was a symbol of the death of slaves. (7)
Folks made signs with their hands of the cross 200 years before they drew them .It really wasn’t until the 4th century that a cross was first brought visible as a display of faith. Constantine abolished crucifixion as was practiced in Rome and brought forth the Cross as a display of this victory. They say that brother Constantine might have had the right spirit about the work of Jesus’s particular cross. He knew the Spirit spoke that Jesus physical cross was used victorious over the devil and death.
But the Devil took Constantines thinking away from the Spirit of the cross and had many people killed who didn’t see the cross in the way Constatine did. The Beauty of the cross mixed again with Bloody sinners in the Crusades and became a message of death and slavery.
All the rest of His Story about the cross is a tug of war between the true message freedom and the Devil’s message of slavery.(8)
The Cross Visible
It wasn’t four hundred years but, just four years that Renewed Life Out reach church was without a cross. It did not seem like four years. It just felt like we were as Paul’s Corinth church. And it wasn’t for lack of believing in the cross. The whole mission of RLOC was “birthed out of the desire to see Gods people walking in and possessing all that was purchased for them by Jesus’s death ON THE CROSS”http://www.facebook.com/RenewedLifeOutreachCenter . Similarly ,a sign outside our building was wooden with a painting of a purple cross and our name.
“Where’s your cross” a visitor asked.
I held the cross on my neck. “No I mean a real live cross. You should have one” she insisted.
“We just don’t have a cross” I told the visitor who asked
“we believe in the Jesus’s work on the cross”. I said , reciting something I heard a pastor once say.
She looked at me , then looked again around the room as if for a lost best friend. She then hurried out the back door facing the railroad and never came back. She eventually found her friend . She found her friend in a place where a cross hung from a ceiling in a big church with colored windows.
Even though I was settled that we didn’t need a cross, I would sneak to chapels with colored windows late at night to pray alone and see a cross . And always, In RLOC, i might see the cross on the video screen from the back door on cloudy Sunday mornings .
As the four years passed, I would see more and more crosses everywhere. I would see crosses on necks , in pictures on walls, on tattooed arms, ankles and chests, as screens on computers, hovering over churches, in the hands of the dying.
Every day I saw them more and more peeking through bushes, as clouds in the sky, as breaking beams of sun, in cracks on side walks, on lattice windows and doors, even in prison gates. One day, on Good Friday, I made a cardboard cross and took it to the park where Ray Charles sits ever so still . I wanted everyone to see the cross .
Crosses were every where in those years. And on top of that , Pastor was preaching like Paul every Sunday ,for all four years, the message of the cross.https://soundcloud.com/vunglaub/sets/the-kingdom-of-his, a playlist on #SoundCloud. The cross was a tool to see our Savior and not a trinket to throw on a night stand or hang on a wall.
He had us look at every angle and side of the cross that could be seen. We looked so much at crosses our eyes felt splinters. Even some felt nails in their hearts and crowns on their heads. Everyone felt the work of the cross in their own individual way .
But not many talked together about it. We just talked of hunting and knitting, eating and fasting, working and retiring, if we talked at all. And we were a lot like that church in Corinth. Each one walking his own way.
The Cross Indivisible
But then, in the 4th year, on April 2nd , something began to change. It was Sunday during the first worship song . Some were singing aloud , some were singing silently, some did not sing. Some had eyes open. Some had eyes shut.
Open or shut, our eyes were chosing to see other people or problems or pain instead of the power of God. But, we centered our stance toward a podium or a screen expectant of something greater than ourselves .
As the first song played, our eyes were everywhere. There was not central place to set our eyes. There was no object that we all could converge on . Some were upward expectant at ceilings (9) , some downcast at the floor (10) . Some looking at the podium, some the screen. Some with eyes in the back of their head staring at the man or woman across the room.
Eyes were all over. Inward and outward. Eyes making judgement about what they saw. But , that Sunday , when Houston and Roland wheeled the cross through the back door, all eyes turned to them and turned to the cross.
It came through the very door that my friend had walked out. It came during a pause of our wandering eyes and worship . It came right when I was wondering if we were a church or a center. It came when sinners were looking for Jesus and the saints were saying “jesus” while secretly sinning
The cross came when I, a sinner against a Holy God, was looking for Jesus and when, I, a saint, had been given everything of Jesus to keep me from sinning. It came tall wooden and varnished, with a small base, on wheels. And we all turned and looked with surprise when Pastor said “we have a cross”
“So Houston I gotta meet with you to find out about that cross” I said to Houston later that Sunday. “okay ” he said.
“I bet you got a story about that Cross ” I said in great anticipation.
“I guess “he said drying off from his baptism.
When the time came , I shot round after round of questions at Houston” “So what made you make that cross. . . oh it was you and Roland making that cross . . what were yall doing that you thought of it making a cross . . oh an altar at the base of that cross. . . oh too big you say . . . then wheels for that cross. . . so you loaded that cross in the truck . . . what made you even think of all this . . what made you make this cross Houston?” I paused to breathe
Houston stared at me in silence perhaps wondering if I would let him answer. I stared back trying to hold back more questions.
“Well, Miss Vanessa,” Houston began pausing to make sure I would listen. “Well, I saw we didn’t have a cross. and thought to my self don’t every church need a cross.?”(11)
“Yep” he said
“Okay Houston. That’s it “I said and walked away. I walked away wanting only to remember the April day the cross first stood center in the church. The answer to every question.
The altar that Houston had only imagined drew many that day. The cross loudly preached the answer to every question that longed for truth. It preached a surrender of more than was possible. It preached like tounges of the Holy Ghost in my soul saying “By The Spirit of the Cross all things are possible”. It bellowed and whispered, it wooed and wept and it awakened and warned. It was not a piece of wood at all , it became the center point in the church. It spoke the message of Jesus’s death for my sins and renewed life in my freedom from sin. And it spoke with The Spirit . The visible spoke of the INVISIBLE.(12)
The upward plank still speaks each Sunday , every Sunday, of how much we need our savior. And the reaching planks , where His arms bore the nails, speak of how much we need His Love for one another. What joy set before Him compelled His outstretched arms of Love for this church? How generous His Spirit for every dead church to become a LIVE and WELL church beneath These arms!
Suddenly , centered in the shadow of this cross, made by our own brothers, we touch heaven and we rightly touch one another with heaven and change the face of those on earth. (13) Here we are clothed by Jesus that we may rightly wear the “Renewed Life Outreach ” shirt because our hearts are “Centered” on Him. Here is His Cross. And Beneath it He finds HIS JOY , His Bride.(14)
“Where’s Jesus ? He’s not on the cross” the little child asked , yesterday , on Pentacost Sunday.
“oh He’s here ” I said as I pointed to the church worshipping.” He’s off the cross He’s alive in them”
And yes, Houston,” every church needs a cross. “And every cross needs a church. Thank you dear brothers Roland and Houston for your obedience to the cross. … an obedience that gave THIS CHURCH A CENTER and the center is THE CROSS.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Colossians 1:19-20 ESV
Foot of the Cross Notes
Romans 8 :22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together like in pains of childbirth for the revealing of the sons of God.
Romans 8:15 . . having received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughter we cry “Abba Father”
Psalm 147:4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by name
Ephesians 5:27 So that he might present the Church (HIS BRIDE) to Himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
I Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth , to those sanctified IN JESUS CHRIST call to be SAINTS TOGETHER with all those who in every place call upon the NAME of OUR LORD Jesus Christ both their LORD and ours.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the MESSAGE of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The letters to the Corinthians are loving instructions to a congregation who was born again as new creatures able to live free of what the ancients called “the seven deadly sins” that the enemy uses to kill God’s children.
My brother named John Calvin long ago among others incited hostility against the physical image of the cross. He stated that it was” impossible to visually depict God who is invisible and transcendent therefore it is idolotry” This teaching resulted in the destruction of many crosses and art inspired by the Holy Spirit to draw sons and daughters to a deeper love for the invisible three in one reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Brother Calvin and I are no longer friends on this matter. I have seen again and again the cross is an visible though perishable reality of an invisible imperishable reality. And that reality is the GOSPEL.
Mark 2:4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. Some look to the ceiling desperately seeking a miracle
Matthew 15:27 “yes it is Lord” she said “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” Some look to the floor for but a crumb as a sign of a miracle
Exodus 36:1 “Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person in whom the LORD has put ability and understanding to know how to do all the work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work according to all that the LORD HAS COMMANDED
Colossians 1:15 Jesus is the (ONLY) image of the invisible GOd the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth visible and invisible . . . all things were created through Him and for HIm!
The caption on the back of the “Renewed Life Outreach Center” T-shirt reads “Touching Heaven changing Earth” . It speaks of our upward reach like the upward beam of the cross to Heaven and our outward reach in heavenly blessings as the outward beam of the cross to one another and the community.
Finally Hebrew 12:2,12 we LOOK TO JESUS THE AUTHOR AN FINISHER OF OUR FAITH, WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS DESPISING THE SHAME AND HAS SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD. . . . THEREFORE STRENGTHEN THE HANDS WHICH HANG DOWN AND FEEBLE KNEES AND MAKE STRAIGHT PATH FOR YOUR FEET SO THAT WHAT IS LAME MAY NOT BE DISLOCATED ED BUT RATHER HEALED.
“Attend to me, and hear me: I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily, Because of the voice of the enemy. . . my heart is pained within me. . . So I say to you oh Lord. . .”oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” from Psalm 55:1-6
Doodle went on today.
Or maybe it was YESTERDAY.Or. .. .
Maybe it was a certain time last night,. . . ..
Last night when a cry for her to be “unknotted” went barreling out of Daddy’s house .Maybe it was when we were all gathered together, talking to Our Father, about bringing Doodle home healed. Maybe , it was the very moment, when we were all were seeing pictures with the eyes of our heart and, SUDDENLY, one brother cried out “I see you untie a knot in her belly Lord. Loose her Lord!” . Some say now , that Doodle went on shortly after that cry.
But I don’t know how all that “untying of the knot” looked . . . I don’t even know what the knot inside her looked like. I just know the cry for Doodle sounded like it would send the hand of heaven right into Doodle. Right smack dab in and over and under the belly of her soul. And right there on her bed, in her belly, the Word would make a healing happen
. No one talked much after these words entered the room last night. We all just left them .But, like a vapor in the room, each Word drifted out the door ahead of us .(1)
I went home thinking a lot that night.. . . . I was thinking bout the first time I held a “doodle bug ” in my hand. And, then, I was thinking bout when I last held my sister “Doodle Bug” and tucked her in her bed.
My mind went from memories of 50 years to memories of YESTERDAY. Like a shoestring ready for tying, I had in one hand, my thoughts bout real live doodle bugs of childhood and, on the other hand ,my thoughts were about my real live sister “Doodle”. If Doodle needed unknotting as the brother cried, I needed a tying together. I needed these two memories to knot before I tripped and fell.(2)
In the left hand I held , LONG AGO. I would think about “LONG AGO” when I held a “doodle bug” in my hand. I would think about how I had walked many miles of the beach with my grandfather. How, after our long walk, when granddaddy felt I had enough swimming and shells , he headed me back along a long wooden seawalk .
Long ago, Granddaddy and I walked past sand dunes of seaweed and sticker beds to his green sedan. Here I saw him, in my mind ,taking the white hat off his bald head and brushing the sand off his feet .Then, I could see, on this one day LONG AGO, how I wandered under the planks to see a little bug . A little bug walking in circles. .
“Lookie Granddaddy,this bug is going round and round”. I said as I ran in circles in the sand kicking up dirt ” That’s just a antlion ” he called back
” What do you call it Granddaddy.?” I shouted
“just call it a doodle bug. . . call it a doodle bug ” he repeated.
But , then, at the same time, on my right hand was yesterday. . . it was just Yesterday “Doodle bug”. I shouted into the ICU room. “What are you doing here?”
“I had to see you so you could pray for me” Doodle said softly.
Long ago Granddaddy said, on that day,”And you, my little doodle bug, come on now over here into the car” He said as he opened the car door.
“But Granddaddy catch him for me . . . I wanna take him home.” I called back to him. I wanted to take the little bug home to my collection of butterflies and snails and inch worms.”please please get him for me” I whinned as I kept running in circles.
“I will be most excited to pray” I said YESTERDAY . Doodle’s face lifted, it lifted her glasses over her eyebrows.
“And now I know you know how to pray Vanessa ” Doodle encouraged ” you know you don’t have to use a lot of words AND you know that Our Daddy hears us right away” she said remembering our last time of prayer.https://vunglaub.com/2015/01/23/doodling-words/ We laughed . We could laugh because we were older . It had been a Long time since we last prayed.
But a real LONG TIME ago, Granddaddy walked over to the sand . Maybe smiling, maybe secretly delighting, he scooped both bug and grains in his hand.(3) He bent his knees and held his hand to let me see. “you hold it ” he said. Suddenly I saw the beetle who had relayed in the sand so furiously ,then roll into a tight ball and become perfectly still.
“What should we ask Daddy for together Doodle Bug?” I asked YESTERDAY “To Show you off for Jesus and you walk out of here tomorrow? ” I suggested.
“how about that I could just get some rest”. Doodle replied.
“anything else Doodle? come on . . .”I coaxed.” He’s sooo good lets ask for a lot. .”
“No , sister, that’s enough, we can ask for more tomorrow. Just some rest tonight.” she said as she took off her glasses and set them on the bedside table.
“well Doodle, I’m lifting you in prayer by the power of Jesus, into Daddy’s hand, where you can be as snug as a bug in a rug and get some rest” She laughed and let me pray. When enough was said, she entered her voice with a soft “now Amen”. Then, she closed her eyes and whispered “you get some rest with Daddy too.”
The next day I went to see Doodle. I went to see how her rest would restore. Restore her right out the door. I went to see how we might then go out ,on a spring day and chase butterflies with Rita Skeeter. I went with flowers and a card full of pictures of places I wanted to go with her. Places where we would have room to raise our hands out to Daddy. Places where we could stretch out before Jesus. And places where we could run wild with the Holy Ghost. Places for the well and the rested.
That was yesterday . But LONG AGO, I remember seeing the bug in my Granddaddy’s hand and being very afraid and sad. “What happened Granddaddy? Did he die?” I asked.
YESTERDAY , I was afraid and sad again. I looked and looked in many rooms but did not find Doodle. When I sat down exhausted, Rita said “I’m sorry but Doodle passed on last night” I wept. Jesus wept. The Holy Ghost grieved. “Daddy, Abba,Father “……we all cried.
I fell asleep weeping and remembering LONG AGO Granddaddy’s reply “The bug is “resting” . ” He is showing you what to do .” He lowered his hand back to the ground to roll the bug onto the sand . ” But this is not your home . . .this is this little doodle bug’s home and we are leaving him right here to rest “(3)
He grabbed my arm while talking about “resting” and “naps” and “don’t be so busy” and “you have way to much energy” Arguing and pulling against His arm I cried , ” But, ill never get to see lil doodle again. . .”
Looking back at the bug ,as it uncurled and scurried in the sand, I let my loose hand free and began to wave “Good bye Doodle Bug”
That was a LONG TIME ago before I knew Doodle Bug. That was when Our Father showed us pictures as children, like shadows , of what will soon come.(4) Now is the time when Doodle bug will never move backwards, or play with me again ,on this earth.
Yet, Now is the time Doodle bug will never long for rest . She is loosed in heaven entering a rest where all that we believe is seen. .(5) Doodle bug has put her glasses down . She sees everything brilliantly. She sees face to face Our Father and Our Savior. She is loosed to see what she longed to believe. The knot of sin and death is undone.!(6)
Long ago and Yesterday have met in Forever in my hands as I write and remember. And in the place of Forever, no more prayer is needed for my sister Doodle. She is resting in the AMEN.(7)
Psalm 141:2 tells us that our prayers are “set before (the Lord) as incense” and Jeremiah 1:12 tells us “you have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it”
Ecclesiastes 4:6, 12.” Better is a handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. . a threefold chord is not quickly broken. ” So it is , an agreement with the Holy Spirit, in the midst of a conflict of our souls ,will bring the unbroken strength of quietness and trust in God.
Our earthly fathers are only a hint of the image , a shadow of the glory, of our Heavenly Father who watches over us every moment saying”The Lord thy God is in the midst of the thee, He is mighty and he will save and He REJOICES OVER THEE WITH JOY AND HE WILL REST IN HIS LOVE HE WILL JOY OVER THEEE WITH SINGING.
Psalms 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow Colossians 2:17 These are a shadow of the things to come But the substance belongs to Christ.
“Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption . . . Behold a mystery We shall not all SLEEP BUT WE Shall all be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51. “For now we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face Now we know in part but then we shall know just as we are truly known “1 Corinthians 13:12
The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through out Lord Jesus Christ.I Corinthians 15:57
“To go to heaven fully to enjoy God is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends , are but shadows. Bu the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. ” Jonathan Edwards
My father has walked and talked in what believers call ” a healing” for three years.It was not a complete healing. The cancer in my father’s bowel has not grown further but has instead , at times ,decreased in size and not gone to new territories in his body. Standing at attention to every report, brothers and sisters in my church , like the Centurion soldiers (matt 8:5-10), have prayed and believed with me for my father. And now, weekly on Sunday, we rejoice in my telling of the containment of the cancer .
As for my father, forgive him Heavenly Father, for he does not know. He is an agnostic. And he has easily ignored the divine hand that has held and healed him these three years. Instead, ignorant , he has chosen to work and wine and dine and write plays and poems without interruption . . . without any interrupting thought of The Eternal Creator God.
Like many of us who need the same forgiveness , the act of ” living well” has had a way of interfering with” thinking rightly” about Our God. Yet ,in a moment, a word from a doctor jolts believing and unbelieving minds to desperately long for something miraculous. We long for the “Eternal” to extend what is called “terminal” , the “Creator” to fix His created thing. Our thoughts line up like soldiers on mission to find hope. . . . . we look for merciful deliverance from a terminal end.
“it may be 6 months , one more Christmas, the BOWEL cancer has grown ..” we hear.
“It is inoperable.” Dr S said as she crossed her legs, turning to my father ,with ipad displaying my fathers latest medical results on her lap.
Bowels and Bathrooms
“The bowels of existence do not speak unto man except as man ” Friedrich Nietzsche
Suddenly, both our minds were jolted to thoughts of mortality, the end of life as my father knows it. We left the office to walk down a hall that had grown longer than ever before. “Am I going to die?” my father asks
” I don’t know when?” I answer (1)
“This may be my terminal point , this Christmas.” my father speculates
“But you know there is an eternal point for you as well”. I offer
“I don’t want to hear that religious fairy tale ! I’d rather my soul live in the bowels of hell than to have to pay homage to another, . . . that God of yours” my father says angrily .
“He is your God too , you just don’t know it yet” I reply as we walk.
” The bowels of hell my dear. .” my father chants in a kinder tone.
” speaking of bowels “, he smiles as if to apologize for his outburst ” I must use the restroom before we leave”.
My father turns away from me and shuffles down the long corridor back towards the restrooms at Mayo clinic.
“I’ll wait here ” I say as I sit on a bench .
Waiting here, I think of prayers prayed for . I consider God’s specific answer to specific prayers. We have prayed for my father to experience the mercy and love of God through Jesus. And yet, I have only thus far watched my father turn and spin with every reaching of the Lord’s hand.
This resistance has had me so desperate that ,on one Tuesday night, I begged some brothers for prayer again . The dear brothers initiated a prayer for my father that I expect answered. I expect an answer, by the power of God, before my father’s earthly departure. One brother in particular, Mr Larry Fussell ,prayed “may your Daddy have a glimpse of what hell looks like so he’ll change his stubborn mind about going there” .
After an “Amen”, Mr . Fussell grabbed my arm and said “I just don’t want to even think about him going there when Our Father’s got such a better place for us. . . .may Jesus turn him around”.
“i amen that ” I said to Mr. Fussell.
That night many of us prayed and tarried for my father to agree with Our Father and so run into the eternally merciful arms of “Our Father who Art in Heaven” . That was a year ago.
These prayers prayed for my father remain as a sweet aroma , an incense for my hope filled soul. When I am with my father, I imagine that this aroma fills the air around my dad like a cloud . And like a cloud driven by wind I pray it follows him everywhere.
Then , I pray that the aroma is so strong that it produces a hunger in the “hounds of heaven” (2) https://youtu.be/V6hNu8U7NScth that may be released to retrieve my father back to his Creator, his Father, his Master and his Lord .
Sometimes, I even see these hungry hounds guarding my father’s feet from the very bowels of hell . . .AND even chasing them into the “Bowels of Christ” Then, from these imaginings I rise and say: .
“I beseech you from the bowels of Christ , Dad, to think it possible that you may be mistaken (about the bowels of hell”( Oliver Cromwell)
My heart shouts these words as I watch my father come back towards me down the hall.
“Bloody hell! They are cleaning the water closet. I’ve got to use another one” My spirit of shout is subdued to a sluggish slur “Ill wait here while you go “I say.
Iremain on the bench in the hallway of Mayo Clinic to write this story on my phone. It is triggered by a thought of Christmas.
Many pass by me, each to a destination . Do we really know of the final destinations that Our father has prepared for souls ? That thought is too weighty , so, I think of Christmas . . . . a last Christmas this year .. really will the “bell toll?” . . naw, I chose to think of memories of last Christmas NOT the fears of this being ” the last Christmas. . . .”
Bowels and Church Bells
Last Christmas eve , my father went to church. Every Christmas Eve that I can remember my father has consistently set suit , tie and a certain time to go to church. He always chose midnight. There is something strange and compelling about the midnight hour.And, midnight would always come quickly on December 24th.
When I recall many December 24th’s , I see my father dressed in tuxedo at 8pm for cocktail , conversation and caviar. I see him standing as a great orator in the living room ready for discourse with friends . I hear his intense philisophical bantering about the futility of life and stupidity of having faith . I see how he would use controversy mixed with literary dialogue to introduce his greatest ideology , the future of His “New World Order”.
His ‘new world order’ was an Order where scientists reign as the governing body. An order where “true culture and art are the only legal pastimes’. Additionally, he would edict a decree against the breeding ground of “faith” by mandating a ban on ” the primitive culture, churches and ritual” .
Finally, with eloquent words from Voltaire and other “enlightened men” he would pronounce an Order where “the abomination of the lower class would be culminated by prohibiting all fantasies produced by Faith .” The only reigning expression of life that he would allow to remain would be ART and SCIENCE .
Once the company was convinced of the corruptness of religion and the grossness of Faith , he would invite them to toast with a shot of brandy or schnapps . “to Lord M ” they would say “and the New World Order”.
With toasting glasses ringing like bells , I would know it’s time to slip on my black patent leather shoes for my yearly ride to church.
How upside down it all was. The worship seemed to be for the man, my father. and the entertainment seemed to be the ritual of the church.
“let us go celebrate the’ philosopy of hypocricy'” his faithful followers would quote my Father as they drove to church on Christmas Eve.
The tradition of midnight candlelight service captured my fathers senses since he was baptized in 1933. On that date, the date of his baptism, my father was first seen by heaven, in a large ornate Anglican church in downtown Jacksonville.
Now, ever since his first sniff of incense and his first hearing of church bells and his first sight of a cross pointing downward to his frailty, my father senses have longed for the celebration and majesty displayed in the season.
But last Christmas, last Christmas when invited to church ,my father announced. . .”I am not going for all that raving about saving, I’m only going for the pageantry of Christmas” he reminded me 80 years later as he sat weakly on the side of his bed .
Dutifully , I looked at him, setting aside shirt and pants and coat for our traditional trip to church on Christmas Eve.
“No religion okay. Religion is the opiate of the masses” he quoted Stalin as he looked back at me with a childlike grin.
“Im going for the sake of art and ART ALONE” he announced with the defiance of an adolesent child
.” I will only go to a church that appreciates art. I will only go to the Anglican or Catholic church where there is some art and culture”
“fine” I threw his pants across the bed ” Halleluiah !” I shouted displaying a charisma from my Pentacostal church
“Well,You know all art declares there is an Artist” I shouted from the closet looking for a shirt.” I just want you to know I don’t believe in religion either, religion does nothing for my soul,” I say as I sail a red dress shirt across the bed ” I believe in God! and we worship because He is beautiful”. I think beyond my words, . . . most certainly our worship is God’s artwork for Himself.
My father interrupted my thoughts. “Hells Bells. . . stop that nonsense, stop being a attorney for that felon God. . . and bring me some champagne that I may lubricate my soul to prepare for this ritual of yours and of all the masses” my father shouted back.
The Bowels of Hell : No Beauty
The Catholic Church where my husband attends is built in the 70’s. It is not ornate or particularly profound in its display of the doctrines of Christ as other sanctuaries in the Catholic faith. Sometimes, it feels as if the Lutherans were on the building committee. A large wooden carving of The Good Shepherd greets you like a massive metamorphosis of a trunk of a tree outside the church entrance. The interior is large sanctuary style seating over 1000 facing an altar where a large simple concrete crucifix hangs before long window panes etched with a vine and grapes. Stations of the cross sit simply as a back drop around the sanctuary.
Yet, something about Christmas Eve makes the most simple become most sacred. The sancutuary in the Christmas season smells of pine from trees lined across the altar. Candles cast warm glow over faces , even the faces of Jesus in each stations of the cross glows. Red tapestry drape the altar. Art unflolds in celebration. Every thing seems to bend or lift to the coming King. And my soul continues to say “He is beautiful”
“we are going to be late if we stop at the liquor store” I explained to my husband.
“He wants a miniature to make it through mass” my husband replied.
We arrived five minutes before mass. My fathers miniatures of Bushnells Irish wiskey was tucked upright in his pocket. My husband and my daughter proceeded me in entering the sanctuary.
“come on .hurry on pop” I said to my father. He followed behind deliberate and delicate . He walked deliberate because of his age but delicately because he thought himself an artist..
The prelude of the entrance hymn was playing. A soloist was singing Handel’s Messiah. She served a soprano “who may abide the Day of His coming?who shall stand when He appeareth?. . .” I waited for a response. It is strange how year after year , no one ever answers Handels questions (3) . . . they just sing as if they have the answer.
I genuflect as I enter the pew . I like to bend my knee imagining that I am right in front of Jesus. It is my present for him at Christmas. Since a little girl my knee would bend. My knee knew more than my soul knew for many years. But now my soul knows . So the song surrounded my soul as a Thankyou note for letting it know what the knee already knew . Everything, sound and smell and note ,caused my knee and soul to linger longer than ever before last Christmas eve.
So long did I linger that I felt my father fall against me . “Bloody Hell” he shouted. His words echoed along the walls and up the ceiling to the etched glass . Most every face turned.
The soloist stuttered.
Lifting one finger up , my father declared
” well ,bloody hell lets get on with the show”
The soloist continued to sing ” And He shall purify. .” from Handel.
” Why did you have to shout in church ?” I scowled at my father as we sat . Our flesh sat instead of submitting to the ritual of kneeling to pray.
“what? ” my father looked impish yet child like.
“Hell” I said.”you shouted bloody hell.” I explained .” Nevermind” I shook my head and began to sing the assigned hymn. Singing words without my soul, I began to think. . .
Why in the hell would my father shout “hell” and make his life choice “hell” ? Hell. Hell has no art on its walls. “Hell has no song in its sanctuary. Hell is chaos with no center point.
Hell is a place void of the Glory of God.
This church, with its order and beauty and song, as every church, show glimpses of Glory.
Truly all that inhabits the earth shows hints of the Glory of God. People with all their expressions of beauty, in sanctuaries, out of sanctuaries, only reflect hues of the true beauty of the glory of God.
There is no place where there is a complete void of a glimpse of the glory of God. But Hell…Hell is void of all glory, all beauty. Hell holds no reflection of the beauty of the Glory of God. Truly,Hell is “bloody hell” it is “true very true hell”.
In its bowels there is not one song to make the soul bend. not one painting to cause the eye to wonder. There is not one story to transcend the soul to new thought and new lands. There is probably not one color. All that is hell bound will be separated from light and life and love. It will not be “a hell of a place” but a “place of pure Hell. “
For there is no beauty in the bowels of hell.
THE BOWELS OF HELL: NO END
My thoughts fired like bullet upon bullet through three hymns. And my father and I continued to worship together in the church. Soon together the Christian and the Atheist said the Nicene Creed .
“and He descended into hell”.
I looked over at him when we said “hell” yet again. Together.
We smiled and then kept reading. I soon tucked the creed in the hymnal and said it by rote memory so that I could pray with my spirit . Praying in the Holy Ghost that my father chose another destination..
My prayer was interrupted as I thought how the church looked at him when he screamed “bloody hell” . I thought how most of the church folks had their bodies turned toward him as he shouted.
How quickly they turned from the altar to a man in mortal distress. But they did not know he was in distress. Can they really recognize the hell bound. Might the screams” hell ” send them tarrying and falling and pleading like we did the night my church prayed. What would happen if there is no one to plead for my father? If my church or this church no longer prays?
I returned to pray ” Don’t let him go there Abba Father. Don’t let him go to hell .How awful it is and he does not know” I pray.” And Father ,why did you send your son there?” I pondered
” I wouldn’t even send my father in all his ways there for a day. . . and you. . . . and you oh Father sent your son”
On the third day He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father(interceding for my father)
Some Church folks don’t use the word ” Hell.” They soften old King James junkies with words like Sheol, and Gehenna. And they speak of a place where there are two levels one for the righteous and one for the damned.
In the Bible, the one person most talked about, by Jesus, for going to heaven ,as a destination, is the man named Lazarus. And the One most examined for going to hell, as a destination , is the anonymous “rich man”. These two men oppose one another in a sad story of Love consummated by Lazarus , and Love pleaded for by the rich man.
The place of hell and the design of hell is often debated. But one thing is certain, Jesus last sermon was preached there. The Word declares that Jesus, God’s son, descended to preach in this place and to capture for himself those righteous souls separated from their body . And from there he sent the unrighteous to an eternal fire and those trusting in His righteousness to an eternal life. To the righteous he declared the sting of death forever gone to the unrighteous the sting of Death to forever to be felt.
“And sits at the right hand of the Father from whence he will come again to judge the quick and the dead . And His kingdom will have no end”
Even before our birth we were created for eternity : but a choice remains for either an eternity of LIFE or an eternity of DEATH. This eternity is buried in our hearts .From the position of life God has a place without end called ” heaven”. Yet from the position of death there is a place without end called ” hell.” .
“Holy” is what divides the road. It is the stop sign in the forked road of heaven and hell. The roads lead either to a final verdict of “holy” “Without sin” in heaven OR a final verdict of the”unholy” “dammned” in hell .
To think it simply , life along the roads in heaven are a consummation of every longing while life along roads in Hell are an intensifiying of every regret . And all of this in an Always, Forever, Everpresent State
The mortal body is but dust in the road as the soul begins its course to the doors of either heaven or hell . At the door, all will either encounter the Loving embrace of their Father who has made them “holy” by His Son going before them Or they will encounter the complete and final loneness of self ,separated, weeping longingly with no one going before them to make them “right” for His embrace. There is no escape, both places are the endpoint of an endless existence that encounters its Creators judgement . .a judgement previously encountered on the cross by Christ or a judgement encountered on the individual at the end of his mortal life.
The BOWELS OF HELL: NO RESSURECTION
“and we believe in one holy (Catholic) church , the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead.” the Nicene Creed
My father and I said ,together , the greatest promises of our Maker. We recited “we believe in , the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead”. The creed ends with a declaration of the proposal of God. The Proposal cries as it did in the garden for His first children.” I love you and I have prepared a place for you” It shouts. It is a display of love more glorious than any love song or story or art or church or person. It is the place where every longing for beauty and love is fulfilled. It is where you will come face to face with the one who Loved you first. The One who has rescued you from hell and resurrects you into His presence in Heaven.
“Amen” we said. “So be it” many pastors translate. I thought of this as my father put his book in pew. So be it. So be everything my father said last Christmas in his unbelief. Have Mercy Lord Jesus on my fathers unbelief. Have Mercy in this Year of Mercy.( 5)
The memory closes as I see my father come down a different corridor from the one he had gone.
I go to meet him “Where did you go? The bathroom was the other way. . .isn’t that where you said you were going” I ask
“yes, I don’t know what happened. Some how I got turned around but where I went was much better” my father continues “there is always a better place “
“yes there is always a better place” I reply “Amen”
bloody” was a common used word, type of cursing in british english since 1670 . implying” completely entirely, truly” not emphasizing blood however german/ Dutch may indicate intensifier related to God’s blood making the noun it modifies most true. Similarly, Austrailian usuage and indication for use when saying “Bloody struth” meaning “without a doubt , the truth”.
And it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment Hebrew 9:27
Nicene Creed http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/nicene.htm I believe in one God the Father Almighty,Maker of heaven and earth,And of all things visible and invisible:And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,Begotten, not made,Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made;Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
And was made man,And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried,And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,And ascended into heaven,And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose kingdom shall have no end.And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
The Lord and giver of life,Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the Prophets.And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,And the life of the world to come.Amen.
2016 was designated the Year of Mercy by The Church. All year , everywhere you can hear the Lord cry ” listen to me you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness; I bring near my righteousness it is not far off and my salvation will not delay. I will put my slvation in you For My Glory Isaiah 46:12-13
At times we must return to remember what The Lord once tenderly taught us. This is a post refined and matured from 3 years ago . Difficulties and darts seemed to dull the glorious truth once planted so deep in my spirit But. . .He waters His word with our tears and so it grows !. I thank my church for refreshing me in truth and growing me up in this word …
When we first enter church on Sunday there is a sense that all of what the preacher is saying, and all of what the songs are proclaiming, and all of what the folks are “naming and claiming”, is very far away.
Entering , we realize how we have forgotten much from the week before. There were so many large and heavy words said in the church that were not said outside the church on the days that followed Sunday. We enter with the shadow and dust of the world. It follows us in like a dark cloud .
Yet quickly , ” the dust settles” and the veil of fog lifts when Pastor prays. At that moment , the Holy Ghost, like a stage hand, draws back the dark shadow of dust and fog . With a strong arm He pulls back the curtain to introduce God. BEHOLD YOUR GOD !!!The Holy Ghost shouts!! He shouts in whispers deep into souls.
Here, at that moment , God becomes very big and very glorious in our minds . And , at that moment , when the songs are sung, God becomes very strong and able in our hearts . And , at that moment, when Pastor preaches, God becomes very near and pressing in our minds . And , at that moment ,when the people touch us and pray , God becomes very Merciful and Healing.He becomes present. He becomes Just like Jesus in our midst.
BUT, the moment we leave the door, that moment when we echo our last “good-by”, all His glory begins to shrink. There seems to be a commonness of life that steals the glorious. We sense someone has stolen the “garment of praise” and “the robe of righteousness” right off our back .
To begin to walk ” in faith” , to even write this is to press into greater obedience. I began to wrestle as I do on Sunday afternoons. I begin to hold a fear of losing sight of His worth and glory. I have given my writing to Him and felt always that to privately write Him was my act of worship. At times, He would have me write to others but never publicly.
Worship is where God magnifies Himself to us and we in turn adore Him. So God would do so when I would write. It was like entering church for me, an entering in and being dressed by God in His glory and His righteousness.
My greatest fear was that I would either become self-righteous or would fail if I tried to glorify Him in public. This is how the enemy keeps us from worshipping Our Lord with our gifts.
So also, He hinders us as we go into the world. We all carry His Word as our worship and have Christ’s commission to proclaim. But , This is sooooo often held back by our greatest fears of self-righteous pride or of shame and failure. This is when we operate from ourselves, our feelings. The enemy has us think we will be stripped of all of His presence as we go out , as we obey a call from the Spirit . We suddenly feel naked reaching hard to grab clothes of righteousness to put on. We reach for clothes when we are already dressed IN HIM and BY HIM!!!.
BUT GOD.. But God we hear from Pastor Chris , From every worship song , from every prayer. “But God” does not leave us undressed. When we leave the door of the church, we feel naked of His presence only because we have let our minds forget we are clothed!!!!We are a royal priesthood dressed in the most glorious gowns and robes ! Designer Gowns and Robes labeled “Jesus”.
We are not like the royal one in the children’s story by Hans Christian Anderson (1837). In the story , “The Emperor’s new clothes” a king commissions a designer to make clothes. He is fooled that he has the best designed suit but , he is actually naked . The king displays nakedness in the street thinking he is clothed. How often we are like this royal one ? When we try to design our own clothes are we not like this foolish emperor? In an opposition to the truth , we are foolish in our thinking when we, ones who are clothed in Christ, think we are naked ?
As the Emperor did not know he was an old naked man when he went before the crowd, we do not know we are a clothed “new” man when we go into the world. When we forget that Christ has bore EVERY sin from dark sins of the body or mind or tongue to the self-righteous sins of body , mind and tongue on Himself. (Galatians 5:21) , we forget we are saved. We forget we are covered eternally in “robes of righteousness”. We forget we are pure children and “if children then heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ!” What Christ is wearing today, at this moment , is what we are wearing.
To look at this glorious truth and forget it is called “double mindedness’ (James- 1:8, 22-25). Like the Emperor we do not know what we look like. But to know what we look like is to have a single mind, the mind of Christ. The Scriptures of Isaiah 61:10 describe how we are dressed: “with garments of salvation (SOZO) and robes of righteousness”
As my mind agrees in greater certainty with my spirit that holds the clothes of Isaiah 61:10, I then agree with God. And , only as I agree with God ,can I write this blog , can I go and pray, can I love , can I produce fruit or gifts or desire my greatest treasure and worship Jesus with my whole life. !!
The glory of God does not only sit inside a few moments on Sunday morning. It sits on the inside of me. It sits certain and bright. It sits on the inside of us His Bride , The Church !! It has dressed us beautifully in a “robe of righteousness” and a “garment of salvation” that we may live and act to the “praise of His glorious grace”.
“and the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover with us?” Mark 14:12 KJV
Might I have dinner with You?
Might I have dinner with You, My King
That you might Now set a chair for My Soul
That will sit to see the lands and kings you control (1)
And set my mind and will to gaze at kingdom plans and ways
That my heart will settle in your purpose for all it’s numbered days (2)
Might I have dinner with You?
Might I have dinner with You, My Savior?
That you might serve us the finest bread from Daddy’s glory revealed.(3)
And drink the finest wine for our unbelief and brokenness to be healed(4)
To nourish us Full to a newness of LIFE
That we may be pure and prepared as Bride and Wife.(5)
Might I have dinner with You?
Might I have dinner with you MY FRIEND?
Where we can speak of memories and places we have been
Where adventures and stories live apart from sin
That I may again dream of seeing that which fleshly man cannot see
And call from your Word that which they say cannot be
Oh, Oh, Oh Please might I have dinner with You?
Might I have dinner with You, My Lover?
That you may woo me with words from deep to deep. .
That I may rest against your breast to find a sweeter sleep
Where your beauty and strength come penetrate my soul
That my mind , my heart, my will would be forever at your control
MIGHT I HAVE DINNER WITH YOU JESUS?
Might I have dinner with YOU and invite my friends
That every brother and sister might see YOU ARE PRECIOUS
PRECIOUS LOVE WITHOUT ENDS. . . . AMEN
John 6:53 (KJV) Then Jesus said unto them, “verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood , ye have no life in you”
Psalm 90 :12 , 16(KJV) So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, Let thy work appear unto thy servants , and thy glory unto their children
John 6:32(KJV) Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven
1 Corinthians 11:30 ( HSB) This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. for if we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged.
Ephesians 5:27 (ERV) Christ died so that He could give the church to himself like a bride in all her beauty. He died so that the church could be holy and without fault , with no evil or sin or any other thing wrong in it.
This is a letter to my brothers and sisters at my church, Renewed Life Outreach. It is current and true. It is a call for revival. For revival is truly built on the blood of martyrs. And we, in a small town of 800 are seeing many martyrs have shed their blood overseas and now at home in the US.
This is a declaration to the Enemy of our Lord that the victory is won and we are not afraid. Thank you Emanual AME for being a modern day cloud of witnesses to us at Renewed Life Outreach Center , Greenville Florida. To our God be all glory.
My most dearest brothers and sisters of common blood, of the Blood of Jesus:
I have been awakened in the night since we have met on Tuesday with Psalm 91. I am most certain I have been awakened by the Holy Spirit. He wakes me with the word we spoke to one another in the Haffee Hays Park. He has wakened me for four nights saying “ you will not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day”.He wakens me with “a thousand may fall at your side ten thousand at you right hand but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked”. He wakens me with questions He wants to answer. He awakens me to write to you . He awakens me to a “secret place of the Most High . .
IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY
On Tuesday we rejoiced in the Word of the Lord in the Park. We spoke of our secret place right there at the right hand of Daddy where Jesus gives to us any and every spiritual blessing we ask for. We spoke of how Jesus longs to draw us to his perfect Heart , under His wing. We talked of how we hear he weeps like he did over Jereselum also over Greenville. The Spirit called that we would come close to hear His heart to find refuge and from there we would see His kingdom.
Snuggled beneath His wing, we see so many great ways that He protects us and cares for us. We are never in want . We are never harmed. Rattlesnakes in our yard do not touch us. Viruses and germs stalk after us to no avail. Homelessness and hunger have no place for us. And gunshots. like arrows ,fly past us all day. We only look with our eyes, perhaps weeping like Jesus, for the recompense of the wicked. All because we hold fast to Him in Love. All because we hold fast to Him in Love, He delivers us.
In the park, we were distracted by children and cars and heat. Surely the 100 degree heat reminded us that everything withers. . . . Everything but His word. “ It is all that remains” we agreed. And Joseph opened praying, “God let your kingdom come, your will be done by your Word”
After our worship and study , we walked to RLOC in an awareness of the protection of our great Father . We heard that Pastor was not able to come to Bible Study. But we feared not for him because we believed Psalm 91 for him as well. We only missed him. We all missed him for He had led us for many weeks from Ephesians to Romans. Verse by verse , he equipped us with great words from Daddy.
Last Tuesday night , our souls were parked at Romans 12:1 where we were left weeks before “Therefore , in view of God’s mercy we present our bodies as Living Sacrifices Holy and acceptable unto God for this is our reasonable act of worship”. We had been in prayer for weeks after this verse.We were in prayer and study about the gifts that come to us to use to worship in this way to Daddy. Through prayer and fasting, The Holy Spirit had been putting fire under these Living Sacrifices. .Every soul at RLOC seemed to burn brighter. Daddy was teaching us the depth of this verse.
Daddy God did not cancel Bible Study. He kept it with Brother Roy as the leader because he wanted us to hear testimonies.Testimonies of Daddy’s work. In every testimony we knew all that was said came from the Word manifesting itself in the life of a lost child found by Daddy . We had learned this Word as we had been taught by Pastor. We saw how true the Lord had been to His word that says again and again to His children “I love YOU”
It was if Daddy Himself was giving testimony of His salvation for the most unlikely of all . . . US. He was saying in every testimony: I created you as my child. I created you for my glory. You exchanged the glory of God for a lie. You sinned and fell short to my glory.(Romans 1 &3) But , I the Lord ,came to rescue you.I came as Jesus the exact imprint of Me God. I came to buy you back to Myself, my purpose for you, for My glory.(Ephesians 2) I died to do this. I God , died for you through my son. I have bought you with a price . You are not your own, nor the devil’s nor any created thing’s . You are mine. Choruses of testimonies resounded: I once was lost but now Im found. . . therefore I give myself away that He who saved me may be glorified, magnified, and shown worthy!
Brother Roy ended the night in a prayer quoting from Revelation 12:11 “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” He did not quote the rest of the verse but, in a day, it was displayed in a church not far away.
“Isn’t Psalm 91 awesome? And those testimonies. . . that was awesome” I said to Joseph on the phone the next night
“yeah, but did you hear what happened in South Carolina?” He replied.
“No . . . .”
Soon I did hear. I heard that on the night after our bible study, in Emanuel AME church in Charleston South Carolina a few folks gathered with the same mind as the brothers and sisters at RLOC. Like minded brothers and sisters , by blood, by the Blood of Jesus gathered to worship their King. Reports say a young man entered the church for the first time. Reports say they welcomed the young man into their Bible Study. Reports say he listened to them for an hour. Reports say he almost received prayer. Reports say he said “they were so loving it was hard to do what I came to do”. He came to shoot them dead
.Had not Psalm 91 been written for them? I heard myself ask. Had not the Church of Emanuel of South Carolina who were dwelling in the secret place of the Most High been in the Shadow of His protection? Doesn’t Emanuel mean God with us? Where was God? Why could they not have just seen the recompense of this wicked young man? Why did they not get saved from the arrow that flew by day? Why did you not save them from the deadly pestilence that stalked into that church that night? Daddy why? And Daddy how can we sit in the park in Greenville and think we are any more safe? Or how can we be in RLOC and think we are in an even safer place? If your word is most true, and I know it is Daddy, show me , show me the glory of it amidst this tragedy.
“When we can’t see His Hand we TRUST HIS HEART” Pastor has told us again and again.
“WHERE IS YOUR HEART DADDY ? WHERE IS YOUR HEART JESUS? I MUST KNOW THAT I MIGHT SERVE YOU !” We all must know because there is a Louder voice saying what Brother Roy prayed on Tuesday night . . .”a Loud voice from heaven says “NOW the SALVATION and POWER and THE KINGDOM of OUR GOD and the AUTHORITY of CHRIST has come for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down who accuses them day and night before our God . AND THEY HAVE CONQUERED HIM BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB AND BY THE WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONYFOR THEY LOVED NOT THEIR LIVES EVEN UNTO DEATH”
UNTO DEATH IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY
In World War II , the chaplains would quote Psalm 91 over dying soldiers. It did not make sense for that fact to be shared on Tuesday afternoon on the 16th of June.We were but Children of God hovered over by a Good Daddy. But now , on June 20th, I am compelled to think of us as soldiers. We must see we are soldiers in a battle that has already been won.
This psalm read over and over was shared to give the soldiers a hope. And eternal end. The psalm speaks of a current promise of protection for the believer and an eternal protection promised exclusively to the believer. In this life both unbeliever and believer are given protection. The unbeliever , a limited protection. The believer , an unlimited protection. The unbeliever is not protected from eternal damnation (unending death) and hell. The believer is protected from both death and hell. Though our bodies die , we live forever. This is not so for the unbeliever, Therefore there is indeed a limit on the protection THE Most High offers the unbeliever.
So, in WWII , when bullets and arrows literally flew by day and pestilence walked at night and ten thousand fell at their sides , there was comfort, great comfort in Psalm 91. There was great comfort in hearing the chaplin read to the dying believing soldier “Jesus covers you with His feathers and under the wings of God you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler”. This is the HOPE of a certain end.
As Angela said in the park “its like we are strapped to Jesus. Always Buckled to Him FOREVER”
“Sheild and buckler” I awoke in the night hearing the Spirit say again and again “Sheild and buckler”.
Awake, I saw in my mind the young man speak to the boy Roof: “you don’t want to do this” . It is said a certain young man at the Bible study stood before the shooter to try to talk him out of his planned assault. It is said that his argument failed in the mind of the boy and the boy proceeded to aim his gun at the believer’s aunt. In order to save his aunt, the believing man lunged in front of the gun. He was ready to take the bullet for his aunt. He was ready to die.
“NOW for a good man one might die, but God show HIS LOVE for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us”.Romans 5 preaches in the night to me. The young man could die for the body of his aunt but not for her soul. He is shot. Eight others are shot. But Christ remains the shield and buckler for the young believing man who went from life to life while saving the body of his aunt. His life testifies “The Lord took the bullet for you sinner”.
I remember again what Dylan Roof said “ It was hard to do what I came to do because they were so loving”. Love delayed the work of the enemy. A love poured lavishly into a surrendered heart delayed the devil. The Love of God poured down from heaven into the hearts of a dozen of believers halted a man equipped in mind and weapon and backed by Satan. He was held hostage to the Love of Jesus for over an hour!! Love almost stopped the shooting.
Suddenly I saw RLOC, Daddy’s church in Greenville ,holding Satan’s minions hostage through the Love of JESUS. Still Nine believing children of God, servants of King Jesus , were killed. Murdered. In a moment amidst the Shadow of the Almighty., Nine saved souls murdered in the sight of three who looked with with their eyes.
IN scenes of WWII we see the blood of thousands drip onto and past the dying soldiers eyes. Meanwhile chaplains pray desparately from Psalm 91 “ a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand but it will not come near you .you will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked” . They say that blood was everywhere in the church. They say not everyone was shot. They say Roof wanted to leave a witness to the crime because he said he was going to kill himself and he wanted someone left to tell the story. A few remained alive covered with the feathers of the Most High.
A few were there with Jesus weeping as Jesus said “ Roof, Roof, my created boy that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you. How often would I have gathered you a a hen gathers her chick under her wing but you were not willing. See now your house is left desolate. “ Matthew 24. With His wings outstretched , the shots fired. Only the victims found “refuge” in His wings.
SEEING SALVATION IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY
Another night is interrupted. Aching for my church I pray the prophecy of psalm 91:14-16 that we spoke over each other. “ Daddy because they hold fast to you in love you say you will deliver them, you will protect them, because they know you name and when they to all to you You will answer them . . . You will be with them in trouble you will rescue them and honor them with long life. . . . . “I weep for the church of Emanueal With long life Daddy. . . . what about with long life. . . . I ask Daddy. He answers with the last six words of Psalm 91.
“I Will Show Him MY SALVATION”. I cannot sleep.
Though I never watch TV , on Friday afternoon the whole town had TVs showing the bond hearing of the shooter , Dylan Roof. Broken children and parents spoke from hearts that knew deeply what the angel Micheal knew , vengenace and judgement are assigned only to God. Vengance belongs to the Lord to speak but Salvation belongs to us to speak.
Clips of family members speaking echo in my mind. They spoke so much forgiveness I could but hear my Savior from the cross speak to Dylan “Father forgive him , he knew not what he did” So the families spoke one after another of the work of God “we forgive you because He has forgiven us” “God forgive you and have mercy on your soul.” “Take the opportunity now ” Anthony Thopson said to the young man ” Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one wo matters the most, Christ, so he can change your ways no matter what happens to you and youll be ok. Do that and you will be better off than you are right now” Suddenly, salvation was spoken.
“When you can’t see His hand Trust His heart” Pastor says again and again to us
How His heart beats louder than His wrath. The murderer stands bound by shakles of both man and Satan. In my mind I see him standing with a youthful innocence yet staring with a haunting emptiness. The word of salvation lands on him like an arrow, an artillery against his captor, Satan.
Jesus calls “I came to seek and to save the lost”. I came for you Dylan Roof. It is no accident that you were exposed to the love of the saints. It is no accident that you were assaulted with Love and Forgiveness of Jesus.
“if there were but one sorry hamerknocker of a sinner in the world. If it was just you ” our Pastor shouted one Sunday “He would die for you!! He would die for one!!!” I pray for a chaplin like Pastor to preach to Dylan Roof.
I imagine Dylan saved . I imagine and I remember Brother Roy say ” Satan will look like the small wizard from the Wizard of Oz in the face of the Glory of God.” In righteous anger and godly hope, I read Isaiah 14:15-17 to Satan. ” How you are cut down to the ground oh Evil one who aims to be like the Most High!! You defeated foe!! You puny enemy who makes the earth tremble who shakes kingdoms who make the world like a desert who does not let his prisoners go home. Look what The MOST HIGH is doing!!! He is saving yet another through the testimony of the Redemened. ‘
Miss Ann reminds me “God is Good”
“yes, God is good ” I sigh
“All the time” She says convincingly.
“yep” I feel encouraged by Miss Ann ”
Aint the end of the story till God gets the glory” I say.
God is Good and Faithful to His Word. All the Time. Is not the Shadow of the Most High His Love for His people? His Love has saved us. His Love keeps us and protects us. AND His Love consumes us in the face of the Enemy. Finally His Love sustains us in death by the Enemy.
And in this War, His Love is Testimony. The testimony comes in the death of His saints. And testimony is to “SHOW HIS SALVATION” so that more and more will “DWELL IN THE SHELTER OF THE MOST HIGH AND ABIDE IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY”
“What happened sis?” the boy asked the girl as he looked down his chest, to his stomach, to his feet.
“I don’t know brother! Last thing I remember is when we both called out from that broken limb up there” the girl pointed to the tree limb dangling above her head “we called to our Big Brother, we called out “Jesus ” real loud and then..” The girl paused” I think we fell. . .”
Both children looked from where they stood in a stream of water to a large puddle of mud beneath the tree. Puddles shaped like silhouettes of their bodies held their crumbled dirty clothes.
. “Look sis. Look There are our clothes all wadded up and filthy” the boy said as he looked at the muddy puddle .
Wiping a drop of mud from her eyes, the girl blinked to see more clearly.
Suddenly , the girl scolded her brother turning his head with her hands ” yuk, boy don’t you look at that!!”
She turned away looking down at her dress. ” Look at what we have on now!! ” She shouted. Twirling in the clear water where she stood, she lifted up her white dress like a bridal gown .
“Well Where did we get these dressy clothes sis?” the boy asked, looking at his white suit.
“I dunno” the girl replied .
Smiling she continued , “Really, I don’t remember changing clothes at all!!! Somebody must have done it for us”
There was something very ugly about the two types of children we had seen in Romans 2 . see “in the trees” http://wp.me/p3KvVr-d . We entered Tuesday December 16th remembering these children . Easily, we concluded with Pastor’s review.” These folks lived like they didn’t need God.” They would either say there is no goodness , no glory, no God OR they would try to become their own goodness, their own glory , their own God.
” But this isnt just talk about all those people out there, this is what we all look like apart from Jesus. Every last one of us is busted and disgusted without God’s mercy ” Pastor reminded us. Something broke in our souls as we remembered. We remembered all too well the ones who fell from the tree. It was not so much others as It was our selves.
Like children falling into muddy pits of wrath from trees of handmade glory, we fell. Our handmade limb to heaven could not sustain us. We were “busted and disgusted” with our disobedience. How it brought such bitter fruit! And, when we would try to “make up to God” with good works, we found self righteousness just as wearisome. and It’s fruit tasteless, hard, and fake. Was it not true that all of us had truly fallen short of the glory of God.? (Romans 3:23) This lethal accident was set from the beginning of time. It was a fall of both an angel and man A fall resulting from going “out on a limb”, away, from Daddy’s Glory. It was a” going out on a limb” by seeking our own glory.
The hot, holy, accusations of the Lord burned into our souls as Pastor delivered Daddy’s word.
None is righteous, no not one one understands ,no one seeks for God. all have turned aside. together they have become worthless, no one does good not even one.. . there is no fear of God before them. (Romans 3:10-12, 18) ESV
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness as filthy rags; an we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind , have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6)KJV
The fire of the holy WORD melted all our idolarty like the first day we believed. It burned our lustful idols and melted our prideful facades to clay mud. We fell prostate in soul before our God.
Ashamed, we were naked . With our clothes melted ,we looked like the first naked and defenseless brother and sister in the garden . Who could rescue us in this mudslide of sin melting beneath a Holy look from God?. Who could cleanse us ? And who could clothe us? Would our Perfect Daddy find a way to cleanse us and clothe us? What garment would He make? Surely, It had to be more than the animal skin he put over Adam and Eve!.
Our souls called out:
But now , O Lord , thou art out father; we are the clay , and thou our potter ; and we all are the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people. Isaiah 64:8,9
Imputed( righteous )
“Imputation.” . “. say imputation ” our Pastor Chris said. Only a few shyly mumbled” imputation” , The rest asked their neighbor”what did He say ?”.
“I dunno, it’s one of those big preacher words ” I said to my neighbor.
We did not know it was the Designer label on the clothes sent to us from Daddy THE DESIGNER. A most expensive label that cost Him His Life, “Imputation”declares and delivers a most beautiful garment of Daddy’s Love. This garment clothes every naked part of the body , soul , spirit and mind. It is His RIGHTEOUSNESS.
His Righteousness worn becomes an “all weather garment” penetrating His Holiness through and through us in all seasons, in all weather, at all time. More than an outer marking like a tatoo or a jewel, the garment of His Righteousness puts upon every believer the Righteousness of Jesus. A full body suit of God’s Glory !
Once naked , we now recognized that we were clothed. we read together with Pastor : “But NOW the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law. . . the righteousness of God THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST FOR ALL WHO BELIEVE!! (Romans3:21,22) Pastor stood . This could not be merely read.
“I gotta preach now” Pastor warned “You must know Christ is your righteousness. Your righteousness is not in you but IN HIM IN YOU! This righteousness is the same today yesterday and forever. It does not get better with strong faith or worse with weak faith. It is His Righteousness sealed eternally in heaven. And it is put upon you. . . It is IMPUTED.”
The big preacher word, “imputation “ hovered in the air. It was such a big word. But,bigger was what it contained. It spoke of how our Daddy acts as both the JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER. (Romans 3:26). So, eagerly , we listened to Pastor tell us, in many ways and with many words, the beauty and glory and love contained in the word “imputation”.
“Imputation” . Still none of us could say it . We only softly said “thank you Jesus”. Softly brother and sister would echo “thank you Jesus” with each agreed truth that Pastor preached. Perhaps, our gratitude contained an “imputation” of perfect praise. Perhaps , we were His righteousness revealed.
” Well so why do you think we are all dressed up sis?” the boy asked as he looked at his white suit.
“I dunno , I guess we are going somewhere special” the sister replied.
” Slow down sis , we don’t have to get to Rome in a day” the boy said as he broke his run down, to a slow walk .
Looking ahead, he squinted and said “And sis , I don’t think anyone is really going in that mansion yet”
“Oh Brother , yes they are!! You just can’t see from here” the girl said as she stopped with the boy by a large fruit tree. Looking to the top of the tree she said “Hey climb up there with me and then we can see”
Once settled with his sister in a thick sturdy branch, the boy strained his head toward the mansion. “Yep, they are going in ..and it looks like they are squeezing through a small,narrow door sis,”
“Hey ,and look at their shirts sis. They all got name tags .hmm I can’t see what they say . . . something like S. . .A…. I…..N….. T..”
“Silly ” the girl sighed “that spells ‘saint””
“Well, how can all them folks have the same first name when they don’t even look alike ?” the boy asked.
” SILLY BOY!! I done told you over and over ! Saint is the first name Daddy calls all of us !!! Ain’t you ever heard Him call ya that before ? !”
When we hear the word “saint”, some of us see thin, stone faced, darkly dressed, men or women with hands folded or, at best, hands drooping beneath stooped shoulders. Some may also think of such souls as ” perfect” before God.
Many of us quickly swat away any such label “saint” placed on us . Aware of our faults , both sinner and saved say ” well I ain’t no saint”. Tuesday night was no different as we heard Pastor Chris call out to us. . .,Us. . . . ragged and tired folks, sitting on worn chairs, in a dim light, on a cold floor “Grace and Peace to you Saints. Yes you saints!” he said.
For a moment some souls ran to a place far away from the platform titled ” saint”. Ducking from the light of this honor, some of us bent heads low, thinking “I aint no saint”.
Very strangely, off this platform “saint” , the Holy Ghost rightly examines both sinner and saved. He sees both step away from the name saint.. Here we see the sinner has examined himself rightly. He knows instinctively that his sin has separated him from this pure name from God.
The saved however denies a name his Daddy gave him. When asked , he quickly says “I ain’t no saint” only because he does not want to elevate himself above the one who has called him “saint”. Without intention, his aim is to please the opinion of man rather the than to honor a truth of God. Suddenly, the enemy has a covert victory .His victory is over our mind when we pridefully want to “look” humble.
The first “saints” had settled in the light and stood fast on the platform. They had a right mind The first disciples knew they were saints .” In fact the “world ” freely called them “saints” ( Acts 9:13) as we see Ananias refer in prayer to his fellow disciples. They knew who they were. ” It was not an offense at all to be called saint. A saint was set apart wholly and holy for God “.Pastor Chris explained. “They believed every word of scripture and from that belief they manifested a life that proved scripture true”.
We heard Pastor’s words. Yet ,sitting worn, ragged and cold ,we looked at ourselves , we looked at each other whispering. “I ain’t no saint” . No saint looked like me , I thought, stumbling and often unable to even stand up on the platform beneath the light of Daddy. If a saint , I thought , Daddy, this is not one for the photo albumn !
Then , pastor invited into our minds a picture from God’s gallery of an unlikely saints. One I thought looked just like me. He invited Mephibosheth..http://www.goodsalt.com
Suddenly through the Word and the Spirit, we saw how Daddy defined saint. It became a definition filled with His work toward us rather than our work for Him. We saw a saint in the making: Mephibosheth, a cripple child of God.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Samuel%2020&version=KJV. Pastor told the story of David seeking, Mephibosheth, the son of his friend Jonathan who he had promised favor.
We saw David, keeping his covenant made with Jonathan, calling Mephibosheth born limp and unable to come to him at all. Also, much afraid and ashamed , he hid from the servants of the King. In spite of his lameness , he was brought by the King to the table of the king to sit in the limelight of the kingdom. There he was to feast and be nourished by the King.
Suddenly, in the shadow of this gospel story, we saw a true image of a “saint”. We saw something called and set apart for the kingdom. As the disciples so turned the world upside down, the Spirit so turned the word “saint” upside down in our souls. We saw Jesus, the King, lift us from the crippling of sin to the healing table of His presence! It was a calling , this title. a Title to no longer “run away” from but to “run with”.
We were brought by the arms of King Jesus to feast at Daddy’s table!!! Thetemperature became warm, the chairs became royal ones , our legs became strong and our faces radiant. It was all very true in our hearts. Jesus alone had made us Saints! Like our adoption papers given in Ephesians , our authenticity papers of Sainthood were real . And bought with a very great price ! So, when Pastor said “turn to your neighbor and say ‘I am a Saint’ we boldly said ” I am a saint”!
And now we boldly proclaim to all of the church of RLOC : Grace and peace from God our Father and The Lord Jesus Christ to you who are loved by God and called to be SAINTS!!