Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What If Today Were Your Last? What Would You Do?

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. ~Proverbs 27:1

     This is the last day of 2014.  What big plans do you have for the next year?  What are your New Year's resolutions?  Losing weight?  Quitting smoking or drinking?  More exercise?  Spending more time with family and friends?  Trying out new adventures?  Treating people better?  Now, imagine with me, what would you do today on December 31, 2014, if this was your last day on earth?  I know this is a morbid subject, but no one is promised tomorrow.  We hope for tomorrow, but we may not get there.  So what?  What would you do?  

     So many don't have the chance to say "I love you", before they go.  So many are bitter and hateful and unforgiving.  So many people are alone.  Some suffer many years without help.  Would you tell people you love them?  Would you put away your bitterness, hatefulness, and forgive others?  Would you go to those who are lonely and are suffering?  Would you show them Jesus as you live out your last breath?  Today for many is a celebration of leaving the old year behind, with the trials and triumphs that has gone before, and looking toward a brand new beginning that may or may not come to fruition.

     If I had a chance on my last day, I would visit everyone I could.  If I could, I would do something new that I never tried before.  If I could, I would share Jesus in my actions and not just my words.  I would show love, the love that Jesus showed.  If I could, I would even share Jesus in a letter to the president or maybe even to those who have hurt me or others.  I would even write letters to my favorite celebrities and tell them about the One Who loves them.  If I could, I would hold my kids again.  I would think I would do all I could for the people I love.

     If we do wake up tomorrow on January 1, 2015, and if we are given another year, why not do all those things?  Why wait until it may be too late, because in reality, we don't know when our last day will be.  We need to say "I love you" more.  We need less bitterness and hatefulness, and more forgiveness.  We need to visit the lonely and suffering, while we have the chance!  2015 might just be the year of love, forgiveness and hope.  Or it may just be 365 more dull and dreary days.  It's my choice and yours.  How will you live?  What choices will you make?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What If There Were No Christmas?

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told the. ~Luke 2:16-20.

     It was the night before Christmas.  Mary and Joseph were anticipating the birth of Jesus.  Waiting for the moment the Savior would come into the world.  Waiting to hold Him and cuddle with Him.  It was the night before Christmas and they were away from their house.  The only creature that may have not been stirring was the donkey Mary was riding on.  The wait was tremendous.  It was almost time.  The labor pains may have started as they were travelling.  They might have wondered where Jesus would be born and hoping it would be comfortable for Mary and Him.  It was the night before Christmas.

     But what if?  What if there were no Christmas?  No promise from long ago?  No hope or chance of redemption from a Child Who would grow up, die for our sins and rise again to live forever?  What if there were no Christmas?  What if God just said in the garden, after the Fall, "Just forget it!  You two have ruined everything and now you be damned!"?  What if no miracles?  What if no healing?  No comfort?  No joy?  What if there were no promise of peace on earth, good will toward men?  What if Mary wasn't pregnant with a Savior, and gave birth to Him?  

     I could not imagine a life without God's promise of a Baby.  God's promise of redemption.  Without God we are nothing.  Like Solomon wrote, everything would be meaningless.  No rhyme nor reason, no right or wrong.  It would be all up to us, who have sinned from the very beginning, to correct the world, and that is scary to think.  The promise through out the Old Testament was that Jesus was coming, and He came as a Child.  It seemed to be an unusual thing, but how else could He have come?  He lowered Himself humbly, to be as one of us, so we could relate to Him.  Thank God He came.  The implications would have been devastating if He didn't come.  Imagine the world now, and how bad it is with His coming.  Now imagine it without a Savior.  Scary?  Yes.

For unto us a Son is given!
Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mary Did You Know?

Did Mary know all this when she said to the angel after the announcement of her pregnancy, in Luke 1:38..."Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word".?  I believe she believed God, but to what extent I do not know.  She knew He was the Son of the Most High, but did she believe that He would do all this?  This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs because Mary, who carried the Savior for nine months, raised Him, and saw Him work, might have not known the full impact of His coming.  But she did know He was the Savior.

Do you know?

May there be Peace on earth.

Monday, December 22, 2014

When God Stepped Down

     There are several times in the Bible where God stepped down in order to help us see Who He really is.  In Genesis 2:7 He even stooped down, picked up dust and created mankind.  In the Gospels it tells us of how He stepped down to human form, as a baby, so that He could save us from our wretchedness.  In Revelation it tells us He will step down to fight the devil at Armageddon, then create a New heaven and New earth.  From creating the universe, the world and mankind, from coming down as a baby, living in human form, yet still being God, suffering, dying and rising again, giving us a chance of redemption, to fighting the final battle for us and creating all things new in the end, God stepped down.  He did it for us because He loves us.
     There are countless times in the Old Testament where He came down from heaven, and from mountains.  He showed us glimpses of Himself throughout the Old Testament.  Then He came to us in flesh.  Now, if we have faith and believe in Him, He steps down to us, and dwells in us.  What other god would do that?  What other god died and rose again and lives forever?  What other god would come to our level, and chase after us?  No other god would, and cannot, because they are lifeless.
     Jesus was there when God picked up the dust and will be there to create the New heaven and earth.  Christmas can be a time to acknowledge that.  This Christmas, will you acknowledge that He stepped down for you?  Mary's pregnancy was like no other.  Jesus' birth was like no other.  And the way God had all of it played out, with Him lying in a manger, in such a humble way, God had to have stepped and stooped down low enough for us to touch Him.  That's how much He loves us.

May your days be merry and bright!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The True Meaning of Christmas

Luke 2:12
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus' birth, with glad tidings, peace on earth, good will toward men, giving and receiving presents, family and food.  We don't even consider the true meaning of Christmas though---Sacrifice.  You ask, "What sacrifice?  Let me explain the story.

God is sitting on His throne in heaven along with His Son and The Holy Spirit.  Then God says to Mary and Joseph that they will have a Son by the Holy Spirit.  Suddenly Jesus has to step down off the throne of heaven and be born on earth.  Not only that but He must be all God and all human.  The worst part is He has no riches, no kingdom, and no place to be born, except in a dirty barn, then He is placed in a stone feeding trough.  That is sacrifice.  In John 3:16 it says "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  It was a sacrifice also on God to send His Son away to earth.  We think of this verse as we see Jesus on the Cross, but the fact is He sacrificed His heavenly position and he started of in a dirty manger!

What are we sacrificing for Jesus?  We give and receive gifts for each other but what are we sacrificing?  Yes, our American Express and Visa bills will show up in January.  Spending money is not what God looks for.  Are we helping others, in spite how they treat us?  Are we going out caroling to those who can't leave their homes?  Or visiting sick children in the hospitals?  Do we visit our prisons?  We spend so much time on what perfect gift to give to our family and friends that we forget what Christmas means.  Giving beyond what we have.  Making time for the less fortunate.

Give to others with all your being and without expecting anything in return.  Doing all of this, we give back to Jesus for His birthday.  When someone is hurting you, turn and be kind.  When people hate you, love them.  That's the greatest gifts we can give for Christmas, a true sacrificial gift, and do it gladly.  This Christmas, think of how God sacrificed His Son by sending Him as a Baby on earth, where He would feel pain, suffering and endure temptation, and ultimately die for our sins, the most awful sins you can imagine.  Yes, Christmas is a sacrificial love.  

I hope this Christmas brings you a sense of sacrifice and repentance, and will bring you blessings unimaginable!


Friday, December 5, 2014

My Christmas Song

Sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things"

Eggnog and candy canes, cookies and Christmas lights.  Christmas trees with ornaments oh it's such a sight.  Angels and decorative bulbs shining their way.  Oh what a fabulous display.  Shopping lists of food and shopping lists of gifts, going out among the shoppers in their fits, unending Christmas songs filling your ear, this is why I can't wait for the New Year!
Stressed to find the right gift is a comin', unending Christmas commercials is very common, wanting to please all who we know, when I look in the mirror, my wrinkles show.  Thinking of Jesus, the babe in the manger, shopping on Christmas Eve, oh what a danger, knowing Santa and his elves will bring us good cheer, this is why I can't wait for the New Year!
When the kids scream, when the toys break, when ham in the oven is burned, remember the season, and Who it is for, Jesus the babe came to save mankind like no one before, He is the reason we can continue to the New Year!

This was just a funny ditty for you to enjoy.  I hope this Christmas season fills you with Love, Peace, Hope and Joy!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving in Trials

James 1:2-5
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

     Being thankful for a loving family, good kids, your good health, a good job, a nice house and a nice car--or two, is one thing, but being thankful in your trials, when your family life is less than perfect, your kids go astray, you come down with an illness, you lose your job and can't make mortgage payments on your house, and all your cars are repossessed, or whatever is testing your faith, that's a different story.  Can we be thankful and full of joy in our trials?  I wondered that myself.  But God said to count it all joy in trials.  With joy, I believe, comes thankfulness.  Philippians 4:6 says, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  Life was never meant to be perfect after the Fall of Man.

     Without thanksgiving there is pride.  We see ourselves and our problems, but we don't see God--working on our behalf.  He is at work my friends--always.  This Thanksgiving, be thankful for the trials you suffered this year, especially if you grew closer to Jesus in them.  I know it is difficult.  I have been there many times, and I've wondered, "What is there to be thankful for in this?  And where is the joy in this trial?  You can be thankful and have joy.  They are both available to you and to me.  God's Word is truth, and what He says and offers us is truth, we just have to accept the truth.  When you sit around your dinner table tomorrow, with turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, vegetables and pumpkin and pecan pies and whatever delicacies you may sink your teeth into, remember those who go without, and be thankful for what you have, in any circumstance you are in.

Psalm 106:1
Praise the Lord!  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and may you all receive God's blessings during this holiday season.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Being Thankful

1 Thessalonians 5:18
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

     Family is arriving for Thanksgiving.  They meet and greet and each family member brings delicious dishes to go with the host family's turkey.  The men sit around the television waiting for the annual Thanksgiving football game to come on.  The kids play with each other in the back yard.  The women prepare the table and meal.  Thanksgiving is a great treat for the family to get together and visit and eat.  The greatest treat and gift from God is to be thankful for all the year's blessings.

     The women call in the kids to wash their hands and get them sat down at the table set especially for them.  Then the women pry the men away from the television and sit them down at the main table as well.  The big kids get to share the main table, unless there is no room, then they are sent to the little kids table.  The head of the house says grace and then they go around with their thankful statements.  It starts with the head man.  He is thankful for his beautiful family that God has graced him with.  The wife then goes on and says she is thankful for being with all the family again for another year.  Grandma is thankful for her grand kids.  Grandpa is thankful his wife let him live another year.  They all chuckle.

     The Aunt and Uncle are thankful for God's provisions in time of need.  One cousin is thankful for the college he attends.  The younger kids are thankful they have laptops, tablets, iPads and iPhones.  What do they know?  They're kids, right?  Then their parents remind them of the important things in life and they squirm in their seats.  

    As grandpa gets ready to carve the beautiful turkey that his daughter prepared, God asks the turkey, "What are you thankful for Tom?"  The turkey looks up at God and asks, shaking and nervous at his upcoming demise (granted, he's already cooked, but just work with me), "Are you kidding me Lord?  They are about to eat me!"  God again asks, "What are you thankful for?"  Tom scratches his head (yes, again, work with me), and thinks, "Well, I've been fed real well I guess.  I use to have beautiful feathers.  I was created by You Lord and free to roam (thinking to himself, "Only to get shot and plucked and packaged and cooked and ate".)  "I suppose I'm thankful for that".  God nods His head, even considering what the turkey was really thinking.  "Anything else?", God asks.  He looks up at God and answers, "Anything else?  I'm about to be carved up and eaten!"  God says to him,  "Look around you and what do you see?  I see people getting together with family and enjoying a meal together.  I see them giving thanks even though some have had hardships, and I see you with a purpose."  The turkey shakes his head and says, "Yes, this purpose of Yours is for people to eat me."  "Yes", the Lord says.  Some of the family members have struggled to put food on the table because of a job loss.  "I see", said the turkey.  He thought about and told God, "Yes, I am thankful for being of service to these people."  The the grandpa carved the turkey and they ate happily and were thankful.

     See, even a turkey can be thankful at Thanksgiving even though he will be gobbled up, so be thankful in everything.

I know my turkey humor was a little odd but that's my humor at times.  A little humor, even though odd, goes a long way.  Enjoy the holidays this year and be thankful all year.




Saturday, November 1, 2014

Doubt and Worry

Matthew 14:31
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt"?

Philippians 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

     I haven't blogged in awhile.  I really couldn't pinpoint why I hadn't written at all.  Though today I'm not talking about discouragement, I have been discouraged, and that right there brought me to doubt my abilities, not just in writing, but all my talents and gifts God gave me.  I saw Jesus and got out of the boat.  Then I saw the storm and started to sink.  Thankfully, He came to me and pulled me up and saved me.  My faith was wavering and I not only doubted myself, but I doubted Him.  Each time God has me do His Will, satan invariably comes up and puts thoughts into my head that I'm nothing, a nobody.  Satan is wrong!  He already has lost the battle, and I've gained victory through Christ.  I go to Jesus each time, and He lifts me out of the storm.  So why so little faith?  Why do I doubt?  Because I, for a moment, look at the storm instead of my Savior and sink into despair.  But God is always ready to help when I call out to Him.
     There are storms everyday, but God is right there ready to bring us through it.  When the world says that God can't or won't help, ignore their blasphemies, and listen to Jesus.  When the world persecutes you, stand up, stand firm, and stand strong in Jesus.  When you're sick, and think you are of no help to God, think again.  Jesus uses every obstacle for His plan for your life, for His glory.  God's promises are true, even today when men say there is no God.  I don't believe in men, I believe in God!

     After doubt comes worry.  In the NKJV in Philippians, it says anxious.  Worry and anxious are synonymous.  When I pray for something or someone, I sometimes doubt, then, ultimately I worry.  We are to worry about nothing and pray.  When we pray, we are to believe, not doubt or worry.  If we doubt or worry, why pray?  Trust is another word that comes to mind as I write this.  Believe God and trust God, in EVERYTHING.  He cannot lie.  He is trustworthy at ALL TIMES.  There are things that are going on in this world that are horrible.  Everyday we hear about terrorists, diseases, wars, school shootings and such.  It can be worrisome.  But Who is in control?  God is.  Pray.  Take it to Him.  Give Him your worries.
     Life was never meant to be easy after the Fall.  We struggle to make ends meet, with our families, with illness and the world going on around us.  But Jesus has the answer in every situation.  Why does He allow such troubles?  Why does He allow such sins?  He showed it at the Cross.  We fell as a human race and separated ourselves from God, then God gave us His Son as a sacrifice for an atonement for our sins, to honor and glorify Him.  He gave us a way out.  He gave us a second chance.  We were created to glorify God and we blew it, but He let us off the hook by the way of the Cross.  Worrying is from the Enemy.  God's got our backs.  Why worry?

     Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest".  When we doubt and worry, we carry a heavy burden that only Jesus can take from us.  Give it to Him.  One thing I've learned is that I will not stop doubting or worrying, but the remedy is that I cry out to Jesus in times of distress and ask Him to help me.  We are not perfect until we see Jesus on the other side of eternity.  So for now, things will pop up and we'll wonder where God is.  Things will pop up and worry us, but the good news is He will hold us in His arms and comfort us at any given time.  Just let Him.

Just wait for what's in store for November!  Remember, be thankful.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Are You Happy Now?

     The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  They complained of being under Pharaoh's hard labor and God sent Moses to deliver them.  God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and ask that he let go of his people, and Pharaoh just laughed and said no, so God sent plagues, and finally Pharaoh let the Israelites go, only to change his mind and chase them.  The Israelites got away.  No problem.  They saw God's hand destroy Egypt.  No problem.  I wonder if God said to the Israelites, "Are you happy now"?  Then comes the Red Sea.  The Israelites were already frightened and complaining about Pharaoh chasing them, and along comes the Red Sea.  Oops!  They said to Moses, "Did you bring us out here to die"?  But God opened the Red Sea.  Split it right in half, and the Israelites made it!  If fact, the Egyptians chasing them all drowned as God made the Red Sea flow again, right over them.  God may have asked again, "Are you happy now"?
     The Israelites wandered the desert and found that there was no water.  They were of course not happy, forgetting their Lord, their Provider.  They came to Marah where the water was bitter and boy the grumbling began!  Moses was told by God to throw a tree into the water.  It then became sweet, and they were able to drink it.  It was as if God said to them, "I told you so".  "Now", He says, "Are you happy"?  Then they were hungry and complained, so God gave them manna from heaven, and may have said, "Are you happy now"?  
     The Lord had Moses go up Mount Sinai to meet Him because He was giving The Ten Commandments to Moses to give to the Israelites.  Moses went up the mountain again after the Ten Commandments was told, to get the tablets to which they were on.  Moses was gone for 40 days and nights, and no, the Israelites were not happy yet.  In fact, they panicked, and made a golden calf to worship.  How many times would it take for God to rain miracle after miracle to make His people happy?  It was never good enough.  In fact, they got so sick of the provision of food God gave them, that they asked for meat, and boy did God rain meat down on them so much, that they were sick of it.  God may have asked again, "Are you happy now"?
     I don't know how many miracles it took, but it took 40 years wandering in the desert for God to get their attention.  They still grumbled and complained.  They were going to a land of Promise and complained the whole way.  God wasn't happy either, so a whole generation died, without seeing The Promise Land.  Don't miss out on God's blessing due to your grumbling and complaining because life is not going your way.  I may have put a little humor in this by the question God could have ask, "Are you happy now"?, but what will it take for you to be happy with God's plan for your life? 

I hope today you see the blessings God has given you.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Funny Thought For Today

I am going to attempt to look at the Christian life in a funny way these next few days.  With everything going on in this world, it is difficult to do, but sometimes we just have to laugh or we'll cry.  And I say attempt to be funny because my humor is a little odd and offbeat at times so bear with me.

Just a thought:

     In Genesis 1:26-31, God created man and woman.  Before that he created everything else, and it was good.  Then God created man, and man was alone, which God said that it was not good than man should be alone, so God took a rib from man and created woman.  Man now was complete.  So we go to Genesis 1:31, after God had made everything...including women, then instead of saying "it was good", He said, "God saw all that he made, and it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning---the sixth day".

     God definitely does not make mistakes, but He knew after creating Adam, that Adam needed a woman's help.  It was only good until He made Eve.  Then because woman came along everything was very good.  Doesn't that tell you that Adam probably wouldn't have tended the garden properly, or fed the animals at the right time without Eve giving him a "honey-do" list.  And when they fell and started wearing clothes, we all know most men don't do well with laundry.  I said most, not all.  And when the children started to come?  God knew men wouldn't handle childbirth very well at all.  So after God man man---and woman, it was all very good.

*Disclaimer:  This was all in good fun.  It may or may not be true, but like I said, I am attempting humor.  And men, no offense intended, it's just for a laugh at life's blunders, after all Adam did let his wife eat the fruit he knew was wrong to eat.  God did know ahead of time.

Be blessed today, and men, don't hate me.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Character in Our Christian Life: Guileless and Holy

Guileless and Holy are the last two characteristics I will cover in this series of our character.  We must remember not only to tell others about Christ, but live it in the character of Christ.

10. Guileless: "I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.  I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud Your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds". Psalm 26:5-7.

     To be guileless is to be innocent.  We are not to associate with those who do evil.  We are to be innocent before the Lord.  We live in this world, and we do associate with those who are lost, in the sense that we share the gospel with them, but we are not to be like the wicked.  In the workplace, we associate with Christians and non-Christians alike.  We are to be their "light" to shine Jesus upon them.  We are to set examples instead of going about doing what they do in order to "fit in".  We are not suppose to fit in with the world.  Be an example of the innocence of Jesus in your daily walk with Him.  Live a life that is exemplary to God.

11.  Holy:  "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.  The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession".  Deuteronomy 7:6

     We are to be holy and blameless before the Lord.  Yes we are sinners.  Yes we mess up, but we as humans are not holy and blameless as God is.  We have Christ's atonement only to make us holy and blameless.  What our part is; to live as Christ lived, serving and giving, helping and forgiving others, including those who are our enemies.  Most important of all, love one another as Christ loves us.  Live Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law".  Without the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives, we cannot be holy.  It only comes from God.  Be holy as Christ is holy.

I may continue my humor blogs next, just for a little break from the realities of life.  Be blessed this week, and bless someone else.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fearing God, Following Christ, Godly

Our character matters in all our aspects of life.  How we act in our daily lives really shows others how we truly are on the inside.  This blog is the third installment of Character.  This includes fear God, following Christ, and Godly.

7.  Fearing God: "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His Name".  Malachi 3:16.

     When we fear the Lord, it is not a fear like He will punish you or destroy you if you sin, but an awe of His own character, presence, knowledge, power, justice, mercy, grace, etc.  He is our Almighty God Who is our Provider, and Who loves us so much that He gave up His Son to save us from an eternity in hell, because of our sinful lives.  To show others that we fear God, it shows them that we put Him first, above all else.  It shows we mean business when it comes to following Him.  It shows that He is the One True God.

8.  Following Christ: "When He puts forth all His own, He goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice".  John 10:4.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me".  John 10:27.

     Do you think we would be a great witness to Christ or even a Christian for that matter at all if we indeed not follow Christ?  I don't think so.  Christ knows His sheep and His sheep knows Him.  One characteristic is, that we must follow Christ in order to minister the Gospel to others.  How else are we going to do it if we don't believe ourselves?  If we know Christ and follow Him, You need to share the good news with others.  If you don't know Him, then how can you "go into the world and make disciples"?  Know Him, the go.

9.  Godly: "But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him". Psalm 4:3.
"Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment". 2 Peter 2:9.

     We are all made in the image of God, from the very beginning of time.  We are to imitate God, and in doing so, we need to be godly, set apart from the world.  We need to have the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  To be godly is a crucial characteristic to have when ministering to others.  Being unrighteous or ungodly is a detriment to Christ's cause and if the world sees that, they will not receive the good news well, and will reject God even more.

The next time, I will cover the last two characteristics in being a witness of Christ or to ministering to other the Good News of Christ.  There are many other characteristics to cover, but for now I will only cover eleven of them.

Be blessed this weekend.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Character: Contrite, Devout, Faithful

    This is the second set of characteristics we need to have as Christians, in our daily walk with Jesus.  Come with me and look at the next three characteristics we should follow, so that the world will see Jesus through us.

4.  Contrite:  "'For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, Whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with a contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite...'"  Isaiah 57:15.
"For my hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being'", declares the Lord.  "'But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My Word'".  Isaiah 66:2.

     Being contrite in spirit because of our sin is a character trait that is honorable to God.  To be sorry for the wrong we do is the first step actually, that we should take.  Humbly accepting our failures and going to God with them.  He will revive us when our hearts are right with Him.  Accepting the fact that we sin, on a daily, if not hourly basis, tells God that we do indeed have to depend on Him to get our hearts straightened out.

5.  Devout:  "Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him".  Acts 8:2.
"A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near me said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight'!  And at that very time I looked up at him".  Acts 22:12-13.

    Devotion to God is a love that is pure and true, and we must be devout in our relationship with Jesus.  It is what keeps our hearts, mind, soul and body in constant communication with our Lord.  Without devotion, there is no relationship.  God honors those who devotes him or herself to Him.  It is a true Christian heart who is devoted.  It is a must when ministering to a lost and dying world.

The last of the three is being faithful.  Are we faithful?  And if not, how can we be?

6.  Faithful:  "These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.  These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful".  Revelation 17:13-14.

     Being faithful is being loyal and trustworthy.  Are we loyal and trustworthy to Jesus?  Devotion and faithfulness goes hand in hand to me.  Without loyalty and trustworthiness we are not faithful.  It takes faithfulness to Jesus to witness to the people around us, and being faithful to those people also.  Gaining trust and being loyal to the people around you will show them the true meaning of Christianity, and how a Christian is suppose to act.  We must go and make disciples, as Jesus commanded, and if our character is out of place, we fail. 

Blessings to you today and the rest of the week.  More to come on how our character should be while we walk with Jesus and minister to others.

*Note:  I will not be blogging tomorrow due to me being out of town.  Friday I will resume.  Thank you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What is Our Character?

     I want to take three or four blogs to go through what our character should be as Christians in ministry.  I will start with three today.

1.  Attentive to Christ's voice; 1 John 1:3,4
"What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ".

     Our character must be willing to listen to the voice of Christ and the Father's Will for us.  Our selfishness must banish.  We need to be willing to serve others first, so they may fellowship with Jesus.  Listening and being attentive to Christ's voice is essential in ministry.  Doing ministry in our own way will lead to failure.

2.  Blameless and Harmless; Philippians 2:15 "So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among you who appear as lights in the world".

     Our character must remain blameless and harmless.  Live out our lives the way we minister to others and do not harm one another.  Be doers of the Word and not just hearers.  We are God's children, and must not warp our ministry with our sinful nature.  If we do sin, confess and repent, and always forgive those who sin also.

3.  Bold; Proverbs 28:1 "The wicked will flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion".

     This is the last character for this blog.  Being bold in our witness and not backing down in the face of opposition is very important in our ministry.  Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and we must stand against him with boldness for our testimony for Jesus to stand strong.  God says many times in the Bible to "be strong and courageous".  It is crucial that we stand boldly when facing our enemy.

I hope all of you are blessed by God this week and remember that our character and integrity count for our eternity and others' eternity.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Well Do You Live Your Life?

In view of past events since the shooting of Michael Brown, the suicide of Robin Williams, the death of Lauren Bacall, and things that just happen in our life in a tragic and untimely manner, my focus on humor will be preempted for now.

     I was on a cruise to Alaska, having the time of my life, when on the news came tragedy.  The Michael Brown shooting.  The suicide of the great comedian, Robin Williams, and the death of a great legacy, Lauren Bacall.  The death of the teenager who was apparently gunned down, unarmed caused riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  Whether or not the boy was guilty or not, unarmed or armed, it still caused a family to lose a child, and an officer to face ridicule, and riots to break out.  It was sad no matter the true situation.
     Robin Williams was a funny, talented and giving man.  So much so, he didn't have time for himself.  He was lost in a world of pain and suffering and didn't know how to reach out.  He made people laugh and made them feel special but he had something missing in his own life.  He suffered from emotional conflicts and drug addiction that ultimately led him to the most extreme despair.  He had "it all" on the outside, fame and fortune, but was empty on the inside.  We all ask "why"?, but we will never know.
     Lauren Bacall died at the age of 89, of, I believe, a stroke.  She lived her life apparently well.  Her career lasted decades.  She had beauty and grace, and left a lasting legacy.  I have admired her in her films and she seemed to handle life well.  Her family was with her when she died.  God gave her a long life.  It was sad to hear that she had passed, just as it was sad to hear of Michael Brown and Robin Williams.  But with Miss Bacall it was a different life than the others.  It wasn't tragic.
     Coming back from my cruise I came home to some issues of my own.  What is called everyday life, with it's unexpected twists and turns.  How we choose to live our lives in a chaotic world is what really defines us.  Do we choose to live in violence?  Do we choose to give up so easy under pressure?  Do we live life with grace and purpose?  How do we live?  Sometimes discouragement gets in our way and we feel like it will never get any better than this.  Sometimes we vie for rights of others that turn to tragedy in and of itself.  Sometimes we look at discouragement in its face and say, "I've had enough of you, go away"! How well do you live your life?
     James 1:2-8 says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf off the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways".  Trials are always a part of our lives.  They are inevitable.  You are either going into a trial, in the middle of a trial, or coming out of one.  The way in which we handle it is our choice, and will ultimately steer your life in one direction or another.  A violent life will lead to violence.  A hopeless life will lead to suicide.  A life with honor will lead to honor.  How well do you live your life?  
     Jeremiah 29:11 says God knows His plans for us and gives us hope, if we'll just accept it.  I was where Robin Williams was 8 years ago.  I came too close to giving up, but by the Grace of God I cried out to Him and am here to tell you about hope.  Praise Jesus!  I'm not trying to preach, I am just sharing that for almost 30 years I wanted to quit this life, and I have found hope.  God is amazing.  I don't always live my life well, but I have hope.  I make mistakes, get discouraged, and even get a little angry at times, but then I look up and realize Who holds my future, and I again cry out to Him.  How well do you live your life?
     These three people will stick in my mind for a long time.  The loss that occurred and how it occurred will never leave me.  One may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.  One had no hope.  One life was long and fulfilled.  What is your life like?

Blessings to each one of you today.  May your life count as something no matter what your situation is today.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

God's Sense of Humor

     Abraham and Sarah laughed at God.  Jacob lied.  David committed adultry and murder.  Jonah ran away.  Mary was a virgin and gave birth to Jesus.  Matthew was a tax collector.  Peter needed anger management.  Thomas doubted.  Martha worried.  The woman at the well had many marriages and was living with a guy.  Barnabus had words with a Paul.  Timothy was just a kid.  Paul hated Christians in the beginning and had them killed.
     Yes, God has a sense of humor.  He used all these people in their sinful ways and in Mary's case, an impossible way, and gave us a life--giving Gospel, despite human error.  He even illustrates us as sheep, in a round about way saying we are stupid.  Yes, humans and sheep alike are stupid.  He loves us so much though that through these men and women, we have His-story, and Jesus came through these people, so that we may be redeemed from laughing at God, lying,  committing adultry or murder, running away from God, cheating people out of money, getting angry, doubting or worrying, or being faithful to one spouse. 
     He also came so that we may not break friendships with harsh word, or not worry about being to young, and worry what others will say about it.  He came to change persecutors lives and make them powerful preachers.  The last laugh is from God.  If you say, "I can't be used".  God will use you in that area you doubt, so watch out and be careful the next time you mess up and think you're in the clear.  God'll get you then.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lord? Where Are You?

Lord?  Where are You?
"Right here".
I don't see You.
"You're not looking closely".
I don't hear You?
"You're not listening".
I don't feel You.
"You're too far away".
What Lord?  What do You mean?  I'm standing right here.  
"But that's not where I am".
Lord?  Where are You?
"Right here".
OK, Lord, You're fooling with me (little laugh).  Playing hide and seek?
"No, seek and you shall find".
(Scratches head) I don't get it.
"Have you prayed to Me"?
Uh, no.
"Have you read My Word"?
Uh, no.
"Have you gone to church"?, no.
"Try doing those things".
A few weeks go by and she prays, reads and goes to church.  
Lord!  There You are!  It's great that You're here!
"I have always been here.  It's great that you're here.  I've waited a long time.  Welcome home.
The Lord puts her in His arms and she is happy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Never Say Never to God

I left California in 1983.  I grew up there for 21 years.  I never liked it there, living in the desert area of California, in a small town where nothing ever happened except the occasional tipping over cows or in my case, mooing at them and they just stare back at me in curiosity, wondering if I was insane.  Oh sure, as teenagers, we would cruise the main streets on the weekends and hang out at a local shopping center, and yes there would be an occasional drag race.  But to me, I enjoyed bigger and better places.  I dreamed of living in big cities with tons of stuff to eh' keep me in trouble.  I wanted to travel the world and see everything and people of different cultures.  

My first step was a Bible College in Phoenix, Arizona.  A great chance at a "big" city.  Back in 1983, Phoenix was less than a million people, but to me, it was big.  I tried college, and my best class was sleeping in.  Colleges should never allow a 7 a.m. class, especially in a Bible College.  It's a sin to get up that early!  Didn't quite make the college scene and dropped out in 1984.  Got married in 1985 and thought this was going to be great.  Later we had our first son, and Lo' and behold we moved back to California, but to a bigger city near L.A.  Exciting, right?  The problem with a big city is traffic.  That soon got old.

We eventually moved to Montana and had our second and last son.  Montana was fabulous, but troubles entailed.  What could go wrong in Montana?  Well, things happen.  We moved again to the capitol of Montana because my husband went to a trade college.  He graduated and got a good job, but then we decided to move back where his family was, in Illinois.  Exciting, right?  It started out all wrong, but the church I finally settled into there, I loved.  More trouble ensued and there seemed to be no way out.  I loved living in different states, but despised moving.  And guess what?  We ended up in a small town in Southern Illinois.  No more big cities.  Frankly, after Phoenix and L.A. and traffic, I wanted a small town to raise my kids in.  Ironic?

I never knew where God wanted me to be, and I was never happy in a sense.  I had my demons to deal with in spite of everything else.  Life never agreed with me.  God kept prodding me, and I kept ignoring Him.  I came to a place where I found my faith was no faith at all and hit bottom.  I found my new faith and was ready to go where God wanted me to go, as long as it wasn't my hometown.  Two years later, I felt God prodding me to go...and guess where?  Yes!  My hometown in California, with my mom.  Yes, God has a sense of humor in getting our attention to minister to others, when we don't listen.  There are still struggles, but not hopeless struggles as before.  There is hope in our struggle when we walk in faith.  And always remember to never say never to God.  God will look at you and say, "Oh yeah?  We'll see about that".

More on the humor side of the Christian walk to come.  Thank you for reading.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

What If?

A Short Story with a Funny Take on Serving Jesus, but Maybe Not So Funny

A scruffy old man was late walking into a large beautiful church.  He had on the rattiest old, torn clothes, while he walked up to the front of the church, walking by nicely dressed people sitting and staring and shunning him.  He reeked because he was homeless and hadn't had a bath in a week.  There were whispers of displeasure that he walked in.  They all gasped at the smell and mocked his dress.  The pastor was preaching eloquently, as always and suddenly stopped, as the old man made it to the altar.  "May I help you?  I am in the middle of a sermon old man".  The old man sat right in front and listened, saying nothing.  The preacher was put out and so uncomfortable, and the deacons asked the man to leave, but he continued to sit and listen.  The people in the seats started to insult him and wanted him to leave, but he sat and was ready to listen to the sermon.
The preacher was indignant, all dressed in the finest suit and tie, with his hair all in place.  He couldn't go on preaching.  "Look mister, you don't belong here.  Go find a shelter", the preacher insisted.  The old man then stood up very boldly and insistently and ask what the preacher was preaching on.  The preacher hesitantly told him Matthew 25:31-46.  The Judgment.  "May I read the passage"?, the old odorous unkempt man asked.  The pastor and all the congregation laughed but let him.  "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to me.  
Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invited You in, or naked, and clothed You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?  Then the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly, I say to you, to the extent you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even to the least of them, you did it to Me.
Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me'.  
Then themselves will also answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?  Then He will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me".  These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life".  Every face in the crowd paled as he was talking, including the preacher.  Men and women fainted in their seats and screeched in horror.  Right in front of their eyes, as the old man read, the old man began to change into a beaten, bloody, nail scarred young was Jesus who walked into the church that day.  Funny, though it may not seem.  Isn't funny how we set standard for others, who can walk into our churches, how they should dress, how they should come from the right background?  But Jesus came for the sinners not the righteous.  And Matthew 25 states if you feed and clothe and help strangers, you are doing it to Him.  I think Jesus in this story got the last laugh, but also grieved for the people who denied Him.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Meaning of a Laugh

From Merriam Webster Dictionary

:to show that you are happy or that you this something is funny by smiling or making a sound from your throat.

:to think or say that something or someone is foolish and does not deserve serious attention or respect.

:to not be bothered by something.

     We laugh at comedians or sitcoms.  We laugh at movie comedies.  We laugh when we get great news because we found exceeding joy in it.  We laugh at children playing or doing something for the first time.  When we enjoy things and people, we tend to laugh.  Harry Ward Beecher coined the phrase, "Mirth is God's best medicine".  This may have been where we got the phrase, "Laughter is the best medicine".  And according to HELPGUIDE.ORG, "Humor and laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts energy, diminishes pain, and protects you from damaging effects from stress".

     There are times when we laugh at things that are ridiculous or foolish, in a manner of disrespect.  We may mock or ridicule someone for being different, or we do so because they seem stupid to us.  God laughed at wicked fools in the Bible, not because they were funny, or that He was amused.  He scoffed at them because of their sin.  On the other hand, God does delight in us when we obey, so I'm sure He laughs with joy.  God does give us a sense of humor.  After all, we are made in His image, and you know He has to have a sense of humor to have created us.  We are funny people at times.

     To laugh something off is another way of dealing with something that has happened to you.  You laugh it off as if you weren't bothered by it.  Maybe it just didn't mean anything to you, or maybe it bothered you so badly, you couldn't handle it any other way.  In my life I would laugh or use humor when I was uncomfortable, sort of to break the ice.  Laughing is very contagious, so spread it around when things are humorous in a tactful way.  Be careful if it is a mocking laugh.  We have all had our "stupid" moments.  And if you are dealing with pain in your life, laugh it off, but appropriately.  But please beware.  Don't laugh to death.  That's not good medicine! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Final Chapter-Psalm 27:14

Psalm 27:14
"Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord".

     Pete Bartholomew talked with the group after the entire fiasco.  Miranda came and met up with them.  The group thanked Pete for the help in saving their lives.  The families were immediately notified and all were relieved.  They were all flying home the next day.  Though there were mixed feelings in leaving Pastor Manuel and Ben, Drew, Sheila and Kyle were ready to go home.  Pastor Manuel had mixed feelings, but couldn't wait to get back home to his family.  All Ben could think about was Julio.  He knew he had to have faith that God would open Julio's eyes and heart.  And Ben could not wait to share his experience with his believing mother and more importantly, his unbelieving father.

     Ben also knew he had to tell the truth to the others.  He gathered them around the table at the Bartholomew's home.  He was frightened that they might judge him.  He was still young in his faith.  "I have a confession to share with you all", he said.  They were all eyes and ears.  Ben didn't have the nerve to tell them but silently asked God for the words.  He paused as they looked at him with anticipation.  "The plan that night before I accepted Jesus, was to...", he tried to explain.  Pastor Manuel spoke up.  "Was to kill us, am I right?"  Another pause from Ben.  "Yes, you, Drew and Sheila.  Will you forgive me?  And will God?", Ben pleaded.  Drew spoke up.  "We knew we were going to be killed, and we all forgive you, and better yet, God had forgiven you the second you gave your life to Him".  Ben gave a sigh of relief.  "Did you really think we wouldn't love you, knowing this"?  Pastor Manuel asked.  Ben was at a lost for words and felt so much joy that he wept.

     It was later that night and they were all staying at the Bartholomew's for their last night together.  Pastor Manuel called Sylvia, his wife.  Her mother, Rebecca answered and spoke erratically and excitedly.  All his kids got on the phone, all wanting to know how he was and when he would be home.  Pedro talked for awhile, and then they all motioned for Sylvia.  She shed tears of joy, hearing the news.  They all thought that everyone was dead.  Tears of joy ran rampant.  "I love you, my Sylvia, and I will be home for dinner tomorrow night", Manuel said, then broke down, weeping, saying, "Finally, it's over".  Amelia, his youngest, grabbed the phone again, unaware of the danger he had been in.  "Papa?  Do you still love us"?, she inquired.  "Why do you ask my darling?  I will always love you all with all my life".  "I always love you too, Papa".  He knew she didn't understand, and hoped she wouldn't remember this moment in her life, a decade from now.  He suddenly felt extremely homesick.  He said his good-byes to his family and went to his room the Bartholomew's accommodated him with.

     Kyle thought of his dad.  He called him to tell him the good news.  Kyle's dad also thought they were all dead, just like the others and he had been grieving heavily for a time.  When he heard Kyle's voice, his knees buckled and he gasped for air in disbelief.  His son was coming home and he felt grateful and praised God for the gift He had given him.  Kyle told him all that happened and how God had worked in even Ben, their one-time captor's life.  "Dad, tomorrow we'll all be home, safe and sound", Kyle exclaimed.  Kyle was proud of his best friend and thankful to God for how He worked in Drew's life.  He also saw the change in Sheila's life and was glad.  He felt peace and was reassured by his dad that all things work together for good, for those who love God.  He hung up with his dad and chatted with the Bartholomew's while Sheila and Drew called their families.  

     The news came on just before Sheila's parents got her call.  Their girl was alive and safe.  Hope had finally come to their family and all was not lost.  Sheila asked for forgiveness for the mess she got everyone in.  Her parents looked past that.  As long as they had their "little girl" in their lives, nothing else mattered.  Sheila didn't even know how she got to where she was.  She remembered the night she told her parents she was going to Freda's house.  She even lied about Rhonda.  She remembered back on how she started into drugs with Rhonda.  It wasn't that Sheila had a terrible childhood.  Her parents gave her everything, including love.  It was experimenting that started it all, and one thing led to the next.  Rhonda later, after Sheila's disappearance, was devastated.  She then, cleaned up her own act and started going to the church Kyle and Drew went to.  She gave her life to Jesus because of what Sheila was going through.  Mr. and Mrs. Wharton shared that with her daughter, and they cried together, anticipating Sheila's arrival home.  Sheila shared the love of Christ with her parents.  They did notice the change in their daughter, and thought about what she shared.

     Drew was talking with Aunt Rita.  Aunt Rita was beside herself with joy.  He also shared Jesus with her in telling her about their ordeal.  She tried to argue the point but couldn't come up with a legitimate argument.  Drew reflected back on the journey.  He remembered the note he got in the mail about not following the rabbit trail and it being signed in blood Peter Rabbit.  He wondered about that for awhile after getting off the phone with his aunt.  He remembered the story vividly.  Sheila was Peter Rabbit, who went where she wasn't suppose to go.  Hernandez signed the note in blood as a warning.  Drew reflected on this and was thankful that this rabbit story ended differently.  He really loved Sheila and Sheila loved him.  They sat together holding hands.  They waited.  All that time they all waited.  Waited for the Lord.  Jesus gave them the strength and courage through it all and they waited...In the end they were redeemed and rescued in many more ways than one.

     Short Epilogue

     Drew, Sheila, and Kyle were on the same flight home.  They went back newer people.  Drew and Sheila found salvation in Jesus, and Kyle had a deeper understanding of Who God was.  More than that, they knew.  They knew that God's Word was not in vain, but real.  As they walked through their journey, they walked through Scripture as each piece fit perfectly.  None of them would ever be the same again.

This story was a story of redemption and promise.  I hope it gives people meaning in their lives.  Psalm 27 is one of my favorite passages.  My next several blogs will deal with laughter and humor.  I hope you continue to follow and enjoy them.




Friday, May 16, 2014

Continue on with Fearless Trust in God Part 13

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living".  Psalm 27:13

     Julio was right.  Ben and the rest would eventually meet up with him today.  Rick held Sheila tight, with a gun to everyone, while the supposed Pastor Charles drove the van to a deserted area in the middle of a Canadian forest about 100 miles north of where they were.  Drew wanted to reach out and grab the gun from Rick in attempt to save Sheila, but Kyle held him back.  Kyle sensed the danger that would cause.  Ben and Pastor Manuel held silence.  Pastor Manuel prayed as they went.  Ben prayed and contemplated what to do when they got there.  Pastor Manuel, Ben and the rest had their weapons taken away just before the trip in the van.  They were helpless in their own right.  It was up to God to save them.  They had about a half an hour to get there and the drive to all of them seemed like they were riding straight to their deaths.  They were all terrified.

     Hernandez wanted Julio to handle this matter, and his orders to Julio was to "make them disappear".  Julio had known Ben a long time.  Julio was 15 and Ben was 16 when they were initiated into the gang.  Ben looked after Julio and once or twice saved Julio's life.  Now, Julio was ordered to take Ben's life.  Were they just orders from the leader or did Julio really believe that Ben was a traitor, and want him dead?  Julio was on his cell with Hernandez discussing the business at hand.  He seemed determined and willing.  Julio's mother and father died tragically in a drive-by shooting, while sitting in their 2-bedroom house, watching TV with him and his 3 little brothers.  All 4 brothers shared their small bedroom together.  Julio's father was a carpenter and his mother stayed home and watched the boys.  They didn't have much, but they had each other.  After his parents died, Julio quit school and went to work where his father worked, but couldn't feed his brothers, so a man by the name Hernandez gave him "a job".  He was able to make ends meet, but the State still took his 3 brothers away a year later, and he never saw or heard from them again.

     The van drove up and stop.  Charles turned off the engine and the men took all of them to Julio and the goons who were with them.  There were 3 others.  Ben and Julio came face to face.  Ben looked at Julio with courage and strength.  No anger shown on his face.  Julio cocked his head to one side, noticing Ben's courage.  "You betrayed Hernandez, and you betrayed me, your best friend", was all Julio said, in a very quiet voice.  Ben said nothing.  Julio looked at Sheila for a moment and said to her.  "You shouldn't have gotten involved with us, now look at all your friends".  There was a spark of fear and guilt in her eyes, but she stayed silent as well.  They were all scared, including Ben, but they believed God.  "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living".  Psalm 27:13.

     Pete and Miranda Bartholomew had a secret, that no one in town knew.  They lived in town most of their lives, got married 30 years ago in the church they are attending now, and raised 2 kids.  They opened up the bookstore and coffee shop 15 years ago.  They opened up at 5:30 a.m., and closed it up by 3 p.m. everyday but Sunday.  What Pete Bartholomew did after hours, no one had a clue, but his wife.  His kids, Jen and Adam, who were now 29 and 25, didn't know where their dad went out on nights, while they were growing up.  Miranda kept quiet and kept everything to herself on that matter.  She knew if people found out, it would be the end for Pete.  He was in his "Study" when an urgent call came.  He went to his wife, kissed her, got his coat and keys and left.  Miranda prayed today, like she always had before, when he ventured out secretly.  She knew what he was up to, but that was about all she knew.  She never knew the circumstances or where he would be, or with whom he would be with.  She just had to trust...God.

     Julio decided that Drew, Kyle and Pastor Manuel would be the first three to die.  He wanted Sheila to watch her friends die, and he also wanted Ben to suffer the most and watch them all die, then he would kill his best friend.  They were all tied to poles in a circular form, where they all could watch each other die.  There deaths would be by a firing squad.  One shot to the head of each.  None of them spoke...except Ben.  "Julio, my friend.  Do you really want to do this?  I am so sorry I lead you astray all those years.  Will you forgive me"?, he asked.  "Wait!  What?, are you serious?  Shut up!", Julio shouted.  "Kill the pastor first, then Kyle, then the boyfriend"!, he ordered the men.  "Wait"!, Ben pleaded.  "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing"!, Ben prayed.  Julio glared at Ben for a long time.  They next sounds that were heard were five shots and screams.

     The FBI and INTERPOL came rushing in.  Five shots went off.  The three goons who were ready to kill the group of friends, and Pastor Charles and Rick were dead.  Julio was on the ground weeping, "I'm sorry"!  The agents untied them all and Ben went over to Julio and prayed with him.  "How can you still stand by me?  I was going to kill you", Julio asked while still weeping.  The agents were going to take Julio in handcuffs, but Ben put his hand up for them to wait.  He shared briefly about Jesus and hugged his long-time friend.  The agents took Julio into custody, and Ben had no idea if his short testimony worked.  Would Julio accept Christ in prison?  Ben would have to fearlessly trust God.  The coroner examined the dead bodies and took them away.  An agent by the name of Julie Stockman assured all of them that Hernandez and all his men were taken down in every international city they occupied.  She told them that there was one person in particular to thank for that.  Pete Bartholomew came in.  He had been working undercover for INTERPOL for 30 years, and no one knew, except his wife.  He told the group he knew who they were when they arrived in town and knew what was going on at his church.  He apologized for putting them in more danger and thanked God they were finally safe.

No it's not over yet.  Part 14, the final chapter will wrap up the story.  Until then.  God bless.