Category Archives: Faith

Jeremy’z Journey: Visions of a better world

We all have that wonderful thought in the back of our minds of world peace, even if the thought has become an overplayed cliché to talk about in our modern day. Sure, every president and pageant contestant talks about it in a speech at some point.
As painful as this might be for older readers to hear, when I was a child I thought John Denver music was just a tool of torture my dad used on us. I thought he put this and other albums-of-his-era on just for the sole purpose of laughing while we squirmed and winced. However, as my musical knowledge and age increased I came to enjoy many-a-tune of this beloved songster. Unfortunately, it was Denver’s death (1943-1997) that brought me to understand why people were drew to his happy, uplifting melodies.
One of the first Denver songs I was turned on to I read as a poem entitled “The Box.” “The Box” refers to peace by elegantly describing war.
“Once upon a time in the land of hushabye
Around about the wondrous days of yore
I came across a sort of box
Bound up with chains and locked with locks
And labeled ‘kindly do not touch, its war,’” the first stanza reads.
As we all know from living in this world, the box didn’t stay bound for long. In the song there were those who feared opening the box and therefore didn’t dare touch it.
“But someone did.
Someone battered in the lid and spilled the insides out across the floor.
A sort of bouncy, bumpy ball made up of guns and flags and all the tears, and horror, and death that come with war.
It bounced right out and went bashing all about, bumping into everything in store.
And what was sad and most unfair was that it didn’t really seem to care much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly.
And I’ll tell you this quite plainly,
it bumps them every day and more, and more,
and leaves them dead, and burned, and dying, thousands of them sick and crying.
Cause when it bumps, it’s really very sore.
Now there’s a way to stop the ball.
It isn’t difficult at all.
All it takes is wisdom,
and I’m absolutely sure that we can get it back into the box,
and bind the chains,
and lock the locks,” the middle continues.
For those too young or musically uninformed, the whole lyrics aren’t represented above and it is definitely worth a Google to read it – especially with so many of us who are involved in war as these words are being typed.
While many of us know that it wasn’t just the Rocky Mountains that got Denver high, he made a very poignant observation about war. But to get rid of war all together takes something more than human desire for peace, or human understanding. It takes more than nuclear disarmament efforts from many nations. It takes more than a “peaceful, easy feeling” as Denver wrote in another song. It takes every country not thinking how great it would be to control the neighboring country; its oil; its wealth; its money; its markets; its grass that is seemingly greener until standing on it. It takes all individuals loving each other as Christ first loved us. Then the nations made up of those individuals loving every other nation as Christ first loved us.
The idea of a better, peaceful world is Biblical prophecy as well.
Both Isaiah and Micah described it in the prophecies they penned – Isaiah 2 and Micah 4 both start with the same words. While both are the same, for this we will use Micah.
“In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills. Many nations will come streaming to it, and their people will say, ‘Let us go up the hill of the Lord, to the Temple of Israel’s God. He will teach us what He wants us to do; we will walk in the paths He has chosen. For the Lord’s teaching comes from Jerusalem; from Zion He speaks to His people.’ He will settle disputes among the nations, among the great powers near and far. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again. Everyone will live in peace among their own vineyards and fig trees, and no one will make them afraid. The Lord Almighty has promised this,” Micah 4:1-4 (Good News Translation).
These verses of “days to come” say a lot, but the part that stands out is in verse 2: “He will teach us what He wants us to do; we will walk in the paths He has chosen.” Everything, and yes I mean everything, would be great in all of our lives if we were simply walking in the paths He has chosen for us. And our nations would truly be blessed if our leaders spent more time following God.
Personal peace comes when we follow Jesus. We, individually, will find peace when we accept the forgiveness of sin from Christ and walk His path for our lives. How do we know where His path is? By reading His Word; by dedicating our lives to Him; by praying to Him and relying on Him for our needs He will show us the way we are to go. He will take care of us along the way.
In Revelation 21, John talks about a new Heaven and new Earth. Free of sin it would be. Free of death and mourning it would be. Free of tears and pain it would be. A life with God Himself it will be.
“Then I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth, for the first Heaven and the first Earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away,” Revelation 21:1-4 (New International Version).
How great that will be. The sweetest, most wonderful words in our world can’t describe the wonder and joy we will see when God brings us to His world.
If we allow Jesus into our lives, then and only then, can we become a child of God. This passage assures us that He will live with us in the Heaven He has prepared for us. Free of death; free of sin; free of pain; free of crying; free of war; free of mourning; free of hurt; free of injury; free of destruction; free of depression; free of pessimism; free of discourse; free of rejection; free of negativity and freed from evil WE WILL BE! Amen!

Jeremy’z Journey: Steadily follow Christ and you’ll win the race

Remember the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon imitating the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. It happens to be one of my favorites, although the Looney Tunes in general falls in the favorite category. When Bugs goes flying by that lethargically sluggish tortoise and spins it around faster than a tornado and it makes me laugh every time.
“What a maroon!” Bugs exclaims in his standard hilarious mannerism.
But I recently come to realize this age-old parable applies to our Christian lives as well. Sometimes we want to speed by the rest of the world and quickly make our getaway to Heaven. But just as the carrot patch tempted Bugs, we too are often tempted to stray from the path. Following his bountiful meal and a nap, Bugs loses the race. So often we find ourselves sidetracked from following the path God has for our lives.
July 31, 1994 in a small upper room office of East LaFollette Baptist Church I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. In those brief moments of prayer, I could literally feel the guilt and conviction of sin being lifted off of my shoulders. That Sunday night, following what that church dubbed as a “fifth Sunday singing,” I knew I couldn’t wait any longer.
I had felt Him tugging at my heart for many weeks. Following the singing, the pastor ended with a time of invitation. This is a time when people are given the chance to come to the altar and clear up things with God in prayer.
As the first verse was sung, I held tightly to the wooden plank atop the pew in front of me. “I’m not going up there,” I insistently told myself.
The youth group usually sat closer to the front, but on this particular day we sat in the last two rows on the left side of the church.
As the second verse edged back into the chorus I thought, “I’m not walking all the way up there. I’m not walking past all of these people from the back of the church to the front. I’m not going to do it.”
Then the third verse came. “There are youth members, people my own age, on both sides of me. I’m not asking them to move. I’m not going up there. It’s not happening,” I again convinced myself.
Then a pause came. The piano player begins playing softer as the pastor begins to speak. “When is he going to shut up,” I think.
He posed the question, “If you were to die tonight, would you wake up in Heaven, or would you wake up in the Devil’s Hell?”
The pianist began playing loud again and the fourth verse of the invitation song ensued. At this point I’m clawing the wooden plank with every fingernail I have, nearly ripping the beautifully seasoned cherry-colored stain from it while pondering the eternal question of the pastor. By then I was just trying to hold on to the wood long enough to make it through the song without moving.
“Why did the music/youth minister choose such a long song and insist on singing all five verses?” I hear my voice screaming in my own head.
Finally! The fifth verse and chorus end and I take what I believe is my first breath since the song began. As we all begin to file out of the church, I remove my fingers from the indentions I had dug into the top of the pew in front of where we were sitting. As I neared the doorway leading outside, I stopped. Finally my heart said the first thing that made since all night.
“I’m not leaving this place like this. I’m not walking through that door. I’m not going outside; I’m going to accept Jesus,” it said.
I went to the youth minister and asked if we could talk and pray, and in those few minutes I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ; His love and forgiveness.
That was 18 years ago last week. As this anniversary of my salvation approached, I began looking at my life and the things I’ve done over those years since He came into my life. As mentioned in previous journeys, I spent many of those years away from Christ making my own decisions, living my own life and trying to win my own race. At age 17, I was sidetracked. I saw a beautiful spot to grab a few carrots for myself and take a nap. Unfortunately when I woke up thirteen years later, I found that my actions and decisions had caused me to all-but-lose the race of my young-adult life. Much like Bugs, I can only imagine how things would have turned out if I had stayed focused on God and the His path in front of me.
“What a maroon!” Bugs would say of how I conducted myself.
For those who are good at math: 18 – 13 leaves a little less than five years that I have been dedicated to Christ; and not all at once either. I followed the Lord closely for nearly four years following accepting Him and roughly a year ago rededicated my life to His will. Since then, He has led me through many things. He has reminded me that it was He that gave me the ability of written word and that I should use that ability to glorify His name, and not my own name as I have in the past.
While the many years away from His perfect plan for my life – years that I was in control – has caused many disasters, as always He has the ability to make the best of the messes we create. Looking back I can’t understand why I detoured from that path, but I know that I was only able to return to Him through personal prayer and through the prayer of others.
We all have had someone praying for us – that special someone who first showed us the love of Christ. And what a blessing it is when we, as Christians, get to be that example of His perfect love for someone else. Whether it’s our children, neighbors, friends or someone we just met. Regardless of the relationship, we pray for those who don’t yet believe that Christ came to Earth, died on a cross and rose from death to ascend into Heaven for us all. We do this just as others prayed for us before we believed. Those people were placed in our lives to lead us to Christ, just as each of us have been placed in the lives of non-believers around us for the same purpose.
Colossians 1:9, 10 reminds us of how we are prayed for by believers around us and how we are to pray for our acquaintances who have yet to accept Christ.
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” Colossians 1:9, 10 (New International Version).
Many apologies for skipping last week, but I was in reflection of this special time in my life. As well, I was experiencing much temptation, human arrogance and ignorance as evil, once again, tried to wave tasty carrots, naps and other sinful indulgences in front of me in an effort to, once again, make me stray from the path of life’s race – the path of His will.
While struggles were plentiful and sometimes my prayer was scarce, I looked to Him before it was too late and through prayer, belief and love was able to stay on His course.
Father God I thank You for those who prayed for me before I knew You. I thank You more for those who prayed for me to be led back to You. I especially thank You for Your love of sending Your son Jesus Christ and I especially thank Him for dying for me and my Earthmates that we might receive forgiveness of our sins by asking and accepting His love, compassion, forgiveness and grace. Most of all, I pray that the lessons You teach me and the words You give me for this writing can help someone else to come to know You or to come back to Your side. Amen!

Generation X Marks It’s own spot in Community Youth Ministry

In August 2011, I was in a bible study with some folks at New Life Ministry when Michael Walden (Youth Pastor at NLM) invited me to join a meeting to be held the following week on the 11th. He said it was a gathering of Youth Pastors from all over the community. The meeting, of course was held at El Pueblitos. I thought that a meeting with folks from different churches would turn out to be similar to a bar brawl. I couldn’t imagine they would get along. I thought “most folks within a church’s 4 walls can’t come into agreement on most issues. This is going to be interesting to say the least.” When I walked into the meeting I met with representatives of most of the more prominent churches in town. All of us were laity except for one full time youth minister. I quickly noticed that everyone was around my age (30’s to 40’s). Brian Miracle of LaFollette UMC excluded. He is much younger (sigh).

Joey St. John of LaFollette Church of God officiated this meeting of “gen X’ers.” After we prayed together Mr. St. John along with the others stated and agreed upon three main points:

1. Every church represented at this meeting has an elderly congregation on Sundays with
few young people. We need to ask God to help us reach the youth in our community.

2. Denominationalism is a distraction…there is no “Us and Them,” We are one in Christ.
We are one in Purpose, to spread the gospel of peace to the next Generation.

3. No-one seated at the meeting is getting any younger. We would like to see God do
something significant (through our obedience) with the youth in our community before we
are too old to be involved.

It was on point 2 that I could not resist telling the old joke about the difference between a
Methodist and a Baptist, but I digress.

One thing is for certain. There were no ego’s in this room. There were no reputations to protect. No men in Suits with chemical tans and slick hair (complete with seminary class ring) this was (in my opinion) a meeting of determined lay people who wanted to obey the Holy Spirit and go forth with a message of salvation and love for their children and their neighbors children. These were people who were tired of holding God’s free grace and love in like it was a secret no one else could know. They wanted to be bold in belief and purpose and teach the next generation to be likewise. The only way to accomplish it, hard work, oh…yeah, and by example. By the end of the meeting, we were excited to say the least. We knew that we were going to witness miracles. Over the next year…we did.

We met again the following Tuesday and accomplished more on that day than any number church committee meetings I have ever attended. Again there were several churches of different denominations determined to work together. That was one miracle.

We presented a vague plan to host a large event in the next spring with smaller events along the way. More specifically we decided to sponsor Brian Miracle’s proposal for an event called “Fields of Faith.” This is an event that is done nationwide on a particular Wednesday evening in many of our country’s High School football fields. Kids from all over in their “teens and tweens” come together to simply pray. We were able to use Jacksboro Middle School on October 12. Joey St. John offered up a dedicative scripture in Isaiah 43:19:
“Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it?
Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness. (NET). Indeed we would later realize that God would bless us through our dedication of this scripture.

Between that meeting and the night of Fields of Faith it was like witnessing a modernized version of the children’s book “Stone Soup” in real life. “Who has a good Sound System?” one person would say. “Our church has some speakers you can use.” another would say.
We quickly agreed on every line item of the project plan, prayerfully choosing the band, the speaker, the Audio Visual technicians…etc. Not one prideful or selfish statement was
uttered. It was wonderful. We were collectively determined to step out of the way of what
God was doing. We were right to do so.

Fields of Faith turned out to be a huge event. By my estimates over 600 parents and youth showed up. Calling Glory played music, the Birdsong family ran the sound, and Christian
Chapman was the speaker. By the end of the night when the altar call came, and two-thirds of the people in the stands answered the call to come, pray, and repent it was apparent to all that our youth were in hot pursuit of a relationship with Christ.

It was at this point that I had a moment of realization. Our youth are looking for something true, in a world that offers up lies. They are looking for hope, in a world that offers up hopelessness. They are looking to fill a hole that only God can fill.

We were witnesses to another miracle. It was apparent that our churches could no longer work independent of one another and in competition for small kernels of grain. We were certain that we must continue our alliance of obedience to God and together bring in a bumper crop harvest. Considering the word “alliance”, that’s what we named ourselves, the Campbell County Youth Leaders Alliance. We were “in it to win it”, not for the sake of pride or the prospect of personal gain, but to glorify the name of Jesus.

FOF was only one event hosted by CCYLA. In the past year we have hosted 2 5th quarters, 2 mobile meal distributions, and a Disciple now event in March. The meal distribution helped teach our youth how to serve by handing out meals to the elderly and needy in town.
Afterward we worshipped with great music and devotion. The D-Now event held over 250 youth from Churches all over the community and was (in my opinion) better than any of the expensive youth conferences I have ever attended. This includes F.U.G.E., Resurrection, and Winterfest. We were poised and ready to offer up an affordable discipleship-training weekend for the youth. We wanted to serve all of the youth, not just the ones that could afford to go on an expensive trip. We decided to dedicate the weekend out of respect for Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love.” This book speaks to why it is so important to think on the things of God. So we called the conference “CRAZY.” We made up T-shirts, red for the kids and black for the working adults (as if we couldn’t tell each other apart). It was also our intention to not only nurture them through word, but in deed as well. D-Now offered 3 sessions with a mission trip on Saturday between sessions 2 and 3. Kids of different churches traveled together to various places in the community to minister there. They ministered to the nursing homes, the assisted living home, and Rainbow Acres. There they learned how to minister to the elderly, ill, and the mentally challenged. Other kids rolled up their sleeves and grabbed shovels, and rake and did “outdoorsy” ministry projects at the area schools, Camp Galilee, Shepherds home, and the homes of “shut-ins” in our community. They were so happy to do it. They were happy to be able to not only take the love of Jesus in their hearts, but to share it with others.

My understanding is that some kids went to school and started attending bible studies in their free time, while others would strike up conversations about God to the unbelieving kids. It is August now and I still see youth wearing red “CRAZY” shirts around town. We witnessed yet another miracle, kids “on fire” for Jesus.

It has been almost a year since our original meeting at El Pueblitos. We are showing no sign of slowing down in our ministry. We are picking up more youth leaders from other
churches, who want to align with our purpose. Thanks be to God.

If you would like to have more information on the Campbell County Youth Leaders Alliance or if you would like for your church to join please call my church or “friend” me on Facebook and I will “like” it.

Bryan Gross

Youth Director

Jacksboro United Methodist Church

423-562-3896

Jeremy’z Journey: Traditions – Part I

Tradition – noun [truh-dish-uhn]
1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.
2. something that is handed down: the traditions of the Eskimos.
3. a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting: The rebellious students wanted to break with tradition.
4. a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices.
5. a customary or characteristic method or manner: The winner took a victory lap in the usual track tradition.
Recently discussing tradition with a Sunday school classmate he brought this story of a woman he knew:
The woman would make her meatloaf, mix it up with the eggs, and other ingredients particular to her family’s recipe – the recipe itself being a handed down tradition for generations. She seasoned the meat and preheated the oven to the right temperature, just as her mother did. Before placing the loaf of beefy goodness into the pan to be baked, she cut the ends off of the meat log and then placed the remaining portion in the pan. Into the oven the concoction goes where it will cook into a delicious entrée.
“So I asked her,” my friend said. “Why do you cut the ends off of your meatloaf? Aren’t the ends the same ingredients as the rest of it?”
Without hesitation she replied, “That’s the way my mother does it and that’s the way I do it.”
Days later the woman, herself, became interested in why the ends of the loaf were cut off before baking. She called up her mother to get to the bottom of this meaty mystery.
Without hesitation her mother responded, “Well sweetie, that’s the way my mother did it and so that’s the way I do it.”
Still not satisfied with that answer, the woman dealt with this pickle in her head until Saturday – the day she usually spends with her grandmother at the nursing home. While visiting her grandmother, following breakfast and grandmother’s shower, the inquisitive cook decided to pose the question to the tradition’s originator. As she brushed her grandmother’s hair, she said, “Grandma, why do we all cut the ends off of our family meatloaf recipe?”
Without hesitation Grandma turned around in her chair, grabbed the hairbrush from the youngster’s hand and gave the proper response. “Well, I don’t know why you young-uns do it, but my pan was too short so I cut the ends off to make it fit in there.”
Three generations of meatloaf eaters were robbed of what could have been the end pieces due to a small pan that caused a tradition to start. A child watched and probably helped her mother making the recipe over the years and grew up to make it for her family exactly the same. This tradition transfers to the next generation and so on with no reason or explanation.
We humans have all kinds of traditions – things that are handed down from previous generations. Whether cultural, familial or handed down by heroes or other role models, we all have things that we’ve picked up from someone else and continue practicing them in our everyday lives.
On this journey, which is a two-part adventure, we will look at dictionary definition number 3, and dive into the tradition of sin. This tradition goes back to the first generation of humans – Adam and Eve. In Genesis, it states that Adam was given authority over all living creatures. I believe that meant he had the ability climb up high to check on the various species of birds, trees and fruit, as well as, dive deep into the river to watch over the aquatic life. But even with this, he, nor she, had the ability to withstand the power and deception of sin. That tradition has made its way into all of our lives. Generation after generation, we humans cannot withstand the power and deception of sin.
The tradition of sin is “a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting” without failing. None of us is without sin. Only Jesus Christ lived a life without sin, which is what gave Him the ability to shed His blood and forgive us of our sins.
Whether you have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness or not we all fall into traditions of sinning. While trying to live a Christ-like life, I find that there are certain sins that I used to be guilty of habitually trying to seep their way back into my life. In my former life, I had a particular sin that I had taken part in several times a day. This sin was higher than God in my life, thus making me constantly guilty of breaking commandment number one: You shall have no other God’s before me – Exodus 20:3 (New International Version).
Sin is a human addiction and we play right into its hands. Sin starts picking at our flesh and we scratch it. Sin takes that scratch and turns it into a scab. Sin takes that scab and turns it into an open wound. Sin takes that open wound and burrows itself beneath our skin. Sin digs deep into our bodies and manifests into our own destruction – scratching and scabbing and wounding and burrowing and destroying our soul from the inside out.
Sin is an inherited tradition. Sin was handed down from their forefathers to our forefathers to our fathers and now to us. Our brother and sister humans suffer from the same afflictions we have managed to overcome. We feel for them as we watch them cutting off the ends of the loaf, missing out on the best part. We feel for them as we witness them conducting the same sinful addiction handed down from the elder generation, missing out on the best part of life.
“Best part of life,” you ask? And, “Yes,” I reply.
We’re no longer talking about the best part of the meatloaf. The best part of life referred to above comes when Jesus forgives you of your sins, and points you in a direction that breaks your old sinful dependence and cravings and, yes tradition of sin. Following Him will dissuade you from entertaining those old customs and will veer your life toward new routines. He will show you routines of love and forgiveness; customs of Christian fellowship and friendliness; traditions of character and habits of prayer and praise to God. He will vindicate you in your triumph over sin’s enticement.
Does that mean you won’t be tempted by your old ways and habits? Does evil give you a free pass from falling back into the old you?
Absolutely not!
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ – Colossians 2:8.
This verse isn’t talking about the traditional meatloaf; it’s talking about staying on guard from people and things that will turn you from your walk with Christ. There will be those who handed the tradition down to you who want you to still take part in sinful customs. They will sin in front of you if you let them. They will show you sin; they will let you smell it and they will taunt you with it. They will bring up how much fun you all used to have sinning. But more than what they will do is what evil tries to do inside you. There will be thoughts of your old sin – thoughts that make you think it was more pleasurable to give in to sin. There will be thoughts of those handed you your first sin tradition, your friends or family who you used to sin with. The peer pressure those around you will put you through is nothing compared to the pressure evil will put you through trying to get you back into your sinful practices.
But if you look to Christ; if you hold steady; if you fail to waiver; if you don’t blink when confronted by your old sin; if you suffer through the tempting; if you continue to look to Him for hope; if you pray and persevere, then you will come through temptation with vigor; with strength; with power over your old sinful ways. Most importantly, you will come through it with Christ by your side and your sinful past behind you.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us – Romans 5:3-5.

Jeremy’z Journey: Home Bible study bandit nabbed. What next?

So I’m sure many of you are aware that Charlie Sheen has a new show. Sheen portrays an anger management therapist on a channel number far above that of his previous show of sexual debauchery. Yes, I occasionally laughed at the three-or-1/3 rejects when the children weren’t in the room of course. More often I found myself absolutely appalled by most of the show. I also felt it ridiculous that this show was on television during the day and evening hours – times that children are awake.
Nonetheless, it’s Sheen’s new show that will help me get to the point. I’ve only watched a couple of episodes, but I can say it’s mildly morally better than the previous show and definitely better than the drug induced “winning” internet romps that followed it. I consider the new show to be along the same lines as Tim “The tool man” Allen’s newest network show, but I’m sure some will disagree. Sheen plays a divorced father whose sexual prowess and personal anger issues caused the demise of his marriage. He conducts group anger management sessions at a nearby jail/prison and also has another group he hosts in his home.
While I can’t foresee how the writers of the show will take the next turn, I’m pretty sure that it won’t involve the following scenario: Charlie, opposite Ed Asner and several others on the couch in his home are engaged in their regularly scheduled weekly group therapy session when a knock at the door is heard. Several police officers enter, taking the therapist (Sheen) into custody for violating city zoning ordinances for conducting business activity in his home which is not zoned for that purpose. The next sixty days of the show would be in closer contact with his anger-controlling prison group because that’s how long you have to stay in jail for violating a zoning ordinance along with paying a little less than $13,000 in fines — $12,180 to be exact.
Well that’s what happened in Arizona last week, except it wasn’t a therapist arrested or an anger management group disbursed from a home. That’s right folks. An individual was arrested from his Phoenix, AZ home for allegedly violating fire, zoning and safety codes by hosting a Bible study group in his home.
The story, as it was nationalized on FOXNews has received thousands of views, F-book “likes” and whatnot, as well as almost 1,000 comments. Most of the comments I read seemed to compare Nancy Pelosi to a monkey and stated that not even the ACLU would physically touch Pelosi. Not necessarily relevant to the story, but most likely true nonetheless. While it does show that a number of people were upset about this arrest, including the attorney who is taking up the case against the City of Phoenix, it seems there are significantly less people vocalizing concern about this than most of us might think.
As many of us mere humans can see, our world around us is going into the pit. News stories such as this one only confirm that feeling. The Bible says that in the last days this will get much worse while many shake their heads and wonder how it can get worse. According to the Bible – Revelation specifically – it will get much worse.
Once again pointing out that I’m not a certificate-holding theologian, and also pointing out that Revelation itself can be a lifelong study, I will refer to a couple of verses from the book.
“All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” – Revelation 13:8 (New International Version).
There will undoubtedly be those who serve evil willingly while others will justify their actions by saying they serve no master other than themselves. These self-motivated humans will follow their own desires, just as most of us have been guilty at one point or another. However, those who choose this path satisfy evil without acknowledging it, because evil doesn’t care how individuals are deflected from God, just that they are sidetracked from Him.
While many Christians cringe at the sight and existence of certain sins, God is angered by all sin, as mentioned on the last journey. We try to justify certain sins and detest others as we place them on a list from greatest to least. God, however, only sees sin. Not a great sin, not a lesser sin, just sin.
Revelation calls for us to hold steady to our belief and waver little-to-none. As things will surely get worse across the planet before Jesus returns, the last part of verse 10 in chapter 13 gives instruction to believers living in those days (which could be today for all we know): “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.”
According to news sources researched, Pastor Salman had been cited for various zoning, fire and safety violations at his home/worship area since 2009. While many believe this is an infringement of his right to express his religion freely on his property, others argue that he has drawn people into his neighborhood and into his home for the purpose of conducting church, which said property hasn’t been zoned for. As usually happens in this situation, it will be left to a court to decide.
I’m near certain that it will be decided in favor of Phoenix and that the Pastor will be found to be conducting a Church where it isn’t properly zoned for one. I’m more certain that the fines could be dismissed to a hand-slap if he agrees to stop holding the Bible studies at his home. But I’m definitely certain that none of this will be settled in court before the pastor spends his 60-days in jail as the AZ law apparently has required.
I would remind everyone that serving the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t always come with a pretty picture. Following the crucifixion of Christ, many of His followers were killed, jailed and suffered other atrocities for His name. But I can tell you this: followers of Christ may see peril in their lifetime here on Earth, but the blessings you will receive for following Him are far greater, and far outweigh any and all suffering during our physical lives. Not only the gift of Heaven after this life, but also the many blessings that He will pour upon those who are faithful during this life can be gained or denied by the will of the individual.
“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” – 1 Peter 4:16, 17.
The outcome “for those who do not obey the gospel of God” is also clearly stated in the Bible. Hell is the reward for those who do not obey the gospel of God.
But whether the pastor was circumventing the Phoenix law or not, shouldn’t he and those in his group have the alleged-American given right to freely worship God as they see fit? Shouldn’t we all have the right to worship God in our homes and allow our friends and neighbors to worship with us?
Absolutely! In fact the Church started in similar fashion. As followers of The Way devoted themselves to meeting in the Temple Courts daily, they also gathered together in their homes, probably inviting non-believers as well, to eat, and share stories and to freely worship God and His only son Jesus Christ as they wanted.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:44 – 47.
They worshipped in their homes daily and the Lord added to their number daily. Saul of Tarsus was coming to arrest and kill them for this worship when God blinded him on the way over there, but that’s a journey for another day.
For those still shaking their head and wondering “What’s next?” for us Earthmates sharing this planet, Revelation offers comfort also. It’s the calm after the war if you will.
“They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers” – Revelation 17:14.
And after reading that verse and pondering it, there’s only one word I can say…. Amen!