love

The Question (A short story)

Since it has been quite some time since my last article, I feel as though I should explain my lack of content.  As my personal ministry has continued to increase, I have had to take time from other things, this being one of them.  I love writing and conveying those things which I have been give, and those things which I have been taught.  This article will be different than many of the others.  Several years ago I wrote several short stories and since my time to write has become limited I want to share with you one of those stories.  I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, feel free to share it.  Here is the story:

THE QUESTION
In this world one of the most difficult things to endure is heartache.  As children, and I speak from experience, we have our hearts broken by our parents and usually over something as insignificant as a toy.  Children want and desire things, items, or to go places and most times given the answer “no”.  Of course, looking back, it seems trivial.  From the child’s perspective, though, it is heart wrenching to want something so badly and then be denied.  As teenagers and young adults our hearts are usually broken due to failed relationships.  You know, boy meets girl, boy dates girl, boy and girl break up, and so on.  Being on the wrong side of maturity, this scenario does seem to be very catastrophic.  Yet, with age, patience, and maturity these things help us become who we are.  Hindsight being 20/20, we are able to look back and see these things being far less tragic than originally perceived.
When we become adults, the heart aches we go through are quite different.  The loss of parents, children, and other family members usually generate the greatest aching within our hearts.  Seeing someone suffer through sickness, divorce, loss of finances, and drug or alcohol abuse also bring an aching heart to people.  All of these things, from the
time we are children until we leave this life, tear at our heart strings.  This, however, is not the kind of heartache my story contains.  In very rare instances, we can experience our hearts breaking, in a way that gives us joy and inspires us.  If you do not believe that can happen, please allow me the opportunity to change your mind.  By trade I am not a writer, but after telling this story several times to family and close friends I have been convinced to put pen to paper (actually, fingers to keyboard), and tell my story.  We all have stories.  Some are better, some are worse, some are long, some are short.  This one is mine.
My name is Jim Duvall.  I am 46 years old and work as an advertising and marketing agent for a sporting goods manufacturer.  In college I played baseball and played semiprofessional baseball after graduating for five glorious seasons.  I was good, just not good enough.  I took a job with one of the teams sponsors and the rest, you could say, is history.
My job allows me to travel and work with children, showcasing the latest and greatest  equipment.  I have always loved children, my wife and I have four of our own.  I have been married for twenty two years (I hope I got that right, if I didn’t, I’m sorry honey!)  We met in college and for our first official date she invited me to church.  She is a great Sunday School teacher and all the kids love her.  Thanks to her, I too, have learned much.  It was her devotion and dedication that led me to the altar of salvation, then to the marriage altar.
My wife’s name is Natalie.  She has taught Sunday School since she was a teenager and in her adult life she runs
a day care center at the church.  I suppose that Nat’s love for kids influenced me enough to want to work with them as well.  I eventually became a youth pastor, and I have enjoyed that far beyond anything I would have imagined.
Now that we have a little background I can get on with my story.  As I said earlier, my job allows me to travel and showcase our newest equipment.  For the most part I work directly with schools.  Colleges and high schools to be more specific.  Working with athletes and being able to impart the knowledge I gained through my own short lived baseball career is rewarding.  After the demonstrations are over I always stick around to answer any questions the kids may have and sometimes it proves to be a good way to witness to them about my personal life and my faith.  That is by far my favorite part.
Last spring, however, presented me with a rare treat. Our company had come up with some new face shields and batting helmets for Little League players, usually ages 10-12. It had been quite some time since I had done a demonstration for children of that age.  Once they hear that you played anything resembling professional baseball or have met a big name player (which had happened several times), they become awestruck.  From that point on, you have their undivided attention.
I was excited.  Not only would I be able to work with the smaller children, I would be working right in my own community!  I knew some of the children that would be there because they were part of our church’s youth group.  Seeing some familiar little faces was going to be a very special treat and that day was fast approaching.
On the day of our presentation I was greeted by many smiling faces.  As I had anticipated, some were familiar but
most were not.  I waved to the children, told them about myself, who I had played for, and the baseball stars I had met.  I continued by introducing the new equipment we had developed and explaining the differences between the old and the new.  Once the official speech was over, the kids got to try the helmets and our other youth equipment out.
While the kids were busying themselves with the new products I spoke with the coach’s, officials, and principal’s.  I assure you, talking sports with kids is much more satisfying than talking business with adults.  After the “grown up” business was taken care of I spoke with the children again and asked for their thoughts on the new equipment and finished up the official part of my job.
With everyone being dismissed and the presentation being over, as I usually do, I waited around and answered any questions they had.  I offered my usual “semi-professional” advice about batting, fielding, and which products “I” liked the best.  Finally, before leaving, I spoke about my other job of being a youth pastor.  Considering our church is in the same area as the school I invited all of them to our next Sunday morning service.  The following Sunday morning I was surprised and very pleased to see some new faces in our youth group.  One of the new faces in the back seemed quite familiar to me, but I was not immediately sure why.  Youth service being over, I searched for the familiar face of the boy who had been sitting in the back.   The boy, instead, had found me.  From behind I heard “Excuse me, Pastor Jim?”  In both of my jobs I have answered a lot of questions. Some of them you expect. Some of them are silly.  Some are embarrassing. Some make you think.  Some are funny. Apparently, some will make your heart break.

I turned to see the boy who was speaking to me.  I recognized him from the Little League demonstration I had done here in the community.  I’m glad he had accepted the invitation to attend our church.  New faces are always a welcome sight and it gave me joy to know that some children do listen to the parts that are not about sports.
As I faced him, I was met with a question.  No, I was met with THE question.  A question, which, in all its simplicity, filled me with an initially deep sadness.  A question which only a child could ask.  The question was this:  “Pastor Jim, when we get to heaven can you have your company make me a special wheelchair so me and my dad can play baseball together?”
I’m not sure if it was the question or the innocence and sincerity with which the question was asked that brought tears to my eyes.  I had not noticed his disability, but will never forget his question.  Here was a child who was not concerned with a disability, not concerned with being in a wheelchair, but only wanted to be in heaven to play baseball with his dad.  That broke my heart.
With tears streaming down my cheeks and a voice that quivered uncontrollably I made several attempts at talking and couldn’t.  I put my hand on his shoulder, knelt down, and prayed silently until I was able to gain a little composure.  It was with sheer and utter joy I explained that a wheelchair would not be allowed in heaven because Jesus would make our bodies glorified.  Bodies that would run and jump and not get tired.  After explaining the goodness of God and all that we have to look forward to, he was crying tears of joy and saying how he couldn’t wait to get there because his dad was already there waiting on him.
It hasn’t been long since the the story now referred to as “The Question Story” took place.  Each time I tell the story I get choked up.  The question has always reminded how innocent a child really is and how we should all be so lucky to find a part of that innocence within ourselves.

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The Love of God

How are we portraying the love of God?  This question should be asked of ourselves when confronting any hot-button issue.  It is so easy to get caught up in being right that we can lose sight of being right in the eyes of God.  There is a quote, and I use it often, that says “the truth, without love, is just brutality”.  I am not making a suggestion to sugar coat anything, but I am suggesting there are, at times, a better approach.

As a Christian we accept the inerrancy of the Bible as God’s Word.  We accept His Word is Faithful and True.  We accept that He is right in all matters, in all judgments, in all things.  When preaching to the choir, that boldness and righteous indignation toward sin is understood, to the sinner, it is indignation toward the person and often misunderstood.  Read almost any debate regarding the legalization of gay marriage here in the United States and you will see many examples.  Being right with God must exceed our need to be right to man.

We do, however, have a job to speak the gospel, be a witness, be a light, expose the darkness of sin, and speak the truth of God’s Word.  We must not be afraid of standing on His truth.  Let me ask, though:  Was it a hateful Christian that led you to Christ or was it someone that reached out in love, compassion, and understanding?   How are you responding now?  I have some bad news, this world will get worse and the love of many will wax cold.  Knowing this does not give us permission to let our love wax cold too.  When love waxes cold, the church must be a storehouse of love from which the world can find an example.  The church, and we as Christians, should have love in abundance and readily available.  We are not called to be like the world, but to be transformed from the world and worldly ways.

For those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, I often hear “…but God loves everyone”.  This is true, and thank God for that.  God even loves the sinners, we must never forget this fact.

Romans:5:8: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The love of God has never been in doubt, it isn’t even what separates a Christian from a sinner.  It is the acceptance of God’s love through Jesus that separates and saves.  For those who are yet in sin, God loves you.  This goes for the homosexual, the liar, the thief, the adulterer, and any other form of sinner.  You know the saying “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  Never doubt God’s love.  Yet, it is your acceptance of God’s love or rejection that will define your eternity.  God is love, and Jesus is His love toward mankind.  Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the world and won victory over all sin for those who will accept Him as Savior.

The choice must be clear.  As a Christian, we must show the world the love of God.  For the sinner, God’s love is Jesus, and if you haven’t accepted Him, you have not accepted the Love of God.  Turn from your sin, ask forgiveness seek His love, His Son.  That gift is available, but like any gift, it can be accepted or rejected.  Unlike other gifts, this one has eternal consequences.  Only love covers a multitude of sin, seek Him while He may be found.  Today is the day of salvation, call upon Jesus now and accept the Love of God, there is no promise of tomorrow.

True Love

We study the Bible, usually in great detail.  We concentrate on verses, we dig for details, inspect words for insights, and string together references for a thorough analysis.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Yet, never forget to step back and realize the big, broad picture.

Today, as I pondered several verses, I again realized the Bible is the greatest love letter ever penned.  Have you  considered what a perfect, written, proclamation of love God has given us?   Take a few minutes and consider the following phrases:

I love you, forever

I wont leave you

I will always be with you

No matter what you have done, I forgive you

If you are troubled, tell me about it, let me help

If you want me, look, and I will be there

These may look a little more familiar in another format:

I have loved thee with an everlasting love

I will never leave nor forsake you

If you are faithful to confess your sin, He is faithful to forgive

Cast your cares upon Me

Seek and you shall find

These proclamations are not trivial.  These are but a few of the promises of love.  This love is available to everyone.  This is true and eternal love.  The only requirement is our acceptance of His love toward us in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is that promise and fulfillment of love toward us.

I just wanted to take a minute, step back, and give thanks for the opportunity to see the love letter that could be missed.  There is a quote that goes something like this:  “He couldn’t see the forest for all the trees”.   Take a moment, step back from the verses, word studies, and chain references.  Gaze upon the masterpiece that is God’s love for you, then go back to studying the brushstrokes with which He painted this work of art, and see the details anew.

Where Did You Meet…

We all have a story of how we met our closest friend, our significant other, a distant relative, or maybe even a favorite pet. Do you remember the details? Can you still picture it as though it happened just yesterday?

Did you see them several times before you actually met? Did you hear someone else say their name? Or maybe you read their name on an office door, maybe even on a name tag or badge. Thinking back on that day, do you remember their clothing, their cologne or perfume? Did you meet them by chance or did you purposely start a conversation?

These are just a few of the details and questions that come to my own mind. Whether you remember the smallest details or not, you usually remember the place or setting in which you met. In an office, on the street, in the market, at work, or at church? These are common places to many meetings.

My question for you is this: Do you remember where in scripture you met Jesus? Do you remember the sermon, the message, the song, or the teaching? Where in His Word did you meet Him? Now, let us go back to the second paragraph and ask some very similar questions with Christ as the subject. Did you see Him in others a few times before you met Him yourself? Did you hear others speak His name? Did you read His name and wonder? Did you purposely meet Him? Maybe you just meant to get some information on Him and ended up meeting Him unexpectedly.

I met Jesus in the twenty fourth chapter of Matthew. I had heard about Him and learned about Him from the time I was a small child. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I met Him for myself. When I met Him in His word, He was at the Mount of Olives telling His disciples what would happen at the time of the end. He gave a detailed, passionate prophecy. It sounded so much like the world I live in. I then thought “how wonderful that Jesus was seeing a place and time where He would meet me, and probably many others, in His word”. Since then I have realized the place, time, setting, details, or circumstance did not hold as much value as the simple fact that we met and I accepted Him as my Savior.

It does not matter which sermon led you to the Savior, Jesus Christ, as long as you accept Him. The songs that were sang are now of little consequence, a minor detail in a major event. I am not trying to downplay sermons or songs or words or prayers, they all play a very important, vital part. Yet, nothing compares to the moment of salvation, the perfect work of Christ being made manifest in the life of a believer. It is of little importance where each of us met Jesus, me in the book of Matthew, another in the book of John, one in the book of second Peter, and another in the book of the Revelation, as long as we met Him and accepted Him as Savior. The one common ground we have is this, we all meet Him at the cross.

Ga:2:20: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

There was a time, as a sinner, we drove those spikes into His flesh. The sin of man put Christ on the cross. His work defeated sin once and for all, for everyone that will accept Him as Savior. Once you come to the cross by His blood, our old man is crucified to the cross with Him. No longer are we guilty, for it is not we who live from the moment we are saved, it is He that lives within us! There at the cross, it was He who loved me, it was He that loved you. He gave himself for us. If you have not yet met Jesus, He can be found anytime, anyplace. You can arrange that meeting at once, just simply reach out to Him in prayer, in faith believing, confess your sin and ask Him into your heart, accept His atoning blood to cover your sin, and you too can have a time and place, where you met the Savior. Glory to His name!

Down at the cross where my Savior died,
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried,
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His Name!

Glory to His Name,
Glory to His Name:
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His Name!

Atheism Does Not Exist (because I don’t believe in it)

The title of this article is written in jest, tongue in cheek. Yet, I believe there is some truth to be found in it. Does unbelief change the existence of anything? If you believe grass is orange, sand is purple, or blood is green, does that make it true? Of course not, it is only a delusion you have created for yourself.

Atheism, the non-belief in God, or even a god, is really just another way of elevating mankind. What you serve becomes your god. If you choose to serve yourself, your needs, your wants, you have become your own god. If you choose to serve your job, your job is your god. If money is the pursuit of your life, money is your god. You begin to see a pattern here.

Psalms:53:1: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

Everyone believes in something, even atheists. Some believe in the goodness of mankind, but if you watch the news you can see that disputed nightly. Some believe in science, yet, science has neither disproved or proved God exists. There is no concrete proof for the atheist and their decision of denying the existence of God.

Before you get too carried away in agreement, let us take a step back. Was there not a time where you and I lived in a way that denied His existence? Did we not live in sin, taking for granted our own lives, and fulfilling the lusts of the flesh? Have we not served ourselves, with no regard to God? We have surely walked in those very shoes, and it is because of that walk that we should show compassion and understanding to those that have yet to come to the knowledge of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. We must understand what a privilege we have in the fact that we could be the chosen vessel to introduce a lost soul to the King of Righteousness.

For me, a very troubling aspect of atheism is not the unbelief. It is the attacks on Christianity. This brings to light another question: Why would you waste energy, money, and effort to attack something you believe does not exist? By effort alone you begin to acknowledge the existence of something!

1st John:2:18: Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

1st John:2:22: Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

Back to the point, atheism (as I see and understand it) is more akin to the spirit of antichrist than true unbelief. The refusal of atheists to openly attack Buddhists, Wiccans, Satanists, and Muslims really shows a pointed attack on Christianity. Atheists have created their own religion, a belief in unbelief. They have monuments, meetings, teachings, literature, evangelists (to help spread the unbelief), and educational institutions. They have become a religion, which I find ironic. Maybe now you understand or see how fitting this title really is and why I do not believe atheism exists. Then, again, I suppose there are those radicals, those splinter groups, that really do believe nothing. God calls them fools, I am not that brave.

All we can do is present the gospel. Continue to spread the good news, give your testimony, let your life be a witness for Jesus, let your light shine, pray, and be a vessel which God can use to accomplish His purpose. Praise Him, for He is worthy!

The Blood

Since the fall of man in the garden there has been a need for sacrifice. There has been a need for redemption. There has been the need for shed blood. It is by blood an atonement is made.

In the garden of Eden, according to the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve sinned. Shortly after their sin they found themselves to be naked and wanted to hide from God. It is fair to say at that point they understood guilt and shame. One small distinction between then and now is that today, even in the midst of guilt, there appears to be no shame. I really have to wonder if that is due to neglecting the knowledge of an omniscient, almighty, eternal God, to which every knee shall bow. Is the unbelief, the self-denial, really that bad throughout the world?

Before we get too far down the wrong path let me get back on point. Sin was introduced into the world. Because sin was introduced into the world, which is separation from God, there needed to be a way of reconciliation. God, therefore, presented to them animal skins. This indicates animals died, blood was applied, and a sacrifice was made.

Genesis:3:21: Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

There, at the very beginning of time, a way to overcome sin had been established. A way of reconciliation had been supplied to mend mans broken relationship with God. Man did not supply, man did not find the solution, man did not rectify the situation. God presented the answer. God had provided the blood necessary to cover that sin.

As we approach the Easter holiday, we think about family gatherings, Easter egg hunts, and for some, the annual trek to the nearest church. We ponder the cross, the death, the resurrection. This Easter, let me encourage you to also consider the blood.

1st John:1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Hebrews:9:22: And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Hebrews:10:10: By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews:10:11: And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
Hebrews:10:12: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

We still have a need today for that precious blood that was poured out for us about two thousand years ago. There is no other blood that can cleanse our sin. There is no other blood, no other sacrifice that can mend a broken relationship with God, only the blood of Jesus Christ. What can make our sin, though it be as scarlet, white as snow? Nothing but the blood. God is still providing the sacrifice if you will accept.

Jesus still sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you and for me. Why? It is because that blood, that sacrifice is still as much at work now as it was then. That blood is still cleansing all who call upon the Savior. That blood is still being applied every time someone confesses their sin, every time someone repents of sin, every time a person accepts Jesus as their Savior.

This Easter many sermons will be preached, many lessons will be taught. Take the time to give thanks to God, not only for the sacrifice, not only for the resurrection, but also the blood. It is His atoning blood that cleanses away all unrighteousness. If you have not yet taken the time, now is a great opportunity to call upon Jesus and ask Him to apply that precious blood to you and your life, to accept His work, and praise Him for that saving grace, that beautiful sacrifice, and the privilege to become a child of God.

My King ( a poem)

He didn’t fight, he didn’t run
For His work was almost done
Taken from the garden and
Betrayed with a kiss, He was
Sent in the flesh for exactly this

His life no man did take
He gave it freely for our sake
Laying upon the wooden cross
Which they would nail, was the
Son of God who did not fail

A broken body upon a tree, taking
The place of you and me
Our sin upon his shoulders
He felt forsaken, with love in His heart, our place he had taken

A final cry of “it is finished”, this
Victory is not diminished
The devil and sin once and for
All defeated, ” Well done my Son”
I imagine He was greeted

A perfect life He did live, so that
Our sin He could forgive
This is the gift of God, free and
Pure to all, the only requirement
Is to accept His call

Our time is quickly coming to end
To our eternity, He will send
Heaven or Hell will be the final resting place, all dependent on your acceptance of His grace

A greater Friend you cannot find
In one name, Salvations plan defined, He promised never to
Forsake or leave us, the name above all names, His name is Jesus