Tough Decisions

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.    1 John 4:18

Drazen Erdemovic had a choice to make in July of 1995.  He was a member of the Bosnian Serb army, attached to a non-combat unit.  He only joined to provide for his family.  He had no desire to fight and kill anyone.

That July he and others were pulled to another unit, whose task was to slaughter civilians as they came in by the busload.  They were to shoot them as they were lined up next to a pit.  Horrified, Drazen told the CO he couldn’t do it.  The choice he was given was stark; either shoot them as ordered or line up and get shot with them.

What would you do?  How would you decide?  Would you, like most all of us, decide based on fear or love?

Fear says, “I don’t want to die!”  Love says, “I can’t kill innocent people in such an act of evil.”

Fear doesn’t want to lose anything, most of all our very body, our life.  The love of Jesus tells us that to die in His name is gain.  Do we fear going through the door of death to meet Jesus face to face?  Enough that we balk at it?

Those of you who’ve been with me for a while know that I’ve almost died three times.  I’m not going to tell you it was ever fun, but neither was it as horrible as I might have imagined.  If I’m told I have x number of weeks to live, I think I’d be OK with that.  I’d make plans and start the countdown.

Would I ever leave a firing squad and join the condemned.  I would hope so!  I go to God innocent of murder, having stood up for what is right, even if the slaughter would go on without me.  Maybe that sacrifice would not go unnoticed.  Maybe whoever shot me would have to look me in the eye as they took aim.

What did Drazen do?  He figures he killed about 70-80 people that day.  In an effort to bring that genocide to light, he found himself on trial for war crimes at the Hague.  The defense tried to use the defense of being under duress.  A split court denied that defense.  He was convicted of manslaughter and given a relatively light sentence.

What was his reaction in the end? He ended up pleading guilty before the trial ended.

His initial decision to kill was his concern for the fate of his wife and kids.  His final statement to the court, however, is very telling.

“I (pled guilty) because of those victims, because of my conscience, because of my life, because of my child and my wife, I cannot change what I said…because of the peace of my mind, my soul, my honesty, because of the victims, the war and because of everything.”

His initial decision based on fear didn’t hold up for him!  Even though it was at least in part based on providing for his family, he eventually realized that providing for them through morality was more important.  This from someone who perhaps didn’t even know God.  He knew he had to have faith in what’s right, even if he didn’t know it was God.

Thanks to Jesus and the Father’s mercy, we can make decisions, large and small, based on love and not fear.  We can look death in the face, as we all must someday, smile at it, and say, “Take me home.  I don’t fear you, because Jesus defeated you.  He transformed you from a grave into a door.

So open wide, ‘cause I’m coming through!

Another Result of Rejecting God

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.     2 Thessalonians 3:10-11

Our country has been suffering the consequences of rejecting God and His ways; laziness.  The government, which outlawed prayer in schools has made another blunder, and we’re all suffering for it.  The overly generous and long payments to people who don’t work has created a big problem.

Workers sit at home collecting government subsidies when jobs are available and businesses struggle to stay open.  I call on a lot of retail parts houses who are having trouble keeping their doors open for lack of help.  A sign at a local Red Robin advertises $15/hour wages plus a $400 signing bonus!  Similar signs are popping up at fast food places like McDonalds.

The government, instead of relying on God for their governing principles, decided they know better and have flipped God’s Word on its head.  The government has declared, “If anyone will not work, well… what the hell.  Here’s a bunch of cash.  Pig out!”

C. S. Lewis made a great analogy in his book Mere Christianity.  God is like a factory that produce people.  The Bible is the operator’s manual.

America has ditched the operator’s manual and is running people in ways God did not design them to be run.  Is it any wonder we’re having problems?  From abortion to shoplifting to riots and raves we’re seeing the results of operating ourselves outside of our designed parameters.

The only question is how much worse will things get before we decide to start doing things right?

Derailed Faith

not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.    Hebrews 10”25

Louis de Bernieres led an interesting life from early on, according to a recent article in The London Daily Mail.  It started when he joined the army to fulfill his parents’ ambition that he would serve in the Queen’s Dragoon Guard, his father’s former unit.

It was not to be.  He wasn’t a match for it and managed an honorable discharge before he got very far.  His parents disapproval reached the point where he couldn’t stand the tension at home and took off.  He taught English for a white farmer in Columbia.  The other side of the world was as far as he could get; I imagine he would’ve gone farther if possible.

He returned home after a year and quickly realized he’d never really be “British” again.  He dealt with being in Britain by “remaining in Columbia in spirit.”  He writes that Columbia changed him regarding his faith also.

His father had been high Anglican and his mother sort of protestant.  Going to a church-related school didn’t do him any favors:

At my prep school (pre-Columbia) we had Chapel twice a day because the headmaster liked to dress up as a priest and parade his piety, in between bursts of his fondling and thrashing.

Still, he felt close as to Jesus as his friends.  It was divinity school that drove another nail into his faith’s coffin.  He was taught to read the Bible in a critical and scholarly manner as opposed to being the Word of God.  That’s where the seeds of his doubt were sown.

The last thing that happened to snuff out his faith was a train trip in Columbia.  His seat mate was a flirtatious young woman, and he was enjoying her interest in him.  She was beautiful and full of life. 

What I remember most about her was her smiling warmth.  I was slightly embarrassed. I was not at all experienced in flirtation with women from other cultures, and not remotely adept in it even with women from my own.  Maria didn’t mind. She liked me, it was fun flirting with me, and for her that was enough.

He left her to get drinks for her and himself.  While he was gone, she tried to get to another car in the train.  There was no safe walkway between cars, and she mistimed her step, falling on the between the cars.  She didn’t die right away.  All he remembered was her shredded body where there was once a beautiful woman.

All I could think was that if God did exist he either cared about nothing or was a sadist. I have always wanted to meet God on a dusty highway somewhere and challenge him to justify Himself.

In a perverse sense I need God, so that there is someone to blame. I told God to leave, and He did, like someone walking down the garden path to the gate, opening it and striding away without a backward glance.

I miss being religious. Religion makes you feel at home in the world and gives you the reassurance that there is some point to your life.

Religion.  Therein lies the problem, yes?  Religion is what his parents apparently practiced only half-heartedly.  Religion was what his school’s headmaster practiced, and that even more poorly.  None of them seems to have had a relationship with God.  Certainly, none of them knew the Bible past a cursory familiarity with it.

As one reads the article, one can see where Christianity was a feel-good safety net.  There was no understanding of God, which can be found in Scriptures.  Once the religion’s ability to maintain emotions loses its power, God takes the hit.

He obviously took his frustrations with others and the world out on God.

His headmaster was an obscenity, not God.  His parents were at odds with him over his choices, not God.  Yet, he blames God for their unchristian behavior.

Mostly, he blames God for the young woman’s death.  That was the final nail in his faith’s coffin.  If only he had truly understood Scripture!  If only his divinity classes and taught God’s Word instead of making it an academic exercise!

What was there to be understood?  Sin entered the world through one man and death through sin.  Adam gave the keys to the kingdom to Lucifer when he and Eve listened to the father of lies instead of a loving God.  The evil of the world is not God’s fault but humanity’s.

God throws us a line in the Person of Jesus.  God gives us hope to last through the evil days we spend on earth.

How do we keep our own faith from being derailed?  Read God’s Word.  Study it with other Christians who seek to study and learn from it, not dissect it.

Live your faith in a community of faith, not religion.  Don’t try to walk your path alone, but draw from the strength of others of faith.

The Miracle of America

I just read this article, The Miracle of America, on the Real Truth magazine website.  It outlines the improbable success of the War for Independence, national expansion, and subsequent rise to superpower.

It also marks the parallels between our growth as a nation and ancient Israel’s, a comparison made by many others throughout our history.  It’s an interesting article and deserves a read.

The one caveat to my suggesting you read it is that it is also a whitewash of our history.  It lauds the expansion of Manifest Destiny with no mention of the displacement of American Indians.  There is much in our history to proud of and much to hang our heads at.

Ancient Indian prophecies foretell of foreigners in great canoes that will bring with them “talking leaves” to enlighten them about the Great Spirit.  The great canoes were the European sailing ships that landed on our eastern shores.  The “talking Leaves” were the Bibles containing God’s Word with pages made of tree pulp!  The prophecy included a warning that the newcomers would also do them great harm.

There is much evidence that Indians worshipped the same God as we do, calling Him the Great Spirit.  They also referred to Him as Creator.  Not the Creator…just Creator.  One chief even had a vision of Jesus on the cross given to him by a spirit.  The chief asked the name of the man who was to be killed for their sakes.  The name given translates to “Son of God.”

I highly recommend the book That’s What the Old One’s Say by Chief Joseph River Wind.  It will break your heart in some places and inspire you in others.

But for all our skeletons, the United States is a country God has blessed and used for His purposes.  There was a telling episode I read in George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Jerry Newcombe and Peter Lillback.  Actually, two connected episodes.

The first was before the Revolution when Washington was still in the British army.  His troops were ambushed by Indians, and he was the only one to escape without any wounds at all, despite a bullet passing through his coat as he rode the line on his horse, directing the battle.

After he became president, a contingent of Indians came to him, saying their chief wished to speak to him.  That old chief was one of those who attacked Washington and his troops that day.  He told of how they concentrated their fire on him as the leader, but even his best marksmen could not touch him!  Soon after, he received a prophecy that told him Washington was protected by the Great Spirit.  His destiny was to start a nation that would endure for centuries.

Satan is not omniscient, so there was no way that was a demonic prophecy.  Satan would have no way of knowing!  The only logical conclusion was that God Himself gave that prophecy.

The United States of America is a country deigned by God to be great and to lead the world in His light.  We brought it about by an embarrassing combination of hard work and great sins, not unlike the growth of Israel in the Bible.  We have abdicated that role in favor of writing our own rules and worshipping at the alter of wokeness.  Who knows how dark our future lies for that?

As Christians, we still live in the greatest country the planet has ever seen even though it is not as great as it once was.  People still risk much to come here for freedom and prosperity!  We must do our part every day to preserve as much of that original greatness as possible.  We must let our lights shine during increasing risks to do so.

On this Fourth of July, let all Christians resolve to be great Americans in the tradition of our best days!

Thoroughly Healed!

So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.    Mark 1:31

Jesus had just recently endured the temptations of Satan in the wilderness and began His Galilean ministry.  He was in the process of calling His disciples and had even cast out a demon by the time He arrived at Peter’s house where he lived with Andrew, his wife, and mother-in-law.

They had been at synagogue and came directly to Peter’s house afterward.  As soon as they arrived Jesus was told of his mother-in-law’s fever.  Mark does record in his gospel if Jesus said anything.  He apparently went to her bed, took her hand and got her up.  She was immediately healed and set about serving them all.

This event always struck me as odd when I was young.  That poor woman had had a fever and was probably wrung out!  For her to serve them like that when she had been unable to get out of bed seemed wrong to me.  Give her a chance to recover for heaven’s sake!

It was only later that I realized why that detail was recorded in the gospel; it pointed out that she wasn’t just healed.  She was thoroughly healed!  She didn’t need to have some rest after Jesus broke her fever.  She was 100% and ready to go!

Let’s also realize that she was probably immensely grateful for having been so wonderfully healed!  This was before emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and antibiotics.  The Middle East is hot.  Air conditioned was millennia away as was ice to cool her down.  A fever it this point in history was a very serious threat!

Her serving everyone wasn’t just proof of how completely she was healed, it was a testament to her loving response at having been delivered from a possibly fatal fever.

Jesus no longer walks about earth and heals people of their physical ailments.  The apostles and disciples who healed people after Jesus’ ascension into heaven are no longer with us either.  I can’t explain why such healings no longer happen.  Perhaps the Gospel has become known enough that such signs are no longer necessary.  Perhaps the faith of Christians who never experienced Jesus is weaker than those who walked with Him and saw His miracles first-hand.

However, I can tell you this – Jesus still heals us spiritually, which is infinitely more critical than physical healing!  Everyone who Jesus and His disciples healed died at some later time.  Everyone.  But when Jesus heals us spiritually, when he revives our dead soul and shows us an eternity with Him, we won’t die eternally.  Physical death will come, but spiritual death is no longer in our future!

We are thoroughly healed by the blood of Christ!  We are so thoroughly healed that we can immediately begin to act on our new-found spiritual health.

Let me give you a perfect example of this.  You may be familiar with BeautyBeyondBones, a.k.a. Caralyn  Collar.  She writes one of the top three blogs for eating disorders in the world.  She suffered from anorexia and almost died from it.  She was admitted to a clinic at a mere 78 pounds.  Her condition was so bad that she had to sleep in the nurse’s station for weeks so they could monitor her in case she had heart failure, a very real possibility.  She later learned that she was the worst case they’d ever seen and had fears that she wouldn’t make it.

She resisted the counseling sessions, maintained her lies that she was a victim of her ulcerative colitis, which prevented her weight gain.

That’s how it went until one day she admitted her condition and the demon who had been oppressing her was expelled with a shout of “I LIED!!

She immediately wanted a phone to call her parents whom she’d abused and lied to for years to confess and ask their forgiveness.  Just like that.  She didn’t have to step back, take a breath, and gather herself before making what had to have been a very difficult call.  None of that.  She was like Peter’s mother-in-law, taken by Jesus’ hand, brought to her feet, and proceeding to serve others.  She was able to do that, because her spirit, her soul had been thoroughly healed.

I have no idea why we don’t see the sort of physical healings that seemed to happen so frequently with Jesus’ disciples.  I’m not going to limit God, however, and try to tell you that He just doesn’t do that anymore.  What I can say with confidence is that Jesus most certainly heals our spirits as thoroughly as he healed Peter’s mother-in-law!

To hear Caralyn’s testimony, click on this link to her YouTube video.

For another story of Jesus’ spiritual healing, read my article Shaking the World about how a Russian visiting the US was healed spiritually by God’s Word.

Why the Violence?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.    Philippians 4:8

The cascade of violence continues this weekend with a shooting in Texas.  But headlines abound of people spitting on each other and having it escalate to something serious over nothing more than a carry-out order.  One man urinated on a sidewalk, and the residents got together to confront him.  It eventually ended when they killed him.

The question becomes “Why?”

The most basic cause is our country’s fall from God.  We asked Him to leave when we kicked prayer our of schools and faith out of government.  We stopped reading God’s Word, because, well, we no longer put value on anything He has to say.  If we had remained grounded in His words and ways, we would know this verse from Philippians.  We would have known where to focus our attention.

But what are the practical causes?  What are the mechanisms that brought us to this point?  What started happening as a result of our fall from faith?

My first thought is the internet.  People can launch tirades against each another anonymously, cruel and often unwarranted other than…they disagree.  We’ve learned to not bridle our passions, because on the internet there are no consequences.  Having conditioned themselves against fear of consequences from anonymous terrorizing, they have perhaps come to expect they can get away with violence in real life.

Perhaps the causes are found earlier in life, in childhood.  The family unit has been under attack for decades.  Economics play a big part.  Social pressures in general come into play.  Kids are raised by strangers as moms and dads both go off to work.  Day care centers do not have the same structure and same attentiveness that parents have in the home.  Children have become an inconvenience.

How many children have been roasted alive in a hot car for no other reason than the parents forgot they were in the car.  I cannot begin to fathom that!  How does that happen unless the children have become an inconvenience, something not far removed the cats and dogs?  Why else does everyone consign the youngsters to the Kid’s Table at family feasts?  The thought is to get them out of the way so the adults can talk among themselves.

My question is why not have the kids at the same table, so they can see and learn how to be adults.

Unless, of course, the adults are not worth copying.

So, the family and raising children with sound morality has eroded.

Entertainment has become course.  The Jerry Springer show became something not far removed from professional wrestling.  Opposing parties were set up against each other in a context sure to get violent reaction.  They even had bouncers on the show to pull people apart before they seriously hurt each other.  The studio audiences picked their sides and taunted the subjects on the stage.

That concept was refined slightly in the TV courtroom shows like Judge Judy, where there was at least as much caustic commentary from the judge as justice.

Once again, viewers have been conditioned to the idea that violent verbal and physical confrontations are they way to handle disputes.  We see this played out time and again in society today.

I’ve written articles on this before; guns are not the problem.  It’s the eroded morality of society.  It’s the loveless society that comes from separation from God.  People who try to emulate the love God shows us will not shoot others.  People cannot copy what they do not know.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?    Romans 10:14

We compromise preachers in seminaries when we try to make allowance of man’s wisdom instead of God’s when we accept evolution, for starters.  The preaching of God’s word has become tainted if it is preached at all.  Very few churches preach God’s word boldly and without compromise!

Why all the violence?  The bottom line is that we asked for it without even realizing what we asked for.  

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;    Romans 12:8

So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.    Psalms 81:12

We can, of course, ask Him to come back.  He will, you know.  Just repent and ask for His wisdom and ways.  We can have things change back to better ways, if we just let God lead instead of ourselves.

Well Meaning Folly

“The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.”    Isaiah 9:10

This is a verse showing the hubris of the northern kingdom of Israel after a punishing raid by armies sent by God as a warning to mend their ways.  It is about trusting oneself instead of God.  They said to themselves, “Our problem was that we built with cheap bricks.  We’ll rebuild with more solid hewn stone.  Instead of weak sycamore wood, we will use strong cedar.”

God was not mentioned in their plans.  They didn’t take the warning.  The result was God sending more armies that would completely annihilate the northern kingdom, never to be heard of again.

The southern kingdom didn’t take the hint.  God had a promise to keep for David’s line, so He didn’t wipe them out.  He did, however, send Babylon to raze Israel and take many captive back to Bablyon.

Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and spur his enemies on,
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth.    Isaiah 9:11

Reactor #4

I thought of this as I read an article about Chernobyl and the warnings we should take from it.  From the article:

Chernobyl reveals the multi-faceted characteristics defining mankind: the incredible ingenuity of drawing electricity from nuclear materials, tragic mistakes made worse by mismanagement and hubris—and dogged optimism, despite Chernobyl still being abandoned today…“This is a place of tragedy and memory, but it is also a place where you can see how a person can overcome the consequences of a global catastrophe,” said Bohdan Borukhovskyi, Ukraine’s deputy environment minister.

What a recipe for disaster, right?  Ingenuity combined with error and pride.  Heavy on the pride!  The article makes the point that we must learn from our mistakes.

Columnist Peggy Noonan wrote the following after 9/11 in the Wall Street Journal:

“In the long ribbon of history, life has been one long stained and tangled mess, full of famine, horror, war and disease. We must have thought we had it better because man had improved. But man doesn’t really ‘improve,’ does he?”

Oddly, frighteningly enough, verse 10 above was the exact verse quoted in congress after the attacks on 9/11/2001.  It was a declaration that the country would take care of itself.  God was not mentioned in their plans.  One must wonder if 9/11 wasn’t a warning for our country’s rejection of Him.  Like ancient Israel, we too have gone astray.  We dismissed God from our schools and government.  The Israelites sacrificed their children on the statue of Ba’al.  Today we sacrifice our children on the alter of self, aborting millions of innocent children that didn’t fit in with the parents’ lives.

Rabbi Jonathon Cahn wrote extensively on this connection in his books, The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah.

One only needs to look at the current trajectory of our country toward inflation and a continuing decline of morality.  It’s easy to see how we our doing it to ourselves.

What can we do?  Pray.  That’s number one.  Know who your government representatives are and who is running for election.  What are their values?  What are their morals?  Vote for people as close to God’s ways as possible.

Mostly, conduct every aspect of your life in ways that line up with God’s way for us.  Read your Bible.  Fellowship with other Christians.  Live well!

The Dash

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”:  While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down;…
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well.  Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.  “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.”… 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  14 For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.    Ecclesiastes 12, selected verses

If you read yesterday’s article, you know my sister died this past week.  It’s been a bit tougher than I thought it would be for all the reasons I listed yesterday.  I re-read it today, and something struck me.  Writing a basic summary of her life was a whole lot easier than her living it.  She was an addict and lived very close to death for years.

It reminded me of something I heard when I was young.  Maybe you’ve heard it too.  It’s about the dash on the tombstone.  Here lies Paula, 1964-2021.  The dash was chiseled into the stone easily enough.  Getting through it was a whole other thing.

Isn’t that true for us all?  Figuratively speaking, your tombstone and mine have a starting year and a dash that grows in microns as we live and bring it to completion.  The dash is filled with warmed hearts and broken ones; triumph, tragedy, and indifference.

You and I only ever see the dash.  God sees everything that made it.  At some point He’s going to want to talk with us about every bit of it.

Solomon is warning us about that in Ecclesiastes.  He’s admonishing us to get tight with God while young and it’s easier.  If we wait until we’re old, we might never get there.  Build the foundation of that relationship before you’re too worn down to start on it.  Don’t let the vanities, the foolishness of the world blind you to what really needs to be done.  Those crazy things will vanish, leaving you with a moon and stars that give no light.  Build your life on God before the days on earth make you too weary to find pleasure in them.  Live a life, start to finish, that clings to God for satisfaction and pleasure.

Make your dash count for something more than just having been here.

How do we do that?  Fear God and keep His commandments.  What does that look like?

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’    Matthew 22:37

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.    James 1:27

My sister did none of this.  Hers was a life of sorrows, bad mental health and a crack addiction.  It was at times living on the streets with her small kids.  But given all that, I know she was back in Jesus’ fold at the end.  Despite a life not unspotted from the world, she was still washed clean in Jesus’ blood.

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”    Matthew 19:25-26

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.    Ephesians 2:8-9

So…the dash.  How’s yours looking so far?  Long or short?  Something to be OK with or something you’ll have to answer for?  A lot.  For the good times, Jesus will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

For the bad times that will be brought to judgement, Jesus will take the punishment and wash you clean of every spot with His most loving blood.  All it takes is saying “Yes” to Him while the dash is still alive!

Death Comes

The end of a thing is better than its beginning.    Ecclesiastes 7:8

I don’t normally write about personal tragedy, but today I will.  Part of me wants the release.  Part of me hopes that someone will learn something from it. Honestly, I’m not sure which part is bigger.

My sister died Friday morning.  Truth be told, she died Thursday, but she was comatose and on a ventilator since then.  Her husband called me Friday morning to say that they decided it was time to turn it off.  Her organs were failing, and there was no hope.

But let’s back up for a moment.  For one thing, you might wonder at my choice if Bible verse.  I’ll explain, but it’s going to take a little bit.

One of my nephews from my other sister called me Thursday morning at 5:00.  When I looked at my phone and saw his name, I figured it had to be bad news.  He told me that she had had open heart surgery several days prior.  After an initial good recovery, she began to have internal bleeding.  Things didn’t look good, because she was too weak for them to operate again.

I asked him where she was.  I wasn’t asking what hospital, although that eventually came.  No, I wondered where in the country she was.  Was she still in Las Vegas?  He didn’t know where she was after she left Vegas years ago.  He said he would try to find out and get back to me.  All he knew was that her husband had contacted his mom, my other sister, with the news.

Paula had a shit life.  No two ways about it.  It started with bad genes, a hyper thyroid, and the attending mental health issues that go along with it.  She married right out of high school.  Her husband joined the Navy but was later dishonorably discharged for drug use.  He got Paula hooked when he came back.  After having three kids together, they divorced, and he moved on.  Paula was addicted to crack cocaine.  Some of the stories she told me after she got clean chilled me to the bone.

The worst was when her supplier threatened to shoot her over missing money.  She grabbed his hand and pulled the gun to her head and screamed at him to go ahead.  Her son was there.

I tried to help her when I could, but she would invariably piss away whatever I tried to do for her and disappear for years at a time.  I wasn’t mad at her so much as frustrated.  For what little detail I know of her life, she made very few good decisions and never learned from the bad ones.

As odd as it might sound, I am grieving for someone I barely knew as an adult.  I have some fond childhood memories, but even by high school she kept getting herself into tight spots.

The question I ask myself as why I’m crying over someone I haven’t seen or heard from in over ten years.  I’m not crying for having now lost her.  I’m crying for the normal relationship we never had.  I’m crying for decades of her pain.  I’m crying because no matter how futile the hope of having a normal sibling relationship with her was, it was still alive as long as she was alive.

That door closed Friday morning.

The end of a thing is better than it’s beginning.  Her pain is ended.  Her troubles have ended.  It’s better now.

Your obvious question is what makes me think a former crackhead who left family for years on end can end up in heaven.  My nephew told me that he knew his mom and Paula spoke about God a few times last few years.  She “came home” to Jesus.  She fell asleep in her body and awoke in Jesus’ loving arms.

What’s especially comforting about this is a conversation I had last year with someone who died, met Jesus and came back.  You can read my article Perfect Love for some detail, but here’s the gist of it.

Jason met Jesus in heaven surrounded by angels he described as being huge and indescribably powerful.  He felt Jesus’ power also.  I asked him if he wasn’t even a bit nervous about being in the presence of the Son of God.  He smiled and said no.  Jesus’ love emanated from Him like a physical force.  The power and intensity of Jesus’ love made everything else pale in comparison.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.    1 John 4:18

That’s where my sister is now.  She’s with Jesus and feeling His love that casts out everything else.  She is in a place where God promised to wipe away every tear.

I’m not going to the funeral.  The family situation is…well, it’s ugly.  It’s better if I stay away.  We were, after all, the poster family for dysfunction.  There’s nothing to be gained by playing the entire soap opera here.

However, writing this has helped me work through my emotions.  I hope it’s given you some sort of perspective if you’re dealing with a death now.  If you’re not dealing with a death right now, trust me – you will.  Just please remember that you can try to do the right thing and get punished for it.  You can’t make other people behave.

You can pray for them, try to help, be understanding, and, in the end, take comfort that God will take care of things.

A Canadian Underground Church

 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.    Matthew 6:33-34

No, I’m not talking about underground as in actually being under the soil.  This is a church that has been shut down by the Canadian government over the COVID crisis.

GraceLife Church in Alberta was shut down for failing to follow public gathering rules by the government.  The pastor, James Coates, was jailed for over a month in a maximum-security prison.  He was led away in chains, apparently without a trial.

Um…  Maximum security?  For a pastor who was just leading worship services?

After his release, police erected a fence around the church to prevent people from using the building.  Over two hundred police – including riot police – were guarding the fence line on a Sunday to make sure no one got in.

Gosh!  I hope they were all socially distanced!

Pastor and author John MacArthur confirmed that they will continue to exercise religious liberty and stand against abuses of power in Canada by worshipping together in an undisclosed location.  GraceLife is the first church in North America to be shut down and go underground.  With this precedent, it may well not be the last.

Canada used the pandemic to target a Christian organization as it continues its secular agenda.  Although there were large protests at the church by outraged citizens, the government really isn’t backing down.  Otherwise, why would GraceLife start having secret meetings?

Now is the time for all of us on this side of the Atlantic to start taking the threat against the faithful seriously.  We haven’t had religious persecution here and can’t imagine it could happen, but it has!  We need to let this shake us out of our complacency to pray for God’s providence as secular authorities continue to put pressure on Christianity.

Prayer; it should be our means of first resort!  Studying our Bibles should be a virtual tie with it in importance.  Talk to God in prayer and hear His answers in His written, inspired Word.