We love our boxes.

Boxes keep people isolated and crumpled up.  And religious people can be experts at building boxes with labels to put people in.

A young woman wears something deemed inappropriate and a so-called “Christian” slaps a box on her labeled “tramp” or “whore” or “slut”, and then goes on their way.

You see, if I can place another person who is different from me in a box labeled “liberal” or “conservative” or “weird” or “snob”, etc. then I am off the hook.  I don’t have to do the hard and uncomfortable work of building an actual relationship.  Or, dare I say, loving that person!

But Jesus Christ is in the business of cutting boxes and breaking neck irons (I will explain that one below), and loving people for exactly who they are.

Three exchanges take place in Luke 5 and 6 that back this up.  First, the Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples don’t fast (abstain from food for religious purposes).  Jesus explained that they didn’t fast because they were with the Bridegroom himself.  No asceticism was called for.  Celebration was more appropriate.  Later they would fast, Jesus told them, but now was not that time.

But wait!  The Pharisees didn’t understand that.  It was outside of their religious box.

A little while later, Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field on a Sabbath and they picked grain and ate it.  The Pharisees considered that a violation of the law.  Now technically it was not because they were poor travelers, and the law made that food available to them.  But for a recognized Rabbi, the action was outside of the religious box.

The third examples happens again on a Sabbath, but this time in a synagogue.  A man was there with a withered hand.  He could not open it and stretch it out.  The Pharisees (expert box-makers that they were) actually preferred Jesus not heal him rather than do a “work” on the Sabbath day.  Jesus told him to stand up in front of them all and “STRETCH OUT YOUR HAND”.

You and I are supposed to stand tall and strong and enjoy the freedom and liberty of a lively faith that Jesus paid a dear price for us to enjoy.  We should not be cramped and crumpled inside a box of our own or anyone else’s making.

When John Newton (the author of Amazing Grace) was a slave-ship captain, God was beginning to move on his heart.  On his last journey he saw that the slaves he was transporting were actually mothers and brothers and fathers and children.  They were people and they deserved dignity.  He felt an urge to unshackle them all but knew his crew would mutiny if he did.  He recognized one thing he could do, however.

Remove the neck irons.

One of the most undignified and cruel devices used on slaves was the neck iron.  It would prevent people from lifting their heads.  They had to walk and moved in a hunched over position.  John Newton ordered the neck irons removed.

Apparently, the Holy Spirit was stimulating Jesus-type action through John Newton.

Will you continue that work?

Start with yourself.  Lift up your hands, your heads, your life itself!  Stretch out to your full height!  You are free!  You have liberty.  Jesus has cut that box and removed those neck irons.

Now look around and see if anyone else needs a box cut open or a neck iron removed.

That’s what Jesus does.  Hallelujah!

Making Adjustments

May 22, 2014

For those of us who are basketball fans, has any phrase been more overused by losing coaches than “we have to make adjustments in the second half”? It is on page one of the yet-to-be-published “Helpful Phrases and Cliches for the Losing Team Handbook”.

And after the first games of the NBA’s Eastern and Western Conference finals, the losing coaches are scrambling to (yup) make adjustments.

For the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were defeated soundly by the San Antonio Spurs, the coaches have to figure out a way to open up scoring opportunities for more players and defend the paint. They lost their best interior defender (Serge Ibaka) to injury, who was also their third-leading scorer.

Likewise, the defending champion Miami Heat will have to make adjustments if they hope to defend their NBA title. The Indiana Pacers are MUCH bigger than the Miami Heat are and will continue to out-rebound, out-defend, and out-score the Heat if the Heat fail to make the right adjustments.

Truly, in sports, teams have to make adjustments or their dreams of achieving a championship will never, ever happen.

But being proactive and making appropriate adjustments is not limited to the job descriptions of NBA coaches. To have a happy and successful life, each individual must learn to make adjustments.

Life can come at us like a strong first half by the opposition in a basketball game. We can be sitting in the locker room at the midway point thinking to ourselves, “I don’t know if I have an answer for this. The forces against me are strong!”

This kind of opposition can be circumstantial (the hand we were dealt), it can be something of our own making (bad choices), it can be spiritual attack (Ephesians 6:12), or something else altogether.

The choice comes down to one thing…What are we going to do about it?!?!?!

With sports teams, you can often tell which team is going to win by their body language. Are they confident? Do they walk and talk with a little bit of swagger? If they do and the other team doesn’t, the game’s probably over already.

When life comes at you like Hibbert and West on a double team down low, you can either crawl into the fetal position or bust out!

You have been given the resources of the Word of God, the fellowship of the church, the wisdom of the saints and even this blog telling you to stand firm, get those knees dirty in prayer, remember that the devil is a liar from the beginning, and come out from that locker room ready TO HIT IT in the second half!

The ones that win always know how to make adjustments.

A few nights ago, Tracey and I experienced a demonic presence in our bedroom. 

Now reading that statement could invoke a whole spectrum of reactions — from skepticism to intrigue, from labeling as “one of those Christians” to heads nodding in agreement (“Yup, I know about those”), to immediate dismissal of the rest of this story to an eagerness to read on.  I hope you will be among that latter group because what helped us through this episode could WILL help you as well. 

The visitation of this evil presence was not a first-time event.  In fact, over the last few months, it had happened quite a few times.  The scenario played out while I was in deep slumber and would carry on a conversation with Tracey who is a light sleeper.  Tracey would rouse me after being disturbed and recognizing something was clearly amiss.  “You were talking about this person and doing this horrible thing”.  I would respond, “I was dreaming about attending a monster truck rally (or something like that).  The person you named wasn’t a person in my dream at all.” 

Each time she would wake me, we often both sensed there was some evil presence actually IN the room.  Being as tired as I was, I usually did not engage in a spiritual battle with the dark force.  I would say a short prayer and we would go back to sleep.  That was usually not effective, and the conversation would begin again.  Sometimes, Tracey would move out to the couch.

This week, when it happened again, we both said, “Enough is enough!”

A close pastor friend encouraged me to re-examine the art work in my house and in my bedroom and take an inventory for anything that could have demonic residue or be in any way, “dedicated to an idol”.  We did that.  We also anointed the bed and door frames afresh with anointing oil, claiming this house for Christ, truth, and the fruits of salvation.

Finally, my pastor friend felt he had a word from the Lord from Ephesians 5.  We read it in our bedroom the other night and had the best night of sleep we could remember.  Here is what Ephesians 5:1-21 says…

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

In particular, verses 13 and 14 stood out to us…they read, “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light.”  On the night we read this and prayed, we also recounted any and all known sins…including those imaginations and thoughts which had occurred.  By bringing EVERYTHING out into the open and into the light before God, it was as if our darkness was redeemed and made to be “Light”. 

Psalm 96:1-6 has been an appropriate word of thanks and praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Amen.

Does it Translate?

April 11, 2014

This morning I was texting with a friend from Latin America who is just learning English. I speak some Spanish, though, and we normally end up communicating in Spanish. This morning I got a text that read “Viernes. Yo canbiar sita. Tans”. I thought it meant something like “I can make the appointment on Friday” but I wasn’t sure cause it looks like there were some typos in the text message as well. That’s when I called upon my trusty friend…Google Translate.

The Amazing Google Translate (that’s what it should be called). With just a copy and paste to this invaluable app on my smartphone, I could confirm exactly what my friend was saying.

So I pasted it in and clicked “Go”. The translation came back, “Saturday. I canbiar appointment. Tans.”

I don’t think that’s what he was saying.

And wait a minute! Viernes doesn’t translate to Saturday! That’s one of the first things I learned in Mr. Zeiher’s 10th grade Spanish class. Viernes is Friday. No doubt about it. Had Google Translate made a mistake?

The horror!

Indeed, it had erred. The unflappable, infallible, Google Translate got lost in translation.

While I smugly made note that I was smarter than Google on this occasion, I realized that I have my own glitches when it comes to translating. One of my biggest glitches occurs when I spend quality time with God for a devotional and, yet, it fails to translate into actual love for another person.

You see, I love to be alone with God. I really enjoy solitary prayer walks, journaling at the beach, or a quiet room to read, pray, and worship. These are some of the best moments of my existence. But all too often, I return to the “real world” and get selfish or angry or impatient or…

What happened?

Something got lost in translation.

So as Google gets back to work on its Google Translate app to clear up its Viernes glitch, I am going to get back to work on translating the love I feel for God to real, practical love to those around me.

Yesterday I played golf with my friend, Pastor Frank Giraldo.  Pastor Frank is the pastor of Agua Viva church in Santa Barbara (Agua Viva means “living water”). 

All day long the pace of play was very slow.  We were not the only ones to go golfing on the day after the Super Bowl apparently.  On the 14th hole, we were waiting at the tee box as the group in front of us was waiting for the green to clear.  One of their group stood in the fairway a distance away.  Pastor Frank, who is not a big man, asked me if I thought he could hit.  In other words, would his best tee shot come anywhere close to the man waiting in the fairway?  I told him no.  “Go ahead and hit it.  He is too far away.”

Now I have noticed in the sport of golf than when you hint that a man may not be a big hitter, his subconscious ego kicks in and it is inevitable that his next shot is the best, straightest, and farthest one of the day.

That’s exactly what happened. 

Pastor Frank walloped it.  It bounced and then rolled and came to a stop about ten yards away from the man in the fairway, parallel to the spot that he was standing.  Because it was rolling and not exactly towards him, we did not yell “Fore!”, but raised our hands in apology for hitting into his space on the course (an absolute golfing no-no).

The man did not acknowledge our apologetic gesture, but slowly and calmly walked toward the ball and then proceeded to hit the ball back at us in the tee box.  It landed about 20 yards away. 

Now that was waaaay uncool.  Perhaps even more uncool than our hitting into him.  Pastor Frank asked me if he could replace the ball where he had hit it.  I said absolutely! 

As we were driving up the fairway a few moments later, I was brooding over how to respond to this guy if and when we crossed paths.  What should I say?  

My first thought was, “Hey Bud! that was a real stupid thing to do! What’s your deal?!?”  Then I figured that might not end too well.  The two pastors in town didn’t need to be engaged in that kind of communication.  I then prayed a little prayer and realized that the right thing to do was be humble and apologize.  It was my fault after all that there was any incident to begin with. 

So I did just that.  I drove over to him and said, “I am sorry about that.  It was all my fault.  I advised my friend to hit into you.  I didn’t think he would ever reach you.  I apologize.”

Well, that was like pouring “hot coals over his head”.  What does that mean, you ask?  Proverbs 25:21-22 says,

21 If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat.
    If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
22 You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads,
    and the Lord will reward you.

The idea behind “pouring hot coals over his head” is to “kill them with kindness” and not to enact revenge, explode in anger or retribution, etc.  You and I will NEVER, EVER go wrong when we take such an approach to difficult situations.  I was reminded of that yesterday on a golf course.

The man came up to me with an ashamed look on his face and apologized up and down.  He patted me on the back and said he was just trying to have some fun at our expense.  The ball was just on a slow roll and wasn’t toward him and so forth.

It was the good and right way for such an incident to end. 

Ya’ll join me and we’ll keep a’pourin them coals…

What Terrifies Screwtape

January 9, 2014

On January 18, CS Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” will be presented on stage at the Granada Theatre in SB.  Based on the best-selling book, this Broadway production is coming to our town!  Tracey and I are excited to go and hope you too will get tickets.

CS Lewis is such a colorful writer.  His prose is so lively and expressive.  It really is no wonder that he was such a master at fantasy and science-fiction tales as well.  His imagination was free and unbounded.

How about yours?

If you are a follower of Christ, I encourage you to let your holy imagination for the spiritual realities of God be free and unbounded like Lewis’ was.  While a faculty professor at Cambridge and Oxford, CS Lewis nonetheless held to the orthodox beliefs of the Christian faith which acknowledge SUPERNATURAL activity.  The Virgin Birth, the Incarnation of God, Resurrection from the Dead, Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons.  These we profess.  Why?  He writes, “I believe (all) this not in the sense that it is part of my creed, but in the sense that it is one of my opinions…It agrees with the plain sense of Scripture, the tradition of Christendom, and the beliefs of most men at most times.  And it conflicts with nothing that any of the sciences has shown to be true.”

A holy imagination recognizes these realities and engages them at appropriate levels (not obsessive ones, mind you).  It’s then that faith can really come alive and a follower of Christ can engage in the kind of life that frustrates the Kingdom of Darkness.  Don’t you want to be part of “the church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners”?

A holy imagination can see “her”.

Nurture yours.

Lucky Faith

December 17, 2013

Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster tell the story of an eight-year-old boy named Justin and his Cocker Spaniel puppy in their book, “The God-Bearing Life”.  Young Justin bolted out the door to catch the school bus and his new puppy, “Lucky”, slithered out the door right on his heels.  Once free from his confines, the puppy took off like a shot.  She narrowly missed becoming a puppy pancake when two cars sped by (apparently Lucky was an apt name).  Panicked, Justin sped after her, which just made the whole situation that much more fun for Lucky (have any of you experienced this scenario?).
Every time Justin got closer to catching her, Lucky bolted away again, tail wagging.  Pretty soon, Justin’s grandmother was out on the front lawn, wildly motioning Justin to get back home.  Justin protested: Bus or no bus, he had to catch his dog!  Yet his grandmother waved all the harder for him to come home.
Thinking she was pulling rank, Justin turned and ran home–with Lucky hot on his heels until both returned safely to the garage.
As I read this story, comparisons to the Christian faith flooded in.  I first had to ask myself, am I heading in the right direction?  Or am I running around in circles chasing the wrong thing?  Second, what (or who) am I directing people to?  Many people, and especially young people, are interested in “the quest” or “the journey” and are suspicious of anyone claiming to have THE answer.  They might even think that running around in circles with Lucky the dog is the meaning of life.  After all, it’s FUN!
But as a Christ-centered community of faith, we provide a safe haven of love, truth, and grace.  There IS a place to come home to. 
The last comparison is one I am wrestling with all the time…how to get people “inside the garage”?  By coercion?  By catch and grab?  By pushing people?  No.  By simply being the kind of people others will follow!
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”.  Christians must inherently follow the example of Christ in everything we do.  By doing so, we become the kinds of attractive people that get noticed on our streets, in our families, in the workplace, at school, etc.
In the story of Lucky and Justin, the boy reminds me somewhat of the Christians in the Ephesian church (Revelation 2).  When the going gets tough, these people just tighten their belts and boots and get going!  But while this was commendable, it missed the intended purpose of the whole thing.  The most important thing was to be loving God and practicing the deeds of that devotion…earnestly and fervently.  In the end, it’s that kind of love that gains a following.

On a recent visit to Kentucky I ran into Ernie Brown Jr., the legendary “Turtleman”.  Mr. Brown actually has two nicknames by which he is now known.  The first is the “Turtleman” (appropriate given his affinity for turtles and uncanny ability to catch and relocate them without injury), and the second is “The Wildman of Kentucky” for the hit show on Animal Planet in which he stars: The Call of the Wildman.  While I can’t fathom which nickname is more appropriate, I can tell you this much…Ernie Brown Jr. is just about the friendliest and approachable feller you’d ever want to meet.

When I approached Mr. Brown to ask for a photograph, I told him that his show was one of my sons’ favorites and they would be head over heels to learn I had met him.  He kindly obliged and made mention of the fact that his right hand man, Neal, should be the focus of attention every bit as much as he.  It was a humble and ingratiating gesture, and as it turned out, a genuine one.

We were both on the same flight.  The Turtleman flew coach with the rest of the common folk and greeted every person as if they were a personal friend.  I could not count how many pictures he took or autographs he signed, and yet it never seemed that he desired being the center of attention as much as he just acted like himself–a big kid having fun on a big plane going to a big city (NYC).  After meeting the Turtleman, I was more of a fan than ever.

When I got back home I showed the boys the picture of their dad with the Turtleman and we watched a few episodes of his tv show.  I noticed something important about Turtleman’s approach to animals.  He takes a humble and ingratiating approach to them as well.

What I noticed was that the Turtleman isn’t at all afraid to get dirty.  Whether it is a rat snake beneath a home or a snapping turtle burrowed among the cattails of a Kentucky pond, he sidles up next to them completely in their element and on their turf, and the animal seems to relax.  It is at that moment that the Turtleman can grab the animal without injury to himself or the animal.

Such an approach is a good lesson for ministry among the homeless (not that ministers or homeless people are at all like animals).  But the truth is that many of the guys are skittish and wary of human contact.  Police and other members of the homeless community and even well-intentioned Christians have given homeless folks good reason to be on their guard.  If we were to take a callous “bag and tag” approach to ministry as some have done, it could prove injurious to all.  If, however, we take the time to build relationships that engender trust, walls can come down and actions might follow that ensure long-lasting benefits for all.

 

Comedians like to start with the same line over and over again and put different spins on the punch line.  For instance, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” or “Knock-Knock” or “a guy walks into a bar…”.  We have learned from experience what will come, knowing that it has to be a lot funnier than “to get to the other side”.  Each new joke-teller has to at least do better than that.

It turns out that preachers and pastors have their own set of opening lines they use when getting together with one another.  Some of the favorites are, “So, how big is your church?”  “When did you become a Christian?” and “Where did you go to seminary?”  To that list I want to add another.  “I was sitting next to this guy on the airplane…”  What follows is typically an amazing, astonishing, and tear-inducing tale of how (with just the right blend of courage, wit, Scripture quoting, and Holy-Spirit anointing) the preacher was able to engage that fellow passenger in conversation, save his soul with a powerful presentation of the Gospel, and seal his eternal destiny.

Other preachers hear these tales and testimonies and feel simultaneously guilty over their uneventful recent plane flight and awestruck at the courage and skill of these preachers.

“Knock-Knock”

“Who’s there?”

“The best preacher in the room!!!”

But I am finding more and more than my best gift as a preacher might not be my speech at all.  It might just be a set of listening ears.

Here’s my plain plane story.

A fellow sits down next to me with earrings and tattoos and spiky hair and we make small talk and then find something to laugh at in the captain’s intercom address to the passengers.  Our captain wouldn’t stop talking!  It was as if he was going to give us a comprehensive description of the entire mechanical system of our 737 jet.  We learned more about wind tunnels and the air conditioning unit and the time spent by each crew of mechanics and, while it may have been kind of interesting in its own way, the captain was talking SO LOUDLY into his mic that we were kind of going crazy.

Anyway, my new friend was, not surprisingly, an artist.  He was in charge of setting up the Mini Cooper showrooms all across the country.  He had both mechanical skill and artistic acumen and was able to exercise them both in his job…which he loved.  After sharing some photos of our kids from our phones, another LOUD announcement came across the intercom that we would be having turbulence due to a storm, but we would miss the bulk of it and have a smooth landing.  The captain made a comment about how he was praying that storm would clear out and it did (Thanks, Captain, you just gave me an opportunity!)

You see, up to this point, I had not shared my name or my vocation, but then saw an opportunity to say, “Well, I am a pastor and talk to God for a living, but my prayers regarding the weather don’t typically seem to make much of a difference.” (Easter Sunday, 2013, at Refugio Beach the one clear exception!!)

A few minutes later as we were descending into Charlotte, NC, I was able to encourage my new friend about God.  It turns out his wife’s two sisters were committed Christians, although he and his wife did not go to church.  He went as a kid, but hadn’t as an adult because he felt that Christian people were too pushy.

“I get that.  I have been part of churches that did that kind of thing, and I know it can be a turn-off.  But most of those people’s intention is good, despite imperfect execution.  But, most important of all, Jesus is always good.  He is graceful and kind and instructs us in the best ways to live life.  And you know how we are about to land and those people on the runway will be there with their glowing sticks waving our plane into the terminal?  Well, maybe God just put me here to wave a glow-stick toward Jesus.  He changed my life.”

“Cool, man. Cool. It was good to meet you.”

The Diverted Track

September 4, 2013

Image

On Sunday, Ricky, a homeless friend of mine, pulled me aside to ask for a favor.  He had already begun drinking beers by 9:30 AM and was not going to attend church, but was hopeful I or the church could assist him with a train ticket to visit his father.  Ricky (not his real name) had spent the last 5 and 1/2 months in county jail for numerous violations of the law and had just been released the day before.  I told him that I would meet him on Tuesday morning and we would go figure it out together at the Amtrak station.

On the way to pick up Ricky I was mulling over what I had gotten myself into.  Was I really planning to shell out over a hundred bucks for a train ticket?  Did I even have the ability to do that?!?!?!  And was that even the right thing to do?  Ricky was always resourceful enough to buy his beer.  I imagined he got a monthly check from some source or another.  And I had seen him flying his flag on street corners a few times.  So, I determined to go in 50/50 with him.  That seemed like the best option. 

Track of Intention #1 was clear for departure…

So I picked him up at the appointed place and we made some smalltalk before I started in on some questions.  “So, Ricky, do you get a check every month?  I am a little worried about the price of this ticket.  You mentioned a roundtrip could cost $163 or so?  I don’t know if I can swing that.”  He explained that he didn’t have a monthly check.  No social security (He is only 30, but looks 45), and no disability. 

“My dad said that he would give me some money when I came up there to see him if I could just get there (to his aunt’s place…his mother had died).  So I could probably pay you back in a few weeks.” 

I replied, “Well, we might need to do that.  Maybe part of it anyway…”

Then Ricky started to describe more of his financial plight.  “I was trying to get on disability, but the people at the jail wouldn’t even prescribe medicine for me cuz they don’t think I’ve got anything wrong with me… other than the drinking.  But just look at me.  Do I look well?!?  Happy?  Good?  I am sad every single day.  I sure feel disabled.”

I told him that I could relate to the “cycle of abuse” that he was in the middle of.  Most people could at some level.  The “high’s” are great, but the “low’s” are much longer and completely draining, and we think the only way to get out of the low is to get high again…which just starts the cycle over again. 

The context also provided me an opportunity to speak about Jesus and his love being the only thing to rescue me from bad patterns and self-destructive thinking. 

“Rick, if all I ever listened to was the voices of people and the devil playing over and over in my head, I would be WAAAAAYYYYY worse off than you.  But I just learned to listen to the voice of Jesus that I read in the Bible and it changed everything.” 

I guess that’s when Jesus saw the perfect opportunity to continue speaking His voice.  As clear as day it rung out, though I know Ricky didn’t hear a peep.  “Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.” (Luke 6:30).  Wouldn’t you just know that I had preached a similar scripture on church that very last Sunday?  Luke 14 when Jesus talks to the Pharisees about taking the lowest seats at the banquet and inviting the poor, lame, and beggars…people who cannot repay.

The track I traveling on was getting diverted by The Great Conductor.

“Oh, and by the way Ricky, don’t worry about the money.  I am just glad you are going to get to see your Pop.”

We arrived at the train station and ended up getting a significantly discounted ticket at the train station.  Ain’t God Great?

We climbed back into the car for the ride home and Ricky noticed a song playing that he wanted to hear louder.  It was “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. 

“I want to hear that song.  Will you turn it up?” 

I did so and we ended up humming and tapping along to it.  As the song came to a close, Ricky looked at me with a tear in his eye and said, “I know I am going to see Jesus come down and I am going to be with Him in Heaven.  I just know it.”

“I know you are too, Ricky, I know you are too.”