Category Archives: Christianity

A Work in Progress

The Starbucks on Temecula Parkway was busy as usual. Five people stood in line ahead of me, waiting to place their orders. I looked around and saw the young pastor sitting at a table in the back of the room. He waved and I nodded at him.

I eventually received my coffee and walked toward the pastor. His thick, dark hair framed his long, thin face. He resembled an ordinary businessman in his crisply pressed khakis and blue button-down shirt, open at the collar. He stood and we shook hands.

“Dylan, thanks for coming,” he said.

“It’s my pleasure Pastor Rick.”

We sat down and I sipped coffee. He folded his hands in front of him on the table and looked as uncomfortable as I felt at that moment.

“An insider on the selection committee told me that you were the most influential person when it came to choosing me as the church’s new pastor. So −”

I interrupted his prepared speech.

“So, why did I walk out of your first sermon, right?”

He nodded and grinned. His eyes revealed relief that the elephant was out of the closet.

“Pastor Rick, it had nothing to do with you or your sermon. It was probably something I should have done years ago.”

“I don’t understand.”

I repeated the same story I told Jane about feeling the Lord wanted me to do something and how I’d ignored it for forty years until yesterday. The young pastor nodded from time to time as though he understood my dilemma, but I felt he struggled with my answer.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?” he asked, almost as a reflex when I finished.

“I don’t know. This is new territory for me.”

The young pastor sipped his coffee and remained quiet for a minute. I did the same, not wanting to interrupt his thoughts. The chatter from the nearby tables shielded our conversation.

“My dad and grandpa were pastors. Both taught that pastors don’t own the members of churches because they belong to the Good Shepherd. Their obedience must first of all be to Him, and not to any pastor. I agree with their teaching, but I am concerned about you,” he said.

“Oh really, why?”

“As an ordained pastor, my main job is to feed the sheep. So, where will you be fed and nourished each week?”

“I don’t know.”

“I assume Jane will be leaving with you, right? Where will she be fed and nourished?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Who will you fellowship with?”

I shrugged again and looked away from his piercing eyes.

“So, you walked out of church without a plan or a pastor in mind for you to be accountable to, right?”

I nodded.

“Do you really believe God would ask you to do something like this in the twilight years of your life?”

I set my cup down a little too hard. The coffee splashed out of it onto the table.

“Excuse me?”

He cleared his throat and sipped coffee while I wiped the spilt liquid up with a napkin.

“Shouldn’t you just enjoy your children and family for the remaining years of your life? After all, you’ve pretty much run your race. What can you really accomplish this late in the game?”

I stood up, put my hands on the table and leaned toward him.

“I don’t have any answers right now,” I proclaimed three levels louder than normal. The people sitting nearby stopped their activities and stared at us.

“As far as my legacy, I’m going out to make a new one because I’m not satisfied with mine. And mistakes?  Or my age? I couldn’t care less about either one right now. I just want to stay in the fight until I take my last breath.”

Spinning around, I walked out of Starbucks, not in anger or rebellion, but in freedom.

(Excerpt from my work in progress: Still in the Fight by Larry Nevenhoven, © 2020.)

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On This, My 75th Easter, I Stand Amazed

If someone would have told me thirty-six years ago, “Larry, I see that sometime in the future you will be totally dependent upon and wholeheartedly in love with Jesus”, I would have replied, “Fuggedaboutit! Jesus is for losers!”

Yet, the truth is that my reply would have been half right. You see, Jesus is for losers. The Apostle Paul explained it best when he wrote:

 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NLT)

This morning, these words floated across my mind: “I stand amazed in all of Your glory that You would die for me.” The phrase so grabbed my heart that I meditated on the words for almost an hour.

So, if you haven’t heard Dennis Jernigan sing “I Stand Amazed,” it’s a special song. You can listen to it here. And if you have time, listen to Dennis Jernigan’s testimony here because you will better understand the depths of his words – “I Stand Amazed.”

The lyrics to the song are worth reading:

I see the stars that you have made
I know You call them each by name
To think Father God who heaven displays
Is thinking of me in intimate ways
I stand amazed in all of your glory
That You would die for me I stand amazed
I stand amazed in all of Your glory
True love’s sweetest story I stand amazed
I see the nails piercing Your skin
My wicked heart driving them in
I see the spear piercing Your side
And I see the lamb for me crucified

 

Happy Easter to all of you. May you be blessed in all that you do.

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70,000 Deaths in Three Days!

God was angry with Israel in 970 BC. So, He allowed Satan to entice King David to take a census of the people in Israel.

Doesn’t a census sound harmless? But it wasn’t.

You see, Exodus 30:11-12 states that a census had to be ordered only by God because the Israelites were His people and not the property of any King. And if a census was taken, a ransom had to be given by each person to the Lord or a plague would hit the people of Israel.

When King David ordered the census to be taken, Joab, the commander of Israel’s armies, said to David, “But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this? Are they not all your servants? Why must you cause Israel to sin?”

King David ignored Joab’s advice and insisted on the census.

It took almost ten months to count the people.

And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”

The Lord sent the prophet Gad to King David to explain just how David’s iniquity could be removed. Gad gave David three options to choose from:

  1. Shall three years of famine fall on Israel?
  2. Shall you flee three months from your enemies?
  3. Or shall three days of a severe plague fall on Israel?

I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.” (2 Samuel 24:14 NLT)

The Lord sent a severe plague on the following morning. 70,000 men died in Israel over the time of the plague. More would have perished, but King David interceded for Israel by saying:

“I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? O Lord my God, let your anger fall against me and my family, but do not destroy your people.” (1 Chronicles 21:17 NLT)

King David’s prayer becomes more amazing when you consider that David was willing to give up every prophetic promise for himself and his family if that would stop the plague. His promises included a Son of David promise that would arrive on the scene almost three thousand years later.

God saw David’s heart and stopped the plague.

(Read the whole story in 2 Samuel 24 or 1 Chronicles 21.)

What does this have to do with the Coronavirus, right?

I believe the Lord is looking for believers who are willing to intercede in the same way King David did by standing in the gap for their cities, states and America right now.

For those who are willing, all we have to do is ask the Lord what He requires us to do in this sad hour. If we each do our part, I believe this pandemic will end sooner…rather than later.

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Remember: The Coronavirus is Only a Shaking Allowed by God to Wake us up. Thus it will end, but…

If you haven’t read my article – “Is the Coronavirus from God or Satan?” – maybe you should. It will help explain my reasoning on why the coronavirus should be thought of as  a shaking from God.

The prophet Jeremiah was struggling a little over twenty-six hundred years ago. The wicked King Jehoiakim was the ruler over Judah and hated Jeremiah and his prophecies. His friends and family in Anathoth, a small village just three miles from Jerusalem, dealt treacherously and ridiculed him behind his back.

Plus, God told Jeremiah not to get married, not to go to the Temple, not to attend any feasts and not to attend funerals. As a consequence, Jeremiah was cut off from everyone except God.

How did Jeremiah handle his predicament?

Why? …Why?…How long? (Jeremiah 12:1-4)

Jeremiah veiled his complaints and whining with a few pious asides, but God wasn’t fooled because He knew Jeremiah’s heart.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5 AMP)

In Larry’s simple words, God said, “Jeremiah, if you can’t handle this small stuff, how will you handle the bigger stuff when it soon hits the fan in Judah?”

A little later, the Lord added, “If you return wholeheartedly to Me and My ways and do not follow in the footsteps of your family, friends and countrymen, then I will deliver you.” (Jeremiah 15:19-21 in Larry’s simple words)

Jeremiah made up his mind to follow the Lord without hesitation and no matter what the costs were for him. He is still considered one of God’s greatest prophets.

Okay, what does this have to do with us today?

 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, and his companion was the Grave. These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals. (Revelation 6:7-8 NLT)

There will soon be a time when the Lord will hold up His hand and say, “Stop! That is enough!” The coronavirus will then end and our lives will return to whatever is considered normal at that time.

But the important point at that time will be — have we allowed this coronavirus shaking to remove our blind trust in government, politicians, medical science, our jobs/careers, finances, family, friends and ourselves so that we will only trust in the Lord?

You see, there is soon coming a time when one quarter of the earth, or approximately two billion people, will die. It won’t matter what governments do or propose at that moment, this prophecy will be fulfilled in the End-Times.

Let’s allow this coronavirus shaking and other shakings in the near future to prepare our hearts so we can teach our children, grandchildren and others to depend wholly on the Lord now!

 

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A Little Humor Helps

 

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If you read my testimony above, you will see an insurance agent named Bill mentioned. His full name is Bill Sheridan. He is a true man of God, but also a great writer. The following is an excerpt from his memoir, which I recommend to everyone. It’s a great read and only $2.99 on Amazon.

MIRACLE IN PEW 24

I begged my mom to let me stay home.

“I’m sick, Mom. I really, truly am!”

She didn’t believe me for a minute. And with good reason. After all, she pointed out, I had already been sick every school day during this 1955 Brooklyn Dodger-New York Yankee World Series, and had miraculously healed on travel days and weekends.

“You, young man, are going to Mass and then to school. Enough of this fooling around.”

When she said “young man,” I know my goose was cooked. Mom always saved that for when she meant there was nothing left to discuss.

Why couldn’t she cut me some slack? I was eleven years-old and the Dodgers had already broken my heart so many times before. The ’51 Giants game in the Polo Grounds. That stupid Bobby Thomsen. Those creepy Yankees year after year. And having to face George Timlin, my good friend but Yankee fan, every fall and argue that Mickey Mantle was just lucky and my Bums “was robbed” by bad calls.

This was their year and the Dodgers couldn’t blow it again. Didn’t she understand that I couldn’t miss Game Seven? I just knew that Johnny Podres could do it. I just knew it. We would finally win.

And I could swagger into Mt. Carmel Catholic Grade School in Lawler, Iowa, with my head held high.

But no. She wouldn’t believe me. It was this Irish-Catholic thing about not missing Mass. Even for the Dodgers. I can’t even remember why there was Mass on a school day. It might have been a First Friday.

The nuns taught us that if we made Mass on nine consecutive First Fridays we would have a priest by our side when we died. As a kid, I always had this picture in my mind of my mom being really proud as I lay dying at a car wreck, wearing clean underwear, with a Father O’Brien or Monsignor Murphy administering me the last rites.

Or it may have been a Holy Day.

I just knew that Campy might knock a ninth-inning winner out of the park and I didn’t want to miss it.

Mom was right, of course. I wasn’t sick. Not the upchucking kind of sick anyway. Just the kind of sick that comes from knowing that The Duke, PeeWee, ‘Oisk,’ Junior, and the boys were finally gonna win a Series. And I was going to be stuck in Sister Mary Bernard’s sixth-grade classroom all day conjugating verbs and learning about the martyrs.

If only Dad hadn’t died a few years before. He would have understood. He would have let me have the flu one more time. Then I could see Junior Gilliam and Sandy Amoros finally win the Big One. But not Mom. She was a GIRL. She didn’t get it. And neither did my three brothers or two sisters. Not one of them stuck up for me.

They said, “He’s faking it Ma, and he should go to Mass and school just like the rest of us.” They thought it was funny that Mom knew I wasn’t really sick. Sometimes I hated my siblings. This was one of those times.

My fate was sealed. But I didn’t have to like it. And I could still whine and pout. I could skip breakfast, still pretending that I couldn’t hold anything down. If my life was going to be miserable, I could at least try to make their lives miserable, too. So, I did. I went to Mass still pretending that I really was sick.

And it happened. A real-life miracle. I swear on a stack of bibles. A gift from God. Like Paul on the road to Damascus. Like Moses and the burning bush. Like David when he dropped The Big G.

We were all kneeling in Pew 24 of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. Pew 24 was halfway down the right side of the church from the back near the middle aisle. We paid something called pew rent to sit there.

I remember staring at the candles on the altar and everything getting blurry. And getting dizzy. And a strange sound. Father Delay’s back seemed to be swaying back and forth. I could hear a clunking noise and sensed commotion. Confusion.

Then, for a brief moment, total silence. Suddenly, I felt myself being carried out of church by Tom Cooney and Bob Emery. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had fainted! I had never fainted before and I’ve never fainted since. But on that day, when fainting is probably the only thing in the world that would have kept me home, I fainted!

Mom was in a tizzy. She was upset with herself for not believing me. I could vaguely hear her in my semi-conscious state. “He told me he was sick. He told me, but I didn’t believe him.”

It has now been 65 years and Mt. Carmel Catholic School has long since burned to the ground. Mt. Carmel Catholic Church has been torn down and replaced. And I still have no definitive assurance of why it all happened. Granted, I had not eaten breakfast and it was very warm in church. Perhaps that’s all there was to it.

But I have a better idea. Admittedly, it’s just a theory, but one that I like very much.

Could it be that God was a Brooklyn Dodger fan?

Being omniscient, He knew in advance that after the 1957 season they would be moving to Los Angeles and it would never be the same. And He knew that a little red-haired boy from Iowa could not bear to miss that game on television. So He let me gently collapse somewhere between the seat and the kneeler of Pew 24 in Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. In so doing, He gave me a glimpse of Heaven, a Dodger victory.

Later that afternoon I was in our living room watching our black and white Philco TV, cheering on my beloved Bums. I saw Sandy Amoros glide toward the left-field stands and make the most spectacular catch I’ve ever seen in my whole life, and then double Yankee Gil McDougal off first base to kill a rally! Johnny Podres went on to pitch a 2-0 shutout. Justice had been served on those Yankee Pinstripes; and I cried tears of joy.

My mom died a few years ago at age 87 and I’ve been thinking of her as yet another Major League season begins.

I’ll bet by now God has had time to clue her in about what really happened that morning. That she was right all along. I really wasn’t sick on that October day in 1955.

But He looked down and decided it was more important for me to finally see the Dodgers beat the Yankees than attend Sister Mary Bernard’s classes on what would turn out to be an unforgettable fall afternoon.

And maybe—just maybe—He’s arranged for Mom to meet Roy Campenella and Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo and Sandy Amoros and Walter Alston—and they’ve had a big laugh about it.

Just the thought of it makes me smile.

(Excerpt from Depot Street Memories…The Lawler Stories by Bill Sheridan)

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Why Waste a Crisis?

In an off-the-cuff statement, President Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, gave us an insiders’ view on what some politicians really believe. “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Sadly, some politicians seem to be following Emanuel’s advice to advance their political agendas during the COVID-19 crisis. Historians and fellow citizens will eventually be their judges.

But yet, from a Christian viewpoint, Emanuel’s words ring true.

I remember the former Iowa Director of the 700 Club’s Food Bank telling his salvation testimony. It happened while he was a U.S. Marine stationed at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, along with 400 others during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

During the thirteen-day standoff between Russia and the USA, Fidel Castro surrounded the Guantanamo base one morning with 10,000 Cuban troops and large artillery. Castro ordered the U.S. Marines to surrender, lower the America flag and leave the base by 4 p.m. or face annihilation.

The Marine Commander called his commanders in the states, asking what to do. The commanders stated, “We can’t get reinforcements to you in time, but American Marines never lower the American flag to its enemy. Don’t surrender. Keep fighting to the last man if need be.”

Every Marine knew this could be his last day alive because there was no chance to survive a battle against Castro’s superior forces and artillery. The hours and minutes flew by, but as it did, Marines – one by one – fell to their knees and surrendered their lives to the Lord.

The old Sarge laughed and made fun of the Marines who dropped to their knees. He called them all kinds of profane names, but at 3:55 p.m., old Sarge fell to his knees and surrendered his life to the Lord.

Every Marine at that Guantanamo base gave his life to the Lord that day. Every Marine!

The 4 p.m. deadline passed and Castro backed down from his threats.

The Kingdom of God always moves Jesus’ banner of hope and love forward against the kingdom of darkness during crises.

So, let’s not waste the COVID-19 crisis. Let’s use it “as an opportunity to do those things we couldn’t do before.”

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To Speak in Tongues or To Not Speak in Tongues? That is the Question. (Part 2)

 

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels… (1 Cor. 13:1)

Now, I wish that you all spoke in tongues… (1 Cor. 14: 5

I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all do. (1 Cor. 14: 18)

 I can hear the groans and the shouts. “Not tongues. Anything but that trivial twaddle. I ain’t doing it. No siree – no tongues for me. Never!”

Okay, relax. Take a deep, deep breath. Hold it for a minute or so. Now breathe out. Continue reading.

Let’s return to the same scenario as Part 2.

Your family is staying at the luxurious Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where Pretty Woman was filmed), just off Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Your wife and daughter are enjoying the shopping spree, and you are carrying enough plastic cards to pay for everything.

Then, three Mumbai-type terrorists enter the hotel lobby, AK-47’s blazing away and hand grenades exploding. Chaos and confusion reigns as dead bodies hit the floor.

Somehow, you grab your wife and daughter, and hide in a first floor cafe. As you crouch behind a table, you hear the sounds of people begging for their lives and the lives of their children. But then, bursts from the AK-47’s let you know that mercy is not a part of the terrorists’ makeup.

You hear their footsteps approaching the cafe. It will only be seconds before they enter the door. You look at your wife and daughter, tears are streaming down their faces. They don’t want to die. They want you to do something. Anything. Just do something.

Are you going to pray? If so, how?

Now remember, your mind will be a pile of mush. You will have thoughts about wishing you would have stayed home, or should have gone to Hawaii instead of California, or spending a nice sunny day anywhere but not where you are at that moment. Plus, fear, not wanting your family to die, and total confusion.

How will you quiet your mind to pray at that moment?

Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can not be uttered.

Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8: 27-28)

Remember: Radical Christians do not care what others think. They swim upstream against the religious current.

The above article was posted on November 19, 2014, as a part of a series on Islamic Terrorism vs. Radical Christians. I believe it still works for today’s fears, especially coronavirus.

 (Continued in Part 3)

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