A Moment of Clarity

alcohol-428392_960_720 It was a Wednesday night and Joey normally worked third shift but one of his favorite bands was playing in town and he could go if he didn’t have to work, so he asked permission to come in late. Joey’s boss was all too happy to oblige him, so the arrangements were made. He still had to work, mind you, but he could go to the concert and show up late and all would be well. It was going to be a great night!

By this time in his life Joey’s persistent alcohol abuse had driven away most of his friends, so he really had no one to go with. No matter, he’d go alone and was bound to find someone there he could hang with. Music always has a way of bringing people together, even strangers, if only for the night. And Joey was adept at hanging in bars with live music, looking like he belonged. One might even say he had a sort of charisma in such environments. Conversing with strangers at music events had pretty much become his entire social life.

But Joey still had to show up for work afterward, so he really couldn’t drink, and that was a bit of a problem. With a modicum of genuine concern about his alcohol consumption, but mostly to save a failing relationship, he had first tried AA a year earlier, but he didn’t really think he had a problem so the attempt was short-lived. In recent months, Joey was perhaps more convinced he might have a problem, but tonight could be his chance to show that he could stay in control. However you sliced it, though, Joey’s predicament came down to the fact that a concert was hardly any fun without some kind of buzz on but he couldn’t very well show up to work drunk.

Now those of you who have had any kind of chemical dependency problem will immediately understand the plan Joey formed to deal with the dilemma he found himself in. To the rest of you, it may just seem ludicrous. To Joey, it was pure genius! If he acted fast enough, it couldn’t fail. So he proceeded to chug down four beers in rapid fashion and then drove rather quickly to his concert destination before the full force of those four beers could take effect. And just like that he had a buzz on, was at the concert venue without having received another DUI, and he was ready for the show. All he had to do was drink plain Coke the rest of the night and he’d be sober when he got to work. No problem!

Then, standing there waiting for the band to start, the thought occurred to Joey that just one more drink wouldn’t hurt. So he ordered one. And as he drank it he struck up a conversation with a couple he was standing near. With a certain, easy fluidity, Joey began to share his knowledge of the band, the familiar songs, the shared memories of concerts past. His new found friends were just as big of fans as Joey was. Some jokes were told; some laughs were had. Some weed was smoked. Wait….what? Joey hadn’t planned for that possibility. He had long ago given up the stuff, but for some reason when that joint was offered to him this night, he took it without thinking and enjoyed a long, satisfying toke. And then another.

And one more drink. And the band started, some high-fives were exchanged, and Joey bought a round for his new friends, and another joint came by, and another round of drinks.

Things got a little fuzzy from there; Joey was very drunk and slipping into a black out. One from which he would not emerge until sometime later, when he was exiting his car in the parking lot at work. What exactly happened during the time span from the band’s first encore to the very moment Joey was standing in the parking lot at work will forever remain a mystery; the byproduct of an indulgent night of heavy, mood-altering consumption. But right at that very instant, still in a drunken stupor, something happened. Joey had a thought, a premonition perhaps, or maybe a revelation. In AA they call it a moment of clarity. And Joey just had one.

He was at work, drunk. His boss was going to be angry. He really didn’t have any friends left. He hurt inside; loneliness and isolation had become the feelings that dominated his daily life. He couldn’t go on like this. There had to be something better. Something more. And at that juncture, Joey was suddenly sure life would get better if he stopped drinking. And he was all at once willing to go to any lengths to make that happen.

In the volume, Alcoholics Anonymous, we read the text, “We learned we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery.” And this is exactly what Joey realized. And what he did. The following day, after sleeping off his latest drunken debacle and resultant pathos, Joey attended an AA meeting. That was Friday, June 7, 1991. And, praise God, he hasn’t taken a drink since.

No addiction is too big for God to fix, and no person has sunk so low that God cannot save them. The authors of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote: “What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God.” Indeed, I am confident that you will find, like Joey did, if you seek God, that He is more than able to deliver you. But you are likely to also need the help of your fellow man. In most cities, there are recovery meetings available through your local church. So if you are in a church, check with them.

Other resources are also available. Here are links to some of them. I encourage you to take the bold step, like Joey did, of reaching out to one or more of these. I am confident you will find the help you need:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Celebrate Recovery

Adult & Teen Challenge

And for those who may love someone suffering from addiction: Al Anon is almost certainly available in your area.

May God bless you and keep you. As always, if we may be of further service, please do not hesitate to drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Sunday’s Coming!

jesus-1201168_960_720 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.  (Matthew 27:65-28:15 NIV)

There are a couple of aspects of the Easter story that warrant deeper examination. Starting with verse 27:65, let’s understand that the Jewish leaders understood perfectly well that Jesus had predicted he would rise from the dead on the third day. They didn’t believe he would really rise, but they understood this was what he said and they feared a conspiracy that would incite the people even further. If you missed our blog on conspiracy theories concerning Jesus rising from the dead, you can review it by clicking here.

The Sanhedrin was so concerned that they sought relief from Pontius Pilate. Pilate thus orders Roman guards to seal the tomb and to guard it closely. Now one simply has to ask, what kind of stone sealed Jesus’s tomb? Was it the ultra-rare (for the time period) disk-shaped stone or the more common cork, or square-shaped, stone? We do not know for sure, but since the tomb Jesus was buried in was borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, a common man, it is most likely the stone was of the square variety. You can read more about this in an article published by the Biblical Archeological Society; click here.

Now either way, round stone or square, it would have been a very heavy object and thus quite difficult to move, but since it was likely the square variety, all that much more difficult, requiring several men. But before they could even think about the tools and effort required to move the stone, they would have been confronted by the Roman seal. The seal was a sign of authentication that the tomb was occupied and the power and authority of Rome stood behind the seal. Anyone found breaking the Roman seal would suffer the punishment of a very unpleasant death, quite probably upon the cross just as Jesus had died. And we can imagine that those who may have wished to steal Jesus’ body would have just observed for themselves the agonizing way in which he was killed. It is reasonable to hypothesize that this would certainly have acted as aversion therapy for any would-be grave robbers.

And then there were the Roman guards. The Roman “guard” was typically a sixteen man unit that followed very strict rules. The guard members could not sit down or lean against anything while they were on duty. If a guard member fell asleep, he was beaten and burned, but he was not the only one executed, the entire sixteen man guard unit was executed if only one of the members fell asleep while on duty. Applying some rational logic, it is easy to conclude two things: 1) it would likely take more manpower to overcome a Roman guard than even to move the square stone. A battle like that would not have gone unnoticed and would have resulted in casualties and loss of life, none of which are reported. 2) This elite and well-trained military unit would not have simply fallen asleep as such a dereliction of duty carried far too great of consequence.

So it is quite easy to see that both logic and reason compel us to the conclusion that something miraculous occurred, just as the Bible describes. People today do not seem to like to consider the possibility of the supernatural when it comes to Christianity, though they might watch ghost stories on TV in deep consideration of the possible reality they represent. Yet here we are, with every known detail begging the conclusion that Easter Sunday represents exactly what the Bible proposes. That an angel of the Lord came down, rolled the stone away while simultaneously striking terror into the otherwise fearless Roman guard, and then delivered to the disciples and the two women named Mary a message about where to find the resurrected Jesus.

So with Easter time upon us, shouldn’t this be the year you admit your wrongs and confess your faith in the resurrected Savior, if you haven’t already done so? And if you have, I hope these words provide yet another reason to pursue your faith with renewed vigor and purpose, for the mission field is vast, and the workers are few. But Jesus has promised to be with us until the end of the age, and He has commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. It is certainly our privilege and honor to do so.

May you have a blessed Easter season, secure in the hope and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Risen Savior!

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From Herdsman to Hero!

fresco-918324_960_720  As an Irish-American, St. Patrick’s Day has always held a special place in my heart. But just why do we celebrate? Who was St. Patrick and why was he so important? Patrick was a sheep herder who became a Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. The exact dates of his life are not precisely known, but in general it is believed that his ministry was primarily during the second half of the 5th century and that the day we celebrate, March 17th, is believed to be the day of his death and subsequent entrance into heaven.

Surprising to many is the fact that St. Patrick was not Irish. He was British; Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens living in England. By the time of Patrick’s birth, most Romans were Christians and Christianity was spreading rapidly across Europe. At age 16, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and taken back to Ireland as a slave where he spent several years herding sheep and learning about the Irish people. Around age 22 he managed to escape and fled back to England.

Patrick wrote in “The Confession of Patrick” that the time he spent as a slave was crucial to his spiritual development and that The Lord had “mercy on his youth and ignorance”. As he spent his days herding sheep he spent much time in prayer leading to his eventual personal repentance and faith in Jesus. Once back in England, Patrick joined a monastery and spent about 12 years learning more about God and, thus, grew closer to his Creator.

Patrick recounted in “Confession” that he later had a vision of a man named Victoricus that came from Ireland carrying “many letters”. To Patrick he gave one with the heading “The Voice of the Irish” and from this vision Patrick was inspired to return to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick’s position as a foreigner in Ireland was not always an easy one; his refusal to accept gifts from kings placed him outside the normal ties of kinship and affinity. Legally he was without protection, and he claimed that he was once beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains. As with many missionaries, the Gospel message is not always warmly received.

Several legends have become common to St. Patrick including the legend that Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. There is, of course, no real evidence to support this, and it is more probable that it is allegorical for driving out the pagan beliefs. Of course, especially here in America, the color associated with Ireland and St. Patrick is green, but Patrick’s color was originally blue. In several ancient artworks depicting the saint, he is shown wearing blue vestments and King Henry VIII used the Irish harp in gold on a blue flag to represent the country. Green was associated with the country at a later time, possibly because of the greenness of the countryside, made so by the plentiful rainfall. Today, Ireland is often referred to as the “Emerald Isle”.

And then there is the prototypical symbol of St. Patrick’s Day, the shamrock. While many would claim the shamrock stands for faith, hope, and love; legend has it that Patrick used the shamrock to help people understand the triune nature of God. This makes sense as the leaf’s typical three lobes can easily demonstrate how three things, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can be separate entities yet be one and the same. It does seem quite apparent that however Patrick shared the Gospel message, he met opposition and he faced plenty of challenges. That he overcame the trials and difficulties to convert the Irish people is a testament to his conviction that the Gospel was worth any price he might have paid.

holy-trinity-shamrock

The Gospel message has driven many a person to endure whatever hardships, trials, and persecution came along. Compelled by the certainty that the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is absolutely true and, therefore, the single most important fact of all humanity, Christians throughout history have endured all things to advance the salvation message. Saint Patrick was one of these great missionaries, and he spent much of his adult life bringing the message of God’s mercy and grace to the people of Ireland and that is what we celebrate on March 17th.

St. Patrick’s Day is also the perfect time of the year for all of us to contemplate the certainty that Jesus Christ is real, a part of the Holy Trinity of God, that he was born of a virgin into human form, lived among us for approximately 33 years, was crucified for our sins, and rose again to defeat death once and for all. That all who call on his name will be saved (Romans 10:13). This truly is the greatest fact of all humanity. Have you made the decision to repent and place your faith in Christ? Why not do so today?

Many blessings to you all as we celebrate the blessed life of St. Patrick. Éirinn go Brách!

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It Was an Ordinary Day Until This Happened…

portrait-915230_960_720 Seth  My name is Seth, and I’m not sure how long I’ve been here. It seems like just a few minutes, but then I have replayed the accident in my head for maybe the millionth time now. I didn’t know I would die that day, it happened so fast. I was just driving along and then I was here. I always assumed the seconds before a horrible car accident would be terrifying, but it happened so fast I honestly never saw it coming. I don’t know what happened to the other driver, but I don’t see anyone else here, at least not nearby.

But am I really dead? It’s so dark here, and there’s no one with me. I mean I can see others, off in the distance, but I can’t reach them. They’re over there, I can see them, or sense them, but I don’t know where they are and I have walked for what seems like miles but I never get any closer. I yelled out a few times, but no one heard me. I didn’t hear me. That’s so strange, I knew I was yelling – as loudly as I can – but even I didn’t hear me. That doesn’t make sense.

What is this place? I definitely feel like I am somewhere, there’s a tangible quality to it, maybe like a small room, yet as far as I walk I do not run into any walls. So it’s expansive, but it feels very small. Almost like it’s closing in on me. Like I am suffocating here; the walls closing in around me…if there were walls…but I can’t find any. And it’s dark. So very dark. And warm. Not hot, just warm. Too warm. Like a sauna maybe, where after a while you feel like you can’t breathe even though you are breathing. But you can’t get enough air and you just want to get out, but the door is locked. Except I can’t even find a door.

So I’m sure I am dead. I always thought when I died there would be a bright light, and Jesus or God or a higher power or maybe Buddha or an angel or someone to lead me to eternal happiness. After all, that’s what I saw on TV or read in a book. And I was a darned good person. I mean, I wasn’t one of those churchy guys, you know the type, always reading their Bibles and pretending to be better than everyone else. No, that wasn’t me, church is for weak-minded people. I rose above that. And I gave money to charity…well, not as much as I reported to the IRS, but everyone exaggerates a little when it comes to the government…and I helped people when I could. I was a pretty good husband, and not a bad father, either.

I have kids. Two beautiful kids. Oh do I miss my kids. I wish I could just reach out and hold them right now. I’ve only been here a few minutes, I think, but it seems like an eternity since I’ve held them or played with them. Wait…I can see them. I’m sure of it. Yes, there they are, right over there.

“Here I am, here I am. Kids, Daddy’s right here!”

Why don’t they hear me?

“Kids, kids, I’m right here!”

I run and run and run towards them but they don’t hear me and I don’t get any closer. I’m trying so hard but I just can’t reach them. I just want to hold them, just want to see their smiles. I bet they’d be so happy to see their dad again. Why are they so far away?

I’m so lonely. So alone. In the dark. And it’s too warm. How long have I been here? It seems like forever but maybe it’s only been a few minutes. But it has to be longer than that. I’ve lost any sense of time now. I just feel alone. I am a social person; I love being around people. That’s why I went into sales. That’s why I built such a social network around me. I just never had to worry about finding something to do. My wife was so good about staying home with the kids while I went out with my friends. She understood my social nature and tolerated it so well. Except the time she found out I kissed that girl from accounting under the mistletoe at the company Christmas party. I mean, nothing more happened, it was just a friendly kiss, but she sure was mad. But eventually she forgave me. And why not? I’m a good man. But why am I sitting here in the dark, where it’s too warm, all by myself, feeling so lonely? Solitary confinement, I can’t imagine anything worse.

That’s it, I’m going to get out of here. There, that way, I see a light. I’ll walk to it. But I have been walking, for hours I think, or maybe days, weeks, or months. I’m just not sure. I hurt inside. It’s not a physical pain, I just hurt. Way deep down inside. When I was five years old, I got trapped in a dark room by myself when the door locked and my parents couldn’t find the key. I cried and screamed and panicked, it was dark and I was alone and I just wanted my mom and I couldn’t get to her. It took them 3 or 4 minutes to find the key and rescue me. This feels like that, only worse. Much worse. And more intense. I long for something, or someone, or someplace, but I am not sure what it is I long for. There’s just this intense, unending longing. And it hurts. It hurts so much. And I’m crying.

“Mommy! Mommy! I want my mommy!”

My mom. She was one of those churchy people. I hated her for that. Always preaching the Bible at me. Guess what, Mom? You weren’t perfect. If you were, maybe Dad wouldn’t have left us, you know. She always made me get dressed up for church. I really hated going and she knew it. But she made me go anyway, she didn’t want me to turn out like my father, she would say. She made me sit still while the preacher talked about stuff I didn’t understand. Why are you making me sit through this, Mom? Maybe she deserved the cancer that took her life for making me sit there. Oh…I guess I shouldn’t think that way. But who cares now.

More pain.

I’m still walking towards that light. It’s so far away. And this pain inside. It surges, throbs, stabs and tears at me as I pine for someone, anyone, something to end this heartache. I feel friendless. Alone. So alone. What is missing? What is it I keep yearning for? It’s got to be there, over there, in that light. I’m close enough now, I can see. Yes, I can see. There are people in that light. Who is that?

Mom! It’s my mom! And see how happy she is!

“Mom! Mom! It’s me! I’m over here. Mom!”

Who is that with her? That man in the robe. Such a bright white robe. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s whiter than the clouds, brighter than the sun. They look so happy together. So pure. So joyous. And I can see them. I’m trying to join them, running as fast as I can, but I just can’t get there. There’s something between us, I don’t know what, but I can’t get to them. And then they’re gone.

And I’m alone again. And it’s dark. And it’s too warm. And there’s this pain.

My name is Seth, and I’m not sure how long I’ve been here…

hell-950686_960_720   Hell is a real place. And some people will end up there when they die. The Bible says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there (Matthew 25:30). So don’t end up like Seth. In that dark abyss known as hell. There is but one way to be certain you won’t be going there. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) and “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10). Won’t you confess your wrongs and ask God to help you today?

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