The Most Important Moment

As a pastor I have become very familiar with the last few moments of a person’s life.   For most people desperation never hits as hard as it does during those final moments of existence.   Suddenly the individual is faced with the purpose of life, what their life was all about and how it was handled.   They find themselves faced with those moments when the “why” of life is being answered in full.  There is no more waiting, no more procrastination, no more “I’ll think about it later,” its decision time!   And the gavel strikes downward and its blow is the final sound heard in this life.  

Unfortunately, I see too many families that are blind-sighted by the death of a loved one.  They never expected death to find its way into their lives so soon, surely not today!   They find themselves overwhelmed as there has been no real preparation by either the deceased or the family for this sudden event.   The individual is just gone … and at that, suddenly!   And the phrase “it’s not about you” has never had such deep meaning!

In those final moments and the days following I have seen many families take comfort in the memories of what the deceased accomplished and how their life was lived.   I hear statements like “what a great dad they were” or “they lived a good life.”   But in reality, when you consider their life from a Godly perspective it’s too late for the one that lived a life outside of a relationship with God.  

Why is it that we have such a hard time facing the reality of death?

Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

How true it is even today!   Jesus rose from the dead and still most do not believe.   These greatest of all events are something I can’t control or quantify, and it is especially beyond my level of comprehension and understanding.   For most people their lives are all about themselves, believing that at the end they will be due Heaven because of their self-evaluated well-lived “good” life.   Unfortunately, most people are only shooting for “good enough” and not the “holy” that God calls us to seek.

This story represents the issue of serving oneself through life with no thought whatsoever regarding God.   In the world today, we are assured that to live the good life we simply need to amass as many treasures as we can.   It’s the “Burger King” way of life … “have it your way!”   But God’s Word and the example of Jesus clearly show us that life is not about us but instead is all about loving God, being in relationship with Him and serving Him by serving others in His name.   The cool part is that we find unbelievable contentment and purpose in that relationship with God, not so much in serving ourselves.   So, the challenge for us is to establish a life of grateful service and not an attitude of serving so that God will owe us a Heavenly eternity.   Let’s be clear, He will never owe you anything!   It’s not about you!

NOTE TO SELF: Do life His way … it’ll be worth it!

Lazy Bones

Alan is a middle-aged man who lives in a depressed area of Michigan.   Alan has had all of the opportunities that are available in the area as well as the support of a loving hard-working family.   Many of his family members have also offered Alan opportunities over the years to work.   Most of them are farmers and while farm work is hard the opportunities to work and excel have always been there.   Over the years the family has offered to help Alan find work, work for them and move into a productive life, but it has had little impact on him.  

Alan’s family is a very close-knit family that deeply cares for each other.   In that care there has been little that they have not done for those in need especially family members.   Alan has had all of the opportunities necessary to live a meaningful and productive life, but “Alan is Alan” as his mother once told me.

Alan has an attitude of “taking!”   In his mind it is easier and more rewarding to “get something for nothing” than it is to set your sights on a goal, work hard for it and then earn it.   “Heck no, why work?”  

Alan has also jumped on the bandwagon of disability.   Now before I start a riot I want to make one thing clear.   If a person is truly disabled and unable emotionally or physically to provide for themselves it is the responsibility of society, especially Christians, to provide for them as needed.   Our goal should also be to provide for them with exceptional generosity and love.   Helping the helpless is one of the most “God-honoring” things we can do as Christians!  

But Alan is lazy.   Over the years I have come to know this young man as one who does not have any physical or emotional limitations.   He is strong and has always been in good health but he chooses to not exert himself.   In this small town you can usually find Alan at most of the local church free community dinners, and the free clothing store where he takes great pride in finding “like-new” clothing.   Alan is quite bold in his “taking” attitude, and going to the emergency room whenever he has the slightest ailment is not a problem, all without ever opening his wallet.   Hmmm, I’m not sure he even has one!?

The Bible tells us that the man who refuses to work should not eat.  

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

When we refuse to use the health, strength and opportunities God has given to us in order to provide for ourselves it is dishonoring of God.   If I am able to use the abilities that God has bestowed on me and yet refuse to, I am essentially dishonoring the gift that God has given me.   As beings created in the image of God we are to have a heart of giving not taking.   We are to do our best as a way of honoring our Creator and establishing ourselves.

In the movie The Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow meets with his first mate to assemble a crew.   At the end of their conversation they repeat the pirate’s code: “Take everything you can!   Give nothing back!”   Such is the attitude that has crept into Alan’s heart.   He finds no reason to give, only take and he refuses the idea of hard work and self-provision.  

As a “taker” from life Alan has chosen to walk away from any sense of responsibility.   In some ways he has become a product of his environment.   Now don’t get me wrong, Alan is not without the majority of fault, but he has certainly been influenced by the culture surrounding him.   This small town has suffered so much over the past several years.   Business’ have vacated the area while drugs and laziness have filled the voids.   Statically most of the residents of the area are either retired from a business that use to be there or they are struggling farmers who can’t compete with the larger farms nationwide.   In this situation neither the retirees nor farmers can financially afford to relocate, they are stuck!

At times I see “takers” as “leeches!”   These people live off the hard work of others.   They spend more time looking for ways to be supported by the government and other social agencies than they do for legitimate opportunities to care for themselves and others.   The idea of being a responsible child of God is far from the realm of consideration.   Unfortunately, drug use has flourished among this group of individuals.   It has become an escape from reality.   It has become commonplace.   It has become blatant!

Alan lives in a trailer park known for drug trafficking and transient people.  Many who live in the trailers are just passing through town, just trying to get away from something or someone.   Alan finds himself in the middle of this culture and goes from trailer to open trailer depending on the night, available food and drugs.

It is not hopeless!   Alan could leave this environment but he chooses not to.   Many times, it’s easier to “take all you can and give nothing back!”   For Allan, it is all about him!   But the good news is that God never gives up, and neither should we!   God will never give up on any individual, always trying to “wake them up” to a life of love, responsibility, servanthood and relationship with Him.   Even when “It’s all about me” God still reigns.

NOTE TO SELF: Love others, but don’t enable them

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith

We, and not I

In the Book of Luke we read these words…

Luke 22:24 “The apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest. 25 So Jesus told them: Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends. 26 But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant. 27 Who do people think is the greatest, a person who is served or one who serves? Isn’t it the one who is served? But I have been with you as a servant.”

I want to get a glimpse of what is happening here.   Jesus had been with the disciples for over three years.   They had witnessed His many miracles, heard His teachings and been privy to many of the intimate unknown messages He delivered and modeled.   Jesus was with the disciples in the upper room celebrating the Jewish Passover, but He was instituting the first Holy Communion.   He took the bread, broke it, gave His Father thanks and explained to those gathered around Him that His body would soon be broken just like a loaf of bread is broken in half to eat.   It was a powerful metaphor but it left the disciples with the familiar “deer in the headlights” look on their faces.   Then Jesus took the cup, gave God thanks and praise and told the disciples that the cup represented His blood.   His blood was going to pool on the ground under the cross for the sins of humankind.   Through His sacrifice He was going to establish a new and everlasting covenant between humankind and God. But the disciples were clueless!   They didn’t get it!   I’m not so sure I would have either.   How about you?

Instead of putting two and two together they were only focused on themselves.   It was all about them!   In this Scripture, Jesus is talking about saving the world and they’re fighting over who would be the greatest!   Have you ever heard the phrase, “a box of rocks?”   Jesus knew that it was time for extreme measures.   All of the on the job training they had had over the past three years was getting ready to disappear into oblivion.   It was still all about them!   Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and as He knelt down to wash the disciple’s feet. I can’t help but wonder what was going through their minds.   I can only image the silence that must have taken over the room.   “What in the world is He doing?”   “He’s not supposed to do that!”   “That job is for the servant of the homeowner to do!”   “Jesus is our King … not our maid!”

Jesus continued that night to individually go to each disciple, humble Himself and wash their feet as the master’s servant would normally do.   Jesus had just shared a meal with them, but now He was on His knees washing their feet.   As He continued going from one to another, He finally came to the stubborn one, Peter.   “You’ll not wash my feet Jesus!”   “You’re the King!”   I wonder if Peter actually thought that Jesus had momentarily forgotten who He was?   Ridiculous!   But then Jesus stuns Peter with a rebuttal that should send shivers down our spines.   “Unless you allow Me to wash your feet, you will have nothing to do with Me!”   Could it really be that Jesus was serious?   What Jesus was essentially saying to Peter and to us is that unless we allow God in human form to serve us, we can never be forgiven and be in an eternal relationship with Him.   God has to serve Humankind in order to accomplish His will.   Think about it!

As a believer in Jesus, I have to allow God the opportunity to do His work. And God chooses to work as a servant in many cases.   In this scenario, one had to accept that “It was not about you” in order to comply with Jesus’ request to serve in love.   You had to give it up, to let loose, to throw away, to trample upon our own sense of pride, arrogance and self-worth as the King of Kings knelt down before the disciples to wash their feet.   Humility and Lordship mixed perfectly!

NOTE TO SELF: Let Him work, I can’t do it myself

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith

Expect Opposition

As a Christian you will always find opposition just as Jesus did.   There will always be those that chose not to believe in the Scriptures and how they represent God and His character.   Even in the church today we find this.   Currently the United Methodist Church is struggling and striving over various issues of lifestyle.   Questions surface in this debate like; “Isn’t God a loving God?” “Would God really exclude someone from a loving relationship with Himself?” “If so, is God’s word still relevant in the culture today?”

TRUST seems to be the heart of the issue.   Do we really take God at face value and trust in Him or not?   Do we really believe that He can dictate His Word for humankind and deliver it to us in the Holy Scriptures?   Do we believe that His Word is timeless and still applies to life today?   If we really trust Him how can we deny what His Word declares?   Does not trust in God mean trusting in something that we do not comprehend or necessarily agree with?   In the Garden of Gethsemane didn’t Jesus say “Not what I will … but what You will?”   How about us?

Realize this: opposition will come from good hearted well-meaning people that firmly believe in what they are upholding.   For the most part they are not evil or trying to undermine God’s Word, but are people that have been misled, just like in the garden of Eden when Satan asked; “did God really say not to eat from that tree?”   Hence, the introduction of doubt!   Is it possible that many of the disputes in the church today and in our personal lives are simply based on a lack of faith and trust?

You see, trust in God does not come by way of complete understanding, He is incomprehensible.   His ways are much higher than ours.   Trust only comes when we are willing to accept what He says to us and to let it settle in our hearts as in the heart of a trusting little child.   Jesus asked the father to forgive those that were persecuting Him because they didn’t know what they were doing … so what’s changed… nothing that I see …

NOTE TO SELF: I’m as guilty as those that persecuted Jesus, trust in what God has said, not on my own understanding … even when I don’t like what He said …

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith

A Story of Grace

I was attending a large contemporary church in Grand Rapids Michigan.   At the time I was also heavily involved in a Prison Ministry.   Every month, volunteers would meet at my house for a pizza party and stuff over 1,000 envelopes with Christian materials that were being mailed throughout the country.   This was tedious work, and after several years the number of volunteers started to dwindle.   So I told the staff at the church that I was looking for more volunteers.

One Sunday after the worship service a very disheveled lady approached me as I was pouring myself a cup of coffee.   “I would like to volunteer.”   “Excuse me” I said, “What do you want to do?”   “I want to help with your prison ministry, you know, mailing your letters!”   Grace was a middle aged woman with some staggering physical issues.   She was extremely overweight and her clothes looked like she had drooled all over the front of them and then slept in them.   Grace appeared to have a great deal of emotional baggage also and frankly, I wasn’t sure I could trust her to do what needed to be done.   The blouse she was wearing had food stains all down the front of it and her shoes were worn out and muddy.   But there was more, Grace had problems speaking.   She would stutter and stumble over her thoughts and at times seemed to be unaware of all that was going on around her.

I explained to Grace that each month there were almost a thousand envelopes that needed to be stuffed and over five thousand sheets of paper that needed to be folded.   A daunting task!   “OK,” she said.   At this point my chin was dragging on the floor picking up crumbs from the table next to me!   Was this really God’s answer to my prayers for help?

I decided that I would box up all of the materials for the next mailing and take them to her house and just see what happened.   This is ridiculous I thought!   She looks like she can hardly take care of herself much less stuff all these envelops and keep it all straight!   But…. whatever!

The following week I had a hard time finding the address that she had given me.   When I finally found the address I thought I must be on the wrong planet!   The house at that street address looked like it was condemned!   As I made my way through the debris splattered yard I felt a sense of shame.   My house was very nice, but this one was a mess!   Could this really be where she lives?   As the door opened there was Grace.   This time she had on a different dress but it still had the tell-tale food stains flowing down the front of it.   Oh man, what am I getting myself into? I thought.   As I went through the door the reality of Grace’s world struck me.   It was a barren room, with a large TV blaring.   There was an unfriendly smell of stale food and mold, and the place looked like a hurricane had gone through it!   Was I going to leave my precious prison ministry materials with her?

But then I met the source of her dilemma, her children.   Grace was the mother of two severely autistic Children.   The television was their source of engagement with the world.   As the children would move around through the house they would always end up back at the TV.   When it came to meals, the stains were tell-tale signs of trying to get her severely handicapped children to eat.   As I made my way into her world, further and further I questioned if she would be the best choice with which to leave such responsibility.   I had to make a decision: is God the captain or not, was it about me or God?   Immediately the children were drawn to the new obstacles that were in their way.   Boxes of letters, envelopes and stamps.   What have I done!

Grace was a woman that faced daily challenges I rarely had ever considered.   And as her name implies, she did it with grace!   In her own way, Grace wanted to follow the calling that Christ had placed in her heart.   She was already caring for her family as best as she could, but she felt God calling her to help with the prison ministry.   It was a humbling experience that day to walk out of her house realizing what challenges I would face that week compared to hers.   And she still wanted to answer the call of God in her life!   In reality, God was her captain!

For many months Grace did a fantastic job!   The envelopes were stuffed and organized, placed in the mailing trays properly and always ready to go at the agreed upon time.   Grace was truly a measure of God’s grace in my life.   Wow, did I learn a lot about myself, God and others through that experience!

NOTE TO SELF: Stop judging others, let God do His thing!

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith

Stay Away from Mutany

In any walk of holiness and communion with God there is the inevitable reality of mutiny.   As I understand the story of Satan and one third of the angels being kicked out of heaven I see the human tendency towards mutiny against God.   Maybe its pride or selfishness but the problem is there.   I can go along for a while but eventually I want to call the shots and make my own decisions.   After all I have intelligence, wisdom and the ability to reason.   I am an intelligent person, with wisdom and can do for myself.


Ezekiel 28

11 The LORD’s word came to me:  12 Human one, sing a lament for the king of Tyre. Say to him, The LORD God proclaims: You were full of wisdom and beauty, the image of perfection.  13 You were in Eden, God’s garden.  You were covered with gold and every precious stone: carnelian, topaz, and moonstone; beryl, onyx, and jasper; lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald.  On the day that you were created, finely crafted pendants and engravings were prepared.  14 You, a winged creature, were installed as a guardian.  I placed you in God’s holy mountain where you walked among the stones of fire.  15 From the day you were created until injustice was found in you, your ways were assured.  16 But because of your trade, your oppressive business practices piled up, and you became impure.  So I expelled you from God’s mountain.  I removed you, winged creature, guardian, from among the stones of fire.  17 You exalted yourself because of your beauty and corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.  I will cast you down to the earth in the sight of kings, and I will make a spectacle of you.  18 Because of your corrupt trade, which surpassed your many other sins, you made your sanctuaries impure. Therefore, I will bring fire from your midst.  When it has consumed you, I will turn you into dust on the earth in the sight of all who see you.  19 Everyone among the peoples who knows you will be appalled because of you.  You will become a terror. From that time on, you will be nothing.


This scripture account is a difficult one to understand.   The story is about the fall of Satan from Heaven and God’s presence.   Satan had become filled with pride because of who he was and his beauty.   Basically, Satan was “full of himself!”   He had a “tie-tac” too!

It appears from the story that there is only room for one on the throne of Heaven.   In fact not just one but the Holy One!   This story illustrates for me that regardless of how special we are, God is the only One that is supreme.   Nothing is greater than He is, not even me!   So back to the question at hand; is God my captain or not?   AARRRGGG!

NOTE TO SELF: Dude … let God be God … you’re really not that impressive!

#joebeavan     #letstalk     #relevantfaith