Closer to Him

Teaching Bible lessons was to my father an art of combining understanding and the right approach, something he learned from car dealerships where he worked. When I say ‘used car salesman,’ the image that pops in your head is not a man behind a pulpit. My father fought that stigma constantly. I watched him stand up for how you could take on the ‘worst’ positions and show how they could be done with integrity and honesty. As a pastor, he took questions and individual interest the same way, with the personal intent to help anyone and everyone find the best fit. I watched first hand, from his sales office dealing with irate customers to the living room of our trailer dealing with disgruntled parishioners: my father cared. Several times I couldn’t understand why these people would be welcomed into our home, sharing in all we had. But to my father, this is what you did: he made people welcome and he showed them he cared. Without that, who would ever want to listen to anything he had to say?

My father studied two things religiously: sales trainings and the Bible. Smith Wigglesworth was one of the leading sales gurus of the time, and a household name for us. Tapes, books, you name it, my father had it. He used the same ideas with the Bible. He had multiple study Bibles, concordances, and sermons from every major name from Charles Spurgeon to John G. Lake. Educating myself on multiple sources and perspectives was not an option, it was a must. No one was going to listen to me if I didn’t know where both sides stood on the matter. I had to understand their argument better than they did and know my facts better than anyone who had ever questioned it. Because of this, my favorite church services were Q&A services, led by my father. My father would pray and study over these questions making sure he had the answers to handle them with wisdom. Watching him use his studies to help others find their answers was inspiring to say the least.

I did my best to pick up on his traits like that, everyday discussions laced with Christianity. We wanted to help people work through the tough moments in their lives without forcing them into uncomfortable and personal conversations. Many times it begins as listening to a friend, because they want to work their issues out. They come with questions and why’s about things; most of them harbor the frustration of not being heard, and the conversation starts when I can listen and genuinely try to take up their position. A conversation about an uncaring God becomes an opportunity to help someone see a different perspective, and my father taught me to keep an eye open for those exact moments. That is how I view this page, for having common conversations when we feel that God isn’t listening or that church doesn’t have the answers. When my father took us out of our home church, and we made the next big step in our path, I began having to find a lot of answers on my own. He hadn’t just stepped down as a Pastor in Etown, he was stepping down as a spiritual leader in my life as well.

I have found that among any faith, those considered the most devout often had the hardest path, doubting and questioning. That personal struggle solidifies their belief more than any pamphlet or prophet could do. When we find a way to work through this time of silence, of digging for answers and coming up empty handed, we learn to trust in Him in all things. We feel that personal relationship growing. I was taught that everyone had a unique relationship with God, each denomination wasn’t outright wrong so much as different. When I followed him into the next stage of our faith in God, the Message, the idea of a prophet seemed only rational to me. Prophets had always existed with God, and the pastor that took over spiritual leadership of my family was the next step to becoming closer to Him.


After missing a lesson last week, it has meant a lot to see so much positive reaction to the last post. All of you who take the time to comment and share these messages remind me why I sit down every week and plan this out. I wanted to help people come closer to God, to remember why we are here, why there are good Christian souls out there that protect each other, when we only really seem to see the harmful ones in the media and the churches we came out of. To come to the page and see the messages and likes has become a daily reminder that I may yet find God’s voice and be able share it with all of you in his love. I will never be the towering preacher my father was or the old-fashioned revival ministers my grand fathers were, but I teach here as a way to brighten the world in my own way, all of you who share and engage with the posts help that message reach farther out to those who may not go looking, who may not realize they need God’s people too. My goal to make this a place for those hurt by religion and seeking to find some peace with God, I am honored you’ve followed and decided to make this one of your online homes.

Ephesians 3:15

There was a sermon my father would use anytime he was taking a church’s pulpit for the first time; I’d heard it so many times I could have preached it with ease without picking up my Bible. Like myself, he had found his namesake in the Bible and took it as his calling. He would have them open their bibles to the story of David finding the army of God’s people were scattered behind any cover they could find. So many groups gathered behind boulders and blaming each other, no unity, no actual army to speak of other than uniforms. Their leader was nowhere to be seen. David would go from one group to another asking what was going on, getting the same answer. “Don’t draw attention to yourself. He’s out there, you know, waiting for a challenger. Back and forth he goes seeking someone to kill.” David would ask why they weren’t over with their fellow soldiers “Oh that’s the oneness camp, or the trinity group, we don’t agree with them on everything, so we found this shelter here.” Each group had similar stories, even Saul was terrified and hid. We all knew what the cause was; Goliath and his challenge: “Give me a man among you willing to fight me! If he can best me than we’ll all serve you, but if I best him you’ll all serve us! I defy the Army of Israel!” David’s blood began to boil. “Who is this uncircumcised philistine! Who does he think he is to defy the Armies of the living God? Why has no one of you answered this? I will stand against him rather than him go unchallenged.” David was not greeted by cheers. He was not applauded. His own elder brother shot him down. “I know the naughtiness of your heart! You’ve left the herds alone on the hills with our elderly father to be taken. You simply wanted to see the excitement of battle. How dare you when we have been out here longer and know how to handle these things.”

My father would pause here. He’d shuffle his notes and look around allowing the people to remain caught up in the story he’d drawn from scripture with a slight artistic license.We all knew the stories, but my father was masterful at making the characters of the Bible come to life. Whether it was Bible stories at bed time while I was growing up or the sermons that became embedded in my subconscious, my father had that simple yet powerful way of breaking a story apart so everyone listening could put themselves in it. He thought if he could make it real, on his level and theirs, that anyone could understand it. Everyone was paying attention when he would speak the next words. The next words out of David’s lips was not an alter call or a offering request. He gave his history, his testimony. He told him how God lit his candle. His personal experience with the one would defeat anyone no matter how big they are.

“Now, folks, I’ve been to a lot of churches. I’ve sat down and heard the reasons this church doesn’t talk to that church. Why those people don’t associate with those other people. All I can tell you is that the enemy is not sitting on the pew here next to you or in a pew of another church. The devil isn’t concerned which group you’re with as long as you stay behind that rock or bush. As long as you don’t know who your champion is, you’re no threat to him. I’m not coming in here with something you haven’t heard before, not some strange doctrine. I want to tell you one simple thing. I’m here as someone without the credentials some of these great ministers have. But I want to tell you why I can stand here with confidence. I have a personal testimony of how Jesus Christ has defeated the devil in my life at every instance where it seemed like I had no hope. I am a witness to the power of God moving among his people where as few as two or three are gathered. I am here tonight to encourage you to find that for yourself. Until you know when and where your candle got lit; the devil will be there to scatter you behind the rocks of man’s creeds and doctrines.” With one sermon my father could unite a church that had been struggling; people would focus on getting themselves to that experience and away from petty differences.

“Son, everything you need to make it to heaven is right here. From Genesis to Revelation, God has given you this as a road map. The people in this book were real, and they’re stories are there to show us just the tip of what God can do for us, if we’ll only yield to his Holy Spirit. Always study to show yourself approved.” I had owned a Precious Moments Bible from my grandmother, a Gideon Bible from Sunday School, etc. The real lessons began when my father handed me one of the first Bible’s to have my full name on it.

Dad was my entire concept of the the Heavenly Father. God was right there ready to teach and instruct, just as my father was. God could be stern but he was always fair, giving you understanding when you asked for it. My prayer life and such reflected that: polite and elegant when in public or heard by others, but very raw and one on one when I was alone, anger and all. Dad never shied from my anger. In the vein of serious issues, I was allowed to vent and scream and question and demand answers in those private moments. He was as straight with me as he knew how, and it got me through so much.
My father was a true guide for me as I grew in my faith, as an evangelizing pastor and my teacher in all things. Every correction, stern reprimand, they all had a connection to God’s Word, which heavily influenced our relationship. Many times this meant he blended the line of those two jobs and I lived with a preacher more than a dad. He always let me to ask why and figure out how things worked for myself. I constantly asked too many questions and never took “It just is” for an answer; my faith was no different. I rebuilt and fixed everything I could touch, and religion, being intangible as it is, was taken apart in questions. He always knew the scripture I was looking for or the reference I was trying to find. He knew all the stories from cover to cover and all the connections to every other scripture. Hours in the car on the way to preach at churches all over the eastern coast to just west of the Mississippi. I was his assistant, the only one allowed in his study during the hours of prayer and preparation, the one in charge of making sure things were just right for him. I saw his agony in prayer trying to find the message God wanted for his people, and how to say it without all the human in way.I was trying to see where he was going, where the inspiration was coming from, what it was saying, who needed that sermon. I was watching how God’s Word could be the changing force in people’s lives if you could preach it from the heart.

God’s Nature

Most of the people in Bible stories are perfect examples for us, because things always seem to work out for them, almost like a fairytale ending. Trying to translate that to our everyday struggles can be tough, unless we recognize that they were directed in their daily lives as we are. We have to remember that all of His people in the Bible were fallible humans like us, that it was always God working in their lives as he does in ours. Each of us must aspire to be like Christ, knowing that through all our certainty and faith and hard work, we will never be perfect. Aiming for perfection here on Earth can be a losing game. We are powerful because we can do all things through Him, but not alone. Miracles are a little out of reach, so we tithe and volunteer and help out others in everyday ways that a lot of people won’t notice. But to that individual, you just changed their whole day. We all know there are a ton of canned-food drives and goodwill and salvation army and blood drives, and in all these ways we are encouraged to help. I sometimes like to go out of my way to make someone feel special, or to support someone through personal issues, or whatever may offer itself up to me. I began making conscious efforts every week to help someone, anyone, without any intention of repayment or favored owed back to me. Sometimes by the littlest of actions and sincerest heart, God was able to make someone feel His love through someone like me. God’s works have always come through human hands, working through us, under his guidance. Every thing that we know about him has been passed through us, and we carry that responsibility to live up to His name. How do you show his love? Do you have any every day suggestions for the rest of us, to be better parts of the community and do good works to express our love, which comes from Him?

Human Nature

I spent a lot of time in youth ministry, working with ages 11-16. Most times, they found the Bible to be unrelatable and unreadable in some aspects because Jesus and his disciples were always perfect, almost by definition. As you know by now, my church only used the KJV because other versions were seen as worldly. Yet more often than not, the argument from other versions is that the KJV is difficult to understand. I remember trying to humanize the stories for them, to tell them about Jesus as a man who walked the Earth as we do, with 12 guys who were definitely flawed, more like us. I was hit with a lot of criticism for that, with telling stories about them like they were characters in a book or someone you knew locally. But I found that when you felt you understood each of them, it made everything more real or at least make some sense for the first time. If they can be as broken as me and still find love with Jesus, in person, individual, then I had a chance. Have you ever wondered what they felt like, in a very personal way, to be on that adventure, but also to sit and make jokes over the dinner table with the Son of God? We are told so many times that Jesus walked on the Earth as we do, and loved as we love, and was human, like us. But we forget to realize that he was ‘human’ and he surrounded himself with very ‘human’ people.

For example, I could never understand Jonah as he sat and waited for the destruction of Nineveh. Why would he want someone to die? What had they done to him to deserve that kind of personal anger? But you look at the days he’d been having and the attitude his people had for them. You’ve been given a mission you didn’t want, fought God the whole way and still ended up helping a people you grew up hating. He fought back, thought that someone else needed his help, because good deeds shouldn’t be wasted on people who wouldn’t use them. We do that. I’d be right there beside him with the popcorn waiting, laughing with him about it. Or Peter when they came for his best friend, and he pulls a sword. Peter was scared, his best friend was being taken, and that was his whole world those days. His purpose and the guy who believed in him wouldn’t be beside him for a while. He wasn’t a soldier, he’d only been in street fights his whole life, but from his perspective he knew something big was coming, and he wanted to help. They were human, God was real, and every story is that simple when you let them be. God is the same yesterday today and forever, and being human in those days, walking beside Jesus, wasn’t so different then either. He laughed, he cried, he was uncomfortable in new situations. Have you ever found someone in the Bible and felt they were human like that?