I’ve finished reading “My Time In Heaven, A True Story of Dying and Coming Back” by Richard Sigmund. It is inspirational. timely and healing after having a major falling out with a person who I thought was a confidant. Betrayal, being misunderstand and falsely accused is never a pleasant experience, but I know that the sooner I “get over it,” the sooner I move forward in my life.I’m always refreshed after I’ve poured out my honest feelings to the Lord, forgiven and prayed for the person who hurt me.
From chapter to chapter, Richard shares his experiences in heaven and in the presence of God. There are unimaginable treasures in Heaven that God has meticulously crafted just for us. According to his book, nothing on earth could compare to such amazing perfection and joy! As a “people” person, I wished that everyone could read this book and feel compelled to reach out to Jesus Christ and to enjoy their eternal destiny with Him I
I came to Chapter 19, “The Other Place.” Jesus took Richard to hell. I couldn’t imagine the horrific demons, their torturing methods and the stench that would await those who have rejected the great sacrifice Jesus gave us on the cross. I stared to weep as he focused on a poor soul and his torment. I had to put the book down for a while, I wept so hard. It was difficult reading and even more painful to imagine torment was forever. I asked God to allow me to be share the Gospel salvation message with as many as I could. I also thanked Him allotted us a yet another tiny window of time to accomplish the urgent task of evangelizing more souls. I wondered why anyone wouldn’t do anything possible to avoid going there.The enormity of this reality and the after life continued to move my spirit to weeping. I know it breaks God’s heart to see so many of His precious creation go to a place never meant for them.
I took a break from reading the book, but continued pondering the afterlife. Jesus said, “Many or called, but few chosen.” I sadly marveled about evil, hatred and calamity enveloping America and the world. God reminded me that His people were to be the shining lights that bring healing to the nations! Many of His people are mean and condemning. Many have also back-slidden and left the fold because of brutish pastors and elders who spiritually abused or misunderstood them.
Jesus is the gentle shepherd who says, “Come to me, Ye who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” He was the greatest teacher, soul-sculptor and counselor. He hand-picked his disciples, patiently grooming them in His own special way. Do you want to know the secrets of “soul-sculpting”? Sit and listen at Jesus feet. Are you a pastor, an elder, a husband or father? Sit quietly at Jesus feet and learn of Him, for He is lowly and humble. Every servant-leader realizes that if he wants people to receive of him, He must be willing to be as a servant first!
Jesus hated hypocrisy and venomously rebuked the Pharisees. They loved to scrutinize and condemn…thus their tactics brought few into the kingdom. He scolded,
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
Mat 23 2-4
The amazing thing about the Jewish leaders were that they highly educated and memorized even the smallest issues of the law. They were intoxicated by their own self-importance and intellect. So are many modern Christians today. Instead of the lost being attracted to the Gospel, they are repelled. Many of today’s pastors, priests and Rabbi’s are no different that the Pharisees of old, who loved to control their converts. Their hearts were closed to what Holy Spirit has to say. When loves is omitted, the letter of the law kills…but the Spirit brings life. 2 Cor 3:6.
Follower or Christ, I’d run in the opposite direction if your pastor hammered you with restrictions of his own making and limitations not in the Bible. God allow you to think for yourself and question. Test the spirits. 1 Jn 4:1
Recently, the Lord allowed me to learn a new lesson. My health had taken a dive and I was desperate for relief. I was introduced to a highly skilled christian health practitioner who was adamant about 100% committment to her strict protocol. I was sent long letters with long lists of supplements and healing machines and costly herbs. I was already grappling with strained family relationships, caring for my house and husband. Our budget was strained with the cost of the ladies’ protocol. On list of my protocol had 29 things to do and eat! I felt very weighed down. progress was slow, but I felt better as the weeks went by. A few months later, she mailed me a ten-paged letter blasted me as being rebellious, disobedient and unthankful! I was so shocked, I had to fall on my face in deep prayer and seeking wisdom from the harsh words.
It took me about a week to address all the emotion in that letter. I took it to prayer and asked Father God what the lesson was. This Sunday, my pastor preached about what true freedom in christ was and the light came on! God was giving me a taste of what it’s like to be under spiritual bondage. I was depressed and entrapped by the law and walking under condemnation. Continuing in prayer and sharing the contents of the letter with other godly, wise women, I realized my relationship with this woman was not communicated in love, for Christ always calls us into loving correction and restoration.
This lesson was needful and worthy to be included with my other my other areas of expertise. I’ve mentored people from all walks of life. I’ve learned that people have deeply ingrained patterns of thinking, habits and mindsets modeled by dysfunctional parents, teachers, relatives and pastors. During Jesus’ ministry, he met many wounded and misunderstood people. Encountering them face to face, His goal was to set them at ease. He instantly knew their struggles, shame and hopelessness.
As we follow Jesus last directing to make disciples of all men, Are we attracting the lost to Father? I’ve heard many non believers say that Christians are mean. They preach one thing, yet do the opposite. In general, the unsaved are repelled by condemnation. Jesus said, “I’ve not come to condemn the world but to save it.”
Peter is our example of Jesus’ loving discipleship. Jesus responded to Peter’s impulsiveness and zeal with patience and guidance. As I recall the Peter/Jesus discourses. In one episode Jesus marvels at Peter’s willingness to step out of the boat and walk on water. In another, He rebuked Peter for wielding the sword to cut off the high priest’s servants ear.
The Lord reminds me of His patience with me as I minister to people He’s brought my way and will bring my way in the future.
As a youth counselor for Youth Advocate Program in Eatontown, NJ from 1989 to 1992, I mentored up to seven kids, (aged 8 to 17) from a variety of family crisis situations. One seventeen year old was Hispanic and lived at home with his mother, (who spoke no English) and his two younger sisters. Both of the girls were clinically depressed and their father was incarcerated. There was a great stronghold of depression in that house. Under my mentoring, this young man’s demeanor changed. I asked him to help me keep the kids in line and he flourished in that leadership capacity! I also remember God’s faithfulness with all seven kids kids safety and welfare while they rode with me. I gained great understanding and compassion and learned much about family dynamics and relationship order. The kids learned to honor, respect and help each other and it was amazing to see them connect regarding all the activities and workshops I planned for them. They knew I cared for them and I could feel their love for me! Looking back, I marvel gratefully, for God gifting me with the ability to so potential and greatness in all the kids.
Around the same time, I enjoyed a six month stint as a Behavior Modification counselor for Nutri-System Weight Loss centers. My clients were professional adults: policemen, professors, judges and CEOs who clamored to enroll in my crowded classes. My reputation preceded me. They’d heard the testimonies of previous clients’ weight-loss and lifestyle successes. I remember the passion and excitement I had each morning, getting ready for work. It was amazing that God gave me such a platform having just graduated from Brookdale Community College! I was humbled to positively influence, these financially successful, but unhealthy people. After only several weeks, our regional supervisor came from out-of-state to sit in on one of classes to see what the ado was about!
Though I wasn’t allowed to preach or mention Jesus, I was allowed freedom to bring my own creativity and victory stories to support the curriculum. The client was attentive and felt my interest and concern as they sought my guidance for their new, healthy lifestyle. I asked God everyday to bless my work and He answered many prayers. My main tool was connection by looking each person in the eye with love, gave many hugs and listened with my heart.
My boot camp of PEOPLE 101 continued several years later. Executive Director, Carolyn Eyerman and project Coordinator, Joan Hodum faced me during my interview for the position of Program Coordinator of a new ministry, (Love In the Name of Christ). The program would prepare single moms, dislocated and poor women returning to the work force from the welfare rolls. I’d also oversee a business clothing boutique and business mentoring outreach. I didn’t feel ready, (just coming out of another long illness) but obediently followed God’s leading to apply and accept the position. My six years at Love Inc, fine-tuned my people/mentoring skills for my present responsibilities as a an ordained minister/hospice councilor and worship leader. I also learned so much from the supportive staff members at Love Inc. They were always there for me and taught me all about walking in God’s love, power and guidance.
I don’t believe any pastor, leader or teacher should be in a position of leadership unless they have extensive experience with (“soul sculpting).” How can one truly mete out the divine love, patience and counseling Jesus gave unless one has truly spent time in the Lord’s presence and quality one on one time with people God sends? Sometimes broken hearts can be so deep, they have to be excavated.
Jesus said, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefor and repent” Rev 3:19 True discipleship must be balanced by Holy Spirit compassion and the discipline of guidance and correction. Jesus never beat his disciples as many pastor beat their sheep too harshly. We know the necessity discipline, for it’s no different from our earthly parents and teachers. This grooms us for the partaking of His holiness, Heb 12:3-11.
The best servant/leader straddles successfully nurturing with discipline. Under these conditions, a person will be whole, full of joy, peace, purpose and the Holy Spirit. They do great exploits. Dan 11:32
Until the non believers see Christians loving each other in America, they will scorn and laugh at our powerlessness and disunity. They’ll also be mesmerized by the occult, witchcraft and New Age gurus.
On thing is most needful. Near the end of Richard Sigmund’s book, Jesus said,
" My people have lost their compassion, I highly desire compassion in my children. In this they show my Father's love"
I pray that we all look in the mirror and ask ourselves, do we truly have the Father's compassion. Are we more concerned about our Facebook social status, designing and maintaining our websites and soliciting funds for our new building or soup kitchen. God is not concerned about any of that. He is concerned about the condition of broken souls. He is seeking willing and compassionate servants to heal, transform and restore. He has a plan for everyone. Jer 29, 11
Are you listening and acting with love in your heart today?