Forever

by George Cargill, Author of In the Grip of God: Journey into Corinth

Burkemper’s Family Restaurant

Nothing is forever except God and Heaven. That is a maxim I have learned to live with and use to form my world view. It is truth that redounds both to our harm and also to our ultimate benefit. If we have experienced the love of God and have received eternal life in Jesus Christ the end of life and the ultimate end of physical reality will be to our eternal profit. There is a family-owned restaurant that has been in my neighborhood for forty-five years. It has been a gathering place to eat home-style food and enjoy the company of friends. I wrote a good portion of a couple of novels while sitting at those booths. I would work undisturbed until the place would get too busy and the table was needed. I am really appreciative of that eatery. But after four and a half decades, the building is deteriorating and the owner is ready to retire. This morning there was an announcement at each entrance that the restaurant would permanently close in three weeks. The employees were in tears and all the customers expressed their sadness. But once again, life teaches me that everything material in this world, including flesh and blood, is decaying and will eventually disappear.

Crystal – The best table server

The same maxim of decay over time is also true of personal relationships. There is a table server who has worked at the restaurant for over thirty-five years. She is the best waitress that I have ever witnessed serve in any restaurant. Crystal has built friendly relationships with her customers over the many years of service to them. To those of us who regularly go into that place, she is like family. It is the only job she has ever had. I remember when she first started working after school waiting tables in her field hockey uniform. The main cook is a man who consistently produced good fare for everyone and sometimes would bring the food out himself to help when things were busy. I am sure I will see something of these two around the area but in three weeks things will become totally different. Today I am reminded that all human relationships are temporal and will come to an end.

Joey – A great cook

Today is the most important day of the remaining days of my life because it has a greater percentage of time in relation to the time I have left. Besides, yesterday is gone. The uncertainty of life and its limited length tells me that today is the day to enjoy life. Today is the day to love our family with actions, not just with words. Today is the day to share with friends. Most importantly, today is the day for faith in God through Jesus Christ. Tomorrow, this world may go on without us.

This could all be very depressing if it were not for the hope we have in Jesus Christ. He came to live among us and share the human experience of joys and sorrows; pleasure and pain; life and death. In His resurrection from the tomb Jesus showed us that He has the authority over death and the grave. There is something beyond this decaying universe in which we can have hope. I can think about it until my head hurts, but I cannot conceive of any other hope than Jesus. This is His promise, “…I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die…”John 11:25-26 (NASB)

I have placed my faith and hope in Jesus. I cannot find confidence in the imaginations or visions of men whether seen in a hat or in a cave. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ. Receive Him today and follow Him faithfully according to the Word of God. You will have hope beyond the decay of this physical world and find a relationship of love that will carry you from this fragile existence into the life which is to come.

When a Sparrow Falls

There is a rule in my family about pets or any animal we keep. To have a pet is to make a commitment to that animal for life; theirs and ours. The Scripture says, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal…”[i] The rainbow covenant that God made to Noah after the flood He also made to the animals that came off the Ark.[ii] So this is the rule, “If we keep a pet we have to be able to provide love, shelter, food and veterinary care or there will be no pets.” This is not a rule that we can ignore because our circumstances change or because we, for whatever reason, are no longer able to adequately care for them. Because God gave us dominion over all creatures of the earth, we are responsible to be good stewards of all animals whether they are pets; food for us; workers for us; or wild and free creatures. We recently had a difficult dominion decision to make about our beloved Lab named Lady. She was thirteen-plus years old and had about the best doggie life possible. But she was deathly ill, and it was time to put her down.

Lady

As a pastor, I am sometimes asked, “What about pets? Do you think my dog is in heaven?” My answer is that Scripture does not speak directly to that question, “But my dog Buster is there.” No one knows for sure, but we know that whenever we get glimpses from the Bible into heaven and the Throne of God, there are strange creatures there. In Isaiah there are weird six-winged, flying, shouting things[iii] and in Revelation we see a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle, all of them having six wings![iv]  The point is, God loves the creatures of the earth and so should we. He gave us dominion over them and has dominion over us. Just as the life of our dog Lady was in our hands, so are the lives of humans in God’s.

It is hard for us to keep everything in perspective. I am amazed at the compassion shown to animals by those who have little regard for human life. When we complete the proverb previously quoted about a righteous man and his regard for the life of his animal, the next line says, “…but even the compassion of the wicked is cruelty.” Our society celebrates torturous cruelty to pre-born people, but cries crocodile tears for a minnow. God placed value on animals and greater value on humans. This is how Jesus put it,

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.[v]

No human has the ability to create life or return a life that they take, whether from animals or other humans. The right to make the decision that we made to responsibly take the life of our pet has been given to us by God. We do not have the right to take an innocent human life, no matter the circumstances of their conception or the character of the parents. The Bible instructs us that those guilty of murder shall be punished with a punishment that fits the crime.[vi] It also teaches us that God hates “hands that shed innocent blood.”[vii] Our Founders were right when they asserted in the Declaration of Independence our God-given rights to, “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Constitution guarantees that those rights cannot be denied to people by citizens or by the government without the due process of law. I guess they read their Bible and believed what they read. If having regard for the life of our animals is important in the mind of God, how much more important is it to Him that we respect the lives of other human beings?

George Cargill

Author of In the Grip of God: Journey into Corinth


[i] Proverbs 12:10a (NASB)

[ii] Genesis 9:8-17

[iii] Isaiah 6:2

[iv] Revelation 4:8

[v] Matthew 10:29-31 (NASB)

[vi] Genesis 9:6

[vii] Proverbs 6:16-19

When Christ Calls

“When Christ calls a person, He bids them come and die” So wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a writer who has greatly influenced the way that I think about my walk with Jesus. Dying with Christ is also what the Bible urges me to do. By faith, we who follow Jesus have been united with Christ in the likeness of His death and have been raised to new life. Therefore, we need to live life as newly born people, creatures that are new. The old ways are gone. The ways of sin are passed and a new walk, a new way of living has come about. This is one of the great themes of the Bible. The Apostle Paul proclaimed that the grace of God appeared in Jesus Christ to teach us to live a godly life. (Titus 2:11—14) But Paul also told us how we are able, by the Spirit and grace, to break free from sin and live a new life. Paul exhorted the Christians in Rome to find a new way of living through “death.”

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:1-4 (NASB)

The death that we die with Christ is a spiritual; not a physical one; a death to sin. It is dying to our pride. It is dying out to our self-will and our instance on living our way and not God’s way. It is becoming dead to the urgent appeals of lust and sexual immorality. Think of Jesus in Gethsemane! We do not have that kind of agony. But we must commit to the will of the Father and take up our cross, no matter the personal cost. Just as a seed dies to give new life to the vine, so when we are baptized into Christ’s death we are raised with Him to newness of life. Crucify self-will and be raised again!

“O Lord, I want to participate with you in the likeness of your death. I pray, O Lord God, that you would help me to walk in newness of life. You have raised me to new life! Keep me from sin today, Lord. Lead me away from temptation. Help me where I am weak and give me grace where I may stumble. And I pray, O Lord God, that you would fill me with your spirit so that I may walk worthy of the one who has called me out of darkness into the light. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.”

Two Crosses

There is no Christianity without crosses. The cross of Jesus Christ and ours. As the time approached for Jesus to offer up his body as a sacrifice to the world, He tried to instruct His disciples in what was necessary for their redemption. He set His face like flint toward Jerusalem with great determination to walk the Via Dolorosa. “He (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected… and killed and rise after three days.”[i] They simply could not receive this word and would not accept this teaching of Jesus. Jesus rebuked Peter for objecting to the idea of a suffering Messiah. He said that Peter was not thinking God’s thoughts, but the feelings of men. Jesus devastated Peter by telling him that Satan was speaking through the disciple. The only way is God’s way; the offering of a perfect sacrifice of atonement; the way of the cross.

“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’”[ii]

We take these words metaphorically, for the most part. In recent times thousands of our brothers and sisters have been killed; some beheaded; some crucified by cruel men who think they honor their god by torturing and murdering people who will not convert to their religion. Those martyrs considered their testimony about Jesus Christ more important than their lives. That is the attitude of every true follower of Jesus. But in reality, for most Christians, carrying the cross means doing the will of God daily, no matter what the difficulty or personal cost. It is an everyday thing relating to each moment of our life in Christ. Christ’s cross is necessary. Our cross is necessary.

The Cruel Wood

The question comes from every follower of Jesus, “Besides offering up my body for my testimony, how do I discern the will of God for my life?” The beginning of knowing the will of God for our lives is to know and follow the words of Jesus Christ and His Apostles as found in the New Testament. Jesus said that every expectation for our behavior is summed up by loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Beyond that, no preacher, teacher, prelate or holy person can tell you what God’s will is for each of us. This is discerned in prayer. I have a suggestion to help in this discernment. Ask a question, “What is God doing that is good in my life now, no matter how great, small, or insignificant it seems?” Follow the answer to that. Do more of that. Seek to cultivate whatever will further His kingdom and increase your love for God and others. God will help you discern His will and bring more opportunities into your life to carry your cross.

“O my Heavenly Father, I pray that you would reveal Your will in me. I will take up my cross and carry it each day. I need Your grace and Your power so that I may bear up under every circumstance. Help me to love like Jesus loves and to do unto every person as I would have done to me. Increase the ministry that you have given to me. Send me opportunities to build Your Kingdom, no matter how small the task many seem. Help me, that I may ever be faithful with my cross as Jesus was faithful with His. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN.”

George Cargill


[i] Mark 8:34-35 (NASB) (Emphasis the Author)

[ii] Mark 8:31 (Author’s translation)



The Greatest Challenge

The greatest challenge I have experienced my seventy-plus years has been my own bad character. For a considerable time in my life I was dominated by covetousness, passion and anger. It is so difficult to change such characteristics that many people give up on themselves and others thinking “the leopard cannot change its spots.” Many in my family gave up on seeing any positive change in me. Not that they cut off any relationship or love. They tolerated my behavior and speech because they loved me, even when I was unlovable to many. I thank God that in my senior years I still have a family, a wife and children and all is intact, for the most part. The Apostle Paul wrote about people who were dominated by sinful passions and behavior saying that such people “have no inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.[i]” He had a whole list of sinful behaviors worthy of condemnation that he presented to the people of Corinth. Then he wrote,

Some of you were just like that. But you have been washed; you have been sanctified; you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11

This is where people can find hope to change— “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Paul was confident in writing such a fantastic statement because he was a man who had been changed in that same manner by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. He knew that if God could change him, anyone could find the same power for transformation. It is real change from the inside out, resulting in a drastic transformation for the better in our conduct toward God and others.

Our world and our culture need such hope. Tyrants and ordinary politicians of democracies use covetousness, passion, and anger to manipulate and control the masses. Only in Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God will we find that culture of truly free people who love God and love their neighbor enough to do unto them as they would have done to themselves. We who follow Jesus Christ confess our sins before all but also testify to the transforming grace of God. It is the only hope of change for the better among humans.

Where do I start? How do I experience a new birth? It begins with humbling ourselves before God, admitting that we have sinned against God and others. We confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; that He died to pay the penalty for our sin; that He rose from the grave;  and have faith in His power to change us. Multiplied millions of people from every corner of Christianity are witnesses to the personal change that comes about with a new birth. My testimony is the same as Paul’s, “Have hope! If God can change me, He can change you.

George Cargill


[i] 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Grace

Grace is one of most beautiful words of the English language, in my opinion. Of course, there are differences of definition according to the context in which the word is used. There are the Three Graces from mythology, goddesses who supposedly bring us beauty, charm and grace. To most people graceful means to be charming; to be easy to listen and talk to; to have beauty of movement and style; to be the opposite of clumsy in body or speech. To those of us who have received Jesus Christ, grace means a gift of mercy; unmerited favor from God; undeserved pardon from sin; a gift of sanctification; and a divine gift of virtues aiding the followers of Jesus in living the Christian life with integrity. Grace is not something that we “work up” within ourselves or that we obtain by our own efforts.

To the Apostle Paul, grace is the foundation of all Christian belief and experience. “…by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”[i] Paul knew the power of grace and the weakness of human effort. The power of grace redeems and transforms sinners, “of whom I am the worst,” claimed Paul.[ii]

My Grandmother was named Grace. If ever a human being showed the grace of God so as to be bestowed with that name, it was Grace. Not that she displayed what the world calls “grace.” She was not beautiful, but plain and a little overweight. She was not charming and loquacious, but quiet. She was born in 1885 and lived through some of the most fantastic and tragic years of history. Born in the horse and buggy age, she lived to watch a man set foot on the moon, live on television. She was among the first women who voted; lived through two world wars and three other wars; lived through the flu epidemic of 1919 and lost her first husband and father-in-law on the same day to that great plague; married my Grandfather, a man sixteen years her junior; and cared for her aging father, an irascible man with the given name of Napoleon Bonaparte. Yet she did all of these things with grace. She never had a bad word to say about anyone, even the politicians that she did not like. She lived without apparent fear, always exasperating me by saying, “God will take care of me.” I know that she had sins because the Bible says that everyone has sinned. I just could not figure out what they were. One could not call her a strong person, but somewhere along the line of her life, she received grace in a mighty way.

Grace

People who have received grace extend grace to others. Not with the kind of grace that can forgive sins against God, but with the grace that makes one hard to offend and quick to forgive offences. It is the grace that understands that all have sinned and knows that redemption is for everyone who has faith. It is the grace that gives “a little slack” to others and respects the boundaries of people’s life. Grace obeys Christ’s command to “do unto others as we would have them do to us” and “love our neighbor as ourselves.” I think the greatest display of grace in my Grandmother’s life was that she was completely harmless. I do not know of an instance where she hurt another human being in word or deed.

This kind of grace cannot be found, only received. Grace comes to us when we repent of our sins; turning from them to God; confessing those sins to God; believing that He will forgive; and receiving Christ. By grace, the Holy Spirit will begin infusing virtue day-by-day and lead us to that wonderful land of holiness. By grace, we will be sustained even when we stumble. By grace we find divine love that helps us to love others. By grace, when we die, He will receive our spirit for eternal happiness. By grace, we will never be as we were the day before today.

George Cargill


[i] 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NASB)

[ii] 1 Timothy 1:15

Only a Dollar

My Grandfather was a good and wise man. When I was a boy with more brass than shame, I asked my Grandfather to give me a dollar. A dollar was a great amount to a child in those days. The pennies that Dad gave me every once in a while were quickly spent on candy at the corner store. I cannot remember whether I ever possessed a dollar to that point in my life. To my surprise Grandfather said, “Yes, I will give you a dollar. If you will memorize a Scripture and recite it back to me perfectly, I will give you a dollar.” He took his Bible, turned to the first of the Psalms, and read,

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

With the help of my Mom, I memorized the Psalm. When I came to Grandfather, I proudly recited the entire Psalm with perfection. I got my dollar. It took decades to incorporate this wisdom into my worldview. When I have followed the words of this Psalm, I have been blessed and able to bless others. When I have not followed the words of this Psalm, I have lived a life of harm to myself and others. Only a new birth in Jesus Christ brought me into the full benefit of the wisdom that Grandfather tried to infuse in my life.

With the grace of God and our obedience to Jesus Christ, each of us can have a wonderful season of fruitfulness. Virtue can abound in our lives. The spiritual prosperity that has accumulated in my life began when I was drawn out of the counsel of the ungodly, taken out of the path of sin, and I no longer sit in the seat of the scoffer. This is understanding that will carry us from this life safely into the next. We can scoff at that idea and mock those who follow that way, but in the end, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous: but they way of the ungodly shall perish.”

George Cargill

Dedicated to the memory of Porter T. Cargill July 5, 1893-February 8, 1969

Lost and Found

One time after a bad day at school, I decided to run away from home. School was the problem in my mind and home was my favorite place. That sixth-grade teacher was what made me run away. But I have to reflect that I often must have made her think of taking up another profession. But I could not just run away from school because Dad and Mom would only send me back. I really had no idea where I was going except “away.” Things went fine for the first hours. I lived in a small city, so I knew the way around. I was not lost. As the hours went past, uneasiness grew. Hunger being a great motivator, I began debating with myself whether to go home and face the music. It was beginning to get dark as I walked down a road just outside of town. Headlights of a car fast approached. A startled cat ran out from the ditch in front of me and tried to dash across the road. The front wheel of the car struck the cat and flipped it up in the air. The poor thing’s lifeless body landed right at my feet. Time to go home.

When I got back to my street, I saw several men in front of the house talking with my Dad. I sneaked around by the back yard and along to the front of the house where I hid behind a shrub by the front door. “I think he will probably come home after a while,” Dad said. He thanked the men and they left. I could hear my Mom crying for her lost boy. I was not lost, but neither was I “found.” I was hiding. But as far as Mom was concerned, I was lost. Finally, I came out to receive whatever consequences were going to fall from Dad. To my relief, tearful Mom gathered me into her arms and took me into the house, drew a bath for me and washed me like a baby. She told me she loved me and asked me never to do such a thing again. With tears she thanked Jesus over and over again.

Jesus told numerous stories about finding lost people. It was His mission as Savior of the world. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”[i]The Bible word which has an English translation “lost” has a more intense meaning than something that is not found. It also can be translated “destroyed” or “perished.” The word when translated “lost” has the sense of being “totally” or “irretrievably lost.”[ii] Jesus has come to do what many think is impossible. To bring a new birth to people and to bring them into a relationship with Him. When someone receives Jesus in repentance and faith, they are “found” and no longer “lost.” They now they have eternal life and will not perish.

Many people are insulted or become angry when told that they are lost. They know where they are. Some have a definite plan for their life. Most are living life the way they want. But like an eleven-year-old boy who ran away from his family, people are lost, not because they do not know where they are, but because they are not in a right relationship with Jesus Christ. Come out from walking in the darkness into the light and be “found.”

George Cargill

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[i] Luke 19:10

[ii] p 230, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Zodhiates – AMG Publishers – 1994

The Old into the New

There is something very desirable in having something new. Things get worn out. Concepts of a former time no longer seem to work for us. And sometimes we just get bored with the same old things. Failures need to be left behind and new efforts made to bring us success in life. This is the hope of every new year with new resolutions made and a new resolve formed in our mind. We have confidence in new things and in a new determination to make the new year better than the old. New ways of doing things sometimes are successful but often discarded in the next new year. Sometimes our resolutions do not make it through the New Year’s party. We determine to change our bad habits but the old hang on with great tenacity until we can form new habits with repeated new behavior. What can change the yearly frustration of self-expectations not met? Take truth into the new year.

But truth is eternal and so never has the shine of newness. And thoughts that seem new to us are as old as the dust of the earth. Solomon in his wisdom stated, “There is nothing new under the Sun.” Eternal truth may seem very new to us if we have not encountered it before or if we have not thought about it for a length of time. Jesus had a meeting with one of the most educated and powerful men of His day; a man whom people called “teacher”; a respected Pharisee named Nicodemus. He wanted to know something about Jesus and came to him at night so that he might talk to Jesus without the interruption of the crowds that thronged Jesus during the daylight hours. Nicodemus admitted that Jesus was a “teacher come from God for no one can do the things that You do, except that God is with him.” But Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was doing by his miracles and good works. Jesus ignored the complement saying, “You must be born again; born from above; born of the Spirit of God, or you will never comprehend the Kingdom of God or understand what I am doing.”[1] Nicodemus thought that was crazy, “Can a man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again when he is old?” Jesus said that this would be a spiritual rebirth that would produce a life that would extend beyond death and exist in the timeless realm of God forever. Then Jesus gave him old truth to carry forward that would truly change the life of Nicodemus forever.


For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18

This is the old, old story that seems so new to people these days. But the truth that Jesus gave to Nicodemus is eternal; evergreen. If we will carry this truth into the New Year and act on it with faith and true repentance unto God, we will be saved, and our life truly changed for the better—eternally. Receive Jesus today and carry old truth into the new year.

George Cargill

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[1] Gospel of John 3:1-21 (paraphrased, emphasis mine)

THE SHADOW ACROSS THE MANGER

Remembrance of new life is a memory that we cherish. That image of the first sight of a new baby is one of those memories that never seems to fade. These days we fill up the social media with images of our newborns. In the days when I was a new daddy one sent photos to distant family in the mail and brought snapshots to work to show co-workers. I even annoyed total strangers with my love and pride for my boys. Looking through the glass at the natal ward, everyone in the family adored the new addition to the family. At the time I did not think of the good and bad things that would happen to my children during the course of their lives. If I had some supernatural way to know their future joys and sorrows, I would not look at it for fear of what I might see.

Jesus had a loving Father who looked from Heaven at His Son who was laid in a manger in infant cloths. The Word of God, that creative part of the One and Only True God, took on the limitations and frailty of flesh to be God’s One and Only Son. Jesus loves the Father, always confident of His Father’s love for Him. Jesus prayed that we would find that same love.

” You loved Me before the foundation of the world… O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24-26

  But the shadow of the cross fell across the manger where Jesus lay. The Father could not hide His eyes from the destiny of the cross for His Beloved Son. And Jesus became well aware of His mission to serve as an atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world, even our sins, yours and mine. It seems the cross was the only way that the scales of sin and judgment could be counter-weighed with grace and mercy.  So, at Christmas time think of the love that the Father and the Son have for us. May the Holy Spirit bless your soul in this holiday season.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17