God is Coming

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reachin’ down
When the man comes around 
– Johnny Cash

I grew up a Mississippi Protestant surrounded by hellfire and brimstone preachers who often preached the question, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?” Such a phrase was regularly followed by an altar call and we’d all go down to accept Jesus in our hearts even if we had already done so the previous week (just in case!).

So it was with great interest that I read where Pope Francis recently asked a similar question. He said, “It would be nice to think a little bit: one day will be the last. If it was today, am I prepared?” It is a good question to consider and it transported me back in time. One of these days is going to be our last – nothing is more factual than that.  Are we ready?

I want to be ready when Jesus comes
I want to be ready when Jesus comes
One day the Lord’s gonna crack the sky
and the dead in Christ shall rise
 – Dottie Peoples

Like many, I am not inclined to talk a lot about the judgment of God.  I prefer faith, hope, and love. I prefer to ponder the great depth of God’s self-emptying love. I’d rather write about, teach about, sing about His amazing grace. I don’t want the Church to scare people into faith; I’d rather we love them there.

Besides, most of the people I know who fear the judgment of God seem to have the least to worry.  So too much talk about God’s wrath can feel like piling on.

But make no mistake, God is coming. By death or cracked sky, we will all meet our Maker and be judged. He will come back to put the world to rights. Justice will be served and His kingdom will reign forever.

Are you ready?

Risky Faith

I love to go see live music, there is nothing like the energy of hearing music being played in real time.  It isn’t studio polished or in perfect time.  Mistakes are made, but they add authenticity and color to the performance even if you don’t notice them – especially if you don’t notice them.

My preference is improvisational live music. I love not knowing what is coming next and whether or not exciting new sounds will be created on the spot.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What I love most is the energy behind the risk-taking that is inherent to improvisational music.  Playing before a paying audience, those musicians take a huge risk and there is no guarantee the audience will appreciate or get what they are doing.  But the reward is high if they nail it.

Life is pretty colorless when you don’t take risks.

In one of Pope Francis’ recent morning homilies, he urged us to be risk-takers. Commenting on the stories of those who took a risk to get to Jesus, he noted that the men who made a hole in the roof to lower their paralytic friend to Jesus took a risk, the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed took a risk, the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment took a risk…the disciples who dropped everything for Jesus took a risk.

Improvisational musicians don’t just get on stage and play random notes without some foundation and preparation, however, and these Biblical examples didn’t put faith in Jesus and what he could do for them without some idea of who Jesus was and what he was about.

Pope Francis has consistently called us to the risk of going out into the peripheries, but it would be foolish to do that without preparing our souls.  But soul-nourishing only to stay in the well-rehearsed, choreographed safe zone will produce a colorless and lifeless Christianity. The Holy Father called it a view from the balcony.  And if that’s the only view we have, then we are missing out on the abundant life Jesus promised us.