Ever since my youngest left home, I have planned to spend the winters in Arizona.  What a treat to go through the winter months without snow and all the struggles that go with it, and to see all my siblings at the same time.  (Most of my family had moved out West, one household at a time, since 1989.)  Yet every year, something would come up to keep me from visiting.

This winter, I made it!  What a time we had, starting with a Christmas reunion.  The dinner, presents, family photos, squealing kids, yapping dogs, and all the typical, exciting, large-family bedlam.

When the Lord spoke to me last November and told me to drive out just before Christmas, I was so surprised.  He worked out all the details as only God can, but I kept wondering, "Why now?"  From all the years of knowing the Lord, I realize that He seldom, if ever, does something for only one reason, so I thought of several things that God might have in mind.

Every one of my siblings had endured heart problems and various surgeries in 2004, the last one at Thanksgiving; perhaps I was needed to help her through to recovery.  She has a household to care for, and her 3 year old is a handful.

Another sister thought that she might have to have a second surgery after the new year, so I figured that she could use some help, too.

My eldest daughter and son-in-law both work and have teen boys, and I felt that my grandsons might need me around for awhile.

Of course, I also hoped that the Lord could use me to minister to souls as well as bodies.

Preaching to one's own family is a tough call; even the Bible says that "a prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and in his own house" (Matthew 13:57).  One day, as I pondered what God might be up to, the Holy Spirit whispered in my heart-ear, "Just... BE!" 

"Just BE?"  Yep, that's the way God works: He discloses just enough to make you seek Him!  I was all caught up in guessing what the Lord had planned for me to DO, but He said, "Just BE."

All through my vacation, I'd think about what He had said.  Every day, an incident, a conversation, or an event would occur where I had to JUST BE:  BE there for somebody, BE sympathetic, BE encouraging, BE patient, BE helpful, BE a listener, BE an advisor, BE a sister.

As a teacher of the Word, I have had to be a student of the Word, and God has His classrooms wherever WE are.  Lately, I have been so involved in "reaching and preaching" the message of Christ's soon return. It has so burned within me that I have been all but consumed with it (Jeremiah 20:9).  I had anticipated that this extended visit with my family would be my first "missionary journey."  I was excited to think that we'd have some church services together, something we have never done since I've been a minister.  All my siblings are gifted singers, and I, of course, would do the preaching. 

I had also dreamed that our family reunion would turn into a family revival.  They aren't babes in Christ, but I had so much to share with my family that I just knew that everyone would be renewed in the anticipation of the Lord's coming.  I was sure that we'd have an old fashioned Holy Ghost visitation.

My, we do have our dreams.  Oh, the Lord was surely with us, and I had prayed and shared with various ones, but the "church service" didn't happen.

It is always difficult to "walk the talk," especially in front of our own family. Sometimes they have a way of bringing out the worst in us, and can be so brutally honest in their opinions.  It isn't so easy to maintain peace and joy before those who have known us since childhood.  They know how to push our buttons.  In just BEING (myself), I found that I had some harsh opinions of my own.  I found myself getting judgmental about ordinary, everyday things.  I wanted to criticize my kin for how they ran their homes, raised their kids and spent their money.  I guess it was because their values seemed so opposite from the way we were raised.  It wasn't that my family was living much differently from most people, but that was the point.  I was surprised that their lifestyles were not in keeping with our old-fashioned, country upbringing.

I had such a hard time keeping my mouth shut (and usually didn't), yet the Lord kept telling me to "Just BE!"  At one point I said, "Lord, if I keep on BEING, not one member of my family will be speaking to me by the time I leave for home!"  As the eldest of the family, I always looked out for the rest, when we were kids.  Of course, we're all adults now, but I still worry about them.  I was trying not to nag, but I got so frustrated that some days I was having a battle just trying to be NICE!

The January article, Candlewicks, was about walking in the spirit instead of the flesh.  Here I am again... writing on the same subject.  It is true:  writers usually write about their own experiences, and preachers usually preach to themselves. 

In the church's pursuit of knowledge and power, I am seeing that even the clergy are neglecting one of the most basic teachings of Christianity: the Fruit of the Spirit.  I realize that I am guilty in my own personal life, and as a pastor, for forgetting how important it is to walk in the Spirit.  The Bible says that when we do, we will not fulfill the "lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).

In recent years, I have noticed such a hunger for knowledge concerning "the last days."  Prophets are drawing as large a crowd as the faith healers.  "Deep" teachers are in demand.  Speakers with "Revelation gifts" are sought after, as everybody wants a "personal word from God."  The GIFTS of the Holy Spirit are the power of the Body, and we need them.  But we also need to have the proper balance of the FRUIT of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12, Galatians 5:22).

The Apostle Paul talks about the gifts versus the fruit in 1 Corinthians 13. He is saying that the fruit must GOVERN the gifts.  We mainly think of how Paul was used to manifest the POWER of the Holy Ghost, yet he coveted the best of God and he emphasized love.  Love PROPELS the gifts!

I heard a preacher say one time, "It is the gifts (power) of God in your life that can get you to the top, but it is the fruit (character) of the Holy Spirit that keeps you there."  We have seen several ministries fall, due to the leader's lack of the character of Christ, and all the Church has suffered because of it.

Great teachers and gifted orators who can hold the attention of massive crowds, must not and can not behave badly offstage.  Some have acted like "primadonna" super stars!  Very few of us ever reach celebrity status in the ministry, but all Christians should reflect the nature of Christ who abides within us.  John the Baptist said in John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  The unsaved must see the power of God in our ministries, but they must especially see the love of God in us.

When we start praying that Christ be seen in us, God has a way of calling some things to our attention.  There are people who have a "Sandpaper Ministry."  We've all got them in our lives... they are the "pumice stones" for the Body.  God uses them to sand off the rough edges, and smooth out our walk. "Beautiful are the feet..." (Romans 10:15)  (Pardon me for my metaphoric humor, ha-ha!)  As uncomfortable and annoying as they are, we need people like them.  They have a job to do, and some aren't even aware of what they are doing until God sends THEM a sandpaper friend.  It then becomes THEIR turn to get a revelation!

Sometimes, a close friend can be honest and help us see where we need adjustments (Proverbs 27:5-6).  They will lovingly (or NOT so lovingly) point out our flaws.  If we are yielded vessels, we thank God for the message while forgiving the messenger!

The Bride must make herself ready, and to be without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27).  We have to accept some rebukes and strive to overcome the flesh, if we are to be effective preachers of the Gospel of Christ.  If we refuse to accept rebukes and work on overcoming our carnality, then we will have to accept chastisement ( Proverbs 13:24, Hebrews 12:6-11).  Proverbs says that if a father loves his son he will "chasten him betimes," or MANY times.  One pastor from Puerto Rico said that in their translation, it reads, "If a man loves his son, he will rise up early in the morning to beat him!"  To sum this up in simpler words, as my mother used to say, "If you won't listen, you'll have to feel."

God permits these woundings and may even send them because He loves us and would rather show love and mercy than judgment. Mercy rejoices against judgment (James 2:13).  God doesn't relish handing out punishment any more than we desire to receive it.  However, God is the perfect parent.  He knows the thoughts of our minds and the motives of our hearts, and He rewards or corrects us accordingly BECAUSE HE LOVES US (Proverbs 13:24)!

On my "first missionary journey," I learned MORE than the ones to whom I felt I was sent.  I can now preach that if you want to draw closer to Jesus and experience a Baptism of Fire, visit your relatives for a few months!!

God wants to use us to save souls in these final days of the Church Age.  This is one way in which we can be a blessing to our Father (Psalm 103:1), as well as to those who receive the Gospel, repent, and are saved.

Jesus is soon coming for His harvest.  We all desire to be part of that collective Bride.  Whatever we have to do or endure to prepare ourselves for His return, is well worth the sacrifice.

I remember a verse from an old hymn, and shall end on this "note:"

...so won't you come and go along
we shall sing the sweetest song
ever played upon the harps
in glory land.

Keep your eye on the sky, my friends.  Jesus is coming soon!

Rev. C. L. Moser -- February, 2005