Remembering Mom

Judy Elaine Harris peacefully transitioned to her her eternal rest in the presence of the LORD at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO Wednesday morning, April 22, 2020. Born October 6th, 1946 in Durham, North Carolina to Elaine and John Hunziker.  She graduated from Watson Chapel High School in 1964, and years later after raising her son, began a new journey in education, earning her Batchelor of Arts in English Language from UAPB (1988), and the MA in English Language from the University of Dallas in 1992, then served as a professor of English at El Centro College (Dallas), Oakland University College (Rochester Hills, MI), Schoolcraft College (Lovonia, MI),  and Lone Star Community College (University Park & Tomball, TX)), from which she retired in 2011.

And while Judy was a committed mom and granny, faithfully praying for her son IMG_4688(Michael Battenfield, Highfill, AR), daughter (Tracy Harris, Sterling Heights, MI)43346151_10217450635724014_6701318273721434112_n, grandson (Anthony Fowlkes of Austin, TX), and granddaughters (Anna & Selah Battenfield of Highfill, AR), she was equally engaged in trying to make a difference in the lives of those around her, whether it be her church family (Thank you Stoney Creek Church, Utica, MI), or the great cloud of friends she had accumulated. In fact, most who knew her, knew that once you were her friend, you were thought of as family. Quick to both love and forgive, she often gave far more of herself than she had to give, She also generously supported several causes dear to her heart including campaigns against drunk driving, the arts, and education.

Judy was preceded in death by her parents, John and Elaine Hunziker, and her husband of 26 years, her “Bubby” – William Robert Harris, the love of her life who she so longed to see again.220462_1712803056482_5684683_o In addition to her son, step-daughter, and grandchildren, Judy is survived by her brother J. Emil Hunziker (San Antonio, TX).

But no more important truth about Judy, was her love for Jesus Christ as her very real and personal Savior. Indeed, it was this love for Christ that truly empowered her love for others.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 9, 2020 at 1:00PM at First Baptist Church, Cave Springs, AR, and a second memorial service and internment will be held in Michigan as soon as the Governor allows.

For those wishing to celebrate mom’s life, in lieu of flowers, may make a contribution to any of the following:

  • First Baptist Church, PO Box 175, Cave Springs, AR. 72718 or CLICK HERE
  • Stoney Creek Church, 45835 Van Dyke Ave. Utica, MI 48317 or CLICK HERE
  • BMA Seminary, PO Box 670, Jacksonville, TX 75766 or CLICK HERE
  • Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, PO Box 332161, Nashville, TN. 37203 or CLICK HERE

 

I Hate Obituaries

I hate obituaries, and I won’t apologize for saying so.  I do recognize the need for something to combine a death notice with a relatively short life overview that the people who knew the deceased might confirm and acknowledge the loss. Yet I have never read an obituary that has really done justice to the person who has passed away. Some are so brief and cold that there is no indication of who the person was. Others are flowing dedications that essentially try to compliment a person right through the pearly gates, often coming across as pompous. Writing an obituary really is an impossible task undertaken by those who are most emotionally impacted by the passing, and who are really in no position to have to think through and process all that might rightly be included in such a dedicatory piece.

As a pastor, I have often been tasked with reading the obituary in the context of a funeral or memorial service. Time after time, I find myself really no better informed of the person or the life they lived than before the reading. After all, how do you summarize the life of someone who maybe lived 50, 60, or even 73 years as my mom did? How do you honor your loved one without painting a false picture? Yet that was the task before me last week as I penned the above.  And as always, I am disgusted with what turned out. Even after dozens of edits and rewrites, I’ve been unable to come to a point that I am happy with it, but it is what it is.

But I still feel compelled to add a bit – to the person my mom really was.  She was a flawed person – just like me.  She made mistakes.  Just like we all do.  Yet through it all, my mom was one of the most consistent, reliable, and honest examples of unconditional love I have ever known.  Over the last week, I have received phone calls, private messages, and texts from her friends, former students, and others who’s life she impacted with her love.

It was my mom who, from very early in my life, instilled in me blinders regarding skin color and culture. She didn’t care what ethnicity you are. She didn’t care about your background – she had a unique ability to see you for the human being God created you as, and the amazing potential in everyone.  She was an ardent hater… of hate.  And she worked in every part of her life to try to help people to be the very best they could be – a trait that helped make her an exemplary teacher… and mom, granny, bonus mom, and faithful friend.

My mom was one of the greatest examples of a prayer warrior I have ever known – faithfully lifting up each and every request before the throne of God – beginning with me.  Indeed, I credit my mom’s faithful and relentless prayers for me even being alive today – and continue to give thanks for God’s answers to her prayers even as I try in earnest to glorify His holy name in all that I do.

Another unique trait my mom passed on was her heart for those who became her family.  You see, my mom never quit seeing my dad’s family as still “family” and her love for them never diminished, even after my mom and dad divorced and both remarried.  My cousins remained her nieces and nephews. My aunts and uncles were still her brothers and sisters in-law (and the “in-law” part never really meant anything to her). But extending even beyond literal family, was my mom’s undying love for what we refer to in our family as “extended family” – those who may not be blood relatives, but are every bit as much family because… they are equally loved.  Indeed, while I was an only child by birth, my closest friends growing up, including Matthew Haustein and Arthur Owens were 100% as sons in her world, and she was just as protective and concerned for them as she was me!  When I married Diana, my mom didn’t caller her “daughter-in-law”, she was simply her daughter.  The same for my step-sister Tracy Harris – who mom considered simply her daughter.  No ifs, ands, or buts. Anthony, my nephew through Tracy – was never a “step-grandson” – but simply her grandson, for whom she had a love that was as unconditional and absolute as it was for anyone.

I remember the day that I called mom back what seems like forever ago, to share with her the news that I had surrendered to the ministry. I was somewhat shocked when, through her own tears, stated that she was wondering how long it was going to take for me to figure that calling out.  And the joy in her heart was overwhelming –

I remember the call when we found out our first daughter was to be born significantly

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prematurely. And while she was her usual emotional overflow, she was still a voice ofcalm and faith. And from day 1, was deeply in love with her “Precious Angel Baby”.

And no less was her joy when her second granddaughter, Selah was born.  Granny’s IMG_3116little cowgirl was yet another jewel in her heart.

In August of 2011, Mom and Bob moved back to Michigan to write the next chapter in their lives – with a focus on investing in their grandson Anthony. 12074901_10207850028754840_2360553044091934581_n

Even though her devastating loss of her “Bubby” (Bob Harris), her husband of nearly 26 years to the hands of a drunk driver, she still remained the faithful prayer warrior who was passionate about her family.

The Unexpectedly Short Final Chapter

Last year, she began contemplating one more big move – to sell her condo in Shelby Township and move to Northwest Arkansas to write the final chapter of her life – to similarly invest in the lives of her granddaughters.  In February of this year, she sold her Michigan residence and made the big move.  She was able to find a new home, just 6 miles from our own home in the small town of Gentry. Just as she was beginning to settle in, something happened.  The world, and our nation was turned upside-down by a virus the illness it causes known as COVID-19.  This put a damper on life, but its greatest impact was not direct but indirect.  On Tuesday, April 7, mom called needing me to come take her to the ER.  She was experiencing symptoms of a possible stroke (paralyzed tongue, blurred/double-vision, weakness, balance issues), and her doctor’s office told her to get to the ER as quickly as she could.  I dropped her at the ER and helplessly watched them wheel her into the doors (closed to all but patients and staff due to the virus).  On Thursday morning, mom crashed and had to be resuscitated and moved to ICU.  The hospital called to let me know – and allowed me to come see her that afternoon.  While I was there, she was still responsive though weak.  She had about been weaned from the ventilator, and while I was there, they tested her breathing ability and decided to pull the vent.  Unfortunately, in less than a minute, she stopped breathing and again coded and was resuscitated.  From that point, she never really came back.  She was transferred to Springfield, MO for access to a much more comprehensive neurology department. Yet after multiple MRIs, they simply could not find any evidence of a stroke.  They initially began treating her for Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder that her symptoms seemed to match. yet after intensive treatment, there was no improvement (and initial lab work returned negative). Finally, the CDC was contacted with the one thing nobody had considered – the possibility of botulism. The symptoms, including rapid onset seemed to match, and the CDC even sent the antitoxin to be administered, and samples were sent for testing.  Unfortunately, test results became irrelevant as her condition and prognosis made it all futile. Her written directives were clear, and we had to honor that. So at 10AM on Wednesday, April 22, we said our final goodbyes to mom and watched her slip incredibly peacefully into eternity without so much as a sound, sigh, or gasp… but simply a single tear…

 

Who Is Jesus? (Deity of Christ) Part 5: Who Can Forgive but God?

Luke 5:20-21 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus clearly made many claims of His own Deity – see the previous installments of this series of posts. But we finally see an acknowledgement from even His opponents in the above passage. The Scribes and the Pharisees themselves knew that ONLY God had the authority of forgive sin. Yet here was Jesus, the lowly Carpenter from Galilee, son of Mary and Joseph – a man who was forgiving sins.

Under what authority did anyone have to forgive sins?  None – because sin, ultimately, is an offense to God almighty – the Sovereign of the Universe who is “Holy Holy Holy”. and here Jesus either is usurping the title and works of God (an act of blasphemy), or He was simply doing the very work of His Father which he repeatedly said He was doing (See John 6, for example).

And indeed, Christ’s one and only mission in His incarnation as God in the flesh – and that was to march head-long to the cross – to offer Himself as the only, perfect, and complete sacrifice for the payment in full of the sin debt of all who would believe.

At the most fundamental level – and the most important theological reality of all: God Himself paid the price for the very sins that separate mankind from Him.  A price that we could never pay ourselves. The price that the blood of millions of goats, rams, bulls, pigeons, doves, and so much more could never reconcile. It required the perfect, sinless blood of the Spotless Lamb of God – and He paid it all that we might live. No angel, no created being could ever be enough to settle the debt, but God Himself.

Part 4: Who Alone Is to be Worshipped?

Matthew 4:10  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

While being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus responded to Satan’s calling for Jesus to worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus said that only the Lord and God is to be worshipped and served. This is an obvious reference back to the commandments given to the Hebrew people in the wilderness so long before, and the command to have no other God before Him.
Yet in John 9:35-38, we read of a man born blind, but given sight by Jesus. The man has been cast out by the Jews for his testimony of what happened – and when Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Time an again throughout Scripture, when someone bowed down and began to worship any other than God, they were quickly chastised for their mistake. Yet Jesus has no chastisement for this healed man. The man was simply allowed to worship Jesus.
Hebrews 1:6  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
The writer of Hebrews laid out a picture of Jesus as one to be worshipped, and to boot – to be worshipped by all of God’s angels! In fact, if we go back to the beginning of Hebrews 1, we see it is all about laying out Christ’s superiority, and then the writer clearly differentiates Jesus from any created being, even angels.
Then we have Paul writing to the church at Corinth, and he identifies Jesus Christ as “their Lord and ours”:

1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

The term translated as “Lord” here is κύριος, literally meaning supreme, controller, master, or God.
And let us compare that to: 1 Kings 18:24 and Elijah’s challenge: And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD ,(יְהֹוָה – Jehovah) and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 
 
Zechariah 13:9  And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name,and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
God’s resend always refer to God as “Lord” – they are terms of worship and adoration of God. So when we see Jesus referred to as Lord, and more directly  – “my God” as Thomas stated, we can understand that Jesus is the only God worthy of worship.
And this brings us to yet another reality – because who else an forgive sins? Stay tuned for the next Episode (Episode 5: Who Can Forgive Sin?)

Who Is Jesus (Deity of Christ) Part 2 Who Is I Am?

Originally published by the author on his old blog.

Part 2: Who is “I AM?”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:18

I often hear said that “Jesus never claimed to be God”. While in a very limited and literal sense, Jesus didn’t use that exact phrase to describe Himself, between the above actions that the Jews were complaining of were understood in their time and context as laying claims to being “equal” with God – Yet there is non other. There is none like God.

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he* you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

(*of note – in the original language, there is no personal pronoun “he” there. Rendering literally “believe that I am”.)

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58

Compare this direct statement by Jesus to Exodus 3:14

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’.”

Or in John 10:30-33, when Jesus said “I and the Father are one”, The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”
The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
 
To lay any claim to being God or equal TO God would be a brazen sin – Yet Jesus is commended for the claim.
Jesus identified Himself with the name/title of “I Am”, which is one of the most powerful names God revealed of Himself.

Destruction of a Nation and the Christian’s Responsibility

This post originally appeared on the author’s old blog.

A friend of mine posted his astonishment that America could be on the cusp of electing a bonafide “Socialist” to the office of President, from either primary party. I began to formulate a response then realized that my reply would be far more suited to a full-on blog post, so thank you Donny Parrish for kick-starting this!

“Christians” have remained silent too long. Notice that the paths of ungodliness our nation has actively pursued are 100% based in the “squeaky wheel” principal— homosexuals have “gay marriage” because they screamed and hollered the loudest. God was “banned” from schools because the haters if God screamed and hollered the loudest.
60 million + babies have been murdered in this nation, perfectly legally because the worshippers of self/Molich screamed, hollered, and put their money where their mouth was and swayed the courts (without a single genuine constitutional basis).

And we have become (or are in the edge of) becoming a socialist nation all because of a direct violation of the 10 commandments, particularly the commandment against “covetousness”…  Those who covet what others have are screaming and hollering loudly to get what you have (without working for it). And that gave us the current President, and a few candidates who are now unapologetically pandering to the covetous culture.

And so much more.
There are three fronts in the war for the very soul of this nation—

1. We must begin ON OUR KNEES as God’s children, humbling ourselves in out very knees in repentance for our own sin and ungodliness and for our failure to be the “watchmen on the wall”.

2. We must be far more proactive in sharing Jesus Christ with this list and dying world. It IS NOT ENOUGH to “invite people to church”.  That has NEVER been enough, not does it fulfill the Great Commission.  But just as the first front (and step) towards actually doingsomething is humility before God, we m

salt-and-light

ust also BE the salt and light as Jesus Commanded. We cannot live like the world, yet expect the world to act like Jesus. It just doesn’t work that way! Repeat the first front!

3. And we must be willing to stand for the TRUTH, live out the TRUTH, vote for the TRUTH, even if it means our pocketbooks are affected, even if it means our “friends” might reject us, and even if it is inconvenient and painful (I do not believe Jesus promised an easy road!). Every time we bend our morality for financial or social gain, we betray our hearts and faith. The “fruits” of our faith become very evident – by their lacking of real impact.

Christianity is not a passive spectator sport, it is a way of life. If our hearts are not absolutely broken for the ungodliness (and what the Bible clearly spells out is the coming result for it), if we don’t grieve for the lostness all around us, if we are not so broken that we are willing to speak up for the TRUTH, then stop pretending to be offended by all the garbage around us, and by path this nation is traveling. You are part of the problem. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (and be a part of the solution).

Hypocrisy and Current Events

This post originally appeared on the authors old blog.

hypocrisy:

     1. a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially  :  the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion

 
     2. an act or instance of hypocrisy
The simple definition of the term would be in application – to claim to believe or hold a belief or view, but your actions or words contradict your claims.
I have been reading, watching, and listening to the constant noise regarding the so-called #BlackLivesMatter movement. I have been trying to absorb all I can to try to understand where those protesting (or participating in much more nefarious activities) are coming from. But the more I read, the more I actually look at facts, the more I spend time in prayer for our nation and for those who are involved, I find the more jaded I become. I have been labeled a racist more times than I can count. I have been told that I just cannot understand – after all, I apparently am afflicted with this now dread disease called White Privilege.
Ok – I’m fed up. I’m tire of the labels, and I’m tired of the abject lies and hypocrisy being demonstrated. But as always, I want to take a biblical angle on this, so here goes:
What does the Bible say? It says all people are made in the image of God (Imago Dei). Scripture clearly points to the very reason murder is wrong:we are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Further, Jesus clearly commanded that we LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS. Neighbors in this context is not just literal neighbors who look like us, who live near us, who are parts of the same social circles and do the same activities – or who look like us. Our neighbors are humanity. The easy answer to all the garbage we see would be to “love our neighbors”. But that is shunned – why? Oh, because it means actually seeing people of other backgrounds and races, people who don’t look or act like us – as having intrinsic value in their very lives.
But let us get back to the hypocrisy that spawned this post:
#BlackLivesMatter is probably one of the most hypocritical movements I’ve every witnessed. The movement began with the shooting of a young man on the street in Ferguson, Missouri. The immediate response, before his body was even cold, was a media-fueled frenzy over the claim that he was unarmed, and that he was shot in cold blood with his hands in the air shouting “hands up-don’t shoot!”. Yet when the evidence – the cold, hard facts – came out, the officer was shown to have clearly been clearly justified in the shooting, as his life was threatened by the attack by this young man.
But in response to the shooting, long before any real facts were available, large crowds assembled ostensibly to protest the “wrongful shooting” and in a more broad sense – against the “open season on black men” by law enforcement. Protests led to riots, which led to looting. All behaviors that the core of the black community has tried hard to distance themselves from – chalking such behavior as unfair to label them with. Yet it gave ammunition to those who do indeed still hold racist views of African-Americans.
We have heard cries of “open season” on Black men, over police shootings of black men. Yet the actual statistics show something quite different. Last year, the official numbers show that nearly twice as many Caucasians were killed by police as African-Americans. Yet those claiming to want the truth, continue to absolutely ignore the statistics. Telling lies and repeating lies to gain support for your views is repulsive, no mater who does it. If you want justice, then it must begin with facts.
And now we have, after two high-profile police shootings of black men in two different states, and now police officers are being targeted for murder – police officers that are not even connected to the shootings in question. Indeed, the guilt born by the officers killed this past week was exclusively based on wearing a badge (and having light colored skin).
#BlackLivesMatter – blocking traffic on major roads, delaying medical care for a young girl headed to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
#BlackLivesMatter – spawning, inspiring, and encouraging hate towards Police Officers (even if it really is unintentional).
#BlackLivesMatter – using the label of racist to anyone who points to facts and reality.

#BlackLIvesMatter – conspicuously absent in Chicago where young Black men are murdered every day, by fellow Black males.
#BlackLIvesMatter – conspicuously absent from the abortion clinics all over this nation who have killed more African-Americans than all the wars fought, and police violence taken in this nation’s history.

And then we have the politicians who are playing along with this movement, calling for gun bans, stricter gun-control, and other measures that would actually disarm and/or limit access to firearms by law-abiding African-Americans.

Of course, a student of history knows that the earliest gun control legislation in this nation was a response to the freeing of slaves, and was pushed specifically with the intent of keeping guns out of the hands of these freed slaves.

Planned Parenthood, started and built by Margaret Sanger, who had a well-known agenda of eugenics against Blacks. Yet so many in the self-appointed leadership of the Black Community are adamant supporters of…Planned Parenthood, and often are among the biggest supporters of so-called “reproductive choice” (aka – the murder of unborn children).

We are told that #BlackLivesMatter in such a way that it can’t help but be interpreted as ONLY Black Lives Matter. Maybe it isn’t intended that way, but when one brings up one of my original points – that ALL lives matter, as we are ALL made in the image of God, the vitriol and anger is unleashed – and the “racist” card gets slammed down.

Indeed, for years, we have heard of the unfairness of being judged by the color of our skin (Dr. Martin Luther King said it beautifully when he said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Yet we still see hiring practices and quotas, college admissions, and governmental contract requirements that specifically and very explicitly singling out a particular race for preferential treatment, overriding actual qualifications and merit.

How is this not hypocritical?

What is the answer? – What did Jesus say? LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR – something all but impossible if not for a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.


And update since the original publication of this post in July 2016.

Since this entry was originally published on my old blog, many things have happened – including the election of a new President who has been vilified by many, particularly of the #BLM as a racist.  Also since that time, the above group has been joined by another, far more terrorist in nature now as #ANTIFA (ostensibly standing for “Anti-Fascists” – though their tactics are, themselves, trademark fascist tactics).  Since that post, a woman was killed and several others injured by a driver in Charlottesville, SC, the scene of an incredibly ugly set of protests from widely-differing viewpoints, all driven by local government to an obviously intentional clash. Violence meets violence, all set-up by city officials and law enforcement.

Since that original post, I have found myself the center of vitriolic attacks for essentially holding to the viewpoint I espoused in the original. Apparently, believing that all lives matter before God, our Creator, is somehow both racist and hate-filled.

And just recently in Las Vegas, NV – a supposed lone gunman opened fire on over 22,000 music festival attendees outside the Mandolay Casion and Resort, killing (at latest count) nearly 60, and wounding over 500 in a senseless act of cowardice by a man (assuming the narrative holds) who was a pawn of Satan, unregenerate in heart, and completely given over to his evil intentions.

And again I ask – does life matter? Should certain skin colors have more value in the eye of the public than others?  Not according to the Bible.

Pray for this nation – pray for repentance. Pray for revival of local churches – including a rekindling of the fire for the Gospel message and Christ’s command to make disciples.