Tag Archives: Christ

Persistent Peace of Christ

It is foretold that Messiah will be Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end…”

We believe Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning Messiah. What about him being the Prince of Peace?

At Jesus’ birth the angels proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14, NIV)

Has Jesus brought us peace? There appears to be a glaring contradiction, even in what Jesus said about himself.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34).

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. rom now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:51-52)

Certainly, in our world this is the case, isn’t it? Families are divided over politics and religion. Christians are disregarded, disrespected, or hated when they follow Jesus’ actual teaching. So, how is he the Prince of Peace? Let’s look further at what He said to his students.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(John 16:33, NIV84)

The Peace is In Christ.

In the world we will have trouble. As we observed a moment ago, following Jesus may increase the trouble you face in the world. Notice, the angels proclaimed that peace would come “to those on whom his favor rests.” The secret to Jesus’ peace is to put faith in his unmerited favor or grace, and trust Him to take care of you. When He is genuinely your Lord, then He is in control. Nothing will happen in your life that your Lord is incapable of handling, and giving you the wisdom, courage and perseverance to go through. In the passage surrounding this verse Jesus has promised to send the Holy Spirit to stay with his disciples. In fact, he promised the Holy Spirit would live inside them! When you have the presence of God within, you have the power of God to go through any circumstance with peace and confidence.

This isn’t to say you will be able to control all of your circumstances. In fact, the need to control everything will rob you of peace.

You cannot control everything but you can control yourself!

Ever feel like you’re out of control… and you just can’t seem to get it back.

Good news for believers is that self-control is a direct result of being indwelt & empowered by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Realize you cannot control other people, but you can control your reaction to them.

Realize you cannot be in control of the world and many of your circumstances, but you can determine how you will respond and act.

You cannot control everything but you can pray to the God who created the heavens and the earth.

The world is fallen and many people are in rebellion, so a lot of bad things are happening. Maybe you’re afraid something bad will happen to you! Rest assured God is on his throne in heaven and is in ultimate control.

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19)

Invite the LORD into your current situation and intercede for others, even if don’t believe or trust Jesus.

God changes things when we pray & trust him to work.

First and foremost God changes me when I pray. He gives me peace when I pray.

“Be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and petition with Thanksgiving make your requests known to God and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Jesus promised that if we believe when we pray we can move mountains. So, yes, God can and sometimes will change circumstances when we pray. But we must trust him to move.

The peace of Christ is not freedom from conflict;

at least, not coming from others. Certainly, you and I as followers of Jesus are not to be staring fights with people over our opinions or the faith. We are taught to “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV84)

We are taught to “speak the truth in love,” (Eph. 4:15),

which doesn’t mean to add, “but I love you,” as a tagline to your diatribe against someone’s lifestyle or opinion.

The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say, the conviction about when and how to say them, and anointing to make you effective (Mark 13:11, John 14:26, 20:22, 1 John 2:20 & 27)

The peace of Christ is not the absence of challenges

As long as you’re in the world, you will face trouble. There will be obstacles. There will be trials. Jesus will not remove all your struggles because you need to overcome them by relying on His Spirit in order to become more like your Lord.

We are promised that God will make everything work out for our good and his glory!

“All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

We have to go through the difficulty and overcome to become. God’s primary goal is to make you like Jesus, friend.

“For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (and sisters) (Romans 8:29).

Those of us who practice weightlifting know that through resistance we become stronger.

You will be tempted. Instead of crying for the Lord to take the temptation away, learn to rely on him and resist!

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to people. God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but will with the temptation provide the way of escape so that you may endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

We are promised total victory when we fight the good fight of faith.

“If God is for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

“But in all these things we are overwhelmingly conqueror through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37)

The Peace of Christ means I have nothing to fear and no reason to be troubled

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The world offers superficial answers, outright lies and temporary solutions to help you with fear, stress, anger and other emotional challenges.

Let me be clear:

Panic is Satanic.

God doesn’t inspire panic or the kind of terror that leads you to cower and run away. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but that is deep reverence not terror.

Faith brings the presence of God. Satan is the one who thrives on fear and drives you to panic. Panic means you feel vulnerable and without the ability to control some real or imagined circumstance. Admit you have not control, then. Give control to Jesus. TRUST the LORD! Pray. Sing songs of praise. Get on your face and worship the Living and True God.

Confusion comes from the Father of Lies

If you’re confused, it is not God. The spirit of confusion comes from the Father of Lies. “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21). God has made himself clear in his Word. He has a purpose for you. First of all, to make you like His Son Jesus. Are you completely committed to Jesus? If not, that is the real source of your confusion. God wants to reveal specific direction for your life. How will you know what it is? Commit yourself completely to Christ. Align your will with God’s. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Seek his kingdom above your ambition or profit. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

You’ll know what to do when you’re willing to do God’s will no matter the cost. “If anyone is willing to do His will that person will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own” (John 7:17).

Depression is of the devil.

Depression may result from frustration and internal anger over your circumstances or relationships.

It may be a response to loss. Ultimately depression is a lack of hope. The devil has told you that you’re unworthy of God and His love. OR he has made you believe that you deserve better. Either way, tell the truth to yourself, and to God. You ARE unworthy, whether you think so or not. None of us deserve God’s love. None of us has earned the right to be forgiven. None of us have lived a perfect life.

God offers grace to the undeserving

Grace is unmerited favor. God chooses to look your way, listen to and answer your prayers. Why? Because of What Jesus did on the cross to buy your forgiveness. Once you admit you’re unworthy, you’re in the perfect position to receive God’s love. He chooses to love you. It is in his nature.

Hope is renewed when we find and put our faith in God’s promises

God has offered us many promises in which to place our hope.

Let me remind you of the promise I believe God offered us last week Lifewell

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” (Zechariah 9:11–12, NIV84)

It is because of the blood of Jesus that God offers this, not because we deserve it.

You have been set free of your depression, your panic attacks, your fear. That is the promise. Believe and it will be!

Whatever the devil has stolen, God will restore two-fold or more! That is the promise. Believe it and receive it.

There are many more promises I believe God has made to me for this church. As you are willing to receive them, I will continue to deliver them.

But don’t wait for me. Search the Scriptures. Put your hope in God’s promises. Put your trust in Jesus. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Be at peace!

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Mithra vs. Christ

From a published interview with historian Edwin Yamauchi.

“Nothing in Christianity is original” (DaVinci Code, Dan Brown).

Writers have claimed that a pagan mystery cult Mithraism is really the basis for Christianity. Actually, this is only one of several mystery cults that popular writers have associated with Christianity. Others are: Attis, Osiris, Adonis and Dionysus. However, the Persian god Mithras who was worshiped in the mystery cult called Mithraism is the closest parallel.

“Mithras… was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25, was considered a great traveling teacher, had 12 disciples, promised his followers immortality, sacrificed himself for world peace, was buried in a tomb and rose again three days later, instituted a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,” and was considered the Logos, redeemer, Messiah, and “the way, the truth, and the life.”

How do you respond when people  present ancient “facts” like this?

What do you do once you’ve been told something like this?

Mithraism as a mystery religion cannot be attested before about AD 90.

“Gordon dates the establishment of the Mithraic mysteries to the reign of Hadrian, which  was AD 117-138.

Mithras was born of a virgin… No,the legend has it that Mithra was born out of a rock.

Mithras was born in a cave like Jesus…The New Testament doesn’t say Jesus born in a cave.

Mithras was born on December 25… Jesus was actually born in the Spring (Lk. 2:8).

December 25 was the date chosen by Emperor Aurelian for the dedication of his temple to Sol Invictus, the Roman god called “the unconquerable sun.” Mithras is sometimes depicted shaking hands with this god. It became the date Christ’s birth was celebrated in AD 336, the year before Constantine’s death, following the Christian practice of appropriating pagan holidays for holy use.

Mithras was a teacher with 12 disciples…. No, Mithras was a god.

Mithras’s followers promised immortality…. Inferred, but what’s new? That’s religion.

Mithras sacrificed himself…. He did not. He killed a bull.

Mithras buried and raised…. We know nothing about Mithras death, so there could be no resurrection.

Mithras was considered “Good Shepherd, Way, Truth and Life, Logos, Redeemer, Savior. “No… that’s reading Christian theology into this” Yamauchi

Mithras had a Eucharist meal…. Common meals shared in most religious groups.

Was a Mithraic rite called taurobolium the basis for Christian belief in Christ’s blood sacrifice for sins?

Taurobolium- initiate was placed in a pit with a grate over it and a bull was slaughtered above allowing the blood to baptize him.

It is an anachronism to base Christ’s sacrifice on the practice, since it is first attested to in the Attis cult in AD 160.

“Do you see any evidence that Christianity borrowed any of its beliefs from Mithraism?”

“Not really… they were rivals in the second century and later.”

So, my friends, not everything is as it appears on the internet!

End Times Fatigue

Over the past decade and a half there have been several high profile eschatological prognostications. And now another…

This time it’s the so called “Blood Moons.” Sound’s ominous,doesn’t it? Like a title from Stephen King or Dean Koontz. This time the end times prophet is John Hagee, the pro-Israel Pentecostal pastor from San Antonio, Texas. He wrote a book  titled “Blood Moons” in anticipation of the phenomenon. If the exigencies of a busy 21st century life have distracted you, a moderately rare series of four full lunar eclipses, also known as a tetrad began early this morning (April 15, 2014). Astronomers have calculated the last of the four will occur on September 28th, 2015. What makes this Tetrad more rare is  that each of the four lunar eclipses coincide with important Jewish observances, two blood moon eclipses will accompany Passover and two will occur during Sukkot.

Today is Passover, the memorial of ancient Jewish release from Egyptian slavery. The term Passover refers to the point n the Exodus narrative when God’s Death Angel passed over the Israelite families that obediently splattered the blood of the sacrifice they ate that night on the door posts of their houses. All of the firstborn in the land of Egypt were killed by the Death Angel, but no observant Israelite household was touched by the tragedy. This was the final event that prompted Egypt’s Pharaoh to expel all of the Israelite slaves from his land. Passover was one of three pilgrimage festivals, which the ancient Israelites were to celebrate by traveling to Jerusalem. Shavout (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles) were the other two.

Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Booths is an eight day celebration of God’s protection of, and provision for, the people of Israel. In ancient times it was a harvest festival to celebrate the ingathering of grain and grapes, and it commemorated the Israelite wilderness wandering prior to entering the Promised Land. During the festival ancient Israelites lived in outdoor shelters under the stars. These “booths” were made from the branches of trees. In Jesus’ time this was a beautiful and festive celebration (Read the Gospel of John chapter 7 for an example of Jesus’ observance of the festival) . Even in our time Sukkot is considered a significant and joyous celebration by the Jewish people, the observant of whom still celebrate by sleeping outside under shelters.

Pastor Hagee believes that the coincidence of these eclipses is a portent of ominous events to come. The Bible does speak of the moon turning red like blood (Joel 2:31, quoted in Acts 2:20); hence, “Blood Moons.” The physical cause of this at the end of a full eclipse is due to the sun’s light being filtered as it passes through earth’s atmosphere on the way to the moon. The color is reddish, from a pink to a rust hue. The question is, is there eschatological significance to these, eclipses. I’m going to say that’s a definite maybe.

You’re probably as worn out by end time predictions as I am, and, if you are like me, skepticism always accompanies the hearing of such prognostication. However, if the first century disciples of Jesus were in high expectation of his return shouldn’t I be looking for his second coming all the more?

We’re warned to be prepared. Jesus himself said, “Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). The Lord also told a story to illustrate. It is called the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In 1st century Palestine, bridesmaids—who would all have been virgins— waited with the bride for the arrival of the groom, so they might accompany the couple to the wedding feast. Pay attention to the story as recorded in Matthew 25:1-13 (New Living Translation).

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids* who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
“All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’
“But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
“But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.
*Virgins

Rather than becoming weary of all the predictions, let us continue to be ready at all times for the return of Christ. He will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2 among many), and no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36), but those of us who believe the Bible and follow Jesus should not be surprised when it happens. Instead, let us be vigilant, let us be prepared.

“But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6, ESV).

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12, ESV).

Be prepared!

Vindication, Part 6, Losing People

This is the sixth chapter in a series about 21 years of overcoming conflict and opposition as I’ve tried to learn how to minister and speak the truth in Garland, Texas. You can read the first five parts at www.deorl.wordpress.com or in my notes on www.Facebook.com/deorl.

 

It is not possible to make everybody happy, especially when you are called upon to challenge people and speak (all too many times uncomfortable) truth. It is also not possible to be perfect in this life. Sometimes we hurt one another, intentionally or unintentionally. I’ve made mistakes and offended people. Forgiveness is essential to any lasting relationship.

 

It hurts a pastor when people leave his church. At least, it hurts me. Sometimes difficult people leave. I should breath a sigh of relief when this happens, but still I feel a loss. Over 14 years as pastor of the same church I’ve seen people come and go. It is difficult to let people go when they have become like family.

 

I’m generalizing because I hesitate to tell the stories of people who are still out there. People whom I still love. Many of these live nearby. Some who have departed expressed a desire to remain friends. I have tried. Honestly, that’s a lot like dating someone, getting close to them, and then breaking up. We say, let’s just be friends. Yet, even without animosity, the friendship is nominative. We drift to become acquaintances at best. They might as well be in a different city. In fact, that would make it easier.

 

I’ve had leaders in my church leave. This doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts the whole community. They continue to maintain relationships with members of our church, while they are serving enthusiastically in a church down the street. This only leads people to question why. What is wrong with our ministry? It leads others to resent them. What is wrong with that former leader?

 

In two prominent cases, young people who had been in my youth groups in the past were involved deeply in our church, met their spouses at our church, had children whom I blessed, then left our church for larger ministries. Ironically, when you consider how they established their families, both of these former leaders cited a weakness in our children’s ministry as their reason for leaving.

 

I have a former student who is now the pastor of a church in another city. He posted on Twitter and I reposted what he said. It was something like, “When you leave a church for the sake of your children, what does that teach them about church?” The obvious answer is, it teaches them that church is all about “me”. I didn’t state the latter, just posted his quote. A prominent couple left when one of them saw that post as a last straw. I believe church (and family) should be focused on Jesus Christ, not on children… or youth… or single adults…. or any other group.

 

One of the reasons some pastors are reticent to have small groups that meet in homes is due to the possibility of the group going rogue. A cell group may have a leader who teaches bad theology. A small group may attract people who complain about the church, the pastor, or another leader. The group becomes a meeting of the discontented. The result may be that they all stop attending, or go to another church. We’ve experienced the latter several times in our history. Two of these groups were headed by leaders who had once been in an accountability group with me. In the most recent instance, every member of that group left our church in about a one year period.

 

Are we doing something wrong? Am I doing something wrong? Did I offend? I ask myself these questions each time someone leaves. I care about them. Why don’t they care about me and this body any more? What more could I have done. I beat myself bloody, and it does no good. I used to go after these people. I mean, that’s what a good shepherd does, right? Go after the lost sheep. Except, most of these people are not lost. They’ve simply moved to another shepherd and another flock. Most importantly, the Good Shepherd is Jesus. I’m just his helper.  It seems to entrench people in their decision when I try to dissuade them. So, I take a different approach now. When they leave I hope for the best and concentrate on those over whom I still have charge as a shepherd.

 

Divorce is rampant in our society. For too many people it is the go-to solution for marital problems. Why do people get divorced? Adultery: understandable. “We grew apart,” or “I don’t love you any more”: unacceptable. This is symptomatic of our unwillingness to work out our problems with each other. It’s easier to move on and start over. Sadly, if you haven’t worked out the problems that caused the previous marriage to fail, the next one may face the same challenges, and could end the same way. When you leave a church because you had a problem you wouldn’t work out, you are taking at least part of that problem with you to the next church. Relational problems always have at least two sides, and you are on one of those sides. Leaving, divorcing, doesn’t solve your side of the problem.

 

People’s relationship to a church is somewhat like a marriage. It is a commitment to a community rather than an individual. People are going to disagree, offend one another, fall short of expectations, and we must learn to work through it.  We have to learn to communicate with one another before the breaking point. The alternative is lost friendships, and lost love. People who move from church to church are demonstrating restlessness within themselves. When we shop for a church, rather than pray and let the Holy Spirit lead us to commit to one, then we’ve turned Christ’s community into a consumer commodity. Why are we are seeking to affiliate with an institution and identify with a brand, rather than joining ourselves to a spiritual family? Church is people, not a building, denomination, institution or brand. We are called out from the world, and we are called together in communities to help one another to follow Jesus, and take the Gospel to into our world.

 

There is no perfect church. You will never find one. We are imperfect people gathering together in communities, and we are perfected day by day as we encourage one another to become more like Christ. I pray that I may encourage our people to realize this, and stay until the Holy Spirit calls them away.

Vindication Part 2

This is the second installment in a series about 21 years of overcoming conflict and opposition as I’ve tried to learn how to minister and speak the truth in Garland, Texas. You can read the intro to the series in my notes on Facebook.

I began ministry in Garland in November of 1992. I had just finished the fourth and most well attended year of a Halloween production I started in The Colony, Texas. It was called House of Judgement. I had no idea at the time how big this Christian dramatic alternative to the traditional haunted house would become.

In my last year in The Colony 2,000 people came through the house. In its first year in Garland, we exceeded that number when 2,250 came through. There was great support from the new church. A wonderful lady, who has since gone to be with the Lord, donated magazine quality flyers to publicize the event. Even still, during one of the performances one of the older volunteers seemed amazed at the number of people who were coming through the House. He confided that he had believed no more than a few people would be interested.

In 1994 people waited in line for hours to witness our Halloween drama and 4,650 came through. We had certainly outgrown the church facilities. Some church members complained: “How big are you going to let this thing get?” Every year many people prayed to receive Christ as the result of what they had witnessed. By this time hundreds of people had responded to our dramatic presentation. So, were we supposed to limit the number of people who heard the Gospel?

The following year was 1995 and the church graciously allowed us to use a recreation center it owned. Over 7,000 people came through the House. More than 10,000 attended when we held it at the same facility the next year. Our final year in this venue was 1997. We had the longest lines in our history, performed into the wee hours of the morning, and well over 11,000 people came through. I don’t believe we could have accommodated more.

Each year I wrote a different script for the production. If you are unfamiliar with House of Judgment, it is a morality play performed on multiple stages. An audience, typically of between 40-50 members, enters the House every 20 minutes or so, and watches the play by moving through a maze from stage to stage. House of Judgement stories were about the lives of teenagers who faced the earthly and eternal consequences of their choices. The story changed every year, but one thing remained the same: teenagers made choices that resulted in their deaths; those who believed in Jesus Christ went to heaven; those who rejected Jesus went to hell. We had some amazing, dramatic representations of heaven and hell!

We had stories about teenagers in gangs, boy-girl relationships gone bad, racism, drugs, suicide, and other issues faced by young people. Sadly, some in our church felt that these stories, and the language used by the actors was offensive. They wanted to edit the scripts. In 1997 I submitted my script to the pastor, who had others look at it. I received it back with portions circled in red, which reminded me of getting a paper back from the teacher at school. One of the memorable offenses I was supposed to remove was the following. A young person is at a party talking about another kid, whom he doesn’t like much. He explains why the other teen is late in coming to the party: “Yeah, he’s a trainer. Always stays late after games and kisses coach’s butt.” I was supposed to edit the phrase “kisses coach’s butt” because of how offensive it was. Thankfully the pastor saw how silly this was and the phrase stayed in the script. This is just an example of a problem that had been brewing for years. We were experiencing resistance and the erosion of support for a ministry that was reaching more and more people with a real and relevant Gospel.

The recreation center had its own board of directors, and they were not always happy with shutting the facility down for this production. Additionally, we probably didn’t return the facility to the condition they expected. I take responsibility for this. My only excuse is the extreme weariness of our key volunteers by the end of a production. We had plenty of people who wanted to be in the show, but few volunteers who wanted to clean up after. A little understanding would have been nice, though.

In 1997 we paid the recreation center for the use of the facility (even though it was owned by the church for which I worked). That year many, many people prayed to receive Christ because of our event. I remember going to the board meeting one night after the event concluded. I was very tired but excited to report the phenomenal number of people who attended and, more importantly, the large number who had responded to the Gospel in the counseling room. There was no enthusiasm from the board. None. I handed them a check for the rent and the treasurer took it without comment or commendation. They opposed us doing House of Judgement there again.

That was the last year House of Judgment was done under the sole authority of the church where I served. A wise woman at the church, who had founded a crisis pregnancy center, recommended that we become a non-profit organization. HOJ, Inc. was born.

In 1998 we encountered more opposition and difficulty than any previous year. We were essentially on our own. We had no building. We had no money. We did have many young people who were interested in acting, and plenty of volunteers ready to work. I had written a brand new script based, in part, on actual events and real people. It promised to be a powerful show. We began rehearsals in August of that year, even before we had a building. The recreation center was kind enough to permit us to use their facility for auditions and rehearsals. This was also the facility where I did youth ministry each week. By mid-September we still had no building in which to perform. The church that I served was too small and would not allow us to perform in their building in any case. We were also still not permitted to do it at the recreation center, even in an emergency. What to do? Where to go?

I searched and searched for a building large enough to accommodate the show, and which we could afford. Finally, we discovered an old shopping center in Richardson, Texas with an owner who was willing to rent it to us for a month. It would cost us far more than we would have had to pay the recreation center of my church, and it had been abandoned for a decade or more. However, I believed we could use it. There were no walls, so we could build our maze and scenes however we wanted. This was going to cost a fortune compared to previous House of Judgement productions. Where would the money come from? Not from my church, which had all but abandoned the project. I decided to open multiple credit card accounts and pay for it that way.

The biggest problem immediately facing us was time. We couldn’t get into the building until October 1st, but the show was scheduled to begin on the 12th. We were going to allow parents of our actors to come through that day as a kind of live dress rehearsal. So, we had 12 days, and three or four credit cards for capital. From this we would create the largest production we’d ever done. Thanks in large part to the leadership and hard work of two professionals who were in the construction industry we met the deadline… sort of.

Ceilings in the old grocery store were over 20 feet. Most of our scenes required a ceiling of less than half that height. Problem was, the fire marshall informed us that we couldn’t create a lower ceiling unless we also lowered the emergency fire sprinklers. This was cost and time prohibitive. As the result, all of our sets were left open at the top. This would present a significant noise challenge. Audiences in one scene would hear things going on in other scenes around them: dialog, music, screaming, gunshots. It was going to be a nightmare. I just hoped people who came through would be able to hear the dialog and get the message. Honestly, I was so discouraged that I never went through and watched the show that year. I was kept rather busy trying to get audiences through, anyhow.

When the first audience of parents and volunteers came through to test us out on October 12th, the final scene was still under construction! In House of Judgement the last scene is always hell. Our hell in 1998 was simple: it consisted of crosses that the condemned would be chained to, symbolic of their rejection of Jesus’ death on the cross. They would have to pay the penalty of their sins by suffering eternal death on crosses of their own. The first several audiences that entered could probably hear a chain saw cutting the telephone poles, which were being used to construct those crosses for the final scene. Construction finished before the first audience got to the scene, but it was certainly not what I’d planned, and I’m sure it wasn’t a terribly scary hell scene… yet.

The House was finished by the following weekend and we opened to the public. We began to see a response we’d never seen before. An average of one in every four people who came through House of Judgement 1998 indicated on a card that they prayed to receive Christ. In spite of all the difficulty and imperfection of the production that year, 13,500 people experience it.  We had 1,800 come through in a single Saturday night!

That year a videographer approached me about taping the show and turning it into a movie. The movie is called Dark Persuasion and can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/deorl