My family had to say goodbye for now to our cousin Anthony this past week. He was only 38, had 3 beautiful children and his sweet wife Brandi spent the last 18 months caring for him as he battled brain cancer. So many of my childhood memories are with this crew on the bottom. My “Alabama family". The cousins I visited every summer and most holidays. And Anthony was the one who kept us all laughing with his sense of humor and took me for many four-wheeling rides.
After he was diagnosed, I only had the chance to see him in person one time, which was last September. That time and every other time I checked in on him he kept that same smile on his face and never complained a bit, saying, I am better than I deserve!”
You see, I’m so incredibly thankful that Anthony got it. He knew there was more to this life on earth and so although he certainly didn’t want to leave his family, he was not afraid of dying. He trusted Jesus and held firm to his faith all throughout his journey. He was serious about his relationship with Him.
Just this past Sunday our sermon was entitled “Are you serious?” Meaning, are you serious about being a Christian or do you just want your get out of hell free card? Do you like to talk the lingo on Sunday but Monday through Saturday you are a practical atheist by the way that you life your life? Are you serious about being a Christ follower or do you simply call yourself a Christian because your friends and family do? Have you truly repented of your sins and had your life radically changed or do you think you are just a good person now because you’ve gone to church enough or not cussed too much or been better than most other people you know?
These are all very serious questions, and especially for those of us who live in the Bible belt, the good ole South. For a long time I didn’t really understand the difference between all of these questions above. I went to church, I was a good little girl, I didn’t cuss too much nor drink too much. I didn’t have sex before marriage, I went to Bible studies, I joined all of the Christian organizations. However I simply didn’t get it. I knew Jesus died for my sins and that I could now go to Heaven, but knowledge about Him didn’t mean I KNEW Him. It didn’t meant I had a real relationship with Him.
After I graduated college and moved to Atlanta, JR (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I decided to “get serious” about Jesus. We thought we could do better, learn more of the Bible, etc. What we didn’t realize was that we simply needed to get real! We had been kidding ourselves for many years and claimed to be Christians and yet we were in NO way living our lives sold out to Him. We simply knew it was the right thing to do, wanted to be “good” and fell into the social norm of, “Oh yea, well I want Jesus to save me! Heck who wants to go to Hell?” God was so gracious to us through those years and thankfully gave us a 2nd chance. We started to go to a church where the pastor talked about life change, sold out, living to make Jesus famous. Suddenly our worldview changed. Being a Christian wasn’t about loving Jesus because we wanted Him to bless us and give us a good life so that we could go get that perfect job, big house, be blessed with healthy kids and a happy life. Instead we started seeing through a new lenses, a “biblical worldview” which showed us that our very purpose was to make Jesus famous. Yes He may bless us with money and things but every thing He gives us, He wants to see what we will do with it to make Him famous. Yes He may give us a great job, but are we taking the relationships there and being guided by the Holy Spirit to make God famous in those relationships? Yes He may bless us with children but are we training them up in a way that they will also make Him famous and use their life to glorify Him?
Most of all, as my family has learned recently, will we be serious about our relationship with Jesus and truly believe what He promises when tragedy and heartache happen. When things don’t go as planned. When a loved one is taken away from us here on earth. I am so thankful to see Anthony’s closest family doing that. Clinging to the reality that we will all die and that all the truly matters in this life is that we have trusted Jesus and given our life to Him.
I try my best to not be that “pastor’s wife who is always preaching,” but this is very serious to me. Have you truly had your life radically changed by Jesus? Have you turned away from your sinfulness and are currently doing everything you can to make God famous. He is so gracious and His grace is enough. I pray that for every single person I know, or that just by chance read this blog. Its real. Jesus matters. Trust Him!