An elderly man answered the door of the small home. “Hi, my name is Wayne.”
“Hi Wayne,” John said. “I’m John and this is Maria, Emily, and David. Gabriel told me that you would be expecting us. The group looked cold and wore down. “Come in, come in and warm up and take a load off of your feet. Make yourselves at home,” Wayne said.
Wayne held open the door; everyone walked into the small living room. David was the only person carrying a bag. “We need to get cleaned up for service this morning,” John said. The clock on the mantle ticked away loudly in the foreground. It was a weary sound.
“Gabriel told me that the three of you would be coming,” Wayne said. “I have a small consignment store in town; and I was visited by Gabriel yesterday who told me to prepare for your visit. I have a change of clothes for most everyone and hot showers before service this morning. Gabriel told me this suit and these two dresses would be perfect for you.”
“I’m sorry sir, I don’t have a suit for you David,” Wayne said. “That’s interesting,” David said. “I have a suit packed in my backpack.”
“Well, it looks like everything is as it should be then I guess,” Wayne said. “There are three bathrooms in the home; one in the master bedroom, a second one here in the hallway. The third bathroom is in the guest room at the end of the hall,” Wayne said. “Make yourselves at home; please lock the door when you leave, and drop the clothes off the next time you’re ever this way again. I would really appreciate that”
“John, here’s the keys to the Dodge Ram in the driveway.” You can leave it parked over at the Church when you’re done. Just throw the keys above the visor on the driver’s side; I’ll grab it when I get home later.”
“Thanks Wayne and God Bless, “I’ll park your truck in the Pastors spot,” John said. Where are you heading this morning if I might ask?”
“I walk down to the creek behind the church most every Sunday morning. I can hear the Church music from there; it’s beautiful, it’s where I feel truly connected with God.”
“It’s funny you know, I never felt comfortable in a Church building. I always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t belong. I love Jesus John; He’s real, He loves me, and He’s the only one without an agenda. Most every Church I’ve been to had an agenda. So I found Jesus at the creek instead.”
“Do you mind if I join you one Sunday; sometime in the future,” John said.
“I think that be great John, I’ll look forward to that someday. You take care now, nice to meet you all.”
How ironic; Gabriel picked a person who didn’t even go to Church. John thought about this weekend and everything he had learned. John thought about his beautiful bride Maria.
John was waiting for everyone to re-group in the living room. He was waiting nervously for Maria to join him. There she was; Maria came out of the guest bedroom looking absolutely stunning. John had never seen Maria dressed up or in makeup before. Maria is a natural beauty, absolutely drop dead gorgeous, she took John’s breath away.
David finished getting ready and walked out of the bathroom. He grabbed his jacket and put on his boots, he walked outside to start the truck so he could warm it up. David used the snow brush on the porch to clean the snow off of the Dodge. The snow was very wet and heavy.
John grabbed the snow shovel and made a path from the house to the truck for the ladies walking in their heels.
Maria swept the house for her belongings while Emily was finishing her makeup. John gathered his dirty clothes and put them in a trash bag for later, tossing them out the front door.
The clock kept ticking away; tick tock, tick tock. It was almost time for John to be at the Church getting ready for the first service. “We should get going,” John said. John and Maria walked outside hand in hand. John picked up the trash bag of dirty clothes and placed it under the seat on the snowmobile. Next, he walked Maria from the house to the passenger’s side of the truck and helped her step up inside the truck.
John and Maria were waiting for David and Emily to join them. The truck began blowing heat after five minutes of the engine idling. The windshield wipers were struggling under the weight of the wet snow.
John turned to Maria and grabbed her hand. “No matter what happens today Maria; I love you, I’m so glad I met you, and that we fell in love. I can’t believe that you wanted to be my wife, I’m so grateful for you.”
“I love you to John. I’ve never felt this way about another person before. I never planned on sharing my life with anyone, much less getting married. I didn’t think I deserved anyone good in my life, yet here you are, and you love me for who I am. I’m ecstatic John.”
Emily and David came out of the house just in time to see John and Maria embraced in a passionate kiss. After the kiss John looked up to see Emily and John looking at them. That’s awkward,” John said. Emily didn’t look happy. This sent fears of a jeopardized mission through John.
John’s plans hinged on Emily stalling her father while John gets his well-crafted lesson out to the television audience. “We need Emily,” John said. David and Emily walked around the back of the truck. “Maybe this would be a great time to try that plan you have, the one where you ignore things,” Maria said.
The back door opened and David helped Maria into the super cab truck. John couldn’t see well enough to back out of the driveway though. The huge snow banks blocked everything. “David, would you mind spotting for me,” John said. “Sure John,” David said. He walked back into the street, motioning for John to back up, and guiding him to turn the giant truck safely.
John brought the truck to a stop; David got into the truck and fastened his seat belt. As John drove off he caught Emily staring at him in the rear view Window. John was sure he loved Emily before all of this; those feelings were all messed up now. John reached up and tapped the mirror so it moved, hiding Emily’s scrutiny from view.
John hit the accelerator and the truck moved, it lunged forward and sideways at the same time. John reached for the floor board and engaged the four by four by pulling the wheel lock into position, four wheel high, while slowly moving forward, the wheels snapped into gear and the truck straightened out.
John drove around the back of the shopping center, through the church parking lot. The secondary roads were like ice rinks; several inches thick in most areas. John pulled into the Senior Pastor spot and parked the truck. “That was non-eventful,” John said. Maria laughed nervously; John stashed the keys in the visor like he promised Wayne.
John looked up at the Church steeple; it didn’t feel inviting today. David extended his arm; inviting Maria to grab a hold, he escorted her safely into the building. John followed, escorting Emily safely as well. Once inside everyone hung up their coats by the Sanctuary entrance and huddled together in the back of the lobby.
There are a lot of people here considering the terrible weather,” John said. The audio/video crews checked volume and lighting levels throughout the auditorium. The spotlights danced in an empty room.
Emily spoke up “Perhaps we could wait in your office John.”
“Absolutely,” John said. This way please. John guided everyone back to the office wing where a few of the elders were gathered as usual this morning.
“Good Morning John” one of the senior elders said as they all walked by. “Good Morning Al,” John said. “God Bless you.”
“God Bless you as well John,” Al said. We all turned down the office wing and walked down to the Senior Pastors office.
“Good Morning John, Hi Emily,” Janet Said.”
“Good Morning Janet, have you seen my father today,” John said.
“He’s not coming in today John, he’s not feeling well, and with the weather and all. I don’t think he wanted to risk coming in today.”
“Janet, I’d like you to meet Maria and David, both are new friends of mine. Maria and David, this is Janet, our office manager. If you need anything, she’s the person to help”
“An office manager that bounced you on her knee when you were a cute baby,” Janet said.
Maria laughed out loud. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you Janet,” Maria said.
“Nice to meet you as well dear,” Janet said.
“John, they’ll be expecting you onstage in fifteen minutes,” Janet said.
“Have you made your rounds this morning John.”
“Not yet Janet, but I will in a few minutes when we finish up down here.”
“Very nice to meet you Maria and David, I hope you enjoy your visit here.”
John led everyone down to his office. He opened the door and everyone walked inside. “Oh my goodness,” Maria said. Your office view, it’s so beautiful,” Maria said.
“Don’t get used to it,” John said. “I’m not sure how much longer I’ll get to enjoy this,” John said.
Matthew opened the door to say hello on his way down the hall. Emily and John were standing close together. “Hi Dad,” Emily said.
“It’s nice to see you my love. If you don’t mind me asking; where did you get off to last evening, I couldn’t find you anywhere,” Matthew said.
“I’ll tell you all about it later,” Emily said.
“I almost forgot, Dad this is Maria, and David.”
“Nice to make your acquaintance,” Matthew said.
“No, I insist, come with me my love, Matthew said. He held the door open for Emily to follow him out. “I’ll see you guys at service then.”
“ I love you John,” Emily said as the door closed. John opened his desk and grabbed the security remote that David gave him last week and placed it in his pocket.
“That’s what I needed,” John said. “Let’s go, the show starts in about ten or eleven minutes. Walking back down the hall the group passed Janet’s desk again and walked back into the lobby. A surprising number of people turned out for service this Sunday morning. The lobby was bustling with people; “I didn’t think this many people would make it out today,” John said.
Walking into the Sanctuary a few people immediately vied for John’s attention. It’s a weird part of the job. Some people don’t want to go through the trouble of having a relationship with God. So they do the next best thing, they settle for knowing someone who has a personal relationship with God.
John walked up to the tech folks. “Hey good morning, are we online with CTV this morning?” “Affirmative sir, the general manager came in this morning to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
Joe, the music Pastor walked up. “Hi John, we’re short a lot of people today. Would it be OK with you if we did a couple of quick songs and then came back to you for the Sermon? We don’t have the number of people required for the Choir unfortunately, and we don’t have a pianist today. I’ve never been without a pianist before John and I’m totally freaking out about it.”
“I can play the Piano,” David said.
“I can sing lead vocals,” Maria said.
“Thank you two so much,” Joe said. “Let’s see if we can pull a couple of songs together quickly.”
Maria winked at John as she headed up on the stage with David and Joe; fantastic, both of them will be on stage so I can keep an eye on them. “That takes a bit of the burden off.” John said.
The stage has well hidden Teleprompters built into the stage landscape; all of the latest gadgets in broadcasting were being used. The overhead projection screens started broadcasting welcome messages to the members as they arrived for service. The welcome time streamed live via the Internet as well. Everything about the Sanctuary and the service is specifically designed to illicit a trance state in the mind of the worshiper.
Joe, David, and Maria went to the choir room behind the stage to practice their songs before broadcast. John walked to the wall phone behind the stage and called the floor at CTV. “CVT production floor, Michelle speaking can I help you,” Michelle said.
“Hi Michelle, this is John Smith at the Crystal Cathedral, how are you this morning.”
“I’m good John, thanks for asking. Kris, Brent and Tim are here in the studio with me. Hang on a second John, Kris wants to talk with you.”
“Hi John; how is everything there this morning? I trust by your phone call you managed to get in OK,” Kris said.
“It was easy, a little too easy actually, but I’m just counting that as a blessing right now. How is everything downtown?”
“Excellent, we’re going live in five minutes John; I just wanted to talk with you before you went up on that stage. It’s been great working together and I know we’ll see each other again. I just wanted to wish you good luck on getting the message out there. I’ll talk to you later. Good luck and God bless you John.”
John looked through the curtains at the audience; people were streaming in the building at a fast pace. John was both terrified and extremely excited for everyone at the same time. John’s an odd creature. He’s one of those that’s puts his own interests behind those of others.
Maria and David were busy working out the vocals for ‘Amazing ‘Grace’ and ‘our God is an awesome God’; two very beautiful songs both David and Maria know the words to. The audience can now be heard. With just a few minutes to spare John looked out in the audience and saw Matthew. He was out shaking hands and welcoming people, “that’s a great sign,” John said. Matthew isn’t aware of what’s going on yet.
Joe and Maria were finishing up vocal scales, learning how to sing with each other. David walked over to the side of the stage behind the curtain where John was hanging out. “Are you doing OK,” David said.
“I’m doing fine David,” John said. “Thanks for asking, how are you doing brother?”
“I’m doing pretty well John, if you don’t mind I’d like to ask you a personal question?”
“What do you thinks going to happen this morning,” David asked.
“After you and Maria finish singing your two songs I’ll be out there on stage, giving probably the last sermon of my life. I’ll lay the truth on the line as best as I can. And then hope for the best.”
“What’s that on the teleprompter John, the true Church sermon,” David asked.
“That’s the lesson I was supposed to teach today. Why we’re the only true Church or some garbage like that. It was written by Matthew, our Senior Elder. It’s designed to keep everyone feeling righteous, to make them believe they’re actually Saints. It’s a great way to keep the flock in your tight grasp, and choke the life out of them.”
Dave from security was making his rounds before worship began. John looked up and noticed Dave waving as he walked by. John motioned for Dave to come over. “Dave, I’d like you to meet David. David’s a friend of mine; and the preacher for the church up in Ely.”
“What do you here David, Dave said.”
“I’m in charge of security here at the Church,” Dave said.
“Dave. We might have a serious security breach here,” John said. “I’m going to need your help. I have a bad feeling about going on stage this morning. God has some things on my heart that He wants me to share that will not be popular. “What do we have here for protection Dave? I’ve heard at the drinking fountain that we have a few members who conceal weapons in the Sanctuary for safety. I hope that’s true.”
“It’s true alright. I’d guess there are at least thirty handguns out there this morning.”
“Get them ready,” John said.
“Yes sir; if you don’t mind me asking, what are we protecting you from.”
“I don’t know how to describe it yet Dave; you’ll know it when you see it, that’s for sure. Can you get some of your people to the front row please, and have the rest cover the exits please,” John said. “David and Maria are going on stage in a moment and I’d like to get things secure.
“Yes Sir,” David said. He walked out the back door into the hallway system leading to the gym and cafeteria. The teams of greeters out front were replaced by friendly gentleman packing nine millimeter and forty five caliber peace keepers. The same with the ushers, they were replaced as well. The building was locked down well now.
Joe, Maria, and David walked out on stage. A loud applause and a standing ovation from the members marked the start of the service. Matthew and Emily walked in together. Emily grabbed Matthews hand and pulled him to the back row by the door.
David sat down at the Piano; Joe grabbed the guitar and started strumming a catchy rhythm for the first song. David joined in with the Piano; people were up on their feet shaking their hips to the music and clapping, and singing along in no time.
John walked cautiously out on stage; he stopped briefly to turn on his microphone. He sang and led the rest of the audience into clapping along.
Joe, Maria, and David were extraordinarily talented and they brought the song to an awesome finale; the audience gave a standing ovation, the applause lasted for several minutes.
Maria began singing Amazing Grace a cappella. After the first verse and chorus Joe and David joined in. Maria’s voice was amazing; it brought a tear to your eye if you had a beating heart. Maria sang her heart out this cold winter morning. She will have touched millions by the end of the day via YouTube.
After the applause settled down Joe softly played the Piano while David and Maria walked off the stage to the choir room. Maria was so beautiful this morning. John could see Maria out of the corner of his eye on the right.
The spotlights tracked in and settled on John as the congregation looked on. The spotlights made this easier than it would be otherwise. The bright lights blinded John for the first few minutes and he’s not able to see anything.
“Thanks for joining us today on this beautiful winter day for our Christmas service,” John said. There were approximately three hundred people in the assembly and about a million people worldwide tuning in.
“I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. You know, I wonder how many of us believe that December twenty fifth is Jesus birthdate. I’m not going to ask anyone to raise their hands just follow along with me for a moment please.“
“I think most of us celebrate Jesus’ birthday as a remembrance, a historical occurrence that changed the very foundation of the world. Not an exact date.”
“Some people believe that Jesus Christ was born on December twenty fifth which also coincides with the winter solstice. Was it combined together to make it easier for people to celebrate together, we’ll never know for sure. But one thing is for sure; Jesus came to life and walked this Earth.”
“I’ll not be able to sugar coat this so let’s talk about it now and get it out into the open and let the light of truth shine on it. The example of Jesus’ birthday being on Christmas day is an introduction to this way of thinking.
A thinking mind should be able to expand on this. I can believe in Jesus’ birthday and celebrate it on the twenty fifth of December without believing He was born exact on this day. This doesn’t hurt the gospel, or change the message. Keep this in mind as I’ll be coming back to it.”
Everyone was intrigued; Matthew was starting to look a little uncomfortable in the back but Emily was successful in keeping him in his seat so far. John reached into his pocket and grabbed the remote security trigger and palmed it in his right hand.
“If you think Christmas is intriguing you’re not going to believe the rest of this, trust me. Grab your smart phone or tablet if you have one with you, open a web browser and go to http://www.freetobejustachristian.com/ , I want you to bookmark this in case our program gets interrupted and you need to finish up this study on your own.”
“Write the website address down and put it in your pocket for later. The rabbit hole is very deep; but getting on the right track is easy, just by substituting a few words, just like King James did. You can physically change the entire meaning of Christianity into a real caste based Institutional Church.”
“There is a second web site you need to know about which clearly refutes the false manmade doctrine of hell being eternal punishment. That web address is http://www.hellisnoteternalpunishment.com/ .” Folks, you want to really take your time on this material.”
“Hell has been used on people as a weapon for a long time. Hell is a fear mongering tool that forces people to join the Church to escape the fiery torment of hell. Read that web site, it explains it all, and it’s important for you to understand that this is a false doctrine.” So, if you get it wrong in this life, you don’t go to a dark place and get tortured for eternity, you get annihilated, end of story. I’m not saying annihilation is fun or anything, but it’s a just punishment that fits the crime of us not loving our creator. He can just un-create us, problem solved.”
“So that great grandmother, or uncle, brother, sister or parent that never found God? They’re not destined to Hell to be tormented forever. Scripture is pretty clear; only God has eternal life; for everyone else it’s granted to them if their name is found in the book of life.”
“What does it take to really become a Christian? Just believing that Jesus Christ was God; that He came to Earth in human form to deliver us from the horrible condition we are in. You folks don’t need a Preacher to hang out with God for eternity; nor a Pastor or Father, or a Reverend or a Minister, none fit the bill. It’s really up to you; it’s in your hands if you want to make it to Heaven. It’s something you have to want very much, and you have to do it on your own. Believing in God is a one on one personal relationship, not some mass ritual you participate in every weekend.”
“I know I’m droning on, oh I see Pastor Joe coming this way. How are you doing this evening Pastor Joe?” Joe walked up to John; John cupped the Microphone for a moment to talk with him. Pastor Joe left the stage in a huff. After Joe walked out, Matthew stood up. “Shut up John,” Matthew said. “I certainly hope we’re off the air,” Matthew said.
Emily tried to tell Matthew about the salvation she found. Emily thought that Matthew would at least understand getting saved if that opportunity presented itself. Instead, Matthew grabbed Emily and threw her violently across the room into the coat rack; she hit the wall so hard all you could hear for a moment was jingling.
“Shit” John said to the surprise of most people in the room, some thought it to be appropriate though. Matthew looked almost demonic when the light caught him right, his red fiery eyes reflecting from the stage lights.
John pressed the remote that David gave him last week. David and his security team down front positioned themselves between John and Emily, and the rest of the Church. The doors to the Sanctuary were opened, as well as the fire and hallway exits.
“Do you think these guards can hold me back Johnny, me, do you know who you’re dealing with here John,” Matthew said.
“I’m getting a good idea,” John said.
Maria walked out from the back of the stage and took John by the hand. “Continue John,” Maria said.
“I’d also like to talk about the collection or tithing that most Churches do every Sunday,” John said. The example we see in the New Testament is a onetime gift to the Church in Jerusalem,” John said. There’s no scriptural support for a weekly giving system. The scriptures have to be twisted pretty hard to come up with a commandment for us to give weekly to an institutional Church; it doesn’t make us bad people if we do though.”
“I’d rather see you folks take your money that you’re donating to the institutional Church every week and give it to someone in your life who really needs it instead. I bet we could make a big difference there. This building I’m in right here cost millions and millions of dollars, I wonder how many lives we could have changed if we would have given most of that money directly to the people that needed it What would have changed if you could cut out the middle men; that’s pretty what we are here.”
Matthew started yelling at John insanely in what sounded like Latin, it was very bizarre indeed. John and Maria held each other close as Matthew transformed from a short frumpy businessman with a crooked tie into a dark angel standing about seven and a half feet tall.
He was slender, very handsome, and deadly. Matthew picked up a church pew and swung it around sending the rest of the pews and some members flying through the air. Screams could be heard as the Sanctuary was demolished from the fracas.
John and Maria both heard the silent still voice to kneel down. Their eyes caught each other briefly as they were kneeling. Maria smiled at John. “I’ll see you on the other side love,” Maria said.
“I love you Maria,” John said.
The next thing John knows he’s in the river house again searching for Maria. That familiar place he finds Maria in his dreams. He’s on the back porch watching the boats float by, the beautiful water jetting out of the hot tub and pool look inviting.
John hears someone upstairs. He ran up what seemed like an endless set of stairs to reach the kitchen on the fourth floor, eight sets of stairs to be exact. The faster he ran, the slower his progress, like he was being held back.
John looks to the left and follows the water noise coming from the kitchen. There’s his love, Maria. He walks up behind her, slowly, trying to surprise her. He cups his hands and places them over her eyes, guess who John says. Maria turns around and recognizes John; this has never happened in their dreams before, they’ve only seen each other, they’ve never recognized each other, and to see each other standing here is a miracle.
“I love you John, Maria said.
“I love you to Maria, I always have, John said.
They embraced and kissed. This was by far the most sensuous kiss they ever had. In the middle of the kiss Maria disappears. John can’t find her anywhere in the house. After looking inside he runs outside looking everywhere he can think. “Maria”, John screams into the setting sun. “Where are you Maria, I love you Maria. Oh God John says as he falls to the ground in tears.
“I can’t lose Maria,” John said. John closed his eyes and prayed for God to help. John prayed for God to bring them together again for this lifetime. So John can have the one true love for his life, if God wills it. Please God, please John cried. I love her. John’s consciousness drifts away gently into nothingness.
A bright light is bearing down on John. It feels like his head is about ready to explode from the pain and pressure. John hears a beep, and another, and another. He opens his eyes; John wakes up in a hospital bed with Maria at his side, holding his hand. The hundreds of sounds, images, and memories from the other world start fading away at the moment he woke up. How sad it would be if John had a different outcome he thought. But he didn’t, John woke up with the girl of his dreams by his side, which brought a huge smile to John’s face.
John squeezed Maria’s hand. Maria screamed in surprise and jumped up. “Get a doctor,” Maria said. John could hear people scurrying around and saying some things but he was having trouble following the conversations.
“What happened,” John said.
“John, Oh my God, you woke up, oh my God John,” Maria said.
A well decorated police officer walks in the room and shuts the door behind him. He stands there with his back to the door, guarding it; no one can get in, or get out without going through him. He stares out the window, looking through John and Maria. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence the guard begins to talk. “Mr. Smith, I’m Levi with the Minneapolis State Police Department. I’m here to hang out with you and your wife until the President of the United States gets here,” Levi said.
“When is that Levi, what time does the President arrive,” John said.
“He’s en route Mr. Smith; he should be here within the hour. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable until he gets here?”
“Well, that’s a surprise,” John said.
“I have another surprise for you John, “Maria said.
“What’s that, John said.
“I’m pregnant John, and we’re going to have a baby girl,” Maria said.
John thought back to his dream at the cabin long ago; the one where he first saw Maria and the girl. Maria was exactly in the same pose as she was in John’s dream. She had the same smile and everything, an exact match. The moment was frozen in time as a monument, as a place keeper that told John he was exactly where he was supposed to be. Doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing.
John looked at Maria, their eyes met, and he smiled. “Prophesy, exactly like it was foretold in my dreams,” John said.