By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” – John 14:1-3
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” – Philippians 3:20-21
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a new and living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:6-8
For the majority of my life, I lived in the state of Louisiana. I grew up in what is known as “Cajun” country, the area that makes up most of the southern half of the state. It is here where the Cajun, or Acadian French dialect and language is spoken by generations of men and women who have made their living primarily as fishermen of shrimp, crayfish, catfish, and alligators, all of which found themselves on our dinner table at various times of the year. The bayous and swamps were just a few miles from my house, and at various hunting seasons, my Dad would go out and bag a few ducks for gumbos and other dishes. Zydeco music was as commonplace as the rock and roll and country music played on the radio stations in the region.
I was reared in the city of Lake Charles, which was a major petrochemical and oil refinery location due to its closeness to the Gulf of Mexico and the offshore oil platforms that shipped their goods to the plants regularly. We had yearly festivals and carnivals on the lakeshore, and a Borden ice cream factory downtown where on Sundays after church, my family would go get milkshakes or chocolate fudge sundaes, which did not help my struggle with childhood obesity. My friends and I went to the neighborhood elementary school, a half a block from our lower middle class houses, and on certain days we would all get together, without parental supervision, go to the schoolyard and play kickball until it was time to go home for dinner. We were all in and out of each other’s houses, borrowing toys and bikes for riding and play, and when our parents called for us, we knew better than to waste our time getting home or talking back to them demanding more play time. If anyone of us misbehaved, the adult in the room would not hesitate to whip our behinds, tell our parents, and we’d get a second whipping from Mom or Dad when we got home. Perhaps this is the reason that my generation did not go out and shoot each other or at school, and we were blessed to have both Mom and Dad available for times of laughter and sorrow.
My parents took me to church every Sunday, then as I got older, my grandparents took up the task, and I dare not say anything against it. When I would spend Saturday nights at their house, we got up early the next morning, did our routines, and got to the church early enough for my grandfather to unlock all the doors and check for anything that may have been out of the ordinary in the sanctuary. The godly role model that he displayed all of his life was a factor used by the Holy Spirit to not only give my heart to Jesus Christ, but to be a minister of the gospel as well. I was 20 when I left Lake Charles to go work overseas with my Dad. I came back to the U.S. after nearly two years away, having seen much of the world and gaining an appreciation for what I had back in America. I went to college and ended up meeting the girl who would become my loving spouse of 36 years as of now. On her birthday after we started dating, I drove her from Alexandria, Louisiana where she lived, to Lake Charles to take her to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner. I then took her to meet my grandparents. They were the first of my relatives to meet her, and I told my grandfather when we were alone that she was the one. She and I had met on February 22, 1982 and I proposed to her six weeks later on April 6. After our marriage in 1983 and graduation a year later, we made our home in central Louisiana where I got a job as a teacher and she started working for the U.S. government. We also had joy and sorrow as we welcomed our first child in 1988 and lost our second child a year later.
In the summer of 1991 we moved to the original “Party City”, New Orleans in order for me to attend seminary and my wife got on with the Veterans Affairs office downtown. Now, to live in New Orleans is essentially like living in an adult version of Disneyland without having to buy a ticket or season pass. There was continual activity all throughout the city and suburbs and there was no lack of things to do on weekends. There was the French Quarter with its historical charm (except for Bourbon Street, which we avoided) the varied shopping centers, the food (which I’ll put up against anything elsewhere), and the attitude of the citizens.
Most people who live there will treat you as if they’ve known you all their lives. There were times where I would take our children to the Audubon Zoo and ride the streetcars down St. Charles Avenue and look at the mansions and sometimes stop at one of the diners on the route for lunch or a snack. This is not to say that the city was perfect. By no means. There were areas of high crime and places where you did not go for fear of your life, but we knew to avoid them. We made friends there and were active in the local churches, either as a pastor or member, and all was well. Our son was born there and our family was complete. Then came August 28, 2005, when we had to get out of the area due to Hurricane Katrina heading straight for us. Everyone we knew and everything we had was gone just a short time later. We lost everything and knew that we were never going to return. We started a new life in Oklahoma and God has blessed us here since we settled here over 14 years ago. There are times when I would like to go back and at least visit the old haunts, but they’re gone and frankly I don’t miss the humidity, mold, allergens, or lack of seasons. Down there it was either humid and cold or humid and hot. I was used to it, but now I’d suffer severe allergies if I ever went back. Where we are now is home, winds, dry heat, casinos, Indian tribes, and all.
The place I called home for over forty years is now just a memory. The friends I grew up with are all gone. I’ve outlived them all. My parents and grandparents are gone and the houses they had are now demolished or left to rot in less than desirable neighborhoods. The high school I attended is now surrounded by a fence and barbed wire with security guards. The places I used to frequent are all gone. New Orleans itself is a mix of empty neighborhoods, abandoned parks, and the city fathers, in all their cockeyed zeal, took down Confederate statues instead of repairing pumps and streets to prevent future flooding and is now run by a radical feminist who has discouraged any company in the city to do business with Israel, calling the nation an “apartheid” state. I don’t want to be near her when the lightning bolt hits.
The LGBTQ advocates now take over the city every summer for the annual “Decadence” festival, and I won’t go into the sordid details about what happens, but it definitely is NOT “family friendly”. Let’s just say we owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology and leave it at that. As it now stands, the older I get and the more biblically focused I’ve become, I realize that this place is definitely not my home and that advocacy for various causes and movements is really an exercise in futility. The trouble is that a lot of Christians work and focus on issues in this world with the thought that life will simply go on without any due consequences or accountability.
Oh, Jesus will probably come back, but for now, we’ve got to save the earth and stop global warming, or support the cause of social justice, or lament the tragedy of “white supremacy” and the ever present sounds of “racism”, and that the President is evil incarnate wanting to kill the unfortunate “undocumented peoples” by keeping them in cages, or whatever the latest frenzied yammer reported by political parties and fanatical members of the press tend to present to a frankly weary public who would rather that everyone just shut up for a few minutes and breathe.
If we’d just settle down, especially those of us who claim to have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, need to take our eyes off what will be irrelevant once we’re dead or raptured, and focus instead on the fact that this world as we know it will come to an end, and no activism on our part will stop that. We need to focus on the hard truth that God is Sovereign, and we are not. We also need to re-read Scripture and see that the Lord Jesus Christ is preparing a whole new place for us where there will be no wrongs to protest, or causes to champion, or gripes with elected officials, or whatever the devil and the world has used to get our eyes off of the main reason that we’re even hers as believers, and that is to tell people about the salvation for their lives and souls that is only found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the eternal, horrid consequences that await them if they avoid the issue, or mock it, or try to say that it doesn’t exist, or whatever the excuse. Heaven is our real home (Revelation 21:1-7), and there we will have true peace, a new sense of purpose and meaning in working for the glory of God, eternal access to the Lord, a reunion with loved ones, and the assurance that all evil and the devil himself will be imprisoned for eternity in the Lake of Fire (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:11-15), where he will never bother us again.
Time as we know it is coming to a conclusion, and there is a field white unto harvest that still needs to be gleaned. One day the trumpet of God will sound, and those of us who have a true relationship with the Lord will be taken out of here (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The ones who are left here will endure a world where terror and tragedy will increase and grow far worse than what we experience now. The Scriptures tell us that if the Lord Jesus didn’t return, no one would be left alive (Mark 13:20). Again, what the devil is trying to do before that happens is to keep us focused on what is essentially temporary and has no use except to draw us away from our evangelistic assignment (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). Heaven is our home and we are its legitimate citizens by virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. Let’s focus on that reality and curb our outrage and activism. We don’t need to copy the world or allow it to corrupt us (Romans 12:2). All of the wrongdoing we see or think we see will be judged by the Lord Jesus, and His word will be final. I’d rather be with Him right now anyway. What about you?
Don was born and raised in the true Cajun Country of Louisiana. He holds a Bachelors Degree in History from Louisiana College, a Masters Degree in Christian Education from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Theology from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia. Don has served as a pastor, interim pastor, high school teacher, and hospital chaplain over the past thirty years. He currently serves as a volunteer chaplain (2008-present) with St. Francis Hospital and also served as the pastor/teacher from 2013-2016 at the Gospel Rescue Mission, both of which are here in Muskogee. He was called to Meadowbrook in February 0f 2017 and began his ministry in March of that year. He has also served as President of the Muskogee Baptist Association’s Pastors Conference, which is a weekly meeting that presents speakers and ministry ideas and concepts to church leaders in the greater Muskogee area.
Don’s top priority is to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is shared with our lost and hurting world and that the people of God are taught sound doctrine and preparation for our Lord’s soon return.