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OPINION: Are you concerned about how the County budget is being handled?

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Fellow Citizens of Warren County,

Are you concerned about how the County budget is being handled? Enough to stand up and get involved? You may or may not be aware, that the County Administrator, Doug Stanley sends out budget requests to all county departments in November. All budgets are due back near the end of December. The Administrator then meets with department heads and Constitutional officers, usually during the second week of January. After this meeting, the Board of Supervisors begin work sessions for outside agencies, i.e., Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown Fire Department, our local St. Luke’s Clinic, and others in our community who provide a service and seek some assistance to operate.

The budget process goes on through February and March with the Board holding work sessions with the Health Dept, EDA, Northwestern Community Services, SAAA, County departments, Constitutional officers and the School Board. We are now nearing the time when the BOS will adopt a budget for our fiscal year 2019-20, which runs July 1 –  June 30. They are considering a 6-cent tax hike! That means you and me will be paying .72 per $100 of our assessed properties! The Town folk will be paying even more!!!

The meeting to adopt the budget will take place on Tuesday, April 16 at 7:00 p.m. There is a Public Hearing prior to this on Tuesday, April 9 at 7:00 p.m., and I encourage each of you to attend and provide the BOS with facts regarding the impact their choices have had on you, others, and the county as a whole. If you are unable to be present at either of these meetings, please contact them prior via phone or email. You can find their contact information on www.warrencountyva.net/board-of-supervisors.

The County Administrator recently again informed us that there is yet another shortfall – a $5.6M to be exact in our 2019-20 budget. This is unbelievable! 6 years of increases and 2 assessments, and he still cannot operate this County properly as he is well-paid to do! He claims this is based on revenue projections, departmental increases of $1.4M and the School Board’s request of $2.3M from local funding. His idea on closing this large gap is through budget cuts, which he has proven doesn’t really exist. He proposes to cut $255K from the schools, but doesn’t mention anything about how the Sheriff’s Department can be cut to help with the budget (see my explanation following), bumps in revenue projections and another REAL ESTATE TAX INCREASE – same scenario for the past 5 years!

This is our 6th year of increases! Ironically, the BOS just approved a $5.6M for a new Rivermont “Volunteer” Fire Department. This station appears to be needed and should have come as a priority long before now, and before all the other spending that has taken place occurred. Along with this, the WCF&RS are hoping to gain 15 new full-time positions through a grant. If the grant is received, we must provide $234,679 towards their salaries and benefits for 2 years, $610,166 for the 3rd year, and $938,717 annually after that-considering no further increase. They also are seeking to build a training facility on ESA Road. This County has been struggling to obtain loans for the previous $10.SM debt that was supposed to have been funded through the New Market Tax credit but wasn’t.

If you do the figuring on what’s been given to us, this County is about $23.7M in debt, not counting the $10.2M for the new Front Royal police department, which brings us up to approximately $33.9M in debt. For a small area like Warren County – approximately 39K people total (this number includes our children) – that puts roughly $845K over each person’s head – this is an extreme amount of debt to be in, and the services received do not even compare!  It is obvious that the management of our county funds must be looked in to in a more in-depth manner. It is with utmost importance that while providing the services needed to the County, we also manage our ability to pay our debt back in the means the folks can handle. We must prioritize what’s most important and stop reaching for instant gratification of “new this” and “new that”.

The BOS, Administrator, Constitutional officers and Department heads must be held to a higher level of accountability regarding the use of County funds. I’m not sure about you, but I’m uncertain of where this money is going to continue to come from. My salary isn’t increasing at the speed of the tax rates and assessment values! I have great concern about these issues!

Last April, Tony Carter challenged the disgruntled citizens during the budget meeting, telling them that they needed to be more involved with the budget process all year long, and not just at the end. I took Mr. Carter up on his offer in April, and then again when I confronted the entire BOS at their meeting on June 5, about the continued increases, and my willingness to help with the budget. Other county citizens have voiced their concerns about this as well, but it is apparent our concerns fall on deaf ears, due to the position they’ve put us in again this year.

Mr. Carter offered me his 2017-18 budget books, and said he didn’t have the most recent budget for 2018-19 because he had turned them back in. I was able to obtain this information through the Finance Department, and then requested copies of the most recent 2019-20 budget submittals as they came in but was only able to receive a few of the departments, before it being stopped. I began to compare the Sheriff’s budget for the last 3 years and confronted the BOS via email on Feb. 18 with a letter regarding my concerns and reiterated my nearly $900 real estate increase since 2015, now it will be well over a $1K increase within 4 years. I was shocked when another citizen asked me if that was all – as theirs is even higher! I sent the BOS the attached 25 questions regarding the Sheriff Department’s budget – figuring they should know the answers since they approve it every year, but I only received a response from their Deputy Clerk, who informed me that my document had been forwarded to the Sheriff and I should reach out to him. She also included the County Attorney, and the County Administrator in her response to me, so they all are aware of my concerns.

The following are the questions asked by me and the answers provided by the Sheriff. Please take time to read and review, as nothing is mentioned by the BOS or the County Administrator regarding any budget cuts for this department, only steady increases since he took this position 16 years ago.

1. When was the last salary increase approved in the Department?

  • All eligible County employees received an increase January 1, 2019. To be eligible, hire date had to be prior to July 1, 2018, and employees had to score at least a “meets standards” on their evaluation.

2. Why is the county paying full salaries for 15 more patrol deputies when state allots for 22 for the population our size? – This amount is costing the county $638,619.22 -­not accounting the portion the county pays for health insurance and vehicles.

  • The “15 more patrol deputies” are not new or additional. positions for FY 2019- 2020. The number of deputies employed by Warren County is based upon the workload of the Sheriffs Office.

3. Why is a “Vacant/Patrol” position added to the budget in the amount of $45,892.61?

  • The patrol vacancy will be filled in the current 2018/2019 budget, prior to July 1st 2019. This is not a new position and we had to account for the funding in the next 2019/2020 budget.

4. Why is county paying full salaries for 3 more Administrative positions in the amount of $113,622.82? – not accounting the portion the county pays for health insurance.

  • The “3 more administrative positions” are not new or additional positions for FY 2019-2020.

5. Why doesn’t state cover any of the E-911 salaries – county is paying for 7 full-time positions in the amount of $224,818.87′? – not accounting the county’s portion for health insurance.

  • The state only reimburses for 4 E911 salaries as well as 1 E911 Supervisor Salary. The other 7 positions are county funded positions due to it being an E911 center.

6. Why does county pay full salaries in the amount of $304,514.87 for 6 Resource officers, when State allots for 3 at the present? – not accounting for the county’s portion for health insurance and vehicles.

  • The State Compensation Board does not fund SRO positions; they fund Deputy positions in general. I can use the personnel funding from the compensation board anywhere in my operation based on their certification to offset county personnel expense.

7. Why is a “Vacant” Resource Officer” position added to the budget in the amount of$41,576.43? This adds up to 10 – there are a total of 9 schools.

  • Same answer as #3 and yes, we have 9 schools and the Supervisory Lieutenant of SRO is the 10th that oversees that division and fills in where an SRO is absent, in court, etc.

8. What do these Resource officers do when school is not in session?

  • SRO’s are law enforcement-certified deputies (just like Patrol, Animal Control, etc.). There are still school-related duties that continue even when school is not in session, such as training for security upgrades, lockdown drills, summer school, etc. The Sheriffs Youth Camp also occurs in the summer, and SRO’s are typically very involved in that program. In addition, SRO’s perform other law enforcement duties and may be reassigned to other divisions such as Patrol and Animal Control during non-school hours.

9. Why is county paying full salaries for 3 more court security positions in the amount of $113,021.56 when the state allots for 7? – not accounting the county’s portion for health insurance and vehicles. (Shows a total of .10 in court house – 1 building).

  • The Court Services division has 10 full time deputies. This division is not just court security, which has 2 full time employees, but also court hold with 3 and civil process with 3. There is also a Lieutenant and Captain that oversee this division and communications. In total there are 13 part time employees in the Court Services division and 10 full time.

10. Why is a “Vacant court security” position added to the budget in the amount of $36,747.51?

  • There was a vacancy in the Court Services division because there was one position that was not filled at the time of budget preparation. That position is now filled.

11. Why is county paying full salaries for 2 more Animal control positions in the amount of $85,997.08, when state allots for 2?

  • The State Compensation Board does not fund Animal Control positions; they fund Deputy positions in general. I can use the personnel funding from the compensation board anywhere in my operation based on certification to offset county personnel expense.

12. Why is county still pursuing “Career Development” in the Sheriffs office when the county just paid for a complete review and was informed to back away from it for now and concentrate on other departments instead of just one? (Budget proposal shows $53,405 in the Sheriffs total budget for 2019-20).

  • The Career Development Program (CDP) was first proposed by the Sheriffs Office at a work session on October 3, 2017, with funding for the program approved as part of the FY 2018-2019 budget. An outside review of the program was included in the County’s RFP for the Compensation and Benefits study, with a request for the successful consultant candidate to make final recommendations for placement of the program into the County’s current compensation plan to coincide with the approved funding. The information presented by Paypoint HR in December 2018 to the Board of Supervisors was only a preliminary report, and the review of the CDP was subsequently completed. A final report on the Compensation and Benefits study will be forthcoming.

13. Why are cell phone stipends in the amount of $35,896 listed in the budget? Unnecessary – sheriff encrypted all radios.

  • The County utilizes a cell phone stipend plan for employees who request and are approved to use their personal devices in the transaction of public business. The stipends you’re referring to are used for 4 employees who are on call, 3 investigators and 1 E911 supervisor. The total stipend cost is $45 a month, per employee. Additionally, this line item is labeled “telephone” and it is utilized for expenditures to include Century Link (Office wide phone system) MCI (long distance), and Sprint (phones and MDT air card services). The new Motorola radio system already comes encrypted. I chose not to alter this feature and kept it encrypted.

14. How many deputies have a county vehicle assigned to them?

  • All deputies assigned to the Law Enforcement division have a vehicle assigned to them. The Sheriffs Office policy is that if the deputy lives in the county or has a position that requires it, they MAY be allowed to take their vehicle home. There are currently 36 deputies with take home vehicles. Some of these deputies are court services. Any deputy that has a take home vehicle starts work when they leave from home and may be directed to a call for service prior to coming to the office.

15. Why do deputies (court, patrol, animal, resource) drive vehicles to and from home and work?

  • (See answer to question 14) It is proactive to have sheriffs vehicles in and around the county parked at these locations, not to mention if an emergency arose they can respond directly from their residences.
  • A – To lease vehicles in this department alone cost the county$ 201,600
    • The lease program has been a benefit to my office to transition vehicles with high mileage or increased repairs out, keeping the maintenance budget down and ensuring the deputies patrolling are in safe and dependable vehicles while doing their job.
  • B – To insure these vehicles, it cost the county $44,885
    • Yes, that’s the budgeted amount.
  • C – To operate (repairs & fuel) it cost the county $205,397
    • Yes, that’s the budgeted amount. It is not necessarily what the year-end expense is.
  • D – Motor vehicle equipment cost the county $58,584
    • Yes, that’s the budgeted amount. This line item is for set up of the vehicles such as lights, radios, cages, striping, etc.
  • E – Total = $510,466 – total for deputy assigned vehicles per year
    • Yes, that’s the budgeted amount and that total is not just “deputy assigned vehicles.” It covers any vehicles the office has including non-take home vehicles and specialty service vehicles.

16. What company insures these vehicles?

  • VACORP

17. How did the sheriff’s budget get approved an increase of 9.27% for salary increases before budget process began without consideration to other Departments or the possible increase it may cost the citizens of the county?

  • The Sheriffs Office did not “get approved an increase of 9.27%” before the budget process began. As noted on the FY 2019-2020 request breakdown, the 9.27% is “due to previously approved budget salary increases/CDP implementation”. Both the 2.5% merit increase and Career Development Program were approved as part of the FY 2018-2019 budget and became effective January 1, 2019.

18. How was it determined to increase deputy salaries – as high as 21%?

  • When the Sheriffs Office developed our career development program, the career development programs of several other agencies were compared to insure that we were similar in structure and pay increases. The various percent increases are indicative of how underpaid that individual was based on CDP.

19. Why is county paying $313,609 to board dogs? – costing the county $26,134 per month.

  • The County has a three-year agreement with the Humane Society of Warren County, which was last approved in December 2016. Per the contract, “the County shall pay to the Society a yearly sum …in accordance with the following schedule:
    • Beginning July 1, 2017, for fiscal year 2017-2018, a total sum of $301,136.00 plus 2% or the CPI-U for the prior year, whichever is higher, not to exceed 3%. (Adopted budget of $302,129)
    • Beginning July 1, 2018, for fiscal year 2018-2019, the previous year’s sum plus 2%or the CPI-U for the prior year, whichever is higher not to exceed 3%. (Adopted budget of $308,106)
    • Beginning July 1, 2019, for fiscal year 2019-2020, the previous year’s sum plus 2% or the CPI-U for the prior year, whichever is higher not to exceed 3%.” (Budget request of$313,609)

20. How many dogs does the county board?

  • In 2018, the Humane Society of Warren County brought in 593 dogs among other animals.

21. Where does the county board the dogs?

  • The Humane Society of Warren County boards the dogs, per agreement.

22. Since Sheriff mentioned the Horse Mountain Patrol, I ask …when was the Horse Mountain Patrol created?

  • I established a “Mounted Horse Patrol” in 2005 that lasted until October 2007, due to two members leaving to go elsewhere to work. The mounted horse patrol had 3 members that provided their own horses, vet services, feed and boarding, all at the deputy’s personal expense. The Mounted patrol was utilized to assist in any search and rescue efforts, and to patrol large populated events like the WC Fair, occasionally ridden in parades, and patrolled Andy Guest State Park.

23. Why was the Horse Mountain Patrol created?

  • See answer to question 22.

24. Who were the deputies that made up the Horse Mountain Patrol’?

  • See answer to question 22.

25. When and why did the Horse Mountain Patrol subside?

  • See answer to question 22.

I am concerned about the budget County wide. The Sheriff’s department has been the cause to raise county taxes at least 3 times, and we are paying for 78 deputies when the state allots 41 for a county of our population. I can understand maybe a handful more, but this is 4 less of being totally ½ over the allotment.

Our BOS approved an SRO in each school last year, and in doing so raised our taxes, but you’ll see where the Sheriff added a 10th SRO this year, stating that this one oversees that division and fills in when another is absent. Unbelievable the attitude of how “I get what I want and then more” with no regard to how others continue to scrap up all they can to make ends meet!

Our teacher’s will receive a 5% increase from the State this year, in which we all pay taxes into, and our Superintendent is still proposing another 3% from us on the local level. I am all for our children’s education, our fire and rescue and our law enforcement, but if we don’t get the spending under control, there won’t be a need for any of this, because there won’t be any money to operate anything around here and then the EDA can truly advertise us as a “distressed area”!

There are still plenty of areas in the County budget that can be cut as I just proved through the Sheriff’s budget. We can save over $1M in this department alone if our BOS will get a backbone and just say NO! Our school system cries that we’re “in crisis” mode, all the while they spend money on buildings that aren’t even full, instead of putting our money into our children’s education!

We are paying a hefty salary to a County Administrator who is running us all in the ground! When will the BOS wake up? I hope it isn’t too late! Fellow Citizens, please plan to be present on April 9 & 16, 2019 at 7 p.m. in the Government Center Board Room – 220 N. Commerce Avenue, and if it is impossible, contact the BOS beforehand. They need to hear and heed to what we the people are saying!


Mrs. Leslie Mathews
Life-long & true citizen of Warren County

Opinion

OPINION: Candidate Poe doesn’t know the law

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Thank you for posting your video interview of Jason Poe. It was interesting and as always, I like that the Royal Examiner is on top of things that concern our community.

I do have an issue however about someone running for Sheriff and not understanding the law. You asked Mr. Poe about a lawsuit filed against him, which he said he was not aware of, and you also said something about the fact that it had been almost 2 years since the accident. Mr. Poe stated that he knew nothing about the lawsuit, he was not served.

The statue of limitations on personal injury matters such as this is 2 years from the date of the accident. The accident in this case occurred on December 24, 2016. The lawsuit was filed in a timely fashion. That two years is generally spent gathering information and attempts by the insurance company to settle the case. If they are unable to settle they file suit – which appears to have occurred here. However, they can request service or withhold service. That being said when a lawsuit is filed the attorney will copy the named Defendants and/or their attorney on the filing of the same.

So Mr. Poe should have received this in the mail. The Sheriff’s office would have also received it and I’m sure notified their former employee, Jason Poe, of the same. He, however,  acted as if he did not know what the statue of limitations is, more concerning is that he went on record – in your interview and stated “it was a minor accident”, there was barely an impact, he was going between “24 and 26 mph at the time of impact.” He further stated that he knew the passenger and he felt bad because he knew her.  Mr. Poe stated “they stopped suddenly to watch Santa Claus cross the bridge”. There were two children in the back of the vehicle.

If Mr. Poe observed two children in the back of the vehicle and Santa Claus crossing the bridge, why didn’t he observe the car stop in front of him? Was he following too closely?

If Mr. Poe understood the law, as a candidate for Sheriff, he would understand that the Statute of Limitations has NOT run out for those two children in the back of the car. The statute of limitations does NOT run out on minors until 2 years after their 18th birthday. The other thing he said was – they stopped suddenly. He didn’t apologize, he didn’t accept responsibility, he didn’t admit any wrong doing – he laid the blame on the driver of the car he hit and only said he felt bad because he knew the passenger. Can he accept responsibility for his actions? Clearly not. As an Officer of the Law, which he was acting in the capacity of at the time of the accident shouldn’t he have paid more attention? Shouldn’t he have been concerned about all the people in the car, not just the one he knew? This is a candidate for Sheriff?

Just one more thing Ms. Shaw – Mr. Poe stated that he left the Sheriff’s office on January 23, 2017. He stated he started at Winchester January 23, 2017. I called the Sheriff’s office – his last day was January 17, 2017. I cannot obtain the information as to whether or not he was given any type of administrative leave as a result of this accident and I don’t know if you can get it via FOIA. But I do know this, despite what he said, the accident was 12/24/16 and he left 1/17/17. I don’t think this was a coincidence and I do not believe he is being very transparent. I wish your video had been live so people could call in and ask these questions.

Thank you for allowing a concerned resident of this County to voice his concerns. And again, thank you Norma Jean Shaw for your reporting on all this mess going on around here. You’re an asset to the County.

Arthur DuBois
Warren County

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Opinion

Today is Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter

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Today is Maundy Thursday. Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). This is the “mandatum”… our mandate as Christians to serve others. He washed His apostles feet and went out to a garden to pray. He asked them to watch, but they fell asleep. Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, spit upon, and humiliated beyond words… our Lord… our Teacher… who taught servant-hood and love.

All during the night, He would be humiliated and tortured, and have placed upon His head a crown… one of thorns. More painful was the abandonment… the men He taught… the twelve… abandoned Him.

People abandon Him daily by living sinful lives. We have the chance now to show our love by following His “mandatum”… to become a servant… to serve… to love… to proclaim Jesus as our Savior.

Does the cock crow for me… or ye? I pray not… (reference verse: Luke 22:34).

Reverend Larry W. Johnson
Front Royal, VA

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Opinion

FRIBA encourages all of our community to be more compassionate about our current state of affairs

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Over the past month, Front Royal and Warren County have encountered a financial crisis that threatens the balance in our community.  This crisis affects the trust we have in our elected and appointed officials, which could further jeopardize the faith that we have had in our systems and in our fellow citizens.

As an independent business organization, The Front Royal Independent Business Alliance (FRIBA) encourages all of our community to be more level headed and compassionate about our current state of affairs. We must remain strong, use our character, our leadership and our discipline as examples for others to follow. We must have faith and understanding and avoid the madness of the crowd during this difficult period. We need to find solutions through facts, not repeating rumors. The results of these compassionate actions will help us heal and become stronger.

We encourage everyone to study the issues, avoid the negative crowds and social media mudslinging, and strive for the positives. We need to count our blessings, lean on each other for support and compassion. Together we can learn from the mistakes from this period of time and seek to improve what we have. Be a constructive leader, a sound business person and a faithful follower of the good that will result.

We ask that you put aside the pettiness and blatant criticism of the innocent, their families and their rumored guilt. Rumors can hurt families and the county’s overall reputation. The courts will find the guilty and they will suffer, rightfully so. We ask that you also remain vigilant as good citizens, so that these mistakes will not ever happen again.

Remember your family, your faith and your community, and share your kindnesses every day! Together we as a community will survive and become stronger.

The Board of Directors of FRIBA
George McIntyre, Craig Laird, Arline Link, Patricia Moore, Michael Swauger, Mike McCool

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Opinion

A “nothing” in a tomb, rising in glory

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A recent article, “A Place Of Lost History And Identity”, addressed the search for the graves/markers/names of those buried in an African- American cemetery. Highlighted was one Carolyn Jenkins.

It really touched my heart, for this lady was at the “bottom” of the social and economic “ladders” – a “nothing” if you will. For she was a slave, knowing only bondage to her master(s). An almost miraculous chain of events, though, brought her freedom and its promises, including citizenship and being a land owner!

Her marker reads, “And the finger of God touched her and she slept”. This, to me, would say she knew of and possibly believed in Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. Jesus said of Lazarus that “he sleeps”, but later added that “Lazarus is dead”.

So, Carolyn is to be considered dead; her body art rest “in the Lord”. Another miraculous event took place. Jesus called out, “Lazarus come forth”, and he came out of his tomb! Folks, this is beyond miraculous, it is something only God can do. And because Jesus has the power, even Carolyn is subject to His awesome words: “…all those in the grave shall hear my voice and shall come forth”!

Yes, yes, Carolyn is even now in the presence of Jesus and her body will rise from its tomb. Jesus said, “…because I live ye shall live also”.

Folks, this is what Easter (Resurrection Sunday) is all about. A “nothing” in an old, lost tomb rising in glory to everlasting life and joy in the presence of God our Saviour! Lost and forgotten? Never! He won’t forget us, for He is preparing a white stone bearing a new name for each one of us.

Well, to say a New name means He must know/remember the Old name. Think about that! A totally new and everlasting I.D., if you will!

When we get to heaven, if I can remember her name, I could look her up! In that event, I wonder if she might say, “Jess, I sure do like your letter”.


Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, Virginia

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OPINION: Warren County Board of Supervisors has a problem with prioritizing projects

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Warren County Board of Supervisors has a problem with prioritizing projects. Having worked in private business and managing millions of dollars in annual budgets, it appears that we approach things very differently. I had to deal with a fixed budget and make my expenditures fit a budget. The Warren County Board set the expenditures and raise taxes to cover those cost without regard of what the tax base can support or its justification. Do they even calculate what each project will cost tax payers? Does the County Administrator give any guidance?

In recent years, more and more projects and expenditures have been added that cannot be justified by our tax base. We all would like to have more things from our government, but at what cost? All projects should be guided by our tax base and the ability to support them without unreasonable tax increases.

Part of my job was to set staffing levels. I find myself observing the numbers of people doing certain tasks. A recent letter about the Sheriffs department staffing was spot on! I have observed a ridiculous number of employees doing jobs that need only one or two people. Who sets staffing level for the county? Are staffing level compared to similar jurisdictions? Are the different branches required to justify staffing? Every branch of county government needs oversite in staffing and expenditures.


Harry Reed
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

He arose: Jesus, The mighty God, The everlasting Father

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Once again, we celebrate the most amazing thing in the history of the world: more accurately known as Resurrection Sunday. A man known to be dead and sealed in a tomb arose from the dead! Yes, a dead man came back to life! And as astounding as this is, of even greater significance is who he is!

Who is he! The man called by the names of Jesus, Jesus Christ, The Messiah, The Lamb Of God and The Son Of God, among many others.

Regarding the meaning and significance of a name, the dictionary defines such as: a word by which a person, thing, animal, class or concept is distinctly known or referred to; to identify. Thus, a name identifies/defines exactly what or who the subject is. What or who the name is referring or “pointing” to is shown by the article preceding it. An Indefinite article (a, an) points to any or all of two or more. However, the Definite article (the) points to exactly, specifically, uniquely and only one! Example: The Moon.

In this regard, Jesus, by His acts and words. identified himself as the One who is by name: God! Scripture speaks to this in Isaiah 9:6; “…a child is born, a Son is given… his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father.” Truly, God on earth! So this is how and who He is called and named; who He is and what He is! The perfect Trinity. Fully Man! Fully God!

But He didn’t die and rise again simply because, being God, He could. So, why? Well, let me direct your attention to a love song that could seem to speak to the very heart of God in this regard. “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, only dark clouds when she’s away… this house ain’t like no home anytime she goes away.” Can you feel/sense the pain, anguish, the sense of loss and perhaps, even, a broken heart? In death this certainly speaks to the agony of it all. For it’s not just WHEN, but NOW THAT and SINCE she is gone! (add: to stay). Allow me a personal note. My darling love of my life is “gone”. She “went away” to stay. After several years now, and after crying out for her, my love for her won’t enable me to bring her home. Truly, this house ain’t like no home now that she’s “gone”; “away”. The picture of despair?

Consider: Mankind “died” to God in the Garden of Eden. In a very real sense mankind “went away”—“gone”—to stay! So due to His great love, He was surely and profoundly impacted by the sense of loss and the anguish of it all! Thus it is safe to say that even God’s house “ain’t like no home” since we “went away”! Might it be ventured to say that we (mankind) broke God” heart?

The reason He came? LOVE! Being God, His loss was not necessarily irreparable or unlimited, but to find us, give us life and take us home would cost Him His own life! Yet, He would not be denied, for He said, “I will not give you up, for I am God and not man.”

For me, this means that although my darling is “away” from me, she is home now; and alive! She is alive!

And as for those who are still “away” in the darkness of spiritual death, know that Jesus, The mighty God, The everlasting Father came to where we are. He is waiting for you. Isn’t it time to go home?

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