I was going to leave this post as a comment at a friend's blog, but I didn’t want to dominate their comment thread, so I decided to change it a bit, and post it here.

I have been struggling with frustration over several things. The first is that in my travels throughout blogland, I have come to find that so many are interested in preaching about redemption, but almost no one is teaching about discipleship. I know this post won’t be viewed kindly by some, but I think it’s about time it is said.

First, let me tell you what I currently believe. I believe that God is going to open the gates of heaven for anyone who can stand to be around Him. I say that because I believe in God’s boundless love, and in His ability to forgive every sin. Yet I also say that because God being full of boundless love, it strikes me as odd that He would force anyone who couldn’t stand Him to be around Him for an eternity. I am missing something possibly, but we’ll see. I think God wants all to come, but I don’t think all want to come. Time will bear that out by itself.

Having said that, I do not believe everyone who claims to believe in Christ is a disciple of Christ. I think there is a difference between believing, and following. I think that difference is our choice to make. I think we will get immense help from God, but I do not think He does it all for us.

Here’s why I say that. The cross was not just about redemption, which is what most of Christianity preaches. Today’s believers, almost all of them, including Calvinists, Armenians, and universalists, claim that the cross was all about redemption through the forgiveness of sins. I believe that, too. However, the cross is more than just redemption.

It is the example, the final culmination of human discipleship through love of God and neighbor. Scripture proves this to be true. Follow Jesus’ life, and you see that the journey He made had a specific goal in mind, and He reached it. Follow the lives of His Apostles, and you see the same thing. The cross we bear is not necessarily hard labor, but it is death to ourselves, and for Jesus and the Apostles, their crosses were literally physical deaths as well. Jesus led the way, and His disciples follow, and sometimes, it ends in physical death, as it did with most of His apostles.

Redemption is wonderful, it is the hope we have. But Jesus didn’t leave us with just a future hope. He left us with A Kingdom, and He gave us freedom to live in it, or to live without it. Some would say it is impossible for us to not be living in His Kingdom. I would say that thought is ridiculous. So long as we see what we see in this world, so long as we see sin, and pain, and death, we see people living outside of Kingdom life. To say otherwise is to ignore the obvious.

So why is the world still like this? Why, if Christ’s Kingdom is among us, do we still have death, sin, evil, and pain? Wasn’t everything accomplished on the cross?

Everything that needed to be accomplished on the cross was accomplished. You can rest in that. But the purpose of the cross wasn’t to fulfill everything for all time. That would make Jesus a liar when He says His Father is always at work, even to this day. If we are to do what we see our Father doing, then chances are, we will be at work as well. But why is there work, if everything was accomplished on the cross? What need of work is there if all is accomplished?

That’s the crux we find ourselves in. many are told that we need do nothing, our salvation is secure. As far as salvation goes, that is true. But our discipleship is not secure, and if we do nothing toward that end, if our intentions are not to be disciples of Jesus, we will remain living a guilty life. Guilt will plague us, because we won’t change.

Some would say God does all of the changing. I would say, in the end, that is mostly true. But if God were in the business of totally changing us into perfection all by Himself, there would be no need for us to be here. In fact, there would be no need for us at all.

God’s plan INCLUDES us, and that plan INCLUDES work. What is that work? How about doing the things Jesus did, and even greater things than these? Jesus said we would do it. Do you see it happening? I don’t, anywhere.

There is something missing in what we are learning. It’s called discipleship, and it happens through love of God, and then, love of neighbor. But love of God doesn’t just occur all at once, and it usually doesn’t occur without our hearts being actively engaged. We have a part to play, yet mostly, we would rather listen to those who tell us we have nothing to do, therefore, we should DO nothing.

In truth, we are not obligated to do anything. We can go off and do whatever we want. But as Paul said, may it never be so.

So how do we become disciples of Christ? The first step is to decide to become one. That choice is ours, and Jesus usually tells us up front that the choice to be a disciple will not always be pleasant. In fact, generally speaking, He told us this world would be difficult. The mark of a disciple is to trust that Jesus has overcome this world, and so shall we, through Him. That statement, however, has nothing to do with salvation or redemption.

By now, most of us know that real change inside never occurs through direct effort. The moment we try to change anything inside, we find ourselves failing miserably. Can we all agree on that?

So how does that life change occur? Is it all God? Or does He truly lead us, as He says He does, to peaceful waters. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. Do you think that analogy fits us as well? I do.

Listen, I am not preaching about making direct efforts to change yourselves, that would be a waste of time. But there is a way, and usually, the means by which they are accomplished is different for each of us. That’s why Jesus didn’t leave us behind a twelve step program to successful discipleship. Strangely, that is the latest craze in the Christian world, books dedicated to the twelve simple steps on how to become a disciple.

There is no such thing as a set of steps that guarantee how everyone can follow Jesus. But there are things we can do that will lead us into the kind of love that changes everything. That kind of love that is true love of God, and because of that love, obedience becomes not hard, but a natural, consistent response to choices we face.

Direct effort won’t change us. But things that renew our minds, and cause us to change the way we respond to normal situations are available to us. What fools we are if we choose not to use them.

Redemption isn’t the end of sin, it’s the beginning of eternal life, and this life starts here, now. Since it is obvious we are faced with choices everyday, it should also be obvious that we have been given an ability to learn how to make the right choices. We don’t have to follow the flesh anymore. But we will, if we don’t learn to love God.

Some will say God does that for us, and to a certain extent, I would agree. But the fact is, again, it is also obvious that He doesn’t do it all for us, or this world would be perfection already. Clearly, God has a plan in mind, and it INCLUDES us. It includes choices, and it includes learning. It includes repentance, which is nothing more than a change of mind. The first change was done for us, and we are redeemed. But this change will come about through our cooperation, our inclusion with God’s work, which goes on even today, just as it always has.

The beauty of life in THIS kingdom is that now, we are free to do what we never could before. We are free to love our neighbor, we are even free to learn how to do it. We are free to love God, whereas before, we were slaves to sin. Surely that freedom means something, doesn’t it? Or is that freedom merely a mystical thing, a positional surrealism that we never see this side of the grave? If that is the case, it contradicts much of what Jesus talked about, when He spoke of the Kingdom among us.

I will write more about this in the days to come, but I fear I have already made this post too long. Bear with me, and do not be afraid to disagree with me openly. But if this is truth, leave your minds and hearts open to abandoning your old theology, especially since Jesus didn’t just die on the cross, He also rose from the dead. We are redeemed, and are alive now. That means we are here for something, we here not just to be recipients, but to share in the Father’s work. If we stop at redemption, we will miss the abundance of life, and the discipleship Jesus said we could have. Literally, we will choose to remain just as we are, when instead, we could have inherited a kingdom.

Don't feel guilty at all, please, after reading this. That isn't what this is about. Most of us have never been taught any of this, and how can you learn if you haven't heard?

Don’t you want to do what Jesus said we could do? Don’t you want to at least explore God, and see if you can love Him even more? I promise you, if you love God, you will obey Him. When Jesus said that, it wasn’t a command, it was a promise. Think about that promise, and see if it makes sense.



The topic on my mind tonight is living. As in, living the way Christ lived.

I believe we can.

Not only that, but I also believe that God is not USUALLY going to do it for us. There are some instances in my experiences and observations where God did just that, where He changed something, or completely gave someone a new outlook, or some other miracle. But by and large, God has given us freedom, and this freedom has led us to a question.

That question is this; What do we do with ourselves?

Some believe we MUST obey, and MUST do all manner of good deeds to please God. Others believe we must never do anything that looks the slightest bit legalistic, and must not feel obligated to do things for the Lord. Still others believe that if you don’t do “good”, then you aren’t really a believer.

So what’s the truth?

I believe the truth lies not just in our deeds, but in our hearts as well. We can do all manner of deeds if we want to, but the motive behind those deeds is what makes them good things to do, or things we shouldn’t do. Let me explain.

The worst sort of “religion” we can find ourselves in is a type of life where everything we do with the Lord is an obligation, and nothing more. In other words, if we didn’t “have” to do it, we wouldn’t. My opinion is, if that is the only reason we do something, we might as well not do it at all, when it comes to the things of God. Jesus walked squarely into this type of religion when He met the Pharisees. This type of “discipleship” is nothing more than legalism.

Then there is the “works” based religion, which tells us that if we don’t do this sort of thing, and that sort of thing, we must not be “saved”. This type of religion is based upon the good works of man, not of God, the result of which is a man relies on his own goodness for salvation, and not on God. The cross shows us clearly that Jesus did the work of salvation, exactly because we can’t. If we were able to do the work of salvation on our own, what would we look like?

For starters, we would remember every wrong thing we had ever done. We would have to be able to do this, so that we could “make up” for them, literally pay for them. If we left even one sin unpaid for, the gates of Heaven would be closed to us. I don’t want to rely on my memory of all my sins, because I would have no hope of being able to do so. We would be self-righteous, having cleared the debt of our sin all by ourselves, and the death of Jesus on the cross would not have been necessary.

Is there another type of life, though?

Yes, there is. It’s called the kingdom life. In this kind of life, we learn of the things Jesus did, and as we learn, we do. We don’t “do” to earn anything, we don’t “do” to pay for our sins, for that has already been done. We do not “do” because we are obliged to, and we do not “do” because “this is the way it has been done for thousands of years!”

So in this type of life, why do we do what we “do”?

We do it because we can.

We do it for our benefit.

We do it in response to the love of God.

We do it because somehow, we have started to think of someone other than ourselves, we have started to love our neighbor, as we learn to love God.

Please notice that in this kingdom life, we do nothing out of obligation. Please also notice that because we desire to do these things in response to love, we are free to do them without fear, even if these things were once considered to be rituals.

The best example I can give of kingdom life is Jesus Christ. I think we would agree on that. The best example I can give of a ritual Jesus partook in was the Passover. For a thousand years and more, the Jews had celebrated the Passover as a ritual, and by the time Jesus came, it was almost worthless, being merely an obligatory ritual. Yet Jesus celebrated it with His disciples, fully.

If rituals were dangerous for us, Jesus would not have given us such a prime example of participation. His life, and His celebration of this ritual were free from obligation, even though as we look at His life, we can see that Jesus was either obligated to save us, or condemn us by His failure to do so. Which did He choose?

The suggestion I long to make is this; we are free to do all things, even disciplines and rituals. What we “do” is not the issue, because if we don’t “do” something merely because it has the appearance of being legalism, then we are slaves to legalism still. Instead, if we want to “do” something, whether it be a ritual or not, we should just do it as if we are doing it directly for the Lord.

We do these things not because we earn anything. We do these things not for glory, or for praise, or because God can’t. We do them because we can, because we are free to do them, and if we knew how free we were, if we actually believed that, we would do things the likes of which this world has not seen for nearly two thousand years.

Now you can chuckle at my simplicity if you want, and you are welcome to do so. But think about this; is the abundant life a stagnant “do nothing” because of fear kind of life? Or is it a life filled with “doing”, exactly because we have been led to, and enabled to do? The parables Jesus spoke about the kingdom speak of people “doing”.

When are we going to learn that we are free? If we are going to preach freedom, then I say we better know what freedom really is. I say, if you want to read that Bible, even though it is obviously a ritual, then read it. But don’t read it because you have to. Don’t read it because you earn God’s good favor. You do none of that. Read it because God gave it to you, and because you desire to, and because you know the good you will learn.

In the kingdom, all things that truly benefit you benefit your neighbor as well. So if meditating leads you to be more at peace inside, how will that affect your neighbor? Do it because you can. Don’t not do it because you fear ritual. That is slavery still to legalism.

If scheduling a time with God every morning benefits you, then know that it benefits your neighbor as well. Should you stop scheduling it merely because it has the appearance of “obligation”? Never.

I guess what I am saying is, we should stop worrying about what looks like legalism, and just do the things God has allowed us to do, the things He has empowered us to do. We should do them because we can, not because we have to. We should do them because they truly benefit us, and if they benefit us truly, they benefit our neighbor. And while we do all these things, we can always know that we are safe in the Lord, for what we could not do, namely save ourselves, that has already been done.

But if you take one look around you for a moment, you will instantly see that God does not force us to be good, He does not force us into obligation. He gave us freedom to do these things, to our benefit, and the benefit of our neighbor. He made us free to love Him. Can anything we do toward that end ever be wrong?

The danger we face isn't from what we do if what we do is in response to God's love. What is dangerous is the heart behind what we do. For many of us, that means the danger is in worshipping the institution rather than the God who gave us the freedom to build the institution.



Read this:

Luke 18:18 A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.


And he said, "All these things I have kept from {my} youth."

When Jesus heard {this,} He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!

"For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

They who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?"

But He said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."

Now read this:

Luke 19:2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.

Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature.

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.

When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house."

And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.

When they saw it, they all {began} to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."

And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

How often have we heard, or read the first story of the rich young man, and went away shaking our heads, pitying the wealthy, who seemingly have their reward now? How often have we clicked our tongues at them, judging them, and supposing that few, if any, will enter the Kingdom of God, exactly because we see that they worship their money more than God?

And how easy it is for us to believe that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. Somehow, we find justification in this, comfort even.

Be prepared to be uncomfortable, because the story of Zaccheus, I believe, is in direct response to the words of Christ, which were, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God”.

I find it interesting, and a little sad, that I have never heard these two stories preached side by side, the way they were meant to be preached. On the one hand, we have an example of a rich young man who was left to his own effort and decision, a man who was told exactly the “method” to gain salvation, and refused. We should pity such a man, shouldn’t we?

Then along comes Zaccheus, not only a wealthy man, but a man whose pedigree was much lower than the rich young ruler’s. Zaccheus was not just a tax collector, he was a chief tax collector. He was considered to be amongst the lowliest dregs of Jewish society, even lower than a prostitute, if that were possible.

One story shows us a rich young man, righteous in his own eyes, having kept the “commandments” since his youth. Poor chap, he never knew what hit him, when Jesus suggested that the only way he could be saved was to give away all he owned, and come follow Him. He was a pretty good guy, honoring his parents, never committing adultery, not stealing, and not lying. Surely this man had earned salvation, hadn’t he? Pretty good people get to heaven, don’t they?

Satan probably thinks he’s a pretty good person, too. Not perfect, but pretty good.

Then there is wily old Zaccheus, clambering up a tree. He was not about to let his stature, both physical and spiritual, keep him from seeing the Lord. He was rich, just like the young ruler. But he was a sinner!

Surely, if it was impossible for the rich young, pretty good guy to enter the Kingdom, Zaccheus was to fry in hell, wasn’t he? What possible hope for redemption was there in Zaccheus? Absolutely none. Jesus must have lied, because Zaccheus could not have been redeemed, as he was literally the camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle.

Side by side, we have these stories, not hardly even a chapter apart in the Gospel of Luke. Think this is just a coincidence? I don’t. In fact, I believe these two events occured on the very same day.

Note the turmoil in the crowd who heard the conversation between Jesus and the young ruler. Note Peter’s words. Zaccheus is Jesus’ answer to all these questions.

In Zaccheus, we have possibly the best, and worst example of who can be saved. And we have a direct answer to the question of the rich. Jesus told us how impossible it is for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom, there is now no doubt that it is impossible, because we all know camels don’t pass through the eyes of needles. Yet there is Zaccheus, turning our doctrine upside down.

Zaccheus probably broke every single one of the commandments Jesus told the young ruler to keep. But one thing he found in Jesus was love, and a God who was willing to bless even the very evil. The moment Jesus told Zaccheus that He must stay at his house, Zaccheus received Him with joy. And in response to this joy, Zaccheus did exactly what the righteous, rich young ruler could not do. He counted his worldly possessions as something to be given away, all because salvation came to his house, before he had given away a penny.
”Today salvation has come to this house”.

I believe the story of the rich young ruler and Zaccheus belong side by side, and I believe that when read and studied side by side, we see a miracle occurring, an answer to the fear, and bewilderment of all who heard, or have read the story of the rich young ruler, and went away judging and pitying him. Zaccheus did nothing to earn his salvation, not even keep the commandments. All he did was climb a tree to try and see Jesus. That day, salvation came to his house, and His name was Jesus.

Zaccheus can tell you all about it when you see him in heaven. He is one miracle of God that isn’t shown in man’s lists of Jesus' miracles.



I had to fire someone the other day, and I never want to have to do it again.

It has bothered me emotionally for two days now, and even though it was necessary, and brought on by the young man who was told to go home and not come back, that still doesn’t make me feel any better.

Let’s call the young man Eric. Eric showed up to work on Wednesday in a “state”. How can I best describe this state?

Eric was forgetful, and by forgetful, I mean, one minute I would tell him to do something, and within five minutes, I would find him wandering around the job site, doing nothing. When I asked him about why he wasn’t doing what I told him to, he would tell me I never told him to do anything. This happened twice.

The second time, I asked him if he was okay. The change in personality from Eric of the day before, to Eric of Wednesday was unbelievable, to say the least. This day was the second day I had seen this kind of change in Eric in three weeks. In my asking Eric if he was okay, I shot straight for the heart, and asked him what he was on, as in, what drug was he high on?

He denied it strongly, and without me asking, he even offered to take, in his words, a “piss test”. I asked him if he would be willing to take a blood test instead, because I know of at least one popular drug (ecstasy) that doesn’t show up in “piss tests”. He hesitated before he answered, and unless I had demanded an answer, he would have ignored the question. He said he would be willing to, as soon as he could get to the hospital to do it. I told him the nursing home had nurses right here who could administer the test right now. He didn’t seem too keen on the idea.

Eric is a former convict, and he is working while on probation. He was convicted of felony gun possession, and illegal possession of narcotics with intent to sell. That is his history, and I thought the Eric who had been working with me for about a month had turned the corner, and moved on from that hopeless life. He is a believer, at least he claims to be, and I do not doubt it. But something in him changed overnight, from Tuesday to Wednesday.

I believe he was high, and I said so. He denied it, so I tried to believe him, but as the day wore on, it was obvious he was under the influence of “something”. Eric is normally quiet and a little shy, unsure of himself in nearly every respect, to the point that he often asks me if I think he is doing a good job. I truly believe he longs for, and should receive copious amounts of positive reinforcement. I tried to give that to him as much as I could.

Eric speaks slowly normally, he is easily understood, and he has sharp eyes that bore into you. On Wednesday, Eric was very bold, even loud and sort of a braggart. His personality was very different from Tuesday to Wednesday. His speech was slurred, yet I couldn’t smell alcohol on his breath. His eyes were unfocused, and his eyebrows seemed like they were permanently raised well above his eyes. He was talking “smack”, ghetto speak, and he wanted everyone to hear him who would listen. Like I said, completely unlike the Eric I know.

During our break time, I had a chance to observe Eric a little more closely. I observed a young man who was swaying back and forth, unsteady on his feet, and a young man who had trouble speaking coherently. His positives ended up as negatives in his speech process, such as “you want a truck that’s got damage, Tom, so you know you’re getting a good deal.” What I believe he meant to say was, “You want a truck that doesn’t have any damage”. There were at least three more instances of these mixed up positives/negatives, and my mind began to turn quickly.

I had to send him home, and I had to do it right away after break. So I pulled him into a shop area, and told him what I had decided. I was willing to let him come back at that point, even though I knew he was lying to me about not being high. What happened next cemented his fate. He became angry, to the point of violence almost, and I believe he would have attacked me had it not been for the fact that another fellow walked in as he was heating up. His personality went from bold to almost evil in an instant, and this young man in front of me who seldom cussed was using words I thought he didn’t even know, and using them loudly. He cursed me, and then asked me a strange question. He asked me to look into his eyes, and tell me what I saw.

I tried to see a person, I honestly did. But the Eric I knew wasn’t in his eyes. Someone else was there, a someone else who while he was in prison, was constantly in fights and in trouble. I became prepared to defend myself, as I answered his question. “I see drugs, Eric, that’s what I see”. And the moment before I said that, I felt like it wasn’t even me talking, and my heart inside was breaking.

We escorted Eric out of the shop, and outside, off the jobsite. We called the temp agency, and told them Eric wouldn’t be coming back.

Eric needs help, and the last two days, I have been wondering what I could have done differently to help him. I have been wondering if I did the right thing. This was the second time he had shown up to work like this, and the first time he did, I questioned him then, too. He denied it then, but shortly into that day, he went home, claiming he was so tired he almost felt as if he could fall sleep while working. I let him go that day. I couldn’t let him come back this time, not doing the job we do, where at times, even men with their full mental capacities can be in danger from tools, falling objects, and handling heavy, awkward materials. I had to think of the other guys, and so I made my decision to not let Eric return.

Tonight, all I can think of is to ask you all to pray for Eric. That’s not his real name, but God knows who you are praying for anyway. I have prayed numerous times during these last two days, and have been asking God also about what else I could have done differently. I tried to just send him home, and let him come back when he was better, but he wasn’t willing to do so in peace, or in any other way.

Eric is a good kid, I know he is. He just gets into trouble sometimes. I want so much for everything to be better for him, and I don’t know how to do it. And now, I can’t even see him at work, because I feel he is a danger to everyone around him, if he ever came back as he did twice already, high on drugs. Lord, what should I do?

I never thought I would have to do this to anyone, and now that I have, I never want to do it again. My heart is bleeding for Eric, and it is bleeding for the decision I feel I was forced to make. Am I supposed to thank God for that? Because the truth is, I don’t feel like thanking Him over this. I can thank Him for a lot, but for this, I am not there yet, and I wonder if I ever will be.



Below is Missy's Reason Part Six. The first five parts are available in the links italiciazed below.


Ben was silently praying in his bedroom, kneeling at his bed, when he thought he heard a voice. He opened his eyes, and looked around the room, glancing this way and that, to see if he could find the source of the noise. Nothing. He closed his eyes again, and returned to his prayer. Thoughts of the past streamed through his mind, memories of Katherine on their wedding night, their first date, the first time he saw her. Fleeting glimpses of thoughts he had forgotten once were now coming back, flooding his mind with vision, and overwhelming his heart with emotion.

Tears ran down his face as he prayed, silently still, asking God for one of many things he didn’t have enough of, strength to get through the night, and into tomorrow.


There was the voice again, and Ben flashed his eyes open quickly, wheeling around and up from his kneeling position, ready to greet whoever it was that had entered the room. He looked around, mystified. He was alone in the room. A soft shiver ran up his spine, gently cooling him, and at the same time, relaxing him. With a little trepidation, he turned back around, and kneeled once again.

“Ben” the voice said, now more clearly, more insistently.

Ben didn’t rise up and spin around this time, but he was keenly aware that there was a presence in the room, that he was not alone. He should have been afraid, hearing things, voices, without being able to see anything, yet he felt strangely at peace. He didn’t even open his eyes. He remained as he was, kneeling, and answered, “What?”

“Ben, be at peace. I hear all of your prayers, and I am here, with you.” The voice paused, and Ben said nothing in reply.

“Ben, do not be afraid to be weak, and continue to ask for strength. Do not feel guilty because you cannot carry this burden alone. You were not made to carry this burden, Ben, and it is more than you can handle. I am with you.”

Jesus!! Ben thought.

“Yes, Ben, I am He.” Jesus replied. “Ask me.”

“Ask you? I don’t understand, Jesus, what should I be asking you?” Ben answered, puzzled.

“Search your heart, you know.”

“Lord?” Ben began, tears forming in his eyes. “Lord, I was told you never give us more than we can handle. I can’t handle this! I can’t. It’s killing me inside. I want to hide. Why did you take her away from me? From us?”

Jesus answered, “Ben, She is mine, you know this. I have not taken her from you. I gave her to you, and now she has returned to me, though she never really left me.”

Again Jesus paused, and then said. “Ben, I often give you more than you can handle. After all, if you could handle everything, what need would there be for me?”

Ben could not refute that suddenly known truth, so he remained silent, in the presence of God.

The trouble was, God could stay silent longer than Ben, and when Ben could stand the silence no longer, he spoke. “Jesus, what am I supposed to do now? I don’t understand anything anymore. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, all I can do is remember. And right now, it just hurts too much to remember.”

“Ben, you are mine also. Remember you will, for I am reminding you of many things you shared with Katherine, and there is a reason, a purpose for this. I do nothing blindly, and there is no outcome I do not know of. Were I to take the memories away, the outcome I desire would not occur. I will have that outcome, regardless of the cost.

But do not be afraid, Ben, I go before you, in all things, and what you feel, I feel, what you see, I see, and what hurts you, hurts me, also. If something could harm you, if you could be separated from me, I would not allow circumstances to do such a thing. You are perfectly safe. I know you don’t believe me now, but you will. You will see many things Ben, and your daughter will see many things, wonderful things, glorious occurrences, and all of these things will shed light on the Father, who waits patiently to bring you to an understanding of our good purpose.”

“And what is that ‘good’ purpose, if it includes killing my wife, and taking my daughter’s mommy away from her? How can that be part of a good purpose?” Ben asked, partly ashamed of the sarcasm in his voice.

“You are thinking of your pain right now, Ben, and that is natural for you to do. I won’t deny you grief, I don’t expect you to be unfeeling, and unhurt. But good purposes are often brought about through death, pain, and suffering. So it was with my baptism, and so it is with this. What you see now, and feel, is the beginning of purpose, and yet this purpose has been planned from the beginning. But do not judge me harshly, Ben. No one loves Katherine more than I do, and to watch her suffer was a harsh reminder of my time in death, and pain. You feel what you are capable of feeling, Ben, and it is right for you to feel it. But I feel everything, and the grief you feel is mine to bear the more personally, always. I am with you, and I will not leave you.”

“Father, please help me….I miss her so much!’ Ben agonized, suddenly spitting his words out in torrents of emotion. “If you could just stay with me for a while, if I could just fall, and you would catch me, I might make it through tonight. I can’t do what I want to do. I want to die, Jesus! I want to not be here. I know I can’t, but I can’t stand the hurt. I just can’t. I can’t do it anymore, I want it all to be over with, why didn’t you take me instead?”

“Would you have Katherine feel this, Ben? Would you have her suffer this, so that you wouldn’t have to?”

Ben became silent then, and in a moment, he answered, “No, Lord, that hurts even more to think of.”

“And so your love for her is made complete. Then let’s face this together, my brother. Let’s get through the night together, and see what all of the tomorrows will bring, shall we?” And with that, Ben fell, weak from fatigue. Before he hit the floor, strong arms caught him, and carried him to his bed. The last words Ben heard that evening were,

“I knew you would do that, Ben.” Jesus chuckled, “Hush little child, don’t you cry, Father’s going to sing you a lullaby….”

Inside of Ben, joy leapt up like a spring for the moment, and the peace of being with Christ was full. Ben had just witnessed something he never thought about much. Jesus had a sense of humor, and it was perfect, and appropriate, and everything Ben could never have wondered about, and more. Ben fell quickly asleep.



If there is one thing that angers me, it’s Christian malnutrition. Actually, my anger is against the Christian teachers who cause Christian malnutrition.

Nearly everywhere I go, I run into believers who are guilt-ridden, and desperately trying to “walk” with Christ. They feel blessed because they are “saved”, but guilty because they still don’t do what they are told to do. They are hearers of the word, and not doers, and I believe a large part of the reason why they are is because of what they are taught by “Christian” leaders.

Picture if you will, a preacher, well known, standing in front of a television audience, in some large auditorium somewhere, talking about “faith”. Here is something he might say. Heck, never mind the “might”, he definitely will say this, or something like it. I have heard it hundreds of times. Let’s listen to what he has to say.

“I have traveled the world over, and preached the gospel of salvation to hundreds of thousands of people. I have seen many come to know Jesus, simply by putting their trust in Him, and that’s all it takes people.” On and on he would go, for a few minutes, until we get to the part where he wants to start teaching us something. Here goes.

“Brothers and sisters, if you want to follow Christ, you have GOT to stop making excuses for yourselves. If you want to obey, then obey. You aren’t useful to God if you aren’t obedient to Him. God can’t USE you if you don’t obey Him.”

Wait a minute there…what?

God can’t use us if we aren’t obedient? I beg to differ. God can use the mouth of a donkey to get His message across. He can pour forth water from a dead rock. He can raise the dead, give sight to the blind, and feed thousands with a few loaves of bread. Which God can’t use us if we aren’t obedient? Not my God!

Let’s rejoin the well-known pastor.

“God is this, and God is that, but He isn’t going to be anything to you if you don’t stop sinning. My goodness, read the Bible! That’s what it’s there for! How can you say you love God if you don’t read His word? How can you say you love Jesus if you haven’t preached the gospel to everyone you meet? I’d say you might love Jesus, but not very much…blah blah blah…blah blah,….. blah blah blah blah.”

Christian malnutrition.

It is caused most often by preachers such as this fellow who with one hand, feed you the truth, and with the other, sock you in the gut, and cause you to vomit up what little truth you just learned. It’s no wonder so many believers are starved for the truth. How can they be satisfied, when they are constantly being fed conflicting messages?

Grace requires nothing of us for it to be effective. That is one truth we should all know. What would I be if I now told you that if you didn’t read the bible every day, it only shows you don’t really love Jesus all that much?

I would be worse than a Pharisee. Believers all around the world are taught about the love of God, yet often in the same sentence, they are also taught that their walk must match their talk, or they will not experience the “fullness” of the Spirit.

In time, we all have decisions to make, and we have been given great freedom to make all of these decisions, without fear of being condemned. Through these decisions, we may falter, we may fall, we may flat-out lose heart. But one thing remains, and that is our faith. Why? Because we didn’t earn our faith.

We can earn money, we can earn accolades, and we can even earn respect. But the one thing we can’t earn is faith. It’s given to us, by God’s choice. So no matter how hard we try to please God, we will always fall short of the glory of God, not for lack of effort, even though we may have given up trying. No, we fall short because it is our old nature to fall short.

But is there now a blessed hope? You bet there is, and this hope isn’t something we have to wait for. We don’t have to live any longer waiting for death to be in the Kingdom. We are in the Kingdom right now! God is here, in our midst, right now, and what’s more, He has deposited the Holy Spirit within us, who helps us in all sorts of things, such as prayer, obedience, and grace. That’s right, I said the dreaded “O” word.

I have never met the Christian who didn’t desire to be obedient to God. The willingness is there, but the doing isn’t. And for a very long time, the church has been hearing the same message, “Try harder!”

It’s time to admit that this message doesn’t work, and it’s time to admit that we don’t REALLY know what we are doing. Nicodemus was told to forget everything he ever knew, and start over, literally, be born again. So it is with us. We can’t get there from here, if here is two conflicting messages, one of grace, and the other of efforts and works.

Works do not pour forth from effort, they pour forth from love. In this world where we have many different things to pour forth our efforts into, why would we add to that the ever increasing burden of finding, and doing “good works”? We don’t have to find them, they are put in front of us every moment of every day. Can we plan? Yes. But do we have to? No. God has prepared good works for all of us to do, all we have to do is ask, and receive, open our eyes, and obey.

There’s that “O” word again. Let me say something about obedience that might help take the edge off of it. Once you stop hearing condemnation for your lack of obedience, and instead start being taught the true God, the glorious God, God as He is in all His beauty and love, obedience will follow naturally. And anything that is now natural for us is not of flesh and effort, but of the new Spirit within us.

Why aren’t we doer’s of the Word? Because for many of us, we have either never heard the Word, or have had it socked out of our guts the moment we heard it. This is the truth, and I see it every day. I hear it all of the time. And I’m sick of it.

Obedience is a good thing, not a bad thing. But it isn’t drawn forth from a downtrodden spirit. It’s drawn forth from the heart that is loved and KNOWS it, like a well freshly dug, and once it starts pouring out, it doesn’t stop.

A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. The human race has known about fertilizer and nourishment for plants for a long time. We know it takes good water for a tree to grow, for if we starve the tree, the tree dies. We know if we don’t fertilize a plant, it won’t grow to its fullest potential. We also know that if we don’t water the plant, it will die.

For too long Christians have been malnourished, being fed truth with a spoon, and having it sucked out of them with a straw. The conflicting messages believers are hearing are starving them of the only nutrition that can cause them to grow to their fullest potential. That nutrition is the truth. Don’t you think it’s time to stop vomiting the truth out every time you swallow some? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day, we heard a preacher say, “Today, I’m only going to say a few things. Today, I’m going to preach from the Psalms, and I’m going to teach you about how lovely and strong our God really is. Put away your checklists, put away your guilt. Come listen to a story about a God whose truth is like a lamp for your feet in the darkest of places.”

If only he would stop there!!! But too often, he would continue, and say, “If you don’t read these Psalms, if you don’t love God enough to know them, there is no hope for you.” His words might be a bit more flowery than that, but the basic message is the same.

No wonder we have so many people who reject the “truth”. The truth is, they have never heard it.



Is Jesus just a pincushion?

I admit, that was a loaded question. Maybe even an unfair question. But I was interested in your comments, and they did not disappoint me. You all seem to have a pretty good grasp on what Jesus has done for you, or what He does for you, on a daily basis.

You know where to go when you are in trouble, and Who to thank when success knocks at your door. I know all of these things, too. I know them intellectually, and sometimes, I wonder…do I know them in my heart? Yeah, I think I do, but still, I’m not sure, and I’m also not sure if it even matters.

I was interested in your opinions for several reasons. The first was to see what you “really” think of Jesus. The second was to see what is being taught about Jesus. You see, we pretty much reflect everything we have been taught, whether we know it or not.

The third reason was to see if anyone sees something different. But the visions of Jesus we shared, although beautiful and true, were all very similar. I wonder why.

The truth is, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think I might surprise you here a little, by saying what I am about to say. I was surprised myself by the answers I received, and it didn’t occur to me until tonight, when I was driving home from a dinner date with my daughter, what was nagging at me so strongly about this post.

I asked if Jesus was just a pincushion for our sins. That was a very direct question, but I think what my heart was really asking was , is Jesus just a pin cushion? Not just a pin cushion for our sins, but just a pin cushion over all. As I was reading these comments tonight, I was very surprised that there wasn’t one that was focused on our neighbor. This is not to rebuke anyone.

I am the first to admit that I have been using Jesus as a pincushion. He’s there when I am in trouble, and I know this. He’s there when I need something, when I really need something. He’s the peace in my life, He’s everything I cannot do at all, and more. But somehow, when I read these words I have written, I come to see tonight that much of what I think about Jesus is actually about me. He is my pincushion in these moments, and these moments, sadly, are more than I would like them to be.

But Jesus is also more than a pincushion. He’s my neighbor.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

Many times, when I think of Jesus, I think of the guys who work with me. I think of their families, and I think of them in relation to their families, and I see Jesus. Sometimes, I see a man I once saw standing on an off-ramp from a freeway, holding a sign that says, “Will work for food tonight, please?” , and I see Jesus. Then, I see my daughter, and I think to myself thoughts I imagine I would have if I were her. Then I see Jesus.

I see a child full of joy, and I see Jesus. I see a man who needs a extra money to make it through this week, a man I can help, and I must choose. Will I see Jesus?

“For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me” Matthew 25:35-36

The depths of this quote from Jesus go way beyond food and drink and clothes. If you carefully look at the words Jesus uses, there is a chance you will see gospel language being used. Hungry, thirsty, sick, a stranger, naked, in prison, all of these are vivid pictures of our condition without Christ.

“truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did to Me.”

If I had more time, I would tie in even more of Jesus’ words that verify these truths as all one thing, all one truth, that until we see Jesus as our neighbor, none of the above is possible.

Currently, we mostly see ourselves as Jesus’ neighbor. In other words, we are on the receiving end of Jesus. Look at my words in this post. Look at your words in the last post. We see Jesus as a giver, and that is true, because that is what He is. But He is more than that, much more. He is our neighbor, and our neighbor needs what we have been given, from Jesus.

Sure, it may only be a meal for a hungry belly that you give, but to Jesus, it’s the gospel being shared. It may only be a visit to the sick or the elderly, but to Jesus, it is you preaching the gospel wherever you go.

We see ourselves as Jesus’ neighbor, we see ourselves as the ones still receiving. What about our neighbor?

I see a man crying inside of his shop, his wife has just left him for another man, I see Jesus, and then I see me.

If at once we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, loving our neighbor will follow naturally, because our neighbor will be Jesus. Who is my neighbor? Jesus is my neighbor.

You can’t generate this love. We have no ability whatsoever to love God on our own strength. We can’t make it happen. We can try really, really hard. We can do things that will help us, we can learn about God, and through knowing Him, love Him, but none of that happens by our own desires or strengths, they are all outworking of the Spirit within us.

There is only one thing we can do. We can ask. It’s all we have to work with, it’s all Jesus left us with.

Jesus might be a pincushion, and that is the truth, He came to be as such. But He came to be our neighbor, also.

I see you, reading this post, thinking you have done something wrong, thinking you have fallen short, and thinking your faith isn’t as strong as you thought it was. I see you thinking that you aren’t as far as you should be, that you should have known all of this. I can’t stand by and let you think that, because I see Jesus in you. We are interconnected, through Jesus, and since we are, how could you be wrong? You are not wrong. You are fine. Everything is going to be alright. Everything is alright.

The next person you see, think of Jesus. Even in our flesh, without the Spirit, amazing things happen when we do this. That’s because Jesus really is your neighbor, and He’s been here all along. He really is that close, or He wouldn't have told us He is.



I have a question for you. I may write about this question later on tonight, if I have time, but I wanted to ask this right now.

Is Jesus nothing more than a pincushion to us?

Think about that question. We say He is our savior, and that He takes all of our sins upon Himself, so that we have beeen redeemed. Is that the extent of what we think of Him? Is He nothing more than a pincushion for our sins? Think about it, and see if you can honestly say you see Him as more. Remember, I said "honestly".

The story of God among us, what was it for? Was it so that we could be redeemed? What is all of this about? Has the entirety of this creation been about redemption, and redemption alone?

Forget for a few minutes about theology. It's worthless anyway if it does nothing to affect the way we live. Forget the preconceptions. Who do you say Jesus is? Really, who do you say He is? What is He? Don't tell me what Dallas Willard says, or Chuck Swindoll, or what your teacher says. Tell me what you really think of Him. This might take some time.



So who really wants to be a disciple of Jesus, anyway?

To be one’s disciple means to be one’s follower. It also means to be one’s student. I want to be a disciple of Jesus, and it isn’t going to happen through osmosis. It might happen through grace, but that’s God’s decision, not mine. So what can I do?

Can I blindly walk in this world, doing what I have always done (doing only what I WANT to do), and stumble into discipleship? Grace would say that yes, I can, but again, it isn’t likely. There comes a point in any walk with Jesus where one has to make a decision.

Salvation is free, but to be a disciple of Jesus costs everything that is important to us. Maybe the place to start is to find out what is important to me? Possibly.

But if I am to be a disciple of Jesus, then I would begin doing the things He did, and I would start where He starts, because that’s what He did. Where did Jesus start? Did He start with monumental effort? Hardly.

Please do not misunderstand me, at times, being a disciple is going to take monumental efforts, but those efforts will be made out of something that will make the effort seem like the only natural thing to do. So what is that “something” that could make monumental efforts seem like the only thing to do? What is that “something” that takes the burden out of monumental effort, and makes it more like joy?

Where did Jesus start?

I think He started by loving His Father. I do not think He started by going about the cities of Israel, both Judea and Nazareth, and performing miracles and teaching the good news. I think He started by doing what came naturally to Him, He started by loving His Father.

Is God my Father? Plainly Jesus has told me that He is. Do I love God like He is my Father? At times, I think I truly do, but that kind of on again – off again love is not “disciple” love. The love that makes disciples is the love of God with all of our hearts, minds, and souls. We are able to love our children in some ways similar to this kind of love. We are able to love our spouses in some of these ways. But with God, love is not a word, it is a decision.

This world calls love an emotion, and in some ways, this world is right. But love is deeper than any emotion you will ever feel. Love is a decision that flies in the face of visible reason. Take God’s love for us. Since Adam, what good reason would any of us have given to God for Him to love us? In fact, have we earned God’s love in any way? I say we haven’t. Give me your list of reasons why God should love you, and I’ll give you a list ten times longer of why He shouldn’t. Love is a decision that contradicts visible reason.

For me to become a disciple of Jesus, I am going to have to learn how to love God. I am going to have to learn how to “treasure” God, and to sell everything I own because the treasure I find in Him is worth more than all this world has to offer, and all that statement implies.

If I find God in a field, will I sell everything I own to buy that field? Or is my love for God one where I can walk past that field, desperately wanting it, but “deciding” that I can buy it later? And how much must God love us to allow us to actually walk past that field, and buy it later?

If you can answer that last question, might it not bend you to want to learn just how deep the love of God is? I want to know, I want to learn, and I think Jesus would want me to know, and anything my teacher would want me to know…well, in my mind, it MUST be worth learning.

I am a student of Jesus. That implies that there will be some learning on my part. Do I believe Jesus is able to teach me? Ye I do. Have I decided to follow Him? Have I decided that the love of God is a treasure worth selling everything I own to possess it? I am not sure. I think so.

One thing is certain, to love God with all my heart, mind, and soul is the right place to start, if I am ever going to follow Jesus. Love is a decision. It’s not going to happen through osmosis. Though I may reap the benefits of God’s love through grace, I will never reap the benefits of following Jesus until I have decided that the field where God is lying is worth everything. And I mean everything. That is the kind of "something", the kind of love that makes "monumental effort" seem like the only thing to do, and to do it naturally.



Sorry for the light posting in recent weeks. I am still alive, and doing okay. I just haven't had, or made much time for blogging. I will be back more consistently in several weeks, but for now, I can't even visit many of you, much less write anything worth reading.

So........I just wanted to say hi, and I will stop by and visit you guys either tonight or tomorrow night. It's strange how "busyness" can take time away from things we truly love doing. But in this case, I have not sought out this "busyness", it just comes with the business I am in. Sometimes there is no time, and during those times, I make do the best I can. I miss you all, and will be beack this week sometime, and maybe Missy's Reason will return with a brief addition as well. Until then, take care, and may God bless you all, and may you be AWARE of it.



I’d like to write about something that has been on my mind. I don’t know how it is for other writers, but one of the things I have learned about myself through writing is that when I take the time to write my thoughts about a particular subject down, I LEARN it. It gets cemented into my mind, and from there, travels into my heart, where, as usual, it bounces around for a while, before settling in, finding its place in my life.

Today, I’d like to write about contempt, but just now, I almost wanted to stop writing this post, because you see, my mind likes to hold people in contempt. Oh, I could make all sorts of excuses, but let’s face it, the thoughts I often have of others can be nothing if it is not contempt.

On the Mount, Jesus talked about contempt. Matthew 5:21-26 specifically points out the view Jesus held about contempt. The Law told us not to murder anyone. Jesus told us not to murder anyone’s dignity. I think many of us have trouble with contempt. After all, the moment we start thinking “That man is an idiot”, or other things such as, “What an ass, I was in line first, and he just cut me off”, we are holding someone in contempt.

How many of us can say we have done this, and done it fairly regularly? How many of us can say we think these things of people almost without even recognizing what we are doing? I can say it.

Just the other day, I was looking at a truck to buy (didn’t buy it), and I was talking with a salesperson, who was talking down at me as if I were a child. Immediately, my mind went into overdrive, and I began thinking, “What a fool, if he only knew how smart the man was whom he was talking down to, he’d realize that intellectually, he can’t hold a candle to me”.

Contempt? Obviously!

I have some questions. Where was the love? Where was the compassion? Where was my mercy and grace when I was thinking these things? They were non-existent in that moment. Instead, I became this man’s judge, sizing him up and passing my verdict. I do that often, and it’s going to stop. Not because it’s a law, but because my heart just can’t take treating people like this anymore, even if it’s only within my mind. You see, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the mind, or spoken out loud, the damage is done because of my attitude, not necessarily because of my actions. You can murder someone without driving a knife home, and all you have to do is think.

If I am a disciple of Jesus, then contempt must have no place in my heart. But how do I get there? Well, one way I get there is by writing about it, by bringing it into the open, and dealing with it. I am sure I could run away from this and claim, “if I actively do something about it, then I am only trying to EARN God’s grace, and I know I can’t do that.” Rubbish!

Evil reigns when good does nothing to stop it. And I can do something, without making it into an idol. If I am going to claim that I love my neighbor as myself, then I think I shouldn’t stop until I’ve loved every neighbor, not just the ones I like, or the ones who puff me up, and agree with me. Contempt has absolutely no place in the life of a follower of Christ, no place at all. I could wait until it happens “naturally”, but I know it would never happen. Repenting means changing one’s mind. Well, my mind has been changed, as has my heart. The actions that follow will spell that out.

We can make excuses, or we can do something about it. But I find that to love my neighbor, I have to be my neighbor. And if I am my neighbor, then how in the world could I hold him in contempt? How could these little thoughts sneak their way into my mind if I loved my neighbor?

Contempt is not the kind of thing you hear about when a judge threatens to hold us in contempt of court. It’s a much simpler thing. Contempt is anything we think or say to a neighbor that places us as their judge, and as their superior. Contempt is standing in line in the supermarket, IMPATIENTLY waiting for “goof” in front of us to remember the PIN number for his bank card, and all of the thoughts that go along with that impatience.

Contempt is silently demeaning the driver in front of us, whom we don’t even know, for driving too slowly when we are in a hurry. “Don’t they know we are in a hurry?” Contempt is looking down upon a set of beliefs, or a way of doing things that is opposite of our own superior and “right” way of doing things. Contempt can come in many forms.

But contempt is most clearly this, the “attitude” that what you do is better than what the other person is doing, that what the other person is doing is an affront to your will. Contempt is the anti-love, and a person who holds another in contempt can never love that person until contempt is gone. Contempt is present in marriages in huge amounts, it shows up in all the judgmental ways we view our spouse, our friends, and even our children. Contempt is much more present than any of us really want to admit.

The question is, what are we going to do about it? We can wait for contempt to leave “naturally” because we believe that God will fix everything wrong about us. But somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. Somehow, getting rid of contempt is going to cost us something, it’s going to cost us our high opinion of ourselves. But have faith, because the very breath of life that is our faith has already led us to realize that we aren’t good at all. If we have been made to believe this about ourselves unto salvation, will it really take effort to live it out finally toward others? Or will it just take the inward transformation that has already happened in our hearts to bleed to the surface of our skin?

I hate it when I am contemptuous. Before recently, I never even realized I WAS contemptuous. See how far already we have come? It won’t happen naturally, because we are contemptuous by nature. Since we know this about our nature, can we now live as though we know this? And if we live as though we know this, as if everyone we meet is above us, higher than us, as if we are their servant, will there any longer be room for contempt?




Can God be righteous, and just, can He be all of the good things we say about Him, if a place such as hell exists? Can He be true, and not evil, if that place called hell is as bad as we have believed it is?

These are deep questions. However, I think we need to ask these questions, and I think we need to have an answer based on scripture, if we are to know God at all.

Scripture claims that God is love, and many say that God could not be love if hell were real, for how could love condemn someone to that place for any length of time? That last question is even more difficult, isn’t it? Well, what do you think?

What if I were to tell you that God could still be love even if hell were real? Would you believe me? Many of you would, because we have been raised in faith to believe just this very thing. But how deeply have we ever questioned this “doctrine”? Have we done the leg work, the necessary investigation to find out if it is true? Or have we been lazy, and simply taken it as a fact because that’s what we have always been told?

We should always be careful whenever we claim that God could be, or could not be this or that. The statement, “God is only love all of the time” is not true. He is many other things as well. Yet almost always, a person’s view of God depends solely on what they have “heard” spoken of Him, whether that be in sermons, or through discussions, or in today’s climate, where radio is widespread, and CD’s are available to listen to through purchase. But the question that should be answered by each one of us remains, “Who do you say that I am?”

I am of the belief that books, CD’s, and hearing sermons will only take one so far with their knowledge of “Who” God is, and of “What” God is. I think we might all agree on this principal. Yet one look at the industry of publishing shows us that Christian book buying, and CD buying is at an all time high, meaning, Christians from all over the place are relying and learning from people other than God. The messages they hear may well be of God, but they would never know this, because they continue to take “experts” at their word.

I wonder, why is this?

Why do we flock to everyone BUT God for the answers to the questions “Who” and “What” is God? Why, I could buy any number of books about Calvinism, Catholicism, Lutheranism, Annihilationism, pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, pre-trib rapturalism (yes, I know, I’m making up words again), Universal Salvationism, and all other manner of media. Just the other day, I saw a CD for sale claiming that Universal salvation through Christ is the only way God could be, or He wouldn’t be a God of love. I thought to myself, “Really? I wonder how that came to be?”

Knowing that I no longer wish for any to suffer “hell”, I find myself also no longer calling for God to come and destroy those who hate Him. Rather, I pray, and hope for a change in their hearts. This doesn’t always occur, in fact, rarely does it occur. That change that enables a man to believe with his heart that Christ is Risen and savior seems to be something that we as people have little effect upon. We can preach, teach, pray, and love our neighbor as ourselves, yet still, that change of heart is way beyond any talent we possess that would enable us to make it happen in another person.

So the question I have is, along with hell, can God be loving if He allows any suffering at all to occur? Let’s face it, what is hell when it seems so distant and vague. We live in the here and now, especially if we are believers. The future is the future, and although our hope remains for the future, if we believe, then the now is every bit as important as the eternal future. Having said that, again, I ask, how can God be love if He allows suffering even now, eternally now?

That question was raised because I thought about the CD’s claim, that God couldn’t be love if universal salvation through Jesus Christ wasn’t true. I look at all of these “doctrine’s”, many of them with convincing “evidences”, with an eye on God, and I wonder if any of us really know God, or if we are just making things up as we go. Don’t mistake me, I do believe we can know God. I just don’t think we want to know all that much about Him.

For how can we question God’s love in the context of hell, when for at least six thousand years already, “eternally now”, God has always allowed people to suffer? What’s the difference between a vague “eternity”, and an “eternal now”? And lest you think that now is not eternal, I guess I would have to remind you that to us, now is eternal, because now is the only “time” we have ever known. And in all this “time”, God has been present, has had the ability to stop all suffering and pain, and has chosen not to.

If the Kingdom of God is amongst us, and we know that it is, we know that it is not some far off vague place, but rather, that it is here, within us and around us, then how is it possible that God could still be love, and allow all of the sin we do, and all of the suffering that takes place because of it? I believe that if you want to prove that God couldn’t be love if hell was real, then you would also have to say that God couldn’t be love if all this suffering were within His ability to change and instead, He chose not to.

“Now” is eternal, because God exists in the eternal now, so to Him, there is no difference between yesterday and today, as far as time is concerned. We, being finite physical creatures, on the other hand, are always concerned with time as a reference point. We use yesterday to gauge how today went. Do you really think God does the same thing?

So, could what we know about God be true? Could all these doctrines of men be true at the same time? According to my understanding, it couldn’t be so. I look at universal salvation through Jesus Christ, and I say, “What a wonderful hope!! I hope it’s true!” I look at God’s sovereign choice (Calvinism), and I say, “It has to be!! Because none of us, if faced with a choice between God and flesh, would ever choose God, it’s just not in our nature to do so, not without divine intervention.” But these are all just “doctrine”, and furthermore, they are doctrine of men. Can they also be doctrine of God?

Well, I would suggest we all find out, because the gospel we believe is the gospel we preach. Do you want to preach the true gospel, or some gospel that some guy you never met made up because it “sounded” right?

Is hell real? Can God be love if it is? I believe God can be love if any number of bad things are true, mainly because we see bad things here and now, in the “eternal now”, all of the time. I believe God is love exactly because He is love beyond our understanding, even if that means certain things are true about Him that we don’t want to be. Let’s face it, slaughtering His own Son has for centuries been called the greatest act of love man has ever known.

Yet it was for our benefit that He did so. If God also allows pain for our benefit, we seldom have trouble still believing that God is love. Yet when it comes to things we haven’t seen, and things we don’t understand, all of a sudden, we want to claim things about God that contradict how He has been throughout this “eternal now”. Why is it okay for God to slaughter His son, to make plans even to do so, and it is not okay for hell to be real?

The truth is, it is not “good” to slaughter one’s own son. Not even if it is for our benefit. Not unless you consider that God is not held bound by our morals, by our understanding, and by our limited way of seeing the truth in this “eternal now”. But if you grant that God is still good because he allowed , nay, planned for His son’s slaughter, then might not it also follow that He can be good even if hell is real?

I have no answers right now, but I am seeking the Truth, and He is always willing to reveal Himself to those who seek Him. But I will leave you with one scenario of why hell could be real, and God could still be good, even if it was.

Imagine, if universal salvation through Jesus was true. Get there in your mind, because it is a possibility, one that many of us deny simply because we hear Jesus talk about hell without understanding. Are you there yet?

Now, picture Osama Bin Laden meeting Jesus for the first time after he dies. Picture Jesus saying to him, “you are not here because of Mohammed, and you are not here because you gloriously died for your Jihad. You are here because I died for you.”

What would good Osama say to that? Can he say, “I know, my Lord, I know that I didn’t earn this, and that you, and not Mohammed, are the one true Prophet.”? In that “eternal now” moment, does Osama believe? And if he does, what has occurred in him that didn’t occur the entire time he was here, in our “eternal now”? Or, does he remain uncircumcised in heart, because he exchanged the image of God for the image of man?

If Osama is to believe that Jesus is his savior after death, something is going to have to happen inside of him after death that brings this glorious change about. It didn’t happen here on earth, in this “eternal now”, so something glorious will have to happen to his mind and heart after death.

Do you see that God has not revealed what this something is? I do. If Calvinism is true, then God has not revealed how it works. If universal salvation through Jesus is true, God has not revealed how it works. Oh, we know that Jesus died for our sins, and that we have been made clean through Him. But in this “now”, many do not believe that. In fact, many claim rather to hate God.

So my question to end this long post is this; How can a God who claims to be love, be love, if He forces people who hate Him to be with Him eternally?

We have all seen people who hate God. We were all once people who hated God. Something happened here, in this “now”, to change that, and I say, none of us “caused” it. We may have had a choice, but if any of us really believes that we would choose God over flesh, I think we are a bit arrogant for that belief. History proves no man chooses God over himself, not without divine help.

But when this history is over for us, and for those who have remained in their hate for God in this “eternal now”, will their hate toward God all of a sudden change in the next “eternal now”?

Or will God force those who hate Him to spend eternity with Him? Jesus spoke of a door being closed, and not being opened again. Currently, I believe that this door is death, and when it occurs, once it occurs, there is no change of heart possible any longer.

Eternity is now, and tomorrow. It is not far off, it is here right now. And in this “eternal now”, there is still suffering, and there is still death. But God does not use yesterday as a gauge for how today went, the way we do. I think we need to see things from God’s perspective, rather than how we have always seen things from ours. I admit, the idea of hell from my perspective is grizzly and horrid, and how can a God who claims to be love even mention such a place? The mere thought of it is evil. Yet what do I know? Am I going to be Job, and raise myself up against God, and shake my finger at Him?

Man has ALWAYS shaken his finger at God, ALWAYS in misunderstanding. Yet God has been patient with all of us. If hell is real, I believe God can still be love. But the problem isn’t hell. The problem is us, boxing God in, and judging Him, if He doesn’t fit our notions of what He is “supposed” to be like. This has always been our problem, and it remains to this day.

I guess in the end, I am saying this. Leave room for hell. Leave room for God to be good, and love, if hell is true. Leave room to worship Him regardless of what is true about Him, because if you don’t, then you have set yourself up as God’s judge. And who of us knows enough of ANYTHING to be that good? In fact, if we are able in anything to say, “if God is this way or that way, then I can’t love Him or worship Him,” then I believe we remain with an unrepentant heart, because Jesus died not to give us the right to judge God, but to give us the right to be His friend. The end of all things is that men must realize that we are finite, created beings. Once we realize this fact, we will be less likely to claim that God must be this or that, or He isn’t love. Because the truth is, there are many things about God in this present time that lead many to believe He cannot be love. How do we answer them if we ourselves have placed “limits” on how we will allow God to act?

That’s the crux, that even though Jesus has given freedom, He has not given us freedom to judge God. So how can God be love if hell is real, and how can God be love if He forces people who hate Him to be around him eternally? The answers to those questions are not important.

What is important is this; is God God to you, or is He only God if certain conditions are met? A King does not need His subject’s permission to act a certain way. His subject’s need the King’s permission to act a certain way. Which one of us has asked God for permission to judge Him, and what would He say to that question?

If God cannot be love if hell is real, can you answer this question as well? How can you love God if you still sin? See the problem? If God doesn not judge us, who are evil, how can we judge God, who is good?