Hell Is Authentic


The result of living without Jesus is .  Not just a fantasy, not just a short-term separation from what is good.  It is a final loss, a final “mercy” of God to those who refuse any blessing.  He will not let an evil person go on hurting others into eternity, or even themselves; so He places them in outer darkness (Matthew 8:11-12), alone and apart from any source of light or life, because that is what they have chosen.  “All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice, there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find; to those who knock it is opened.” (C.S.Lewis, The Great Divorce)

If they would choose to know The God Who Is Here, anyone can enter into His Life, Light, Joy, Peace and every other blessing that comes from living in consistency with “the universe.”  There is only one way to know The God Who Is Here, and that is by getting to know Jesus, the Messiah, aka Christ.  “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)  There simply is no other way.  Father loves each one of us so much that if there was another way, He would inform us and provide us with the alternatives.  But THIS is the nature of the universe.  It is what He created and knowing Him is the only way. (Acts 4:10-12)

Like the Children of the Day sang, “Don’t try to drive the darkness out; You just turn on the light.”  Hell is the absence of light.  It is the absence of love.  It is the absence of community.  It is the absence of peace.  It is the absence of selfless joy.  It is the absence of life. 

Note, by that I do not mean the end of existence.  It that were the case, “hell” would not be all that bad.  If when we died we simply vanished into nothingness, there would be no reason for warning and inviting people to Life.  However, God created each of us, created YOU, to enjoy Him forever.  There is no Infinity Stone that can simply snap away our existence.  The gift of existence is without do-overs. (Romans 11:29)  We were created for eternity and “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

One of Job’s visitors described hell as the destiny of all those who do not know God, a dreadful place he calls the king of terrors.”  Hell will be a place of eternal death, because its inhabitants will be separated eternally from the Source of Life.  There, like the demons who believe and shudder (James 2:19), its occupants will hate God and the exposing light of his glory.  “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)

Before Him “Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water” (Ezekiel 21:7).  Just as the kings of the earth will call to the mountains and rocks, “Hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne” (Revelation 6:16), in hell God will give them what they want, a place of complete eclipse, darker than anything we can imagine. (Matthew 22:13; 25:29-30

As we have noted before (see ), anyone who longs for joy can find it.  Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:29, “If you will seek Yahweh your God, you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” But this is not like trying to find Easter eggs, either in the yard under bushes, or a hidden message in a movie.  You do not have to scour the internet or decode mysterious anagrams or learn a particular language.  God is not hiding, making you wade through mazes or difficult terminology to find Him.  He makes Himself clear to anyone willing to see Him (Romans 1:19-22)  Further, He has revealed Himself throughout history via prophets, priests, church leaders and lastly through Jesus.

It would be nice if we could say those who go to hell will only stay there for a little while and then be granted entry into Heaven, kind of like an earthly prison sentence.  But remember those who go there go by their own choice because they do now want to live in God’s Kingdom; they refuse to live with someone else that is there; they object to His rulership.

So what awaits one who refuses to believe what God has revealed about Himself? 
“This is what Yahweh, the LORD, says:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
Therefore hear, O nations, and know what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
    the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
    and as for my law, they have rejected it.…
Therefore this is what Yahweh says:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people a stumbling block against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.’”
(Jeremiah 6:16-21)

You have this opportunity while you live. (Hebrews 9:27-28)  There is no guidance on making this decision after you die, and why would anyone refuse the Lord of Life now while they can learn to know Him before that time?  The choice is yours to make.  we will look a little more at the choice.

An Aboriginal Mental Challenge: Can You Read Without Preconceptions?

2021-02-27 G.K.ChestertonG.K Chesterton is the source for today’s blog: a challenge to do some mental gymnastics to discover something we may have been missing.  In his 1925 philosophical tome, The Everlasting Man, the “prince of paradox” presents an interesting challenge: to read a Bible story from an aboriginal mindset.  You see, we have Christmas and Easter, jewelry and architecture, names of streets, cities and buildings and so many myriad additional references in our world to that unique man, Jesus, that it is difficult to imagine anyone anywhere in our global community that does not know something about Jesus.  And depending on the source of that something, our views of Jesus have been significantly shaped by the introductions we have been given, whether from a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, friend, enemy, or Christian/anti-Christian teaching.  And Chesterton contends that much of our view, even in the “Christian west” is significantly distorted.

So I wish to challenge you, as Chesterton has challenged me, to do some mental exercising.  Set your mind as though you have never heard of Jesus, a Christian church, or anything “christian.”  Pretend for this exercise that your only exposure to the divine has been the thunderous clouds that bring rain and frightening lightning; a starry sky at night and the warm and sometimes burning heat of the sun at day; the long graceful hop of a wallaby or neck of a giraffe; the worrisome growl of a bear or roar of a lion; a baby’s sweet coo and cry and the caress of your beloved.

Begin by beguiling your brain into thinking you have never received a Christmas gift or hunted an Easter egg or walked on Christchurch Avenue or stood in front of the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral.  You have never heard of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul or John.  Equally, you have never heard of Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Rama or Krishna or Zoroaster.   Add to that, you have never been concerned with politics, social structure or economics; no Communists, Conservatives, Democrats, Greens, Liberals, Republicans, Socialists, Tories or any other ideology for guidance of a nation.

This is a difficult mental exercise, but I encourage you, that it is not impossible.  Settle in your mind that you have never been taught anything about any god or history of creation, whether theism or atheistic evolution.  You have never worried about issues of government or society.  Your mind has been focused all these years on eating and drinking to stay alive and whatever day-to-day activities were required to survive, be at peace, avoid enemies and enjoy your time on earth.

Now, with this mindset, approach a new short book someone has brought you.  Its title is very short, just four letters, L-u-k-e.  If you can find it in its original formatting, without chapter and verse numbers, all the better.  (Chapters and verses were added centuries later to make research and memorization easier.)

However, it is available at a website where you can look up your language in which to read it.  If English is your native language, I encourage you to use the ESV noted in the website connection.  If another language is your “heart language,” feel free to try to find it under the ALL tab when you pull down the languages from the little arrow by the default version that opened.
So sorry, Mongolian is not on the list . . . yet.  But Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Tagalog and LOTS of others are there.
Any Gujariti readers here? 😉

2021-02-27 Biblegateway

Now that you have emptied your mind of any preconceptions about this little story, begin with Luke’s introduction to his narrative for his friend, Theophilus.  Read the short biography at a single sitting if you can; in your heart language it should not take much more than 90 to 120 minutes .  Remember, you have never heard of these people, Luke, Herod, Elizabeth, Martha or Jesus before.  Your entire impression of these people will come from your reading this for the first time!

You may want to have a pencil and paper handy, and note what you discover about some of the characters introduced to you for the first time.  Questions are sure to come up, as we begin with no information on the culture or history of these people and events; Why did He say THAT!?  Why did she do that!?  Why was He so rude?  Why did that confuse them?  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be meek and mild? Aha, you’ve slipped from the aboriginal mindset and are remembering something you’ve heard.  Try again! 😁

If you want to dialog about your questions, email me (capost3k@gmail.com) or comment here.  No guarantees I have any answers for you.  Either Tim Keller or Rick Warren wrote (but I cannot find the referemce), “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, you have to wonder if he knows all the questions.”   (Similar to a Confucius quote.)

Here’s to hoping you have a good week and discover who Jesus really is.
Enjoy Peter Hollen’s and Home Free’s a-capella performance of Amazing Grace.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C.S.Lewis

The Frozen Chosen

Year of the Ox

I have several blogs in the works on our political situation here in the US, as well as some on theology and one about why Father would appoint a godless Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Hitler or some presidents to lead nations, but those can wait a week or two.

Frozen in Kentucky, we are getting our share of the polar vortex that “proves” global warming. 🙄  The bottom line, like William Goldman said early in his illustrious career, “Nobody knows anything.” 

So Tuesday evening, February 9, we went to bed with moderate winter temperatures and woke to a frozen wonderland, pictured below.  With temps staying below freezing now for four days and no sign of getting above it before Thursday, February 18 (and just barely, then!), the ice is still on our sidewalks, although salt trucks have pretty much cleared the main roads.  A few of us have worked up the nerve to clear our walks, but most are still under the glacier that has gripped the central US this week.

Before heading out on Wednesday for our 1-2 mile walk, Anita found our “hand-warmers” and I wish I could load the video associated to the third pic.  It’s really ‘cool’ how the white sodium acetate reacts in the aqueous solution when you click the metal disk which allows the supersaturated NaCH3COO to crystallize in the water.  You can see the chemical reaction at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m25n9179ym4.  (Just for the record, I do not have any affiliate links from which I get remuneration.  Any referrals I provide in my blogs are just because I like the products.)

2021-02-13 SpeedJust to give you an idea of how cold it was and how frozen it felt, hardly anyone was moving about on Wednesday as schools and everything shut down in Lexington.  I know we’re wimps compared to friends in Canada and Norway, but no one knows how to drive 25mph here unless the weather forces them to do so.

So out we went, with warm hands and hearts into the wasteland of arctic air that had seeped into Kentucky.  We used our hiking sticks to keep our feet steady, but even then, Anita felt too unsure of her footing, so I returned her to home and wandered Copperfield alone.  But not for long!   Even with hand-warmers, taking my glove off every few minutes to take a picture made me decide to head home pretty quickly as well.

Baby, it’s cold outside!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MFJ7ie_yGU.  (Red Skelton’s section is hilarious!! 😂)

I always wondered why someone thought Valentine’s Day ❤️ should come in the coldest month of the year!

The Copperfield Clubhouse Pool was cool, as were the trees and bushes around it!

Cars were pretty much unmoved.  Some were creative about preventing the ice from locking down their wipers, except for Charles who had no intentions of driving, but was called on a mission of mercy to a friend in the hospital.

Smaller trees seemed to do better than big birches around the neighborhood.  The birches were not as bowed as they were in 2003, but still arched under the weight.  Basketball, being the local primary religion in Lexington, one of the “idols” had to stand unattended since it was too slick for the supplicants to participate in “worshiping at the altar.” 😇

Back at home after perambulating the neighborhood, our friend across the street was as surprised as Anita and me that the USPS actually could drive around for mail delivery today!  I guess their slogan, “Neither rain nor sleet, . . . etc” really works!  Well, we’ll scrape some ice off the sidewalk and garage and go have a hot cup of Chili Chocolate from Peoria, Illinois!  Thanx, Sean and Mikki!

Final note, for Valentines Day/Chinese New Year, we ordered out at the Palomar Malone’s for some steak and lobster mac & cheese!  That was after checking the web for traffic cams to make sure the drive was navigable.  And here’s an icy panorama to finish off.  Happy Year of the OX! San Nin Faai Lok! https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a35394134/year-of-the-ox-prediction/

 

 

Guest Blog: Christmas In Mongolia

Cup of Cold Water Ministries has servants who represent Jesus in ten countries, around the world, including Bolivia, Ghana, Thailand and Mongolia.  This terrific organization, though small, supplies a niche service to international workers, most of whom are doing “tent-making” and combining social services along with Gospel presentation; living out Jesus’ instruction, “whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Recently, they began facilitating the ministry of Tuvsho whom my wife and I met when we taught at The Mongolian International University in 2013.  We saw first hand the change in the environment of Ulaanbataar (Ulan Bator) from the early autumn to the wintry pollution when temps reach down to -30F (-34C) and residents burn almost anything to stay warm in their gers (yurts) and unheated houses. Below are pictures of Ulaanbataar in summer and winter, and of the ger districts. The city, originally planned for a population of about 200,000, now houses 1,500,000, over a third of them living in urban areas with inadequate solid waste management, limited water supply, and no utilities other than electricity.

But the largest challenge is the young people who often seem to have no hope of a viable future in Ulaanbataar. That is where Tuvsho and Quinnie come in with a HoME, a Heart of Mentoring. They have a team, a Board of Directors and a system of accountability to do the work to which Father has called them.  You can find out more about them and the service they are providing to at-risk youth in Ulaanbataar at https://www.ccwm.org/tuvsho.

I encourage you to consider a tax-deductible Christmas gift to HoME this year so that Tuvsho and her team can complete construction of the post-“orphanage” residence she is building, and the provisions for guidance and job-skill development for children as they grow too old to stay in the social-welfare system.
____________________

christmas Dec 9
Written By Tuvsho

It is a custom in Mongolian families to decorate a Christmas tree as a symbol of a New Year celebration. Because we are a post-Soviet nation, Christmas, which is considered a religious holiday, is not something many celebrate.

I used to have a “New Year Tree” too, and it was always the most exciting time of the year to put the tree up, decorate it with ornaments and see its lights glitter and shine with different colors.  Guests would come and put some money on the tree as a gift and we would collect them when we took the tree down after New Year.

Now I call my tree a Christmas Tree.  Most of my family has not yet chosen to follow Jesus but they all know that I have.  This year I found my six year old nephew praying to the tree and making his wishes right after we finished putting it up and turning on its lights on.  Although I knew his prayers to a tree were pointless, I sensed a genuine prayer full of pure joy and hope, and that was not pointless.  I believe God hears those prayers.  I remember when I was a young girl praying out to anything or anyone that would hear me saying, “God, Buddha, Jesus, Mohamed…whoever is the real God please listen!”  I know that the real God, the true Creator, heard my prayers.

Something about that tree caused my nephew to want to pray.  I believe it is the message behind it all, the true Redeemer who has come for all of us.  My Christmas tree and the star on the top brings my family and many others together just like that star, the star of Bethlehem, brought people to Jesus.  May many little hearts be guided by the message of the star and even the excitement of Christmas to find Jesus in this New Year.

tuvsho

Intermezzo Guest Blog: On Being Infected With Covid-19 On Thanxgiving

2020-11-25 Intermezzo Blog

Basement Isolation Reflections
By Karla Duerson

When [insert certain circumstance here] then I will be happy, fulfilled, satisfied.
If only [insert certain circumstance here] then I could live meaningfully, fulfilled.
When all the kids are finally gone . . .
If only he would stop antagonizing his sister . . .

These subtle whispers can rob reality right out of in front of my nose.  Life is happening right now.  That’s it!  Yet the zest and spice of life are illusive.  The mundane quotidian lulls me.  Sometimes I want to shirk responsibilities.  I back away from complexities and challenges.

I work a lot.  I do a lot.  I think a lot.  I take care of people a lot.  I get tired.  Sometimes I daydream about being alone.  “When all the kids are finally gone . . .”

Well, now covid-19 has brought me closer to aloneness than I have been in a long time.  No one is talking to me.  No one is interrupting me.  I have very few tasks to complete.  Strange.

The strangest covid-19 symptoms are those that have robbed my senses.  I cannot taste coffee!  I cannot smell chocolate chip cookies.  I cannot touch my children.  My vision was even affected for a day.

My friend said, “Taste, smell, touch – God gave us these to enjoy life.  When one or all of them go away, it really is a wake-up call to His goodness!”

Well put, my friend.  This world is an explosion of God’s breathtaking artistry!  Tree-lined mountain tops, a home-cooked meal, gifted flowers in a pretty vase, Wylies’s round little cheeks, and Neva’s brown silky hair, Guy’s strong growing arms.  The world above in space, the world below in the sea, the world all around us on the terrain is remarkable beautiful.

How can I stay awake to that splendor?  How can I ward away dullness, ingratitude and boredom?  One of our very young participants on our Simple Church Zoom call suggested the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Well, sitting in the bed in the basement for the fourth day in a row while listening to the hustle and bustle of the activities going on above, concerning myself about everyone’s well-being without being able to lift a finger, and longing to cuddle and comfort my people, this brought me to tears.  I love it when children share.  

Even more, Gavin reminded us of the next part of the letter:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I will learn the secret that Paul did because just like my BSF notes stated last week, “God intends hardships to draw us closer to Him, so we become more content with His presence and provisions.”  So, “whether in plenty or in want,” I will learn to be content and that I “can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

I am in the basement.  Topside, in the upstairs of my home, I am in plenty.  Either way, I have Christ who empowers me to see, to touch, to taste, to hear, to smell His wonder-filled world, to truly live!

Read more of Karla’s writing at www.karladuerson.blogspot.com

On a lighter side, be sure to check out Gavin’s take on Black Friday:

Inside Joke – Black Friday

And for some thought-provoking apologetics, check out the CSLewisDoodle on “Good Infections”:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw-kYN6wWXWDyp_lB0wnlxw
C.S.Lewis Doodle

“Lord, Let Me Grow Old Like Walter.”

2020-11-21 Grow Old With MeHow can we grow old gracefully? By this I mean that you can live at peace, gently interacting with others, eat enough food to stay healthy, wear clothes that are adequate for your weather, sleep quietly in a safe room, and rest from the trials of life.

This will allow you to enjoy your golden years
“before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened
and the clouds return after the rain,
in the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men are bent,
and the grinders cease because they are few,
and those who look through the windows are dimmed,
and the doors on the street are shut,
when the sound of the grinding is low,
and one rises up at the sound of a bird,
and all the daughters of song are brought low,
and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home,
and the mourners go about the streets,
before the silver cord is snapped,
or the golden bowl is broken,
or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain,
or the wheel broken at the cistern,
and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:2-7)

There are three properties we need in order to grow old gracefully: Trust, Mercy and Grace.

Trust is necessary as we begin to find many things slipping out of our control.  We cannot hear the news reports as clearly and information seems to accumulate faster than we can digest it.  Attention to details of what we own and where things are stored begins to fade, and if you do not trust those around you, you will constantly feel in danger of losing something valuable.

Trust in any person and you will be disappointed at some time; probably more than once!  Even trusting our God leaves us sometimes with confusion and wondering if He really knows what He is doing.  But that is when the tires of our trust must truly engage the terrain.  “Nothing happens TO a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happens FOR us.” (Lane Martin)

Do we really believe that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose?”  If so, then trust becomes an essential not just of our spiritual life, but of every aspect of life, including the people we trust, the weather we enjoy or endure, the supposed “accidents” that happen, the deterioration of our minds and decay of our bodies.  We must recognize Father brings people into our sphere of influence (and influence over us) as part of His plan, and if we trust HIM, it will extend to the people and circumstances around us.

And that is where Mercy comes in.  As we put our trust in flawed humans they will fail us, often unintentionally. But they will also misuse us, steal from us or take advantage of us.  But remember, HE allows it! 

So we must be prepared to forgive them, even before they ask for it, and sometimes they may never do so.  We are still responsible to Father to forgive them from our hearts – !  That is SOOOO hard to do, but God does not give us an option here.  If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  (See Matthew 5:43-48 and 6:14-15.)

And mercy will extend Grace to those who do not deserve it.  Whereas mercy is not getting the bad that we deserve, grace is defined as unmerited favor; i.e. getting something good that we do not deserve.  Just as we have received grace from The God Who Is Here, He expects us to extend that same grace to those who offend us. (See Matthew 18:21-35.)  After all, “we are all broken people to one degree or another.  And God loves using broken people, because that way we know it is Him working out His grace in us.” (Doug Johnston)

A friend told me of two old fellows who died many years ago. His maternal grandfather went to Heaven at 92 year old. Walter had dementia but loved God and was as sweet as apple pie. He trusted his care-givers even when he could not remember their names or that he had ever met them before. He was patient and kind and always grateful whenever anyone did anything for him. Everybody loved Walter, right up to the day he passed away.

Some years later, my friend’s 57 year old father was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease. His wife once heard him praying, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.” And he did. As his disease limited his understanding of the world around him and left him often confused about what was happening to him, he also finished this life expressing Trust, Mercy and Grace to those around him.

How can we grow old gracefully? Trust your care-giving Father; give Mercy to any who offend; extend undeserved Grace to everyone God brings across your path. And pray, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.”

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

[the first stanza of Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning] (pictured above)

Are We Free?

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (Peter, the Apostle)

One of the most disconcerting features of our society is the “celebrity culture” into which too many Christ-followers have bought. Mega-church pastors, television evangelists, or best-selling authors (or bloggers) all beguile us into thinking, “Oh, if so-and-so said it or did it, it must be right.”

But when one of them falls from grace, the message of Jesus gets blamed as if HE was the culprit. Paul warned the Romans, “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.‘” But this is not just a problem for prominent religious leaders.

If any of us who name the Name of Jesus as our Lord hate our enemies and only love those who look like us, act like us, talk like us and vote like us, we will embarrass our Lord. If we fail at the most basic principles of living in the Spirit, the Name of God will be blasphemed.

In our current time, the election of our president is pressing us to take sides, to declare if we are Trumpers or Bideners. Will Trump’s legacy be one of lying, cheating, and disgracing the Constitution or will Biden’s potential presidency be one of destroying the Republic and advancing communism against half of the country?

Let me suggest we are FREE. We who call ourselves Christ-followers are free from the politics of the Democrats or Republicans because our citizenship is higher and more secure than anything either party can offer. I am not proposing that we ignore political issues, and some may be called specifically to follow Jesus into the fray of civic rivalries. However, most of us are needed on a different “front” of battle: the contention for the souls of our families, neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Unless God has called us to join a political party, we are commissioned to a much freer and better task than merely getting a temporary “master” elected. We must trust the Maker that He has chosen our next president (see Daniel 2:21) and we will still be called to live as free men and women under whatever earthly rulership He has chosen for us.

This was true of Paul when he was in prison for The Name. It has been true for many martyrs and believers throughout history since Jesus ascended. And it may even come true for some of us if we hold to His call with grace and composure, refusing to obey men rather than God.

No one is truly free unless he is free in his spirit. It never ceases to amaze me that some foolish people think conversions to ideas can be forced.  No heart or belief is changed by holding a gun to one’s head and demanding the victim to say words.  However, “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed!”  If our citizenship IS in Heaven, then no power on earth can constrain us from doing what is right for our Master.

And His call is clear, one by one we must persuade, inform, and demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is for freedom that He has set us free, “for you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14)

So I challenge you (and myself), are we free?

A Memory From My Dad From 2 Corinthians 4

2020-06-20 Dad in Kansas City 1975
Dad in K.C., KS 1975

My Dad died at age 73 from complications with Parkinson’s Disease in 1993.  He was a believer before any of his children were born.  He and Mother met at an evangelistic rally she and a colleague held in Paradise, Kansas, as war was about to be declared by the U.S.  She and her friend had graduated from Foursquare Life Bible College in California and were having meetings in small towns around the Midwest, and as they say, “The rest is history.”  Married, a short stint on a recon team in France, farming in Brookfield, Missouri, two daughters and my brother after the war ended, a move to Kansas City, Kansas, and the only Kansas “Sunflower” since Daddy was me! 🙂

Some of my earliest memories include learning to read from the Bible sitting on his or Mother’s lap, and learning to count as they pointed to the verse numbers as we had “family devotions.”  He taught adult Sunday School with more students in his classes than many churches of the time.  It was in Victoria Tabernacle where attendance ran around 500, a feat almost unheard of before Calvary Chapel and Westside Assembly of God ran into the thousands.  Back then the very few biggest “megachurches” ran between one and 2000.

Dad was not an easy man to get to know, a characteristic of his era where men were admired for being strong and silent.  When asked if he loved his family it is reported that he answered, “I put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, food on the table and give them wheels when they’re old enough to drive.  What more is a man supposed to do?”  Yes, he loved us as much as he understood of love, which was a lot more than we realized as children.  I never saw his chest swell larger with pride than when my brother spoke and played piano at Victoria Tabernacle while home on a visit from college.

In the 60s the hippies of California preached a humanistic “love gospel” that slipped over the Midwest to embrace Woodstock, NY, before permeating back through the Rockies and the Pennsylvania forests to finally meet in Missouri where I was in college, getting ready to go to Alaska for a summer program.  The summer turned into a year, and at 20 years old I would spend my first Christmas away from family.

I remember calling my parents in August, 1972, from my boss’s office and telling them he had invited me to stay on for a year.  Asking them to get on extensions so both could hear, it was a joy to get their encouragement.  Dad said he would pray that I would do a good job and be a blessing in Alaska which Mother affirmed.

I had never heard anyone in my family say, “I love you” to another person.  That does not mean they had not said it, just not in my hearing.  But I had heard a sermon about the love of God and its implications to our relationships the previous semester, the first one I had ever heard on that topic.  Just before saying goodbye, with a lump in my throat I meekly said, “Dad and Mom, I love you.” . . . Dead silence on the phone for what seemed like forever but was only moments, Mom spoke up first. “Well, we love you, too.”  Then Dad spoke, “Yeah, son, we love you.  Now do a good job up there in Alaska.”

When I returned home, Mother met me at the airport, and when Dad came home, as we started to shake hands, he pulled me closer and I realized we were going to hug.  And that became a pattern whenever I would be gone for a season, first to finish college, then to my first job, then through career changes.  Whenever I came home, Dad and I would shake hands and it would turn into a warm hug.

For families today, any Dad that does not provide physical support to his children is tantamount to child abuse, but back then most of my friends were surprised if they saw Dad and me hug each other.  Their dads did not do that, and these were dads that I know loved their sons as much as mine loved me.

Dad had to take early retirement from a long career as a local truck driver due to progression of his Parkinson’s.  His feet could not move quickly enough any more to drive the big rigs safely, so at 63 he began to relax and drive Mom up a wall with being underfoot until she discovered their mutual love of the Kansas City Royals baseball team.

Just before he died in 1993 we visited in his hospital room and I asked him, “Dad, I know you’ve taught the Bible longer than I’ve been alive, but I remember one of the things you taught was to never assume someone knows Jesus, no matter how religious they may be. . . .  So Dad, do you know you’ll go to Heaven if you die?”  To my delight he smiled at first before breaking into a small laugh as he assured me, “Yes, son, I know Jesus is my savior, and you know, based on Psalm 90, I owe the Lord three “years of grace” over the 70 that we are supposed to get.”  So we talked more about Father’s love for us and the grace that he gives.

In 1996 I was mulling over these events and penned the following song that I wish someone could sing for you.  The music is pretty good and if I ever get someone to show me how to load videos to YouTube, and get a vocalist who can do the song justice, and maybe my brother or brother-in-law to play it, I’ll post an edit to this blog.

In the meantime, here is my memory of my Daddy and his Years of Grace, until I worship Jesus alongside of him:

Years of Grace (A memory of my dad from 2 Corinthians 4) ©May 14, 1996

1. My father laid before me, his body trembling like a leaf.

He said, “Son, I know the Lord Jesus, and I’m ready for Heaven’s relief.

He’s blessed me each year of my seventy-three, and though just a blink of His eye,

That’s three Years of Grace to give back to the Lord when to His presence I fly.”

 

Chorus
“These are the Years of Grace that the Lord has given to me,
And though I long to see His face, there may be reasons I cannot see
To keep me here in this time and place to learn to serve Him more faithfully.
Though outside we appear to be dying, inside the light of Jesus is shining.
He put such treasures in this earthen vase in these Years of Grace.”

 2. Years ago I left the Way to chase the pleasure of sin,
But Dad prayed and God bore my abuse of His grace to bring me back to repentance again.
So Dad and I spoke of the mysteries of faith and the mercies of God in the night,
And we realized each year was a year of God’s grace bringing us into His light.

3. Then I laid his hand upon my head and said, “Dad, say a prayer for me.”
And like the patriarchs of days long ago he prayed for his whole family.
He named each of us God had put in his care and prayed the light afflictions we feel
Would work in us a greater eternal reward and the weight of God’s glory reveal.

4. So we’re troubled on every side, yet we are not distressed.
We’re never abandoned nor in despair, though persecuted or perplexed.
We may be struck down, but we are not destroyed, for we know His surpassing might
Reveals through our bodies, for Jesus’ sake, His life and His glorious light.

5. Two weeks later my sister called. The Lord had taken Dad home.
His spirit was free from its crumbling shell, from all of earth’s pain he had flown.
I can picture him bowing before the Throne with all the saints who are saved
And singing as angels stand silently by of the Years of Grace the Lord gave.

See you soon Dad, your younger son.

“Going ‘to’ Church” by Dana Vogel

Very well said, and lovingly presented, I happily relinquish this week’s blog to Dana Vogel to share what the Holy Spirit is teaching her about “Going ‘to’ Church.”
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2020-05-02 Going to Churchby Dana Vogel
We all know it’s important to meet together often as believers for our mutual encouragement. This is true and good. What’s not necessarily true and good, is that many of us equate this with a Sunday worship service. My submission to you is this: weekly service attendance is too much and not enough at the same time. What do I mean by that?

TOO MUCH:
It’s too much simply because there is no command in the Bible to “go to church.” Or to go once a week, or to attend any specific kind of service. In fact, at certain times a believer may not even have the privilege of any Christian fellowship whatsoever (think of Paul in prison, as an example). Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about this a great deal in his book Life Together, where he stresses that fellowship is a GIFT, not a promise.

Now of course we are encouraged to meet together if we are able, as the author of Hebrews says in chapter 10:25, “and don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten in the habit of doing.” And Paul certainly talks a great deal about “when you come together,” assuming that the believers were gathering on some sort of frequent basis. But this does not mean our gathering has to be regularly scheduled or look anything like what we have grown accustomed to today. We have self-imposed these regulations, these restrictions. This is the “too much.” As it says in Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”

What does it mean, then, for us to “come together”? While there is not much Biblical instruction regarding the format of our gatherings, the apostles certainly did not mean for us to simply “hang out” either. Paul continues in that same passage, “and when you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” It is clear that a large part of our gathering together should be to build each other up in a variety of ways. But this can be done in any context, not just a Sunday worship service. In fact, if you simply “attend” a Sunday worship service as your principal expression of church life, you may be severely lacking in being built up.

This is where the “not enough” comes in.

NOT ENOUGH:
Let’s brainstorm various elements of church expression we find in the New Testament: prayer, worship, instruction, encouragement, spiritual gifts (prophecy, tongues, healing, etc), fellowship, confession, breaking bread, communion, serving the poor, spreading the gospel, etc. etc. etc.!

Or consider the “one another” passages. Here is an incomplete list:
Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11);
Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16);
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19);
Teach one another (Colossians 3:16);
Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18);
Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11);
Employ the gifts that God has given us for the benefit of one another (1 Peter 4:10);
Pray for one another (James 5:16);
Confess your faults to one another (James 5:16);
Exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13);
Stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24);
Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9);
Greet one another (Romans 16:16);
Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25);
Serve one another (Galatians 5:13).

These are the things Paul is referring to when he says “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”  Wow. Consider that: everything must be done! Weekly services are not enough simply because most Sunday meetings can only facilitate two of these elements (worship + teaching, sometimes communion). Not only that, but Paul says that “each one” is to bring a hymn, teaching, revelation, etc. If you are always the recipient of teaching and encouragement, you are not truly being built up! For everyone must participate and everything must be done. Is that what your current church experience looks like?

If not, please quickly guard yourself against self-condemnation or accusation against your brothers and sisters. Instead, ask the LORD to give you insight into how you might engage with his body outside of or in addition to your “main gathering.” It may be as simple as making a phone call to a friend to encourage them or inviting people over for a spontaneous prayer gathering. Think of Acts 12, where believers were gathered at Mary’s house praying for Peter while he was in prison. That was a special gathering for a special purpose. Let us be attentive to those opportunities as well.

Is it wrong to attend a Sunday meeting? Of course not. Is it wrong to forego the service and meet with the body more spontaneously? Of course not. We should not judge each other for how or when we are meeting with other believers – such things are trivial. It’s OK to meet regularly, and it’s OK to meet spontaneously, as long as we are meeting together and doing the “one-anothers”!

So I invite you to consider this idea: perhaps the context/format/environment of our gatherings matters very little, and all that truly matters is that we are
1. gathering,
2. experiencing a rich variety of church expression, and
3. engaging in those expressions as both the giver and receiver.

Let us all be attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit into the ‘further’ and the ‘deeper’ of all these things. Let us recognize that the level to which we experience church life is the level to which, whenever we meet another believer, we ask for prayer, offer encouragement, and glorify God; despite the time or place being priorly deemed as holy, important, or “appropriate” for that kind of activity or not.

When I meet up with my siblings who are believers, how often do we read a psalm, or offer encouragement in the faith? When I meet up with a friend to see a movie, do I also ask for prayer or share what the Lord has been speaking to me about that week? This level of devotion takes either an enormous amount of self-motivation and discipline, OR it takes an enormous amount of love for God and his body. The level to which we love him is the level to which we talk about him. And the level to which we love each other is the level to which we encourage each other. If this is difficult for us, perhaps our love for the Lord and our brothers and sisters needs more growth? And perhaps that can be the next prayer of our hearts?

In everything, let us not judge each other. Let us not be ruled by meetings. But let us not stop meeting with each other. Let us listen to the Holy Spirit for how he might want us to meet with his body. Let us be willing to be inconvenienced. Let us look for the ‘more’ of this great Family. Let us love each other deeply. Let us love the LORD most deeply.
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Dana is from Lexington, KY, where she is a part of a simple church community with her husband Diego and son Ari.  She also happens to be a wonderful singer and songwriter.  You can find her music online everywhere and follow her on Instagram @danavogelmusic.