Life In Abundance, Even In Death

2021-07-24 Fall in Kentucky

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 (CSB))

It always intrigues me when discussing death with some ‘Christians’ that they demur and say, “Let’s talk about something nicer.”  And I wonder, what is ‘nicer’ than death?  True, I do not look forward to debilitating disease or pains and problems of aging, but the end of this life on earth is not something awful for us to fear.  Even in death, there is abundance of LIFE!

The Christ-follower daily faces paradoxes.  Jesus announced very clearly, For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)  The “sermon on the mount,” Matthew 5-7, has many of these oxymorons, starting with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12).  The most pointed of these are the last two: “Blessed are those who are persecuted (?)” “Blessed are you when others revile you (?) and persecute you (?) and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely (?)  What kind of invitation is this to follow this guy!?

Far too many Christ-followers have been sold only half of the bill of goods.  Prosperity preachers abound with promises that if you just buy their books and listen to their sermons, you will have unending health, wealth and comfort.  If things do not work out to make your life its very best, it must be your lack of faith, or something wrong with you, because God only wants to do good for you.

But just thinking of how the love of parents requires them to sometimes do something painful to their children should eliminate any confusion here.  No child ever said, “Oh, goody, I get to have a vaccine shot today!”  But a loving parent will vaccinate their children against DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) to protect them from these much more harmful diseases, no matter how much the child may scream.  Love constrains parents to make their children eat their vegetables even though the dessert cake is sweeter.

So, yes, our Father only wants what is good for us.  C.S. Lewis began to understand this as he matured in his trust in God, writing “We are not doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  And “there’s the rub,” as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said.  The maturity to which Jesus calls His followers is not the nursery school comfort of warm milk and cookies.  It is the challenge to come to Him and DIE so that you can truly live.

The Christ-follower, like Jesus, lives in a culture of life-affirmation.  Thus abortion, the unwilling taking of an unborn child’s life is anathema to His people.  Euthanasia, the execution of those who no longer are “contributing” to society (whatever that means), is also viewed as something more demonic than beneficial.  Suicide, in societies that have honored God’s word, has always been viewed as counter-productive.  Even suffering, when viewed as a means to draw us closer to the One who suffered more agonizingly than we can imagine, becomes life-affirming and a channel for God to bring glory to Himself.  Our rewards will wait, but they will come.

Thus, we are instructed that when we are persecuted, we can move to another place (Matthew 10:23), but not to retaliate against our persecutors, but to pray FOR them (Note: NOT against them).  We are not to fear death or its agencies that try to murder us (Matthew 10:28).  Francis Chan, just as he headed to Hong Kong to set up ministries in Southeast Asia, noted, “It is crazy to me that it is perfectly normal to be a Christian in America and to be obsessed with staying alive.” (February 7. 2020)  Jim Elliot penned in a letter to his bride, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Someone observed once, that unless one is willing to die for something they can not really live for it.  We who follow Jesus view death not so much as an enemy of life, but as a ferryman who will one day transport us out of his reach.  Following Jesus may involve pain, suffering, or apparent loss in the world’s eyes.  We may lack in comfort or have greater difficulties than those who just go with whatever cultural stream is flowing.  But there will come a day when it will all be worthwhile.

We must not serve God just for His rewards (another blog coming soon), but He does promise great rewards for those who give up their lives to or for Him.  Our confidence in Him assures us that there is nothing for the Christ-follower to fear.  He came to give us LIFE, and that promise is as certain as His resurrection!  There is no historical event more certain than that Jesus arose from the dead.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

 

 

The Answer Man? – Not Me!

2021-06-12 Struck Down But Not Destroyed
Rick Warren once said, “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, one has to wonder if he knows all the questions.”

When one goes on a date, he or she showers, puts on nice clothes, preens in front of a mirror for a while, checks to make sure teeth don’t have spinach between them, and preps their brightest smiles and best chuckles.  The same goes for blogging.  When we get on our computers, we take time to evaluate our words; we check for grammatical errors, examine links and think seriously about the topic: i.e., we put our best foot forward in both cases (at least most of us do!😏).

We tend to be experts when we get online, because no one can see all the background work we do to make a nice blog.  We check our resources and polish the blog and show off how smart, informed, and perceptive we are.  Most of us try to avoid harsh words or crass language (at least the blogs I follow; too much cursing or four-letter words and I will not follow).

Well, I am not that smart or “together” all the time.  I sincerely try to be nice in my comments or just don’t comment (my mother’s words are still there in my head, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”)

But sometimes I do not “have it all together.”  Depression sometimes surprises me with lonesomeness that makes me feel even the sun is dark, as if I am under a rock wi2021-06-12 Pinnedth no light.  I make solitary time either after my bride leaves our bed, or in places where I can get away from everyone, and I cry. . . And I cry. . . And I cry some more.  So many folks in my family are wonderful and I know that I am loved, but loneliness still stands over me like an angry wrestler ready to push me down and hold me to the mat even after I say, “I give up.”  He won’t let me up anyway.

I am not suicidal (See  ).  As my brother is fond of saying, “That ship has sailed.”  But many times I feel like the days are just passing me by, and I am just waiting either for Jesus to return or for Father to call me Home from this world.  Depression makes you question whether anything you do matters; whether your life matters.

But the bottom line is it is not about me . . . or you.  Life is about Him!

Like the man in John 9 born blind, just as we are all born spiritually blind, “Once I was blind but now I see.”  As C.S.Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  The world, the universe, the animals, the oceans, the mountains, the people; it all makes sense when I begin with the Cross of Jesus and the Bible.  Rick Warren put it this way: “You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense.”

In no other system, no other world leader, no other religious figure claimed to BE GOD.  And if Jesus is not God, then nothing makes sense in the world, the universe or people.  But sinse He IS God, it all does make sense.  I was born spiritually blind and sinful.  Jesus came to bear the penalty for my sin.  He lived a sinless life and died an ignominious death on a mechanism for capital criminals at the hands of the Gentiles and Jews.  But He rose from the dead after three days and three nights in the tomb.  And now He lives to make intercession for any who will put their faith in Him.  It’s ALL about Him!

I do not intend this blog to be a ‘downer,’ but just to encourage you if you are feeling low, if you feel pressed into the ground by a boulder, or if you fight with the angry wrestler who tries to push you down; perhaps you wonder about your value, your worth, whether your life matters.  It DOES!  You matter so much to God that He sent Jesus to the Cross!  And I know that my Redeemer lives, and THAT is all that really matters.

“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last He will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold Him, and not another’s.”
  Job 19:25-27

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in YHWH.
  Habakkuk 3:17

Evil Is Evident; Hell Is Authentic; Prepare or Perish.

This title is not stated as a threat or with any glee.  It is written with trembling knees, a heart full of prayer and sincere desire that anyone reading it may find Life and NOT perish.  The title is simply the statement of three facts which I will address in three blogs.  Though Jesus spoke much more about the Kingdom of Heaven, we would be remiss if we skipped these subjects that He and the Bible address.

Fairy Tales
2021-03-27 WickedSome would like us to believe in fairy tales; happily ever after endings without consequences for wrong behavior.  Or at least, let’s provide some context which makes wrong choices understandable and tolerable since the villain had it so rough.  So Wicked becomes a Disney retelling of Sleeping Beauty that makes Maleficent an unfortunate victim of her circumstances.  Romulans actually are nice guys, just with slightly different means of expressing the same values as Federation members.  Natasha Romanoff (or Black Widow) had a rough childhood; fortunately, she falls in love with a good guy and joins the Avengers.  Severus Snape, the epitome of evil with black cape, boots and a penchant for scaring Potter’s goodniks, turns out to be working for Dumbledore all along.  Another black-robed villain, Darth Vader is given reasons for his turn to the dark side.  And the Terminator turns out to be a misunderstood robot who just needed reprogramming.  Don’t we all?

So in this alternate universe Hitler would be mistreated by his dad and abused by a Jewish teacher.  Stalin was a nice kid who just got involved with the wrong crowd, and Pol Pot was very poor and had to steal food to survive as a child.

Unfortunately, alternate “universes” do not exist (with no apologies to Stephen Hawking).  By definition, universe means ”the totality of known or supposed objects throughout space; the cosmos.”  There cannot be another “universe” that contains that totality; that is an absurdity for which there is not a grain of evidence except in the minds of Star Trek viewers like Hawking.

Not Innocent, Only Incompetent
2021-03-27 Not Innocent Just IncompetentWe are the product of choices we make throughout life, beginning with infancy when we want the blocks the other baby has.  Shortly after most children master “Mama,” most also learn “Mine!”  Children are not innocent; they are simply incompetent.  Given the power, the mass of them would eliminate any opposition with a flick of Potter’s wand and simply kill anyone that prevents them from getting their way.

You and I were like that!  We had to be taught that there were better things than getting our own way all the time.  Most of those lessons were learnt through experience, the best teacher, but hardly the kindest.

In The Great Divorce, C.S.Lewis illustrates these choices among those who refuse Heaven because of what they want.  From the dishonest intellectual to a greedy materialist; from a religious hypocrite to a self-deprecating egomaniac; from a mother who preferred to drag her child into hell rather than forfeit control to a tragedian who loved his own misery rather than accept joy that was offered.  “Better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.” (Milton)

There are those who will choose their own way rather than God’s way even at the pain of death.  And from their choices will come every kind of evil from murdering unborn children to killing the elderly who no longer “contribute to society” to justifying what once were considered perverse lifestyles.  Like Lewis’ Ghosts they will couch their evil in beautiful sounding words like Social Security, Affordable Care, For The People, Toleration or Government Protection, but what they really want is selfish aggrandizement, physical comfort, control of others and power for themselves.

Can’t We All Just Be Nice?
2021-03-27 House on FireEvil is real and it does not go away just because we try to be “nice” to each other.  Real love is much harsher than the pablum pop psychology puts out today.  If a neighbor’s house is on fire, would we be “nice” and say, “Let’s not upset him; wait till it’s convenient to tell him?”  NO, the “loving thing” to do would be to bang on his door, disturb his “peace,” and warn him to get to safety!  So it is that if we fail to warn people of the reality of evil and its consequences, we are simply “nice neighbors” who do not care if our acquaintances die.

Trying to be nice to some people is like appeasement of Hitler just prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  There was a madness sweeping Europe and the Führer was simply its pawn.  This does not excuse him of the war’s atrocities, but remember he was as deceived as those he was deceiving (See 2 Timothy 3:12-13), an evil-doer going from bad to worse.

Paul had this to say to his protégé pastoring in Ephesus:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

And again some time later:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

Children of the Day
2021-03-27 Children Of The DayWe are called to be light in a darkening world, salt to a rotting, tasteless culture (Matthew 5:13-16).  The times will become darker yet, as political leaders lie more, as religious conviction becomes labeled “Hate Speech,” as bureaucratic alignments for economic and national interests bring together enemies of Israel, as whole societies call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:8-30)

However, though evil is real and becomes more evident, we are called “to walk in the Light, even as He is in the light.” (1 John 1:5-9)  We must stand distinctly apart from liars and deceivers who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)  And we pray for the deceived that they may see the Truth (Ephesians 4:18-19)

The Children of the Day recorded this song back in 1979 based on 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9.
When your heart is dark and empty and new shadows start to fall;
When cluttered fears and sin are the writing on your wall;
Your confusion and your doubts are always lurking left and right,
Don’t try to drive the darkness out; you just turn on the light.

We’re the children of the light, and we’re the children of the day.
We need not always stumble in an ever darkening way.
Though the darkness will close in around with shadows everywhere,
Still Jesus Christ is in our life, the Light of the world is there.

Next week, , I will discuss what Jesus and the Apostles taught about hell.  It’s not pretty.

It’s All About ME!

2021-03-20 Self MagazineSelf-help, self-improvement, self-actualization, self-worth, Self Magazine, self-love.  There is even a Self-Help Credit Union and books about self-massage.  And don’t even get started on seminars and classes one can take for any of these endeavors.  Oprah, Deepak, Covey, Maxwell, Robbins, Dr. Phil and a plethora of others make a fortune every year from our need to “find ourselves” . . . as if you cannot look in a mirror and say, “Oh, there I am.”

2021-03-20 Rain is WetThe first thing to recognize about the “self” phenomenon that began in the 1970s is this foolish idea that we need “to learn to love ourselves.”  That’s as absurd as “trying to figure out if I am a man or woman.”  Hey, follow the “science” and look in your pants.  This is like trying to figure out if the sun is bright or if rain is wet.  The sun IS bright by its nature; by the way it was created and what it was created to be.  The rain IS wet because it is made of water, and by definition you cannot use water in “dry-cleaning;” otherwise the cleaning would be wet-cleaning.

Just as the sun is bright and rain is wet, we love ourselves.  This first principle is in Ephesians 5:29.  You can no more hate yourself than the rain can be dry.  So how do we understand negative thoughts and self-deprecation we often encounter?  We are always of two minds, and the “self-love” gurus never seem to understand this.

If the Bible is correct, and I would (and do) stake my life on it, we need to reorient our thinking to correctly assess what we understand to be self-hate.  I love myself, but sometimes I do things that I know are not good for me or others.  (See Romans 7:15-20.)  And the more I love myself AND understand that the thing I do is not good for me, the more I will hate what I do.  Too much of our pop psychology from the 1960s on to the present time misreads this spite for what I do as spite for my self, demonstrating a lack of critical analysis skills.  It also shows a significant misconstruction of the human mind.  Many professional psychiatrists and psychologists now have been fed lies about self-hate and graduated with this misunderstanding.

2021-03-20 Me Me MeThe social and cultural revolution that occurred in the 1960s carried over into the 70s with what Tom Wolfe called the “Me Generation” that was focused on examining our own belly buttons to the point that we lost sight of what it was to be a person.  And it has not become any better for newer generations.  Stare at the sun long enough and you will not see it anymore.  Stare at your own reflection in a mirror and you will lose sight of what really matters . . . for yourself and for others.

The saddest part of this is that some of the “self-help” stuff is right.  If you read some blogs or scan the web about self-love, there are some excellent guidelines for caring for others or living at peace, eating better food or disavowing racism.  Do these things and, yes, you will find yourself happier, more fulfilled and living healthier and better than ever.  But the question comes, is being happy the ultimate goal of my life?  “People who are entirely wrapped up in themselves make pretty small packages.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1942)

The key consideration is motive.  Why do we do the things we do?  The Son of Man did not come to do His own will, but the will of His Father who had sent Him. (John 6:38)  God does not look on outward appearances as we do (1 Samuel 16:7), but looks at our motives.  When I indulge in self-help because it is good for ME, my motive is sinful, even if the action is good.  Even action that is self-sacrificial or self-deprecating is nothing more than banging a gong if the motive is only for me. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)  Even writing a brilliant blog (🙄) is of no value to the Kingdom of God if all I want is more followers and accolades of readers.

Separating our “selves” from what we do is almost impossible for us.  The concept is easy enough to understand: consider when you look at a beautiful painting or the Grand Canyon; when you smell a delicious New England Boiled Dinner about ready to be served; when you feel the warmth of a loving embrace; when you hear a philharmonic orchestra play a Beethoven symphony perfectly.  In all of these occasions we are somehow transported “out of ourselves” to a point of delight without focus on us.  Ideally, this is how we should live!  Not as a Buddhist in “absorption into the infinite” nor in a state of impersonal nirvana, and certainly not with a focus on how much “I enjoy” this.

Rather, there is a position of satisfaction in savoring something without “self-consciousness.”  It is not a place of hating oneself or of putting oneself down; nor is it a place of exalting oneself, of loving and caring for yourself over concern for others.  It is simply NOT thinking about yourself.

There is also a place of discomfort where we are concerned for someone else, worried for another’s well-being, hopeful for something for someone besides ourselves.  This is also a field of UN-self-consiousness. 

So where does that leave us?  Always coming before the Creator with humility and repentance for being less than He created us to be.  C.S. Lewis commented somewhere that we are either repenting of a sin, contemplating a sin, or committing a sin, this being our constant habit.  It would seem rather dismal except that whenever we are in that place of repentance, God lifts us out of our “selves” and gives us joy for the moments that we are UN-self-conscious.  And this comes because of His grace to us, His unmerited favor that the Holy God of the universe lavishes on us who are so unholy.

2021-03-20 RainingSo give up reading on “how to be happy,” forget about “finding yourself,” or “realizing your potential.”  No need to “Run The World.”  Most of all, lose any misconception about a need to love yourself more or more perfectly.  You can no more improve on your love for yourself than you can make rain any wetter.

Instead focus on Him, on His Presence, on His purposes.  Learn to know Him, not as an abstract idea or philosophy, but know Him as a person.  Granted, an infinite and undefinable person, but He is here and He is not silent.  It is NOT all about me . . . or you.

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

The Game of Life

The Game Of Life
How long does the game of Life last?  Siri says it lasts for one and a half hours for three players, or two hours for four players.  But that is just the Milton-Bradley board game.  Lots of fun but little consequence.  When the game is over, you just go to bed and play again the next day or whenever you want.

Marriage of Heaven and HellNot so the real game of life.  According to Scripture one has roughly 70 to 80 years to get it right, give or take, depending on your genes and your health practices (Psalm 90:10).  In The Great Divorce, one of C.S.Lewis’ most famous short novels, we get a picture of some folks who are given a “second chance” so to speak to change their fate.  This book is his answer to Blake’s famous Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  In it Blake argues that God is both good and evil and contains these “contraries” and that “God” only exists as an invention of man.  There is no real “evil,” but only undeveloped reason and everyone has good and bad in them, thus Heaven and Hell are “married” in our minds and behavior.  If we simply adjust or refine our behavior we can turn evil into good without rejecting any part of that evil that we wish to keep.

the-great-divorceAs Lewis says, “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish, but their rescue is being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right, but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point; never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it . . . If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest souvenir of Hell” (or Earth).

In effect, if Satan, or Lucifer, that first “bearer of light,” could repent of his error, God’s love is so amazingly gracious and forgiving that even he would find mercy at God’s hands.  The problem is that Lucifer has so hardened his view of God that he will not accept, cannot accept, that God is the Creator and supreme over the created.  The same could become true of us as we grow older in this world.  Every day we are either growing closer to God or slipping further away.  Even Tom Hanks said, “We are still in the position of waking up and having a choice. Do I make the world better today somehow, or do I not bother?”  Not exactly a paragon of theological understanding, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

For us to grow closer to God, sometimes we must backtrack over the past and allow God or others to correct us and head us onto a way that will draw us closer to Him.  The pain of finding out that we have been going the wrong way does not get less the longer we stay on a path away from the Source of Light and Life.   The farther we stray, the darker the way becomes; the less healthy we become; the more difficult changing directions becomes.  Sometimes the choices we make cannot be undone, but these choices just make the path back to God harder and more painful.  Trust me, I know.

We do not have an eternity to make the decisions that will determine eternity.  We have “70 years, or 80, if our strength endures.”  (Psalm 90:9-10) That is time enough for us to form our habits of thought, to make our decisions of life, to shape our spirits to be either ready for The God Who Is There to make us into what He created us to be, or to calcify our hearts so that we cannot hear His calling any more than Lucifer’s deaf ears; to make our spirits so small and shadowy that the slightest beam of light will pierce us through and leave us in the Shadows forever. People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27

Turns out it is not a game at all.  It is real life and the stakes are very high.  Borrowing from another game, we have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card from Jesus (), but it will only be good as long as we are alive here on Earth.  And the choices we make take us ever down another path, each step leading to another.

“Nearly they stood who fall;
Themselves as they look back
See always in the track
The one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve
Of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve
Might have been saved.

“Nearly they fell who stand,
And with cold after fear
Look back to see how near
They grazed the sirens’ land.
Wondering what subtle fate,
By threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great
Should thus entwine.

“Therefore oh, man, have fear
Lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue
The road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth border
Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
Denies return.”
the Guide in Pilgrim’s Regress
C.S.Lewis

I met a man in hell last week.

“At the end of things, the blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.’  And the lost will say, ‘We were always in Hell.’  And both will speak truly.” C.S. Lewis

I met a man in hell last week.  Note, I did not say he was from hell, nor did I say he was going there nor that I went to hell to meet him.  He is there, even while he is here in this world.  His life is very sad, and whenever he crosses my mind, I will say a prayer for him that maybe someone else will be able to help him see where he is.

From our first meeting, there was a quiet discomfort in working together on a house my company is building.  But he seemed knowledgeable and nice enough.  More importantly he said he had done the flat-work of concrete for the house next to ours, and I had seen that work was all right.  But there it was, in the back of my mind, like a kind of gnat flying around that I could not quite see quickly enough to smack, yet not so big or nasty of a bug to gain my full attention.  So I hired him to do our flat-work and he would come back after we got the walls poured.  If I had been wise, I should have asked the builder of the house next to ours whether he would recommend this man, as I found out later, he had never heard of him.

We finished pouring the walls on May 22, followed by removal of the braces that had supported the ICFs during the pour, and that was followed by the plumber getting the rough in plumbing done for the basement – the work that would need to be below the basement floor.

So by May 27 the plumber finished as we were ready for the pour of the basement floor.  But the flat-work guy would not be available till Monday, June 1, so we thought we could wait for the job to begin.

There were problems with this guy that almost made me delay the pour and hire someone else, but he appealed to me, and part of why I started my company was to help some of the tradesmen I would encounter.

But one thing after another went wrong on the job, and in our communication.  As patient as I was with him, nothing seemed to be right; no one seemed to do their part of the job correctly;  deceit seemed to be common for him, from claiming to be married to claiming to be at one site when he was not there, to claiming his “wife” was out of town when she was not.  I really felt badly for the guy, as nothing ever seemed to work right for him; everybody seemed out to take advantage of him; no one would look out for his interests.  He accused me of ordering the concrete late; not having my act together; not knowing what I wanted to do.

When we resolved matters of how much to pay him, after two days of argument over what equipment he had, what he had promised to do, etc, I asked if we could talk for a few minutes.  Per his standard operating procedure, he said he had too much to do and other places to be, lines I had heard repeatedly in our dealings.  As conciliatory as I tried to be, he left angry and frustrated, that he had again been taken advantage of, and I assure you he was not.

I felt very sad the rest of that day, as I remember being there about 30 years ago when I was not living right.  No one understands, no one cares, nothing is ever going to go right, I was always going to be on the losing end.  I was in hell back then until I found peace in Jesus Christ.   But the next day, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  His life in hell had been draining me and dragging me down.  Try as much as I could, I could not get through to the man, and help him to see how he could get out of the hell he is in.  It is scary to see someone going down a path I once was on, wishing he could find the way out.  Scariest is that I could still be on that path except for the grace of the God Who Is There.

C.S.Lewis from The Pilgrim’s Regress:

Nearly they stood who fall; themselves as they look back
See always in the track the one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve, might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand, and with cold after fear
Look back to mark how near they grazed the Siren’s land,
Wondering that subtle fate, by threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great, should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue the road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair-breadth boundary,
Which, being once crossed forever unawares, denies return.