963) If You are Wrong, You Will Go to Hell, Bill


Dustin Messer is a Boyce College graduate.  He served as Editor-in-Chief of The Bantam Journal at Covenant Theological Seminary before graduating from Covenant in 2014.  He and his wife Whitney live in the Dallas area and worship at Christ Church (PCA) in Carrollton, Texas.  Dustin works at both Christ Church and Legacy Christian Academy.


     “We’re very opposite.”  That’s what Bill Maher said to Stephen Colbert in a recent interview.  In the conversation— which ranged from mildly awkward, to tense, to nearing hostile— Maher and Colbert take turns sharing jabs about the other’s opinion on the proper response to global terrorism, the presidential election, and religion.

For two-minute segment go to:


     However, despite Maher’s claim to the contrary, the tension in the conversation was not, in fact, due to a difference of opinion— it was not because they are “opposites.”  Rather, the tension was a result of a belief Maher and Colbert share, something upon which they profoundly agree.  Both Maher and Colbert recognize the all-encompassing scope of Christ’s claims.  Both understand that Christ’s lordship extends past the four walls of a church and reaches into the public square, the body politic.

     Perhaps a little context will help here, though Maher’s view on religion hardly needs to be recounted.  He’s built a whole cottage industry on mocking faith and the faithful.  In his 2008 documentary Religulous, he left no stone unturned in his pursuit to find the weakest arguments for faith.  In the end, he made the following conclusion:

     “The plain fact is religion must die for mankind to live.  The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions made by religious people –  by irrationalists –  by those who would steer the ship of state, not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken.”

     Maher’s sentiment is strong; he hedges no bets.  Like many of the so called “new atheists,” Maher does not want the religious and the irreligious to “play nice,” or even go their separate ways.  No, Maher sees religion as a malignant cancer in need of eradication.  To be clear,  it’s not only those acts of violence committed in the name of religion which Maher decries, it’s religion itself.  Maher understands that religious beliefs cannot be contained— they cannot be hermetically sealed from the rest of one’s thought and behavior.  Religion, in Maher’s estimation, is a menace to society precisely because it cannot be properly “private.”  Faith is inherently “public” because it claims to define truth, goodness, beauty, and indeed all of reality.  Thus, we can’t have people serving food, much less holding public office, who hold such convictions.  After all, who knows when and where those beliefs might come out?

     As infamous as Maher’s views are to those with faith, Colbert’s are nearly as bad to those without.  In an interview with the Catholic media outlet Salt and Light, Colbert was asked about how one balances religion with one’s political life.  Colbert dismissed the question out of hand.  He balked, “There is no need to balance them!”  In explaining what he meant, he quoted Thomas More’s line in A Man for all Seasons, “Those who abandon their faith for the sake of their public duties will lead their country by a short route to chaos.”  After quoting the line, Colbert asks, “What else do we have to inform our public life other than our conscience?”  Of course, the implication is that our conscience is informed by our faith, thus our faith has direct application to the whole of life, including political life.

     It’s clear that neither Maher nor Colbert are likely to pick up a “coexist” sticker for their laptop.  Both comedians understand the comprehensive claim being made by various faiths.  All can’t be true; all can’t be equal.  Each worldview— including Maher’s atheism— makes a claim that is exclusive.  This clarifies the subtext in the aforementioned interview.  It explains the downright awkward feel of the whole thing.  Bill can’t say “you do you!” to Stephen any more than Stephen can say “to each his own!” to Bill.  Both men are drawing up borders which leaves the other on the “outside.”  Both are representatives of kingdoms making the exact same claim on the exact same sphere.  For either to capitulate with a “if that works for you…” sentiment would be paramount to treason.

     Thus, the only way there can be resolution— the only way to relieve the tension— is for one party to concede, to join the other party.  Our multicultural, egalitarian sensibilities don’t much care for such “either/or” ultimatums.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s abrasive.  It smacks of a medieval authoritarianism abandoned long ago for a more enlightened inclusivism.  Yet both players in the interview understand the game, and both are competing to win.

     Colbert offers Maher Pascal’s wager:  If you believe the gospel and it turns out to be false, you’re an idiot.  If you don’t believe and it turns out to be true, you’re going to hell.  Colbert understands that Maher— along with most of the audience— thinks Christianity is wrong.  If Colbert’s faith is wrong, by his own reckoning, he’s an idiot.  In everyone’s eyes Colbert is a clown, a fool— but he’s a fool for Christ.

     Just before taking on CBS’s Late Night, Colbert famously said “To be a fool for Christ is to love.”  I’m not sure I fully understood what Colbert meant by this until his Maher interview.  Colbert could have resolved the tension with Maher in a different way.  He could’ve laughed off the question of faith and made a joke, but that’s not what he did.  He embraced the tension.  He entered into the foolishness.  He told Maher that, outside of Christ, he was bound for hell.

     Why?  Why did Colbert chose to resolve the tension by inviting Maher back to church, back to fellowship with Christ and his people?  Colbert tells us:  love.  Had he been motivated by, say, peace, he could’ve saved face and changed the subject.  For the sake of peace he could’ve let sleeping dogs lie.  But out of love— love for his Savior, love for his church, indeed love for Maher— Colbert made a fool of himself on national television by giving a soliloquy just shy of a Billy Graham sermon to none other than Bill Maher.  Knowing that everyone thought he was wrong, perhaps evil, and certainly a fool, he spoke out of love.

     Are Colbert and Maher opposites?  In some ways.  Yet, they’re also of a similar, rare ilk.  In an age dominated by relativism, they are two men with the gumption and conviction to try and convert one another.  The exchange should be studied by a church which finds herself in a similarly awkward, tense cultural moment.  Now, more than ever, we need to be reminded that the motivation of our faith is still love, and the content of our faith is still “foolishness to the Greeks.”  May we not resolve the cultural tension by changing the subject in the name of peace.  Rather, may we invite all those who scorn and laugh at us into Christ’s banquet hall.  In other words, may we learn from Stephen Colbert how to be better, more loving fools.


I Corinthians 1:18  —  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

I Corinthians 4:10a  —  We are fools for Christ…

John 14:6  —  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I Peter 4:8…10-11a  —  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins...  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.


O my God how does it happen in this poor old world that thou art so great, and yet so many do not find thee; that thou callest so loudly and yet so many do not hear thee; that thou givest thyself to everybody and yet so many do not know thy name?

–Hans Denck  (1495-1527)

962) Surprises; Pleasant and Unpleasant (b)


Matthew 24:42-44  —  (Jesus said), ““Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.


     (…continued)  This idea of surprise is illustrated in a true story from the early days of the American colonies, a story that is, in fact, about the coming of a thief in the night.  It concerns a middle aged man named Mr. Dorsett who was respected by everyone in the small New England town where he lived.  He was admired for his strong faith, his honesty, and his kind and gentle spirit.  Late one night, Mr. Dorsett was awakened by a noise in the cellar.  He got out of bed and walked silently to the top of the cellar stairs.  There he was surprised to see light in the basement, and could hear for certain that someone was down there.  Mr. Dorsett quietly walked down to the bottom of the stairs, and there saw a man with a candle in one hand, taking pork out of a barrel with his other hand.  Mr. Dorsett stood still and watched the proceedings until the thief had taken the last piece of meat.  Mr. Dorsett then walked over, placed his hand on the man’s shoulder, and said in a perfectly kind and friendly voice, “Neighbor, you act unfairly, because you are not leaving a proper share for me.”

     Now, it was the thief’s turn to be surprised.  Even though the voice was friendly, the hand on the shoulder was a shock, and he was very ashamed to be discovered.  Being filled with guilt, he dropped to his knees begging for forgiveness from this good man that he had know since childhood.  Mr. Dorsett cheerfully forgave him, and promised not to report him to the authorities.  He did, however, seriously admonish the man for his crime, and firmly advised him to be in church the next Sunday to ask for and receive that forgiveness from the Lord.

     There was one more surprise to come.  Mr. Dorsett knew this thief was not a criminal, but was an otherwise good man.  Upon questioning, Mr. Dorsett learned that the intruder had come on hard times and was having difficulty feeding his family.  Then, in an incredible act of forgiveness and kindness and generosity, Mr. Dorsett divided the pork into two equal piles, and even helped the repentant robber carry half of the meat over to his own house.

     There are several surprises in the story.  First, Mr. Dorsett is unpleasantly surprised by an unwelcome guest at an inconvenient time.  That is the kind of illustration of surprise that Jesus used in one of his parables.  Then, it was Mr. Dorsett’s turn to do the surprising, and his surprise come first as unpleasant, and then as pleasant; first as judgment, and then as grace.  Certainly the thief was most unhappy to feel that hand on his shoulder, for it meant guilt and shame and punishment.  But then Mr. Dorsett turned out to be a gracious judge, as he was more than ready to receive the thief’s apology and forgive his sin.  Once forgiven, the thief received far more than he could have ever imagined.  Not only would he not receive the punishment he deserved for his crime, but he would receive what he wanted in the first place; now, not be by his dishonesty, but by Mr. Dorsett’s goodness.  The similarities to Christ’s offer of forgiveness cannot be missed.  Our sin is forgiven by God not by any of our own deserving, but by the goodness and sacrifice of God himself in Christ Jesus.  Not only are we then forgiven, but we continue to receive abundantly God’s blessings every day.  The thief did his part only by admitting his guilt, asking for forgiveness, and then with gratitude, receiving the undeserved blessing.

     This is a true story with a happy ending, but let’s imagine another possible ending.  What if upon being discovered, the thief would have responded not with shame and repentance, but with fear and anger and desperation?  Mr. Dorsett did not have a weapon and was not prepared to defend himself.  The younger, stronger thief could have easily pushed him aside and run away.  Or, he could have knocked him out, even killed him, and then completed his crime unhindered.  That was, you recall, the treatment Jesus himself received when he first came to earth.  He came offering forgiveness, eternal life, and every blessing, but there were parts of his message that offended and threatened some people.  When these people threatened Jesus, Jesus did not take back anything he said, but neither did he fight back.  He allowed the forces of evil to have their day, and then responded in his own incredible way by rising from the dead, and then, by repeating again, his gracious offer.  Jesus issued many warnings about the eternal danger of continuing to refuse him, but he never stopped making the invitation.

     Add one more twist to this imaginary ending as a further illustration of our standing before God.  Let us imagine that in his shock and surprise the thief did push Mr. Dorsett aside, and did run up the stairs and out of the house.  Then imagine Mr. Dorsett getting up and pursuing him, not to apprehend him and bring him to the police, but to make that kind offer of half of the pork in the barrel.  Picture them running across the yard, Mr. Dorsett yelling as loud as he could, “Stop, sir, I only want to help you; I know you are hungry, and I want to give you half of the meat, and then you will have it honestly. I will give it to you freely.  Come back, come back, I mean you no harm.”  But the thief, though he hears the words, is suspicious of the true intentions of his pursuer, so he runs all the faster, and finally escapes.

     In that hypothetical ending there is only one barrier to the thief receiving what he needed most of all– he did not believe in what was being offered to him.  He felt he could not trust in the word of Mr. Dorsett.  Even though from long experience he knew Mr. Dorsett to be a kind and good man, the thief could not believe that Mr. Dorsett could be offering him grace and good will, instead of judgment and punishment.  The offer was too good.  There was not even a demand to work and earn what was being offered.  It would be completely free, all by grace.  All he needed to do was believe and turn back.  All he needed was to have faith, and he would have received the food that he and his family needed.

     The Bible has much to say about what God has already given us, and it has much to say about how we have done God wrong.  The key for making our whole relationship with God right again, and the key to all his future blessings is simply to believe in him, simply to believe that God is there and wants to help us.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,” the New Testament says again and again.  But just like the thief in the story, there is much unbelief in the world, much running away from God, much neglecting of God and what he wants to say to us, much disregard for his word and promise.  

     The offer of God’s grace really is quite surprising.  That is why so many of Jesus’ parables contain the two themes of surprise and unbelief.  We are quite used to hearing about such grace, so we think nothing of it anymore.  But to receive such an invitation from God is even more surprising than to hear about a man like Mr. Dorsett offering to give half of his pork to a thief who had broken into his house.

     This story of forgiveness and kindness shown to a repentant thief is not from the Bible, but it was inspired by the Biblical message.  Mr. Dorsett was a good Christian man and was acting upon what he learned from Jesus about forgiveness and generosity.  Actually, what Mr. Dorsett did for that thief was not too different from what Jesus did when he was one time confronted by a thief.  While dying on the cross, Jesus said some of his last words to a repentant thief– “Truly, truly I say unto you, today, you will be with me in paradise.”  There too, undeserved grace was shown to one who simply believed in what Jesus offered.  That thief on the cross had expressed his faith in Jesus by saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into you kingdom.”  That’s a pretty good prayer for a thief.  Actually, it is a prayer we could all pray each day.  For even as we pray, “Jesus, remember me,” we are remembering Jesus, and that is what we are supposed to be doing every day until he comes again.

     If we do remember Jesus, and do believe in Him as our Lord and Savior, we will indeed be prepared for his second coming, and it will be for us a pleasant and not an unpleasant surprise.


Jesus, remember me.

961) Surprises; Pleasant and Unpleasant (a)


     The season of Advent anticipates the celebration of the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to earth, born among the cattle and the straw in that Bethlehem stable.  The first Sunday in Advent usually speaks of Christ’s second coming, which will be at the end of time as we know it.  In Mark 13:24-25 Jesus says of that time, “In those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”  The world has changed a great deal since Jesus first spoke those words, but a few things have not changed at all.  The same sun has been burning brightly all those years, the moon has with great regularity gone through its monthly cycle from new moon to full moon and back again to a new moon, and Jesus and the disciples looked out on the same stars in the night-time sky on which we look out.  But, says Jesus, make no mistake about it, even all of that will change when he comes again.  “At that time,” Jesus says in verse 26, ” men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”  Then, there will be no ‘silent night, holy night,’ with the wise men having to look all over for the baby Jesus.  And there will be no bewildered King Herod killing a whole village of infants to get at the new king who he knew was born somewhere in the area, but could not be located.  The next time Jesus comes to earth in person the whole world will know he is here.  You’ll know it, says Jesus, by the sun which will be darkened.  That is a clue that no one will be able to miss.  “Heaven and earth will pass away,” said Jesus, which is to say, everything will change.  Only one thing will not be changed then, said Jesus, and that is “my words which will never pass away” (verse 31).  For those who had been listening, his words promised a new creation, and a place in that new creation for all who would believe in him. 

     So Jesus says in the closing words Mark 13 to “watch, be on guard, and be alert,” because no one knows when that time is coming.  Jesus says this every time he talks about the end times.  He says, ‘Watch,’ because it will happen suddenly.  Like the boss in Mark 13 who comes back unexpectedly and finds the work not done and everyone sloughing off.  In other parables, the coming of Jesus will be like a thief in the night which no one ever expects, or like the bridegroom at a wedding feast who is late in arriving and finds half of the wedding party still not yet ready.  In all these parables, Jesus comes as a surprise into the normal routine of normal people as a surprise.

     This idea of surprise is a big theme in the teachings of Jesus, so we might well ask what kind of surprise it will be.  There are, as you know, pleasant surprises, and there are unpleasant surprises.  What kind of surprise would it be for you if the sun’s light went out this afternoon, and Jesus returned to put an end to everything you are familiar with?  Would you be ready to trust him for whatever comes next?  If so, then it would come as a most pleasant surprise; just as it is for some of the folks in the parables of Jesus.  But for others in those parables, that sudden arrival is not at all pleasant.  They are the ones who are not ready.   (continued…)


Mark 13:24-26  —  (Jesus said), “In those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’  At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

Mark 13:33…35a  —  (Jesus said), “Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come...  Therefore keep watch.”

I Thessalonians 5:2b  The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.


O God, our Father, help us so to live that, whenever your call comes for us, at morning, at midday, or at evening, it may find us ready, our work completed, and our hearts at peace with you, so that we may enter at last with joy into your nearer presence and into life eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–William Barclay, Scottish pastor, professor, author  (1907-1978)

960) Open Your Heart (c)

     (…continued)  In his book Radical Son, David Horowitz confesses his sins to the whole world; but how about to God?  Has Horowitz prayed that prayer of the tax collector, “God be merciful to me a sinner?”

     Unfortunately, he has not; not yet, anyway.  Horowitz is an agnostic, and so he has no belief in any God from whom to ask forgiveness, nor does he have a hope for any life beyond this one.  He is not an angry and mean unbeliever, like we see so much of these days.  He appreciates the faith and witness of those who do believe, but it just has not been for him.  

     Friends have talked to him about faith in God, and he always has an answer for them, he says.  But the one he cannot answer, he says, is the voice of his wife, April.

     April is his third wife, and she is a Christian.  In a more recent book, The End of Time, Horowitz tells about a brush he had with cancer a few years ago.  He survived, and is doing well, and in the book he records a conversation he had with his wife about the whole ordeal.

     April said to him: “You are so arrogant.  Think of all what God has done for you.  Look at the times he has looked after you, and how He saved you from cancer.  You need to show some gratitude.”  Then she said:  “I need you to do this for me.  If you don’t believe, then you won’t be there for me (in the life to come) and I will be alone.  And I don’t want to be without you.”

     David tried to soothe her, saying, “Don’t fret.  If there is a God I am sure he is merciful and will not condemn me for my lack of faith.”

     That is what he said.  But then he thought differently about it and said to himself:  “I thought this was a good answer, but the pain in her eyes would not quit.  She was already missing me.  And her distress caused me to reconsider what I said, and really, it was not a good answer.  In fact, I had no answer.  I was arrogant.  If there is a God, how could I pretend to know his plan and how and to whom he is merciful?  How should I know?  Maybe God’s whole idea was for me to see through the chaos of my life, and by an act of faith, discover God in it all.  Once again I was forced to question what I believed and ask, ‘Is it I who is blind?’”

     So after reconsidering, Horowitz said to his wife, “I’ll think about it.”

     And she said to him, “David, I don’t want you to think about it. I want you to open your heart.”

     That is a wonderful reply.  I want you to open your heart, she said.  That is what Christians do.  We open our hearts to God– deep, dark, shameful secrets and all– and we say, “Lord, Jesus Christ, be merciful to me, a poor sinner”  And Jesus then does indeed have mercy and forgives us all our sins.  Then we no longer have to depend on our own lame excuses and justifications, but can, like the tax collector in the parable, know we are “justified before God” by his grace.


I John 1:9  —   If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

II Corinthians 6:13  —  In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Acts 16:29-31  —  The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas… and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Paul and the Jailer, unknown 17th century artist


PSALM 51:1-4a…

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

959) Open Your Heart (b)

     (…continued)  There is still another factor to add, and that is the influence of God and the devil.  “I can’t help it,” said a popular comedian many years ago, “the devil made me do it.”  The Bible does indeed talk about how the devil tempts us, while at the same time, the Bible does not let us off the hook for failing to resist the temptations of the devil.  Christians do believe that it is indeed God who has a lot to do with the hand we have been dealt.  It is, after all, God who has given us life, and the gifts and abilities we were born with.  Here too, what we do with those gifts and abilities is up to us, but any credit we take for our accomplishments must certainly be shared with our Creator.

     What I like about how David Horowitz tells his story is his openness and honesty about his own “most grievous sins,” as in the words of an old prayer of confession.  He could have easily spent the whole book blaming his parents, or the times ‘that were a-changing,’ or the Vietnam war, or a whole host of other influences.  He does talk in a matter-of-fact way about these forces outside of himself, but never does he seek to excuse his own willful wickedness and deceit and guilt.

     In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a brief parable that touches on this very issue.  Jesus told the parable to some folks who “were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.”  The parable was about two men who went to the temple to pray.  One was a Pharisee, who everyone knew was a good man.  The Pharisees were a snobby bunch, but were good people.  They were honest and you would not have to worry about a Pharisee not paying his bills.  They would make good neighbors and you would see them in the temple or synagogue on every Sabbath Day.  The other man was a lying, cheating, traitor to his own people, who sold-out to the Romans so he could collect their taxes and become rich by doing so.  Everyone knew he was not a good man.  Most of Jesus listeners had probably been swindled by a tax-collector somewhere along the line.  That is what all tax collectors did.

     Each says a brief prayer.  The Pharisee thanks God that he is not like other men, and then reminds God of a few of the qualities that make him the wonderful man that he is.  The tax collector says just seven words, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  But it was the second man, says Jesus, who went home justified before God.

     Three things about the parable.  First, did you notice both men got what they asked for?  The Pharisee asked for nothing, and that is just what he received– nothing.  He just told God what a fine fellow he was, and that was it.  He asked for nothing and got nothing.  But the second man, in a sincere prayer of confession, prayed for God to have mercy on him, poor sinner that he was, and his prayer for forgiveness was answered.

     Second, this is not a parable about how to live.  Rather, it is a parable about how to confess our sins.  The Pharisee did indeed do a better job of obeying God’s Law.  But even he was not perfect, and in coming before God in prayer, there should have been more on his mind than what a good guy he was.  And the publican certainly did need to make some changes in his way of life, but the first step in making such changes is to admit that you are in the wrong; which is what he was willing to do, coming to God with a true heart in an honest and humble spirit of confession.

     Third, there is the matter of who should take the credit and where one should place the blame.  The proud Pharisee takes too much credit for his goodness, and does not even look at his failures.  The publican takes full responsibility for his failures, but does not leave it there.  He lays those failures before God, and prays for his mercy.  Jesus, as always, is more than willing to extend that mercy to one who is repentant.  In the end, Jesus would die on the cross in order to extend the offer of that mercy and grace and forgiveness to all who would believe it and receive it.

     I began with a brief summary of one man’s moral self-examination of the decisions and actions of a lifetime.  The Bible speaks a great deal about confession and forgiveness, and the first step toward confession is such an examination of one’s self.  It is important that we do that.

     Everyone of us could, like David Horowitz, write a 450 page book about our life, and if we were to be honest, (like he is) it would contain much we are ashamed of, much we would need to confess.  This is never easy for us.  We would rather take the credit for our successes and explain away our faults.  But as we see in this parable, one of the very best prayers we can utter before God is to simply say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  And when we pray that, we can be assured that God hears and forgives.  (continued…)


The Pharisee and the Publican, James Tissot, 1894


Luke 18:9-14  —  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

–Luke 18:13b

958) Open Your Heart (a)


     In the book Radical Son David Horowitz tells his story.  Horowitz is now 76 years old.  Fifty years ago he was a central figure in the revolutionary student movement in the United States.  He was the brilliant son of two deeply committed members of the American Communist Party.  During the years of the Great Depression in this country, his parents were convinced that the Soviet Union’s form of government was the hope for the future of our nation.  They even visited Russia to learn all they could about communism so they would be prepared to lead the revolution when it came to the United States, as they were sure it would.  They hated the American way of life and Joseph Stalin was their hero.  A few years later, they were devastated to learn that while they were visiting the Soviet Union, their hero Stalin was killing off tens of millions of his own citizens.  But they remained convinced communists, blaming the reign of terror on Stalin alone, and not the communist system.  

     David Horowitz inherited this belief and went to college at Berkeley in California, determined to continue his parent’s work.  He supported Castro in the Cuban revolution and the communists in North Vietnam, and he blamed the United States for the Cuban missile crisis.  A colleague wrote that President Kennedy was worse than Adolph Hitler, Horowitz was friends with and helped the radical and violent Black Panthers, and he himself was a member of the violent SDS organization of student radicals.  The world was a mess, and it was all America’s fault, said Horowitz and his comrades, and the only answer was revolution.  They openly despised America, and he describes how he and his friends sought to manipulate the natural mischievousness of American college students to create all kinds of racket and chaos in support of a movement that the students barely understood.

     Then, over a several year period, David Horowitz changed his mind.  His eyes were opened to the evils of communism wherever it was practiced, not just by Stalin; and he grew to an appreciation of this nation and our own political and religious heritage.  He is now a proud defender of democracy and a vocal critic of many of his old friends, several of whom became professors in colleges where they continue to proclaim their anti-American message.

     The political message of the book is interesting; but I tell this story only as background for what I found to be an even more interesting part of the story.  In the book Radical Son, David Horowitz not only describes the events of his life, but he also reflects on his incredible journey.  He tries to understand why he believed what he believed and why he did what he did.  He seeks to understand how he could at the same time rebel against his parents, and yet become just like them.  He matter-of-factly describes how he so often foolishly conformed to the thinking of the group, even when he knew it was wrong.  He tells of how he chose to remain blind the evils of communism; and, how he chose not to see the strength of the American system, the system that gave him the freedom to work and to speak even as he opposed it.  He now wonders why he changed his mind and others did not, and he wonders why he did not change his mind sooner.

     It is a harshly critical book, and he names many people I remember from the news in my high school and college days, leaders of a movement that was to transform America.  He tells of their arrogance, their hypocrisy, their deceit, and most of all, their foolishness.  He is as hard on himself as he is on everyone else.  The book reads almost like a confession of sins and it is filled with regret.  Along with all their foolishness and all their sins, there was in many of these young radicals a sincere belief that they could make the world a better place and there was, in at least some of them, a strong desire to do that.  Horowitz himself put a lot of energy into that effort.  He was a brilliant and hard working young man, he made many sacrifices to the cause, and he was very influential.  But he now sees it all as wasted work in misguided movement that did far more harm than good.  This is not to suggest that there were not things that needed changing in the 1960’s.  There are changes needed in every age.  I am simply summarizing the story he tells of the mistakes he made, or as we might say, the sins he committed. 

   The book raises the question for anyone who reads it: “Why do we do the things that we do?”  As I read it, I had to ask myself, “What wrong turns have I made and what has influenced me to do the right things sometimes and the wrong things other times?”  Horowitz can’t help but describe the influence his parents had on him, the influence of his group of peers, and the influence of important or strong-minded people that he met.  But he is most of all very open and honest about the mistakes he made all on his own, those things he can blame on no one but himself.

     So how do you think about your own shortcomings and/or successes?  How would you describe them to another?  One might say, “I know I have a violent temper, but I inherited that from my father.”  Another might say, “I know I am a worrier, but I can’t help it.  My mother was the same way and I’m sure I got it from her.”  And still another says, “I know I am too stubborn for my own good, but what do you expect?  I’m German.”  You see what is going on there?  Sins are admitted, but there is no need to confess them, because it is not their fault that they are too hot-tempered, worry too much, or are unbearably stubborn.  That’s the way they were born or the way they were raised, so don‘t expect them to apologize or to change.  They can’t help it, so you can’t blame them.  Or perhaps, you can’t blame yourself– just in case you are seeing yourself in any of this.

     At the same time, those same people, (including you and me), might say things like, “I worked hard to get where I am today,” or, “I tried to bring my kids up right, and I guess it paid off,” or, “One thing I can say about myself, I am always on time,” or even, “I’ve done the best I could with the cards I was dealt.”  Do you see how different the second set of statements is from the first?  In the first statements faults are excused because they come from somewhere outside of the person, but in the second set of statements, good qualities and achievements are sources of pride, because the person has done it or accomplished it on their own.  This is what we oftentimes do– excusing our faults, saying they can’t be helped, but taking credit for our good points, saying that is what we have done.  (continued…)


Proverbs 14:12  —  There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Romans 3:10  —  As it is written:  “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

I John 1:8  —  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.


Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths…

Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.

–Psalm 25:4…143:8b

957) Doing Better But Feeling Worse (b)

     (…continued)  The third reason people don’t feel good even though they have more is what Easterbrook calls “collapse anxiety.”  Even if people do realize they have it pretty good these days, there is reason to fear that it won’t last.  Terror threats, stock market crashes, global unrest, and so many things in our dangerous world leave us fearful that everything we have can be taken away anytime.  People in 1855 had their own weather and local troubles to contend with, and that was worry enough.  They were not bombarded by news 24 hours a day telling them everything that was already going wrong and could possibly go wrong in every part of the world.

     Reason number four the book lists is called “abundance denial,” which means that most people are simply blind to the fact that they are well off.  Despite our high standard of living, most people will not admit that they are doing well.  Studies show that people in almost every income bracket define “well off” as making twice as much money as they themselves are presently making.  Families making $25,000 a year say that and families making $150,000 a year say the same thing.  Few consider themselves well off– ‘well off’ is someone who is making more than you are.  I have heard many people who lived through the Great Depression say that they didn’t know they were poor, because no one in their community had anymore than they did; everyone was poor, so folks grew up thinking that’s just how life is.  These days, the opposite is true– people don’t know they are rich.

     Finally, the fifth reason is what Easterbrook calls the “choice penalty.”  Years ago, because of economics and custom, people were locked in to the way of life they were born into, and that resulted in a certain amount of frustration and anxiety.  Now, economically, many people are able to pick from an endless amount of choices in career, places to live, hobbies, travel, and so much more.  This leads to a different kind of anxiety and frustration.  Many people are endlessly wondering “should I have done this instead, is it too late to change, am I missing out on this because I chose that, I could have gone here or there instead, maybe that is what I should have done, let’s do this, no, let’s do that,” and on and on they go.  Many people, breathlessly trying to take it all in and constantly on the run, go back and forth between frustration at missing out, and longing for a simpler time– a time that was ‘simpler’ precisely because the choices were fewer.

      Not all of those reasons apply to everyone, but everyone can probably see themselves in at least some of them.  But what I found most interesting is the solution Gregg Easterbrook suggests.  Take a moment to guess what that might be… (HINT– Thanksgiving is this week.)

     The suggested solution is one that you’ve heard often– on this website, in church, from your parents, and from your own reading of the Bible or any devotional book ever printed.  It is a common Biblical theme– commanded, recommended, or modeled on nearly every page.  The phrase used most often in the Bible is “Giving Thanks,” and Easterbrook calls it “the virtue of GRATITUDE.”

     Easterbrook writes, “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress, and to achieve a positive sense of self.”  ‘Beginning to suggest…?’– as if this is a new idea?  From the very beginning of time, God’s Word has asserted the need to give thanks; and if you ever thought that was for God’s sake, you were mistaken.  The command to give thanks is not for God’s sake, but for our own.  God is God and doesn’t need anything, but we need to give thanks, says the Bible; and so now also say the experts in ‘gratitude research.’

     Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Begin with thanksgiving, says Paul, making that a part of your prayer life and your whole approach to life, and you will have peace.  When life gets better and we’re feeling worse, the solution is to ‘count your blessings’ and be thankful, says the Bible.

     In the spirit of such gratitude, Paul was able to write a few verses later:  “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 every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  That sounds good to me.

    May we, who have been given so much, pray to God for one more thing, a grateful heart, because with a grateful heart, comes peace and contentment and strength.


Philippians 4:6-7  —  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.

Philippians 4:11-13  —  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 Chronicles 16:34  —  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.


Thou that hast giv’n so much to me,

Give one thing more, a grateful heart.

–George Herbert  (1593-1633)

956) Doing Better But Feeling Worse (a)

     I have always enjoyed listening to elderly folks talk about life in the old days.  My grandparents remembered life before the automobile, before electricity, and before indoor plumbing.  My parents remember experiencing as children the hardships of growing up during the Great Depression.  And in this fast changing world, people my age look back to the very different world of our childhood in the 50’s and 60’s.  But no matter what age we are, when we talk about times past, we don’t just call them the ‘old days,’ we call them the “GOOD old days.”

     But I have also heard elderly people talk about the severe hardships of those old days, and they usually admit that the good old days weren’t always so good.  So why, in this age of every convenience and unprecedented wealth, should we be looking back with any kind of fondness at all?  Winter will soon be here.  When the temperature dips to twenty below do you think anybody will be wishing for the ‘good old days’ of outdoor toilets?

     I think back to my immigrant ancestors, those hardy folks who left their homeland to come to Minnesota a century and a half ago.  I try to imagine what it would be like if my great-great-grandparents, August and Augusta, could come ‘back to the future’ of 2015 for a visit.  Surely they would be dazzled by the ease of life today.  The work that even a small lawn tractor could do would amaze them, much more so the huge machinery that can now plant or harvest in a few hours what they worked at for weeks.  And what would they think of the quick trip to town in a warm car, instead of a slow ride in a cold horse-drawn wagon?  Once there, they would be amazed to see the grocery store aisles lined with everything– bread already baked, strawberries in March, entire meals that could be prepared in minutes.  Imagine their astonishment at schools, not just for a few months when the kids were not needed at home, but for nine months a year, with children in separate grades; and then college as a common destination for many, not just the wealthiest.  They could also wonder at the incredible health care, not to mention an average life span of 77 years instead of 46, along all the wonders of technology– televisions, cell phones, computers, or even electric lights.  One does not have to go back too many years to find none of that enjoyed by anyone.  Our great-great-grandparents would probably say that life in modern America is better than anything they even expected in heaven itself.

     But if life is so good now, why is it that the old days often look better?  Many people today do not feel very positive about life today, nor do they think the future will be any better.  Despite steady gains, it is common to hear Americans say, “My parents had it better than I do.”  Americans tell pollsters that the country is going downhill, that they feel unbearably stressed out, and that their children face a declining and frightening future.  The percentage of Americans who describe themselves as ‘happy’ has not budged since the 1950’s, even though the average real income has more than doubled.  Far from feeling better about their lives, many are feeling worse.  Such gloominess seems strange in a country of ever higher living standards and unprecedented personal freedom, but such unhappiness and hopelessness is common.

     An author named Greg Easterbrook looked at all of this in his 2004 book The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse.  (2004?– even that is looking like the ‘good old days’!)  He lists five reasons why people feel worse even though so many things are so much better, and then he suggests a solution.  First his reasons.

     The first reason is what Easterbrook calls “the revolution of satisfied expectations.”  He says that most people judge their well being not by where they stand, but by their hopes for ongoing improvement in the coming years.  He said that in the 1950’s people lived in small houses, struggled to afford one car, and few, if any family members attended college.  But, he says, they were in good spirits because they expected soon to be earning and possessing more, expectations that were met for decades.  But now many people have large houses, three or more cars, and whoever wants to go to college, can go.  Many already have far more than they need, so the expectation that each new year will be noticeably better than the last, once deeply ingrained in Americans, is fading.  Millions of Americans find that they now have what they once dreamed of having; and it has not made them happy, and so they wonder what will?

     The second reason is what Easterbrook calls “catalog induced anxiety.” While we already have more than enough, we can, at the same time, see on TV and on-line the lavish lives of the very wealthiest, those folks living lives like we cannot ever hope to live.  Even though average Americans have the highest average standard of living in human history, they look not at the 98% of the people who ever lived who had (or have) far less, but at the one-tenth of one percent who have the very most– and they become convinced they are missing something. (There are even words for this now– FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out, or FOHMO, Fear of Having Missed Out)  (continued…)


Ecclesiastes 7:10  —  Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”  For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Ecclesiastes 5:10  —  Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.  This too is meaningless.

I Timothy 6:6-8  —  But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.


O Lord, Jesus Christ, who art as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, who beholdest thy weak creatures, weary of labor, weary of pleasure, weary of heart from home deferred, weary of self; in thine abundant compassion, and unutterable tenderness, bring us, we pray thee, into thy rest.  Amen.

–Christina Rosetti  (1830-1894)

955) When Are We Most Thankful?

By Lutheran pastor David G. Johnson, The Road Once Traveled, 1991, pages 36-38 (adapted).

     My grandmother, Annie, had real difficulty accepting a compliment or even “thank you.”  She would respond with denials.  “Oh, no,” she would protest, “it was nothing.”  The cookies which everyone thought were terrific, the “melting in your mouth” variety, just had not turned out right this time.  “I don’t know what went wrong,” grandma would confess.

     Sometimes I wonder if my grandma was more shrewd than I knew.  If she had simply answered, ‘thank you” to a compliment or “you’re welcome” to an expression of gratitude, that would have ended the conversation.  As it was, through her denials and protests, grandma was able to prolong the compliments as people tried desperately to override her objections and make her see that she really had accomplished something.  It got to be a survival of the fittest.  Rarely did grandma give in.  For her it would have been the height of immodesty.  She generally had the last word, “it was nothing.”  The compliment or “thanks” was not accepted.

     But, turn the tables, and grandma would lavish praise on others.  A simple “thank you” was never enough.  It had to be “manga, manga tusend tuck,” Norwegian for “many, many thousand thanks.”  And she was just as generous with compliments, throwing out a whole pattern of them, like a shotgunner, so that at least one of them would connect.  As a ‘thanker” she was devastating.

     I know she was sincere.  My grandparents were very thrifty and spent almost nothing on themselves.  Grandma would have been a little freer with the money had my grandfather allowed her to handle it.  She regularly snitched a nickel or a dime out of his pocket to give to me for a shopping spree in Garretson when I accompanied my grandfather to town.  I think he knew but overlooked it.  In spite of their frugality and simplicity of their lives, my grandparents were thankful people.  Because my grandmother was more expressive, it was more noticeable in her.  They lived their lives down among the basics of life where gratitude originates.  Their only concession to extravagance was the upright Edison Golden Disc phonograph with two drawers full of scratchy records.  Otherwise they dealt in staples and necessities.  Their lives were not cluttered with non-essentials.  Because of that, I believe, they were less apt to take credit for what they had.  They delighted in the meanings their relationship with the land, other persons and God brought them.  They felt blessed.  Consequently, they were thankful, not because of their abundance of material goods but because of the goodness of nature, others and God.

     Hasn’t it always been that way?  Consider the history of our national observance of Thanksgiving.  It can be summarized in three parts.

     The first chapter begins with the early colonists at Plymouth Plantation in what is now Massachusetts.  In November of 1620, 98 colonists landed by mistake off Cape Cod.  They were headed for the already inhabited Virginia.  Even though Cape Cod was not their destination, they decided to stay and begin their mission to build a godly community.  The odds against the colonists were enormous.  William Bradford, who was to govern Plymouth Plantation for 30 years, wavered as he faced the future.  He believed the only sure thing they could count on was “the Spirit of God and His grace.”  Even that, during the hard winter months, seemed to be in short supply.

     By spring about one half of the settlers had died.  Only 12 of 26 husbands or fathers survived.  The women were hit even harder.  Only three of 18 married women lived to see the winter snow melt away.  When spring mercifully arrived, the ravaged colony began to plant, fish, hunt, cut, saw and build.  The Indian, Squanto, showed them how to fertilize and cultivate the corn.  They referred to Squanto as “a special instrument of God for their good.”

     In the fall of 1621, the pilgrims and the Indians shared in New England’s first Thanksgiving.  They were grateful, not for an abundance of material goods, but for survival.

     The second part of the history of Thanksgiving took place on November 1, 1777 when the Continental Congress issued the first proclamation of Thanksgiving to all the colonies.  The colonies had just declared their independence and were at war with England to win that independence.  In part, the proclamation reads: “Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty to all men to adore the Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received, and to implore such further blessings as they stand in need of:  and it having pleased Him in His abundant mercy not only to continue to use the innumerable bounties of His common providence, but also to smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties …”  The colonists were now struggling to remain an independent nation.  Concerns over the gross national product would come much later.  Now they were grateful to God for existence.  As they considered the task at hand, that of building and governing anew nation, they looked to God for help and issued a declaration of dependence on the Almighty.

     The final segment in the history of Thanksgiving takes place in 1863, in the middle of the bloody Civil War.  President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed there should be a national day of thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.  Lincoln declared it should be “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”

     It is instructive to note that each of these dates, 1621, 1777 and 1863 represent difficult times.  The pilgrims had experienced terrible losses and possessed practically nothing, but they were alive.  In 1777 the colonists were engaged in a tough war with England.  They had their independence and pride, but very little else.  In 1863 a brutal Civil War was being fought.  It was a costly and divisive conflict, and the nation was looking forward to the end of the conflict and to rebuilding.

     It would seem that we are most apt to be thankful, not when times are easy and our larders are full, but when life has been tough and we are glad to be alive and have each other.


I Thessalonians 5:16-18  —  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 106:1  —  Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Colossians 3:15  —  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.


O Lord, keep us sensitive to the grace that is around us.  May the familiar not become neglected.  May we see your goodness in our daily bread, and may the comforts of our home take our thoughts to your mercy.  We give you thanks.  Amen.

–J. H. Jowett  (1864-1923)

954) Guaranteed to Last (b)

     (…continued)  But that wasn’t all Jesus had to say about the end of the world.  His most important word on the subject was to come right at the end of Luke’s telling of this story in chapter twenty-one.  After describing all the bad things that will happen, Jesus told the people to stand firm, because, “By standing firm, you will gain life.”  Life?  That is not what you would expect in a conversation like this.  Here Jesus is talking about wars and earthquakes and famines, with death and destruction everywhere, about huge impressive structures that will come crumbling down, about death and destruction everywhere–  Jesus is describing the end of the whole world.  And then Jesus wraps it all up by saying, we can gain life.  The rest of the passage sounds more like talk of death.  When the Twin Towers went down three thousand lives were lost in the rubble, many being annihilated without a trace.  A human life, it would seem, is far more fragile, far less enduring than a huge building.

     A few years ago I shingled my house.  “These shingles are guaranteed to last 30 years,” said the man at the lumberyard.  Imagine that, I thought, an asphalt shingle has a better guarantee than I’ve got on myself.  According to the statistics, my average life expectancy doesn’t give me another 30 years.  Not only that, but none of us are guaranteed even another week, or even a day.

     We are frail and fragile and we come with no guarantee, but in this passage about wars and earthquakes and famines and the end of the whole world, Jesus is talking about how we can gain life.  You probably know enough about the Bible to know Jesus is referring to our resurrection from the dead and eternal life.  But just because we know that, doesn’t mean we should ever lose the wonder of it.  Think about it.  You will last longer than the pyramids, longer than the Grand Canyon, longer than the sun and the moon and the stars.  The stars have been up there a long time, but one day each one of those lights will go out, and we will still live, we who “by standing firm, will gain life,” Jesus said.

     C. S. Lewis once gave a lecture entitled The Weight of Glory in which he made the startling claim that every person you meet is more important than an entire civilization.  The Persian empire, the Greek Empire, and the Roman empire have all come and gone, just as the greatness of the United States of America will someday be simply an item in the history books.  Civilizations, empires, and nations all come and go, but people, with their fragile and temporary bodies, are the greatest miracles and the most enduring entities in all creation.  That is what Jesus is saying to the disciples in this verse.  That is the perspective he was always teaching them.  That is the perspective you go to church each week to sing about and pray for and be reminded of.  It is not something you hear about or see evidence of anywhere else.  “Alleluia, Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life,” we sing as the Scripture lessons are read.  Good question.  Where else shall we go to hear of such a hope?  There is no where else to go.  Only from Jesus who said, “Stand firm in this hope, and you will gain life.”

     Sometimes parents will say to their teenagers, “You better get with it, because it won’t be long and you will be out there in the real world.”  The real world.  No more free rent, free food, free laundry service, and no car unless you buy your own, put your own insurance on it, and buy your own gas.  In the real world, you have to make it on your own.  Those parents have a point.

     Others might describe this contrast saying, “You can talk about love and mercy and heaven and all that in church on Sunday morning, but on Monday morning, it’s back out into the real world.”  The real world, the solid, sordid world, the world of facts, the world of making it on your own, the world you can see and feel and touch and manage, where you might take charge or might get beat up.  That’s the real world, some say, not the world of prayer to someone you can’t see, Jesus who you can’t touch, or heaven which may or may not be there.  Sunday morning church, some will tell you, is not the real world.

      But Jesus has one big fact, one big reality for everyone:  that is the fact that this world, this ‘real’ world, and everything in it, is passing away.  It is perishing.  Even though some scientists disagree with some Christians on how this world began, everyone agrees on the fact that it will end.  Scientists say that in a few billion years the sun will burn out and the earth will freeze over and life will end.  The Bible says that the earth will wear out like an old garment and the people will die like flies.  There is no disagreement on that.  That’s the real world for you– it’s real all right, until it perishes — and you and I with it.

      But Jesus, who with the Father, created the reality of this world, offers another reality, another life, another world.  In everything Jesus says and does, he is offering this new reality to all who would believe in him.  It is his free gift. It is out of our hands, but comes to us by God’s grace.  Stand firm in that hope, Jesus says, and you will gain life.


Isaiah 51:6  —  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies.  But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

Mark 13:31  —  (Jesus said), “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Mark 13:33  —  (Jesus said), “Be on guard! Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.”

Luke 21:19  —  (Jesus said), “Stand firm and you will gain life.”

II Corinthians 5:4-5  —  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.


AMAZING GRACE (verses 5-7):

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.