Series 17


Many Paths?

“Nancy, could we talk about spiritual matters?” I said. “I’m confused; maybe you could help me understand?”

Nancy is a lovely person, displaying the attributes of a wonderful human being. I have heard her praying. She plays blood-of-Jesus hymns; even singing along with her soft melodic voice.

But then I see her tarot cards, she tells me of her affinity to Buddhism, to the Islamic faith and she seems excited that an old friend, a former pastor, converted to Judaism.

I asked Nancy how she reconciles embracing all these faiths. She said: “For me, I believe there are many paths to the same destination.”  Meaning heaven.

While all the faiths she mentioned have starkly different, conflicting beliefs; the Christian to Jewish flip-flop seemed especially bizarre. I mentioned scriptural truth from the Book of John: “So Pilate then handed Jesus over to them (Jewish religious leader) to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. And He bearing His cross . . . they crucified Jesus.” 

Then I said, “Nancy how could Jesus be God and Savior to Christians; and a criminal worthy of death on a cross to Jews? How could they both be on the path to the same heaven?”

The Bible talks about people who get drawn into deception: “Because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.” I am convinced that Nancy loves truth. Her own words revealed this: “Would you be interested in being involved in a Bible study?”

During our conversation, Nancy often said, “For me,” then added her opinion.

For me-- I study the Bible for my truth. Warning! Deception is lurking. It will block you from getting on or attempt to knock you off the true path.

For me, for you—love truth. Love the Bible.


Jump to God

Timothy said, “Let’s learn about God!”

His eagerness set the group’s tone as we studied the Bible. Even with a set lesson, I encourage truth seeking questions.  When Michael asked, “What is sin?” I was prepared. Then questions like Daniel’s: “How do you know God always existed?’ stretched me.

The discussion’s pinnacle came via a white board drawing. A simple line drawing depicting two steep cliffs which were separated by a deep gorge. I wrote “us” on one cliff and “God” on the opposite side with “sin” in the middle at the gorge’s bottom.

The Bible says: “The wages of sin is death.”---meaning spiritual death; separation from God. It also says, “All have sinned.”

The boys were catching on. Breaking God’s rules had created a chasm between God and themselves. This needs to be reconciled before life’s end, or it is forever in the pit.

I asked, “So how do you get across the mega sin pit?” Timothy answered: “Jump to

God . . . do a lot of good stuff.”

Here’s Timothy’s concept—though incorrect. Going to church, doing kind deeds, praying, giving money to charity and such are the muscle for the God-jump. At life’s conclusion we sprint full-tilt towards the sin-separating ravine. We vault ourselves frantically with all our good-works muscles towards God, believing that the gorge’s width is determined by our lifelong accumulation of bad works.

Timothy, the Bible says, “We're all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are filthy rags.” Good works never enable a successful jump to God. So-- do this. Follow God’s plan. Jump to Jesus. His sinless life and death on a cross to cancel our sin debt is the only bridge to God.

Our part? Repent of our sins. Accept Jesus’ sin payment. Make Jesus the Lord of our life. Live for God.


A Friendship Spiraling Toward Meaningless

Robert will never know how many times I have cried. With desperate prayers and enduring, seemingly endless faith; I maintained hope that Robert could get off drugs and live for God.

Now an almost more difficult thought arises: “God are you releasing me? Have I done everything possible to help Robert?”

Sometimes while crying for him, I would get a picture in my mind, a vision for his future. I would see him drug free, living sold-out for God--serving God in ministry.

As we drove that morning, we were both silent. Finally I said, “What happened Robert?” He indignantly replied, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I pushed. He rebelled, “You always want to nitpick.”

This was our fourth drive to a drug rehab facility in eight years. Still, he wasn’t getting better—just worse.

A scripture Robert probably has memorized says: “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.” That is what I wanted to talk about—truth. Robert didn’t want truth. It was becoming apparent our friendship was spiraling toward meaningless.

Now I had to face a truth in my life. When do you step away, leave a relationship with someone you are trying to help?

The Bible says: “For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful . . . but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”

All I see for produce in the Robert-garden is thorns and briers. And I fear for his end.

God only gives us so many hours a day to work for Him. We need to pray more often: “God, help me know which gardening, which efforts will produce the most for Your Kingdom.”


Turn a Life Around

Madison smiled. She’s seven.  Until three days ago, I never remember seeing her smile.

Perpetually somber, that was Madison. Even more, her soft child-featured face was already shaded with a worried-adult cast. 

The Bible refers often to “countenance—the facial indication of mood and emotion.” One of the first references says: “Then the LORD said . . . . why has your countenance fallen?”

I have asked myself—why? The conclusion? Her countenance is a reflection of her challenging life. I see Madison about once a week. She lives in an area crowded with mobile homes in an array of disrepair, some abandoned. Extreme unemployment and fractured families fuel hopelessness.

When teenagers at my church found out, I was asked, “What can we do to help?”

They decided to purchase back-to-school supplies for the kids in Madison’s neighbor. So, on Wednesday Ruben, Megan, Kayla and I went on a mission, delivering their purchases--backpacks stuffed with essentials.

The next time Madison saw me she ran up to my van. I rolled the window down, she said, “My mommy wants to thank you for the things.” Then Madison smiled. So did I. Her white-toothed grin tingled my emotions.

And then I saw Madison smile again. And again.

Theorizing what happened, this Proverb kept flickering into my brain: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  The Message Bible says it this way: “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.”

Think about this. Because some teenagers decided to spend their own money to bring hope into the lives of kids they had never met, there is the distinct possibility they may have turned a life around.

Call it a faith-stretch to believe. Not for me. I saw Madison smile.


A Message from God

“I think the Lord was speaking to me,” Marilyn told me.

This happened mid-afternoon while she was lying on her bed. The last few days had not been pleasant. Once again depression gripped her emotions combined with a bout of illness.

A breeze wafted in through the half open window. The pages of her Bible, which was open on the bed, fluttered. Marilyn thought: “That’s weird.” Looking down, her eyes connected with a Bible verse. “After you have suffered a while you will be restored to joy and happiness,” Marilyn said. “Well, something like that.”

It was just what she needed—a message from God. Marilyn has endured more physical and emotional health issues than almost anyone I know.

I was excited: “Wow, that’s really something. Where is that verse at in the Bible?”  She said, “I’m not sure, but I will find it for you.” A couple of days passed. Then I asked her again about the verse’s Biblical location. Marilyn replied, “I guess I lost it.”

I have done the same thing. I have read scriptures that were like fireflies flashing on the page. The very words invigorated my spirit. With time, I would let the life-changing verse fade away from memory. Or the piece of paper I wrote it on ended up a withered piece of trash.

The Bible says: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” We falter, forget and fail; yet God and His Word are continually active.

Lost your message from God? Or maybe you have never received one. Pray this: “God I need a message from You.” Now don’t wait for the wind to blow your Bible open. You open the Bible. And read. God has a message for you.

Don’t lose it.