Articles

 The village of Ur was typical in many ways of the other cites of that time, but there was something special about this city. 

Most of the people of this city worshiped many gods and had even built gods of wood and clay.  It was interesting that this same wood used to carve an idol was also used to heat their homes.    

 This city was special (different) because there was a man that went against the custom or worshipping many gods.  Somehow he spurned the idols of the others and wanted to know a God bigger than a block of wood.  He had came to the realization that there was a God that had created him and all other things, and more importantly, a God he could know personally.  Why he felt this way we do not know.  Perhaps God realized that this man deeply, and sincerely wanted to know Him and therefore He revealed Himself.  The man’s name was Abram. 

 In Genesis 12 we read:

The Lord had said to Abram. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.”

 Why did God commend and accept Abram and not many of the others of his generation?  One obvious reason was that most of the people of Abram’s time were idol worshipers.  The Bible says that even Abram’s father was an idol worshipper.  Also, many of the “religious” people of Abram’s time, focused on a system of rules that if practiced, would buy God’s favor or appease Him.  Even though thousands of years have passed since Abram walked this earth, even people today exhibit this error in serving their god(s).

In the time of Abram there were a number of different covenants.  Today we might call them contracts, but I think that historical covenants were a bit more personal.  The most serious covenant of all was the blood covenant.  This covenant required the two participants to put their lives on the line.  That is, if they would break the blood covenant they would pay with their lives.  God deeply desired a blood covenant with Abram.  This covenant would extend to those that would come after Him.  This covenant encompassed not only those that were his physical descendants but all people that would seek, trust and serve God through faith. 

Genesis 15:9 & 10

9. So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10. Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other: the birds, however, he did not cut in half.

In the blood covenant the two parties would first define their promises to each other and then they would perform the requirements of the blood covenant.  I picture a scene with a slight trench in the dirt with halves of the animals cut in two on each side and the blood running to and collecting in a slight trench between them.  The two individuals that were committing to keep the covenant, on penalty of death, would then remove their sandals and walk up the path of blood.  Then they would say:

 “Our covenant is sealed with this blood.  I commit to pay with my life if I should break this covenant.”

Ray Vander Laan, in his book Echoes of His Presence, describes the elements of the covenant that God wanted to have with Abraham.  With this blood covenant God gave His word to Abram and his descendants that He would be their God and dwell with them if they would seek Him in faith and put their trust in Him alone.  He promised this on threat of death. 

It appears that Abram and his descendant’s part of the covenant would center on trusting the Lord always and not straying from the commitment to trust Him in all circumstances with unfailing faith.  Abram wanted this covenant with God but he also knew that he and his descendants could not keep this commitment perfectly.

Genesis 15:12 says:

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into deep sleep, and thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

Abram was in a real quandary.  In his heart he wanted to be closer to God and deeply wanted to establish this covenant.  The problem was the same as we would have to day – he knew he would fail to keep this commitment perfectly.  Therefore, it appears that he fell into a deep depression as he pictured a trap closing slowly around him. 

God intensely desired to have this covenant with Abram and all those that would follow Him in Abram’s footsteps.  Therefore God purposed something astonishing.  He would guarantee that He would keep His part of the covenant, at the cost of His life, and He also guaranteed to pay with His life if Abram and his descendants failed to live up to the covenant perfectly.  That evening God showed His great love for us [those of us that would trust Him and follow Him in faith] as He came to Earth and fulfilled both sides of the blood covenant.  

  Genesis 15:17

When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.

He also displayed an unparalleled commitment to die for those that would place their love, trust, faith and hope whole heartedly in Him.   He would die that they might have eternal life in paradise with Him.  Many years later He honored this blood covenant when Jesus spilled His blood on an old rugged cross for you.  Jesus opened an enormous door for humanity.  The unfathomable treasures of eternity were now within the grasp of those who would follow closely to their God even thought they were unworthy. 

 Consider this story:

                There was a man in the United States that was a billionaires.  He had a son that had become eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War.  In those days when a man turned 18 he could be called “drafted” into the service of his country and compelled to enter the armed forces.   Normally there was little recourse to the draft and most men drafted, joined the armed services. 

It just so happened that this man’s son received notification that he was being called into the army and would serve in Vietnam.  His father was a very influential man and told his son that he would talk to the “right” people and get him out of this situation.

Many sons, raised by a very wealthy father, were spoiled and would jump at the chance to avoid entering a war that could cost them their life.  This son was not like this.  Even though he had enormous wealth at his disposal, he chose to answer the call of his country.

The father tried everything within his power to convince his son not to go but all to no avail.  The son had integrity and commitment and would not compromise these virtues for money and the power and “favors” it could buy.

His father loved his son and was very concerned for him when he left home and traveled Vietnam.  His son was put into action upon his arrival and because of his courage and leadership skills was promoted rapidly.  Of course, his father was proud of him but since he loved him he was very concerned about the situation he was in.

One day a very official looking car pulled up in front of his mansion.  He received a letter that stated that his son had been killed in action. 

The father was devastated.  He mourned for his son and never seemed quite the same after that.  One day he received a call from a young man that had served under his son.  This young man said he was a friend of his son and would like to meet with him and tell him a little about his son’s action in Vietnam.

The friend and the father met on a number of occasions and the friend told the father how he deeply admired his son.  He described his son as a real man of integrity, a man who cared for those under his authority.  He also described the fire fight, deep in the jungles of Vietnam, in which his son died helping rescue one of his men.

The father found a great deal of comfort from his meeting.  On one of the last meetings the friend gave the father a painting he had made of his son.  He was somewhat of an amateur painter but the likeness to the son was recognizable.  Parts of the painting were remarkable.

In the father’s mansion was a large area dedicated to paintings of the “masters”.  In fact, his private collection of paintings, by the masters of old was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  In the very front of these paintings he placed the painting of his son.  Those that came to see this fabulous art collection, would see what the old man considered most valuable.

The years passed and the father died.  One of the major assets in the father’s estate was the very valuable paintings he had in his collection.  The auctioneers were instructed by the old man’s Will to send out an invitation to all the noted buyers of valuable paintings in the world.  Everyone was to have a chance at buying these paintings.  Since one of the paintings was of his son, the friend was also granted an invitation. 

The day of the auction arrived with buyers from all over the world.  In the back row and feeling a little out of place, sat the friend of the son.  The auctioneer brought the meeting to order and then stated that the auction would follow the old man’s Will closely. 

“The Will first states,” the auctioneer said, “that we are to give everyone a chance throughout the world to be part of this auction.  The second part of the Will states that the first item to be auctioned is the painting of the son.”

With this there was a moan throughout the room as this painting was probably worthless.  The auctioneer started the bidding at $10,000 and not receiving any interest began to drop the price.  Finally he was down to several hundred dollars.  The friend and painter of the picture began to show an interest.  He was not a rich man, but he had loved and respected the son and because of this he raised his hand.  The auctioneer tried to get others involved in the bidding but to no avail.  He finally raised his hammer and shouted “sold” to the gentleman in the back row.

Then the auctioneer said something that caused the audience to gasp.  “The third part of the Will states,” said the auctioneer, “that after the painting of the son is sold we are to close the bidding.”  With this statement a number of the buyers stood up and shouted that they had come half way around the world to bid on this famous art collection.

“As I stated from the first,” the auctioneer said,” “we are going to follow the old man’s Will to the letter.  In his Will he specified that all those throughout the world that might have an interest were to be invited.  We were then to offer the painting of his son first and whoever bought the painting of his son was to get it all.”

 

WHOEVER GETS THE SON GETS IT ALL.  THIS IS THE AMAZING GIFT OF GOD TO THOSE THAT WILL TRULY FOLLOW HIM. 

Caught In the Grip Of Fear

            The Nazi soldiers burst into the small living room. 

            Surprised, a middle-aged stocky man in a police uniform spun around and faced the soldiers.  His mouth parted slightly in astonishment as he recognized that these were not ordinary Nazis, these were the Gestapo. 

            Wide-eyed, with one hand drawn to her mouth, his wife stared at the intruders.  Silence descended like a blanket as the couple’s children, mostly adults, stared intently. 

            Unnoticed, a small boy of 11 was playing under a table in the center of the room.  A heavy cloth hung from the top of the table to the floor, hiding the boy from view.   

            A grim-faced soldier spat, “Herr Meyer?” 

            “Yes,” the man in the policeman’s uniform answered politely. 

            Suddenly, without warning, the soldiers raised their weapons.  Pop, pop, pop, the deafening roar of gunfire erupted in the small room.  At the sound, the small boy startled as screams of astonishment and pain pierced the curtain of silence.         

            Then the boy trembled and curled as small as possible inside the cocoon of safety that providence had afforded him.  Terrified, but thankful for the tablecloth, he prayed that the soldiers had not noticed him.  Fear overwhelmed him and blotted out thoughts of even his family - only survival mattered. 

            Behind his fragile curtain of safety, a heavy silence replaced the staccato bark of gunfire.  The smell of gunpowder and burnt flesh mingled with the moans of the dying.  He held his breath in terror as the soldiers shouted at one another. 

            Staring through unseeing eyes, his mind simply refused to process the sudden aggression and brutality.  His young mind couldn’t comprehend the enormity of what these soldiers where snatching from him.   Deep within, unnoticed by his stunned senses, he was descending into the dark realm of anger, hate, and bitterness. 

            He followed the sharp click of the soldiers’ heavy boots as they searched for other members of his family.  With the slam of the front door, a fragile, unsettled, stillness descended.  All was quiet save the beating of the 11- year-old’s heart.  Terrified of leaving the safety of his hiding place, and worried that the soldiers would come back and discover him; he lay helplessly entangled in the paralyzing grip of fear.

            Then with a start, he suddenly sat bolt upright as his mind once again engaged and began to process reality.  Someone would surely return, discover, and perhaps kill him.  Finally, with great mental effort, he pushed back the cloth that had saved his life and entered into a scene that would become forever etched in the dark corners of his mind, never far from consciousness, and impervious to the passage of time.

 

            Now, in 2007, the 75 year-old man who sat across from me gave no hint of the tragic life he had experienced.  His accent added to the authenticity of the dramatic story he was telling me.  It was obvious that retelling his story brought emotions to the surface that would haunt Bill in the days ahead but regardless of its effects, he was determined to tell it.  I could sense the indomitable spirit that still ticked in his heart.

            As a young boy, Bill loved to escape to the Dutch countryside on his bike.  He would peddle rapidly as he moved swiftly atop the dikes, where a slight breeze tousle his blond hair, and there would be just a wisp of smell from the great North Sea that this and other dikes had tamed.  His young blue eyes would sparkle with excitement and adventure.  Holland, at that time, was a peaceful land, a land that one could learn to love and feel comfortable in. 

            Escaping from the grasp of his tyrannical father, if only for a day, had given him an exhilarating sense of freedom.  Pedaling swiftly, he would breathe in the fresh air and dream dreams that come naturally to young boys bent on adventure.  Perhaps it was best that he couldn’t know the future.  Why worry about events he could not have changed or controlled.  In his case, ignorance was definitely bliss.

            Bill’s home was tiny by current  American standards, it occupied the second floor of a narrow, three-story Dutch house and had a living room, kitchen, and several bedrooms that were shared by his parents and those of his brothers and sisters who still remained home.  As soon as breakfast was over, Bill, the youngest of the lot, would leave the crowded house and venture into a world that was bounded only by blue sky and the North Sea. 

            Many times, he would go down to the corner clock shop that was owned by the Ten-Boon family.  He would roam around the shop enchanted and somewhat mystified by the many clocks that cluttered the shop.  There was something else about this place that drew him, some refreshing warmth, unseen, but obviously present.

            Bill’s mother was a sweet-natured woman and most of his sisters were kind to him, but there was a hostility that seemed to permeate his small home.  His father was a Nazi sympathizer, a local policeman, and a hard and unfeeling man who ruled his family rigidly.  Whatever his father stood for, Bill was determined to embrace the opposite.

            The Ten-Boons, Papa, Betsy, Corrie and several other children, lived above the clock shop they managed.  Bill was drawn by the ticking clocks and the loving, accepting environment that radiated from the Ten-Boons.  Many times, they would take him aside and read the Bible to him and challenge him with a lesson.  Tolerating these sessions, it was the cookies and milk he received at the end that reinforced his patience.

            “Good always overcomes evil - evil may win for a while, but eventually good will win in the end,” Corrie would say over and over.

            Living in a large, poor family, a cookie and milk was a rare treat, one for which Bill could easily tolerate a short Bible story.  Little did he know that these sessions of Godly stories were penetrating far deeper than his stomach.  A dark and evil cloud was beginning to gather over his homeland and the stories he was hearing would one day prove an eternal escape from its evil effects. In May 1940, the Germans invaded Holland.  Though the Dutch put up resistence and many people were killed (thousands of people were killed in Rotterdam alone), it was short-lived.

            “The first year after the invasion, life went on pretty much as usual.  The biggest changes were the teachers at school.  They were all replaced by Germans.  If you wanted to have any position of authority or influence, you had to join the Nazi party.  It was a little like joining a political party.  Most people who joined it did not really agree with it but it was the only way to get ahead,”  Bill says.

             The occupation did not interrupt Bill’s journeys to the clock shop, nor diminish his desire for cookies. 

            “Bill would you take this package to . . . ?”  Corrie would ask. 

            Bill would do almost anything for the Ten-Boons.  He especially liked delivering clocks and parts on his bike.   Of course, having little else to do, and desiring to stay away from his father, he enjoyed this diversion.  The culinary treats he received just fattened the pot.

            “The second year of occupation was a different story.” he said.  “The Germans began to bleed the country and it became harder and harder to get food and supplies.  They took all the rubber and most of the other resources.  We lived on so little.  With no rubber available, I had to put old socks and clothes on the bare rims of my bike, which made for a very bumpy ride.”

            The resources of conquered countries such as Holland were being sucked out to feed and equip the German war machine.  The Germans were also becoming more overtly hostile and brutal in Holland and other occupied countries.

            “All the Jews had to wear a yellow star patch with the word (Jew) stitched on it.  They were not allowed to own a business and were given only yellow cards for food, which restricted their diet to bread and potatoes.  Besides being stripped of the normal ration cards, they were no longer allowed to travel,” he describes.

            Along with the scarcity of food came increased persecution of the Jews and Jewish sympathizers.  Eleven-year-old Bill witnessed Jews being beaten in the streets.  The Jews were commanded to register with the local German authorities and those that registered began to disappear. 

            The abuse the Germans were dishing out to the Jews and others was not going unnoticed by the Dutch people.  It began to produce a spirit of resistance toward the Germans and compassion for the abused.  The resistance grew and stiffened.  Some of the people began to help the Jews and other abused individuals, especially in the rural areas where there was less of a German presence.  Of course, there was a price to pay for helping Jews, a big one.

            “Some of the more naive Jews complained to the authorities and were shipped to concentration camps.  The smarter Jews fled to the countryside, away from the German patrols.  There they were hidden by sympathetic farmers, who received  counterfeit ration cards and other necessities from the underground.  Many of these Jews were able to make their way to northern Holland where they could get a boat to Denmark and eventually end their desperate flight in England,” Bill says.

            “The Nazi leaders justified their brutal treatment of the Jews by quoting portions of Martin Luther’s writings that were ant- Semitic.  Millions of good Germans and others listened and agreed with Hitler.  He didn’t actually say to kill the Jews, but to dispose of them.  We thought he meant to send them to labor camps or something, not to kill them.” 

            The Germans thought that they were doing God’s work in killing the Jews and they quoted  Luther’s manifest as justification.  With this moral underpinning the Germans could participate in the most vile deeds to Jews, Jewish sympathizers, and other undesirables while viewing themselves as good citizens, good fathers, and even, unbelievably, good Christians.  They lived two lives.”

            Bill gradually became aware that Corrie and her family were helping the Jews.  He hadn’t realized it at the time, but they had been hiding Jews in their home, in the very building that housed the clock shop.  They had been willing to take the huge risk because of their Christian faith. 

            The biggest danger they faced was being exposed by friends and neighbors.  Everyone was hungry and the Germans were masters at manipulating the people with food and ration cards.  It is difficult to understand the allurement of food to a people who were slowly starving.  With hunger stalking their families, some parents yielded and secretly turned others in. 

            “Would you take these papers and ration cards to the country for me, Bill?”  Corrie asked one day.  “The farmer you give them to will give you a full meal.  You will be helping Jewish families.”

            Bill knew his father would disapprove of helping the Jews and perhaps, at least to some degree  to spite him, he agreed.  Bill had always found the idea of a few people ruling the lives of others, distasteful.  What the Germans were doing sowed seeds of defiance in his young heart.  He would resist them any way he could.  The seriousness of what he was doing never really registered in his young mind. He never really understood the possible consequences of his actions on himself or his family.  Of course, the promise of a big meal that awaited him at the farmer’s table made his mouth water in anticipation.

 

            Still numbed by the callous killing of his family, young Bill Meyer had surveyed the bloody carnage the German soldiers had made of his family.   Stunned and confused by the brutal scene he had just witnessed, feeling the cold tentacles of fear, he stumbled out of his home.  Fear gave his feet new energy.  As he plunged down the street, he could think of only one haven: the clock shop.  Irrational as it was, his heart desired the security and safety he had known among the Ten-Boons.  Entering the shop, he gave a start as he ran headlong into the arms of a Gestapo agent.

            “They put me on a bus with other prisoners, Bill says.  “Many of the prisoners didn’t want to go on a bus because the Germans had outfitted some of the buses with tanks that held poison gas.  This gas was piped into the main passenger area, which made for a deadly ride.  We found out that our bus was OK.”

            Taken to Scheveningen, the only national prison in Holland, Bill was constantly interrogated about his connection with the Ten-Boons and the people who housed Jews.

            “I made up names for them and didn’t tell them the truth.  The German officers carried riding whips and they knew how to use them.  When they beat me with these whips, I learned to scream and yell as soon as possible.  If you didn’t, they would beat you until you did.”

            Bill was always hungry and cold at Scheveningen, a reality that would be his constant companion in the years ahead.   He was fed one meal a day, usually bread, beans, or some tea.  His three month stay, though thoroughly unpleasant, was a precursor for the future. 

            One day, he was abruptly herded into railroad cattle car for a trip to a processing center and then onto Vught.  Vught was a political concentration camp in the southern part of Holland near the German border.

            “There was standing-room-only in the cattle car.  We were packed in like sardines.  You could barely move and had to sleep standing up.  There was no bathroom and not being able to move, we had to relieve ourselves while standing, into our clothing.  We had nothing to eat or drink for several days.  I learned to slowly squeeze my way through the press of prisoners to the side of the car.  There were splits in the wood on the side of the rail cars that collected a few drops of water that you could suck out of the wood.”

            The processing center was a very large stadium.  The disoriented prisoners shuffled aimlessly around this structure staring vacantly at the floor.  There were Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and political prisoners, like Bill.

            “The Germans would keep asking questions like what your mother and father’s name were and their religion.  They watched to see if you changed any part of your story.  They had buckets for toilets and a long, rusty latrine outside.  This latrine had smelly water that trickled down and was the only water we had to drink.  When they called your name you were given your prison clothes, a light cotton long-sleeve-shirt, and pants, no coat or blanket.  The clothes had stripes with a different color for different offenses.  I was always cold and hungry,” he says.

            After processing, the prisoners were again packed in railcars bound for Vught.  Though was Vught only a few hours’ ride from the processing center, continual strafing by allied aircraft and problems with the equipment slowed the progress of the trains and made for a two-day trip.  

            “At first, I was left alone to roam the camp at Vught while the others went to work,” He says.  “Then they assigned me to work in the Philips factory that made some of the electronics for the German Messerschimdt fighter planes.  I carried parts to the older workers to solder and when they were done, I took the finished parts to another area.  Many times, I would pull some of the wires loose as I carried them.  These parts determined how high or what direction the planes would fly.  I hope I caused some problems for those planes.”

            The barracks at Vught were filled with bunks three levels high.  Each level contained five individuals packed side-by-side.  The quarters were so tight that the head of one prisoner had the feet of his neighbor next to him and so they alternated until all five were locked in together. 

            “We each had one filthy, small blanket with so many lice that some blankets actually moved on their own.  In the unsanitary conditions, many prisoners developed diarrhea, adding to the smell and squalor.”

            The inmates were fed once each day late in the evening after returning from work.  The sole meal for the day usually consisted of a cup of watery soup with some rotten meat in it.  Hunger and cold became a way of life, a life that was endured minute by minute.

            “Roll call was at 5 A.M. no matter what the weather.  In the winter, a cold wind from the North Sea would go right through our thin cotton shirts and pants.  We stood in blocks and every last person had to be accounted for before we were allowed to leave,” He says. “First they went into the barracks and dragged out those who had died in the night to make sure they were counted.  Sometimes roll call could take hours.    Many people lost toes and fingers to the cold at roll call.”

            “Punishments were always handed out at roll call and those singled out were made a public spectacle.  The beatings were terrible and sometimes the inmates died.  The hangings were the worst.  It wasn’t like I see in the movies today, a quick death.  The guards would slowly pull the individual up and make us watch as they struggled and were slowly strangled.  It could take up to half an hour before they finally died.  We had to watch and if we turned away, we would be beaten severely.  The guards didn’t show any remorse or sympathy.” 

            “As I watched the brutality, my only thought was that I was glad it wasn’t me.  There was no compassion or empathy.  All I could think of was that I might survive another day.  We had descended so low that all we could think about was ourselves and surviving one more day, one more hour.

            Hope began to fade, leaving behind a shallow, hollow existence that revolved around food and staying warm.  Bill’s soul had shrunk to its most basic level, survival.  People were  emptied of the common decency and  virtues that make life worth living.  The everyday events and issues of the “normal person outside the camp” were lost in the maze of brutality and inhuman treatment.  Bill was not aware that he had descended so low.  His soul was awash in the poison of hate and indifference.

            Occasionally, Corrie’s words would peek through the haze that clouded his heart: “Evil may win for a while but good always overcomes evil in the end.  Those that choose to remain bitter and unforgiving will be consumed by it.  They will never be free to live a normal life.”

            In one of his more insightful moments, Bill came to the conclusion that if he did not escape he would not survive.  So he devised a plan to hide among the dead bodies carried out each day and dumped in a common trench.

            The weight of the bodies above him, the bodily fluids spilling over him, and the overwhelming smell pushed Bill’s endurance to the limit.  Lying among the bodies, quietly as possible, was more punishing than Bill had anticipated.  He waited for dark to provide cover for his escape from his gory refuge.

             Ever so slowly, the sun etched out its familiar arc in the sky.  After an immeasurable length of time, the sky darkened and he finally emerged from his living grave.

            “I ran into the woods and eventually found a farm.  I tried to milk a cow in the barn, but couldn’t get any milk.  A lady with a gun, the owner of the cow, came up behind me and held the gun on me.  When she saw that I was only a half-starved boy, she tried to help me.  She had very little food, and what she had, she was sharing with two American airmen she was hiding.  She did give me some clothes to rid me of my striped uniform,” he says.

            Bill had survived two years at Vught.  Now 13-years-old and weight 65 pounds, he wandered from farm to farm trying to find the impossible, something to eat.  He slowly drifted toward his hometown of Haarlan.  He did find some flower bulbs and nettles that he dug up and ate.  Little did he know, or care, that the acidity from these bulbs, and other food he was eating, was dissolving the lining of his stomach. 

            Even the rats were gone, victims of a starving people.  Desperate, he discovered that horse manure still had undigested oats that he could dig out.  All his thoughts revolved around hunger and the cold, his constant, unwelcome companions.

            Bill slowly and painfully made his way back to Haarlem.  All the living members of his family had left.  He found one sister, a prostitute in Rotterdam, who did what she could to help.  The Germans had pilfered the land so efficiently and completely that the people of Holland were starving.  They had also sucked much of the love and goodness out of the people and left a standard of brutality and indifference that permeated the victimized country.

            ”The brothels in the big cities kept me alive,” he remembers.  “Believe it or not, in Holland, prostitution was an honored profession, like nursing.  They were the only ones that had anything, and it was meager.  Since my sister was a prostitute, the others helped me for her sake by giving me a little, very little, food, and a warm place to sleep, usually in the hall.  It may sound strange but I have warm feelings even today for these prostitutes, they kept me alive,” he says.

            “When I got out of the camp, I would kill anyone.  I didn’t have a conscience and hate was eating away my insides.  Any German soldier that entered a brothel, which they were forbidden to do, was a dead man.  The first German I found in a brothel I shot with his own Luger.  A Luger was a big pistol, and the recoil kicked back the gun and broke my nose.  I sold his gun and uniform to the resistance for a small loaf of bread and some ration cards.  Killing Germans caused me no distress I hated them and everything they stood for.  Some of the Germans were probably victims of their own system but I had lost my ability to feel compassion for them.  My hatred, coupled with the promise of food, overwhelmed my senses.  I was past caring.”

            “The buildings in Holland rest on the banks of canals.  The naked bodies of the Germans we killed would be thrown out the window of the brothel into the canals.  The problem was that when the bodies were discovered, the Germans would select 10 or 20 innocent Dutch, randomly off the street and shoot them dead in retaliation.  Today, this bothers me to think that I was in some way responsible for the death of innocent people but in those days, we were so desperate and desensitized, we thought - if we thought  at all - who cares?”  

            In 1945, Canadian troops liberated Northern Holland.  The Dutch were desperate for food, but had not had solid food for so long that it was dangerous for them to eat too much too quickly.  Their stomachs needed to be coaxed back to health, slowly.

            “The Canadians took me to a large tent and fed me intravenously for a while.  If I had eaten right away I would have died.  I also had TB which they treated and I began to recuperate.  I was a liar, thief, murderer, you name it,” he says.

            “The cruelty, lack of regard for others, hate, and ill treatment had almost, but not quite, destroyed me.  For at times, I would still hear an echo from the past.   ‘Those who forgive will be set free to live a normal life, but those who hold onto their hate will become even more bitter and disturbed.’  Corrie’s words rang from the corridors of time, ‘Good always overcomes evil.’        

            “The proof that Corrie really believed these words was evidenced to all when she commandeered one of the German’s own prison camps.  She would help the defeated Germans, the very ones who had built these evil camps.  They were now the ones that were vulnerable and open to the hate, and revenge of others.  She gave them a second chance.  She really lived what she preached.  Remarkably, her faith in God purified her heart and she had no hate.”

            Bill now had a full stomach, and reasonable health.  But he was only 14 years old, with no family, and only a third grade education.  He needed a job and registered for the army but his physical condition, along with his psychological state, disqualified him.  He simply had too much hate and anger, which could erupt at any time with catastrophic consequences.

            “I had no skills except to run, steal, and kill.  The counselor did make a call and was able to get me a job as an honorary marine.  Of course, I wasn’t given a weapon,” he says.

            The marines in Holland differed from American marines.   Their only mission was to protect and assist the royal family.  They were highly respected by the Dutch people because they had held a bridge over the Rhine when the Germans had invaded.  There had been only 20 marines and they had fought to the death against 500 German soldiers. 

            Remarkably, the marines allowed young Bill to transport and help the children of the royal family.

            “My main job was to drive the children, Juliana and Beatrice, to and from school, and to raise and lower the flag and other such chores.  Since there were few civilian vehicles, I actually drove the children around in an armored car.  Of course, it wasn’t armed and though unique, worked well in driving them to and from school.”

            By the time Bill had fulfilled his tour of duty, he found one of the greatest assets of his life, a young lady named Josephina. 

            “Josephina’s father was a tram conductor and got me a job as a bus driver.   I spent a lot of time with her but I wasn’t faithful.  I drank heavily and ran around.  I had a bad stomach, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and was told I was attention deficit.  We were married and I still continued to run around and get drunk.  Josephine never told me I couldn’t drink but I was spending too much money on it and it was starting to hurt my family,” he says. 

            “One day, she told me that she needed to have more money for the family and that my drinking was depriving them of the basics they needed to live.  She never said I couldn’t drink.  She just looked at me for a long time.  I could take an argument, but not that look.  I decided not to drink, and I stopped.  I think my wife is one of those rare people who are saints.”

            Bill, Josephina, and their family migrated to the United States in 1957.   Living in the heartland of America, Indianapolis, Indiana, offered new opportunities.   Bill began to let go of some of the load of hate he carried, but not all.  He continued to have major stomach problems, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.   Not knowing the language well, he found adapting to a new culture a real challenge, comical at times.

            “One day, a little lady knocked on our door and asked if we went to church.  Of course, the answer was no.  She asked if her church, a local Christian Church, could pick up the kids on Sunday morning and take them to Sunday school.  We were willing to let the children go to church.  This way we could sleep in and have a free babysitter for a good part of the day. 

            “Then one day, in 1960, she again appeared and invited us to church for a program that our children were to be part of.  We went and decided to continue going to church on Sunday.  We felt the children needed parents that went to church.”

            It was shortly after this that Bill gave his life totally to the Lord and was baptized.  As he started practicing his faith, he noticed that a new peace was spreading throughout his spirit.  The bitterness was melting away and in its place was a freedom of spirit that was new to him.  The Lord was completing what Bill had begun, but had not adequately completed - full forgiveness of others. 

            “Corrie was really right about hate and bitterness.  I think God started to work on me seriously when he gave me a good wife.  Then dedicating myself to His leadership, completed the transformation and today I am free.  Personally, I don’t have anything against anyone.  Where there is love, there can be no hate.  Where there is light, there can be no darkness.”

            As I listened to the conclusion of Bill’s story, I struggled to understand, to project myself into the situations he was describing to me.  He was positive, albeit intense, and had grave doubts about the direction of our modern culture.  Perhaps it takes a man who has lived through hell to see the excesses, permissiveness, and over-tolerant bent of our culture.  He had the fire and focus of a man with a mission, and one who was determined to carry it out. 

            “Those of us that have lived through those terrible times must never forget.  We need to be a voice to the rest of the world, warning them that it could happen again if we are not alert,” he says.  

            Unconsciously, I wondered whether it was possible for the great principles on which our nation was built, love of freedom and justice for all, to be swept away.   It seemed impossible but then . . . .

            As I looked out the window, I was reminded of what a fine summer day it was in Indiana.   It was probably a lot like the pleasant summer days of Bill’s youth with the sun blazing from a blue sky as he peddled swiftly along the dikes of Holland.  I could again picture his wind-blown hair and the sparkle in his blue eyes.  I could almost feel the sense of adventure and exhilaration, the raw “all is well and I can do anything” emotion that can flood the heart of a young boy as he travels far and wide in search of adventure.

            As I looked closer at this picture, I began to feel a sadness creep over me.  This young boy had been enjoying life without an inkling of what it held for him.  I now knew what he must one day face and I decided that, even if I could, I would not have told him what fate had in store for him.  His childhood was to be brief and it was good that he could experience as much of it as possible.  Soon enough, he would be robbed of this precious gift and face trials and situations that few of us today can imagine. 

            Try as I may, I simply could not picture or feel what it would be like to endure relentless hunger and cold, to see my family slaughtered before my eyes, to be dominated by brutal, evil men, to hear the cries of despair from people who suffered terribly and, worst of all, to be deprived of love and acceptance that we all desperately need.

            Having gone through all of this, Bill was a man who had learned to lean on his God.  In the place of anger, bitterness, hate and unforgiveness, I saw a thankfulness and peace.  The emotional and spiritual bars of his mental prison had been destroyed and replaced by a love for God and his fellow man. 

            Then, above the rattle of dishes and the voices of those around us, I could almost hear the Ten-Boons softly whispering, “Evil may win for a while but good always overcomes evil in the end.”

 

 

 

 

ABANDONED

            His large sad eyes spilled tears that etched crude channels in the dust of his black face.  His lips were pulled tight as if struggling to contain the emotion that threatened to spill out.

            The large casket loomed above his small, five year old body.  Standing on an old bucket and on his tiptoes, he peered over the edge of the open casket.  He stared intensely at the still unmoving face of the only person who had ever really cared for him.  His emotion finally escaped his tightly compressed lips.  Sob after sob convulsed his young body. 

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Depression: Walking In The Shadows [Part 2]

          Sue was not alone in her struggle with depression.  As many as 8% of the population of the United States struggle with depression and this equals millions of individuals who are experiencing this painful condition.

            Simply speaking, there are two major types of depression, (1) endogenous or genetic based depression or (2) reactive or a depression brought about by our reaction to situations we face each day. 

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Why Do We Relate to Fairytales? (Part 1)

Have you ever looked at the night sky and tried to fathom its Creator?  Have you ever asked this great Creator, perhaps with tears, why life can be so difficult and unfair at times?  Have you ever entertained a desire for this great God to protect you from the pain of life and have tried to comprehend the place of beauty, safety, and wellbeing He has promised those who are His children?  This is the stuff of fairytales, tales that end in circumstances of supreme joy and happiness.  Is it really possible that there is such a place of wonder and beauty for us?

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Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 8

There will be suffering and pain without end for everyone who travels the left road.  That is what Jesus was trying to tell the people of His age and all of us today.  He was saying to get right with God now, while there is time.  It is not to your self interest to continue on this road, it leads to disaster.  Think of your family and friends who respect you and the influence you are having on them and what your example may cost them.  If you will not save yourself at least do not stand in their way.

    The road to the right is narrow and doesn’t appear as inviting as the left road.  It is the road less traveled.  The main purpose of those on this road  is not one’s happiness, but rather learning to know and love God, devoting oneself to Him and His kingdom.  All the events, good and bad, that people on this road experience help them to grow spiritually and to learn to trust and love their God.  Life on this road is not a rose garden, but those on it have a peace and assurance that God is with them and when they close their eyes in death He will take them to paradise.  People on this road live normal lives in one sense, but there is something different about them.  What is different is that God is in charge of their lives.   Their motivation is therefore more difficult to others who do not know God.

    Life on this road requires voluntarily allowing God to run the controls of their life and learning to become dependant on Him as their God.  It means giving up their own faulty ideals about life and allowing God’s ideals and purposes to predominate.   It is loving God first and foremost as they learn that He is worthy of their worship and trust.  It is learning to love one’s neighbor as himself and doing good to all mankind.  It is finding joy, and yes, happiness in living life God’s way, trusting and depending on Him to lead them and show them the best possible way to live.  It means living beyond their own selfish wishes and natural abilities and allowing the King of the Universe to lead, guide and infuse them with divine energy, wisdom, love and power.   It is an adventure that never ends for at the end of this road lies eternal bliss in paradise.

    As you read this article you will come to the Y in your life’s journey.  Your eternal destiny depends on which road  you choose.  Also, the people around you, your parents, peers, children and friends are affected by your life and the choices you make.  Consider carefully what has been said and then make your choice.  

    If you choose the road less traveled, the right road, I welcome and commend you, you will never regret this choice, especially when you face death.  To walk with the King of all creation doesn’t mean that we have it made here in this life; there will be good times and tough times, but it is a fascinating and challenging journey with a reward beyond our finest efforts to imagine.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 7

Each one of us comes to a Y in the road of life when we begin to think more deeply about the meaning of life.  We may ask questions like, why am I here, does life have any real meaning or purpose, what happens when I die,  is their really a God, if so what is He like?

    The Bible describes this Y in the road of life in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

    As we come to the Y in the road we will find that the road to the left is the broad road and the road on the right is narrow road.  It is obvious that the narrow road to the right is the road less traveled.

    There are many “average” people on the left road (have regular jobs, have families that they love, go to ball games, may volunteer at schools and hospitals, help people with flat tires, go out of their way at times for others, eat at McDonalds, help a neighbor in trouble, put their hands over their heart when pledging allegiance to the flag, and may attend church, etc.) that is, they are what we may call average and probably good citizens.

    People on the left road have good and bad times and sometimes make sacrifices for others, but they are mainly devoted to finding happiness and fulfillment in life. Those on this road rely on some type of God (are dependent on something to help them), such as the success in business, the desire to be rich or well off, a philosophy of some type, the desire for respect and to be looked up to, fame and fortune, children that excel, sex, drinking, drugs, to name a few.  They are constantly pursuing things that promise the happiness, purpose, pleasure and fulfillment they desire, but each thing that draws their attention will at some time give out. Each new pursuit promises much but in the end, delivers little.  They wonder through life always hoping that they will find lasting fulfillment or something to help fill the emptiness they feel at times, but they are looking in the wrong places. All pursuits that are not according to God’s plan for our life will eventually pinch off and fail.

    Those on the road to the left do not seriously deal with the question of Jesus Christ and His mission.  They will at times have the good sense to acknowledge God and try to appease Him, but their heart is not in the search for God and they will not find Him. They may be good people in many ways but they will not seriously considered their own eternal destination and their relationship to their Creator.

    Those who choose to travel the left road will one day find that this road leads to destruction. They will close their eyes in death and awake to the nightmare of eternal suffering. The tragedy is that they had the chance to live for God today, but instead turned their backs on the whole issue. The thing that is unforgivable about these people is that they reject and turn their backs on the immense sacrifice that Jesus made for them. For this rejection, they will pay an unbelievable price through out the unending expanse of eternity.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 6

Let's suppose that there was a brilliant and compassionate scientist who was trying to improve the ability of the common ant to adapt better to his environment.  Let’s further suppose that he came up with a serum that when injected into an ant would allow them to have a very low level of human reasoning.  He decided to call these hybrid ants, huants.

    As the scientist was running this experiment, he remained in the background so that the experiment would not be tinted by his presence.  Suppose the huant was living on safe but hard rocky ground that required an effort to survive.  One day in his foraging for food, he finds a place that has smooth, soft, mellow ground with a nice stand of green grass. He realizes that life here would be much easier than life on the rocky, hard soil.

    The scientist would, of course, have a much better view of things as he watched from high above in the background. Since the scientist is of far superior intelligence and cares what happens to his creation, he is able to see potential problems long before the huant and he wants to protect these creatures as much as possible.  The site that the huant has chosen for his families new home is a dry creek bed that floods several times a year.  What can the scientist do to prevent the huant family from being destroyed at the first heavy rain?

    The experiment requires that he not be directly observable.  The scientist decides to construct some earthen barriers to stop the huant from reaching the creek bed.  He uses all his resources to stop the huant from moving and succeeds.  The huant has heard that his race was created by and watched over by a human. He was also told that his race could not really see humans, but it was a long standing belief that they existed. It was further stated that humans had a great deal to do with the huant’s existence.

    The huant family is frustrated and angry that they cannot have their way.  They have tried hard to get through the barriers but finally realize that the forces of "nature" are against them. They cry out "if there really is a human he must not care much for us, or he would see our situation and come to our rescue, how could he be so uncaring. Perhaps humans don't exist and the ones who say they do are just a bunch of deceived fools.   What kind of a uncaring creature would allow life to be so difficult for us,” they might shout with clinched fist toward the sky.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 5

Consider a man who lived in an evil country.  He hadn’t realized how evil his country was until one day he heard a broadcast from another country about this evil.   He watched around him to see if the broadcast was correct and it wasn’t long before he became convinced that it was true.

    He wanted to escape to the other country but this was impossible.  He was able to get a message to the other country in which he asked for help to know how to live better.  He used an old short wave radio to communicate with individuals within the other country to counteract the propaganda and evilness of the country he was born in.  The problem with the short wave radio was that it wasn’t perfectly reliable.  He could only talk certain times of the day, if atmospheric conditions would  allow clear, static free speaking, and if the radio was operating properly. The difficulties this man experienced in communicating is similar to the Christian living by faith, there are many times when our questions are not answered as clearly as we would like.   There are times when we feel alone and misunderstood when the faith communications don’t seem to reach all the way to God.  Someday the imperfect communication by faith, will be replaced by the perfection of living in God’s presence.

    It doesn’t take much study of the Bible to recognize that God desires a faith relationship with us.  It is to our best interest to pursue a relationship with God.  So why isn’t every human on this earth actively engaged in seeking to know God?  One reason is that we are far less intelligent than God and have trouble connecting the dots.  Another reason is our faulty thinking and bad judgement in spiritual matters which causes us to stubbornly resist knowing and trusting God.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 4

On Earth, Christ was to fit in with the culture as a carpenter for 30 years and then He began to tell the world God’s message.  He had to put up with prejudice, immorality, rejection and stupidity from the people He had come to give a second chance.  He was to show and tell people how to serve God, and the awful consequences if they didn’t.  I would encourage you to read the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to see what Jesus was saying to people about life and about God.

    One of the major elements in Jesus’s mission was paying a ransom for you and me.  We had sinned and were justly condemned to death (both physically and spiritually).  A man guilty of a crime, in some past ages, could be freed if another would pay a ransom.   Jesus came here to be a ransom for us, to pay the price that we could not begin to afford.

    So His mission included telling humanity the truth about their opposition to God, their sinfulness before God, and their condemned condition.  Even greater than this, He came to suffer for humanity providing us the opportunity of a second chance to serve God and avoid eternal death.

    In ancient Palestine, the olive was highly prized for oil and food.  The ancients may have known what we are finding out today, that olive oil is good for our bodies.  The Jews would place the olives in a heavy stone container and place a heavier stone, of perhaps 6 foot tall and several feet in diameter, on top of the olives.  A little primitive compared to today’s olive presses but very effective never the less.  Jesus’s suffering in the garden of Gethsemane  was compared to this press.  The weight of our sins was the large stone and He was the olives.  He experienced incredible pressure, so much so that it began squeeze the blood out of Him as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He died.

    The Romans were masters at paying back those who had crossed them.  Death on the cross was one of their crowning achievements, a fact that was attested to by those unfortunate enough to have angered them.  It was simply one of the most painfully lingering deaths one could experience.

    As bad as crucifixion was, I believe that there was something even greater that Christ feared.   God the Father and Jesus had never been separated in spirit.  They had a overwhelming love and respect for each other.  This unity of spirit was about to be destroyed as Jesus carried our sins to His death.  In a sense He would be separated from God the Father and spend time in hell for you and me.  This sounds extreme but it was the price of our second chance.  It was a price that was so high that it defies our best efforts to imagine it.  Don’t trifle with God by demeaning, lowering or rejecting this sacrifice.

    Our first parents made a huge blunder leaving the secure and loving dependence on God that they had been freely given.  Jesus came to give you and me a second chance.  We may feel it was unfair for God to condemn all of us because of our first parents bundler.  I will not debate this issue but it becomes immaterial since Jesus has given us a second chance.  Will we make the same blunder our ancestors did?

    Our first parents had an advantage we do not have today, since they were more pure than us, as sin had not entered the world yet, they were not contaminated by the effects of sin.   They could interact with God face-to-face but today we must interact by faith.  This means we interact with God on the inside, in our heart.  Communication that is not face-to-face is more difficult than being in the person’s presence but it is adequate to serve God well.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 3

Have you ever taken a spanking for someone else who was guilty, or perhaps, you were reprimanded at work or in a social setting for someone else’s mistake? If you have, you will begin to understand a little the sacrifice that Christ was to make. Of course, this does not help us to understand the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice for us. You and I are the guilty ones. We have turned our backs to God and lived in opposition to Him. We have not lived in the way that God has designed us to live. Christ suffered for our mistakes and our outright opposition to God.  We could have lived as God wanted us to, and reaped all the benefits, but we would not.  Now we have become fools, but God still loves us for reasons that are difficult to understand.  He judged our corrupt behavior and pronounced us guilty and condemned us to physical and spiritual death, but His love and mercy allowed Him to take off His judge’s robe and come to earth to join us, and die for us.

    Consider the Prussian general who had been given the command of a large group of undisciplined troops. They had to be ready to fight in short order. Some of the sentries were caught sleeping one night. At the trial the next day the general donned his judge’s robe and after hearing all the evidence found them guilty. Their sentence was the standard for this offense, sitting all night on a frozen lake without clothes. Since the temperature outside was below zero, it was a death sentence. Their punishment caught the attention of all the troops. Fear spread through their ranks and discipline increased dramatically. 

    The general knew that the men needed more than discipline to win the battles ahead. He also knew they needed to learn to sacrifice for the common good, they needed heart. So he took off his robe and his clothes and joined his men on the ice that night. The troops went into battle without their general, but his example of compassion and sacrifice started a fire in their hearts that the enemy could not put out.  God’s love is similar but bigger.

    Recently I was in the country of Haiti.  While there I met a young Haitian man named Ludget who was raised as a virtual slave from 5 years old until late in his teens.  In that culture they have a practice that can only be called insane.  If a boy or girl is an orphan or born into a family who cannot feed them, they are shipped to another family who has complete control over them with minimal social taboos as to how they treat these children.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how many of these children are treated.

    When the boy was 5 years old, a violent man paid a Voodoo priest to put a curse on his mother and within several weeks she was dead.  As she died she had both the physical suffering, and the emotional suffering of knowing that her helpless son would suffer greatly without her protection.  Loving her son intensely she would be frantic, desperate to find a way to save him the horrors of slavery.  But alas, she was helpless to prevent her approaching death and the fate of her young son.  Years later when he became a young man, he told of his troubled childhood in an article called “Abandoned”.  Here is a quote from that article.

    “When I was very young, when Momma die, I thought there is no hope for me,” he finally said, “I even wonder why, I wonder why I did not die in the same hour, the same minute as my momma.”

    The interpreter was doing his best to convey the young man’s message, starting and stopping in his attempts to get the wording just right.

    “I ate my food with tears,” he continued,  “my grandmother and uncle said I was no good, a no-account.  I eat my food with my tears, because they curse me because I do not have Mommy and Daddy.  They say I will be a good-for-nothing forever because I didn’t  have a momma or daddy.  They want me to be in charge of all the work.  I was to do everything.  They force me to do work I could not do.  I had no one to stand up for me.  I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I had to do everything they made me do, with tears.  When I wanted to have some free time, to be with some of the little neighbors to play with, they would whip me and say I should not want to have my own time.”

    Picture your son or daughter or perhaps your father or mother going through something like this.  Just because God is powerful, doesn’t mean He feels less emotion than us.  To send His son to certain death and suffering was no less painful for God than the pain this young Haitian mother felt.  I don’t know what God does with intense emotion so it is hard to describe His intense feelings of love and sadness at the loss of His Son and how He handled it, but His heart must have been broken by His Son’s sad departure and His knowledge of coming events.  But God so loved us , His creation who were guilty, inferior and corrupted, so much that He sent the Son that He loved dearly, to die for us.   When those who have rejected this sacrifice, die and stand before God, He will send them to eternal death (hell).  He has stated this over and over, it is a fact.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 2

Men and women are similar to animals in some ways but also quite different.  The big difference is that we have a soul.  Our souls gives us the capacity to ask questions like “how can God have no beginning, what must this God be like, who am I, how can I find love and happiness in this life, if God is real what is He to me, where do I fit in this universe, why do I feel so inadequate and unloved at times, how can I find the meaning, acceptance, love, and purpose that I yearn for.   It also gives us the capacity to have a personal relationship with God.

    God created man to have a close, dependent, loving relationship with Him.  God gave men and women the ability to choose what they would be dependent on, that is, what type of God they would serve.  Since men and women were designed to be dependent on something (some god) they have designed and pursued  many types of gods to accommodate their wants and desires, but there is only ONE TRUE GOD.  We can learn about this God by reading His communication to us through men who knew Him well.  The book that has this communication is the  Bible.  God tells us over and over in the Bible that He loves us and invites us come to Him in faith and receive the love, acceptance, security, meaning and purpose that we were originally designed to receive from Him.

    After God created man and woman, things were going quite well in paradise.  But one day an evil being, called Satan, in rebellion against God, tricked the man and woman into depending on themselves.  They directly and intentionally disobeyed God.  They were not strong enough, or wise enough to be their own God.  All the good that they had been receiving in God came tumbling down.  They were scared and for good reason, life was bigger than they were and they had taken their own welfare into their own hands.  They were trying to manipulate life so that it wouldn’t do them harm but they weren’t big enough to pull it off, they had given up their security in God for an uncertain existence.

    Man and woman had fallen sharply and deeply from the secure, joyful paradise they had enjoyed to a life that included pain, weeds and other unsavorily elements.  They had not been designed for this type of life and it showed up physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Now they would have to deal with physical ailments and die, and emotionally they would have to experience pain, rejection, conflict, depression, anxiety, fear and many other emotions they had never experienced.  Since they were not on face-to-face terms with God, they would also lose the spiritual security they had experienced.  Worse still they would have to face the prospect of spiritual death if something was not done.  Some people think that spiritual death is to exist forever without any goodness from God, with only pain, intense suffering, unconsolable regrets and conflict as eternal companions.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth? Part 1

God has never had a beginning, He has always existed.  Do you find this a bit of a stretch?  Why do we have trouble imagining this?  It is because we are created beings who have limited intelligence.  Simply speaking, we don’t have a big enough brain.

    Unlike God, we are designed and created beings.  Our Creator placed limits on our mental, and for that matter, all our capacities.  One man calculated that for God to do what He has done in creating the universe and life, He has to be trillions of times more powerful and intelligent than us.  Compared to God, we really are small-brained creatures.

    Since we are small-brained creatures (in relationship to the Creator), we are faced with many things that are simply beyond our capacity to understand.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand as much as we can, it just means that we will, at times, come up against something too big for us to understand.  Life is that something, it is bigger than us and we need something bigger than life to help us understand it.  God is that something and though we can only glimpse the very minutest attributes of His personhood, it is enough.

    Science is finding that the universe had a beginning.  This is a problem for some people.  The problem  revolves around the fact that, if there was a beginning, something had to be there to start it.  That something had to be bigger then what was created since no one can  create something bigger then themselves.  In fact, we can only create things that are far, far inferior to us.  Try to create a dog or cat, from scratch.

    This initial beginning of all that we can see and know is called the big bang.  It was not the beginning of God but was simply the means He used to create the universe that we see,  and which one day we were to become part of.  Since we are humans and not animals, we can and will ask the question, “why did He create this universe, what was He trying to do?”   Since we are limited (small-brained), we can’t adequately answer these questions.   But just because we don’t comprehend something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.  Simply because we cannot see, touch, smell, taste and hear something is not sufficient evidence to conclude that it doesn’t exist.

     After creating the universe, God at some point, began to experiment with life forms on our planet earth.  We know for certain that the earth is not the physical center of the universe but a case could be made that it may be the biological center.  The old bones and fossils that scientist have found show evidence that God was creating different types of life forms down through the ages.  No one really knows how or why He created the dinosaurs, but we have evidence that they were here and then gone.  At some point God decided to make man.

Heaven - The Real World

Edward blinked several times and stared at the doctor. His mind was searching, grasping as his emotions churned inside of him. "How should I feel?" Edward thought to himself as a variety of emotions caused him to shift several times in his chair?

The doctor continued, "I have seen cancer like this and honestly I don’t think that you can expect to live more than several months. I’m sorry."

At this moment Edward found out a very real truth about our existence on earth; it is fragile. The idea that we have the ability to control circumstances is more an illusion than a reality. As Edward just found out, there are many things that are not within our ability to control more than we care to admit. If we do not accept this fact, we are in for a lot of disillusionment and pain.

If life defies our finest efforts to control it, if life is bigger than us, how can we make sense of our existence and bring some order and predictability to it? I believe that it has a great deal to due with our perspective of life. We must have a big enough picture to allow us to make sense of the many situations and issues we will face. If our focus doesn’t go beyond today, we may become discouraged, disoriented or be unable to deal well with unexpected problems that come our way. Take Edward for instance, his routine problems paled in comparison to his unexpected, approaching death. If his model of life was too small to handle the impact of his approaching death, he would have to scramble to enlarge it or sink into despair.

When we talk about perspective (our focus), we are talking about how we view life in our own unique way. It is the way we think about life, the way we see life. The way we think about things is similar to the beam of a spotlight shining in the clear night air. On a dark night, a spotlight will illuminate a small circle of light while the rest of the night remains wrapped in darkness. Everything outside the beam of light is beyond our field of vision.
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From Here Through Eternity

Why is it so important to explore our eternal existence? The primary reason is because the stakes are so high. It is difficult for us to picture eternity. We are very aware of and restricted by time. Timelessness is foreign to us. It exists beyond our finest efforts to understand it. One individual tried to bring it into our understanding by the following example. First there is a mountain range as huge as the entire Himalayan mountain range. Once every 100 years a small bird lands somewhere in this gigantic mountain range and wipes its beak on the rock surface. When the entire mountain range has been worn down to sea level, by the action of this bird every 100 years, we will have experienced the first second of eternity. The decisions we make in this extremely short lifetime will affect the incomprehensible timelessness of eternity. It is imperative that we get it right now (for our own self interest) or regret it forever.

It states throughout the Bible that disaster (eternal death) awaits those who are not saved. The Bible also provides a path to the opposite of eternal death, eternal life. To understand what the Christian faith is talking about I must ask you to put aside all of your beliefs about religion as you read this article. I don't mean that you should change your beliefs or try to forget them, but just take a time-out regarding your beliefs about Christianity and religion in general. Honestly consider what is being said in this article. Hold your judgements until you have read the complete article.

To see the situation as clearly as possible we must have a beginning. One of the first scenes in the Bible concerns our ancient ancestors, Adam and Eve. The Bible implies that God loves to create things. If we look at the bones of the past we see that God created all types of creatures and finally created man. Since God is not bound by time, there were probably vast periods of time that He used to create many different types of creatures. Some became extinct before man was created but many species were alive during the period that man was created and many are still alive today. The Bible says that there was something new and different about man that had not been used in the creative process up to this time. Some things that were different about man was his ability for abstract thinking and his or her preoccupation with the purpose for his or her existence. He also gave men and women the ability to choose their own destiny. They were the only ones of God's creation that asked the questions "who am I - what is my purpose - how can I best live - is there a God - what is He like - etc.". God created the human race to be the pinnacle of His creative powers on Earth. Humans are special and with this comes responsibility. God created man and woman to be very close to Him (to be able to talk to Him as we do to one another - face to face). God loved Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve willingly depended on God as they saw how good, intelligent, powerful and virtuous He really was. They depended on Him for their existence. He nourished them physically, emotionally, spiritually. Since they were dependent on God for their existence, they experienced peace, love, meaning, purpose, significance, and a deep sense of well-being. God is good and would never hurt His creation needlessly. He designed His special creation to yield to His leadership. With His leadership and their dependence on Him, humans could reach the highest levels for which they were created. All other paths lead nowhere but to destruction.

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Hell: Eternal Death

The Bible is very explicit that there will be two places a human being can go after death. It is easy to talk about eternal life (heaven - paradise) and so hard to talk and think about eternal death (hell). We like to talk and think about issues that produce pleasant emotions. For instance, for most of us it is hard to discipline others since we have to endure some unpleasant emotions. Some people would rather let themselves and others do things that they know will lead to bad results, rather than endure the unpleasant emotions that confrontation usually generates. To ignore the following definitions of eternal death, simply because we don't like the feelings that accompany them, displays an incredible lack of regard for our own welfare and the welfare of those we love.

Many people don't understand why a loving God would allow people to endure the horrors of eternal death. All energy comes from God. This includes the energy and resourcefulness that a honey bee needs to collect and store honey. It includes the energy to run a wristwatch. It includes the energy that a human needs to function each day. We do not really recognize this need for God's energy to live and function. Many times we don't want to recognize this need.

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Heaven: Eternal Life

Much of the difficulty man has with understanding heaven relates to his dependence on things that he can sense. What man can touch, hear & see have a powerful impact on what he believes. Heaven is described in the Bible (I Corinthians 2:9)as: "Things that eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him". It becomes obvious from this statement that man is incapable of really understanding the complete reality of heaven.

Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of life in heaven will be the absence of conflicting emotions. The absence of conflicting thoughts and emotions will promote a deep sense of well being that all is well, that all will be well forever. Nothing will disturb or change this paradise forever. When a million, billion, trillion years have passed this paradise will hardly have begun. Think of the stakes that are involved here. Consider seriously what this means to you and your future.

Another attribute will be freedom. Freedom from worry, from conflict, from self-doubt, from uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, from pain, from depression, from discouragement, from all sickness and ill health (whether physical or emotional) from guilt, from uncertainty, from rejection, from unloving attitudes, and the list goes on. The Lord will walk with us face to face. We will feel His deep love and acceptance of us. We will never doubt again that we are accepted, valuable, worthwhile, and deeply loved - our hearts will constantly overflow with these thoughts and feelings. The love and joy will so flood our hearts that no negative or conflicting emotion will have a chance to take root.

There will be no jealously there. Some wonder if the differences of rewards for earthly service will cause divisions. As we have stated before, each person will be filled to their capacity with blessedness, joy and love and there will be no room for anything else. We will all be filled to the top with the goodness of God. There will be no room for anything but joy, gratitude, and love. We will truly, without any reservations, wish each other well. We will know God in a way that we can only guess at here on earth. As we know Him, we will love Him with all our heart. We will have no reservations about Him for He is the type of person that is lovable to a degree we don't perceive on earth. To know Him and His unimaginable love for us will lead to a love that will fill us - it will leave no room for anything but love and allegiance to Him.

Some wonder if we will feel a loss because of those who have chosen not to follow God, and have entered the profound suffering of eternal death. His beautiful compelling spirit will so fill our hearts that there will be no room for such feelings of loss.

Some wonder if heaven will ever be boring. Remember the times when you were overwhelmed by joy, love or gratitude for something or someone in your life. Were you bored with the overwhelming feelings? I don't believe that you were, I think rather you wished that they could endure forever but life would eventually rob you of them. Nothing will rob you of them in heaven and of course they will be even more intense and wonderful. Besides this, there appears that there will be challenges (helping in some way in the kingdom of heaven). Consider the incredible stakes that are in involved here. Eternity is a long unending time. We live here less than 100 years on the average. What you do here in our relatively short stay will have a profound impact on your stay in eternity. For you own self-interest consider carefully your choices. Make sure that you live your life in a manner that will insure you a place in that incomparable kingdom. If not, your regrets will be inconsolable.