Randy Ehle is a 40-something husband and father trying - sometimes rather desperately - to follow God’s calling: coaxing the western church toward a renewed understanding of her role in global Christianity. That calling demands much contemplation, but the rush of our western culture makes that a great challenge. Hence, I call myself The Rushed Contemplative.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Permission to Cry

I’d lost my job in mid-November but within just three weeks was talking with a young, growing Christian organization that needed a Chief Operating Officer. The timing, the role, the vision – everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. I was excited, Eiley was excited; there was hope. Then, just two weeks before I was to start, I got a call from the President: “We’re going to stop the process. We don’t think you’re the right fit.” I was crushed. Hope shattered into despair.

I lay in the dark on my living room floor. For two hours I cried out desperately to God. “Why? Am I not good enough? Why? Why? Why?!” Sometimes words were washed away in a flood of tears and groans. I wept for God’s presence as much as his answers. He seemed silent, distant, uncaring. And I found myself in an unfamiliar place, standing on the precipice of a monumental choice: to abandon the God I’d known my whole life, or to cling ever more tightly to One who seemed to have abandoned me.

A familiar passage of Scripture floated into my mind, blown by an unseen gust over the edge of my despair. It was Exodus 32, when Jacob spends a sleepless night grappling with a strange man. Hours pass in exhausting, nocturnal combat. Jacob’s hip is dislocated but neither man prevails. As day breaks, the stranger says to let him go, but Jacob wants something out of the match: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” In the newborn light he is blessed with a new name—Israel—and discovers that his wrestling was with God. In my own struggle on the cliff’s edge, Jacob’s cry became my mantra: “I will not let you go, I will not let you go, I will not let you go.

A second passage blew into my thoughts: John 6. There, the hard sayings of Jesus proved too much for many of his followers, who “turned back and no longer walked with him.” Jesus said to the twelve who remained, “Do you want to leave as well?” Faithful Peter’s response caught me: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life….”

For someone who has grown up believing in God and seeking to follow him, standing on the precipice of faith, facing a choice between abandoning God or clinging to him…it’s frightening. No, it’s almost terrifying. Choosing to cling to a God who seems deaf and blind—or, worse, uncaring or even absent—seems foolhardy at best.

King David felt that many times in his life. He’d grown up alone among seven brothers, a shepherd boy not old enough for the soldiering of his siblings. Over the twenty years between his anointing as king and his accession to the throne, he felt the solitude of King Saul’s murderous jealousy. Under the crown, he knew the loneliness of leadership and the fear of enemies both foreign and domestic. And as a poet, he felt the aloneness deeply, pouring out his heart in verse and song.

The Bible is filled with laments—grieving hearts baring their pain in words flowing with both anguish and anger. But there is hope in Biblical lament; almost without exception, the anguish and anger turn to hope and trust, clinging to confidence in a God who, even in silence, is there. The laments of Scripture give us permission to bare our own hearts before a God whose silent presence is unnervingly powerful and comfortingly real. 

Spend some time reading, re-reading, and reflecting on Psalm 22.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Is Forgiveness Enough?

In Mark 2:1-13, four men bring a paralyzed man to Jesus to be healed. It was hard work (have you ever tried to carry a man on a litter?) and when they got to the house where Jesus was staying, their work got even harder because the crowd wouldn't let them in. So they did what any desperate, loving, enterprising friends would do: climbed the home's outside steps, dug through the thatch-and-earth roof, and lowered their friend down on the mat. 
Picture yourself in the house while this is going on: it's small (let's say 25' square) and cramped with people sitting all around - on benches, a table, the floor. It's hot, with the warm stench of sweaty bodies permeating the still air. What cooling breeze might otherwise come through the open window and door is being blocked by the bodies crowding both openings, straining to hear the words of the itinerant preacher/healer. You strain to hear his words over the din of voices outside as they repeat short phrases to be passed backward to the growing visitors. A commotion distracts you briefly, then settles back down. Moments later the sound of footsteps on the stairs...then on the roof.
Dust begins to float down and you, like others in the room, find yourself looking up to the ceiling as the dust turns to bits of thatch, then small chunks of dirt, then larger chunks. You can't look up anymore without getting dirt in your eyes and mouth. Before too long, a stick breaks through, followed by a streak of sunlight. By now, all attention in the room has been directed upward; even the preacher has stopped. Chunks of roof begin to fall as those sitting below the growing hole struggle to stand and move out of the way. Soon there is a gaping hole and the four intruders are seen, their faces smeared with sweat and dirt, their hands scratched and bleeding. Finally, they step to one side of the hole, bend over, and in a moment a burden-laden mat is being lowered through the hole - a man. A murmer works its way through the crowd as men and women squeeze to make room for this new stranger.
The words of the preacher have been all but forgotten as the mat is lowered gently to the bare earth floor of the house. The bewildered murmurs of the crowd still as ears strain to hear what he will say.
"Son, your sins are forgiven."
Wait. Let's stop the story right here. Here's a guy who's been paralyzed for - we don't know how long. His friends have struggled to get him in front of this Jesus, whose reputation for healing diseases and casting out demons has already won him widespread acclaim and hosts of groupies. The paralytic is laying helpless and limp on the floor while his friends, still wiping sweat from their brows, are looking down through the skylight they just made, waiting...for a miracle, for their friend to stand and walk out with them. 
And the preacher says something about forgiveness?! Their minds spin, myriad thoughts colliding with each other, expectations unmet, hopes dashed. 
How would you feel? You come to Jesus with needs. Real needs: unemployment has pushed you to the brink of homelessness; a brain tumor has taken your wife to the edge of the grave; the desperate search for your missing son has turned up no clues. Faint with weeping, you collapse at Jesus' feet in desperate hope. And all you hear is, "you're forgiven."
Is that enough? Was that enough for the paralytic? While the religious leaders argued theology with Jesus, the man on the mat is left to wonder if a clean soul outweighs his lifeless legs. Will forgiveness satisfy? Can forgiveness satisfy?
Jesus has turned his attention from the paralytic to the scribes (they're the really smart religious people who knew the Scriptures really well). They're aghast at his claim to forgive sins - that's a job for God and God alone, so this wandering healer/preacher ought to be stoned for blasphemy! But Jesus challenges them: "What's easier, to say 'your sins are forgiven' or to say, 'get up and walk'?" 
Okay, really, just saying one is as easy as saying the other. But Jesus, still talking to the scribes, says, "let me prove that I have the authority to forgive sins." Then he turns his attention back to the man and says, "get up, take your bed, and go home." And he does; gasps fill the air as the man sits for the first time in who-knows-how-long; shock and surprise murmur through the crowd as he bends knees that haven't bent in years, puts bare feet on the dirt and, with the untested strength of a desperate hope, slowly rises. Muscles, tendons, ligaments...and faith work together seamlessly as he bends over, picks up the mat, and slowly steps from the house.
Eight jubilant feet rush down the stairs outside and run to their friend. But he - like the scribes still in the house - is silent, bewildered, wondering. 
Forgiven? Healed? Is it enough?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Jesus in the Waiting Room

Waiting rooms, I’ve found, can be awkward places to start up conversations. The occupants are usually in the midst of something difficult, so the typical small talk seems out of place. Even casual questions like, what are you here for? can be too prying, or bring painful emotions to the surface. And the waiting room at a jail may be even more awkward than others; I wonder if perhaps there is more of a sense of personal humiliation or failure felt by those waiting to visit a son or daughter, husband or mother.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the jail to meet with an inmate who, I’m told, wants to make some changes in his life. I was late, and the staffer at the desk said I might not make it before visiting hours were over, but I decided to wait and see. Something—or Someone—inside me was gently nudging me to put down my book about how to read the Bible and talk to the woman two seats down from me. She’d already told me that she’d been allowed in this late before, but the staffer had warned that she might not have time today. Trying to bring a little relaxation into the discomforting wait, I made some goofy joke about the awkwardness of starting a conversation in jail: “so, come here often?” That seemed to break the ice, and she began to open up.

Life’s been hard, especially the past several weeks. The person she was visiting she loved, but he was hurting her deeply. With him in jail, his friends helped themselves to the tools in her garden shed. Her closest, lifelong friend had just died. Bills kept piling up and things kept breaking down, and she seemed very alone. Life wasn’t turning out the way I’m sure she’d dreamed it would.

Half a lifetime ago I probably would have spouted off with some nice-sounding Bible words—all true, of course, but empty sounding in the present context. Today I could only say, “I’m sorry,” and, “I wish I had easy answers.” Then she got called to go visit; she’d have maybe five minutes with her loved one. I wouldn’t get called, but I decided to wait for her.

I learned before she did that she wouldn’t get the chance she’d waited for, and for a reason that had to sound as stupid as it did frustrating (he’d gone to get his haircut!). When she came back into the waiting room, I commiserated with her about the missed opportunity. “He’s bald!,” she said with a frustrated laugh. I handed her my card and asked her to call me. Our church might be able to help with bills, or maybe there was something we could do around her home. That evoked another story of things breaking! I asked if I could pray for her, which I did, asking God for peace and for a community to wrap its arms around her. I asked God to truly transform her loved one, and through that to draw her near Him. Then she left.

I don’t know if I’ll ever hear from her or see her again. I hope so. I hope she’ll give me…our church…my God…a chance. Frankly, I hope He will give her a chance. I hope we’ll have the chance to serve her, to fix some of the broken things in her shed…and in her heart.

Several years ago my wife asked, in a moment of painful honesty, “how can God put back together a cup that’s been shattered into pieces? I know he’s the Potter, but even potters can’t repair a cup once it’s been fired.” I didn’t know then and I don’t know now…but I’ve seen God restore my wife, so I know that—somehow—he can restore what is shattered. That is my prayer for my new, nameless, jailhouse friend.

[Author's Note: I never imagined myself hanging around a jail, but thanks to the incredible love and gracious persistence of a wonderful 80-plus year old saint, here I am. I’ve spent more time in the jail in the past two years than ever before in my life. (I suppose I could even say that the thirty minutes I spent there today was more than I’d spent there until two years ago!) But it doesn’t compare to the quarter-century of Friday nights she has selflessly devoted to the men and women inside. She’s told me more than once that, but for the grace of God, it could be her in there. I don’t particularly enjoy it; I don’t think I’m particularly good at serving or encouraging or mentoring the inmates. But the opportunities keep coming and there’s something inside me that says I need to keep going.]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Take A Break

One week. 400 miles. Seven schools. Eight assemblies. Three evening programs. Three morning services. One four-hour class. Back-to-school night. Date night. Whew!!

For the first time in too long, I took a breather this morning. I opened my Bible to the Psalms of Ascents—those psalms that ancient Israelites would sing on their pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the annual feasts; psalms that called reminded them of God’s presence, his power, his protection…even their unfaithfulness to him. I was drawn to Psalm 121, the second in this collection:
      I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
      My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

This morning, I needed to lift up my eyes to the Lord, the source of my help and energy. I was reminded of Jesus’ habit of going off by himself, whether late at night or early in the morning, to spend time with his Father. I don’t do that enough—or well. Those times were not only rejuvenating for him, they also kept him focused on his priorities.

In the first chapter of the gospel according to Mark, we get a glimpse into what I expect was a typical day in Jesus’ life. He comes into a town (Capernaum, verse 21) on the Sabbath and goes into the synagogue to teach. While there, a man with an unclean spirit comes in, whom Jesus proceeds to heal. Afterward, Jesus goes over to his friend Simon’s (for lunch and a nap, perhaps?), where he finds Simon’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. He heals her. By evening, Simon’s front porch is crowded with the town’s sick and demon-possessed—just the kind of folks you want hanging around the neighborhood, right?! In fact, Mark says, “the whole city was gathered together at the door.” (Mark 1:34) And Jesus, being Jesus, heals them. He casts out a bunch of demons. And then, presumably, he goes to bed.

Early the next morning, Jesus gets up, gets out of town, and prays. This is where it gets hard, particularly for those of us who are doers. The teaching, the healings—those aren’t the hard things; we thrive on the action and, yes, on the attention and affirmation they bring. And they’re good things, important things, even God-honoring things. But Jesus knows what is too easy for me to overlook: the power to do those good and important works comes from the Father, and the power comes through a relationship with him. Not from doing things for him, but from being with him. So Jesus gets alone and prays.

As if this isn’t hard enough, this getting quiet with God, what comes next is almost as amazing to me. Simon and some others track down Jesus and tell him, “Everyone is looking for you.” Undoubtedly, many of the previous evening’s healed patients had gone and told their friends, who gathered in the breaking dawn on Simon’s porch. Some undoubtedly wanted to be healed, but I suspect that many more just wanted to see a healing for themselves. And Jesus’ shocking response is, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Did he really say that? Did Jesus—the loving, compassionate, healing son of God—just turn his back on sick people desperate to be made well? Yes. You see, Jesus knew what his mission was: to proclaim the kingdom of God. More than once, Jesus healed for the express purpose of glorifying God (see, for example, John 9). He healed out of compassion and in response to expressions of faith (see Mark 5:25-34). But Jesus’ primary purpose was not to heal; it was to proclaim. Even his great prophecy-fulfilling claim in Luke 4:16ff (cf. Isaiah 61) is not primarily about showing compassion; it is about proclaiming good news.

And so, after a hectic day of teaching and healing, woke early, got alone, and prayed. The time alone with his Father helped him focus on his mission and rejuvenated him for the days ahead: more healings, more people clamoring for a piece of him, more people wanting more from him than just the truth.

Our days are busy and hectic. Work, kids, school, chores, spouse…all clamor for a piece of us until we feel we need to run away screaming! But don’t wait that long. Get some time away where you can be quiet before God and just soak in his presence. It’s not always easy, especially if you’re not in the habit. You may need to start small: seven minutes in the car before you walk into work; or thirty minutes in a coffee shop once a week. Read Psalm 121 (or Psalm 131—it’s even shorter!) and reflect on God’s help. Lift your eyes and heart to God.

Then do it again. Tomorrow, the next day, next week (but don’t wait too long). Make it a habit. Get time alone, quietly, regularly, with God. Soon seven minutes will not be long enough; once a week will not be often enough. But I know that as you do this, you will become refreshed and will be able to refocus on what God has in store for you.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

God is in the Details

Have you ever wondered if God was concerned about the details of your life? Maybe you – like me – have been fairly certain he was at work only in the big things, like marriage, health, job, and family. Two weeks ago, God blew me away with his attention to the little things!

Nineteen people from our church were in Rosarito, Mexico, to build a new home for a family. It had been a great week: deepening relationships within our team, making new friends with the family and, of course, the completed home. The family had even slept in it the night before we finished, and told us Thursday morning that it was their first night of warmth and no water dripping on them! That evening we all had joy-filled spirits as we crowded around a taco shop anticipating a delicious and very authentic meal on our last night in Rosarito. Then…

Someone broke into one of our trucks and stole my backpack and a money pouch holding three passports; the backpack had two more passports, a laptop, an iPod, a cell phone, and a few smaller things. My heart sunk. I was strangely unconcerned about the electronics, but the passports – three of them for minors – were going to be a problem. It had been a great week and I knew Satan was just trying to steal back some of the glory that God had gotten. Still, I was suddenly under a heavy weight of despair, and I sensed it settling onto our team, too.

Leaders are supposed to show confidence in crisis, right? But how could I do that? “Fake it till you make it?” Lousy theology, but perhaps sometimes necessary. As we finished eating I said something to one person, then another, and eventually it became my mantra: This is just another opportunity for God to reveal himself. I confess that that was definitely more a statement of hope than of faith, but I clung desperately to it. All week we’d been looking for and talking about how we’d seen God show up; why not now? Why not in this?

The rest of the evening, for six of us, was spent with Amor Ministries staff, Mexican police, and on the phone, filing reports and arranging for other identification to help us get back across the border. Friday morning dawned bright and clear, and as our team began to wake up, we got a phone call from Pastor David back at home: four of the five stolen passports had been found by an American in Tijuana! We quickly gathered the team to celebrate and thank God! As we stood in a circle and prayed, tears of dumbfound joy choked my words. I could barely mutter a brief, “thank you” to God, then let loose with a primal scream! (A few minutes later we learned that the fifth passport – just a card – was also found!)

The mood in camp changed from pensive and uncertain wondering to jubilation and excitement. We really had seen God work! But he wasn’t done yet….

We made arrangements with our own good Samaritan, CP, to meet in Tijuana to pick up the passports he’d found the previous evening. I was driving the last truck and got stopped at a light just before turning into the parking lot. By the time I pulled in, Dan had already met CP and was walking toward me, holding up a plastic grocery bag and saying, “here they are.” It struck me as an awfully large bag for a few passports. When I got out and looked closer, God just hit me again! There in the bag were a book about Amor Ministries that I had just purchased, a stack of papers, and the money pouch. A very thick money pouch. As I opened that, those choking tears returned: my calculator, digital recorder, checkbook(!), church keys, spare trailer keys, hand lotion…all those things that I thought were too inconsequential to worry about, that I had hardly mentioned to the police, that I neither expected nor particularly cared whether they were returned…God cared about.

In reality, I’m not sure that God cared about those things nearly as much as he cared to show me that he’s not too big for the little stuff.

Oh, and that statement of hope? (“Another opportunity for God to reveal himself.”) Well, he did – in little ways that proved very large, indeed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Stories

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Peter's Story

Fear bred denial.
Denial gave way to loss.
Loss brought forth doubt, disillusionment, confusion.
Then, a glimmer of hope…but only a glimmer.

Mary came running, breathlessly exclaiming “I’ve seen the Lord!”

Could it be? Fear mingles now with a breath of hope, and suddenly, there he is! No turn of the key, no opening of the door – he’s just…there!

A greeting of peace; a cryptic breath about the Holy Spirit, and then…more waiting.

A day passes. Another. Six days, and we’re beginning to think it was just the shock of the crucifixion; that we hadn’t really seen him at all. But then again, just as before, he’s there with us!

Again, the greeting: “Peace be with you.” This time he focuses on Thomas, who didn’t believe we’d seen him – and whose doubt we were beginning to carry, to be honest with you. He invites Thomas to touch his scars; he holds his hands out to all of us, but we believe…at least, I think we do.

It’s been a while now, though. The days pass as in a fog. Was that it? Is it all over now? What happens next? What do we do?

We stayed in the house for a while – partly from fear of the Jews and the Romans, and partly because that’s where He has shown himself twice before. But as the days pass we’ve begun to venture out more. Finally the monotony is too much. We have to do something. I have to do something. “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll go with you.”

Seven of us, fishermen all, prepare the boat. It feels good to be back on the water, back among the nets and ropes and smells that I grew up with. To hear the creak of the oars in their locks, the gentle lapping of the water at the hull.

But something doesn’t seem quite right. I’ve been in this boat a thousand times, spent hours beyond count on this very lake, but something’s different. Something’s wrong, but I just can’t put my finger on it.

The night – and the nets – drag on, each as empty as the other. Have the fish moved? Have I forgotten so quickly the best spots? We’ve tried the deeps and the shallows, the coves and the open waters, all to no avail. But the nagging sense that I – not just the boat, but I myself – am in the wrong place tempers what frustration I should be feeling at the futility of our night’s efforts.

And then, with a faint glimmer of sun barely visible over the low eastern hills, a voice comes from the near shore: “Children, do you have any fish to eat?”


“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

There’s something familiar about that voice, those words. Too tired to argue, to hungry to not try, we haul in the empty nets from the port side and throw them to the starboard. Scarcely have they hit the water before they fairly drag the boat backward. Fish!

Straining against the sudden weight, John, always the perceptive one, always the first to recognize, identifies the stranger on the shore: “It’s the Lord!” he gasps.

With an eagerness that surprises even me, I grab my cloak and dive in, half swimming, half wading the hundred yards. I need to see him, to hold him, to have just two minutes alone with him. What will he say? The last time our eyes met was when that rooster crowed; in the house I couldn’t look at him, though I felt his gaze burning into my soul.


Our Story 

Denial. Doubt. Disillusionment.

They weigh us down like an anchor. In spite of our calling to something new, we retreat to the comfort of the old and familiar. But something doesn’t feel right anymore. If we’re lucky (or perceptive), we realize that we can’t go back. I remember the pain of that realization the Christmas after graduating from high school. Six months after leaving, I was back at home…and surprised to learn that life had gone on quite well without me.

But Peter’s absence wasn’t just from home or family or job. He had left those things three years earlier, but his triple denial had separated him even from the One for whom he had abandoned all.

The doubt and disillusionment may be with Jesus – or it may be with ourselves. Like Peter, our doubt may be about our own unworthiness to serve the master. Will he really accept me, after I denied him? Can he really forgive me?

But as with Peter, the master – Jesus – stands by the shore and calls to us. Hungry as we are for purpose and meaning and love, he waits for us with a warm fire and a meal of grace. Whether we dive in to get to him
or row patiently, ploddingly, he waits, ready.

No matter how – or how often – we have denied him, Jesus forgives.
It is not an easy forgiveness, for Jesus or for us. It cost him his life; it costs us our pride…and our lives, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk 9:24)

And it is not a painless forgiveness, for Jesus or for us. He suffered untold horrors on his way to buying our redemption. For our part, we would just as soon move on from our denial – to leave it in the past and forget it there.  But Jesus won’t allow that; as Michael Card writes:
Jesus is not only the perfect Savior; he is also the perfect Friend. And here he demonstrates perfectly what friendship entails. He has commanded [the disciples] to forgive; now he will perfectly demonstrate it. His painful questions are meant to restore Peter to his proper place. Painful as the questions are, they are an expression of Jesus’ creative forgiveness. Jesus’ questions open a wound in Peter’s soul, a wound that can be tended to and healed only by being reopened. (Michael Card, A Fragile Stone, pp. 124-5)
This morning as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, his victory over death, we also invite the pain of his healing forgiveness. As symbols of the pain he endured to purchase that forgiveness, we share together the bread and wine of communion, the Lord's Supper.

“Do you love me more than these?”
            Eat my body.

“Do you love me?”
            Drink my blood.

“Do you love me?”
            Follow me.

With each question, the surgeon’s knife cut more deeply into Peter’s pain.
With each answer, the infection of his denials is removed.
With each new commission, Jesus sutures the wounds, reassuring Peter - and us - of his forgiveness and acceptance.

Today, this Easter morning, accept Jesus’ forgiveness.
Today, join in the resurrection story by accepting the new life that only Jesus can offer.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bell's Hell

If there is anything that evangelical Christians are good at, it is throwing kerosene on a campfire. More often than not, those campfires - at first only warming the toes of a few folks partaking of random fireside conversations around questions that few take seriously - leap into wildfires that ultimately and indiscriminately consume thousands of acres of thoughtful (and some thoughtless) men and women. But as wildfires are wont to do, they ultimately burn themselves out, leaving significant but temporary destruction in their wake; destruction that in time is all but invisible.

Such will be the fate, I think, of the campfire musings of Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. It may be that there is more readily-available fuel - and a larger gathering of campers - around Bell's campfire than some of the others in my memory ("The Last Temptation of Christ," Proctor & Gamble's supposed satanic influences, Walt Disney's occasional forays into dens of iniquity). Still, I think, the fire would consume itself soon enough were it not for the supply of kerosene-loaded extinguishers aimed by evangelical firefighters.

Some will claim that this is different - bigger - than earlier fires. They will say that his campfire is fueled by the flames of the very hell he reportedly denies. The result, I fear, will be two-fold: first, those who are asking the very questions that Bell raises will be driven not to the Source of the Answers, but to Bell's book of questions. The fear here is that if (IF) Bell's answers are, at best, insufficient and, at worst, unbiblical, then those who rely on them truly are in mortal and eternal danger.

Second, those who are not inclined to ask these questions will be driven neither to Bell's book nor to The Book. Huddled together around the dying embers of their own campfire of second-hand faith, they will have neither the light nor the fuel to invite in and warm those who are shivering under the blanket of universalism.

Rob Bell dares to voice the questions that so many in this sin-depraved world are asking:
  • "Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life?"
  • "If there are only a select few who go to heaven, which is more terrifying to fathom: the billions who burn forever or the few who escape this fate?"
  • "What happens when a fifteen-year-old atheist dies?"
  • "So is it true that the kind of person you are doesn't ultimately matter, as long as you've said or prayed or believed the right things?"
There was a time in my life when I would pass off questions like these with a wave of the hand and a trite, childish, "for the Bible tells me so"-kind of answer. As if just asking the questions somehow betrayed a hellish eternity for the questioner. In the last few years, I have been - by God's grace alone - growing out of that spiritual arrogance (and whatever ignorance it accompanies). I am increasingly intrigued by, and invited into, such questions. The source of answers for me remains the Bible, yet I recognize that the answers are found not in a few memorized but out-of-context verses, but rather in the "whole counsel of Scripture."

There's a very memorable scene in the 1992 film, "A Few Good Men." A young Navy attorney (played by Tom Cruise) is challenging a Marine colonel (Jack Nicholson) about the death of a private under the colonel's command. "I want the truth" demands the attorney. "You can't handle the truth!" shouts back the colonel.

Whether intentional or not, Love Wins is an invitation to all to pursue truth. The question with which you must wrestle - whether you are among the convinced, the skeptics, or the seekers - is, can you handle the truth?

Labels: , , ,