I’m a born-again Christian. I love God with all my heart. I follow Jesus’ example on how to live my life. To the best of my ability, I make the choices that he made.
And I give treats to children on Halloween.
(Oh, the horror!)
Some of you reading this are likely shaking your head. Don’t I know the pagan roots of Halloween? Don’t I know it’s an ancient Celtic festival based on demon-summoning and child sacrifice?
Yes, I’m aware of the roots of the festival. But I’m also aware of how it plays out in real life:
Little kids get dressed up and go door-to-door looking for free treats.
Now imagine Jesus turning off his porch light at his house in Capernaum. When I was a kid going trick-or-treating, a turned-off porch light meant that that house wasn’t “shelling out”, so we didn’t waste our time going there. We also noted which houses did and didn’t shell out, and how generous they were or weren’t.
So did our parents.
Jesus wouldn’t have turned off his porch light. He would have thrown open his door wide to each and every child who came begging, and he would have had a special and kind word for each.
Because these are children we’re talking about.
Remember how the disciples asked Jesus to tell the kids to scram when he was preaching, and Jesus instead told the disciples where they could get off?
Jesus loved having kids around. If they wanted to be there, they were welcome.
Children love treats. They also love dressing up in costumes and being allowed to run around the streets after dark. When you combine free treats with dressing up and going outdoors after bedtime – well, you get one honkin’ big happy occasion in the mind of a child, almost as good as Christmas and birthdays.
There’s a time and a place for preaching God’s word, but doing it on Halloween through a turned-out porch light is the wrong time and the wrong place.
The kids want a treat. Give them a treat. Give them lots, give them freely, and give them with a big warm smile.
God gives us treats, even when he knows it’s not the best thing for us.
He gives them to us for no other reason than that we want them and he loves indulging us.
Born-again or not born-again, atheist, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, whatever – Halloween is not the time to preach.
It’s the time to give kids treats, so give ’em treats.
As born-agains, the spiritual tools we value the most, use the most, and need the most have no place in Heaven.
The Ten Commandments are obsolete.
The directives God gave us through Jesus don’t apply.
We don’t have to pray.
And there aren’t even any Bibles (King James or otherwise).
Faith, hope and charity have value only in this life.
We don’t need faith in Heaven because, as Paul told us, we’ll see and know God fully as he is.
We won’t need hope, either, because we’ll have everything we want and there won’t be any adversities to overcome.
And we won’t need charity, the self-less love that’s expressed by obedience to God’s will. There won’t be any need for charity in Heaven because we’ll all have the mind of God, so we’ll all be doing God’s will automatically.
As for praying, we won’t need to do that any more because we won’t have to talk to God and Jesus in faith, trusting they hear us; we’ll be able to talk to them face-to-face.
So you see, there’s no ‘faith, hope and charity’ or praying in Heaven because there’s no need for them.
And there’s no free will, either (to which I say: THANK GOD FOR THAT!).
I’m glad God gave me free will, but I’ll be even gladder to kiss that double-edged mother good-bye.
It’s caused me a lot of problems.
Bye-bye, free will!
Bye-bye, faith hope and charity!
Bye-bye, loving your enemies!
Bye-bye to everything but God’s will and God’s goodness, because that’s all we’ll need when we arrive in Heaven. God will provide us with everything else, just like he provides for us on Earth.
And the last thing we’ll say good-bye to is good-bye itself, because there are never any partings in Heaven. Everything and everyone are there to stay.
If you had any idea how much God loves you and how much he does for you every second of every day, you’d never get off the floor, you’d be crying so much, face down, in total gratitude.
But God doesn’t want you on your face crying. He wants you looking up and laughing and running around and playing and listening to him and hugging him and sitting on his lap. He wants you to pay attention to your big brother, Jesus, and to follow his example in everything you do. And he likes it when you think of him every so often, not as an obligation, but just to say “hi”. In fact, he loves it when you drop by in prayer for no other reason than to say “Hi, Dad”. That means everything to him, just like it does to earthly parents. He doesn’t want anything from you. He just wants you to make the right choices for your own benefit, not for his.
He just wants you to come home.
Every born-again believer has three main jobs while they’re here on Earth – the first is to tell people about Heaven, the second is to show them how to get there, and the third is to “endure to the end”.
If you’re reading this, your end hasn’t come yet, so you’d better keep enduring. Otherwise, Heaven is no guarantee for you, any more than it is for anyone.
As for telling people about Heaven and showing them how to get there – the best way to find out about Heaven is to read scripture and ask God questions, and the best way to show people how to get to Heaven is to point to how Jesus lived his life and to make the choices he made.
Jesus is not just our example of how to live a good life – he’s everyone’s example, no exceptions.
One thing we need to clear about is that Earth is a knock-off of Heaven – a very small, very imperfect knock-off. Earth is bound by time and space, whereas Heaven is boundless and eternal. Earth can corrode and rot, but Heaven cannot. There is no death, disease or decay in Heaven. Everything and everyone are perfected, but not in a mindless or automaton kind of way. On the contrary: Imagine the best day you’ve ever lived on Earth, when your mind was clear and sharp, your body was primed and invigorated, and the weather was exhilarating. That’s a foretaste of how you’ll live every day in Heaven. Now combine that with the emotional ecstasy you experienced on being reborn, at that instant when the demons exited and God’s spirit entered in. There are no words on Earth to describe that ecstasy because it is not an earthly sensation; it’s Heaven.
So this is what Heaven is like – perfect senses, perfect body, perfect feelings, perfect weather. Every day, all day.
And the sleeps at night – like nothing you’ve ever experienced on Earth! Absolutely perfect sleeps, without exception.
When you ask people what they think Heaven is like, they usually talk about clouds and harps and angel wings. This is not Heaven; this is satanic propaganda to make Heaven look alien and boring and dissuade you from wanting to go home. Because that’s what Heaven is – home: The true homeland of all souls. We’ve already been there because we were created there. And every iota of our being wants to go back.
In fact, we want to go back so much, we try to recreate Heaven here on Earth. We do it through social systems (where everyone is equal and is watched over by allegedly ‘benign’ leaders who strive for the ‘common good’) or through medical care (where people are injected with chemicals to appear ‘beautiful’ and ‘youthful’ and ‘healthy’) or by living beyond our means. We are goaded to strive for artificially ‘perfected’ bodies, to live in a dream home with a dream kitchen, and to take occasional breaks from our dream jobs to go on dream vacations, sometimes in our dream cars. None of these things are, of course, anywhere near perfect, and none of them ever truly satisfy us, no matter how “dreamy” we or our surroundings become. Other than for the presence of God’s spirit, it’s impossible to recreate the ease and perfection of Heaven here. God made it impossible so that we wouldn’t get too comfortable on Earth and lose sight of our true destination.
There is nothing on Earth that can compare to Heaven, except for the presence of God’s spirit and the beauty of God’s creation.
In Heaven, everyone believes in God and everyone follows Jesus. Everyone is young and beautiful and healthy. There is no pain, either physical or mental, no regrets, no bad memories, and no bad thoughts Everyone is athletic and everyone can “sing like the angels”. There is only love in Heaven; no fear. Nothing rots. There are no conspiracies against God; no grumbling; no doubters. Think of the best day or best moments you’ve ever experienced, and then expand that into infinity. That’s Heaven.
As Jesus reminded us, we each have our own personal space in Heaven. It’s our real forever home. God has shown me mine. It’s everything that I’ve ever wanted in a home, and all my “treasures” are there. It’s small and cosy, and there’s a beautiful garden out back with all my favourite trees and flowers and butterflies and birds. My cats are there, too (they even have their own wing!), along with all my favourite foods. And there’s a huge skating surface to the rear of my property where I can figure skate to my heart’s content, performing tricks and manoeuvres that I could never do while on Earth in my imperfect, non-athletic body.
By the way – you’re all invited to come visit me in Heaven, if you make it and I make it. Just drop by and say: “You invited me on your blog”, and we’ll sit down and have a big slice of whatever you fancy the most, washed down with your favourite beverage. And then we’ll have a good old chat, because we’ll instantly be the best of friends in a way we could never be on Earth.
Only those who love God and choose his way will make it to Heaven. Maybe some people we knew on Earth will be there, but maybe not. Those who don’t make it, we have no recollection of when we’re in Heaven. We don’t mourn them or miss them because, for us, it’s as if they never existed.
They, on the other hand, can never forget us or what they’ve forfeited by their wrong choices while on Earth. That’s one of the most horrendous aspects of Hell – never being able to forget or overcome regrets or escape the consequences of bad choices. Hell is one long tortuous panic attack that never ends. And that’s on a good day in the Pit.
God’s shown me my little piece of Heaven so I’ll know what’s waiting for me if I keep on the right path. This helps me endure what’s going on here now and also provides a powerful incentive to make the right choices, especially when the temptations are strong. Paul was shown Heaven; everyone who’s born again is shown Heaven. All you have to do is ask God and he’ll show you, when you’re ready. Bug him enough, and he’ll show you a little sneak-peek, even if you’re not quite ready. He loves showing you what he’s got “stored up” for you. He just doesn’t want you to get ahead of yourself and assume that Heaven is a given.
Because Heaven is not a given, not for anyone.
Hell still remains an option as long as you’re here.
Our best experiences on Earth are a foretaste of Heaven. Don’t mess it up for yourself.
Follow Jesus all the way home.
God looks for sincerity.
Jesus told us that God wants people to worship him in spirit and in truth.
Sincerity means more to God than every word of praise or worship ever written.
A simple – even unspoken – “thank you” or “I’m sorry” or “Help!”, when it comes straight from your heart, sends God rushing in.
Nothing on Earth compares with a hug from God.
It’s peaceful and energizing at the same time.
Being in close relationship with God is all that really matters.
To get there, be honest with him, as Jesus was.
Trust him. Lean on him.
Hug him back.
That’s how you stay close to God.
And that’s how you get his hugs.
Whining as a born-again believer has to be the most ridiculous waste of time that any of us can indulge in, and yet we still do it. I stand as guilty of this silly offence as the next person. Whining is an indication that faith is momentarily weak, that we’ve forgotten that God is in control, and that things are as they are not because God is vindictive and wants us to suffer, but because we’ve either brought the ‘suffering’ on ourselves, or we’ve had expectations that were not to our benefit and so were nixed by God.
In other words, we chose against God’s will.
This is not necessarily the end of our or anyone else’s world, but it is a wake-up call.
Following Jesus means living more or less opposed to everyone who isn’t following Jesus. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s pretty much the whole world that we’re living opposed to, so it shouldn’t be surprising to us (and it certainly isn’t to God) that sometimes we’ll want what the world wants, not what God wants. Just call it peer pressure.
When that happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. Recognize it for what it is, and go to God for help. Yell at him if you want to (he’s got industrial-grade earplugs for moments like these), but remember who’s the source of all good. It’s not you, it’s not me, it’s not the government, it’s not anyone or anything but God.
Think of how Jesus lived. He was for all intents and purposes homeless. He had no money and no possessions beyond the clothes on his back. And yet other than for the odd time when he resorted to eating corn out of a farmer’s field or tried to eat figs from a fruitless tree (and then cursed it for its barrenness), he always had plenty of food and a place to sleep. He was healthy. He was physically vigorous and fully employed in God’s work. And he apparently had such a kick-ass cloak that the soldiers threw lots for it while he was dying on the cross.
This kind of life is where we’re all headed, if we’re true followers of Jesus. We won’t have a home to call our own, we won’t have possessions beyond the few we can carry with us (and I’m not talking U-Haul or RV here), and we won’t have any money beyond what we need for our ‘daily bread’. Our work will be fully for God and his kingdom, and our only friends will be those who, like us, love God and follow Jesus.
Needless to say, we won’t have many friends on Earth, but the one or two that we do have will be true friends, not facebook friends or fair-weather friends.
In any case, the only friend we really need is Jesus. He understands what we’re going through because he went through it himself.
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is not just a song. “Give us this day our daily bread” is not just a line from scripture. These are directives on how to survive in this world and overcome temptations. Whining is a temptation. Get past it. Many of those who followed Moses into the desert didn’t get past their whining and never made it to the promised land because of it.
Don’t end up like them. Next time you’re tempted to whine about something, remember: “This too shall pass.”
We know that God’s justice is perfect, so we know that our situation in life is what we’ve earned from our choices. The same principle that governs the spiritual realm also governs the physical realm.
You only get back what you put out.
You only get what you’ve earned.
A man with some degree of wisdom once said: We live in the best of all possible worlds.
That’s another way of saying God’s justice is perfect.
If we live in the best of all possible worlds because God’s justice is perfect, then the world as we experience it is what we’ve earned.
Collectively, we’ve earned the wars, the famines, the pestilences, the rapes, the murders, the wealth, the poverty, and everything else that happens on Earth.
Individually, we’ve earned the debts, the jobs, the relationship hassles, the gifts, the tears, the losses, and even the illnesses.
If you believe that God’s justice is perfect, then you have to accept what is written above.
Many people have difficulty accepting that things are the way they are because of God’s perfect justice. They would rather blame others (including God) for their problems than to point a finger at themselves. This deflection of blame is the number one reason keeping people from turning back to God.
Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and yet both Adam and Eve were guilty by reason of their own free will choice.
God didn’t banish them from Paradise; they banished themselves.
What choices have you made that brought you to where you are now? What personal outcomes have you blamed on other people or on political systems or corporations?
Who or what are you blaming now?
God’s justice is perfect. We can only get back what we put out.
You can stop the pain, if you want to, by stopping the blame. You can stand before God and say: I’m only getting what I deserve, both good and bad.
And while you’re standing there, you can also thank God for always making the best of every situation. God loves us all the same, so he always mitigates our punishments, just as he always boosts our rewards.
That’s the God we serve. That’s our Dad. That’s his perfect justice.
We live in the best of all possible worlds.
We only get back what we put out.
If you want a good life, make good choices.
Free will is a misnomer. God let us misname it so we’d have the notion that we’re ‘free’. Certainly, we are free, but only in the sense that we can either choose God’s way or not choose God’s way. That’s the extent of our ‘freedom’.
Frankly, I wish I didn’t have even that much freedom. I wish I didn’t have the option to choose against God’s way. Cold, hard, miserable firsthand experience has taught me that every time I choose against God’s way and every time I question him, I’m wrong, and I suffer for it.
This is where faith comes in. Faith doesn’t question. It no longer needs to question. Faith has progressed beyond questioning, in the same way as a child progresses from training wheels to no training wheels when learning to ride a bike. Faith declares: “I’m through with free will! I’m through with questioning!” Faith automatically chooses God’s way because those who choose faith have come to realize that God’s way is always – ALWAYS – best.
When we choose to live by faith, we suspend our free will. We still have free will, but we choose not to use it. It’s like the little kid who keeps the trainer wheels on her bike, even though she doesn’t need them anymore. She can use them if she wants to, but if she falls back to relying on her training wheels, she loses her balance and rides crooked again. She leans heavily to one side or the other, and her progress is slow and ungainly. She’s no longer cycling; she’s in a suspended state of falling.
We can fall back to choosing not to live by faith. We can resort to our squeaky rickety training wheels. We can doubt God. We can question his wisdom and find fault with his methods. But if we do so, we’re always wrong. If nothing else, that’s one thing we can count on – always being wrong if we choose against God.
I’m glad God gave me free will if only just to show me how inferior it is to faith. I’m glad he wants me to freely choose his way rather than to be forced or feel obligated to choose him. I’m glad he lets me make mistakes, and I’m glad he lets me suffer for it. I’m glad he lets me feel the consequences of my actions rather than glossing over my mistakes and pretending everything’s OK. It would be a lot easier for God just to gloss over our mistakes and let us get away with things. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with our tantrums and our sulking. But God is a perfect parent, so he does things the right way, even if they are the hard way for us and for him.
We suffer not because God is sadistic and not because we’re suffering for the good of other people – we suffer because we’ve made mistakes and chosen against God’s way, consciously or unconsciously. We suffer to the precise degree that we’ve earned that suffering — not one ‘ouchie’ more or less.
God’s justice is perfect.
If we’re smart (and God made us to be smart) – if we’re smart, we’ll learn from our mistakes. God is patient. He’s teaching us and he wants us to learn at our own pace. Heaven has very high behavioral standards. Paul gave us a partial list of the types of behaviors that don’t belong in Heaven, and warned us that those who practice those behaviors won’t make it there, no matter how big their congregation is or how much money they’ve donated to charity or how ‘good’ a person they consider themselves to be.
Heaven isn’t a “free gift”: it’s earned by our free will choices. We are rewarded with Heaven not because Jesus sacrificed himself as a repayment for Original Sin but because we’ve shown God, to his satisfaction, that we prefer his way to all others. We show him that we prefer his way by choosing his way, over and over and over and over and over again, to our dying breath.
We choose our way to Heaven. Jesus opened the door, but we have to make the choices that will bring us through that door. Just wanting to go through it is not enough. We have to show, by our free will choices, that we want to go through that door more than through any other door.
There is more of a curse in free will than there is a blessing. It’s best, if and when you can, to move beyond free will to the level of faith where you are no longer tempted to choose against God. Living by faith is how Jesus lived and how Paul lived and how Abraham lived and how Moses lived and how Noah lived. Be like them. Ditch your training wheels, get in the God groove, and roll your way on up to those pearly gates.