Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reforming vs. Repenting

Saturday I had some really good visits at the nursing home. As I was finishing up visiting a friend, I saw a man working at a computer in his room. As soon as I saw him I felt that I must talk with him.
I introduced myself to him and after seeing the girly pictures on his wall I let him know that I was a Chaplain. His mood changed to be a bit more foul. I kept it light and asked what he was working on.
Bill told me that he was working on a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice.

 "I know how to be a criminal so I thought I'd give it a try!" He laughed. He told me that he was in jail on drug charges when he had a massive stroke. "Working on this makes the time go by quicker just like in jail. I've already got my Associates Degree."

"Oh, that's great. What do you want to do with the degree?" I asked him out of curiosity.

"A parole officer." Terrific, I thought a criminal monitoring a criminal. Just what we need.

"Well, as I told you I'm a Chaplain so I'm interested to know what your views are about God. Do you have any?"

"Yeah, I believe in God..." He said.

"If there's really a Heaven, do you think you'll go there?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Why would God let you in? Are you good enough?" I asked.

"I think so...I'm a good guy." (Hmmmm)

"Mind if I test your theory? I'd like to ask you some questions Bill- they require honesty on your part-ready?"


I took Bill through Gods Law. He admitted to lying, stealing and blasphemy. "In the book of Revelation it says 'no liar will be found in Heaven'. It actually has a long list there in 21:8. It says that liars 'will have their part in The Lake that burns with fire and brimstone'. The Bible also says that 'it's appointed for men to die once, after that the Judgement'." I let that sink in.

"Do you think God will pronounce you Guilty or Innocent when you are judged?"

He was quiet for a minute then said, "Guilty...but I think He'll forgive me."

"Bill, if you stood before the judge, guilty of multiple crimes do you think you can apologize and go home?"

"No way!" He said, without hesitation.

"Not if he upholds the law, right? God is a good Judge and because He is you will be convicted....where will He send you, Heaven or Hell?"

"Hell..." His demeanor had changed. He was very quiet.

"Does it bother you to think of that?"

"Well yeah. I sure don't want to go to Hell." He said.

"Do you know what God did for you so you won't have to go to Hell?" He mentioned Jesus and the cross and something about forgiving everyone's sin. I told him that demons know Jesus and tremble at His very name but that doesn't change their eternal destination.

"2000 years ago God put on flesh, Jesus Christ came to pay for us. He lived a perfect, sinless life and then laid His life down for you on that cross, taking all of the punishment for every rotten thing you would ever do. But how do you acquire that payment made for you?" He looked stumped.

"Here's the deal, Bill....right now you are on a road that leads to Hell. (Now imagine if I had just walked into his room and said that before preparing the soil of his heart with the Law of God.). You can clean yourself up all the way there. You can change your ways, reform yourself, like what you are doing here by studying.  None of it will get you off of that road. When you get to the end of the road, you'll be in Hell. To change your destination what do you have to do? TURN AROUND! You MUST repent: Dont just confess your sin but TURN from it. That's the first thing. Then you must trust Jesus-He said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life-NO MAN comes to the Father but by ME."

Bill was silent quite a while before he spoke. "It's really weird that you came here today. I've had so many questions and they've all been answered."

"If you think this stuff is important, when are you going to do it?" I asked him.

"I'm trying..." He muttered.

"Trying? So you're standing in the middle of the road and a truck is about to run you over. I'm yelling at you to get out of the way and you say, 'I'm trying'? Does that make sense?"

"Yeah...I guess that's exactly what I'm doing!"

"When are you going to take care of this?" I repeated quietly.

"Right now." Bill told me, bowing his head.

"Do you mean it?"

"Yes." With that Bill prayed. When he was finished I prayed for him. Then I asked him if he had a Bible.

"Yes" he said showing me his Bible. "I never miss a Bible study on Tuesday, and church on Sunday, but now I know that's not what will get me to Heaven anyway!"

Wow-he really was listening.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Juan is an interesting man. He has lead a very prestigious life. Now his life is bland and boring. He sharpens his mind by reading newspapers and periodicals. He even writes editors of the papers, often receiving answers.

When I first met him he was sitting at a desk in the lobby. He has a very stately appearance, looking every part of Don Quixote. He was in dress clothes and even wore a cravat. We had an interesting conversation about Juan's favorite subject; the melding of Mexico and America.   Juan then began to give me a historical overview of the Catholic Church and how he thought that it had hoodwinked the Mexican people.

An aide came to let him know it was time for lunch.

"Juan, can I leave you something to read?"  I asked.

"Of course Jennifer, I would love to read it."  He said as he took a copy of Mark Cahill's One Second After You Die.   "I can't wait to read it."

With a prayer on my breath, I walked away knowing it would be at least a week until I could see him again.

When I saw Juan this Saturday he was in the usual spot, at the desk in front of the computer.

"Hello Sir."  I greeted him.

"Oh, please don't be formal-call me Juan."  He kissed the back of my hand.

"I left you a book last time I saw you, I was hoping that you'd read it."  He immediately got a pained look on his face.

"Well, I must tell you that I didn't like it very much.  I hope I can be honest with you."  He said.

"Of course, and I would love to know what you didn't like."  I told him honestly.

We had a nice discussion with Juan telling me the bottom line was that he didn't believe that he would be judged by God and he certainly didn't believe in Hell.

"It's all so very nasty, I think it will be much more civilized than that, Jennifer.  I want to see my Mother and my Father...."  then he got quiet.

"Well, Juan I do agree that those thoughts are disconcerting, to put it mildly, but dismissing something on the basis that you 'do't believe in it' really isn't rational.  After all, I might tell you that I don't believe in gravity and then go walk off of the roof, falling to my death.  If there is the least chance that you are wrong you should do a bit of investigation.  Now you've already told me that you believe Jesus was a real person, but was he God or just a crazy man?  Why did He come here?"

"You know, I appear to be happy here but at night in my room I wish I could just scratch my eyes out!"   He appeared to change subjects, but I knew they were one and the same. 

"Why Juan??"

"I have done so many wrong things...I've never told anyone.  I wish there were something that I could do to make up for those things..."  he was quiet and in pain.

"You'll never be able to erase those things...but there is One Who can."

"Oh, don't..." He said in frustration.  Then he composed himself quickly.  As we were talking I was praying for Juan.  He outwardly had it together, but inside he was in real turmoil.

"Well, Juan dismissing something on the basis that you 'do't believe in it' really isn't rational.  After all, I might tell you that I don't believe in gravity and then go walk off of the roof, falling to my death.  If there is the least chance that you are wrong you should do a bit of investigation.  Now you've already told me that you believe Jesus was a real person, but was he God or just a crazy man?  Why did He come here?"

He laughed loudly and leaned in, "To show us the way to live.  But there were so many who did this."
Juan told me that he had studied Buddhism, Islam  and has also recently read a book by Deepak Chopra.  "You know, I waited and waited, I read so thoroughly, but you know...he never gave me the answer!!!"

I let him sit with that thought for a moment before I said,  "He doesn't have it, Juan.  You want to follow the enlightened one?" Juan smiled at this.  "He was a man who left his family to starve while he went in search of what????  Do you know he carried a Bible with him?"

"No, I didn't know that."  he said.

"It didn't do him any good Juan, just like you, he missed the entire truth.  Juan, where are the bones of the enlightened one?"

"Oh, I don't know."  he said.

"In Nepal.  Where are the bones of Muhammed?"  I asked.

"I...I'm not sure."  he said.

"Mecca.  Where are the bones of Jesus, Juan?"  I said, watching his face.

"I suppose they are in Jerusalem."  He said with a smile.

"No Juan, they're not.  They are not anywhere because He rose from the dead.  Now I want to tell you something, you say you want the answer but when I try to tell you, you don't want to hear it."

"No!  Tell me, please!"  He said grabbing my hands.

"OK Juan, before I tell you I want to pray."

"Yes, alright pray."  He closed his eyes and I prayed that God would open his heart to understand the Truth that God was telling him.

"You know, Juan you've told me you've done things in the past...awful things.  You cannot erase them.  You cannot do anything to make up for them.  If you drive nails in a fence, you can pull them out but you can't fix the holes."

"I could putty them!"  he told me, smiling.

"Yes, you could do that, but they are still there.  There is Someone Who is willing to build you a whole new fence."

He was quiet for a moment before he said,  " you've given me something to think about."

"Juan, the Bible says 'riches profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death'.

Please pray for Juan (not his real name).  He is a man in a desperate situation.  He is about to go to court, guilty of multiple crimes and the Judge, being very honorable and just, will most certainly find him guilty on all counts unless his fine is paid in the blood of Jesus.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tiny Tina's Big Decision

Glancing into the room, I saw a very small woman in the midst of a lot of medical equipment. She might have weighed 75 pounds. She had a tracheostomy in place and and I could hear a lot of congestion. These visits are more difficult than usual. It isn't easy to see someone in this condition, straining for every breath.  You could see that her physical condition was something she had lived with for her entire life.

Her eyes were glued to me as I introduced myself. I showed her my identification and offered her a smile. I told her that I could see she probably wasn't feeling well and asked if she minded some conversation. She managed a smile with effort.

I chatted a bit about the weather and then asked her if she had any thoughts on the afterlife. She nodded. I asked her if she believed in God, Heaven...Hell. She nodded again. I asked if she would be going to Heaven. She managed to say, "...think so." When I asked her why she would be let in she squeaked out, "...good person." As she tried to talk she began to 'cough'. I use the term but it wasn't coughing in the usual sense. Since she had a tube in her neck, that's where the noise came from. I wasn't sure she was going to be able to continue, when up came a huge mucous plug. This whole process was loud enough to summon the nurse, who looked in but seemed non-plussed.

When all had calmed down I asked her if I could test her theory. She nodded, looking very concerned. We went through the Commandments, slowly as her throat rattled loudly.   Realizing that she had broken God's Law and that God would not allow her into Heaven, Tina grew sad.

"Tina, do you know what God did for you so that you wouldn't have to go to Hell?" She shook her head indicating No. "You have heard of Jesus, right?" She quickly nodded. "I'm glad you've heard of Him, but it takes more than a knowledge of Him to get into Heaven. After all, demons know Him, right?" I explained every sin she had ever committed had been recorded. Every sin she had ever committed must be paid for. Jesus voluntarily came to pay for every one of those sins. "That's really good news for you, isn't it?" Tina nodded and managed a smile. "But I'm going to be honest with you, it's not automatic. God requires that you do two things to claim that payment." Tina was listening closely.

The first thing you must do is repent: you found out today that you are on a road that will lead you to Hell. You can be sorry all the way there and even clean yourself up all the way there, but when you get to the end of the road, where will you be?" She looked right at me and mouthed the word, Hell. "Yes Tina, in order to change destinations you must change directions. Turn around Tina and fall on the mercy of the Judge! This is called Repenting. It's more than confessing your sin, it's confessing and turning away from your sin. Do you understand that?" She nodded. "OK, the second thing you have to do is take all of that trust you have in your own goodness and transfer it to Jesus, because He's the only One who can help you." I read John 14:6 to her. Tina nodded understanding to me, her eyes never left mine.

"What's stopping you from doing that now, Tina?" She shrugged and shook her head. "Do you want to do that?"

Tina vigorously nodded her head, Yes. "Tina, you know God will hear you pray." I asked her to let me know when she was done. She closed her eyes, I bowed my head and waited. A few moments later she opened her eyes and looked at me. "Did you talk to God?" I asked her. Tina smiled and nodded Yes. I prayed and thanked God for introducing me to Tina and helping her to understand this Good News.

Tina may not have long here, she may never have a nice morning walk on a beautiful beach, but I'm hoping to walk with her along the crystal sea.