“Love Heals; Hate Hurts”

Two nights ago, Grand Rapids enjoyed the great privilege of being addressed by Martin Lowenberg, a ninety-one-year-old survivor of the Holocaust who has taken up the mantle of trying to be an agent for spreading love and peace. I arrived fifteen minutes early, which was way too late to actually be admitted into the overflowing hall. After winding slowly through the stop-and-go traffic (all of whom were looking everywhere for parking, just like me), I found my way to a nearby church lot. But alas, the venue was dangerously overcrowded and the leadership made the decision to turn away all remaining wanna-hearers.

However, I noticed that the hour and a half presentation was recorded and is available on the Kent District Library Face Book page (Lowenberg starts at about minute 8):

The powers that be are trying to find a time to bring him back to speak at a larger venue, but meanwhile, I wanted to simply report the heart of his message, particularly in light of the reactivity of at least one of my blog followers, who disagreed with the church sign I posted yesterday, encouraging people to “Just love everyone. I’ll sort “em out later. —God”

Of the 179 times the word “hate” is used in the Bible (KJV), the overwhelming preponderance has to do with people hating God or one another. There are about twenty times it mentions things that the Lord hates, such as wickedness (Psalm 45:7), evil (Psalm 97:10), pride, lying, murder, discord (Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven sins the Lord hates), etc. I think Amos 5:15 sums it up: “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate.” God clearly hates evil, and he also wants us to hate evil, love good, and establish justice. What are we doing to “establish justice”?

Certainly, justice isn’t established by hating people!! Hating evil is not the same thing as hating people. Jesus specifically commands us to love people, even those who are cruel and hurt us: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

This is also the message of Martin Lowenberg, who is Jewish and suffered terribly—in five different concentration camps during World War 2. His message? Love others. Be kind, because love heals and hate hurts. Lowenberg’s life demonstrates the ability of the human spirit to overcome tragedy and be happy. In the Q&A afterward, he mentioned that we can all learn to be happy and understand that life doesn’t have to be serious and sad all the time.

On the other hand, this sweet, bent-with-age, very elderly gentleman is clearly not just resting at home! He’s on the road sharing his story, not for the sake of making people feel sorry for what he endured, or to make himself famous, but to help people learn that hatred hurts others. “We all want to live as long as we can in happiness and harmony with our families.” So, he advised those who asked for advice to “Be good people, help others, be with others, and show them what you would like to see . . . stand up against evil. It’s very difficult to speak against evil, but we need to do it all the time.”

Hebrews 1:9, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” God anoints those who love righteousness and hate evil with joy, and I think this is the message Martin Lowenberg was sharing . . . and demonstrating in his life.

One Hindu Who Now Worships Just One God

Psalm 40:2 – “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

I have a dear friend from India who was baptized just a few weeks ago at our church. She has changed from heartbroken to radiant and full of joy . . . that remarkable difference that only Jesus can make in us as we surrender our lives to his love and care! I asked if I could share her story with you, and she has kindly given me permission. Thank you, Neha! I know God will continue his work of amazing grace in your life!!

“I was born in India as a Hindu and studied in Catholic School. Being a girl, I was not worthy of my parent’s love and felt rejected. My younger brother used to beat me. Throughout my life, I always felt like a “burden” or “shame” for my parents. My Grand Father was the only person who loved me and showed me how to have relationship with God. When I was 15, I met a boy and I thought I met my Prince Charming. I fell in love and married him at age 25.  But my dreams were crushed during the wedding itself. I was a slave for him and my in-laws. It was a very abusive marriage, and I was not worthy of his love or faithfulness. Over the course of time, we moved to America and God gifted me with two beautiful daughters. However, in fall of 2017, I was rejected again, when he announced our divorce. Since I didn’t have citizenship, this would likely lead me to being forced back to India without my daughters.  I was in a very dark place.

“Through my work, I reached out for help and found a Care Partner, Jay, who provided me with wisdom in my situation. When I met him, I felt, I met the Lord. He gave me the first Bible. He also connected me to a female care partner.  Jesus started his work in me, by first showing light of truth.

“I had to leave my job, I struggled for basic survival, and I had to fight to be with my girls. I was so scared that one morning I woke up and could not get out of my bed. I called so many friends, but no one responded, other than the female care partner. She came to my house and wanted me to start coming to church. I replied, “Yes, I should start going to temple.” It took her three times, and then finally she said, “You cannot find Jesus in the temple, you can find him only in Church.” That Sunday, I went to Calvary Church and was deeply touched with preaching of Pastor Samra. It was then I realized that he is Lisa’ husband, the lady who brought me to Church.  Since that day, I never went back to the Hindu temple and I started coming to Calvary Church on regular basis. For nine months, I sat with Samras. In the beginning, the Bible was difficult to understand. Lisa would even open the page in the Bible and would spend time in explaining the basics. 

“Jesus surrounded me with his army of angels through His Churches and people. Ada Bible Church connected me to Debbie Jo and Henry, who are my spiritual parents now.  Several other families embraced me and my girls with unconditional love and acceptance. My counselor, the divorce care group and Safe Haven Ministries helped me to heal. Calvary Church provided us with food and financially supported us. After three months, Jesus provided me with a perfect job, which sponsored my visa so that I could stay in the country.  Around 100 Christians from various churches came to help us. I even found an Indian Christian group in Grand Rapids.

“In spite of wonderful things Jesus did in my life, I was still holding on to Hindu idols until one day when I went to the prayer room and prayed with one of my friends, Bonnie Jean. That day, I finally gave up all the Hindus idols.

“Jesus continued his work, and gifted us with a beautiful house and sent his people at Calvary to help me move. I could hear the call for baptism.  However, I asked Jesus for one more miracle – to let my girls come to church. Jesus listened to our prayers and He finally made ways that my girls can come to church through my attorney, who is a Christian, and now my girls LOVE Jesus too. So here I am fulfilling my promise to share my story and be baptized in response to Jesus’ love and faithfulness to me.

“Jesus is the truth, He is faithful, and He loves us all unconditionally.”  

Celebrating Baḍādaśãi बडादशैँ घटस्थापना Dashain: The Blood of Bulls and Goats

I debated whether or not to write on this experience while visiting “Incredible India and Nepal,” and whether or not to illustrate it with actual photos, but we happened to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durban Square (in Kathmandu, Nepal) when they were celebrating their most important festival in the Nepal Sambat (lunar calendar).

Crowded streets of Kathmandu, Nepal

As a holiday, it felt a bit like Christmas for Christians, in that people had come home from all around the world to be with friends and family during this time. However, instead of celebrating the birth of Christ (as Christians do), Dashain is a time of celebrating the victory of the goddess Parvati over the evil demon Mahishasura, who was terrorizing Devaloka (the world of the gods) but was finally killed by Durga, who is a manifestation of Parvati as the goddess of war . . . if I understand correctly. I am clearly not an expert on Hinduism!

During the fifteen days that Dashain is celebrated, there are various holy days with special events, but the most holy was the day we happened to be there while they were sacrificing bulls and goats in the temple. I believe our tour guide said they sacrificed 89 bulls, one for each of the most prominent manifestations of the gods.

Depiction of one of Hindu gods in Durbar Square, Kathmadu, India

Hinduism is a very complicated religion, and just like many religions, different people have different ways of explaining what they believe their religion teaches. Our guide explained that there are 339 million gods, and that new gods are named continuously as people discover more about the universe. I’ve read sources that say all the gods are just manifestations of the “ultimate reality” known as Brahma, and I’ve read other sources that say the supreme being is Krishna, and all the others are demi-gods helping him run the universe.

Celebrating Dashain at Hindu Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

Hinduism is also an ancient religion that has developed into significantly different branches in the various countries where it is practiced, most evidently in India and Nepal, so what our guide believes might be quite different from what other Hindus believe.

Sacrificial bulls and goats being removed from Hindu Temple

Nevertheless, I believe I’m correct in understanding that the priests had sacrificed 89 bulls and goats in order to appease the 89 gods the people were worshiping. We just happened to be walking by as they were dragging the beheaded animals out of the temple, and we all stood in stunned silence.

Some looked sick and turned away, while others were very curious and took lots of photos. I kept thinking of the passage that starts in Hebrews 9: 11 and reads through Hebrews 10:1-25. It’s a long passage, and is somewhat hard to understand, but the point is that Jesus Christ came as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins because the blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Only Christ, as the perfect, sinless Lamb of God could become the perfect, eternally efficacious sacrifice for our sins.

Like some in our group, you may find yourself repulsed by the thought of a bloody sacrifice being made to remediate for sins.

Crucifixion by Michelangelo, 1540

But, I hope you are drawn to the mysterious beauty of Christ—out of infinite love—sacrificing his life for yours and mine, so that we can have all our sins forgiven and be made right before God. Isn’t this sublime? “To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour o flife unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Goat sacrificed to the Hindu gods in Kathmandu, Nepal

Hebrews 9:11-Hebrews 10: 1-25 (bold print added by me): “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. 23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. [starting Hebrews 12] “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Temple in Durbar Square. Kathmandu, Nepal

Chand Baori and the Stepwells of India

Ever hear of Chand Baori? It’s in Abhaneri, which is near Bandikui, Rajasthan. Does that help? I didn’t think so! Ever hear of stepwells? If you have, you’re a step well ahead of me! 🙂 (Was that a groan I heard?)

Plaque Explaining Some Details of the Chand Baori Stepwell

Before we visited Chand Baori in India, I didn’t have a clue what stepwells are, and I was unfamiliar with any of the names above!

Chand Baori Stepwell Surrounding and Protecting a Pond

However, just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s insignificant! In fact, the word “stepwell” isn’t even in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (considered the “gold standard” for many American publishers), but thankfully, it’s in Wikipedia, which explains that stepwells are ponds or wells dug deep into the earth and surrounded by series of steps that descend to the bottom. Stepwells are the brainchild of India and developed as early as the 8th-9th century AD.

Dozens of recessed rooms provide shade from the intense summer heat
at Chand Baori Stepwell

The utilitarian purpose was to provide a water supply even during the hot months of summer drought, although many of the remaining stepwells had shaded rooms that were also a bit cooler, where women (particularly royalty) could rest and socialize.

Harshat Mata Temple Adjacent to Chand Baori Stepwell

Because water is so essential to life, many of the stepwells also provided adjacent temples, where people could worship various gods and thank them for providing water. Over the centuries, some of the more prominent stepwells were elaborately ornamented, and now they are considered national monuments.

Alan and I visited Chand Baori, which is one of the largest, deepest, and most stunning stepwells in India. It has a beautifully symmetrical system of staircases running down 13 stories to about 100 ft. below ground. In all, there are 3,500 stone steps. Chand Baori is truly a work of art and beauty!

Tour guide explaining the significance of various pieces of artwork at Chand Baori

Today Chand Baori also houses various archeological treasures, so it’s a living historical museum as well!

Closeup of the pond at the bottom of the Chand Baori Stepwell

It all looked so beautiful, except the gorgeous green pond was covered with a thick layer of algae and had all sorts of debris floating in it.

I said to myself, “Well, of course they don’t use the water from stepwells any more!”

But, I was mistaken!

Just a few days later, I observed a man collecting water from a stepwell in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

He patiently cleared a space in the algae before gathering his water, but I wasn’t convinced that the water would be very clean, even so!

Since returning home, I’ve thought often about stepwells . . . the fact that I’d never heard of them, but they do exist.

The fact that they are still being used today, even though they probably aren’t very sanitary. How do people survive?

I know everybody thinks their way of doing things is best, and that their gods are the best, but I want to offer Jesus as an alternative to the millions of fearsome gods that are worshiped in India. If you live in India, you may never have heard about Jesus before, but just like I didn’t know about stepwells—and even if Jesus isn’t in your list of gods—that does not mean that Jesus doesn’t exist! Jesus is the “God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47)—everything wonderful wrapped up in one God— and he offers spiritual water that is pure and holy. He is the Lord, “the fountain of living waters” (see Jeremiah 17:13 and Revelation 7:17) who can quench our spiritual thirst: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

Tourists and Worshipers Visiting Harshat Mata Temple,
dedicated to the goddess of Joy and Happiness

He is also the author of true joy and happiness: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Chand Baori Stepwell in Abanderi, India

Can you imagine the joy of worshiping the one true God, who is a Spirit and calls for all of us to worship him in spirit and in truth? (John 4:24). This God can provide spiritual water for your soul that will spring up into eternal life. He can protect you from evil. He loves you with an everlasting love and gave Himself so that you can become One with him. His name is Jesus, and He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:6).

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God,
and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).

A Look into the Life and Legacy of J.R.R.Tolkien

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

“The Father of Modern Fantasy,” John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (BBC News)

Today, nobody stumbles over the name “Tolkien” in the English-speaking world, but back in 1962, when I was in junior high, it was all news to me! The Lord of the Rings was just becoming popular in America, and one of my closest friends, Danny Green, kept me fascinated as he reported day by day what he’d read about the little Hobbit who had to leave his cozy home and go adventuring to save Middle Earth. Since those days, Tolkien’s series has ranked as one of the most popular fiction works of the twentieth century!

Fifty-five years later, I’ve still not read Tolkien’s fantasy books for myself, but I was delighted to watch the recently released movie, Tolkien, based on the youth and formative years of this brilliant and dedicated scholar!

There is so much I didn’t know about Tolkien, and almost everything I learned has made me admire him more than ever! Tolkien lived in Britain and was orphaned at a young age. He was among those who had to make his way in the world through sheer grit . . . for Tolkien—hard work, wisdom, and unending, passionate drive.

At a young age, he fell in love with another orphan, and the movie records their very sweet relationship. (Although, as in all good romances, there were many challenges, twists, and uncertainties.)

Because of his brilliance as a student and the care of the Catholic priest who was his guardian, Tolkien was eventually allowed to attend Oxford, where he succeeded in becoming fast friends with several of his classmates. (This was no easy feat, either! My father, who attended Harvard for graduate school—also in philology—as a young man during the Great Depression, found it very difficult trying to fit in with the wealthy elite without the trappings of material privilege.)

Perhaps the most difficult part of Tolkien’s journey was his military service during World War 1. The movie is PG-13, so the war scenes—though terrifying and disheartening—are not about the gore but rather to give us a feel for the intense suffering and emotional trauma that all soldiers experienced.

Did he survive the war? Did he get to marry the girl of his dreams? Did he get to finish his studies? When and how did he become so famous? All great questions, and most of them were answered in this wonderful depiction of his life!

The very best aspect of the movie (for me) was the goodness of Tolkien’s character throughout (in stark contrast to most stories you hear about the “bright young things” of his era). Sometimes people are so bright and shiny with goodness that it just makes you wonder why, so I studied more of his life from Wikipedia. There I discovered the reason: He had a “deeply religious spirit.” As Tolkien explained: “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

Sign in the Eagle and Child Restaurant, Oxford

Ah, ha! Yes, I did know of the connection between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and the good spiritual influence Tolkien had been on Lewis, helping him come to faith. It was C.S. Lewis who later wrote Mere Christianity . . . the book that influenced both my mother and my dear aunt, “Lant Henna,” to believe in Christ many years hence!

Alan and I even made a bit of a “pilgrimage” to Oxford’s Eagle and Child (pub/restaurant where their literary group, The Inklings, met) with two of our sons (one of whom is now an editor and aspiring writer himself). So, we have a very personal experience of being inspired and edified by the works of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

So, thank you Tolkien, and thank you to those of you who gifted us with this great movie! I hope many people see it and find the story uplifting and encouraging!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Until Forever

“Live Until You Die!”

That’s the message of this incredibly inspiring true love story called Until Forever (2016 version), which is based on the lives of Michael and Michelle Boyum and their enduring love as teenagers and young adults dealing with Michael’s diagnosis of leukemia.

If I didn’t know someone with a similarly buoyant spirit, it would be hard to imagine anybody as sweet, faith-filled, and steady as this young man, but in reality, I know Tom F., who has also been through the wringer with leukemia and is every bit as kind and outreaching, so I know a few of these treasures exist!

Like my friend Tom, Michael always had the needs of others at the forefront of his thinking, and even during his hospital stays, he was busy reaching out to others with encouragement and the love of Jesus!

Jamie Anderson as Matt Boyum

Until Forever doesn’t shy away from the painful realities of how a cancer diagnosis effects everyone who loves the patient. In Michael’s case, his younger brother was severely effected,

Joel Jacobsen as Ben

as were many friends from his church family. (I loved the inclusion of this sweet young man!)

Madison Lawlor as Michelle Larson

Equally miraculous to Michael’s radiant spirit was the response of Michael’s girlfriend, Michelle, who refused to give up and stood by his side despite all the pain, insecurities, and sufferings that Michael endured. (Tom’s wife, Lynnie, is actually just as beautiful and wonderful as Michelle is, as depicted in the movie, so I have no trouble believing such devotion and faith exist!)

Here is a photo of the “real” Michael and Michelle (shown in the final credits of the movie). I truly believe only God can produce a love like theirs!

Well, I don’t want to ruin the story by telling you everything, but it’s one of the most moving movies I’ve seen in a long time, full of faith in the midst of fear

and triumph in the midst of tragedy.

If you are struggling with fear and tragedy, please take the time to watch this movie! It is possible to experience hope and peace in the midst of any illness.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5, ESV).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (47): Be “Perfect” . . . Is That Even Possible??

My father grew up going to church but rejected what he had learned as a child and became a self-proclaimed atheist for many years, so when I was a child, I never went to church or heard anything about Christianity. In fact, my mother wrote as a “cute saying” in my baby book that at some point I said, “I think I should know more about the Bible.”

After eagerly trusting Jesus as my Lord and Savior the first time I ever heard the good news that God loved me and Jesus died for me, I immediately shared the Good News with my parents. I don’t remember what they said, but my mother’s attitude was sort of a non-descript “That’s nice honey,” and my father’s was a condescending, “Well, you’ll soon grow out of it.”

I was much older before I got my courage up to ask them why they didn’t believe. My mother (who was at that time agnostic) said it was because she didn’t feel certain God was real. She was afraid he was perhaps just an abstract construct, so she was unwilling to trust lest she be disappointed or discover that she’d been deceived. My father, on the other hand, had a more definitive reason. He remembered reading Jesus’ command from Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” and—knowing that he could never be perfect—decided to give up before he ever started trying. Why ascribe to an impossible standard? Why undertake an impossible quest?

My husband’s parents both believed in God and felt that the Bible was true, but Alan’s father had an almost exactly similar stance to my father’s. He said he could never be perfect, and that if he were to say he was a Christian, then he would have to be perfect, and since that was impossible, he would always feel like a liar and a hypocrite.

Why did Jesus tell people to be perfect, since he knew good and well they couldn’t be? Was he trying to turn people away? Was he just setting us all up to feel like guilty losers who are nothing but failures? Was he suggesting that unless we attain perfection, we’ll never enter heaven?

NO! But, well yes (in a way)! Jesus spoke the truth, which is that in order to go to heaven, we must be perfect. Thankfully, Jesus is also the way: Although we can’t be perfect, he could, and he was. He fulfilled the Laws of God perfectly, but then he offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If we are willing to humbly admit that we aren’t perfect and never will be, and that we don’t deserve to go to heaven based on our ability to keep God’s perfect standards . . . if we are willing to admit that we are sinners (law-breakers of God’s perfect laws) BUT are also willing to accept the free gift that Jesus offers us—his death as the full payment for our sins—then we become children of God, joint-heirs with Jesus, and possessors of eternal life. When we accept Jesus as our savior and surrender our lives to Him, He becomes our Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit indwells us and begins the good work of making us more and more like our Master, until someday—when we see Him face-to-face in heaven—we will at last become perfect, not because we are, but because He is, and He has made us like himself.

Now, that’s not so hard, is it? Nobody told me I had to be perfect to become a Christian. All I heard was that God loved me and Jesus died to save me, and that’s all you need to hear. Believe in Jesus and surrender your life to him. He will receive you, give you eternal life, and the Holy Spirit will indwell you to comfort, guide, and teach you. Life is hard, but trusting Jesus is inestimably easier than trying to attain perfection without the aid of the one and only, truly holy, 100% good Higher Power, which is God himself!

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Also: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

P.S.—Thankfully, both my parents became believers in their eighties, and Alan’s mother became a believer in her sixties. I hope Alan’s father also became a believer, but I’ll have to wait until heaven to know for sure. At any rate, as long as you have life and mental faculties enough to choose Christ, it’s never too late. Hopefully, as we age, we’re better able to recognize our own lack of perfection and more willing to lean on God’s everlasting arms for help! He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). My mother was never disappointed in Christ after she believed. Instead, she became peaceful about her impending death, which assured me that her future was secure. God is so merciful!!

Photo Credit for Painting: “Love Everlasting” by Yongsong Kim, permission granted by Foundation Arts, website: Havenlight.com