An Honest Response to Honest Questions
From an Old Friend
By Charles Slagle
I was glad to hear from you, and Paula and I pray God is blessing you and Lisa with strength, health and ever-increasing anointing in your work. We look forward to the day when we have the means so we can financially support your ministry again. Romania needs Jesus, and your labors are not in vain in the Lord. For Romania---will---have Him. Youíre planting Heavenís good seed that will bear fruit in its season. That I know because Godís word will not return to Him void of fulfillment. So it will and must accomplish all His desire.
My letter of necessity will be a good deal longer than yours, because your "why" questions may be short and concise, but they require thorough explanations, and not mere blunt assertions. That is, if the questions are sincere, and I believe they are.
NowÖ Where to start?
First, the limitations of written communication. We canít see each otherís facial expressions or hear each otherís voices when we write to each other. Iím hoping youíll bear this in mind as you read this letter when I speak truthfully---even in stark "black and white"---about my heart convictions, okay? It is not in my heart to play games or take pot shots or be rude when I express strongly what I actually feel strongly about.
You minced no words with me in your letter, which I appreciate, and it was not at all offensive to me. So Iím confident youíll also appreciate and not take offense at my being forthright with you. Not that I plan to come across strongly in ways that could seem rude or insensitive. Ha! However, at "fifty plus," experience has taught me that when two people are discussing a subject where there is misunderstanding or disagreement, itís easy for each of them sometimes to misread the "tone" of the other oneís way of expression. My prayer is that youíll hear my heart, and not be locked into the mere letter of all I am saying in response to your honest questions.
Before I address your questions, I need to remind you that I love and honor you as a dear friend. And I mean that, bro.
Somehow your letter left me with the feeling that I have offended or angered you in some way. So from my heart, I regret deeply if my testimony brings any stress or offense to you. The whole gospel of reconciliation is integral to my testimony, however much you or some other of my sincere brothers and sisters might wish it were not.
I understand that, and it doesnít offend me. But Iím referring here to your repeated assertions that I "chose" the Lord, which Iíll deal with later on. No, David, I did not "choose" the Lord. He chose me. And by the grace of God, I am what I am, and this miracle in my life has been all His doing. So I have no apologies to offer for that.
David, I will promise you now that Iíll not send you any more posts about the full gospel of reconciliation and my testimony---unless you request it, okay?
Your first question was---
"If God is going to redeem all of mankind eventually, why would I want to respond to Him at this time?"
David, I promise Iím not being sarcastic or preachy or patronizing. But if any other person asked me that question, I would have to ask, "Are you saying that the only solid reason that you are serving the Lord is because youíre afraid that if you donít serve Him, He will write you off forever?
I would have to ask that question---because---such a fear-motivation would strongly imply that:
(1) That person has never yet experienced the healing touch of the Lord on his or her life that would motivate him or her to thirst for the Lord because of His intrinsic goodness. Which would mean that he or she (thus far) had only embraced a "belief and behavioral modification" system, a religion perhaps, with Jesusí name tacked on to it.
(2) That person may have actually experienced the Lord in some measure in the distant past. Yet he or she subsequently has been cruelly "programmed" with religious performance based on fear of Godís (supposed) hopeless abandonment to hell. So as a result, that person no longer knows how to behave righteously except from the toxic root of fear of rejection.
Not to imply that your own motivation for following Christ stems primarily or even partially from the root of fear of rejection. I perceive that your putting the word "I" in that question to be a rhetorical thing. Only you and the Lord together can determine if that hope destroying root plays any role in your relationship with Him. All I know is, it certainly played a huge role in my relationship with the Lord for many years.
But how could it not, given all the programming that had been pumped into me, totally apart from my own "choice," in my childhood?
How was I to know that what most Christians really expected was for me to take (endless) hell "seriously" as a point of "doctrine," but not to take it too seriously in my personal everyday life? How does a child know how to "believe" something without actually believing it? I think surely the Lord does want us to take---all---His words seriously. And He wants us to take them seriously all the time, donít you agree? Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God.
But back to the subjectÖ The motivation for following Christ is because He has won our trust and our love. Like Paul, our hearts have been so overwhelmed with His presence and goodness that our heartís cry is, "Woe is me if I proclaim not these glad tidings!" We follow after Him gladly and bear our cross---BECAUSE---He has won our trust. And we know in our heart that there IS no other life worth living. Christ alone has the words of the God-life ordained for the ages! (Jn. 6:68---unfortunately translated "eternal" in many versions.)
So we love and serve Him because He has first loved us. Thus, by His tangible love, He has birthed and nurtured our faith in Him. For faith (trust!) can only function by love. Paul tells the Galatians that "all that counts is faith that works by love." (Gal. 5:6) In other words, Love is what causes faith to spawn and flourish. Godís repeated acts of kindness (His sovereign ones to us personally and those kindnesses He lavishes on us through others) lead us to repentance. By repentance I mean miraculous change in our heart motivations that result in changed behavior.
And even in His judgment, wasnít God being kind to Nebuchadnezzar when he allowed him to SEE for seven years the "ignorant beast" he really was? No doubt about it! When Godís judgments are in the earth the people learn righteousness. So through the Lordís kindness (shown both by His generosity and His judgments) faith is born in our hearts. From start to finish the work is His. He is the Alpha (a) and Omega (z) of our faith, the Beginning and the End.
So again, faith must be called forth by tangible---not merely historical---acts of love. Trust must be earned.
Any parent knows that. Our children grow to have faith in us because we have repeatedly demonstrated love and faithfulness to them. Our children trust us---because---they have tangibly experienced our faithfulness to them.
Jesus tells us to ascribe the same decency to our Heavenly Father as we would to an earthly father, right? (Matt. 7) Does a good (though sinful) earthly father threaten his own offspring with fiery torture that never ends? How would such a vicious and browbeating father foster genuine trust in his child?
Would a good earthly father "honor the free (?) will" of his college age son and watch passively as his despair-ladened son swallowed a bottle of pills attempting to end his life? And not even call the paramedics? Or if his son were kidnapped or lost---for any reason---would a good father say, "Oh, well, I Ďloveí him. But I also warned him about his bad habits and friends, so Iím going to honor his Ďfree willí and let him go to the devil!"?
"What man among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? (Lk. 15:4)
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, ALL the earth...We are His people and the Ďsheepí of His pasture..." (Ps. 100)
How much more should we expect our Omnipotent and all-knowing heavenly Father to send his Good Shepherd to search---until---he finds any of His own offspring that have been taken captive to do satanís will and led astray? (II Tim. 2:24-26; 4:18; Heb. 13:8)
But not so with our Heavenly Father, according to traditional churchianity. No, God expects US to be faithful parents, while he (allegedly) writes off most of His own offspring "forever and ever." And all because they didnít have a "chance" or they did not possess sufficient wisdom---to recognize---their chance to "find" Him before they died. This is exactly what many in the church teach today, is it not? Thus we are saved by our "luck" and our diligence and our wisdom to "find" and "choose"Ö ALMIGHTY GOD.
Sheeesh! If this isnít the bare bones of religiosity and self-reliance and self-glorification what is it?
So, I hope that answers your question. The only valid motivation for following Christ is because He has revealed Himself and His love toward us, so that we therefore trust and love Him. And thus, we actually want to serve Him. If weíre "serving" the Lord---BOTTOM LINE--- to save our own hide, instead of as a supernatural heart-response to His love, how can we truly be serving Him? Arenít we basically just serving ourselves, albeit in the "name of Jesus."?
No man can serve two masters.
He will always cling to one and distance Himself from the other. The "Master" of self-preservation will either govern our lives, or the "Master" of loving God Himself will govern our lives. If we seriously believe that our ultimate salvation is up to our "free (?) wills"---bottom line---then we will find ourselves unavoidably forced to serve the master of self-preservation.
It only takes a little yeast to leaven the whole loaf... (Gal. 5:9)
We canít have it both ways.
That truth has sure born out in my experience, David. The fear of the Lord is "clean" and always endures. (Ps. 19:9) The fear of hopeless abandonment is poison. Perfect Love Himself casts out that kind of fear. Even Christian and pastoral counselors will tell you that "fear of abandonment" is THE culprit that propels people into destructive and addictive behavior.
Christian counselors will assert that well-documented fact, when itís not in their minds to defend the traditional dogma of never-ending punishment. Yipe! Thereís a mega-load of double-talk we can get tangled up in when we visit the realm of organized/agonized churchianity, whaddayathink?
I do plan to address all your questions. But, before I go further, I think it would be good to share the Biblical---foundation---Iím standing on that will shed light on my answers to your questions.
That foundation is summed up in these three governing principles:
(1) Godís character as Christ revealed it
(2) Godís counsel, will, desire, good pleasure and purpose---and---the Scripturally assured certainty of their fulfillment.
(3) Godís covenant with the human race through Abraham. An anchor for the soul, steadfast and sure.
My motto? Here it is---
"Godís Word is His will, and His will is His Word. Therefore to understand any portion of Godís Word---apart---from His Scripturally assured will, is not to understand it.
Thatís the motto that has made the Lord my joy, my hope and my song, David. So Iíll elaborate on this foundation, and hopefully answer some of your questions in the process. Iím also praying this will help you understand my answers.
I. GODíS CHARACTER AS CHRIST REVEALED IT
You are right, David. Godís holiness---His purity and integrity---requires Him to set boundaries for His offspring, and to nurture and discipline them, too. But, you seem to make the all too common mistake many others do in one regard. You conclude that because "never-ending" is not in the equation this therefore means---NO judgment---is in the equation. No put down intended, though. Itís a common confusion, thatís for sure.
God is Holy Love. God is not just Love, but He is Holy Love. This I believe with all my heart. So will you please try to keep this in mind as we discuss these things? Christians who believe in Christís total victory are not saying that God is all "sweetness and cream." The Lord does not cast off forever. However, He certainly "causes grief." For example, Noahís flood demonstrates that our Good Father WILL perform radical surgery when need be. His snuffing out Sodom and her sister cities with fiery judgment in a blinding instant also demonstrates that God can and does execute---severe---judgment.
Yet, Ezekial 16:53-55 foretells just as clearly that the Lord will restore Sodom and her sister cities. But when have either you or myself ever heard anyone preaching this whole counsel of God?
And isnít it wonderful to know that God did not write Noahís wicked generation off forever? Christ preached the gospel to them---so that---(to fulfill Godís purpose that) they might be judged and then live by Godís Spirit. (I Pet. 3:19-20; 4:5-6) So by His visiting the---MOST WICKED---generation that has ever lived just after his sacrifice on Calvary, our Faithful Good Shepherd has given us hope. Even for the most defiled and sin-stained among us (and I know what Iím talking about) the Lord has given us---solid hope---that no defilement or blot is beyond the power of His blood. Not at any time or in any realm!
For He lived, died, rose and lived again---to the purpose---that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (Rom. 14:9)
So weíre talking about Godís character as Christ revealed it.
God Who is Holy Love, "works no ill" toward his little neighbors. (Rom. 13:9) Did you notice that Scripture says love works? Love reveals itself (Himself!) in---deeds---done in faithfulness, and therefore never fails. (I John 3:18; I Cor. 13:8) And in Ephesians, chapters four and five, weíre told to be "copiers" of our Heavenly Father, to put on the new man created in "true holiness." And according to this passage---TRUE HOLINESS---is "tenderhearted," "forgiving" and "kind."
What!? This is true holiness??
How many sermons have you and I heard that justified Godís (supposedly) letting the sun go down on His wrath "forever and ever" by asserting that "God is NOT just Love, He is also HOLY!"? As if His holiness were a quality entirely different---and foreign!---to His loveÖ
Is our Heavenly Father schizoid?
The double-speak we often hear about Him sure represents him as being a schizoid combination of "love/hate." I know it has to grieve the heart of God. For in I John 1:5 we learn that "in Him there is no darkness at all."
Yet Ephesians chapters four and five distinctly tell us that we are to "emulate" our heavenly Father! And to emulate Him means that we are NOT to let the sun go down on our wrath. Weíre told that we are to be tenderhearted, forgiving and kind, just as our Heavenly Father is. Weíre talking about the God that changes not, in Whom there is no shadow of turning.
He never even LOOKS like Heís about to change! (Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17; Heb. 13:8)
Then, in His sermon on the mount the Lord tells us to "love our enemies" and to "bless and do good to those who hate us," so we will be "perfect" just as our Heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:38-48) And donít forget, the Lord is talking about the kind of love that is DOING good, not just Ďwishingí good for people.
Pardon my repeating myself, but now that Iím a grandpa I have a good excuse, donít I? So, again, here goes---
Love minus action ainít love. Love minus commitment equals ABUSE.
Traditional church theologians preach this all the time. Hmmm... That is, when theyíre not trying to defend the idea that Holy Love Personified Ďwishesí good but will not actually DO good for most of His human offspring after they depart this veil of tears---a veil of tears into which they never "chose" to be born...
Matt. 7:12, 13 "THEREFORE, whatever you want others to do to you, do also unto them. Why? Thatís what your heavenly Father does! Thatís what the "therefore" is there for in our Lordís teaching. This (loving our neighbors as ourselves) is the law and the prophets! So, our Heavenly Father, Holy Love Himself---IS---The Fulfillment Personified of the law and the prophets, according to verse twelve! What Christ is showing us here is that God loves His little neighbors (both friends and enemies ) as He loves Himself. Thus, we are to "enter the narrow gate" by following Christ, who emulates His Father by loving His little neighbors as He loves Himself. (Vs. 13)
Does God Himself want to be abandoned to misery forever, without hope or mercy or kindness? Is that how He would want others to treat Him, if it lay within their power to do so?
So again, for fifteen centuries the droning drums of religion have deafened much of the church to fully hearing---all---our Lord has to say. And now? We have a brownie-point message that destroys hope, as its proclaimers assure us with smiling faces and vibrant voices, "Good news, folks! You can count on God---if---He can count on you!"
That message of "Bottom line, itís up to you!" fosters spiritual pride and judgmentalism in many people. It spawns agnosticism, despair and rebellion in many others. Often, all of these negative elements manifest themselves in the same individual.
For example, such a brownie-point motivated individual feels hopeful and falsely self-confident when his or her conduct, thoughts, and emotions seem "victorious" from his or her criteria of judgment. However, when such a one perceives his or her conduct, thoughts and emotions as "unholy," despair consumes that same individual, and he or she begins looking for "pain killers."
These pain killers can be chronic sexual or chemical or emotional addictions. They can also be the solace that is found in intellectualizing and perceiving the universe from an atheistic or agnostic viewpoint. Iíve discovered that some of the greatest science fiction enthusiasts are Christians, plagued with a history of legalistic religion. (Iím talking here about science fiction that is based on atheistic presuppositions.)
Problem is, all the aforementioned rack and ruin comes from ingesting a "The Lord loves you, but" ideology that just simply is not the---whole---counsel and will of God. Too often, it produces Christians who are proficient in spouting off double-speak and living double lives---and all because---they are the victims of double-mindedness that their spiritual "programming" has fostered in their perception of God, themselves and others, and the world in general.
For the message many now call the "glad tidingsí is one that represents our "Heavenly Father" as being a double-talking hypocrite. So, of course, those who worship him (while seriously adhering to such perverse understanding) will find themselves with---NO CHOICE---but to become increasingly like him.
Iím not talking here of the more resilient and "stable" Christians who have learned to mentally "backfile" the teaching of never-ending hell-fire, and talk of "resting in Godís grace"---while living as though their eternal punishment dogma did not exist.
No, Iím talking about those people, who in their daily lives take---ALL---of their doctrinal understanding seriously. Iím talking about Christians who lie awake, weeping, many nights throughout their lives---gravely considering---their eternal destiny, and wishing they had never been born. These are the ones Iím talking about. And these are the ones who become spiritual schizophrenics. (Voice of experience talking here!)
But how can spiritual schizophrenia be avoided? Weíre presented with a god who is all "un(?)conditional love" while His offspring physically live. Yet He changes to become a weird combination of "un(?)conditional love/never-ending unforgiveness" after His offspring physically die. For we are told that our "Father of tender mercies and all compassion," forever ceases working any DEEDS of love on behalf of his own creation after they pass from this life into the spirit-realm!
Weíre presented for our acceptance a "God" who eternally forsakes the works of His very own hands. This double-talking "deity" utters "unfailing love" out of one side of his mouth and unspeakable cruelty out of the other---and---he abandons people forever when they need him the most! And he abandons people who would not have existed in the first place had he himself not called them into being!
And worse, and please note, for this is FOUNDATIONALÖ
Weíre presented with a "God" who commands us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength---WHILE---He loves (?) us with mere conditional commitment to our eternal well being!
David, my friend, something is definitely missing in that cruel equation. And the missing factor is called "the restitution of ALL things, spoken of by all Godís holy prophets"! For any understanding of the gospel that requires that we give more to our heavenly Father than He can or will give to us just simply HAS to be wrong. It just simply cannot be the---whole---counsel of God.
The irrational idea that God demands our unconditional commitment while He offers us only conditional commitment is what lands folks in psychiatric hospitals. Been there and done that, David. Believing that abusive nonsense is what kept me bound to failure and nearly destroyed my marriage, life, and ministry. The revelation God gave me of His---UNfailing and committed love---got me out of the hospital and restored me to sanity and life.
I repeat---this is FOUNDATIONAL.
We just simply cannot exert greater commitment to our Creator than He exerts toward us. It is intrinsically impossible! Our Heavenly Father is the Sun. We are the moon. We cannot shine unless the Father of lights continually and without ceasing shines on us.
David, do you want to know the truth? I have yet to receive a well reasoned response to this foundational issue from anyone who believes the so-called gospel of "God loves you, but..." They avoid it like the plague! I seriously doubt that I will ever receive any glowing testimonies from Christians that extol the unspeakable joys they have found in loving God---wholeheartedly---while He (supposedly) loves them with CONDITIONAL commitment.
II. GODíS COUNSEL, GOOD PLEASURE, DESIRE, PURPOSE AND WILL
David Iíve already covered much of this in my "Absolute Assurance" manuscript, so Iíll keep this portion shorter. In the manuscript I have already demonstrated Scripturally that God has guaranteed to fulfill---ALL---His will and purpose.
All this is spelled out and beautifully summed up in Ephesians 1:9-ll. Godís good pleasure (translates also as "desire") which He has PURPOSED in Himself is to head all creation up under Christ. And that is because He works---ALL---things after the counsel of His will. Wow! What peace that brings once it comes home to the heart, bro.
We find in Isa. 14:24 and Isa. 46:10-11 that God assures us His purpose will STAND. He tells us clearly that He will do---all---His pleasure, or His "desire." Isa. 55:11 reminds us again (in so many words) that Godís word is His will and His will is His word. It will not return fruitless, but it will accomplish His "desire."
Furthermore, Ephesians 1:9-11 shows us that Godís purpose, good pleasure, counsel and will are all the same thing. His purpose is His will. His will is His good pleasure and desire. His will, good pleasure and desire are His purpose which He will surely accomplish. We can resist His will for a time, but no one can restrain Him from accomplishing all His loving purpose, in the end. (Dan. 4:34-35; Ps. 33:10-11)
Hear the words of God the Son Himself, stated in Heb. 10:7---"Behold, I have come---in the volume of the Book it is written of Me---to do Your will, oh God." Then the Lord repeats this truth in John 4:34 where He declares, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work." So our Heavenly Father has a work which He has purposed for His World-Savior Son to accomplish. And, Christ clearly told us His purpose when He assured us that he had come to save and NOT to condemn the world. (Jn. 12:47)
And please note carefully: Our Good Shepherd and World-Savior also clearly told us the PURPOSE for which the Father had committed all JUDGMENT into His hands. The purpose was---so that---ALL may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. (Jn. 5:22-23) So the Lord there specifically reveals that all judgment is remedial---not vindictive or hopeless.
He also told us His purpose is to disarm the "strong man" (satan), take away his armor, and to confiscate his booty. (Luke 11:21-22) Again, the Lord declared his purpose when He stated that the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that---not some of that---which was lost. (Lk. 19:10)
Now I ask a questionÖ If we balk and refuse to believe the Lord when He tells us His purpose and His will and the certainty of their fulfillment, how can we expect to understand Him when He talks of His judgments? Food for prayer and thought.
Again, the so-called "glad tidings" of a god of conditional commitment (love) is the result of not listening to---ALL---the Lord has to say.
The Lord and Scripture itself repeatedly tell us that the Father has given Him---ALL---things. (Matt. 11:27; 28:18; Lk. 10:22; Jn. 3:35; 13:3; 17:2; Heb. 1:2; 2:7-8; Ps. 1:8; 82:8; I Pet. 3:19; 4:6)
Furthermore, Christ distinctly tells us that He has come to accomplish His Fatherís will and that His Fatherís will is that He lose---NOTHING---of all He has given Him. (Jn. 6:37,39; 17:2. See also Matt. 12:8; Isa. 42:1-9)
That is because the Savior of all mankind has come to---CONFIRM---the covenant promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Lk. 1:68-79; Rom. 15: 8) However, weíll deal with that covenant issue in a few moments. At present weíre looking at the fact that Godís will, desire and purpose is that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (I Tim. 2:1-6) For all creation was made by the Son and for the Son, who inherits "all things," according to Heb. 1:2. (And nothing was made for satan or hell!) Again, this clear statement of purpose leaps from the page before our eyes in Colossians 1:15-20. Here we are also told that God is reconciling (and not merely wooing)---ALL---to Himself through Christís cross.
THEREFORE, the Lordís loss of Judas---or even the "rich man" in Hades---has to be a temporary loss. I read nowhere in that Luke 16 passage that the "great gulf" cannot EVER be crossed. Only minds already prejudiced toward the notion of endless damnation would import such a meaning into that passage. The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself, David. Nor does He inspire words that contradict his own good purpose and will. (So thereís my answer to that question, by the way.)
III. GODíS COVENANT WITH THE HUMAN RACE THROUGH ABRAHAM.
First letís look at Gal.3:8 as the Bible actually states it:
"And Scripture foreseeing that God would justify THE Gentiles, by faith, proclaimed the glad tidings to Abraham, saying, ĎIn you shall ALL the Gentiles be blessed.í" (Emphasis mine. However, the same Greek word is used for both "Gentiles" and "Nations.")
Now, letís restate that same verse as traditional religiosity "interprets" it:
"And Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles, by faith, proclaimed the glad tidings to Abraham, saying, ĎIn you, shall only a few Gentiles be justified. However, be of good cheer, chosen one. All the remaining majority of mankind will be blessed in some vague manner while they live on earth. Then afterwards, the Lord---and His saints---will judge them and consign them to hell forever and everí."
"Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?" (See I Cor. 6:2 and Jude 14-15) Horrors...Much of todayís church would have us believe that Christians eventually will join with their "Good Shepherd" in consigning most of the human race to fiery disaster to agonize foreverÖ Yet the book of Judges is actually a book of saviors. Furthermore, Ps. 62:12 assures us that it is Godís---mercy---that motivates Him to judge us!
Yet traditional religiosity tells us that God will "bless" all His offspring for a little while, and then trash and burn most of them---forever! Is not this what tradition actually teaches?
So there it is---Godís covenant with Abraham, as much of the church now "interprets" it. Religious tradition would have Scripture "foreseeing" one thing---and then---"proclaiming" the glad (?) tidings of something entirely different from what it had "foreseen" only a split second earlier!
Yet David, thatís the double-speak "Glad Tidings" paradigm you and I were brought up under, isnít it?
But our Good Father does not waffle words about human destiny in such an unworthy manner!
Gal.3:8 and Acts 3:21-26 sum up concisely what this covenant is all about. It is Godís covenant which he swore by Himself---alone! He put Abraham to sleep when He made His vow to fulfill this covenant (commitment!) through Christ, Abrahamís "Seed." (Gen. 15:5-21) And God put Abraham to sleep to make it---abundantly clear---that manís will or word has no bearing on the certainty of this covenantís fulfillment. Thus not even any violation of Godís commandments can cancel this covenant. This includes His repeated commands to repent and believe or not even to "covet" to do otherwise. (Gal. 3:17)
This covenant declares that ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH shall be justified and set right with God. And thus only will all the spiritually unenlightened (heathen) be blessed. (Gal. 3:8).
Acts 3:21 & 25 links this covenant with "the restoration of ALL things, which was spoken by all Godís holy prophets from the beginning." And Acts 3:26 clearly spells out what is the nature of the "blessing" promised to all mankind.
Here it is---
"To you (Jews) first, God having raised up His Servant, Jesus, sent Him to Ďblessí you..."
And how? "Öby turning everyone of you away from your sins."
So David, the nature of the "blessing" is everyone of us being turned from our sins.
And every human being ever born, yourself and myself included, are IN that covenant. That is because God has covenanted---committed---not ever to give up on any of us. It is in Hebrews 6:11-20 where we find the assurance given that Godís sworn covenant with Abraham is a "sure anchor for the soul."
Why is it a sure anchor for the soul? All of us are in it. Thatís why.
So this covenant anchors us in the certainty that God is unconditionally committed to all of us and will never give up until He frees us. Not ever! Love never fails, and here is the reason: It is because our Heavenly Father hangs in there with us---until---He succeeds in setting the captives free. (Read all of Psalm 22, Isaiah 42 and 61.)
We donít have "free wills" yet, David. God must first free them from satanís lying deceptions so they CAN be free. For His very---purpose---in coming was to destroy the deceptive works of the devil! (Have a look at I Jn. 3:8 as well as Col. 1:21---and---donít forget to read also Lk. 11: 21-22 )
Christ died for us when we were "without strength." God makes many appeals to our wills to make righteous choices. GRANTED. Nevertheless---bottom line---it is not of Him who "wills" or "runs", but of our covenant-keeping God Who shows mercy. (Rom. 9:16; 11:32) Our unrighteous choices---no matter how many or how depraved---cannot cancel His covenant to hang in there with us until He frees us.
Weíre talking about Love that "never fails" here, David. But we are---not---talking about NO PENALTIES for willful disobedience to the light God has given us. Christians and non-Christians alike will be judged for their works. And there IS a lake of fire reserved for any of us who opt for an "anything goes" and unrepentant life style. God is no respecter of persons. So just because weíve been "born again" does not mean that weíre automatically exempted from meeting with the just penalties for any unrepented wickedness we afterwards may do. (Jn. 15:6; Rom. 2:1-12; Heb. 2:1-4)
However, what my Arminian Pentecostal upbringing caused me to not understand for decades was a very simple truth. Salvation means "rescue"---bottom line---not "reward."
Rescue is one subject. Reward is another. Separate subjects entirely. All of us will be rewarded for our good and evil deeds, yes. But the "wrath" that comes from violated law cannot cancel Godís covenant to turn all of us from our sins and set us right with Himself. (Rom. 4:13-15) Again, that is because all judgment has been committed into the hands of our Good Shepherd. He is committed to rescue us, no matter what kinds of rewards we may accrue. Even if we are "saved only as by fire" and have no reward, God is committed to rescue His creation that---He Himself---"subjected to futility." (I Cor. 3:13-15; Rom. 8:20)
Did Christ come to heal the well or the sick? Did He come to rescue the already rescued, or did He come to rescue those who are imprisoned? (Matt. 9:12-13)
Much of todayís church tell us we have a "Heavenly Lifeguard" who is committed to saving only the good or "cooperative" swimmers, in humanityís turbulent ocean of sorrow and sin. All of the drowning victims who are drunk or flailing in panic or satanically hypnotized or suicidal, He will "allow" to sink and perish forever!
How tragic, this irrational mind set...
Our Lordís purpose in coming to earth was to set the captives free---not to "reward" with "rescue" those who are already liberated! Wouldnít that be daft, to say the least? So Godís covenant is His commitment. It is His sworn PROMISE that through Christ He will hang in there with us until He accomplishes His PURPOSE to set all of us right with Himself.
Thatís why Paul directs us to "the Scriptures" that---specify that covenant---so we can receive patience, comfort, and hope. (Rom. 15:4-13) Paul reminds us that Christ came to confirm (not contradict or severely restrict) that covenant. It brings us comfort and hope, because, whether we be "first" or foul up and end up being "last"---all of us---are included in that solemn promise God made to Abraham!
Christ says that many who are "first" will be "last." ( Matt. 19:30) Yet much of todayís church tells us that many who are "first" shall be lost---forever---and wind up being "never"! But I think weíre better off to believe the words of our covenant-keeping World-Savior. Donít you agree?
For Christ is the "Seed" of Abraham. So He is the "FIRSTfruits" of all who have died in Adam. Therefore, as in Adam all die---even so---in Christ shall all be made alive. For if the firstfruit is holy, the whole batch is ALSO holy. So all who have been made unholy in Adam "shall" be made holy in Christ. (I Cor. 15:20-22; Rom. 11:16)
Our Lord Himself teaches us this "firstfruits" truth in John 12:23-32. Listen to what Christ, the Firstfruits "Seed" of Abraham has to say---
"The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you that unless a grain (seed!) of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces MUCH fruit." But how much fruit will Christ, the Seed of Abraham produce?
Eight verses later we find the answer---
"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world is cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (die by crucifixion) I will draw---all---mankind to Myself." Thus, Christ Who is the "Firstfruits Seed of Abraham" falls into the ground and dies. And the result? All mankind will be drawn to Him and made alive---and---holy.
But this will happen in the "dispensation of the fullness of the times," not in this dispensation of the "church." At present,God, by His grace, is calling out a priesthood people "for His name"---a people who will reflect the healing light of His pure and loving nature. This "called out" church of the "firstborn" whose names are "registered in heaven" is composed of both Jew and Gentile. (Matt. 5:14-17; Eph. 1:9, Rom. 11:6; Acts 15:14; Heb. 12:23)
We, the "called out," Godís "royal priesthood" people are also referred to as "the beginning." But to what purpose is the church called the beginning? God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light---so that---in ALL creation Christ may have the supremacy. (I Pet. 2:9; Col. 1:18) For we are also "a kind of firstfruits," and as Christ was in this world, so are we! (Jas. 1:18; I Jn. 4:17) And He has sent us to be a light to the world, even as His Father first had "elected" and commissioned Him to be THE Light, that illuminates every child of Adam born into this world. (Jn. 20:21; 1:9) For Christ is the Love-Sacrifice, not only for our sins, but for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD. (I Jn. 2:2)
Co-heirs, co-laborers, co-world-liberators with Christ---that---is the PURPOSE for which we have been called out as Godís "elect." We have been called out so that we---with Christ---will BE Godís salvation to the ends of the earth! (Isa. 49) We have been called "according to Godís purpose" to be Christís fullness that fills everyone in every way in the ages to come. (Eph. 1:23)
We the "called out" church are not the "us four and no more going to heaven club" as the oleí spirit of antichrist has tried to cartoon us to be!
No, may Heaven have mercy on our blindness! A thousand times---NO. We, the called out church, are "co-heirs" with Christ who will inherit the heathen, that is, all those who are in spiritual darkness. And the ends of the earth will be His (and our) possession! We are destined to "reign" with the Crucified One, but not by "lording it over" people as pagan governments do. No, we are destined to reign as self-emptying, self-giving restorers with servantís hearts. (Lk. 22:24-30; Phil. 2:5-11)
Thatís why all things are working together for our good. Through Christ---and us, His firstborn co-heirs---all creation is destined to come into the liberty of sonship we now enjoy. We "called out" ones are now tasting the firstfruits of this glorious sonship. (Rom. 8:16-29) We who have first trusted in Christ have been destined to be to the "praise of Godís glory" that shall be revealed in us in the coming ages. (Eph. 1:12-14)
But how many sermons have you heard about "firstborn" and "firstfruits", expounding on these terms that repeatedly crop up in both the Old Testament and New? I attended Bible college for four years, and---never once---did I hear anyone even mention these terms!
How many sermons have you heard about Godís covenant with Abraham being a sure anchor for the soul? How many messages have you heard about the "comfort and hope" we can receive from it? I remember exactly---zero.
Why is this? It is because this covenant cannot anchor our soul or bring hope and comfort as the church now "interprets" itís meaning. For religious tradition insists that only a tiny few of earthís myriad populations will be set right with God. But all of the remainder will be "blessed" in some vague manner while they live on earth---only to agonize forever afterward in "hell." So this covenant has been reduced to grandiose sounding inflated advertising and irrelevant spiritual sounding gobbledygook! Itís been mutilated, so that it means ---NOTHING--- that could possibly anchor our souls.
For how can this sworn promise anchor our souls, as many Christians now interpret it? For if their understanding is correct, there is---OVERWHELMING---mathematical probability that weíre not included in it. For all you know, David, you may be in that vaaaaast majority (tradition speaks of) who are non Christians and "backsliders" that God has "foreseen" as being excluded from that covenant for all eternity! (At least, as pertains to its promise of justification!)
What utter nonsense! Why would Godís Spirit inspire Paul and the writer to the Hebrews to remind us to find hope and an anchor for our souls in that covenant, if our success at exercising faith and obedience had anything to do with its fulfillment? If that were so, why didnít God require that our spiritual father---ABRAHAM---join with Him in vowing to keep that covenant?
Well thereís the basic foundation I am standing on, David.
Godís character, Godís counsel, will and purpose, Godís covenant.
It is appalling that most of todayís evangelical church perceives Godís ultimate purpose is to have a creation---forever divided---between "winners" and "losers." And nearly all of them losers. Oh yes, many folks might argue that this is NOT Godís purpose. My response? Okay, fine. It is the purpose that you insist will finally prevail nevertheless, is it not? It is the purpose that traditional religion has trained us to believe that God will "allow" to prevail. Is it not?
David, I now have some questions for your own prayerful reflection. Can you explain how such a horrifying perception of the ultimate purpose of "Holy Love Himself" contributes to people having any solid faith in Him? Or, can you explain how it even helps Christians have a solid sense of having any good purpose for being? For all they know, they may die in some sinful act and find themselves forever banished from their heavenly Father, according to the way you and I were taught! So can you explain how Godís covenant, as most Christians now understand it, can bring them "comfort and hope?" Or provide a "sure and steadfast anchor for their soul"? How does their "double-image" perception of Godís character inspire them to love their enemies and be different from the world that hates their enemies?
Now for the "choice" issue you mentioned several times in your letterÖ
Neither you nor I chose to be born. We were Godís idea, right? Hence we are HIS responsibility---bottom line. Rom. 8:20-21 tells us that Our Heavenly Fatherís creation---did not---fall voluntary. It fell by the will of God Himself who subjected it to futility in hope. Hope for what? The hope that does not disappoint--- "That ALL creation will come forth into the glorious liberty of the children of God!" And get this: Verse 24 tells us that it is in THIS hope we are healed, i.e., saved, delivered and restored. That has definitely proved to be the case with myself, David. It has been the solid hope of the redemption of all humanity that has fostered profound healing in my religion-abused heart.
Why did no one ever preach on Romans 8:20 when I was growing up? It seems that not very many in the church are happy that this passage is in the Bible. :-)
But it IS there.
And it distinctly tells us that creation did not fall by its own choice, but by the will of God Himself. He knew full well how Adam and Eve were going to be led astray before He created them.
Yes, I realize that Romans chapter one says the human race is "without excuse," and I believe it is true. It is true---because---none of us have walked in the light God has given us. And to mature us, our Good Father must hold us accountable for our conduct and teach us to assume responsibility. But that is a ĎTOP LINEí truth. It does not nullify the---íBOTTOM LINEí---truth that our Heavenly Fatherís integrity demands that He take full responsibility for the human race that He Himself called into being.
He foreknew all of us, therefore He takes responsibility for all of us.
Have a look at these words Paul utters in Romans 11:1-2---
"What!? Has God cast off His people whom He foreknew? Certainly not!"
Carefully follow through the eleventh chapter of Romans, and youíll see that this means---everyone. Also, as youíre reading, take special note of verses ten and eleven. It is here that Paul clearly establishes that the word "forever"---whatever it may mean---does not mean "hopeless" or "never-ending" as pertains to Godís judgments for either Jew or Gentile, i.e. all humanity.
(Rom. 11:10) "...and bow down their backs---FOREVER!!!"
(Rom. 11:11) Observe Paul responding nowÖ "I say then, has Israel stumbled so as to fall beyond recovery? Certainly NOT!"
Realize that Paul here is talking of apostate Israel who has---REJECTED JESUS CHRIST---their promised Messiah. And from Rom. 11:11 onwards, Paul begins to show how Israel, Godís "firstfruit" nation, will be restored to become THE catalyst for the WORLDíS restoration. (Compare Rom. 4:13 with Gal.3:8 and Ezek. 37!) The chapter ends by telling us (Rom. 11: 32) that God has committed us ALL to disobedience---so that---He may show mercy to us ALL. (Here is Godís purpose being thundered again!) And verse 36 tells us---why---He will accomplish His redemptive purpose. It is because Ďallí is from Him and through Him, and Ďallí is TO Him. You and I are included in the Ďallí that returns to God. Our Loving Creatorís integrity demands that He take---ultimate---responsibility for ALL He Himself has called into being.
Even so, Iím happy to affirm again that, being the Good Father He is, God does train us increasingly to assume responsibility in order to mature us. I know this is true. And, being a dad myself, I can fully appreciate why God would want to teach us to exercise responsibility and to make wise choices.
Nevertheless, our Good Father knows that I did not "choose" to be born to parents that would become Pentecostals, any more than Hindu and Moslem kids "chose" to be born to their parents. Nor did I "choose" to attend all the church meetings where I was being programmed with the message of "God loves you---but---you had better get your act together BEFORE you die, or else Heís out of here FOREVER."
Nor did I "choose" to deeply love and trust the dear lady who asked me if I wanted to pray and ask Jesus into my heart when I was six years old. I trusted and loved Joyce Stroupe---because---she had won my deepest admiration and trust as a friend of our family. So I would have has easily "chosen" to go to the movies or done anything else that seemed good that she might ask me to do. So when Sister Stroupe told me that Jesus died on the cross for me, and asked if I would I like to invite Him into my heart, of course I said "yes." It never even entered my mind to say anything else!
But of course, Joyce Stroupe had earned my highest admiration and trust. I followed her around like a puppy!
Surely you wouldnít suggest that as a six year old child I passionately sought the Lord and walked by some "inner light" until I was diligent and "lucky" enough to find Him and "choose" Him! Lord have mercy, but this is what many teach, is it not? They teach that all who have reached the "age of accountability" who die without knowing Christ are without excuse! If they had diligently walked in the light they had, they would have found the Lord before it was "too late."
I was six, and I knew the difference between right and wrong. So popular theology would say, "Little Charlie sure was lucky that he didnít die before he had chosen the Lord," would it not? What utter slander against Godís character (albeit unknowingly, hopefully) has paraded itself as "the gospel"... Glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people? Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Nor did I "choose" to wake up on May 1st, 1996, filled with the joyful knowledge that the Lord would accomplish His purpose and His "desire" for all his creation and find myself ravished with His presence and bonkers in love with Him. On the contrary, I had gone to bed the night before, sobbing my guts out.
David, are you ready for this?
I went to bed---drunk---and that, on top of all my prescription medications! Furthermore, I was railing at God. I was accusing Him for His injustice in not giving me a "choice" as to whether or not I should be born! (A very usual habit of Charlie, too.) So please note this well, David. I had gone to bed, angrily accusing God. I was NOT "repenting" and "believing" in Him or "choosing" to "receive" Him.
Like Paul (the foremost of sinners) on the road to Damascus who was a blasphemer "breathing out murderous threatenings," so was yours truly, in his own way.
I had lost all hope of relating to God. I only wanted to die like a microbe or a moth and not exist anymore. And again, I was not at all "repentant," or "choosing" God---any more than Paul was when the Great Light Himself appeared to him and headed him off at the pass and "drafted" him. And all because God had chosen Paul from when he was an embryo in his motherís womb! (Compare Gal. 1:15 with Ps. 33:13-15 and Ps. 139.)
Not that Iím such an airhead as to try to imply that Iím on Paulís level. But the Lord loves David Roberts and Charles Slagle just as much as He loves Paul. Does He not? Oh no, David. I definitely did not "choose" to go out and search for my (lost?) Good Shepherd until I found Him. He found me. Itís the faith of the Son of God that called me into life. It was not my faith at all. I didnít have any, bro. It is His grace---alone---and His faith that has delivered me.
I had no free will, except one that was free to foul up!
Itís HIS faithfulness that is now increasingly---freeing---my will so it can love, trust, and serve Him. How is it possible for God to "violate" or "force" a will that is "without strength?" Our wills first must be set free before it would make any sense to talk about "forcing" them.
Any good old Baptist (Calvinist!) would tell you the same thing.
No one seeks God. He seeks us. No one is capable of "choosing" God---until---He liberates our wills so they CAN choose Him. Our wills are captive to do only evil. But thatís what satan has done, right? He seduced our first parents and "took them captive to do his will." (II Tim. 2:26) And all of us went into sinís prison with them. And God allowed it. In fact, well---look at Romans 11:32 for yourself. God actually says He did it.
For God "allows" only what he wills. He does not "allow" what he does not foresee as being conducive to His good purpose. (Even traditional Bible teachers will say this when they are not trying to defend partial redemption.)
David, can you honestly not think of any times in your life when the Lord saved your hide and your "will" had---nothing---to do with it? Iím praying the Lord will haunt you real good with that question...
"By grace you are saved though faith, and THAT, not of yourselvesÖ" (Eph. 2:8-10) Our faith is also Godís gift so that no one can boast. Jesus clearly tells us that no man can come to God unless His Spirit draws him. (Matt. 11:27) For---no one---seeks God, according to Romans 3:11. No, not one.
Another question you posed was, "Isnít the question, Ďhow close can I get to the Lord in my life here on earth?í"
In response to that, I have a few questions... "Why didnít God send Jesus to be crucified a couple of hundred or so years after Adam and Eve fell? By then, there were plenty enough people to crucify Him, were there not? Wouldnít that have assured that the human race from that time on would have ALWAYS been close to God? Wouldnít that have spared many billions of people in subsequent generations much pain and suffering?
And if (endless) hell is correct, what was the point of allowing myriad numbers of people to be born in Africa, Asia, and the Americas aions B.C. who never even heard of Abraham or Moses? Doesnít current religiosity require us to believe that all of those people are in hell? Why was it God sent no one to tell them that the---highest priority---is that they get as close as possible to Him in THIS EARTHLY LIFETIME ?
Did God "so love the world" that He sent His Son---thousands of years later--- offering far too little and far too late?
What was the point of all the innumerable populations in cultures existing worldwide who never heard about Christ for many hundreds of years after He commissioned the church to proclaim Him? (Horrors, that is, until they died and woke up [supposedly] in "hell"! Sheeeesh! David, canít you see how that brownie point religion has caricatured the gospel?)
And why did God allow yours truly to walk thorough so many decades of sheer hell on earth, before He actually drew me close enough so I could have true understanding of His heart? Why didnít He unveil His heart to me sooner, and spare me all the pain and futility I went through?
And why would he allow a Moslem to live 85 years on this earth and not let him receive a unmistakably clear call from the Lord, as did the apostle Paul? I know of one young Moslem who was not searching for God, yet the Lord confronted him in 1994 in as dramatic a way as He did Paul. Iíll be happy to send you a copy of his story, if youíd like one, David.
But why does He not do that for EVERYONE?
I really wish He would. Brother, I canít tell you how much I wish He would! But I also know our Father has a plan for the AGES. At "present," there is an "election according to grace." He is "calling out a people for His name" for His work, not only for now, but for in the ages to come. (Rom. 11:5; Acts 15:14-18)
I like instant coffee and instant pudding and instant everything, of course. I personally would much prefer that Jesus would return---NOW. Pronto! This moment! I donít want all this human agony that comes from earthís multitudes living in spiritual darkness. I want it brought to a HALT. Now! Not tomorrow, but now.
However, Paul himself said that if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable! I did not say that, David. Paul did. He voiced that sentiment in I Cor. 15 ---WHERE---the subject was the resurrection and God finally becoming "all in all." Thatís the precise context in which he spoke those words. (Note vss. 19-28)
Yes, like yourself, my heart also is so much overflowing with Godís love, that I yearn for as many people as possible---now---to know the Lord in His fullness. Every fiber of my being wants others to experience His transforming touch, and to KNOW Him. For there is no other name under Heaven whereby any of us can be saved! How well I know that, as Iíve never known it before.
Jesus is THE Answer.
And yet, I have no choice but to be patient and trust the Lord, Who governs all ages, and rest assured that my "wee contribution" is included in His plan that His kingdom will be established---fully---on earth, just as it is in Heaven.
Now to quote from your letter again: "What youíre teaching is confusing me. Maybe Iím just dense. But it seems to me that each person and every one of us has to believe that Jesus was who He said He was, and did what He did for our salvation, and that He is the only true Victor over satan and the kingdom of evil. If everyone is going to be forgiven eventually, then why am I busting my gut trying to tell people of Godís love for them? If I donít need to believe any of that, then what in the world am I doing in Romania? If I am to believe what you are saying, I donít need this."
First, Iím starting with your last two sentences... David, isnít Christís love itself that overflows from your heart the motivating force that is compelling you to go to Romania? If the Master of the vineyard allows other workers finally to get in at the last hour and to receive the same "penny" and not go through the same heat of the sun youíve gone though---isnít it all worthwhile, nevertheless?
When the Master Evangelist decides to return and restore all things---or perhaps, just beforehand, goes on the move" Himself, confronting different "Saulís" on their "road to Damascus," I sure wonít complain, will you?
Why would our Lordís SUCCEEDING in His purpose to save the world render our labors worthless?
Is it not worthwhile to inherit all creation (the heathen!) with Him, as His reigning/serving co-regents in the ages to come? Thatís why He bids us to pray for all men, and to pray that His will be done on earth just as it is in Heaven.
If the "prodigal son-pagan-world" finally returns to our Father and to us, donít you think that we, the "firstborn elder brothers" of the returning world-weary should share our Good Fathers elation and join with Him in throwing a party for our lost prodigal brethren? Would their return home, render our own labors worthless? Does the worldís reconciliation with our Good Father mean our faithfulness to his house was unprofitable? Couldnít we have only asked, and he would have killed as many fatted calves as we wanted and given us as many parties as we desired?
Does our prodigal brothersí return reveal that we secretly have wished all along to live as they did, but instead decided to try to "butter up" our Good Father, so He would love and accept us? Not knowing He already accepted and loved us? Or perhaps our prodigal "latter born" world-brothers returning home could make us feel that the whole thing has been a huge and exhausting charade that our Father could easily have spared us all...
I can only speak from the standpoint of knowing how my own exhaustion in days gone by has affected my own outlook. Not yours.
All I can say, David, is that your hard labors are NOT in vain. Thank God somebody is out there and busts their gut like youíre doing! How do you know you may not have spiritual children in Romania that God will use to bring massive revival all throughout Europe? In this church dispensation, how can people hear unless someone is sent? And God has ordained to use "the foolishness of preaching" to save some. Is it fruitless to involved ourselves joyfully in His plan now so we will hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."?
Yes, I believe that all must receive and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, just as you do. Yet I also believe the Lord will totally succeed in His purpose in the end. I donít buy into the traditions of the elders that say He will not accomplish all of His will and purpose, in the face of a multitude of opposing Scriptures that distinctly promise He will. That does not discourage me in my labors. That encourages me in my labors!
David Iíve done as you told me to do. Iíve taken your thoughts. Iíve chewed on them, and havenít found them to be hazardous at all. I pray you will do the same with mine and find the same result. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The statutes of men lay heavy burdens on our backs that are grievous to be borne. (Ps. 19:8; Matt. 23:4; I Jn. 5:3)
Do you consider it a "light burden" or an "easy yoke" your feeling that the Lord requires that you love Him with greater commitment than He offers you? (Matt. 11:27-30) Can you love and trust Him with Ďallí of your heart, soul, mind and strength---and at the same time---SERIOUSLY meditate on the so-called "truth" that you could be committing a "mortal" sin when you die and He will abandon you to hell forever?
This question takes on an enormous magnitude of importance when we remember that Christ tells us that "coveting" or "lusting" to commit a sin in our---heart---is as wicked as doing it physically. (Matt. 5:28) And Paul backs this truth up by saying, "No covetous man---who is an IDOLATER---has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God!" (Eph. 5:5)
So, can you love and trust your Heavenly Father with all of your being---while also---believing these Scriptures mean that He is NOT unconditionally committed to your ultimate salvation? Four years of Bible college made it abundantly clear to yours truly, that this IS how traditional religiosity usually interprets those Scriptures.
Iím asking an honest question here, not being flippant. Itís coming out of my heart of love for you, and with all sincerity.
Well, as I look over this "exceedingly large epistle" I think, in substance Iíve addressed all of your questions. But if not, feel free to say so, and Iíll keep on till I get it right, okay? Paula and I love you and Lisa, and thank God for the good work you are doing. But even if you were not doing anything at all, we would still love and enjoy you for who you are. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So if we never see eye to eye on some points of doctrine, thereís still wonderful space for fellowship in Christ Himself.
We value your friendship, and your work, and we value your prayers. And you are---ALWAYS---in our hearts and WELCOME in our house. And as I said at the start, when the Lord supplies, weíre looking forward to regularly supporting you guys again.
Always your friend,