How Much Does It Take to Get to Heaven? Part 2

Nathan and I spending an afternoon together would have been perfect, but we didn’t actually get to talk the day he wrote his question on a small green slip of paper. He was one of a couple of dozen kids writing their questions for God following a youth activity. I pray Nathan’s mom gets to read the answer I’d have given him, had we gotten to talk that day. Instead, I can only imagine it.

Continuing my imaginary visit with Nathan

The summer sun is lower in the sky now, casting long shadows over the track around the park. The air is cooler. Nathan’s brought a basketball to dribble as we walk. My pace won’t keep him busy enough, but I’m glad he wants to keep talking.

“When we are baptized, we become part of Christ forever. Just like when you were born, you became part of your family forever. But there have been kids who run away from home or treat their parents so badly that they can’t live with them anymore. That happens in God’s family, too. But He never stops hoping they’ll come back home.”1

“Oh.” Nathan’s tone of disappointment warned of his prior doubts resurfacing.

“Wait!” I laugh. “There’s more good news!  When you’re saved, guess what that means?”

“You’re not going to Hell?”

“Oh, Nathan! Yes, but it means so much more than that!! Look at these verses!”  I look at my iPhone Bible and point out phrases from Romans 6:

So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life. If we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. Offer yourselves to God as people who have died and now live. But now you are free from sin and have become slaves of God. This brings you a life that is only for God, and this gives you life forever.

So you see, Nathan, Jesus saves us from Hell, and He saves us for Heaven, but He also saves us from having a really bad life here on earth. He teaches us how to live better, how to love better, and how to stay away from what can destroy us. Jesus said it this way in John 8:12:

“Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.”

“Oh wow,” was all Nathan could say.

“And Nathan, there is still more good news!” I couldn’t help being excited. “Jesus told His apostles that it was better for them that He leaves so He could send the Holy Spirit to help.2 When Jesus was here, He walked beside people. The Holy Spirit was going to live inside Christians to help them remember and grow and pray and not worry. Let’s look at one more verse. I think you’ve heard this one before, but bet you didn’t catch the last part.” I locate Acts 2:38 for him to read.

Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Nathan jumps up and gives me a high five. “Wow! I never saw that before! So when we’re baptized, we get the Holy Spirit, too?!”

“Yes. The Holy Spirit moves right in beside your spirit, and you have all the help you need to become more and more like Jesus. And when you do accidentally mess up, Jesus’ blood washes that away, too, and the Holy Spirit helps you learn and grow stronger.Then I put my hand on Nathan’s shoulder, softening my tone. “Nathan, you be certain to listen to God’s Word, keep learning His way to live, and your love will grow and grow. Then one day, you’ll be right where Jesus hoped you would be. At home with Him.”

Nathan’s smile told me he finally understood the Good News–the Gospel: Jesus loves us because God is love. We know He loves us because of all He’s done for us. Our feelings don’t determine how God feels about us. We will never deserve Heaven or ever be able to. We all sin, and death is the cost. Jesus, knowing that, walked beside us to teach us how to live, then paid the blood price for our debt to God for sin. Jesus then provided us the His Spirit within to lead us along to Heaven. All we need to do is commit to Him in baptism and begin our new life of being with God every minute of every day, never ignoring or pushing Him away. Truly, that is Good News.

“Thanks for the ice-cream,” Nathan says. “And thanks for answering my question. Now I know how Jesus loves me. And I know how to love Him back.”

“Thanks for the questions,” I reply. “I look forward to you showing Him how much you love Him.”

 

Yes, a day like that with Nathan would have been enjoyable. But God provides, and Nathan is searching. As for me, now, I pray.

 

1 – I Cor 10:12; Acts 5:1-12; Acts 8:18-34; I Tim 5:15

2 – John 16:7

3 – Romans 8:6-10;15-6; 26-27; 35-39

4 – Romans 8:9

5 – I John 1:7-10

 

How Much Does It Take to Get to Heaven? Part 1

(continuing with Nathan from last week)

We both lick our ice cream cones trying to outpace the sweltering summer’s attack on our yummy treats. The ice cream truck had come at just the right time. We sit on the patio now, ready to continue our conversation.

“So, Nathan. You’re wondering what all you have to do to go to Heaven, right?” I begin.

“Yea. How much does it take?” He is ready to go on the offensive.

“You remind me of a young man Jesus talked to one time. The Bible says Jesus really liked him when He saw him. The young man asked Jesus, ‘What good thing do I have to do to live forever?’”

Leaning forward eagerly, Nathan says, “What did Jesus say?”

“He said, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’”

Nathan quickly objects, “But nobody does that! Do we have to do that to go to Heaven?”

“Well, the young man felt that way, too. His things were more important to him than Jesus was, so he walked away, sad. Now I’m going to tell you something else Jesus said that most people don’t know. Are you ready?”

Nodding soberly, Nathan braces himself, not sure of what’s coming,

“Jesus told his friends that even if they did everything He told them to do, they’d only done their job and He didn’t owe them anything extra. Then the Bible says that everybody insults God (that is, sins), and the only way to pay for your sins is with your life. Also, one of Jesus’ most important apostles said ‘I can’t stop sinning! What am I going to do?’

Not moving, not speaking, Nathan’s eyes held mine.

I put my hand on his shoulder. “Nathan, it sounds like we’re all in a pickle, doesn’t it?”

Nodding his head slowly, he quietly agrees, “I guess.”

“There’s one verse I want you to read, and then I want to tell you what the good news is. Okay?” I let him read the thought in Romans 6:23 from my iPhone:

“The payment for sin is death. But God gives us the free gift of life forever in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

“So, Nathan, what does the Bible say we have to pay to go to Heaven and live with Jesus forever?”

Opening his eyes wide, a smile lighting them, he whispers, “Nothing. The Bible says it’s free!”

“Yes, it is free. Did it say it’s free to everyone who has ever lived? Look at that verse again. Who does God give it to?”

Peering again at the verse, he repeats, “But God gives us the free gift…”

I need to explain. “Okay. Romans is a letter written by one of Jesus’ apostles. His name was Paul. He wrote it to the Christians living in Rome, Italy. God had him write this letter. Let’s look at the first part of this chapter and see what Paul is telling them.”

“So do you think we should continue sinning so that God will give us even more grace? No! We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin? Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ when we were baptized? We shared his death in our baptism. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life.” Rom 6:1-4 CEV

“Do you remember how we have to pay for our sins?”

“We have to die.”

“Nathan! You remembered what the Bible said! Do you see anything about dying in verses 2 and 3?”

He takes my phone, holding it closer to his face to study the words again. After a minute he slowly says, “We died to our old sinful lives. We shared His death in our baptism. Jesus was raised from the dead.” Wondering if he answered correctly, he looks at me for confirmation.

“Yes. Now, do you see how it works? We sin. We owe our lives. Jesus died to pay for our sins but came alive again. When we die to sin, that means we decide not to be our old sinful selves anymore. Then we are baptized–like being buried–like Jesus died and was buried. That’s how we share in his death.” As I speak, I use hand motions to demonstrate burial and being raised new again. “But Nathan, being baptized isn’t like buying a ticket to Heaven. Jesus paid for our ticket, and we just show Him we want to go with Him.”

Whether confused or hopeful I can’t tell, but Nathan asks the obvious. “So you don’t have to do anything to get to Heaven?”

“Jesus says we can’t do enough, even if we tried. But what He says we can do is show Him how much we love and trust Him by doing what He says. And by letting Him use everything we have and making Him more important to us than even our friends and family. And by living for Him from now on.”

“Ooooohhhhhh,” he responds. The lights are coming on. It’s making sense to him.

“But there’s more good stuff!” Our ice cream was gone, but he still seemed interested, so I wanted to make sure he heard ALL the Good News. “You want to go to the park and take a walk?”

“Sure!” Nathan, bounding from the patio, motions for me to follow. We head for the park.

(continued next week)

Passages referred to: Luke 17:10; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:14, 15; Luke 14:26, 27; Matthew 10:37–39.

How Do We Know Jesus Loves Us?

Nathan’s two questions had been on my desk for weeks. Other issues had been easier to research. This one made me sad.  Nathan was the son of a sweet Christian family, but somehow he hadn’t understood the Gospel. Or perhaps other voices had outshouted the sweet voice of God.

I wish I could have looked Nathan in the eye and talked with him that day. I hate thinking he might miss his answer, so I’m praying that his parents will see this and read it to him.

If you and I could have talked, Nathan,  I imagine it would have gone something like this:

“Nathan, are you a little worried that you won’t get to go to Heaven or maybe that Jesus doesn’t love you?”

His bewildered eyes search mine for motive, then, being unsure, he gives an almost imperceptible nod, telling me he hopes it’s okay to admit his fear.

I continue, “How do you think it would feel to be sure Jesus loves you and that you are going to heaven?”

“It would feel good, I guess,” he responds. Perhaps he hadn’t given that possibility much thought.  I wonder how many others haven’t either.

“Do you feel like your parents love you, Nathan?” I ask.

“Yes, they love me,” he assures me.

“How do you know?”

“Well,” he begins, looking up thoughtfully, “My dad plays ball with me, and my mom is always hugging and kissing me.”

“Is there anything else they do for you because they love you?” I urge him to think deeper.

“They buy me clothes and stuff and give me good food to eat,” he begins.  Then thoughtfully, he adds, “And they take me to the doctor if I get hurt. And they teach me how to be safe.” Now he’s a roll. “They let me have friends over and take us places for fun.”

“So you know your parents love you because of what they do for you. Am I getting that right?”

After a moment of mulling it over, he answers, “I guess that’s right.”

“Okay. Can you tell me some things Jesus has done for you?” I say, hoping he doesn’t feel put on the spot.

“He died for my sins.” Sunday school had gotten that important fact across.

“You are right! The Bible tells us that.”

But does Nathan understand what that means? What is his concept of sin and salvation? I want him to think further so, taking his green question slip,  I continue, “Is there anything else Jesus has done just for you?” My pen is poised patiently for his list.

He frowns, looks down thoughtfully, shrugs his shoulders, and guesses, “He made the world and gives us food–and gave me my family.” Then his eyes light up as he remembers something,  “Oh yeah! I got pneumonia one time and my mom prayed for me and I got well!”

I add “made you well” to the list on the paper. “Has anyone ever told you that Jesus wants youNathan, to be his friend?”

He freezes mid-wiggle in surprise. “Really? How do you know?”

“Because the Bible tells me that, too.” Grabbing my phone, I quickly find 2 Peter 3:9 and read,“The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost” (CEV).

I continue, “And you’ve heard the verse, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that anyone who believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). That verse tells me that God wants us so much that He let Jesus become a human and live right here on earth with people.  Anyone who will believe that doesn’t have to go to Hell, but has a way to go to Heaven.”

“So is that how I know Jesus loves me?” He is trying to make the connection.

“Well, you know your parents love you because of what they’ve done; and you know that even when you get in trouble with them and you feel terrible, that they still love you, right?”

Nathan nods, waiting for me to continue.

“Then you can know Jesus still loves you, because of what He’s done for you, even when you feel terrible.”

He smiles then, looking at the list on the back of his question paper. Turning it back over, he remembers his other question.  “So how much does it take to go to Heaven, then?”

“Whoa there, Einstein…How about we finish this conversation after a snack?”

“Snacks! Yeah!!”

I need time to pray. This question is too important for just winging it. Nathan’s understanding of the true nature of God’s Love is only the tip of a vitally crucial iceberg.

Why did God make the Earth? And why are we here instead of in Heaven? – Part 3

“Are animals special like us, too?” Emma had asked.  She wanted to know if animals should receive the same rights and treatment as people do.  An argument had erupted at school between students and the teacher had shown a video about that issue.  Now Emma was confused. Their family ate meat, and some of her relatives liked to hunt. Her father was a scientist, and she’d heard that scientists use animals for testing in labs.  Who was she to believe? What was she to believe?

Other discussions between Emma and her mother Jessica that day had led to this question.  They had agreed to ask her Biologist father about it during Family God time before bed.

Emma and her younger sister curled up on the couch with their mom while their dad settled in his recliner with his Bible.  It was Emma’s favorite time of the day.  Her mom started singing “I Believe In God the Father,” a song by The Newsboys they’d heard on the radio.  Emma and her sister chimed in, and so did their dad, Michael.

“Emma, do you have a Bible verse to read for us tonight?” Michael began.

“Yes,” she began.  She opened her pink fuzzy Bible cover revealing her Easy English version Bible.  Carefully finding the verse, she’d marked she began to read,  “God said ‘I will make different animals come up from the ground. I will make livestock and wild animals. There will be other small animals to move along the ground.  I will make many different animals to live on the earth’”…”God looked at what he had made.  And he saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘We will make man. Men and women will be like us. They will rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky. They will rule over the livestock. And they will rule over the earth and the animals that move along the ground. So God made man to be like God. God made them.  He made some males and some females.  Genesis 1, verses 24, 26, and 27.”  Then she closed the book and snuggled up to her mom, pleased with herself.

Jessica spoke up. “Emma and I were talking today about how important animals are and that God made animals and humans the same day. Some of her friends think animals should be treated the same as humans because they are just as important.” Jessica smiled at Michael.  She’d called him earlier in the day so he’d know to prepare for Emma’s question.

Michael responded, “I’m impressed, Emma. You’ve thought about this a lot, and it is wise of you to want to learn what is true and right about animals.”  Michael was proud of his daughter and her curious integrity when faced with opposing viewpoints. “God cares for the animals He made, Emma. When He talked to Job long ago, He said He pays attention to their food and their babies and sees that they have a place to live. He even commanded people to take care of the animals.  In Proverbs 1:10, the wise man said, ‘A righteous person cares for the life of his animal. but even the most compassionate acts of the wicked are cruel.’”

“So we should treat animals well because they are important to God,”  Emma stated.

“Yes, we should because God made them for our benefit. He made everything on earth to be good for His children to live well on Earth. And God put us in charge of managing the earth and He is paying attention to how we do the job He’s given us.”

“So He made the animals for us?” she confirmed

“Do you remember the game ‘Animal/Vegetable/Mineral?”  Michael began as he motioned for Emma to sit with him.  “See, Emma, God made humans very special.  We are animals and not vegetables or minerals.  But look at your Bible verse again.  See verse 27? It says ‘We will make man.  Men and women will be like us.’  What do you think that means?”

“I don’t know,” Emma whispered

“It means that God made us like Him. He didn’t do that for the animals.”

“Oh!  So we have some of God in us?” Emma was surprised.

“Yes, we do.  And God made our brains larger for our bodies than the animals, so we can communicate and reason together. Birds and bugs make music, but we make much more complicated music. We use fire and cook our food, and we care about what is right and what is wrong. We’ve even explored other planets. And we are the ones who study animals; they don’t study us!”

At that, Emma laughed.

Jessica spoke up, “So Emma, humans are animals in one sense, but we aren’t JUST animals.  We are much more.  And we learn from the Bible that God made animals good for food and even to help us. And we learn that God doesn’t want animals to be treated cruelly, but with respect and gratitude.”

“Okay.  So everybody at school was right—and they were wrong.” Emma decided.

“Oh?  How’s that?” Michael asked, surprised.

“Teacher’s video said we are animals, but we’re not just plain old animals,” she explained. “And it’s okay to use animals for food, and they can even help us, but nobody should be mean to them and make them suffer.  We’re supposed to treat them right.  So those boys at school were wrong when they said they liked to throw firecrackers at dogs and cats.”

Michael smiled and tickled Emma, “That’s my girl! You thought about nature and listened to what God said and did your own thinking about what other people think. How does that feel?”

“It feels good.  Can I say the prayer tonight?  I want to thank God for making the animals for us.”

Baby sister chimed in.  “I want to pway, too!”

The four joined hands to pray, and Michael included a silent prayer for wisdom to guide his girls and equip them to reason through a world they must navigate. Theirs would be a world he couldn’t foresee. But he knew the Lord was already there.

 

 

For more information, watch Are Humans More Valuable Than Animals? Dennis Prager at https://youtu.be/7JATJv8HIV8.

Significant information may be found on Privileged Species featuring Dr. Michael Denton.

Why did God make the Earth; and Why are we here instead of Heaven? Part 2

The day had started with an unpleasant disagreement over a sleepover, but Emma’s minor explosion had led to an opportunity for Emma and her mother, Jessica, to talk. Jessica had been able to turn Emma’s outburst into a subject to be explored over dinner preparations.

Jessica started the conversation. “So, you’re wondering why God made the Earth instead of just making us and putting us directly into Heaven, skipping all the hard work of living on Earth?”

“Yeah, I guess so. But I guess being here gives us time to learn what we need to know so we can decide if we want to live in Heaven with God.” Emma remembered their earlier discussion.

Jessica wanted to help Emma understand how really significant the planet Earth was in God’s grand scheme of redemption. “So,” she asked, “what have you learned about the Earth in your science classes?”

“Well, the Earth is part of our Solar System, and our Solar System is part of our Galaxy. But there are bazillions of galaxies in the universe. The teacher said we’re just a tiny blue dot in the cosmos. She even said there might be other planets out there that have life on them.” Emma grinned, proud of being able to “educate” her mom on the finer points of 5th-grade science.

Jessica nodded. “Our universe is massive, and I can see where our Earth seems small, and maybe even unimportant. You’ll probably hear about scientists that think we’re just a speck in a universe full of specks. Do you ever watch Bill Nye, the Science Guy on TV at school?”

“Yes!  He’s really smart!  We watch him in Science class all the time.”

“The Science Guy said, ‘I’m just a spec on a spec whirling among other specs among still other specs in the middle of specklessness. I am insignificant! I suck!” 1

“What?!” Emma laughed.

“He said he wasn’t important and our world isn’t important because it’s all just a bunch of specs.”

Emma frowned, wrinkled her nose, rolled her eyes, and shook her head.

“Do you think that sounds right? ”

“I think it sounds dumb.”

“Why?” Jessica asked as she continued browning the hamburger for her spaghetti sauce. “Why do you think what he said sounds dumb?”

Emma was silent as she tore the lettuce for the salad.  Finally she ventured a guess. “Because the Bible says so?”

“Well, that’s one correct answer. The Bible says that God loves us and that we’re made just for Him. And that makes us—and the speck we are on—important. But some people don’t want to believe what the Bible says. So God gave us an additional way to discover how things work and what He’s done. Do you want to guess what way that is?”

Emma shrugged her shoulders.

“Through a study of our world and what we learn from it.”

“Oh!  You mean through Science?”  Emma exclaimed.

“Yes, Science.  Now, remember that science doesn’t talk; scientists do. But we can look at scientific facts ourselves and learn from that. As you get older, you’ll learn more about what some scientists say—like the Science Guy­—and you can make up your own mind about who is closer to the facts.”

“So why DID God make the Earth?” said Emma, repeating the question.

“Since I graduated from school, scientists have learned that our Earth is very, VERY special,” Jessica began. “Scientists have learned that for anything to live on any planet, it has to have every little thing exactly right.  It has to be just the right size, the right distance from the right kind of star like our sun, surrounded by the right size of planets, and have the right air around it. The air around the Earth—our atmosphere—must have the right amount of the right chemicals, water, and even volcanoes for it all to work.  AND everything has to be exactly right from the very minute the universe started, or a planet like the Earth could never have existed.”

Emma stopped what she was doing and looked at her mom. “Wow!  So our Earth is just right?”

“Our planet is precisely what is required for human beings to live here.  Even NASA scientists believe that our universe is precisely right for life like us. They’ve learned that the most important element in life on earth is Carbon.”

“You mean like Charcoal?  We saw some at school, and the teacher said that was carbon.”

“Well, Charcoal is mostly carbon mixed with some other stuff.  But then so are we.  Without the carbon in our bodies and also in plants and animals, we wouldn’t exist.”

“Oh, okay.” Emma mused. “Then are aliens made of carbon, too?”

“Well, if there is life on any other planet, they would also have to have Carbon to live in our universe. No other element would keep anything alive. But that’s the problem.”

“What’s the problem?” Emma wondered if she’d missed something.

“Life has to have not just carbon, but all those other things in exactly the right amount: gravity, heat, water, and oxygen. And only Earth has all of it right.”

“So humans couldn’t live anywhere else?”

“Not live and walk around without special equipment as we do on Earth.  So you see, God made the Earth just right for us—so we can live here, learn about Him and His ways, and be made ready to live in His world.”

“Did God make the animals special, too?”

So Emma was also wrestling with the idea that humans and animals were of equal value on Earth because both are technically “animals.” “You know, Emma, you are really good at thinking and asking questions. Are animals and humans the same? Are humans more important than animals?  Do you ever wonder about that?”

“Everybody says we are the same.”

Jessica looked around. The table was set. Dinner was ready. “Maybe tonight we could talk about that during our time with God before bed. Would that be okay?”

“Okay.” Emma smiled.

Jessica loved that their family talked about things that mattered.  Tonight, her husband, the Biologist, would come in handy.

(To be continued)

 

 Deut. 4:32 “Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the Earth until now, and search from one end of the universe to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before?” NLT

1 YouTube, “PRIVILEGED SPECIES with Dr. Michael Denton” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoI2ms5UHWg&t=35s

Why did God make the Earth; and why are we here instead of in Heaven? (Part 1)

Nannygranne looked at the question card and tried to envision the young heart being poured out onto the 3 x 5 note card before her.  Was the young writer afraid for her future?  Was she wary of the steep climb up the edifice of adult expectations looming before her? Or was she struggling to find cohesion between humanity’s messages and those she heard in Sunday School?  Or it could be that she was missing someone who had passed. Not-knowing demands a prayer-soaked and thoughtfully studied answer, or two. So she imagined what she might say to a reaching young heart like that.

Fighting back angry tears, Emma shouted, “I didn’t ASK to be born!” before charging out of the room.  Her mother, though right in her decision, was cut to the heart. She loved this child so much!

Following Emma to her room and saying a prayer outside the closed door,  she slowly opened the door. After stepping over the threshold, she quietly closed it.  “Honey,” she said, “I understand why you’re so disappointed, but I would like us to talk about why you were born.”

The red-faced tween stopped mid-sob and turned to see the expression on her mother’s face. Did she see tenderness – and maybe just a twinkle of eagerness?  Really?  THAT talk? Now?  All she could do was to sit up on the side of her bed and wait to see where this was going.

“May I sit beside you?” her mother asked.

Emma nodded.

Her mother sat with her hands folded in her lap for a moment. Then: “You are right.  You didn’t ask to be born.  But Someone other than your dad and I wanted you to be here.  That’s God.”  The girl turned to her with a puzzled expression.  She lovingly brushed a stray strand of auburn hair away from her daughter’s eyes. “I certainly don’t know how God thinks, and I know He has everything He needs.  But I also know God is Love, and perhaps He wanted us to love forever, and to love Him forever.”

“But if He wanted me to be born and be with Him, why are we here instead of in Heaven?! Why did He even make the Earth to start with?!”

The mother could hear the disillusionment in Emma’s voice. There was much her daughter was ready to learn. “Wow! Those are intriguing questions! Would you like to check it out over a bowl of Cookies-n-Cream icecream?”

“Well, now that I can’t go to the slumber party, I guess I’ve got all night,” Emma responded.

Once settled at the table, armed with spoon and treat, the woman began. “Why are we here instead of heaven?” she repeated.  “Actually, you touched on the answer when you said, ‘I didn’t ask to be born.’”

The girl looked up, a spoonful of icecream midway to her mouth.

“I’m serious,” Mom said. “That’s part of the answer to why we are here instead of in Heaven right now.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Well, as you said, when we are born on earth, we get no say about where, when, and into what family. But God wants to be our Forever Father, and He gives us many choices.”

“Choices?” She liked having choices.

“One of those choices is to follow God. In the Bible, God is invites you into His family, to become a part of Christ’s body, to be born again.”

“O-k-a-y.” She wasn’t sure where this was going.

“So God wants a forever family. BUT He only wants those who truly want Him for their Forever Father.”

Emma didn’t say anything, but she was listening.

“He lets us live on earth where we learn about making choices. And we learn about Him, and we learn that this world is not our best home.  In this world, there are dangers and disappointments.”

Emma caught the word “disappointment.” “Like your not letting me go to the slumber party?” she said, a touch of bitterness lingering in her voice.

“Yes, like today – or worse.” Her mother took a sip of coffee, then continued. “But He asks us if we would like to be adopted into His family, be born again, take on His resemblance, and love as Jesus showed us.  If we do, He tells us He’ll give us our own room in His house forever And we’ll all fit in and feel at home there.”

“So that’s why He made the earth?” Emma was still puzzled.

“Well, there’s a lot more to that answer. I was thinking of why we are here instead of in Heaven.”

“Oh, okay.” Emma thought a while, then said, “So God puts us on earth so we can figure Him out and decide whether we want to be in His family?”

Her mother couldn’t keep back a smile. “I think you’ve got it!”

Not wanting to let her mom off too lightly, Emma pressed, “What if we don’t want to be in His family? Then what?”

Her mother had to remind herself she was talking to a mind high on hormones that was trying to express the confusion in her heart.

The mother looked down at her hands, not willing to include her daughter in her answer. “Then, God lets people choose to be away from Him. And God is love, so those who don’t choose Love will be without God and His love forever. The Bible says God made Hell for the devil and his angels. That’s the only place that exists without Him.  But that’s not what He hoped for when He created us.”

The girl sat silently, obviously thinking. Finally she spoke, a tear in her voice: “Mama, I’m sorry I said those mean things to you. I wouldn’t want anyone else to be my mother.”

They held each other a long time.

Finally, her mother spoke. “Honey, I know how it feels to be disappointed in someone and to lash out without thinking. I’ve done it, too. But, because I chose Him, my Forever Father forgets about that and helps me learn better ways to live. And don’t worry, He’s also shown me how to forgive.”

The girl hugged her mom a bit longer, then looked up at her with a mischievous grin. “Okay, now I want you to tell me why God created the Earth.”

Her mother laughed. “And I will. But, first, could you help me get supper ready before Daddy gets home?”

(To be continued)

Tell Your Children and Grandchildren!

(This week’s guest blogger is David Roper, the author of the Zoey series.)

As I recently worked my way through the book of Exodus, I was impressed with the emphasis on telling children and grandchildren about the Exodus from Egypt—how God had saved their parents and grandparents.

Even before they left Egypt, God told Moses that one reason for the plagues was so “that you may tellin the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them” (Exodus 10:2).

Before the tenth plague, God gave instructions for the observance of the Passover, and then added, “when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes’” (Exodus 12:26, 27).

As they prepared to leave Egypt, further instructions for the Passover were given, including the need to share its significance: “You shall tell your sonon that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt’. . . And it shall be when your son asks youin time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of [b]slavery’ (Exodus 13:8, 14).

A cross reference took me to the book of Deuteronomy, just before the children of Israel entered the Promised Land. Moses urged the people, “Give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons” (Deuteronomy 4:9).

That brought up the question: Did the Israelites carry out God’s command? As we look at the book of Psalms, it is evident that the Exodus was never far from their thoughts. The Psalms are full of references to that event, from short versions like Psalm 77:20 (“You led Your people like a flock / By the hand of Moses and Aaron”) to longer versions like Psalm 78:43–53 (it’s worth a read). Again and again, the writers made reference to the Exodus (Psalms 105:26-38; 106:7-12; 114:1-3; 135:8, 9; 136:10-15).

But what about telling their children? We are told that, even today, as Jews celebrate the Passover, their observance includes a child in the home (usually the youngest) asking questions regarding the meaning of the feast, answered by an adult (usually the oldest).

So why take the time to note all this? Most of us are not Jews. The commands of Exodus and Deuteronomy were not directed to us. That’s true—but as I was reading the above passages, the thought came to me, if it was important for the Israelites to tell their children and grandchildren about a PHYSICAL deliverance, how much more important is it that we tell our children and grandchildren about our SPIRITUAL deliverance!

Someone may object, “But it is easier for the Jews because they have an annual feast where it is natural to tell the children what it is all about.” My response: As Christians, don’t we have a weekly “feast”—the Lord’s Supper—as we gather together as God’s family? How natural to explain to our children why we are gathered together and what the unleavened bread represents and what the fruit of the vine represents.

There are so many “teachable moments” in our children’s lives. Let us never neglect any of them. Let us tell our children and grandchildren how God delivered us from darkness into light—through the cross of Christ!