WHY TIME with NannyGranne

Where is my dad?

I could tell by the colored hearts that she’d labored over her note. Her teacher said to write any question for God. The first time I saw it, I wept. I have no doubt that God did, too.

The precious hearts she drew reminded me of the many  hearts broken by her parents’ separation:  hers, her mother’s, her dad’s, siblings, grandparents, friends. I wanted to wrap her in my arms and assure her that it wasn’t her fault. Perhaps he’d said,  “Honey, Daddy still loves you. Mommy and I just can’t live together anymore.” But the forever unanswered question remains, “But why are you leaving me?”

Malachi said God hates it when a man treats his wife violently and tosses her aside (Mal 2:15-16).  Jesus said God never meant for divorce to happen (Matt 19:3-9). But God also understands the rejection of unfaithfulness and experienced the pain of Israel’s adultery (Jeremiah 3:8). God is Love, and divorce is the opposite of love. God knows what it does to those He loves: men and women, families, children. One definition of death is the word “separation.”

What could I say to this child? She needs to know that she is loved, understood, wanted, and not alone.

“Your daddy is gone?” I begin.

“Yes, and I don’t know where he went,” she answers.

“I think you really miss him.”

She nods her head sadly. “Is he mad at me?”

“Did he tell you he was angry with you?” I whisper.

“No. Daddy told me he loves me. But he went away, and I don’t know where he is.”

“He’s not lost where no one can find him because God knows where he is. Is that why you asked God where your dad is?”

“Yes,” she answers, looking up at me hopefully.

“God is watching and waiting for your dad to learn how to love better. Until then, God wants to be your forever dad. Would you like to have a forever dad?”

She readily nods her head and smiles.

“You know when Jesus lived in this world, He was away from His Father, too.  He knows you miss your dad.”

“He does?”

“Yes, He does! And God’s family left Him for a while, too, so God the Father knows how your feelings hurt.”

“He does?” she whispers, lowering her head, not wanting me to see her trembling lips.

“And you know what?” I pick her up into my lap as I go on. “I miss my daddy, too, because my dad died and went to live with Jesus. I haven’t gotten to talk to him in a lot of years.”

Her eyes widen as she looks up at me. Then she gently pats my arm with her tiny hand.

I continue, “A forever father lives with you wherever you are. We get to talk to Him anytime we want to pray, and  He’s never too busy. My forever father talks to me when I read the Bible and helps me be good and remember how much He loves me.”

“He does that?”

“Yes He does! And He never gets tired, and He can see in the dark! He can even hear what your heart is saying, and He always listens! The best part is that I know He will never go away, or forget me,  or die. I always know I’m not all by myself.”

She leans against me, her head on my shoulder. I pull her close and whisper, “And you’re never going to be all by yourself, either.”

“And I can ask my forever father to take care of my dad and tell him to come home?”

“Yes, you can, Sweet Girl. I will, too, and we’ll hope your daddy listens to God.”

What happened to Jesus’ body when He went to Heaven? Conclusion

We were back, ready to continue the discussion Kathy had begun accidentally the day before.  Prepared this time, I’d brought Hot Pockets and lemonade. They’d invited a couple more friends and asked to go outside for lunch. The Fall weather was perfect. We settled down on a bench in the shade of a maple tree.

“So what questions have you thought of since yesterday?” I began.

“Well, we were wondering how will bodies go to Heaven if they’ve been in an accident like an explosion, or lost at sea, or burned up in a fire?” Kathy spoke for the group, and I was pleased to see that they hadn’t lost their sense of adventure. No longer playing “stump the teacher,” they were curious about the whole subject. God had answered my prayer.

“You guys are awesome; you know that?” I genuinely wanted to hug each one. But they were serious, so we began. “Do you remember the story of the valley of dry bones in the Old Testament? God told Ezekiel to preach to those bones. Then the foot bone connected to the leg bone and the leg bone…”  At that, they laughed.

“Seriously, though, since God made the first man out of dirt, He can remake us from ashes or pieces. Revelation 20:13 says the sea will give up its dead when Christ returns. I think Jesus will manage. How about you?”

Dusty grinned and said, “He can manage.” The rest smiled and agreed.

“Since there will be life but no death, let’s talk about bodies in Heaven. You see, when God created us, He made us in such a way that we could inhabit Him as part of His Body, the church, and He could inhabit a human body and be Jesus, God incarnate. Are you following me so far?”

A few nods showed me they were, so I continued. “When Jesus was here, He showed us how life in the Kingdom was to be. He extinguished sicknesses, storms, Satanic presence, and death on many occasions. We have His teachings. Christ painted our world with words to heal hearts and minds and relationships. Then  He battled sin and death and declared victory for those willing to serve Him. Do you see now that He was showing what Kingdom living will be?”

“I’d never thought of it that way,” Kathy said. The others, lost in thought, were uncharacteristically quiet. Kathy tilted her head, wanting to make sure she understood what I was telling them. “You mean our BODIES were supposed to live forever or just our souls?”

“Earlier, you all described Jesus’ activities after He resurrected.  What came out of the tomb? Was it a body or just a spirit?” They waited for me to answer my own question. “The answer’s obvious. He ate. He had skin; they touched him AND his scars.”

Kathy smiled and nodded. “Yeah, that’s right! They touched him! That was a body”.

Continuing, I explained, “The separation of our spirits from our bodies will only happen between death and our resurrection. Being ‘disembodied spirits’ is not how we were created to be. And how do we know this? Because we will be like Jesus and Jesus took His body with Him out of the grave AND with Him to Heaven.  But remember that His new body was different, too.  His new body could go through walls, time-travel, and ascend into Heaven. Your new body will be recreated and changed, also. It will become a spiritual body. Beyond that, I can’t describe how that will feel. Neither could the Apostle Paul.” I found 1 Corinthians 15:41-44 on my Bible app and read it to the kids.

“It will be the same when those who have died are raised to life. The body that is ‘planted’ in the grave will ruin and decay, but it will be raised to a life that cannot be destroyed. When the body is ‘planted,’ it is without honor. But when it is raised, it will be great and glorious. When the body is ‘planted,’ it is weak. But when it is raised, it will be full of power. The body that is ‘planted’ is a physical body. When it is raised, it will be a spiritual body. There is a physical body. So there is also a spiritual body.”  ERV

“And John wrote, ‘Dear friends, now we are children of God. We have not yet been shown what we will be in the future. But we know that when Christ comes again, we will be like him. We will see him just as he is. He is pure, and everyone who has this hope in him keeps themselves pure like Christ.’ I John 3:2, 3, ERV

“So Jesus’ spiritual body went to Heaven and is STILL alive!”  Kathy exclaimed.  They all were talking at once now.  It seemed something had clicked.

Animated conversation erupted.  Suddenly, Heaven was something they could better imagine. “So there will be places to go and things to do in Heaven?”

“We’ll have places to live, too!  Jesus said He was building us all something!”

“And we’ll get to see what David really looks like!”

“What JESUS looks like!”

“And I can recognize my Grandpa!”

“Hey!  Maybe I’ll finally be good looking!”  I could count on Dusty for comedic relief.

His friend added good-naturedly, “Yeah, and maybe you’ll finally be smart!”  They seemed happy!

I waited for their fun and excitement to run its course. “Yes, it will be all that and more. We will finally exist the way we were meant to exist when we arrive in the new Heaven and new Earth God is now preparing.  Everyone will finally be able to have all that’s needed to live well with God without a worry or a heartache. Death and everything that comes with it will be out of the picture for good. We’ll enjoy being part of God’s world and thrive without interference from anyone or anything. It’s going to be everything our hearts reach for now and can’t quite grasp in this world. Finally being all about God and ‘doing His thing’ will be the norm. It’s an everlasting adventure! What a life! So you see, Heaven is not just a place to go, but a Life to live fully alive!”

They all sat looking at me, somewhat stunned. Finally, Dusty said, “Cool.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“A Country” Heb 11:16

“God’s Will holds sway” Matt 6:10

“Nothing there that doesn’t fit in God’s presence” Matt 18:3-35; Mk 10:14ff; Lk 16:16-31; Lk 18:16f

“No more struggle. Finally safe” Rev 7:17; 21:4

“New Heaven New Earth” Isa 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13;Rev 21:1; John 14:2

“We are in Christ” Rom. 6:3 & Gal 3:27

“Jesus in a human body” John 1:1&14; Heb 11:

“Living in God’s world” 2 Cor 5:1; John 14:2-3

“Fully alive” John 10:10

Interesting Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfgWzo3k9MM

What happened to Jesus’ body when He went to Heaven? Pt 2 of 3

Our lesson on the Ascension had concluded, and we’d dismissed for lunch when Kathy and three of her friends apparently wished to play “Stump the Teacher.”  Instead, we launched a discussion I hoped to continue.  Thanks to a package of “emergency” double-stuffed cookies from my desk, we bought more time.  I prayed  God would grant us a time we’d never forget.

As I sat perched on the front of my desk, the kids munched their cookies and waited.  “I think it must be a God thing that you all asked about the afterlife.  I got a WHY TIME question recently that brought the issue to my mind.”  I pulled out the yellow slip with the childlike scrawls which read, “What will it [Heaven] look like?” Signed Wyatt, 2nd Grade.  The kids passed it around. “Aw, that’s so cute,” the girls gushed.

“I’ve got to tell you guys; I’ve discovered that there is so much more to ‘going to Heaven’ than just the going.  You see, God’s Eternal Mysterious Plan wasn’t just to get us back home for an eternal holiday at His house.  Jesus never spoke of it as a perpetual vacation just lying around visiting with folks and singing with the angels.  When the Bible speaks of Heaven, it’s described as a Kingdom, a Country, a City,  a New Heaven and New Earth.”  I looked at the group and asked, “How do you imagine Heaven?”

“Streets of GOLD, man! Diamonds and pearls! And a river, too!” Dusty said and high-fived  Kathy.

“Will there really be streets of gold?” asked Kathy.

“Good questions! Have you ever tried to draw the color nine?  Trying to make us humans understand God’s world is a little like that.  Revelation gives us a beautiful word-painting of a world very different from ours.   The gold represents no more need, no hunger.  The walls say complete safety.  The gates and jewels tell us there will be beauty and access.  The river is a picture of ongoing life.  Only Jesus, the Holy Artist,  could paint a word-picture of  peace, perfection, and security forever!”

“Yeah, but what about the pearly gates and all that?” Dusty questioned.

Heather, Kathy’s friend, spoke for the first time. “You mean Heaven’s not going to look like it’s described in the Bible? No pearly gates?  No streets of gold?”

“Oh, Heather!  It’s going to be even better than that!  Isaiah, Peter, and John all talk about the time when God will give us a New Heaven and New Earth. In the beginning, God wanted humanity to fill the earth with His glory and govern it!  We haven’t done very well on this earth.  The sin in Eden resulted in pain, discord between people, and difficulty in obtaining food.  But in the New, there will be none of that. We’ll finally subdue the earth (the New Earth) without interference.  There will be no more world hunger.   We’ll finally love each other completely.  God will populate the New Earth (Heaven)  with His faithful ones, and no one will ever die again.”

“So what will  it be like to live there, then?” Kathy still wanted more, but we were interrupted by the bell.

“How about we pick up there tomorrow.  Let’s see how Jesus talked about His new Kingdom.  I’ll bring lunch!

(Conclusion next week)

What happened to Jesus’ body when He went to Heaven? Pt 1 of

We’d just ended our lesson on the Ascension of Christ and the sounds of gathering books and papers rustled in the air.  Kathy, a bubbly freckle-faced girl with bright eyes and teeth in braces, turned to me with a question.  It was obvious she and her friends were playing, “Stump the teacher.”  I loved these little sparring matches because I loved watching them enjoy the chase for Truth.

“What happened to Jesus’ body when He went to Heaven?”  Kathy asked.

“Yeah!  Did it dissolve or something?” another suggested.

“Maybe it turned into a ghost! Ooooooo!!” the class clown called from the back of the room.

I laughed at their antics, pleased that several preferred staying after class for the answer instead of rushing out to lunch.  “Well, let’s see what you guys can remember about what happened leading up to the day Jesus ascended.  Kathy, you go first.”

Kathy looked at her friends for support, then began, “When Jesus died on the cross, they buried His body in a cave.  Then on Sunday morning, He came back alive again.”

Another girl chimed in, “At first, His friends didn’t recognize Him.  He even disguised Himself one time, too!”

I added some intrigue to their recitation, “Yes! And He could walk through walls, disappear, and reappear anywhere. He cooked and ate fish, and talked with a lot of people.  He also still had the holes in his hands and feet and side where the soldiers stabbed him.”

“Yeah!  I remember He showed them to Thomas and the other Apostles in that room that time!”  The class clown was hooked!

I continued, “After forty days of visiting people, He took his Apostles up on a hill and told them to spread the Good News of His Kingdom wherever they went.  Then He went up, up, and away in a cloud.  When He’d disappeared, some angels told the Apostles to hurry up and get started because Jesus would be back from the clouds one day.”

“So what happened to His body? What is He doing now?” Kathy added.

“Well, Colossians 3:1 and 4 tell us that Jesus is ruling with God at God’s right-hand in keeping the universe operating.   He’s listening to our prayers and guarding our souls.  Then one day He’s going to change our bodies to be just like the one He has now, the amazing one that got up from His grave!”

Then I opened my desk drawer and pulled out a package of cookies and passed them around.  I hoped they’d take the hint that I had more to say because what I wanted them to know was so vital.  “Can I talk to you a little more about what God’s world is like, and what it’s going to be like for us?  I’ve got cookies.  I know you’re hungry.”

“It’s OK.  I didn’t want mystery meat Sloppy Joes anyway,” one of the boys said, taking the cookies, grabbing three and passing them back.  I settled on the edge of my desk.

(to be continued next week)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jesus is at God’s right hand: Colossians 3:1

Jesus prays for us: Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25

We’ll be transformed: Phil 3:20-21

 “Like Him”: I John 3:2

“When will I go to Heaven?”

Her question was written with the same trusting innocence as the question, “When are we going to Gran and Grandad’s house?”  Though the answer is obvious—”Not for a long time, Sweetheart”—my initial thought was to wonder why she was asking. Was she afraid she was going to be next? Was she missing someone who she thought was already there? Or was her natural childlike innocence and curiosity wondering about the journey itself? I will never know. It was a question on a yellow slip of paper written by a small child. A face I could picture. And a conversation I could imagine. I might begin something like this:

“Are you excited about going to Heaven?”

“Yes!” she giggles.

“What would you like to do when you get there?” I ask.

“I want to see an angel!” Her eyes dance as she claps her hands in wonder.

“Won’t that be amazing?!” Her pure confidence and excitement remind me of Jesus’ words regarding children: “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”  

“Let’s think about who else we’ll see there. Who will be the most famous, most amazing, most important Person we’ll get to see?” I relished getting to spark both our imaginations about eternity’s reality.

“Jesus?” she offers, hoping she knows what I want.

“Yes! He’ll be center stage, and everyone will be looking at Him and cheering and…” In mid-sentence another thought comes: “Did you know the angels are actually doing that right now?”

Her expression of surprise, so playful, makes me smile.

“They are! The angels are all around God’s throne, saying, ‘Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord God Almighty!!’”

“Wow….” she whispers.

“And when it’s time for us to go to Heaven, the Bible talks about angels coming and picking us up and taking us to a special place. Jesus called it Paradise. Have you ever heard of Paradise?”

“No. Where’s Paradise?”

“Well, it’s somewhere in God’s world. He doesn’t tell us where. I think it’s close to Heaven.  But that’s where Jesus went when he died, then He came back here again later and visited with everybody one more time before He left to be with his Father in Heaven.”

“Will we have to go to Paradise?”

“Well, Jesus took a friend with him, and it sounded like it was going to be really good. Jesus also told about a man named Lazarus who got to go there, and it was a happy place. There was one of Lazarus’s neighbors, who had been mean to Lazarus, who wanted to go, too, but Jesus said he wasn’t allowed. Only people who loved God and others were allowed to go to Paradise.”

“Oh.” Her puzzled expression told me she had more questions. “But how do you get to Heaven from there? Do the angels know where you want to go?”

“They sure do! They’re there already, remember? They’re saying ‘Holy, Holy…”

“Oh yeah! I forgot,” she giggled.

“You see, our bodies won’t go to Paradise. People have funerals for our bodies, but our real selves get to go with the angels to Paradise with Jesus’ other friends. Then when it’s time, Jesus will stop off at Paradise, pick up our ‘real selves’, and then we’ll all come with Him to wake up our bodies. Then Jesus will put our real selves and our bodies back together, but this time He’ll make us supernatural so we can live in Heaven with Him forever and forever.”

That was a lot for a little girl to take in, but she got the main point. “That’s when we get to go to Heaven?” she gasped. “When Jesus comes again?”

“Yes, it is.” I smile and hug her. “And while we wait in Paradise for Jesus to come on Judgment Day, we get to visit with all God’s friends from the Bible. Who is a friend you want to visit in Paradise?”

Her head tilted as she considered this new opportunity. “I think I would like to see Samson because he was a hero!” She held up a forefinger and began to list more. “Then I want to see Joseph’s pretty coat, and I want to hear littleboy David play his harp!” Now she had three fingers in the air. “And I want to see Jesus’ mommy. I bet she’s going to be pretty.”

“I bet she will be, too,” I agreed.

What breathless joy to think about the beautiful things beyond this world. Those things are real, and the true destiny of those who are following the Way of Christ. His Way leads us there but also leads us through a hope-filled, purposeful, satisfying life as His image-bearers and part of His Kingdom on earth, despite this world’s brokenness.

I pray the child who asked this question never loses her panoramic imagination for the things of God.  I look again at the yellow slip, this time with a smile for a little girl excited about Heaven.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 NIV

 

For a more in-depth study:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAXhIQIYRU8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhKUU4waDTI

How is it my choice when God already knows what I’m going to do?

As Stephanie talked with her children about their choices, the oldest boy of her four, aged 10,  looked at his mom with a puzzled expression and asked, “Mom, if it is my choice, how does God know what I’m going to decide?”

The next morning over coffee, Stephanie told me that her answer was, “I’ll ask Nannygranne in the morning.”

Her children are bright and well-behaved, always eager to learn and full of a sense of adventure.  I love them.    “Do you want the long discussion or a simple answer?” I wanted to know if she had questions, too.  The subject isn’t simple.  The debate is rigorous both in Religious circles and in the field of Philosophy.  Who calls the shots?  Who is responsible?  To whom are we accountable?

“Oh, definitely the short answer,” she responded.

“The short answer is that God can see our entire lives all at the same time.  For us, everything in our reality has a beginning and an end.  It’s hard to imagine a world outside of time, but in God’s world, time does not exist. The fact is that God made time .”

“But then he’s going to ask, ‘But doesn’t God live here with us,'” she said.

“He also made matter so that He can move anywhere He wishes, too, ” I continued.  “For example, if I make a cake, I’m not part of the cake, but I can touch the cake, or even eat it and it becomes part of me.  But I’m not the cake. ” Stephanie nodded her head. I went on.  “So God can watch us from beginning to end.  He knows what we’re going to do, but chooses not to control that, but gives us room to decide.   What is mind-boggling is that He intervenes for us, protects us, goes ahead of us, and helps us when we trust Him to guide and protect us.  He also knows who wants to be left alone, but even those He provides for and touches,  hoping to be invited into their lives.”

“I guess that’s why He’s God and we’re not,” Stephanie observed.  “I’ll let the kids know.  That makes perfect sense.”

We went our separate ways, each to tackle the day ahead, but as I drove away, I knew the time could come when those sparring religious and philosophical debates would muddy the waters of reason again. I hope they remember this answer.

 

Jesus grieved over Jerusalem’s choice against His will when He said in Matthew 23: 37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” 

God doesn’t choose a few to save; He leaves the choice to them and wants them to choose Him.

2 Peter 3: 9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

 

More Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKKiqvF-_pc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh8IMXPyl50

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIBJ1wVqCeU

Books:  Chosen but Free, by Norman Geisler; and The Only Wise God, by William Lane Craig

 

* * * * * * * * *

(Editor’s note) A friend of mine uses this illustration regarding God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will. He says, “I watched (name of movie) with my granddaughter the other night. Throughout the movie she kept telling me what was going to happen next – because she has seen it many times. But even though she knows what is going to happen next doesn’t mean that she causes what happens next.”

 

Why Did God . . . ?

As I read the card before me, I envisioned a child struggling with his concept of God and feeling helpless.

My first thought was, “God doesn’t make us do the things we do.” But then I stopped. Why would this child think God arbitrarily manipulates all we do? I know where he worships, and I know this thought did not come from that pulpit. Then I realized where a child might have gotten the idea that humans have no choice in their behavior. If I had the opportunity to answer his question in person, the conversation might sound something like this:

“It seems like God isn’t fair, doesn’t it?” I begin.

Realizing that the idea didn’t sound very acceptable, he looked at me to check my level of displeasure. I tried to appear thoughtful.

“I guess not,” he said.

“Why do you think God made us? Any ideas?” I asked.

He shrugged and looked to the floor. He wouldn’t ask if he’d already figured that out. My query wasn’t a fair one. I asked a different question to refocus our conversation. “Do you know what instinct is?”

“I think so. Animals have instincts, right?”

“Exactly. Animals’ instincts cause birds to fly south for the winter and bears to crawl into a cave and hibernate all winter. Sea turtles know to lay their eggs in the warm sand, and Monarch Butterfly parents fly away before their children are born, but the new butterflies still know to fly to Mexico for winter. Does anyone teach animals what to do?”

“No. They just know what to do.”

“When lions and wolves kill other animals to eat, are they doing anything bad?”

He thought a moment, then said, “No, that’s just how they have to eat.”

“You are right. Animals do what they do by instinct and don’t think about right or wrong. Some people say we’re only animals, just like the animals in the world. If we’re just animals, we can’t help what we do. We would act on our instincts, and nothing is right or wrong if we’re only animals. Have you ever heard that?”

“Well, we are animals instead of vegetables or minerals.”

“Yes, but God made us much more than ordinary animals. He made us like Him and that makes us very special. He wants us to govern the animals and take care of the earth and make the world a better place. That’s a pretty awesome job description, I think.”

He nodded in hesitant agreement.

I shifted in my seat and continued with another part of his question. “You asked why God made us. Do you remember the Bible saying, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only son’?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a hint there about why God made us. Do you get it?”

He looked away to his left, tapping his chin with his finger. Then he suddenly repeated, “For God so loved the world!”

“Bingo! You nailed that one! God is love, and He made us so He could love us and see us do what He made for us to do. Next question: Do you remember what God said after He made everything–even Adam and Eve? Did He say they were good or bad?”

“He said it was all good.” He smiled, feeling more confident.

“Good answer. Now, did everything remain good in the Garden of Eden?” I knew he’d know the answer.

“No. Eve and Adam got in trouble.”

“Did God make them do that?” I was leading him to think harder.

“No, Satan did.”

“Could they have said ‘no’ to Satan? Is that what God wanted them to do?”

” Eve could have just said ‘no.’” He repeated, “That’s what God wanted them to do.”

“And what is the opposite of saying, ‘no’?”

“Saying, ‘yes.’” He looked at me, curious about where this was leading.

“That’s right. God wanted them to say ‘no’ to Satan because they had already said ‘yes’ to Him about the tree.  Saying ‘no’ to one thing almost always means you are choosing to say ‘yes’ to something else.”

Then I turned to look directly at him and said, “And humans can say yes and no like God wants them to. God lets us choose. Letting people choose is one way God shows us He loves us. God didn’t make us ordinary animals, and He doesn’t want us to be robots. Animals and robots don’t get to pick what they do. A robot is just a machine with a computer and only does what it’s programmed to do. And a robot can’t love his builder. And animals don’t know how to love God. God lets us choose and doesn’t make us do what we do. He wants us to choose to love Him. Does that make better sense to you?”

His head bobbed up and down. But then he squinted a little and asked carefully, “But why does God send people to Hell if they mess up?”

“That’s an important part of your question. Let’s look at what Jesus says about that in Matthew 25:41.” I found the passage. “This is Jesus talking about people who refuse to love and help other people as He wants. ‘Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!’” I pointed to the verse and turned it where he could see it. “Who was hell prepared for?”

He looked where I was pointing and read, “… fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” He looked up at me and said, “Then God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell? Just the devil?”

“Yes. But God lets us choose to love Him or not, remember?” The boy nodded, so I continued. “If we don’t want God on earth, then He lets us choose to stay away from Him. And when Judgment Day comes, those who have trusted and followed God will want to go home with Him. The only place left for those who don’t want God is away from God, where Satan is. And that is hell.”

“Oh. Then God lets us do what we decide, and if we decide we don’t want God, then we get left out of Heaven and end up in Hell?” The boy’s expression told me his epiphany was real.

“Hey, let’s read one more verse, okay?” I handed him the Bible open to 2 Peter 3:9. He read, “…But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change his heart and life.”

He looked at me and smiled.

“What do you think? Did we find the answer to your question?”

“We sure did,” he said.

I raised my hand and we did a high five.

“I feel better,” he said, “but one more thing: Why did God let Satan into the Garden?”

“How could there be a choice if God were the only choice? And how could Adam and Eve prove they chose God if they didn’t get a chance to choose?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said.

Grinning and nodding, he walked away, turning to wave before he went out the door.

I waved back . . . and sent up a little prayer.