WHY TIME with NannyGranne

“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.

Could God Make Me a Wizard?

Four of us were sitting on the porch having birthday cake and wondering what we could ask God. Then a twelve-year-old  boy grinned up at me and asked, “Could God make me a Wizard?”

“Do you really want to be a wizard, or are you just messing with me?” I asked.

The smile faded, and he answered, “Aw, I was just messing with you.”

I knew then he’d been serious for a second, then decided he had “asked the wrong question.” And so had I.  I should have said something like, “If God made you a wizard, what would you do then?” But I haven’t perfected thinking that efficiently. My initial angst at the question blinded me to the boy who wanted to feel more powerful. Now I’d never know why. Maybe it’s not too late. I’ll send him this letter.

 

Dear Wonderer,

If God were to make you a wizard, what would you do then? Would you be stronger than someone? Is there someone you would change into a better person? Or would you travel to a magic land of wonder?

I know that in the movies and books, wizards are the good magicians and warlocks are the evil ones. Many movies have witches, wizards, beings from other worlds, and magical lands.   And using our imagination is important and fun!  And we know that all those things are just fantasy. But there is one thing nobody wants to talk about.   And that something is this:   There are evil beings in our world that are real.

We know God is real and Jesus is real and that the Bible is God’s message to us. Did you know that God is who told us that real evil beings are in our real world? Nobody wants to say so because they don’t want to frighten children.  But the devil is real, and he has terrible angels, too. That’s why we want to be Christians and have the Holy Spirit inside us. Our God is more powerful than all the beings in all worlds, and he keeps Satan from destroying us.

And there is another thing grownups don’t like to tell us. Nobody talks about how God hates the dark world of magic. He loves us and wants us to be safe, so He says to stay far away from all the evil in the world. He even has a message about wizards. “I will be against anyone who goes to mediums and wizards for advice.” (Lev 20:6) That’s kind of scary for God to say, but God says over and over that he hates magic and darkness. He hates that people use magic to trick people, hurt people, keep bad secrets or let the devil be part of it.

I know the movies and books are “pretend.” But never, ever, forget that there are real evil spirits in the world that want more than anything for us to forget they are evil.  Instead, they want us just to think that they are “cool” or fun. They also want us to forget that God is strongest.

The devil wants you to forget God’s great strength. He knows God helps you beat Satan and can give you His mighty love.  The devil also knows that God can use you to help change a bully into someone better or even make the world a better place.   Only God can make you feel safe because He’s the only one who can always be with you wherever you are.   At the end of ourstory, God takes us to an excellent place of unimaginable amazement. And that place REALLY, TRULY exists in His world! 

The movies and books will lie to you. The Avengers are computer characters built in a studio in Hollywood. The idea for the Avengers came from comic books. Harry Potter is not a real person, but a boy who acts out a story written in a book by a lady named Mrs. Rowling. So see? Being a wizard isn’t as powerful and real as being a Christian.  I believe God would love to work powerfully through you rather than make you anything else.

What do you think?

 

_____________

Parents’ further resources:

Video on occult in entertainment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b43x1ApwaXg

Scriptures on subject: Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deut 18:10-13; I Tim 4:1; John 3:19; Acts 19:19; II Cor 4:4; I Cor 10:31

Why Are People Shooting Each Other?

She looked at me the same way she does when she asks where we are going, expecting an answer. What a question! Why, indeed?

“Well, Honey,” I began slowly, “a lot of people are asking that same question. Some say there are too many guns, or too much hate, or too many poor people. Others say it’s bullying, or video games, violence on TV, or people with mental illness. I do know that it didn’t use to be this way.”

“Then what happened?” she said, still with that confident look.

“Before I tell you that, can I tell you about when I was a little girl?” I knew she loved those stories.

She crawled onto the couch and put her head in my lap. “Yes, Granne! But I bet I’ve heard it before,” she said giggling.

“My daddy always had guns, and so did all the neighbors. We all had guns for snakes, wild dogs, and starlings that ate other baby birds. And most folks hunted for food, and there weren’t any gun laws back then. Most people I knew weren’t rich or had been to college. We had mentally ill people then, too. It was so sad, but back then black people and white people didn’t get along at all.  But from the time I was born until I was 15 years old, I’d never heard of anyone shooting strangers for no reason like happens in the news now.”

Looking at me and sensing the cloud descending over me, she said, “What happened when you were 15, Granne?”

“When I was 12, our highest judges passed a law saying we couldn’t read the Bible or pray anymore in school. Then just before…”

Amazed, she interrupted, “You mean you prayed and read the Bible in class?”

“Every day. The first thing every morning we took turns reading a Bible verse, then we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and did our Pledge of Allegiance. Class started after that.”

“What’s the Lord’s Prayer?” she asked. I was stunned and ashamed at my oversight. I resolved she would never have to ask thatquestion again.

“I’ll have to teach it to you!” I said, smiling playfully. Continuing: “Well, just before my 15th birthday, on August 1, 1966, a stranger shot other strangers. We couldn’t believe such a thing could happen!”

She scooted closer and put her head on my shoulder. We were both quiet, sad at the thought. Finally, she said, “Why do people have to be that way?”

“People today aren’t hearing about God’s best ways of living: How to be married, how to be parents and love their children, how to take care of themselves and help others, how to respect other people or how to respect themselves. They don’t know how to be good friends with each other. Sometimes people feel like they don’t belong anywhere. They want it to matter that they were born. Sometimes people get so desperate they do even senseless things that no one should ever do.”

” So is that why people are shooting people? They get mad at everyone?”

“Sometimes they’re angry because they’re hurting so deeply. Most don’t have good daddies, but God wants to be their forever father. Some people don’t feel like anyone wants them, but God wants them to be in His family.  Parents could learn how to have a good home if they’d study God’s ways to love their children. God made us for becoming like Him and making the world a better place. That makes us important in this world. He planned it that way from the very beginning. And if everyone learned how to be kind and helpful, brave and generous, and loving and loyal…”

“People wouldn’t be shooting people so much,” she finished.

“Not everyone was a Christian when I was a little girl. But everyone at least got to hear God’s ways to live when we read the Bible. Now, most people really don’t know how to have a peaceful life.”

We both sat quietly, cuddling, mourning the loss of peace in our world. Then I quickly added, “But just in case you’re worried, we’re more likely to get struck by lightning than getting shot by a stranger. Do you worry about lightening?”

“No,” she giggled.

“Then don’t worry about this, either, and neither will I. Okay?”

“Okay,” she whispered.

“The best thing you can do is to learn all you can about God’s way of living and loving. Learn to be like Jesus. If you let Jesus have all of you, He will use your heart and hands and mind to make the world better. That’s what makes a real hero. Then your children and grandchildren will watch and learn, too. Then when things go wrong, you’ll know God will show you the way through.”

So we sat together, grateful for peace in our little world in that moment.

“Want to go to the park?” I suggested.

“Yes!! Let’s take the dog, too. Okay?”

 

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.Hosea 4:6a

 

Young Researcher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwNFUVGF7Ak

Regarding Media & Political Research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXGgI2E5JUw

One wise youth:https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=wujdvXWAguM

Statistics used by CDC and FBI: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/

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.