Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: fear

Facing up to the bull

One year in my late teens I spent several months working for farmers. I drove the truck for one during harvest. Then I spent a month on a cattle farm, putting up hay, fixing fences, things like that.

The fences were in bad shape. The first day, the big Hereford bull walked through the fence to graze the greener grass on the other side. I had heard and read enough scary stories about what a bull could do that the sight of this guy filled me with a sense of impending trouble.

Then the farmer said “Put that bull back in the pasture.”

bull-940209_640

Image by Olichel Adamovich from Pixabay

I was shaking, but I didn’t want to admit that a grown fellow like me was afraid of a bull. So I prayed. At that point in my life I only prayed when fear overwhelmed me.

Then I walked toward the bull. He looked up, shook his head–then ambled along the fence line toward the gate. I went ahead of him, opened the gate, he walked into the pasture and I closed the gate.

That was my daily task after that; when supper time came, I first helped the bull  go back where he belonged. The bull and I never became friends, but he knew the routine and was always cooperative. That stretch of fence was the last one fixed.

In later years I have faced other bulls in my life, in the form of thoughts. My father was prone to unpredictable outbursts of anger. That seems to have left a hook within me where fears of how other people might react in anger can fasten themselves. Other destructive thought patterns became a routine in my life.

In time I realized that these are tempting and tormenting spirits from the realm of darkness. I don’t want them, but my willpower is not enough on its own to overcome them.

So I pray. Then tell those thoughts to go away. By the grace of God they do.  The next day I have to rebuke them again. Victory comes through Jesus Christ, but the battles repeat day by day.

Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me,” (Luke 9:23).

I wasn’t grown up yet

In the fall of 1959 I left home to go to university. The question of what I wanted to be when I grew up seemed to be settled – I would be an architect. During the last years of high school I began to pore over magazines with house floor plans and to draw my own. I dreamed of creating wonderful structures like those of Frank Lloyd Wright and le Corbusier. On the other hand, the cold glass and steel of Mies van der Rohe’s buildings left me cold.

I was accepted by the School of Architecture at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. My Grade 12 marks were good enough to win a $500.00 scholarship. Mom, as always, was supportive and encouraging. Dad didn’t say much but seemed satisfied that I was going to make something of myself.

It should have worked. I was grown up on the outside, maybe even reasonably close to intellectual maturity, but inside I was still the little boy who was afraid of the shadows on the walls. My wounded emotions were so thoroughly swathed with layer upon layer of protective bandages that I was walking through life like a living mummy, aware of what was going on around me, but never able to participate.

I had lost all interest in church and Christianity, yet had no interest in partying either. Girls were strange and frightening, unless their name was Joan. At each stage of  my years of schooling there was a girl named Joan whom I could talk to without stammering or breaking out in a cold sweat. There were four of them altogether, at different times.

I saw Coke machines dropped down the stairwells of the residence and various other shenanigans on campus. But I was a watcher, not a participant. I read or watched TV until late at night, then could barely stay awake through the lectures.

Two classes brought me to life. One was mechanical drawing, or drafting. That I enjoyed and did well at. The other was English. We spent that first semester studying three utopian novels: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley and Erewhon by  Samuel Butler. Nowadays they would be called dystopian, but the word didn’t exist in 1959. I was intrigued and was able to analyze and comment on them to the professor’s satisfaction.

I failed the other courses because I drowsed through the lectures and didn’t study the textbooks. By the time I realized how far behind I was it was too late to make up lost time in that semester. Surely there would be some way to catch up during the next semester, but I had no plan on how to do it and was afraid to ask for help.

I obtained a student loan of $300.00 to cover my living expenses for the next semester. I cashed the cheque and put the money in my back pocket, intending to pay my residence fees the next day. Then I went down to the lounge in the residence and fell asleep watching TV. When I woke up the money in my back pocket was gone.

Chapter 3 – My father

The time has come for me to write about my father, but I don’t want to. I’m afraid that I’m going to make him sound like an ogre, and he really wasn’t. Most of the time he was a pretty decent sort, but I grew up living in dread of the times when his internal volcano would erupt. He never physically harmed my mother or me, he was kind to animals and polite to others. His anger was only words, but those words would peel the paint off your self respect and wither your soul.

You see? I’m already off on the wrong foot if I want to portray my father in anything like a sympathetic light.

Let’s start over. My father was of New England Puritan stock, had high moral ideals and strong religious convictions. He was a tireless worker, he could fix anything mechanical and build most anything of wood with just a few hand tools. Sometimes he could laugh at himself, but only once did I hear him come close to admitting he’d made a mistake. He’d always had cattle and chickens on the farm and one time when he was about done with farming he said it might have been better if he’d kept a few pigs, too.

His mother was Franco-American, the granddaughter of a man who settled in New York state after serving as a maître d’armes, a master swordsman, in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. My father believed the world would be a better place if everyone spoke the same language, namely English. He only learned a few words of French from his mother, but had a warm spot in his heart for his French heritage because the USA could not have won the revolutionary war without help from France.

My grandparents were from St. Lawrence county, New York and moved to the Newell, Iowa area shortly after they married. Five children were born to them there, then they moved to Pipestone county, Minnesota. In 1908 they came to Canada and homesteaded near the south-west end of Old Wives Lake in Saskatchewan. My father built a house across the road from the estate house where his widowed mother lived and cared for her until her death.

He was 49 when he married and 50 when I was born. Perhaps that half century between us was too much to bridge. Or perhaps he expected a son who would be just as robust as he was and was disappointed to find himself the father of a sickly wimp.

There were good times. Our farm at Bishopric had rows of trees between the yard and the road on the west. All our kinfolk in the area would come once a summer for a family gathering and picnic in an open area among the trees. In the winter, the snow would accumulate in the trees and our driveway became impassible. Then we would travel by team and sleigh with horsehide robes to protect us and maybe a big stone or two at our feet that had been warmed in the oven.

One ice-cold Monday morning, when walking the mile to school was not an option, my father hitched up the sleigh and took me across country to the little brick schoolhouse in the village of Bishopric. When we go there, there was not another person there, no foot prints in the snow. Then I remembered: “Uh, Dad, I forgot. Today is a holiday.” The ride home was quiet, but Dad was not angry and never mentioned the incident.

Once when I was in my teens, Dad started talking about the evils of a white person marrying a black person. “Their children will be mixed colours, one leg white, the other black.” I found that a little hard to take. “I don’t believe that is possible. Did you ever see anyone like that?” He didn’t answer, but that was the last I heard of people with Holstein markings.

I was maybe 15 when he got me to change the water pump on the truck. He told me what to do, then I crawled under the truck and went to work. He wasn’t anywhere near to answer questions, so I figured out what tools to use and which way to install the pump, and it worked. Another time, he got some grinding compound and had me grind the valves and the valve seats on a Briggs & Stratton engine that had lost power. That worked too. But usually Dad didn’t have the time or patience to teach me how to do all the things he could do.

Dad was a Wesleyan Methodist whose church got sucked into the church union fever, eventually being incorporated into the United Church of Canada. Dad talked of attending a United Church in Edmonton, sometime in the later 1920’s. As the preacher spoke, it became evident that he was getting his direction from somewhere else than the Bible. The creation, miracles, virgin birth of Christ and the resurrections were only fables meant to teach a lesson. And the lessons this preacher drew from them bore no resemblance to Bible teachings. Dad walked out into the street, tears streaming from his eyes.

Soon he visited the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute and become an ardent follower of William Aberhart. When Aberhart created the Social Credit Party and led it to power in Alberta in 1935, Dad was convinced that this was the way forward. The churches had become corrupt, what was needed was to elect Christian statesmen to office.

As a true believer of Social Credit principles, it was hard for him to listen to someone expound a contrary philosophy. Occasionally I would see him clench his jaw and tremble in striving to maintain an outward civility when the fire inside was on the point of bursting forth.

I guess it didn’t always work. One day he came walking home from Mr Harlton’s. Mr Harlton was David’s father and a member of the CCF party, at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Social Credit. The Harltons lived two miles from us; I’m not sure why my father stopped there on his way home from town, but they got into a political discussion. My father became so agitated that Mr Harlton decided it wasn’t safe for him to drive and took his keys. Dad walked back the next day, in a somewhat calmer frame of mind, and got his keys back.

The Social Credit movement never got close to political power on the national level and eventually declined. When we went to Moose Jaw, Dad would go to Charlie Schick’s barber shop for a haircut and a religious discussion. Mr Schick was a fervent Lutheran and his influence gave Dad the impetus to start looking for a church again. That led to us joining the Anglican Church when we moved to Craik.

Dad’s eyesight began to fail in his 60’s and pretty soon he let me drive the family half ton to church. There was an RCMP officer attending the same church and I’m sure he was aware that I was nowhere near old enough to have a license. I wonder if he thought it might be safer to let me drive those short distances around home than to have Dad drive. When I turned 16 and got my drivers license, Dad gave me permission to drive the truck to school and to band practice.

My father was really a decent man and he meant well. He would accept advice from a few people, but for the most part he was the judge of what was right and wrong. One evening when we had family devotions he prayed that God would show others that he was right.

Every once in awhile the volcano within would come spewing forth and for three days, every time he came into the house, he would rant about all the things my mother and I had done that he didn’t like. We walked on eggshells to avoid triggering such outbursts, but never actually knew when they would happen. Most of life was normal, but I grew up with an overriding fear that anything I would say or do might be exactly the wrong thing to say or do at that moment.

Dementia

My mother wasn’t able to look after herself anymore and had come to live with us. One day a conversation with a visitor went like this:
—How old are you?
—What year is it?
—Two thousand and four
—Then I am ninety-six.

That was my mother; she couldn’t remember how old she was, but she wasn’t about to admit it so she answered with a question of her own. When she was given the year she instantly made the calculation in her head and gave the right answer.

My father’s dementia worked a little differently; he lived to be 86 but always told people he was 82. It seems that was how old he was when dementia took away his ability to connect with what was happening.

Some people become quite difficult as dementia sets in. They resent being told to put on clothes that they don’t recognize. The problem is that their mind has slipped back 50 years and the clothes they would recognize are long gone. Others may be just as confused about where they are and what is happening, yet they are sweetly thankful for every little act of kindness.

Some people eventually lose the ability to communicate. A familiar face, a familiar voice, may stir some sign of recognition, but they can’t quite grasp who it is they see and hear. There are those who seem altogether vacant, yet their eyes light up when a familiar hymn is sung. Sometimes they might even sing along, yet show no sign of remembering after the song  is finished. It is important for us to believe that there is still a person in that body, and even though they cannot reach out to us, they do know when we reach out to them by kind words and touches.

Some people seem immune to dementia. We visited a lady after she turned 100, she may have been a distant relative of my wife. She was bright and chipper, her hearing was good, her eyesight was good – she read a regular print Bible, had no difficulty walking. We visited her again several months later – she recognized us and remembered our names.

We met a man, a distant relative of mine, who was also over 100. He played billiards, drove his car to his country church every Sunday, pushed people in wheelchairs around the yard of the nursing home.

Both of these people had a positive outlook on life and were interested in other people. This leads me to some observations:

  • A self-centred person has a miserable life and seems to be more inclined to develop dementia, where he can make everybody around him miserable, too.
  • A person who is genuinely interested in others develops the ability to exercise their mind in following a multitude of paths his mind might not otherwise take and this may make him less apt to develop dementia.
  • A person who is genuinely thankful, and readily expresses that thankfulness will be a pleasant person to be around even if he develops dementia.

I know, these are totally unscientific conclusions and there are many other factors involved. Still, I think they are thoughts to bear in mind as I grow older so that I can cultivate the attitudes that will make life less difficult for those who may have to care for me if I ever develop dementia.

In defence of doubt

As Christians, we tend to have this utopian belief that a true believer will never have any doubts about matters of faith. Thus, when a brother or sister has the courage to admit to doubt, we react with something akin to panic.

Why do we react like this? Isn’t it because deep down we ourselves doubt whether there is a satisfactory answer for the doubt expressed by our brother or sister. So we label the doubt as unbelief and tell the doubting person to repent of that unbelief.

In most cases doubt is simply a feeling of uncertainty, a longing for answers and not a refusal to believe. We all have doubts at times and it is not healthy to suppress them. If we go on for too long simply stifling our doubts, they are apt to erupt one day into a major crisis of faith.

We need to look for answers to our doubts, and to the doubts of others. Right here we often encounter the biggest doubt of all: are there really answers to our doubts? How can we even know that God exists?

We should be wary of answers that assume that faith and reason are mutually exclusive realms and that we just need to have faith. Sometimes Christians use a variant of this type of answer by coming up with stories that supposedly prove Creation, the existence of heaven or hell, or some other tenet of the faith and say we have a different kind of knowledge than the world has. Most of these stories do not stand up under close scrutiny and have the effect of confirming the world’s perception that Christian’s aren’t very bright.

Blaise Pascal said “The heart has its reasons, which reason cannot know.” Yet he went on to develop arguments to show the reasonableness of Christian faith. There is no contradiction here — Christian faith does provide the best explanation for things as they really are. Those who rely on reason alone and deny the very possibility of God have created well thought out explanations for the existence of the world and all natural phenomena, including the workings of the human mind. The problem is that new evidence keeps cropping up that does not fit these explanations, so new explanations need to be developed.

There is no absolute proof for any aspect of Christian faith; on the other hand, there is no evidence that contradicts the faith. When looked at objectively, without the blinders created by a refusal to admit any possibility of the existence of God, it becomes clear that God is the explanation that best fits all the available evidence.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith then is really all we need, faith in God and faith in what He has revealed to us in His Word. But questions and doubts will arise, and we need not fear them.

The world has developed supposedly scientific ideas about what is best for the mental and emotional well-being of mankind. Here too, an unblinkered look at the evidence shows that they don’t really work. Having confidence that there really is a God who created the world and everything in it, including us, should give us confidence to trust that His plan for the church and the home are exactly designed to meet our real needs. Let’s not panic when someone expresses doubts. Consider that an opportunity to examine the evidence and have our faith renewed.

FAME, part 2

Oh think not genius, with its hallowed light,
Can break the gloom of the eternal night;
For splendid talents often lead astray
The unguarded heart, and hide the narrow way,
While the unlearned and those of low estate,
With faith’s clear eyes behold the living gate,
Whose portals open on the shoreless sea
Where time’s strong ocean meets eternity.
Across the gulf that stretches far beneath
Lies the dark valley of the shade of death –
A land of deep forgetfulness, – a shore
Which all must traverse, but return no more
To this sad earth to dissipate our dread,
And tell the mighty secrets of the dead.
Enough for us that these drear realms were trod
By heavenly footsteps, that the Son of God
Passed the dark bourne and vanquished Death, to save
The weary wanderers of life’s stormy wave.

Why then should man thus cleave to things of earth?
Daily experience proves their little worth –
Or waste those noble qualities of mind,
For wise and better purposes designed,
In pursuit of trifles, which confer
No solid pleasure on their worshipper;
Or in the search of causes that are known
And guided by Omnipotence alone?
A height his finite reason cannot reach,
And all his boasted learning fails to teach?
While the bewildering thought overwhelms his brain,
Death comes to prove his speculations vain!

Is he deserving of a better doom
Who will not raise a hope beyond the tomb?
Who, quite enamoured with his fallen state,
Clings to the world and leaves the rest to fate;
Prefers corruption to his Maker’s smile,
“And shuns the light because his deeds are vile?”
The man who feels the value of his soul,
Presses unwearied towards a higher goal;
Leaving this earth, he seeks a brighter prize,
And claims a crown immortal in the skies.
The child of pleasure may despise his aim,
And heap reproach upon the Christian’s name,
May laugh his faith, as foolishness, to scorn: –
These by the man of God are meekly borne.
His glorious hope no infidel can shake;
Her suffers calmly for his Saviour’s sake.–

The world’s poor votary seeks in vain for peace:
He cannot bid the voice of conscience cease
Its dire upbraidings; in his heartless course
He meets at every turn the fiend Remorse,
Who glares upon him with his tearless eye,
That sears his heart – but mocks its agony.
He hears that voice, amid the festive throng,
Speak in the dance and murmur in the song,
A death-bell, pealing in the midnight chime,
Whose awful tones proclaim the lapse of time,
And e’er the winged moments as they fly
Seem to proclaim – “Rash mortal, thou must die!
Soon must thou tread the path thy fathers trod,
And stand before the judgment-seat of God!”–
He hears – but seeks in pleasure’s cup to drown
The dread that weighs his ardent spirit down;
Derides the warning voice in mercy sent;
Rejects the thought of after-punishment;
In folly’s vortex wastes the spring of youth,
Nor, till death summons, owns the awful truth;
Feels it too late to calm the agonies
Remorse has kindled – and despairing, dies!

But in the breast where true religion reigns
There is a balm for all these mental pains;
A sweet contentment, felt, but undefined,
A full and free surrender of the mind
To its divine original; a trust
Which lifts to heaven the dweller of the dust.
The pilgrim, glowing with a hope divine,
Counts not the distance to the heavenly shrine;
He meets with guardian spirits on the road,
Who cheer his steps and ease his heavy load.
Serenely journeying to a better clime
He does not shudder at the lapse of time;
But calmly drinks the cup of mortal woe,
And finds that peace the world cannot bestow;
That promised joy which brightens all beneath,
And smooths his pillow on the bed of death;
That perfect love which casteth out all fear;
And wafts his spirit to a happier sphere! –

Fame is a dream – the praise of man as brief
As morning dew upon the folded leaf;
The summer sun exhales the pearly tear,
And leaves no trace of his existence there.
Seek not for immortality below,
But fix your hopes beyond this vale of woe,
That when oblivion gathers round thy sod,
A lasting record may be found with God!

[This lengthy poem comes from a book by Susanna Moodie, Enthusiasm and Other Poems,  published in 1831, the year before she and her husband came to Canada.]

I dreamed there was no God

[From an out of print book, When I Was Thirteen by Christina Young. I first posted this in March of 2013, and thought it worth posting again as it seems to me that far too many people today are living in just such a nightmare and do not know that it would be possible to awaken from that dream and experience the love of God who really is there.]

June 1, 1897
This is Sunday morning, and also the first day of June.  Everyone else is sleeping still, as the sun is just coming up over the trees at the ditch.  I got up early like this, because I had a bad dream, and couldn’t sleep any more, and I thought maybe if I would go out into the beautiful morning, I could crawl back up out of the slough of despond that had swallowed me up in my dream.

I will write down my dream pretty soon, but first I want to get happy again, and feeling that God is close by, as it was a most desolate feeling, to feel shut away from Him.

So I am sitting out here on the stoop watching the sun rising up, and smelling the sweet morning smells that the night sprinkles over the earth to make it sweet for the people when they get up in the morning.  It is a great pity the children in town can never have country mornings.

The little lost lambs have all found their own mother now.  I can see them frisking around along the sides of the road.  You would never think that they were such sorrowful lambs last night, and the happy old mother sheep seem to have clean forgotten their worry for fear they had lost their lambs.

Out in the orchards the birds are holding a service of song, and are nearly bursting their throats trying to make the world understand how happy they feel for this lovely June morning.  And back there in the pasture, the horses and cows are just getting up for another good day in the grass.  Old Nell looks quite a fine lady.

Somewhere in the Bible there is a verse which says “They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountains, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”  And that is the way the world looks this morning.  No one with a soul locked up in their body, and looking out of their eyes, could see the earth on a morning like this, and not be sure that God made it and loved the people upon it.

But I dreamed last night that there was no God.  And, though it was only a dream and I am awake again now and sure that He is closer to me than the morning air I am breathing, I am sad to think that there must be millions of people and sorrowful little children, away in the heathen lands, who have all the time the unhappy feeling I had while I was dreaming my dream.  For they don’t know about God.

In my dream, the children would not obey their parents, but did as they wanted to do themselves, and nobody wanted to bother themselves with children anyway, and they had to look out for themselves.  The parents found fault with each other, and with the ones higher up, and they wouldn’t stick to each other, and kept stirring up ugly feelings, and the ones higher up did just as they pleased and didn’t care who suffered for it, but were always living in fear of someone conquering them.  Everyone was afraid of everyone else and there was no faith in the world.

I was even afraid of Ma, as the thing that held us together, seemed not to be there anymore, and where love and tenderness once had been, fear and distrust were now.

Each one walked alone, and had no friend.

I was sleeping out on the road, trying to keep myself hid, and had huddled up in the dark beside one of the sheep, as that was the kindest thing I could find, and I wasn’t afraid of it.  I thought that Ma didn’t care for me anymore, but had told me to shift for myself, and there was no use praying to God for there wasn’t any God there.

I was wishing with all my heart that I had never been born, and hoping I would soon die.  I was planning, as soon as the daylight came, to try to sneak down to the creek and be drowned.  I would have to keep out of sight of a man, as they were all cruel to children.  I thought it would be all right to drown myself because if there was no God, neither would there be any Heaven, and if there wasn’t a Heaven, not likely there’d be any Hell, and being so miserable as I was, I would rather be nothing at all.

Just then a sheep bleated a little, and I woke up.  Of all the bad dreams I have ever had, that was the very worst.  There wasn’t any thrill in it, but just a heavy despair, as there was no chance to escape, and nowhere to turn for help.

I was never so glad to wake up before, and find it was just a bad dream.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Hell should turn out just to be shut out forever from under the care of God.

I know there are some in the world who say they do not believe in Him, although they are living in safety and peace, because others’ believe and act that way, but I think they must have a feeling that there is a God taking care of us, although maybe they don’t know that they have it.  Because if they really didn’t believe, and felt as I felt in my dream, I think they’d all kill themselves and so end up the misery.

I think, when God gives life to a child, He plants in its soul the feeling that there is a God.  They say even the worst of the heathens have the instinct that there is some such Presence, and are always searching to find it and seeking to know its will, though so doubtfully and so darkly that they never know any real peace, being so full of the terrors that live in their minds.  I expect the children all feel as I felt last night in my dream.

Pa is up now, and was surprised to see me sitting out here on the stoop.  It was good to see his face, with only kindness on it, and to know that he is a good man and walks in the way of God, and it is good to know that Ma is still Ma, and we can be sure of her love for us and can all be together still, and sure of the love of God, and that He is right here watching out for us all, and none of us need be afraid.  I guess I had better start setting the table for breakfast now.  Pa has the fire going.

Ebola

That fearsome disease,
The deaths do not cease.
Who can help when such fear
Clutches all who are near?

Disease is a curse,
Fear just makes it worse.
We flee those who would help.
Trust things that cannot help.

Thousands are dying,
Thousands are trying
To arrest the bleeding,
And stop it from spreading.

Has a cure been found?
Will it go around?
Can science stop the curse?
Or will it still get worse?

Ebola will pass.
Leave behind a mass
Of graves, sorrows, questions.
Who can tell the reason?

The sin plague remains;
All mankind it stains.
Science gives us no might
To protect from this blight.

Yet down from heaven
The cure is given;
The fountain filled with blood –
 The remedy of God.

Truth before their eyes
Is hid from the wise.
Then go to those in need,
The way of life to plead.

Though their life be drear
Don’t recoil in fear.
The word of life make plain
Live it, tell it again.

Copyright © August 16, 2014, Bob Goodnough

[I make no claim to poetic skill. My wife is the chief poet in the family, our daughter is second, though for the present her children claim her time and attention. But these thoughts came to me yesterday and seemed to make sense only in poetic format.]

Is it hot?

My wife and I went away for the day, leaving our four-year-old daughter with Grandma. When Grandma started to make dinner, our daughter saw the electric element on the stove glowing red hot, asked “Grandma, is it hot?” and placed the palm of her hand on the element.

I guess she really never understood what hot was until that moment. Her hand didn’t stay in contact with the element very long so the burn wasn’t deep and healed without leaving any scars. Grandma did what grandmas do so well in caring for the wound and comforting a little girl, but we wished that we could somehow have made it more clear what hot meant so she didn’t need to find out in such a painful way.

How can we make it clear to others how hot hell will be? The Biblical image of a lake of fire and brimstone seems to have lost its impact over the years. Cartoonists have had fun portraying how certain individuals or groups of people might be tormented in hell, but they are not really intended to be taken seriously. Nothing much about hell is taken seriously anymore, not even by Christians. Perhaps we have been talking about the torments of a lake of molten sulphur for so long that we don’t really believe it ourselves?

What the Bible is really telling us is that we live in a world polluted by sin. If heaven is to be a place of beauty and happiness, another place had to be prepared for all that would pollute the purity of heaven.

Think of hell as the toxic waste dump for all that is evil in this world, and for all the people who have willingly polluted themselves with that evil. Heaven will be a place of peace, joy and love, unmixed with sorrow or pain. Hell will be a place characterized by hatred, envy, anger, lust and fear. All the spirits that have so long tormented this world will be there and all the people who thought to find some advantage or self-justification in yielding to those spirits. It will be a place of sheer, unmitigated terror.

Is that hot enough? Consider this also: everyone in hell will remember clearly the moment they made the choice that sealed their doom. No one will accidentally find himself or herself in hell.

There will be people in heaven who never lived long enough to make a choice. It is the great mercy of God to welcome all those who never reached a level of maturity where they could know what their choices were. The innocent will be in heaven. No one in hell will be able to claim innocence.

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