I am probably the world’s least likely person to talk about religious topics, but today I am going to mention a few things that I have been thinking about. First of all, I went to church this morning and as usual our pastor was amazing. She is the most “real” clergy person I have ever met. What you see is what you get, and she always speaks from the heart. That is a rare talent I have found. Anyway, she got me thinking about some issues, that I really need to write about.
First, lets talk about the Top 10 (commandments that is). Just in case you forgot what they are…
Now, look at the list above and see which one(s) of these rules you have broken. If you are like me, the results are really grim. Over the course of my 68+ years I am ashamed to say that I broke many of those demands at a very early age, I didn’t wait to get old before sinning my head off. Unlike many lists you didn’t have to take them in order for them to count as marks against yourself. As a matter of fact, some of those at the end of the commandments happened at a very young age. Maybe before I got out of kindergarten. Without going into a lot of detail about the things I have done wrong in my life, lets just say that I have a lot for which to be forgiven. Have I been envious, coveted, stole, etc. Those are highly personal issues that in many cases only God and I are aware of. Well, and my Mom, she knew more about my wrong doings than anyone. Not a great feeling knowing that breaking any one of these rules could have lasting effects on your life on earth, not to mention determining your destination afterwards.
That really brings me to the real topic of this blog. If you are my age or slightly younger or older, did you notice that we are praying more now? Maybe it’s because we have more time on our hands, or maybe because we have children to pray for, or maybe we pray more because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or the condition of our country as a result of the past few years. More than likely we are praying more because we are closer to the end of the book than we are to the beginning! If you are like me at all, the great mystery that lies ahead of us is getting closer every day. I don’t know about you, but I am betting big on there being a heaven. I mean seriously, what do you have to lose? If you don’t believe in God then you are satisfied with just being gone forever after you leave this life. That seems very permanent and really uneventful to me. However, if you DO believe in God, then you may have something great to look forward to, and you have the chance of seeing all of your old friends again in heaven. That is a much better prognosis than not believing.
Here is the problem. For years, I believed that I had done so many things wrong, and broken so many commandments, that there is no way “in hell” that I could ever get into heaven. I mean, seriously, why would anyone let me into paradise after being a sinner who broke more of the rules than he obeyed? Then something happened that literally changed the way I look at things. One day about 10 years ago, I was talking with a dear friend of mine named “Jimmy”. Jimmy and I were talking about deep subjects like our lives, sins, trespasses, resentments, and so forth. I told him what I thought about my past and how doomed my afterlife was going to be and he simply said that he didn’t look at things that way. Jimmy explained quite simply that God does not hold a grudge and that God does not EVER do bad things. If bad things happen to me or to anyone else, it isn’t because God is mad at us or is taking out his vengeance on us for our misdeeds. It is because God gave us “free will” and we have done these bad things to ourselves and others. Wow, I never thought of it that way. God doesn’t do bad things! Seems simple doesn’t it? Of course then I started coming up with situations to prove Jimmy wrong. I said, okay what about children that are starving, or babies that die in childbirth, or good guys dying that have done wonderful things on earth? Jimmy just smiled and said, well, children starve because we let them starve. Babies die because God knows that something bad is going to happen in their future, so they need to come back to him right now. He takes hero’s at an early age because they have accomplished their mission on earth. You get the idea, right? God doesn’t do bad things! This may not seem like a revelation to you, but to me, it meant everything. It meant that if asked God, sincerely, to forgive me for my past, that he would literally give me a “do over”.
I could start over, follow the commandments, quit being a jerk, and start my life over anytime that I chose. What’s more, I could ask for forgiveness and help every day, any time, any place, and God would forgive me. He would give me a “get out of hell” card anytime I would SERIOUSLY try to change and be a better person. So you ask, what have I changed?
Short answer, I have tried to change everything. Some things I have had more success with than others. Somethings it will literally take me the rest of my life to do a better job. All God expects for me to do is TRY. If I will just DO what God has told me to do, everything will be fine. I know that some of you are thinking, Mitchell, you have a long way to go. My answer to you, is YOU ARE RIGHT, I have a lot to keep working on. Please don’t be like I was and be afraid that the boat to heaven or hell has already sailed. What do you believe? Leave me some comments.
Just as a post script. If you are ever in Tarkio Missouri on a Sunday, make sure to hear our pastor. Her YouTube feed is Julie Sanders Tarkio United Methodist Church. You will love her sermons.