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Monday, April 09, 2018

I'll Take Heaven

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
9 April 2018
www.chuckroots.com
The Ripon Bulletin

I’ll Take Heaven

My topic today is something I never imagined I would write about if I had not watched the news and read the published accounts of what took place.

The question then is, “What exactly happened?” This is where it gets a little bit murky. I’m talking about the recent news story attributing to Pope Francis remarks he allegedly made in which he appears to suggest that Hell does not really exist. As you might surmise, battle lines have been drawn over the issue of where the Pope stands concerning the existence of Hell.

Well, whether he said those exact words, or implied Hell does not exist, is something for each person to decide for themselves. I am not attempting to defend or be critical of the Pope. He made remarks to a journalist who is a long-time friend of his in an interview last month. It is important to note that this Italian journalist is an avowed atheist (there is no God), and does not take notes, nor use recording devices in his interviews.

However, from other interviews and comments the Pope has made over the years it seems as though he has theological leanings that do not always square with the Bible, or with Catholic doctrine. From what is reported the Pontiff has said that those who earnestly seek God with a whole heart will enjoy His presence in Heaven forever. On the other hand, those who are outside of the faith will disappear. They will not suffer the torments of Hell for eternity. They will no longer exist.

Such a position has a name within theological circles. It’s called Annihilationism (also known as extinctionism, or destructionism). The soul of the person who has rejected God in Christ will be judged at the Final Judgement. When it is determined that the person being judged has rejected God, then that person will pass into a condition where they no longer exist.

The position of annihilationism may bring a modicum of comfort to those who fear for the eternal loss of a loved one by suggesting they no longer exist. It is difficult to fathom, and painful to imagine a loved one suffering in Hell for eternity, I grant you that. But, if the Bible is correct and true, and is God’s holy word, then my discomfort with an endless eternity of suffering for those who are lost, is moot.

This brings out another problem within the broader church worldwide today. Too often unpopular doctrine firmly based upon biblical teaching, is ignored or replaced with a new doctrine which carries little or no biblical support.

For instance, it is popular today to suggest that all religions, faiths, doctrines, creeds, and so forth are as valid as any other. The popular bumper sticker COEXIST is printed in such a way as to use symbols from various world religions and beliefs to infer that we should all just be able to get over our differences and get along. That sounds wonderful on the surface, but totally impracticable in its implementation. A cursory review of the texts deemed holy by any of these beliefs will quickly identify the fly-in-the-ointment, so to speak. Islam, which is bent on world domination, cannot and does not want to get along with anybody, especially Christians and Jews. The very first chapter (Surah 1) of the Koran (Qur’an, if you like), attacks Christians and Jews, claiming that Allah is angry with them. That would be a little bit difficult to ignore, don’t you think?

Whether the Pope said Hell does not exist, or implied it, or didn’t make any such comment, is irrelevant in the final analysis. True, to faithful Catholics he is the Vicar of Christ, the bodily representation of Christ on earth. This would then beg the question: If he is the representation of Christ on earth, would he not be in error to go against two thousand years of Christian doctrine by asserting that lost souls merely disappear, and not suffer for eternity? The Bible is crystal clear on several points. First, there really is a Hell. Second, the ruler of this dreadful place is Satan, the devil. Third, Jesus warns of Hell throughout his three plus years of earthly ministry. Fourth, the Apostle John wrote the final book in the Bible, Revelation. You cannot escape the reality of Hell reading through the twenty-two chapters of this hair-raising epistle.

Someone might say, “Well, I don’t believe in the Bible.” Fine. Then what do you believe in? And what is that belief based on? You see, I accept the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. That he loved me and died on a cross for my sins so that I might know him personally, experience his forgiveness, and live with him for eternity in Heaven. That’s why the message of the Bible, the Gospel, is referred to as Good News!

Another reason I believe what the Bible says is that Jesus rose from the dead. Anyone who can do that has my attention! And I figure he ought to know. If he says there’s a Hell, then there’s a Hell.

Someone might want to imply that I surely grew up in an environment where the Bible was used to make me fearful and cower under the thunderous preaching of the fire-breathing preachers. Nope! Not my experience. In fact, my brother, sister and I grew up in a very liberal environment. Church? To be decided when we were older. Playboy magazine was on the coffee table. Conversation in the home and around the dinner table ran the gamut of topics.

I accepted Jesus as my Savior at twenty-four. You see, for me, Heaven seemed a much better place to spend eternity.  

Monday, April 02, 2018

An Extraordinary Gift

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
2 April 2018
www.chuckroots.com
The Ripon Bulletin

An Extraordinary Gift

It came from out of nowhere. The fragility of life, with its many twists and turns, at times flowing along with unannounced, undemanding companionship, while at other times crashing into the calm waters of our existence in a totally disruptive, petulant manner, forcing the unsuspecting person to take notice of the immediacy of an insistent problem that must be addressed, regardless of the person’s pedigree, status, or station in life.

Sometime in the 1990s, as I recall, we became aware of our niece’s health being compromised by the onset of diabetes. Abi was in her teenage years, only to discover that she was now medically classified as a brittle diabetic. Over the next several decades she ran the gauntlet of sugar spikes, constant finger pricks, trips to the ER, all the while coming to grips with the reality that this failure of her body to produce the necessary amounts of insulin would most likely end badly for her.

Last November her kidneys reached the end of their usefulness, forcing her to enter into an aggressive program of dialysis treatments. In the meantime, the medical staff said she would need a new kidney and a new pancreas. Her name was entered on the waiting list in hopeful anticipation that parts would be available. It became a wait-and-see game, only this game was deadly serious.

A few weeks ago, our family was notified that a donor was available to give her a kidney. We were excited and relieved. A kidney meant hope, and possibly buying time until a pancreas donor could be had. The surgery was scheduled for April 10. Shortly after this announcement, the surgery was cancelled. Abi valiantly continued showing up for work, only the dialysis treatments and general fatigue of her body’s battle left her drained.

Then last Tuesday evening, Abi received a call from the hospital announcing that they had a deceased 20-year-old, the victim of a homicide, and that she needed to come in right away. My brother drove her to the hospital where she was prepped for the surgery the next day. The pancreas and kidney transplant took five hours and was a total success. The medical team that has been working with Abi could hardly contain their joy, even commenting, medically speaking, that Abi had hit the lottery.

As of this writing, Abi is doing wonderfully well. The day following the surgery they had her up and walking around the ward. The kidney is functioning beautifully, relieving her of the need for any more dialysis treatments. Add to that, the report from the doctors declares that the pancreas is pumping out insulin, causing the doctors to affirm that Abi is no longer a diabetic!

Over the next few weeks Abi will need to give her body plenty of time to recover from this invasive surgery. The company she works for has been very supportive of her during this ordeal and is holding her job for her until she is well enough to return.

Among the many amazing facets throughout this ordeal is that Abi was actually third on the list for organ transplant. However, because she was needing a double-transplant, she was moved to the top of the list. The medical rationale for this decision is based upon a donor who could provide both needed organs. The body has a much better chance of accepting the new organs if they are from the same donor. A kidney could be donated by a live donor, but a pancreas meant that someone would have to die.

We do not know who the deceased donor is, and probably never will know, but this extraordinary gift has meant that my niece will live. The family of this donor is grieving the loss of their loved one. They were willing to make a decision to allow their child’s organs to be used by others. As I understand it, besides the pancreas and kidney received by Abi, the other kidney was donated to another recipient, and still another person received the heart. All precious, life-saving gifts!

Obviously as a family we are overjoyed that Abi is no longer riding the edge of uncertainty regarding her enormous health issues. Many tears of relief and joy have been shed during this past week. Our church folks and friends have been faithfully praying for Abi and our family throughout this ordeal. Prior to the start of our Easter service Sunday morning, I was standing outside the front door of the church just reflecting on how grateful I am knowing Abi is enjoying a level of wellness she hasn’t experienced in a very long time. One of the ladies of the church was walking toward the door. Recognizing me, she asked, “How is Abi doing? I’ve been praying for her every day!” This was only the first of many who were asking about my niece. I must tell you that it touched me deeply, bringing tears of appreciation to my eyes for the faithful prayers of these fellow travelers.

As it was Easter Week, I couldn’t miss the similarity of what our family experienced and the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. For Abi to live, it was necessary that someone else die. And that’s the meaning of Easter. In order for you and me to live, Jesus needed to die. But the best news is, death could not hold him!

Hallelujah! He is risen!

Psalm for the Day