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The rottenest bastard I know

For though I preach the Gospel, I haue nothing to glorie of: for necessitie is laid vpon mee, yea, woe is vnto me, if I preach not the Gospel.

                                    1 Corinthians 9:16 (Holy Bible 1611)

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Trouble is I am a coward. Some of it by my nature, and some of it by how I have been trained. When I watch others giddily glide along the road to hell… I am much too inclined to just sit and watch.

Because the road SEEMS such a happy road! The boats and jet skis and camping trips and bathing suits and beer and fancy cars and fancy clothes and fancy restaurants and puppy dogs and kitty cats and cob salad and noodle salad and potato salad and video games and video chats and video shows and uploads and downloads and tracker watches and tracker phones and tracker chips and tracker trackers…

An endless stream of HAPPY!

But I know it isn’t really happiness. The Bible makes that abundantly clear (Matt. 16:26). Even nature shows it plain as day. A dude would have to equip himself with a pretty heavy-duty set of blinders to miss the truth. Or have someone else equip them. First grade. Second grade. Third grade… Diploma.

Six, six, six pence
a bottle of old rye
four and twenty chicken-wings
a deep dish apple pie.

Ahhhh, the pleasures of life! The money to be made, amassed, then spent. The dainty sweets and confections to be eaten. Duties to attend, for sure… but then to the delights allotted by merit and station. Such a perfect, beautiful, bright and sunny day! What in the world could ever go wrong?

A snipped off nose
frost bit toes
a diabetic coma
the cancer tumor grows…

Itching and burning and sore throats and stuffed noses and fevers and chills and heart problems and head problems and liver problems and motorcycle crashes and car crashes and truck crashes and life snuffed out and life dragged on and quick death or slow death or noble death or tragic death… it still all just means death. And then the judgment.

I hate spoiling a person’s good time. When someone tells me of their hopes and dreams and happiness and obsessions and pleasures, the urge to placate arises within me, an impulse to nod encouragingly and tell them it is well and that’s great and good for you… all the time a leaden curtain settled heavily upon my brain, behind the eyes, pressing down, dampening my desire to engage, just keep on nodding and encouraging and supporting them as they giddily glide along the broad road to hell.

All I really want to do is tell them the good news! All I want to do is talk of the Bible! The conversation should be of how great blessings God has given us. Such an abundance of good things in life, despite the hardship. How longsuffering the Lord is despite our sinfulness.

When I change the topic to God, and goodness, and eternity, you’d think I just

rained on their parade!

Hey man… you aren’t supposed to initiate. You aren’t supposed to SHARE the gospel with me. You’re supposed to just be a regular Joe about everything, until I “decide” to ask the source of your happiness! That is your cue to tell me about Jesus and the Bible and then we sing Kumbaya and all go to heaven in a little row boat.

And if you never ask the source of my happiness and joy?

Well, you just wait until I do. I’ve got Christian friends, man, and they talk video games with me and horse around and don’t spoil it with all that bible talk, and such. Those Christian friends of yours need to set you straight on a few things. Bad form, man. Bad form.

I have talked to Christian friends. Most have two switches. Ramble on about the world and its cares, then…BAM….flip the switch to somber bible mode, holy, calm, touching story, tear in the eye…BAM…so how about them Yankees, buddy? The World Series is gonna be a screamer this year…

I’m always startled by the conversation with other Christians. How the Bible never seems to really come up except at scheduled times, or unless dragged into the topic. If I had a nickel for every time a person asked me whether my kid was going to college, or what job my kid was doing, or whether my kid was involved in sports or whatnot… well, then I’d need a whole bunch of those paper tube thingies to store my nickels!

If I answer the questions truthfully, saying that college has become a system of the world and that more Christians lose their faith in the bible while there than increase it, that more Christians fall into sin while attending than get separated from it, and that sports should be an exception to the labors of life, not the purpose of it… well, then I start seeing the signs. And I haven’t even gotten to heaven and hell and holiness yet! We haven’t even shared bible verses…

Already the disapproval. Already that funny look, the drawing away, the pulling back the shoulder, the shifting of the feet. That little frown. One of these dudes. A holy roller.

PARIAH!

Unclean. Unclean. Put em outside the camp. In some cave somewhere. Chuck em out with the fundamentalists, or something. Infectious substance. RED BAG!

Imagine this one instead.

So, how is your kid’s bible study going? Very well, thank you. He’s a ways into Ezekiel now, the part about the dry bones. How exciting! Can’t wait to talk about it with him when we next meet. Oh, that powerful Word of God!

I’m not saying it ALL has to be gospel and Jesus and Bible, but I’m saying at least SOME of it should be! We are judged by every idle word, after all (Matt. 12:36). And that’s the best part of the conversation anyway! It’s the part we have in common.

A little warning from my folly.

In my second marriage (which I had no biblical authorization to have, but that is a different topic), I was new to Christianity and the Bible, but I was real fired up about it! I wanted to go petal to the metal and give up the whole world and follow the Bible to the letter, or at least give it the “old college try”.

This was hard on my new wife, a professing Christian, but not comfortable with my level of enthusiasm and zeal. She asked me early on to give her some time, to cut her some slack, to slow up a bit and let’s walk before we run. Let her warm up a little before we get crazy about this stuff. Sounded reasonable to me. What could go wrong?

I lost the marriage over it!!!

There were many reasons, for sure, but it all came back to that moment. I backed off so we could walk together and we tried to balance God and the Bible with the world, and we pleasured away our weekends and time off, and back burnered the God part of things, and indulged our desires more than mortifying them… and what did I get?

A list of reasons why I wasn’t a good man. Why I was a bad provider. Was a bad father and step-father. Hadn’t improved myself to her specification. WAS A BAD CHRISTIAN!

Guilty as charged.

In four years of compromise, of giving her time to get used to it, of waiting for her to bring that walk to a run… I had now backslidden to a crawl. My behavior pattern now become the precedent, instead of our original agreement.

When I came to my senses and realized she had no intention of giving up the world and going big-time-bible on life, it was too late. I could barely drag myself out of my sinful patterns, much less trot along to the gospel song.

But I tried anyway. Bring it back up to a walk, then to a jog, then to a run. Full speed ahead! No more time to lose. Catch up when you can, Honey Bunny! You can do it.

But no. I had changed the deal. I was an extremist. A rotten sinner. A hypocrite. I had no leg to stand on. Guilty. Forgotten was her earnest plea of early on; it will take time, let me warm up to it, let’s hold back until I am comfortable. Well… now I was the deal breaker! You’re bad. You’re a loser. You’re pathetic. YOU’RE GONE!!! I’ll find another man that isn’t crazy. Sign these papers. Now bug off.

So I did. And resolved to never hold back on the gospel and the Bible and God FOR ANYONE ELSE’S SAKE! Ever! It isn’t kindness to hold back. It is wickedness. It just sets a precedence of what you really are…

A slacker!

A sluggard. A fool. A spineless sap. A wimp. A pushover. A milquetoast. A weakling. NOT A GOD-FEARING MAN! If I feared God, I would not have feared my wife, or some co-worker, or a brother. Would have never backslidden into sinful ways. Nevermore.

Hey man, you should’ve known. Don’t you know not to compromise? What kind of nit-wit are you, anyway? You should’ve known. I could’ve told you all that. Could’ve shown you the Christian ropes.

Yeah, well… why didn’t you? And real life is not hindsight. I screwed up. I know it now… and won’t be falling for it again. Remember that when the conversation starts seeming one tracked and the Bible and God get center stage. Call me an extremist, a zealot, a bible-thumper, unbalanced, unkind. Kick me to the curb. Been there, done that. Take a number. Get in line. Steam train coming through.

Oh, and one more thing, for the record…

Don’t EVER ask me to compromise!

Not EVER! Cause I won’t. Chisel that one in stone, buddy. I have to live with my past, you don’t. Now let’s get back to the topic of preaching to non-Christians.

Let’s say I work next to a guy out on a farm for months on end. He knows I am a Christian, but he hasn’t a clue what that really means. What the Bible says. I don’t offer much more than maybe an invitation to church on Sunday, or something, and so on.

Or say I work next to a dude running a drill press in a factory, year after year we show up to the job. He knows I am a Christian. He used to be one when he was a kid, and spouts a few verses, but then the arguments against.

That stuff ain’t for me, man. A system of control. I believe it’s all just about being a good person in life. My sister divorced some jerk, then married some guy and he took care of her and the kids like they was his own. Now THAT’S a good person, man. He died soon after, but really got my sister set up.

Did the conversation stop there?

Or did you tell him that “good” person now resides in hell? Not so bluntly, maybe, but did you get there? To the part about good works not meriting a thing in terms of salvation? I’m glad people perform kind acts, help people, help shoulder another’s load… but that don’t cut it in terms of heaven and hell!

So, did the topic get there? Not just about the dead guy, but how about the drill press buddy you go to work with every day FOR YEARS ON END? He still has breath in him. It is not too late for him. Not yet.

How about brothers and sisters and relatives and close friends? Sure, I’ll bet they all know you are a Christian, but what does that mean to them? Hey, I’m glad you found your happiness, bro. I truly am. Or. Glad you found an umbrella for your cruddy life. You know, a nice warm fuzzy blanket to wrap yourself in. I prefer reality myself, man.

Well, you aren’t going to like “reality” too much when you stand at the great white throne for judgement, are you? Did you tell them that part? Or did it not work its way into the conversation in the last TEN YEARS oiling this dude’s drill press? Or bailing hay with him, or hoeing weeds, or at a family gathering, picking blackberries, a walk in the woods? Or…

Did you ever send a letter?!?

I’m not good at explaining things, man. My tongue gets tied. I never remember where the verse is I want to explain. They always derail the conversation, then have to go feed their dog. WELL, THEN WRITE A LETTER! Then you’ve said your say, and if they want no part in it… welcome to being a writer.

So, they know you are a Christian. That’s a good start! Do they know why THEY TOO need to become a Christian? All the reasons? Do they think it’s just about some “good plan Jesus has for their life”? That they can find happiness in the church? That heaven is a pretty cool place to go after you die?

Some people don’t give a fig about that!!!

Some people LIKE living in their filth. Are accustomed to getting the raw end of the stick. Have screwed their lives up so bad, there is no better life left in the cards! TELL THEM ABOUT THE LAKE OF FIRE. That just might be the part of the conversation they are interested in. Forever, you say? Hey man, maybe I better look into this Christian thing. Yeah, maybe you better.

If you’re NOT going to tell that part of the truth to them because it sounds offensive, consider this… IT IS MORE OFFENSIVE TO LET THEM BURN! But if you just flat won’t do it, well then… next time there’s a company picnic and the chorus swells in honor of the drill press dude for thirty years distinguished service punching holes through sheet metal… alter the words a little. You might not be strictly singing in harmony with the rest, but at least you’d be accurate.

♫For he’s a jolly good fellow
he’ll roast like a marsh-mallow
he’ll roast like a marsh-maallllllooooooww!
for all eternity!!! ♫

Good night, man! Never mind your Christianity…

Where is your humanity?!?

I don’t want my WORST ENEMY to burn in a lake of fire, much less forever and ever and ever. So, maybe he rejects your plea and conversation is never really the same and he suddenly has a cousin that wants that forth spot on the bowling team so they won’t be needing you anymore… but so what? That just frees up one more evening to study Ezekiel with your boy. Dry bones and wheels within wheels and the stones of fire… Now, THAT’S a well-spent evening!

Come on, folks. This stuff is too important. Whatever it is that commands our attention now and seems so paramount, isn’t going to seem such a big deal suddenly when that heart attack comes along, or the car flips into some lonely ditch, and your gasping becomes shallower and shallower by the second as God withdraws the breath He once gave (Psalm 104:29). Dust to dust.

As it all slips suddenly and slowly away, you will praise God through your fear that Jesus has saved you. Written your name into the book of life. Someone else can oil that dude’s drill press when the whistle blows, trust me, they’ll find someone. Just carry on with the dying, friend, you’re doing a pretty fine job of it, considering it’s your first time at the task. Jesus is coming.

On that glorious and terrible day of the great white throne when earth and heaven have fled and the books are opened and death and hell give up their dead for judgment (Rev. 20:11-15)… a familiar name will be called. The name of some

distinguished drill press operator,

twice decorated, once sung to… The one you used to work beside, oiling the bits, as he punched endless numbers of holes in those cold rolled metal sheets. The books are read, the charges levied, hell and damnation attached to his name…

Ushered in chains, that long last walk, head downcast in deserving shame… suddenly his eyes snap to muster, scanning the masses of somber observers…

There he is! His eyes find the target, that accusing stare, one last second before the pain, before the eternal burning, before the worm banquet begins…

His eyes rest upon ME!

And a single look, speaks a thousand words, each one as clear as a sea of glass…

You stood by me on the job for ten years, man, oiling my machine, changing the bits, jawing away the lunch hour, the bowling, the biking, the baseball. And in ten long years you NEVER ONCE found time to bring up eternal burning and the lake of fire?!? Maybe I didn’t want the “good plan” God had for my life. How was I supposed to know? Things seemed fine. I was content. But my God, man!… you could’ve mentioned this awful hell I go to now!

And you just standing there talking Dodgers and Yankees and Packers and Bears. You knew YOU were going to heaven, all along. Had a mansion prepared just for you. Were secure… no matter what pain or humiliation came your way.

You go to heaven. I go to hell.

You knew that. And yet in TEN LONG YEARS on the drill press gang, you never cared enough to take me by the hand, TO TAKE ME BY THE THROAT, to rattle the very teeth from my stubborn stubborn head!!!… to really warn me… of this eternal lake of fire where I now go.

You’re the rottenest bastard I know.