Some Semi-Random Thoughts

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I was trying to have a discussion yesterday with a friend over email but I had to bail on it when he started getting sarcastic. We were discussing Scripture, but when he ran out of Scripture (actually, now that I look back, he never had any), his only form of argument was to get insulting. So, if we were in a debating society, I think that means I win. In reality, though, no one wins if the two sides aren’t listening to each other. What we were discussing was the concept of forgiveness. He was arguing that God has forgiven everyone, no matter what. I was countering that a] Jesus did the work on the cross that all may be forgiven but b] it is up to us to submit to him as Lord and Savior to receive that forgiveness. My primary Scripture was Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” That seems pretty straightforward to me: if I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive. My friend wasn’t against forgiveness, but I think he has misunderstood the nature of God’s promises. God makes many promises in Scripture where he requires something of the person he’s promising something to. For instance, 2 Kings 21:8 says, “I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” God promised to let the Israelites stay in their land … if they follow his commandments. In Romans 8:28, we read, “All things work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” So God’s not promising to make everything good for everyone, only those who are his followers. My friend, I’m afraid, has misunderstood the concept of grace. Grace is a free gift, we cannot earn it. Once having been given it, though, God requires us to live accordingly. Same way with forgiveness. He’s already done the work of forgiving us, but he put as a stipulation to our receiving it that we pass it on. This bugs some people—like my friend—because they see our response to God as some sort of attempt to earn salvation. I see it this way: Let’s say I hired you to pick up the rocks in my back yard and offered you a penny a rock. Now, there are about a million rocks back there  so if you pick them all up you’re going to come to me and ask for your payment of $10,000, right? If I hand you the 10k, is that work on my part? No, it’s just what you’re due. Jesus did the work for our salvation and anything we give back is just his due (and we’re probably short-changing him incredibly!). [This is not a perfect illustration, of course, because it sound like we’re in charge. Jesus is the worker, but he’s also in charge.] Anyway, I kind of had to get this off my chest because it seems like the logical conclusion of my friend’s argument is that everyone will be forgiven eventually, whether they submit to Jesus or not and I can’t square that with scripture.

I’ve been working for the last few days to get one of my novels ready for publication. I’ll make it available on the e-readers like Kindle and Nook. My other novels aren’t making me a lot of money, but they’re bringing in enough for me to eat at Taco Bell now and then. ;-) Anyway, this is a western novel that I’ve been working on for years. Going back and re-reading it has been kind of like visiting old friends. I know that may sound crazy, since I’m the author, but after years with these characters, I have gotten to know them pretty well and they almost become real in my mind. One of my favorite authors is Agatha Christie and in one of her books (“Curtains”) she kills off one of her major characters. It’s a big surprise to the reader. I remember reading a story someone else had written wherein that character comes to life and appears to Agatha, begging her not to kill him off. That’s how it feels sometimes. I get to know these characters so well and then I think of something I want to happen in the story but I can’t make it happen because I know, in my own mind, that that character would never say or do that. It’s kind of silly, since they’re all fictional people. The same is true with my cartoons and it’s why I have such a large cast of characters in the strip. Sometimes I’ll think of a great idea for a strip and when I start sketching it out I’ll start out with one character. Then, I’ll realize that it’s really not in that character’s character, so I have to figure out who would fit in that strip. I realize most of my readers probably don’t know the characters well enough to be able to tell the difference, but I do. As an artist, I’m sure you’ve dealt with this: you draw something and everyone likes it, but there’s a flaw in there only you see. You can even try pointing it out to people, but they don’t get it. And you can’t sit still until you’ve corrected it. So, back to my book … it’s about a young man in 1879 who kills a man in self-defense, but the man has a powerful family so the young man (John Overstreet) flees. The books follows his life over several decades as he sees the changes in the west (from horses to trains to automobiles, etc.), the changes in his own life (marriage, kids, etc.) and finally settles things with the Bellows family. As I’m re-reading it and thinking of my other novels I was struck by something I had never noticed before: almost all my books have a major theme of submitting one’s troubles to God and being forgiven. I guess a psychologist would say that’s because it’s what I think most about in my life. Maybe it is. I’m amazed that God’s love is big enough to forgive me and I want other people to find that forgiveness, too. People won’t always read sermons, though, but maybe they’ll read fiction. Then, hopefully, they’ll either email me and ask questions or find a Christian in their area they can talk to. I don’t know that any of my books would change someone’s life, but hopefully, I’m planting some seeds that will go along with how the Holy Spirit’s working in their lives.