Friday, January 31, 2014

Really Home

          For the past eight months, my family has made the parsonage of Bethel Baptist Church our home.  At the beginning of June, after multiple trips and much exhausting labor, and with the help of family and friends, we uprooted our family and moved from the central Virginia town of Scottsville, to Scottsburg, in southside Virginia.  Since then, my wife has been decorating and redecorating, moving furniture from one room to another, and constantly trying to make our house into a home.  It takes a while before the curtains and pictures are hung, everything’s in the right spot, and your place starts to be YOUR place.  We’re finally settling in, and loving it here!  But no matter how perfect everything gets around this place, the question remains—is this really home?
            As I write this, my younger daughter is visiting friends near Scottsville for the weekend.  Looking at her Facebook profile, I can see that she has just posted a picture of herself with her friends, along with the status update, “I feel like I’m home again.”  So for her, even though we live in Scottsburg, Scottsville and the surrounding area is home.  And that makes sense.  We lived there longer than we’ve lived anywhere.  She can say she grew up there.  But even so, I have to ask, is that really home?
            A few weeks ago, I had some vacation time so I took a Sunday off and paid a visit to the church where I grew up.  Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Beaverdam, Virginia (Scotchtown Road, by the way) seemed so familiar to me!  Old faces and people that I hadn’t seen in years welcomed me and made me feel comfortable.  It was great remembering old times and catching up with old friends.  My parents don’t live in that area anymore, so there hasn’t been a lot of reason to visit that area—but driving by the old house and showing my kids my old stomping grounds prompted a feeling of nostalgia for home.  Still, despite all the old memories and sense of belonging, I have to ask, is that really home?
            Hebrews 13.14 NLT says, “For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.” God’s Word reminds us that we are not truly of this world, that “we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives (Philippians 3.20 NLT).”  God doesn’t want us to get too comfortable in this skin, because it’s only our temporary dwelling.  1 Peter 2.11 NLT says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”  This world has a lot to offer, but as welcoming as it is, we need to remember that it’s not where we belongIn fact, many of the things that the world offers will destroy your true home if you let it.  Our true place is with God.  Our true priority is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Our true loyalty is Christ. 
             I hope that you have someplace where you feel comfortable, where the people know you and love you.  I hope that you have somewhere to rest and be at peace.  But I hope in the end, that you remember that wherever the Spirit of God is, that is home.  Home is a place that you take with you, that you can never leave behind, because, as the psalmist says:  “I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!  If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.  If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me (Psalm 139.7-10 NLT).”  This is home—to be with God.  And wherever God is (which is everywhere), you are home.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Evangelizing Amelia

            According to a recent Pew report, “Nones” are on the rise in America.  You may ask, “What are Nones?”  They’re not religious women who wear habits—in fact, they may be the opposite of that.  They’re people who marked “None” on the survey, indicating that they have no particular religious affiliation, and no habit of attending worship anywhere. says:

“One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.  In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).”[i]

If Christians are going to reach the “Nones,” then we’ve got to figure out how to communicate the abiding truth of the Gospel in new ways.  Obviously, the old ways of sharing our faith aren’t working as well as they used to.  We can no longer assume that people will understand us when we try to evangelize them by speaking our own secret language, “Christianese.”  People who didn’t grow up in church won’t understand us when we talk about being redeemed, sanctified, or washed in the blood.  We’ve got to learn to speak the language of the people, if we’re going to share with them the truth about Jesus.

In Acts 17, Paul was very distressed when he visited Athens and saw all the statues to false gods.  In the same way, we’ve got to get distressed about the spiritual condition of our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors who don’t know Jesus.  We’ve got to be convinced of their desperate need for salvation—otherwise, we’ll lose them.
When the apostle Paul addressed the philosophers and townspeople in Athens, he didn’t employ the same tactics that he used when he shared the Messiah with fellow Jews in the synagogue.  He realized that he had a different audience, and he had to tailor his message to fit his audience.  Paul knew their culture—and so we also need to know the culture we’re in, if we’re going to communicate with them.  He found common ground with them, saying:  “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.  For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you (Acts 17.22-23 NRSV).”  Then, instead of quoting the Hebrew scriptures, he cited their own philosophers and poets.  In convincing ways that they could understand, he shared Jesus—and their interest was piqued.

Are you finding common ground with the people around you?  Are you sharing Jesus with them in a way that they can understand?  Or are you using outdated language and methods of communication, expecting people to adapt to your particular expression of Christianity?  Unless we’re the ones that adapt, we’re going to lose this generation—because they’re not going to adapt for us.
Remember the series of children’s books by Peggy Parish?  Poor Amelia Bedelia was always getting things wrong—because she always took instructions literally.  When her employers told her to put out the lights, she’d unscrew the bulbs and put them outside.  She thought it strange that they asked her to “dust the furniture,” when in fact she should be “undusting” it.  Her employers were constantly exasperated with her for doing things wrong, when in fact if they had simply learned to communicate more clearly, she would have understood perfectly.  In the same way, Christians often shake our heads at people who reject our message.  We say, “If only they could understand!”  Did we ever stop to think that maybe we need to change the way we’re communicating?  If the world doesn’t speak our language anymore, then we need to learn a new language.

How can we share the abiding truth of the Gospel in innovative new ways?  Get to know the culture.  Find common ground.  Learn a new language, or a new way of speaking.  Don’t expect the world to come to you in order to find Jesus.  Jesus said, “Go into all the world,” not “Make them come to you.”  Do this, and you’ll be able to welcome your friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors into the family of God.

[i] Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project.  “Nones on the Rise.” October 9, 2012.  January 25, 2014.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Line in the Sand

“A Line in the Sand”

About 3/4 of a mile from the house where I grew up, there was a fire tower. They used to be all over Virginia, but there are a lot fewer of them now.  Well, just for kicks we used to climb up to the top of that fire tower.  Whenever a car would come by, we'd flatten ourselves down against the platform so that nobody could see us.  We thought we were pretty smart until one night  when we were climbing the fire tower, we saw headlights, and we flattened down.  The car stopped in the driveway right beneath the tower.  Then we saw blue lights flashing, and heard the whoop, whoop of a siren.  Our hearts leapt in our throats as we knew we’d been caught in the act.  Silently, we prepared for the worst. Then the car sped away.  Either the officer had been called off to something more pressing, or he was just saying, "I see you up there, you'd better get down."  Well, we didn't want him to find us there when he got back, so those two teenage boys scampered down that fire tower just as fast as they could, and high-tailed it back home before we really got caught.

Momentarily, I knew the fear of being caught in the act--but for me there were no consequences.  I got lucky because generally, life offers consequences for those times when we step across the line.  In John 8:1-11, the woman who was caught in adultery faced life-and-death consequences for her transgressions.  She learned that if you cross the line often enough, your sins will catch up with you.

There’s a Buggs Bunny cartoon where the rabbit draws a line in the sand and says to Yosemite Sam, "I dare you to step over this line.”  Sam says, “Okay, I’m a’steppin!”  He steps across the line and Buggs steps back and draws another line.  "I dare ya to step over this one.”  Again, Sam steps across.  They repeat this over and over again.  Sam never notices that Buggs is leading him up a steep hill, and the final time he crosses the line he falls off a cliff.  Our sin is that way, when we step across the line.  We’re so short-sighted that all we can see is one small transgression.  We have no idea that our sin is leading us to our own destruction.

The religious people in the story dragged the woman before Jesus, demanding that she be stoned for her sins.  She learned that day that it’s often the religious ones who can be the most judgmental, drawing lines for everyone else’s behavior.  But Jesus stooped down and began drawing in the dirt.  He drew a line of protection in the sand that nobody dared cross.  (Perhaps that line consisted of the names of her accuser’s many girlfriends.)  Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”   One by one they leave, unable to cross the lines that Jesus has drawn.

In verses 10-11 (ESV), Jesus stood up and said to her, “’Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’  She said, “No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”

We need to understand that just because Jesus rescued her, that doesn't mean that He condoned her actions.  Our culture says that if you love someone, then you must agree with everything that they do--you must condone their sin.  Jesus knew that this is far from the truth.  He said He didn’t condemn her, but He also called her behavior “sin.”  And he told her to stop it.  He called for her to commit herself to holy living.  She needed to draw some new lines in the sand—not for others, but for herself.  She needed to say “enough is enough” to her sin, and leave it behind.

Living a new life in Christ means being willing to draw some new lines in the sand, that are neither dares nor challenges.  They aren't restrictions or barriers, either.  They are like the lines drawn in the sand by early Christians.  In the days when being a Christian was illegal, they developed a secret way of identifying other believers in the marketplace.  When they met one another, one Christian would simply draw an arc in the dirt with his foot, and step back.  It was a nonchalant movement, something that wouldn't be discerned by those who weren't looking for it.  But if the other person was also a Christian, she would step forward and draw an arc of her own.  When her line in the sand intersected the first one, the two arcs became the Christian fish symbol.  

The lines in the sand that we draw shouldn't be designed to exclude others.  They should be an invitation to walk in unity with others, to discover fresh faith.  Today, I'd like to invite you to share in the forgiveness of Christ: to receive Jesus' pardon, and to commit yourself to living for Him, at one with the Lord and in unity with other believers.

Monday, January 13, 2014

FRAN Sunday - Inviting Others to Jesus

It's not FRAN DRESCHER Sunday!
This coming Sunday at my church is FRAN Sunday.  We're encouraging each of our members to invite FRAN to church--because it just might be that FRAN hasn't been to church in a very long time.  Who is FRAN?  FRAN isn't one person, but lots of people.  FRAN stands for our:

Associates, and

We're asking our folks to invite these people to church.  But inviting a friend to church is only part of it.  More importantly, we're inviting FRAN to Jesus.  If it stops at inviting, or bringing, people to church, we've missed the point.  If it ends there, then we've done no more than extend an invitation to a social club.  Inviting them to Jesus is the ultimate goal, because it's Jesus, not church, that will save their souls and change their lives forever.

In my quiet time this morning, I read from John 1:35-51 (NIV), which says:

 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”  He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

It's not FRAN KRANZ Sunday!
There's so much in this passage that it's difficult to know where to begin.  First, it's interesting that the two disciples of John began to follow Jesus, even before the Lord called to them.  He saw that they were interested and asked what they wanted.  They asked where He was abiding (this could be simply an inquiry as to his nightly lodgings, or a deeply spiritual question), and Jesus said, "Come, and you will see."  There are some people who are naturally going to follow Jesus, even without an invitation.  This is a wonderful thing, when people can be so self-motivated.  But others need a little prompting.

Next, we see Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus.  With great excitement, he declares this new Teacher to be the Messiah.  When Jesus sees Simon, He says, "You will be called Cephas (which means Peter, or Rock)."  Notice that the Master doesn't say "You are called Cephas."  Jesus is speaking a prophetic word to Simon, of what he will become, if he becomes a disciple.

Then, Jesus finds Philip and says, "Follow me."  Philip immediately decides to bring a friend.  “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Pay attention to the fact that his statement of faith is both stronger and weaker than Andrew's.  He declares that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy, but says that Jesus is the Son of Joseph (rather than God).  Andrew never mentions prophecy, but immediately identifies Jesus as the Christ.  In either case, there is a statement of faith.  The point is that Jesus takes us as we are--whether we have all the right theological answers or not.

When Nathanael receives his invitation, he has to overcome his own personal presuppositions and prejudices before he can accept Jesus.  Many of the people that we invite to church, or that we invite to Jesus, will have their own preconceived notions about what that really means.  They may have objections and expectations that are unfounded.  Rather than debating with them, a simple "come and see" approach generates expectation and interest.  Once they come and see, they can have an experience with Jesus that will change their lives.

It's not even FRAN TARKENTON Sunday!
Whether you attend my congregation or not, I encourage you to make this Sunday your own personal FRAN Sunday.  Invite your friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to church.  More importantly, invite them to Jesus.  Make it a simple invitation, free from obligation and without any coercion.  Let the Holy Spirit do the leading, but be faithful to give an invitation.  Who knows--maybe the heavens will open for them, and God will show them His salvation and marvelous wonders!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jesus Wins!

Today is the last day in our final week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  I hope that it's been as rewarding for you as it has been for me.  I hope you'll continue following my blog, now that our year is done.  I'll be posting on this blog less frequently, as I've decided to use some of my blogging time to work on spiritual development, and on a book that I'm writing.  You can expect a post on this blog at least once a week, though--so keep checking back.  Also, take a peek at my other blog (which just might get more attention this year).  The Logos Prayer is a blog about Christian prayer and spirituality, how to have quiet time with Jesus, and how to pray the Word of God.  I hope you'll enjoy it and share it with others.  I pray God's blessings for you in 2014!

Our scriptures today are:  Job 40-42; Revelation 22; Psalm 150.  

My New Testament professor in college said that he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the book of Revelation.  After pouring himself into the project, wrestling with all the symbolism, and agonizing on all the theories of eschatology, he came to a conclusion that could be summed up in two words:  JESUS WINS!

As we come to the end of the book of Revelation, and the end of the Bible itself, we're fully aware that so many interpretations exist that it can be staggering.  Rather than argue over words and theories, wouldn't it be great if all Christians united over those two words?  JESUS WINS!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new (Revelation 21.1-5a ESV).” 

Jesus adds a blessing to those who keep the truths of His book, and a warning for those who refuse His truth or try to change it.  I pray that as you conclude your through-the-Bible-in-a-year study, you'll remain faithful to the Word of the One who Wins!  I Pray that Jesus' words, "I am making all things new" will apply to your spirit.

This New Year, I went with my church's youth group to Winterfest--an awesome celebration of Jesus at Liberty University.  For two days we ice skated, went skiing, played volleyball, listened to bands like Tenth Avenue North and Skillet, and heard great preaching that was geared toward young people.  Two of our youth made first-time decisions for Jesus that weekend--praise the Lord!  Then, when I got back from that trip, I received a call that someone in our church family wanted to meet with me.  Sitting down with him, he told me, "I want to be saved!"  (How often do you get handed that on a silver platter?)  I had the privilege of leading him to Jesus that night!  What a great way to start off a new year--with three new members of the family of Christ.

JESUS WINS!  And He keeps on winning.  Souls are saved, lives are changed, hearts are made new.  I pray that your heart will likewise be made new today.  Happy New Year, and God bless you!

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book (Revelation 21.7 ESV).”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price (21.17 ESV).
 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen (21.20-21 ESV).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

God is God, and We are Not

Today is the fourth day in our 52nd (final) week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Job 37-39; Revelation 21; Psalm 103.

As we're drawing to the end of our year of Bible reading, we're also coming to the conclusion of two great books.  Today, I want to focus on the end of the book of Job, and tomorrow, I'll finish up the book of Revelation.

Probably the biggest challenge to faith that people experience is the problem of suffering.  Click here to read an article I wrote on the problem of suffering.  People say, "If God loves us, then why does He let bad things happen to people who deserve good things?"  Or, they ask, "If God is all-powerful, then why doesn't God stop bad things from happening?"  So, because bad things do happen, they come to the conclusion that either God loves us but is incapable of preventing bad things, or that God is capable of stopping our hurt, but doesn't love us enough to act on our behalf.  Neither of these conclusions could be further from the truth.  Yet, our questions about suffering remain.

I love Job 37.5 (ESV), which says:

God thunders wondrously with his voice;
    he does great things that we cannot comprehend.

At the end of the book, rather than giving some trite answer, the author says that there are some things that we will never understand.  The mystery remains.  People have been trying to figure it out for thousands of years, without any satisfying solutions.  Other than this:  God knows what He's doing, and we don't.  Verse 13 (ESV) says:

Whether for correction or for his land
    or for love, he causes it to happen.

Whether this or that or the other thing...this means that we can never know the purposes of God.  We can, however trust that God is in control.  We can also trust that whatever He does is good.  Verse 23 (ESV) says:

The Almighty—we cannot find him;
    he is great in power;
    justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.

Chapters 38-41 are my favorite chapters in the book of Job. After listening to all that Job's friends have to say, and after hearing Job's testimony about himself, finally we have the opportunity to hear God speak.   For several chapters, God questions Job about the man's very limited knowledge. God wonders whether Job is omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent the way that the Lord is.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding (38.4 ESV).

Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place,
 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
    and the wicked be shaken out of it (38.12-14 ESV)?

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades
    or loose the cords of Orion?
 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth[b] in their season,
    or can you guide the Bear with its children?
 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
    Can you establish their rule on the earth (38.31-33 ESV)?

Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars
    and spreads his wings toward the south?
 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
    and makes his nest on high (39.26-27 ESV)?

Of course, the obvious answer to these questions is a silent shrug, a bowing of the head in humility, and a contrite, "I don't know."  In 41.4, Job answers the Lord by saying:
Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
    I lay my hand on my mouth.

In the end, we can't know the answer to the problem of suffering, because God is God, and we are not.

                 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent[a] in dust and ashes (42.1-6 ESV).”

God rebukes Job's friends for answering foolishly, for giving their trite opinions and trying to determine the indeterminable.  In the same way, we need to be careful when we try to figure out why we, or why a loved one, is suffering.  The best thing is to simply trust and praise God through it, knowing that God is mighty, and God is loving. 


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Don't Judge the Judge

Today is the third day in our 52nd week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Job 34-36; Revelation 20.

Jesus divides the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25)
I can't tell you how many times I have heard people talking about their experiences in courts of law.  They talk about how fair or unfair the judges were.  They say, "If you get so-and-so on the bench, you might as well hang it up."  Or, "This one is pretty lenient--you're lucky you got that judge."  I find it ironic when people talk like this, because (theoretically, at least) the judge is the one who determines what's fair or unfair.  We, the "little people" aren't in a position to judge the judge, because it's the judge's ruling that determines what's fair or unfair.

And yet, we judge the judge all the time.  Humanly, this isn't really such a bad idea, because all people are fallible--even judges.  But when we put ourselves in a position of judging the Judge of all the universe, we commit the sin of hubris.  We've elevated ourselves to the level of God, presuming that we can judge the decisions of the Lord.

In Job 34.5-6 (ESV), Elihu quotes his friend Job,who  accuses God of being an unjust judge:

For Job has said, ‘I am in the right,
    and God has taken away my right;
in spite of my right I am counted a liar;
    my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’

Then, in vv. 10-15, Elihu points out to Job that God is beyond reproach.

“Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding:
    far be it from God that he should do wickedness,
    and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.
For according to the work of a man he will repay him,
    and according to his ways he will make it befall him.
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
    and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Who gave him charge over the earth,
    and who laid on him[a] the whole world?
If he should set his heart to it
    and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
    and man would return to dust.

In his self-assured righteousness, Job has forgotten that he cannot judge the living God--for God Himself is the Judge of all.  Elihu continues his rebuke of Job in vv. 16-19:

“If you have understanding, hear this;
    listen to what I say.
Shall one who hates justice govern?
    Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty,
who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’
    and to nobles, ‘Wicked man,’
who shows no partiality to princes,
    nor regards the rich more than the poor,
    for they are all the work of his hands?

Finally, Elihu says that when Job presumes to judge God, he speaks without knowledge, and in his hubris he is guilty of rebellion.  

Men of understanding will say to me,
    and the wise man who hears me will say:
‘Job speaks without knowledge;
    his words are without insight.’
Would that Job were tried to the end,
    because he answers like wicked men.
For he adds rebellion to his sin;
    he claps his hands among us
    and multiplies his words against God.”

In Revelation 20, we read about God judging Satan, and sentencing him to the Abyss for a thousand years.  Then, after that millennium, Satan will be released again, to wreak his havoc for awhile.  I remember someone saying to me, "That's awfully dumb of God, to let the devil out again."  In so saying, that person put himself in the position of judging the Judge--a dangerous place to be.

In the end, we read that the Judge of all the earth does what is right.  Verses 11-15 (ESV) say:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Many readers don't like that final sentence, because they think that God punishes sinners too harshly.  One author I read recently has put himself in the position of judging the Judge, and thus declared that the Bible doesn't actually mean what it says.  That author insists that since God is good and kind and loving, all souls will eventually be saved.  It's a sweet concept--but that's not what the Bible actually says.

As believers form their own personal theology, it's important to remember that God is the Judge, and we are not.  We need to accept the Bible's teachings, and not commit the hubris of thinking that we know a better way to handle things than God does.  In Genesis 18.25, Abraham asks, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"  The answer, of course, is a resounding YES!  Whether or not that justice makes sense to us, it's God that we're talking about.  By definition, God is just.  So even if God handles something differently from the way you would have done it, you can trust that God is good.  And because God is more fair than you could ever hope to be, you can just relax--and don't judge the Judge.