There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reachin’ down
When the man comes around – Johnny Cash
I grew up a Mississippi Protestant surrounded by hellfire and brimstone preachers who often preached the question, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?” Such a phrase was regularly followed by an altar call and we’d all go down to accept Jesus in our hearts even if we had already done so the previous week (just in case!).
So it was with great interest that I read where Pope Francis recently asked a similar question. He said, “It would be nice to think a little bit: one day will be the last. If it was today, am I prepared?” It is a good question to consider and it transported me back in time. One of these days is going to be our last – nothing is more factual than that. Are we ready?
I want to be ready when Jesus comes
I want to be ready when Jesus comes
One day the Lord’s gonna crack the sky
and the dead in Christ shall rise – Dottie Peoples
Like many, I am not inclined to talk a lot about the judgment of God. I prefer faith, hope, and love. I prefer to ponder the great depth of God’s self-emptying love. I’d rather write about, teach about, sing about His amazing grace. I don’t want the Church to scare people into faith; I’d rather we love them there.
Besides, most of the people I know who fear the judgment of God seem to have the least to worry. So too much talk about God’s wrath can feel like piling on.
But make no mistake, God is coming. By death or cracked sky, we will all meet our Maker and be judged. He will come back to put the world to rights. Justice will be served and His kingdom will reign forever.
Are you ready?
When I was very young, my mom would take me to see my great-grandmother at the nursing home where she resided. Her name was Mamie and she was a tough character, so I’m told. She dipped snuff and when she kissed me it would run down my cheek and mom would have to clean it up. My memories of those visits are in blurred snippets, but when I entered her room she would always exclaim to me, “I love you! I love you! I love you!”
That’s how I knew her and remembered her and so I began calling her “I love you”. As a result, all other great-grandchildren born after me called her that too. I didn’t give this much thought growing up and into my adult years, that was just our name for her – one beautiful sentence.
Though my great-grandmother has long passed, my grandmother is still living and may be in her last days. Visiting her recently got me thinking about “I love you” and it reminded me of another One whose name is also a beautiful sentence. When God asked Moses to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses asks God what to say to them when they ask who sent him. God’s reply was “I am who I am.” “Tell them ‘I AM has sent me to you.’
We read in the First Letter of John that “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” The very nature of God is love. That’s who He is. And we see in the Scriptures a God relentlessly pursuing a relationship with us and saying over and over again in one way or another: “I love you! I love you! I love you!”
In addition to “I AM” there are other names for God in the Bible – Elohim, Adonai, Father – and though “I love you” is not among them, it is certainly expressed in His life and His desire for us. And if someone ever asks you who God is, “I love you” would be one beautiful response.