25 years ago today...

This is my favorite picture of my mom. It was taken around 1962ish. Fifty years ago.

I would have my mom in my life for another 25 years. And now I have been without my mom for 25 years. She died from colon cancer, two weeks after her 49th birthday, exactly 25 years ago today. I miss her. And I want to see her again.

When I first came to terms with the lies I'd been taught about Jesus and salvation, I wondered about the condition of anyone's soul who had died in those beliefs. Including my mother. That is one of the reasons I felt so compelled to speak out against what I had been taught. I was not wanting to attack or question anyone's individual salvation. But I wasn't sure people could be truly saved believing those false teachings. I feared, "what if they are not?"

When you love people, you want to know they are secure. It is no different from how I used to feel concerned for people I loved who were not "in the body" or believing our truths or had lost their vision.

A lot of old friends were offended when these questions came up in discussions. I didn't want to take too bold a stand. But I just wasn't sure. I would always come back (in my mind) to the question: If your faith is in Jesus but you have stripped Jesus of His deity, is your faith really in Jesus or in a caricature?

However, I wanted to believe that God, in His mercy, would save those who died in these beliefs based on their sincerity and what was in their hearts, in spite of the wrong teachings they'd subjected themselves to. But I didn't know the answer to my questions. The only thing that gave me peace was knowing that I serve a God of love and mercy and justice. And no matter what the answer to my question was, God was incapable of being unjust. So rather than trying to convince myself of where anybody was, I just trusted God.

I know my mother loved God and believed Jesus was His Son (even though she believed in the created Jesus). I know she believed He went to the cross for our sins (even though she believed we had to reach perfection and were not eternally saved by His sacrifice through faith in Him). And I will never forget the way she put herself in God's hands as she was dying. She told me that God had blessed her with a wonderful life. She recited many blessings and also listed the things she had never had to suffer. And then she told me that if it was God's will for her life to end prematurely, she accepted it. She never asked "why me?" or complained. She never made a list of all the good things she'd done or the rules she had kept and therefore did not deserve this to happen to her. But she felt like she was letting people down who were praying for her because so many professed that it was God's will for her to be physically healed. And she wasn't getting better. That made her feel like she was failing. And it even caused her to question the strength of her faith. But I remember thinking that it takes the strongest faith to be completely yielded to God's will, even if it means your life ending at such a young age. I never doubted that she believed God could heal her body at any time.

I was listening to an interview Eric Metaxas did with Tim Keller online yesterday. It's on the Eric Metaxas website. And in the interview, Tim Keller defined Christianity. He stated in an objective and unemotional tone that anyone who disbelieves the deity of Christ is not a Christian. There are things we can be uncertain about and still be a Christian. But the Apostle's Creed defines the core beliefs of true Christianity. He wasn't attacking any person or group. He was simply explaining what defines the historic Christian faith. Listening to his words the day before the 25th anniversary of my mother's death is, I suppose, what got me thinking about all of this.

Tim Keller (through his online sermons) played a huge role in teaching me the Gospel. His sermon on David and Goliath was pivotol in convincing me that it was what Jesus did that saved me, not my perfection. It took me a long time to embrace salvation through faith (and not works) after a lifetime of being taught I had to reach perfection and people who believed Jesus "paid it all" were just looking for an easy way. I struggled with that for years, asking myself if I was just looking for an easy way. Until I realized that the way I had been taught was the Tower of Babel way, the thief and robber way, the Pharisee way. But Jesus said that HE was the way. It takes humility to accept that He has done something for you that you cannot possibly be good enough to do for yourself.

My mom is the loved one I want to see most in heaven. After Jesus, she is the first person I picture myself searching for. I want to see her again so very much. And there are so many things I want to tell her. I haven't had my mom for 25 years and there is much I have wished I could share with her. I've stopped wondering if she'll be waiting for me. I read a statement a while back that gave me peace in my heart about her condition. I don't even remember what book I was reading. But the author was dealing with these kinds of issues and made the point that the thief on the cross did not have time to learn or understand theology. He believed one thing; that Jesus could save him. He asked Jesus to remember him in His kingdom and trusted Him. Jesus assured him that he would be in paradise with Him. If I believe in Jesus, His life, death and resurrection, then I also believe this thief received salvation that day. He could not have had an understanding of the Trinity or Jesus being the eternal God. He probably had never read a word of Scripture. But he recognized that Jesus had power to save. And I know my mom also believed that with all her heart.

I think that not knowing is different from denying. When I was deceived by those teachings, I never thought deeply about things like denying the deity of Christ. I think if someone had challenged me with that, I would have thought more deeply about it. But I didn't spend time around people outside our group. I didn't even know that was what I was doing. I just never thought about it. I'm not sure one can deny something they've never known. (It would be much different for me to deny that today.) I think the scariest thing of all would be to be the person teaching a false gospel and erroneous beliefs about Jesus when Judgment Day comes.

At this point in my understanding, I believe I will see my mom again. And I like to imagine her joy upon realizing that she is not going to resurrect to suffer more and "keep working" on perfection, but to receive the gift of eternal life.