But it's not really a story about 'Neil' as much as it is about God's love & faithfulness.
And it's not for Neil's sake. The only one who can possibly gain value from continuing to read this... is you... the reader.
I grew up on a farm in Central Illinois... near "Farmer City", no less. We lived really close to our community's little country church... Bethel Church. All my relatives lived near Bethel, and attended there. It was back in the days when 'community' really meant something great. And Bethel Church was the heart of the community.
As the story goes, one day when I was only 3 years old, I wandered off of our farm and my family couldn't find me. Later they found me mowing the church yard with my little toy lawnmower. LOL. [I guess I was always destined to work for churches, huh?]
I consider myself extremely fortunate that my dad & mom always had us regularly in church. There we were regularly encouraged to read & learn the Bible. But the King James version was difficult for me to read... and it really wasn't until many years later, after buying a newer version (NIV) that I really was able to read it easily... and thus read whole chapters and sometimes whole books at a time... and thus be able to read the Bible over & over... to really understand it on the whole.
Treasure Hidden In A Field
As a boy growing up on a farm, playing in the woods or creek nearby, we many times buried, and dug up, 'treasures'. So you can imagine how much I enjoy this parable Jesus told:
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."
Or how about this from the wisdom of Proverbs:
"My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
... then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find... the knowledge of God."
When I was about 8 years old, during a revival one week, I recall being drawn to accept the great offer of eternal life... peace with God forever... and I went forward to make it public.
A few years later, I was baptized the good old fashioned way... the 'official' way... LOL... in a lake.
Yeah, yeah, yeah... Yada, yada, yada
Viet Nam 1971-72. Without going into detail... Bottom line... God is faithful. And I knew that even if I were to die there, He had something even better for me ahead.
As it turned out, even though it was a tough experience and a trial for my fiancee and I, in the end it turned out for our good. Upon returning, I received a Bronze Star. But better yet, I married this girl of my dreams, and we've now been married for 33 years.
And He's continued to always 'be there'.
Jesus Christ has always been there for me... and for us. Jan and I have been through some extremely tough times together. But He's never left us. He's always been there. And perfectly capable of meeting our needs. And yours.
And certainly it was not because I was a poster-child 'Christian'... I wasn't. It's so embarrassing at times. Jesus has been so good to me, paying the ultimate price for being my friend... exchanging His perfect life for my crummy one... just because He loved me (for who knows what reason). Further, He only wants the very best for me; His commands are not burdensome at all. How could I not then want to live a perfect life of obedience to Him? Yet I've failed to do so, many times.
So you can see why I greatly identify with the Apostle Paul who once wrote late in his life, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Romans 7) Paul even called himself 'chiefest of sinners'.
Yet, God knows 'the struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms'. (Ephesians 6) And God is faithful, even when we're unfaithful at times. Like a perfect Father, He's forgiving, when we repent of our sins. And I've seen Him in action... always faithful to forgive and to keep moving me toward the image of His Son, as he promises us.
John... a member of Jesus' gang
Perhaps His very closest friend... John recorded these excerpts about Jesus' simple plan...
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." (John then made it clear he was talking about Jesus -- God himself -- as the 'Word', and the 'Son of God')
"The Word became flesh and lived for awhile among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes (trusts) in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
"Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."
Dr. Luke, on the other hand...
Luke wrote of Jesus once telling a parable about a King...
"But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us."
And isn't that the main dividing point of life... whether or not we will accept the King of Kings... or absolutely refuse (insofar as we can) to let God be God of our lives?
Will we, or will we not, not have this 'man' as King? Take your pick. I've taken mine... almost 50 years ago... and I've never been sorry one single day.
Jesus finished the story... "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me."
Dr. Luke later wrote of another account Jesus cited... this time using names of real people...
"In hell, where (the man) was in torment... he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
"(Abraham) said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
Thought: Why did Jesus describe all this so graphically...
...and talk about real people in such real circumstances?
Sometimes we need to hear things at point-blank range. I did.
Likewise, he was equally clear with the lawyers of the day, when they asked, "What must we do to do the WORKS God requires?" Jesus answered them clearly... "The WORK of God is this... to believe in the One He sent."
Believe. Trust. Not just believe ABOUT Jesus -- the demons did that, and shuddered. Trust 'IN' Jesus, as you entrust your entire well-being to someone when you scoot over and let them drive your car.
Does this make sense to you?
God loves you and doesn't want to punish you. Yet He's perfectly 'just'.... and must punish my/your sinfulness... one way or the other. But uniquely, this perfect judge who must declare you guilty, has come down from His high bench, lovingly stood alongside you, and offered to exchange His perfect life for your sinful life... thus Himself taking on the penalty for your sins. Or... you can pay for them yourself... and will... if you don't accept His offer now while there's still time. But why would anyone want to fly in the face of this loving God, King, and Judge, and not accept His 'offer of a lifetime'?
When you stand before God someday, and He calls you to account... perhaps saying something like, "Why should I let you into my perfect heaven?".... what will you say?
Is there any good reason why you shouldn't settle that issue right now? Accept His offer now while there's still time. Entrust your entire well-being, your eternal well-being, into the hands of a faithful God that loves you that much? And then get to enjoy all the benefits of peace with God even in this life, and being a part of His family... His 'community'?
It's simply done... just talk to Him as you would talk to any perfect Father. And a loving Father always loves... and accepts & forgives... if you ask Him to.
Take a moment and decide what you should do.
And not only for yourself... What you do may greatly impact the chances of your family ever coming to know Jesus Christ personally, and forever. Choose wisely.
[And if you seriously ask Him into your heart, repent of your sins and ask Him to change you, to 'drive your life' so you can enjoy an eternal relationship with Him...then click here afterwards.]