The Shack -
Where Fiction Meets The Truth

     I wanted to write a novel about a middle-aged pastor named Jerome who was mourning for the loss of sound doctrine within the church. He couldn’t seem to get over what he called “The Perpetual Sorrow.” Then one day he received an invitation from God to meet Him at his old alma mater, The First Century School of Biblical Accuracy.

     Eager to return to his theological beginnings, Jerome found his way back to the school and managed to maneuver his vehicle around the pot holes that now corrupted the long, straight driveway. Then as the car arrived in the parking lot, Jerome gasped in horror at the once glorious edifice that was now reduced to a run down old shack.

     With tears streaming down his cheeks, Jerome emerged from his vehicle and slowly approached the entrance. Its door was partially open, hanging loosely on rusted hinges that moaned painfully at Jerome’s gentle shove on the doorknob. He walked into the gloomy, rotting structure and fell to his knees sobbing uncontrollably. “I can’t believe this!” he cried. “You are ruined! How could they have neglected you like this! Doesn’t anybody care anymore?”

     He was crying and his eyes were closed. When his tears finally subsided and he raised his head once again to behold the neglected halls, he was amazed as he realized that he was being bathed by an ethereal white light. He immediately felt comforted, and then he focused his gaze on the center of the light which was standing before him, a glorious being that was radiating a heavenly splendor. Jerome was suddenly overcome by the power before him and he fell prostrate on his face, in fear and trembling. Then a majestic hand reached down, touched his head and Jerome heard a voice like many waters say simply, “Peace.” Gentle fingers tipped his chin upward to behold the glory, and Jerome knew then that he was in the presence of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.

     “Welcome,” Jesus said cheerfully with a generous, warm grin on His face. “I’m glad you could come.”

     Jerome was thoroughly beside himself as he stammered, “At first I thought this was all a prank by one of my old school chums. I really didn’t think, I mean – You’re real! You’re here! You really do send emails…”

     “I can do anything, you know that, Jerome,” Jesus replied affectionately.

     In spite of his awe, “The Perpetual Sorrow” quickly returned to Jerome’s being and he was reminded of his original response to the condition of his old alma mater.

     “Why has this happened?” he cried out in despair. “This school was known for its Biblical accuracy. Now it’s an abandoned, run down old shack!”

     “No one was interested in coming here anymore, Jerome” Jesus replied sadly. Then He sighed heavily and gazed off onto the distance as he spoke. “They’d rather read novels, and watch movies.…”

     Then Jesus turned His attention back to the trembling, prostrate man on the floor before Him. “Are you hungry, Jerome?” He asked, already knowing the answer of course.

    “Yeah, sort of. Actually, I’m famished. It was a very long drive and all I had for breakfast this morning was a little toast and some raisins.”

     “Come and we shall dine!” Jesus responded joyfully.

     He reached down and effortlessly lifted Jerome to his feet, as if he was a tiny child. Jerome immediately felt like falling to his knees again as he realized that he was now standing eye to eye with the Son of God, the One in whom resides the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the One who is the image of the invisible God, and Light unapproachable (Colossians 2:9,1:15, I Timothy 6:16).

     Jesus put His arm around Jerome’s shoulders and led him toward the dining hall. As they approached the entrance, Jerome could smell the aroma of something delightful. In a few moments he found himself seated at the end of a long, ornate table. Before him was a sumptuous bowl of what appeared to be a vegetable stew. Next to it there was a plate of healthy whole grain bread and a glass of pure water with lemon. Jerome was delighted that Jesus knew he was a vegetarian without having to tell Him.

     Jerome automatically bowed his head to say grace, then he stopped and looked up into the eyes of the one seated beside him. “Thank you for this food, Lord,” Jerome said softly.

     “You are quite welcome.”

     Jerome began to eat. He had no idea what kind of vegetables he was consuming; he had never tasted anything like it before. “Is it manna?” he thought to himself humorously. Then he said, “This is wonderful, Lord. Thank you. I’ve never tasted anything this delicious. It tastes like…”

     “Manna.” Jesus finished the sentence for him.

     Jerome stopped with his spoon halfway to his mouth as he repeated the word with awe upon his lips “…manna?”

     Jesus was grinning as he chewed on some bread.

     Then Jerome realized that he was having lunch with the One who could answer any question he ever had about anything. He could feel “The Perpetual Sorrow” tugging at his soul like an impatient child begging him to find a resolution.

     “Lord,” he began solemnly, trying to locate the right words to express his pain, “I’m a pastor of a small church that keeps getting smaller. No one comes to the Bible studies anymore. Only a few turn out for prayer. All I want to do is feed them the simple purity of Your word, but it seems so few of them are hungry.”

     Jerome set down his spoon and tears began to fill his eyes. “I’ve tried everything,” he continued, as he fought back the stream that was trickling down his cheeks. “I’ve prayed, I’ve fasted, I want to see them filled with the same zeal for You that I have, but all they seem to care about is me finishing my sermon in enough time so I don’t infringe on their lunch hour!”

     He realized that he was beginning to sound a bit angry and he took a deep breath before he resumed. “A new church opened up near mine. The pastor there is a good man, I’m sure. He’s got this charismatic personality. He looks like a movie star. They’ve got a great band at his church - I have an organist. Half my congregation went to check it out and they never came back…” His voice drifted off into his sorrow.

     Jesus reached over and placed His hand upon Jerome’s hand. Jerome looked down and saw the large nail scar. When he looked up again at Jesus, the glorious, youthful radiance was gone, replaced by a middle-aged sadness that was reflecting Jerome’s pain. Jerome realized that he was sharing a meal with a companion who was no stranger to the piercing agony of rejection.

     The moment was suddenly shattered by the sound of two men laughing. Startled, Jerome turned quickly to see that the men were seated at the opposite end of the long table. Jerome instantly recognized the pastor he had just been describing to the Lord. Then Jerome watched in amazement as a large pizza began to emerge from the pastor’s mouth. He removed it with glee and handed it to the other man for him to eat. Then both of them began to fade like a dream – or a vision.

     Jerome was astonished. “What does that mean, Lord?”

     Jesus replied with another question. “Would you eat that pizza knowing where it came from, Jerome?”

     Even though Jerome loved pizza, he had to reply, “Yuck, no!”

     Jesus looked at him seriously as He spoke, “Words and doctrines that originate from the mouths of men, and not from My Word, cannot nourish anyone. Look again, Jerome.”

     Jesus pointed back to the opposite end of the table. Jerome obeyed and he beheld a beautiful woman who was surrounded by a large number of children. They were in a field having a picnic. She was feeding them all the cake and candy they wanted and the children seemed happy, but as the vision progressed, they began to look sick, weak and malnourished and some of them appeared to be falling away.

     “She wants to be a good mother,” Jesus said as He watched her sadly. “She thinks that if she continuously feeds them all the things they want to hear, they will never leave her. This woman is the apostate church of this present age.”

     The vision slowly began to fade. Jesus turned to face Jerome and stated firmly, “Don’t think this is some strange thing that you are beholding. It has all been foretold - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, they will prefer to have their ears tickled by the doctrines of men.” (I Timothy 4:3).

     Jerome nodded. He understood, and he wondered if he would ever be able to eat pizza again.

The Brook of Tears

     After lunch, Jesus and Jerome wandered through the grounds that were once tailored and manicured with precision. Now the grass competed with weeds that seemed to be winning the contest. The flower beds were adorned with brown and shriveled victims of neglect. Jerome grieved as he looked at them. He remembered how it used to be here, how beautiful the landscape was when it was tended by people who cared.

     A brook wove its way through the entire length of the property. Its banks were littered with irrelevant debris. Jerome instinctively wanted to begin to remove the clutter, to see the brook he remembered be restored to pristine purity. It was such a big job. He turned to the Lord for help.

     “Can we fix this place?” he asked. “There is so much work to do. We need more workers!”

     Jesus turned to look at the weeds that were overtaking the grass. “We have a great deal of competition, Jerome. There are so many other things that seem to be more important to them than the things that matter the most to Me.”

     Jerome sighed. “I know what You mean. I’d like to see everyone in my congregation throw out their television sets.”

     They continued walking beside the brook, while the water chose to flow idly by them in the opposite direction. Jerome was listening to the sounds the water made as it leapt and danced its rhythm of tones. It sounded almost like another language; sometimes laughing, sometimes speaking the sound of tears as it smashed against a rock in its way.

     “A brook is like a collection of tears,” Jerome thought. “Each drop of water that makes the whole, emerges from the eyes of mankind, mourning for the mess it’s made out of everything it touches.”

     “Wow!” He suddenly exclaimed out loud. “What a cynical thought! Did you hear it, Lord?”

     “Yes,” Jesus replied. “I read the words your heart produced before they entered your mind.”

     “So what’s the deal about all this suffering?” Jerome asked.

     “Come, let’s sit here.” Jesus gestured toward a bench on the shore. They sat together looking out over the brook of tears that was tumbling by their feet. They remained in silence for awhile just listening to the brook chattering by them like a collection of voices that were moving too fast to make any sense.

     Finally Jerome spoke, “People nowadays are writing novels, trying to explain why there is so much suffering, why You let bad things happen to good people,” Jerome said.

     “Good?” Jesus answered. “There is none good but God, you know that, Jerome.”

     “No one is righteous enough to be immune from suffering? Look, people are asking questions, and they are relying on fictionalized theology for their answers. I know that everything is in Your Word…” Jerome paused and his eyes began to fill with the brook. “But I can’t answer them without some help from You. I can’t answer the questions from a mother who has had a miserable life to begin with, and then her first born baby, the love of her life suddenly dies for no reason. Fiction can’t answer her trauma, nobody’s philosophy can either. The answers have to come from You, Your word.”

     “You are right, Jerome,” Jesus replied. “The answers are all in the Word of God and those who seek shall find - if they do not quench My Spirit.

     “We are sitting in the rubble of the School of Biblical Accuracy, aren’t we Jerome? It’s been abandoned for a long time now. People want easy answers and a reason to believe that there is a God they cannot see, when to them the suffering implies that My Father that is in Me does not exist. This just means that they don’t know their God.

     “I said in this life you will have tribulation. Mankind willfully removed itself from the authority of My Father’s dominion, which automatically put them under the dominion of the enemy of their souls.”

     “Some folks don’t believe there is a devil,” Jerome replied. “I have people like that in my church. Some of them are even deacons.” He paused thinking about all the conversations he’s had trying to convince them that evil has a personality.

     “Jerome, you know that I have come to destroy the works of the devil. You have eloquently attested to this truth in many of your sermons. I am pleased with them. Then you should know that the work of the devil that I have come to destroy is his handiwork of death.

     “I am reaping those souls to Myself who have chosen the life I offer. In the meantime, this planet is undergoing the purge My Father has ordained it to suffer. Sin has consequences; as the thief must be punished and the murderer brought to justice. The ground has been cursed (Genesis 3:17). When mankind chooses to sin, the curse is activated, there is an increase in mayhem, even creation shudders in response and people suffer, sometimes innocent people. This will continue until I return. There is hope of a coming restoration for the future and in the life of the individual who has accepted My gift of eternal life through faith in My death for them and My resurrection.”

     “So the reason the mother’s baby died is because she has sinned?” Jerome asked.

     “I am speaking generally,” Jesus replied. “There are many different reasons why bad things happen and they are in My word, as you have said. 'None considers that the righteous are taken away to spare them from the evil to come’ is one of them.”

     “That’s Isaiah something. I have trouble remembering the numbers sometimes,” Jerome replied somewhat embarrassed.

     “Isaiah fifty-seven, verse one. I will tell you this story, Jerome. It is not a parable, it is true. A woman had a beautiful little girl, who dearly loved Me. She was only eight and she was a wonderful evangelist. She was always telling people about Me. Then she became very ill and was dying. Her mother begged me to heal her and I would not. I told her no, but the mother would not receive My answer and rebelliously declared to Me, ‘No! I will not let her go!’

     “I granted the mother’s request and I allowed her daughter to be healed, but not without a warning. I told her someday she would know why I wanted to bring her little girl home to Me then.

     “When her daughter reached the age of fifteen, she began to question her faith. She eventually became a satanist and died at a satanic ritual service.”

     The silence returned and for the moment, the sound of the brook’s tears was all that Jerome’s heart could hear.

The Towers

     They resumed their stroll by the water’s edge, the stillness between them was anticipating Jerome’s next question. He had been musing on the things he had been told. When he finally spoke it was mostly to cement them within his own mind.

     “So, you are saying, Lord, that some bad things happen as a result of sin, and some things that seem bad to us, are allowed to happen to protect from a greater evil? Things that may seem like tragedies to us are actually for our benefit in some way? Even though we can’t see what that benefit there might be right away or even in this life for that matter?”

     “Yes, Jerome. What My Father wants you to know, most of all, is that He has everything under control and all things really do work out for good to those He has called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

     Jerome heard a long moan behind him. He turned quickly and was amazed to find that he was staring into a tunnel in time. He saw a pool that was covered by a roof surrounded by many columns. People who appeared to be sick and infirm were lying around the water as if they were anticipating something. The moaning had come from one particular individual who was struggling to arise, but he could not. Jesus walked into the scene and stood before the man. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him.

     “Oh, yes,” the man replied, “but I have no one to help me get into the water when the angel stirs it, so I can be healed. Someone always gets there before me. I have been this way for thirty-eight years…”

     “Take up your bed and walk,” Jesus said. Then He reached down and pulled the man to his feet. The strength from God’s healing power through Jesus traveled into the man’s limbs like a bolt of lightening. Jerome could see the man jolt as if he had been struck, then astonishment turned to joy as he realized that he was able to stand on his own – for the first time after a great season of suffering.

     Jerome watched the man’s joy propel him back to the temple, to a place of worship, where Jesus found him again.

     “Do not sin anymore lest a worse thing happens to you,” was the warning He gave to this one to whom He had bestowed such a great restoration.

     Then the vision began to fade into the trees and grass of Jerome’s present day surroundings. Jesus was once again by his side.

     “He was a devout follower of God in the youth of his life, Jerome,” Jesus said softly. “Then he fell away, lured by the false illusions of lust and other sins. When people sin willfully, especially those who have known Me, the walls of My protection come tumbling down and the devil has a legal right to afflict. The long purge, the many years this one suffered, were necessary. He was very willful and stubborn. He needed these multiple seasons of pain to contemplate his actions and the poor choices that led to his immobility. If he had been healed any earlier, he would have returned to a life of sin. His infirmity was a form of protection until his pain had its perfect work and he was willing to come back to his service to God.”

     “Wow, thanks Lord,” Jerome said. “I never realized what was behind that story in the Bible. This man really sinned and his sickness was the result. And all those years he needed to help bring him to repentance.”

     The minute Jerome said the word, repentance, it was as if the sky itself had suddenly decided to come crashing to the ground. Great blocks of stone were plummeting into the earth on every side with a great thundering that shook the ground beneath Jerome’s feet. Terrified, Jerome struggled to maintain his balance. When it was all over he found that the landscape around him was covered with the remains of whatever it was that had been destroyed. He looked at the ruins and saw that some of the stones and crumbled rock were splattered with blood. Then he saw what appeared to be Roman soldiers coming to inspect the damage.

     “Do you think that those who died by the crumbling ruins of this tower were any worse sinners than anyone else, Jerome? I tell you, unless all men repent, the same will happen to them.” – (Luke 13:4)

     Jerome was beginning to calm down as he tried to get the hang of being suddenly catapulted into so many visions. “Lord, You are showing me the headlines of Your day I know; when that tower fell it killed eighteen men, and you told your disciples what You just said to me, but what about today? Would You write those same words beneath the headlines of the newspapers that reported the destruction of the world trade center in New York City? Is that the same thing?”

     “Yes.” Jesus replied solemnly.

     The air was instantly rent with the sound of sirens and Jerome quickly closed his eyes. “Oh, no, Lord. Please don’t let me see this again!” And Jerome began to weep.

     When Jerome finally collected enough courage to open his eyes again, he found that he was beholding a surreal landscape of ruined structures that appeared to trail away into infinity.

     The only people in the vision were two men. One was in the distance climbing over broken chunks of cement. It appeared as if he was searching for something. Every once in a while he would stoop down to retrieve a small object then he’d place it in a sack that was tethered to his belt.

     In the foreground Jerome beheld another man sitting in the ruins. He was clothed in a black robe that looked like it was made of burlap and Jerome realized that it must be what the Bible referred to as sackcloth. The man was moaning in agony. Then he would sob. The moans and the sobbing would alternate into a peculiar rhythm, a symphony of misery that emerged into a song –

“Though He slay me, I will trust Him, (Job 13:15)
Though He slay me, yet I shall live.
Though my world lies shattered around me,
Yet I will praise the One who has made me.
Though shadows of death assail me,
I will not forsake My God who gives me breath.
Let all who hear my mourning song,
Know someday He will turn
My darkness into joy.
No disaster can prevail against me
For I know my Redeemer lives.”(Job 19:25).

     The song rose upward through the smoke of the ruins and somehow turned the air into perfume. Jerome found his tears were emerging from a new source of emotion, as joy and hope broke through the veils of suffering like a rainbow after a storm.

     Then Jerome turned to Jesus and asked, “It’s Job. You are showing me Job’s suffering as if it is our own today.”

     Jesus nodded, then Jerome looked back at the other man who was now continuing his strange search through the remains of mankind’s fallen ruins within a few yards of where Jesus and Jerome were standing. Jerome once again watched the man bend down and retrieve something from the rubble. He held it up with great joy and the sun made it sparkle between his fingers. Jerome was amazed to see that it was a beautiful jewel.

     “Lord,” he said to Jesus, “He is gathering jewels out of all this devastation.” Jerome was struggling to understand. “Who is he, Lord?”

     “His name is Repentance. The jewels he has been gathering are those ones who have turned to Me through their trials.”

     Jesus’ face was beaming with joy as Repentance came over to Him. Then Repentance reached into the bag that contained all the treasure he had been collecting throughout the centuries. He gathered a handful of the jewels, and then he cast them gently toward Jesus. The jewels attached themselves to the Lord’s robe as if they were magnets and soon Jesus stood before Jerome glowing in a bejeweled splendor.

     Job’s songs of praise continued to rise, coloring the air in victory.

     It was then Jerome noticed a third man standing on a pinnacle of the collapsed and shattered ruins. He was shaking his fist at Jesus. Then he turned and disappeared without moving.

     “Who was that?” Jerome asked. “He looked at You with so much hatred!”

     Jesus turned to Jerome and smiled as He lovingly caressed the jewels that were clinging to His breast. Jerome noticed the deep scar on Jesus' hand from His nail pierced sacrifice.

     “That was the devil, Jerome. And he has been defeated.”

The Evil

     The Lord and Jerome continued walking together along the riverbank. Jerome was deep in thought, and then he finally said what was on his heart.

     “It seems so hard to accept that God allows the evil in the world to continue for so long.”

     “Compared to eternity it is a mere wisp of time, a moment that passes like the blink of an eye or a sigh,” Jesus answered.

     “I know that many souls have come to You through devastations. That would be one purpose for tragedy then wouldn’t it?”

     “Yes, and at the same time many have fallen away.”

     “We are being tested then, like Job?” Jerome said thoughtfully.

     Jesus smiled at Jerome’s perception. “Yes, Jerome, many are being tested, like My son, Job. For those who have put their trust in Me, everything they must endure in this life has its own glory, its own reward.”

     They continued walking until the open grassy riverbank became studded with pine trees and the restful shadows of their branches became a refreshing shelter from the harsh afternoon sun.

     Jesus stopped to look at one of the trees. He gently reached out and fingered a pine needle.

     “The white pine tree is one of our really practical creations; did you know that, Jerome?”

     Jerome had become distracted by some odd sounds that were emanating from the shadows in a cluster of trees nearby. Jerome looked back at Jesus. “Did You hear that?”

     “Of course, I hear everything. Jerome. Did you know that pine needles are filled with vitamin c?”

     A low rasping growl turned Jerome’s attention back to the shadows. “There’s some kind of angry animal in those trees over there, Lord.” Jerome said nervously.

     “The inner bark of the white pine tree can be made into bread. My Father designed it that way so the Indians could have something to eat in the winter if game was scarce.”

     There was a loud snarl and Jerome said anxiously, “Jesus, what’s making that noise? We don’t have any bears in this area do we?”

     The growling noise had intensified and was getting louder as if it was coming closer and closer. The growls soon descended into a guttural rasping that seemed uncharacteristic of any kind of animal. It was quite ominous and Jerome was suddenly filled with a feeling of intense dread, even though he was with the Lord.

     “Lord, there’s something in the woods…”

     There was an ear piercing screech. Jesus continued to eye the pine tree fondly.

     “Jerome, did you know that you can make tea from the bark? It’s loaded with antioxidants.”

     Jerome was too nervous to share Jesus’ appreciation of the pine. He stared into the woods. A dark hulking shadow was rocking back and forth under a tree. Then before Jerome could say another word, whatever it was shot out of the woods with lightening speed. In an instant it slammed into Jerome, knocked him down, grabbed one of his legs between its enormous beak-like jaws and began to drag the terrified man off toward the woods.

     “Lord, help me!” Jerome screamed.

     Jesus turned His attention away from the pine tree and looked at Jerome calmly as he was being dragged across the ground.

     “How did I instruct My disciples to deal with these things, Jerome?”

     “You’re gonna make me have to think at a time like this? Help!”
     Then it was as if a chalkboard flashed across Jerome’s mind. He watched words swiftly write across the board a phrase – ‘In the name of Jesus’.

     Jerome looked at the beast and realized at that moment he was not being assaulted by a mere animal. As the realization took hold, and just before he was about to be hauled into the depths of the forest, Jerome shouted the Name.

     “IN THE NAME OF JESUS GET OFF ME!” The creature’s hold was broken instantly. It emitted an ear piercing wail as it blew back into the shadows where it seemed to melt into the darkness.

     Jesus was suddenly standing over Jerome with a big grin on His face. He reached down and hoisted the trembling man to his feet and began brushing off his clothes.

     “Well done, Jerome, well done.”

     Jerome was panting a bit trying to regain control of his emotions.

     “Didn’t it feel great to see that thing defeated at the mention of My name, Jerome?”

     “That was a demon, wasn’t it?” Jerome breathed. “That was a real demon! They don’t talk about these things much in seminary, like they don’t exist…”

     “When I cast demons out of people, where did they go, Jerome?”

     Jerome hesitated before he answered. “They are still here, aren’t they? Influencing seminary professors not to talk about them so demons can continue to operate to destroy people's lives without being exposed…”

     Jesus placed a hand on Jerome’s shoulder and looked at him intently as He spoke. “And that’s why you had to learn that they come out in My name.” Jesus looked at His trembling student proudly. “Now you’ll know what to do the next time.”

     Jesus turned and walked off toward a clearing in the trees.

     “Next time?” Jerome stammered. He looked back into the dark forest, and then he hurriedly followed after the Lord.

The Counterfeit Bride

    They were walking together toward the clearing up ahead at the edge of the pine forest. Jerome was deep in thought, trying to assimilate and process all the things that he had been shown.

     Then Jesus spoke sadly, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). They will not read My word. And some who do read it, refuse to accept it as a whole and edit what they don’t want to see. Some become convicted and avoid it. My word is a powerful two-edged sword designed to cut away those things that displease Me, the things that God hates that our Spirit sees within the inner man. My bride is not afraid to undergo this surgery. A measure of conviction within the human heart is like a grain of sand in an oyster shell. It is the necessary irritant that grows the pearl.”

     “God is love,” Jerome replied. “It’s hard to think of Him as hating anything.”

     “My Father and I love people and sin hurts what we love. Therefore anyone who professes to know God will hate what He hates and love what He loves.”

     The afternoon was beginning to wane and Jerome knew that soon he would have to return to his office and he still had so many things to ask. A question began to form in his mind about the Trinity and as he turned to Jesus to ask Him about the mystery of His union with the Father, he suddenly realized that the lovely white clouds that had been previously suspended in the sky above their heads were now surrounding them. All Jerome could see was Jesus and the rest of the world around them had become a billowy wonder.

     Jerome looked at his feet and he was standing on the mist. Through an occasional break in the clouds beneath his feet he saw a glimpse of blue, like the sky.

     “Jesus,” he said and there was a slight tremor in his voice, “Where are we?” he was afraid to guess.

     “Look, Jerome,” Jesus answered and He pointed upward.

     Above their heads was a rainbow. It was a spectacular rainbow that was tinting the clouds around it with lovely pastel reflections. Then out of the clouds Jerome could see people reaching toward the rainbow. There were multitudes and multitudes trying to grasp this symbol of God’s promise, but when they pulled their hands away they were empty. In vain they continued trying to gather it to themselves to no avail.

     Then the clouds began to shift beneath Jerome’s feet. He looked down and gasped. He was standing thousands of feet in the air looking down at the earth, which had become an enormous gray mountain. The only thing Jerome could see on this mountain was a large cross formed by evergreen trees.

     “Lord, I don’t understand what You are showing me.”

     “You will later, Jerome.”

     In an instant the clouds were gone and Jerome was back on the planet again with the clouds where they should be, in the sky above his head.

     Before he had a chance to ask the Lord anymore questions, he heard the sound of a lovely voice singing in the distance. He looked ahead into the clearing before them and standing in the middle of the tall grasses and wildflowers Jerome beheld a beautiful woman in a white wedding gown. She was swaying and waving her bouquet of flowers as she sang praises to God in rapturous adoration.

     Jerome smiled and he looked at Jesus who was gazing back at him solemnly. “I know who that is,” Jerome said beaming, “You’re showing me a vision of Your bride.”

     “How do you know that she is My bride, Jerome?”

     “Uh, well,” Jerome stammered, “She’s wearing a bridal gown and she’s singing praise?”

     “Oh, hello! Welcome!”

     Jerome turned to see that the bride was addressing him. Jerome looked back at Jesus, and he knew what the Lord expected him to do; then he turned to face the woman.

     “Hi,” he said.

     “It’s such a beautiful day,” she gushed. “God has made everything so woooonderfully. Look at these flowers,” she held out her bouquet to him. “Aren’t they simply magnificent? I loooove nature, don’t you?”

     “Yeah, I think it’s great. Um, you’re a Christian?” he asked.

     “Why of course, I’m a Christian. Isn’t everybody?”

     “Not everybody. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?”

     “If He is to you, that’s fine with me.”

     “Okay”…Jerome said slowly. “So how do you feel about the atonement?”

     She looked bewildered.

     “The cross,” he continued. “The fact that Jesus loves you, He died for your sins and they are removed through His sacrifice for you.”

     “Oh, that’s what you mean. We don’t use that word anymore. You know were all “saved” as you might say as long as we don’t opt out.”

     Jerome was beginning to feel a bit nauseous.

     “Where is that taught in the Word of God?”

     “Oh, it’s all through the Bible. God loves us, we’re all His children. There are no absolutes in the scriptures.”

     “How do you believe we’re going to heaven?”

     “We’re all going to heaven eventually as long as we believe in God and do good things. He doesn’t judge anyone.”

     Jerome took a deep breath before he answered. “The word of God says that everyone has sinned and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). We’re all sinners and we can’t enter His presence when we die, that is go to heaven, unless our sins are removed by the atonement through the Messiah, Jesus.”

     “He’s one way,” she replied.

     “He’s the only way that God has ordained for the redemption of mankind. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).

     She looked at him with an expression of sympathy. “Whatever works for you.”

     “Then you don’t believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him? That’s the Gospel of John, chapter six, verse fourteen.”

     “If you want to believe that it’s okay with me.”

     “But do you?”

     “I told you, there are no absolutes in the Bible.”

     “I just quoted you one, do you agree with it?”

     “I’m not here to have you examine my religious beliefs,” she replied irritably.

     “According to the word of God, if you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the only way, the only redeemer of mankind, you will die in your sins. (John 8:24).

     “Oh, you’re one of those" she replied with disdain. “Narrow minded, judgmental, self-righteous, religious…”

     “I’m only telling you what God’s word says,” Jerome answered calmly. “It’s your choice whether you want to believe it. But according to God’s book – you can’t claim to be His bride.”

     “I’m not going to talk to you anymore. I have too much work to do. We’re working very hard to perfect the world.”

     “Better hurry up then,” Jerome answered dryly, “we’re running out of time.”

     She looked back at him with disgust. “You believe all that nonsense about having to repent and reaping what you sow, I bet don’t you? Well, let me tell you something; God wants me to be happy and that means I can live anyway I want to. He doesn’t judge anybody, that’s old fashioned theology!”

     “It’s Biblical theology and it’s the truth.”

     “We’re in a new age now,” she retorted angrily. “I can tell you’ve got a long way to go before you reach our level of enlightenment. I guess I’ll just feel sorry for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”

     “It’s your way, for sure,” Jerome answered, “It’s certainly not God’s.”

     She was flouncing off through the meadow and she didn’t hear him.

     Then Jerome thought about all those souls he had witnessed trying to grasp the rainbow – a salvation that could only be obtained through a cross that to them was so far beneath them. He felt the comfort of being part of that small remnant adorned with evergreen boughs that will never die.

     Jerome sighed as he sadly watched the counterfeit bride hurry back to work.

     “I bet she writes a lot of books, too,” he thought sadly.

     He turned to Jesus. The Lord was nowhere to be seen.

     “Lord, where are You?” Jerome called anxiously. The light was slowly fading, the signal that the day was swiftly coming to its conclusion. He began to run back through the pine forest.

     Jerome raced along the riverbank until he could once again see the shack’s ragged outline in the distance.

     “Jesus!” he called, much like a little child who was lost. “Where are You?”

     Jerome had to see Him one more time to say goodbye, to tell Him all those things that were welling up inside; to ask Him for strength to stand through the days ahead.

     He reached the entrance of the shanty and peered inside the dusty old ruin.

     “Jesus!” he called. “Are You still here?” His voice echoed back to him with no reply.

     Jerome turned away sadly and slowly began to wander back toward his car, when he heard the sound of a ladder scrapping on the side of the building. He swiftly turned and was overjoyed to see Jesus. He was dressed in workman’s clothes, a hammer in His hand, about to climb the ladder.

     Jerome rushed over to Him and there were tears in his eyes.

     “We’ve got a lot of work to do, Jerome,” Jesus said with a twinkle in His eyes. He was grinning.

     The middle-aged pastor knew Jesus was saying to him that it was time to go.

     “Lord, I can’t tell You how much this day has meant to me. I…” Then he stopped, attempting to assemble all the words in his mind. He still had so many questions and suddenly he was speechless as his emotions tumbled over themselves performing acrobatics that overcame mere words.

     Jesus set His tool on a rung of the ladder. Then He came over to Jerome, gathered the middle-aged pastor into His arms and hugged him as if he was a little child; and for the moment Jerome was a child again sobbing his heart out in His Father’s embrace.

     When Jesus released him, there was a still silence that told Jerome there would be no more words that day, just profound memories.

     Jerome turned and walked back to his car and opened the door. Then he looked back again wanting to say the words “Goodbye.” All he saw was the shack. Then he heard a Still Small Voice whisper upon his mind, “Why do you want to say goodbye, Jerome? We’re coming with you.”

     Jerome threw back his head and roared with laughter.

     He slid into the front seat, the engine sparked as he turned his key in the ignition. In a moment Jerome’s car was sliding back down the long driveway stopping abruptly as I laid down my pen.

     As I mentioned at the beginning of this adventure, I wanted to write a novel. What eventually emerged from my pen and my heart was not a work of fiction, but a testimony of the Truth. It is my prayer that you will find Him, too.

copyright 2010 by H.D. Shively

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