Holding God Hostage

The drama of many movies, tv shows, and novels are built around the suspense of someone being taken hostage.  Our first thought is the motivation for money but the agenda quite often is not that simple.  Sometimes it is to get a message across of a political nature or a confession and repentance toward a group of people.  There may be the intention of a trade for other persons of interest in the event of cold and hot wars.  The idea being simply that the perpetrator has something of value that is believed to motivate the negotiators to make an exchange for something of equal or greater value to their agenda.  Various devices and methods of communication are used along with other weapons to intimidate and motivate the desired outcome.  Threats of suffering, torment, and even death are part of those weapons.

This brings us to one of those hard questions which in itself is paradoxical and drenched with a need for self-inventory.

How am I holding God hostage?  This is riddled with the idea that one could even hold God under threat or have the power to accomplish such imprisonment, but we will get to that later.  Follow with me for a bit.

Within those of us that profess Christianity or other relationship with God, suggest we are a vessel of Him in the form of messenger, gift-giver, fruits of His labor, or any other term you may wish to use to describe the unity of God and man.  This may be described as being filled with His Spirit, born again with a renewed heart toward the purposes of God, or taking on the interest of God over our own by loving Him and our neighbors as ourselves.  However you would describe this relationship you have with God, it probably includes the idea of His providence, character, and essence being manifest in and through you.  That in some spiritual and mystical way, you and God are joined together where He is the source of all things good and you are the vessel to proclaim that goodness.  A relationship where He lives in you with the attributes that would be beneficial to you and those around you if and when you choose to release His character.

With that as the backdrop and an emphasis on our choice to release His goodness, I ask the question again, how are we holding God hostage?

Let’s go back to our fictional or nonfictional events in the drama scene described previously.  Someone needs to make a statement. They want something in return for what they have.  What they have is believed by those who want it desperately enough that the price for trade is inconsequential.  The one holding the hostage is expecting that they will give them what they want in order to release the hostage.

If God is the hostage and His character release is what is needed and wanted, what are our negotiating terms?  Love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, the list goes on.  Who does not want and need these attributes of God?  Who does not pursue these gifts in some way or another?  Who does not thrive when these providential characteristics are displayed and open for participation?  Who is it that God desires to project these necessities through?  Who is willing to release the hostage for the benefit of those that need Him so desperately?  And what are our trade requirements to exude the love of God?

I want you to take care of my needs first, then we can negotiate the terms of release.  I want a proven commitment to your end of the bargain and then I will consider your compensation for what I have that you want.  If necessary, I will create pain, suffering and torment to get what I want and then I will give you what you are desperate for.  The tools of negotiation are various forms of communication – passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive – with an exactness either premeditated or on the fly.  What we have been given freely without earning is now the hostage of concern.

Let’s now deal with the paradox of God being a hostage.  Let’s start with the most recently reviewed holidays known as Good Friday and Easter.  An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God came in the form of a man called Jesus.  With all the power of heaven in one spoken word, Jesus could have wiped out those who were holding Him hostage and as a prisoner on trial for a crime He was not guilty of.  Instead, He let them beat him, torture him, torment His dignity and authority, and ultimately kill Him.  We should not think for a minute that this same all-powerful God will not let humans suffer because of the selfishness and injustice of others.  He established from the very beginning a determined partnership where we have the authority and opportunity to rule over the earth and work in harmony with each other.  His covenants established with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David and eventually the Gentiles are based on His authority, willingness, and desire to express His goodness through and throughout all mankind.  He thrives on giving to us so that we may in turn give to each other.  He comes to us individually and collectively with the gift of Himself so that we may in turn continue the flow of His majesty and glory.  So can God be held hostage?  If we have received anything from Him, all of it being good, and we have not in turn shared that goodness without the express interest of getting something in return, it could be said that we are holding God hostage.

What are our terms of release?  “Freely you have received, freely give.  For from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” Matthew 10:8, John 1:14

“Heaven” and “Hell”

I have been revisiting that place or condition or existence called “heaven” and “hell.”  My traditional views have been reshaped with this new study.  This subject, like so much of the Bible, is inexhaustible and so what I am writing is definitely not the final word or consideration of these incomprehensible places, environments, or relevance to such an environment.  But the latest in my pensive imagination may be best described by the following charts.

Imagine an environment in which the following is a description of everyday life known as


Imagine an environment in which the following is a description of everyday life known as


There is no unselfishness in the acts of those dying there.  All things are done with complete selfishness as one looking out for his/her interests only. There is no selfishness there.  All acts are done with the complete consideration of someone else.  Even one’s act of eating, working, health are done so that they can be better at the consideration of others and honoring the One who provided all the goodness that is experienced there.
You are working on something in an effort to accomplish a goal.  Every time you are about to complete the goal, something happens to interrupt your success.  No matter how long or hard you work at it, you are never successful in accomplishing the thing you wanted to complete.  No completion to anything ever. Every moment of every day there is a sense of accomplishment.  Your existence, your ability, your gifts given and received, your life, your rest, work for work itself, all things, feelings, learning, and participation come with a sense of accomplishment.  Every moment is filled with a conscious awareness of accomplishment.  Everything – time, relationships, work, rest, our existence – is always complete.
Constantly looking for love and approval and never finding it. Never having to seek for love, approval and identity because all things, material and immaterial, envelope us with perfect love.
All relationships are based on tit for tat, an evaluation of whether what you have given has had an equal or greater reward.  And it is never an adequate trade. No record of giving or receiving other than in the constant praise of Who has been doing the giving all along.
The necessities of a physical existence is plagued with plagues – of men, pestilence, and consumers.  There is never a feeling of having enough no matter how much exists around you.  You can see all that is available but you can’t get to it.  Or if you get to it, you find it only drives you to want more.  There is a constant drive toward fulfilling the never-ending needs without ever being fulfilled or complete. There is no thought for necessities.  All needs are met when and where they are needed.  At the hands of men, all things are available with providence from the Provider being more than adequate.
You are always wondering about what is missing and can never figure it out. All things are so complete, you don’t even think about what might be missing.
Dark skies, never any natural light, constantly cold even though you are next to a fire. Sunshine when needed, rain when needed, the temperature is always just right whether for humans or animals or plants.
Always knowing that the love of God is available somewhere else that you cannot get to or experience and that all exchange between individuals, whether men or demons, is based on an agenda. Basking constantly in a complete love experienced in the reality of emotions, social justice and equality and appropriateness, acceptance without agenda, never a need to ask for it.
Unwanted animals are always vicious Interaction between all life – humans, animals, plants – is in perfect harmony and always complete in relationship
Always sick in body, mind, and spirit. Never feeling rested, never hope for wellness No diseases or sickness in body, mind, or spirit.  Always in a state of rest and wellness.
Always afraid of what someone will be thinking about you and constantly working on trying to impress them otherwise.  Everyone is always suspect of the others. Acceptance, approval, and trust is the norm and all that exists
Total chaos, always a feeling of trying to bring things into order but never accomplishing any. Total order without trying, no OCD
Always feeling alone even though there is a crowd constantly in one’s space Never feeling alone even in moments of solitude and never being overcrowded with the people you want to be with.
Worry, fret, fear, anxiousness, desperation constantly with never any relief and hopeless that anything can or will change. All things are good and without fear because everything is right.
There is so much frustration, disappointment, depression, agony to the unfulfilled needs socially, physically, mentally, and economically that you want to die but you are already dead and this death after death is never ending.  I am reminded of the movie Live Die Repeat.  In this movie there seems to be some progress or success each time Major Cage comes back from death to the same suicide mission with some memory of why he failed before.  In this “hell” we are describing, there is never any accomplishment because you are driven by the same selfishness without any memory why it went bad before. There is so much joy, peace, love in your social interaction, your physical well-being, the evidence of all needs being met for those around you that all you want to do is live.  And this is exactly what you have been given – life forever.


There are many more scenarios that could be imagined but even our imagination cannot fully describe the agony of incompleteness in one place or the exact completeness in another place.

So if I were going to try to give some metaphors to describe the indescribable environments of either place, what would they be?

“Hell” – a “fire” that is constantly purifying but never eliminating any evil, a “thirst” for even one ounce of refreshment from the “torture” that I am feeling every moment of every day, the constant “grinding of my teeth” from the worry, resentment, anger, and lack of relief from all things evil.  A constant “darkness” or absence of light from the relationship with God.  These symbols and metaphors cannot fully describe the torture.

Heaven” – “life giving water” that never runs dry, beauty beyond “jewels or precious metals”, a “light” of life always being visible and as needed giving evidence of the presence and our relationship with God, a “constant smile” of gladness and joy without fear or anguish.  “No tears” (except maybe from joy).  All things “restored” to the “perfect garden” where God lives with us and we are given the “tree of life.”.  “A city from above” where “heaven and earth merge” without interference or obstruction of evil.

As I am reading through the chart again, I am confronted with the issue that much of what I read on the “hell” side exists today on earth as does some of what I read on the “heaven” side.  It is in the reading that I have to ask the question, what kind of life do I want to be living and presenting to the world that is in desperate conflict?  How can I participate in bringing “heaven” to earth?  Do I need to wait to engage and demonstrate the availability of “heaven” for God to physically come again to earth or is He already here in Spirit joined with the spirit of men and women?  How much do I like being selfish and is “hell” just a continuation of my being selfish along with a lot of other selfish people?  Or can I promote an interest in others with a consideration of their needs above my own thereby bringing “heaven” to my environment now?  Is this attitude just a continuation in the “heavenly” environment of a lot of other people putting others before themselves?

One author presented “heaven” and “hell” as more of what we really want, what we really like or desire and are working desperately toward accomplishing now.  Get all you can and can all you get?  A little humanitarianism in an attempt to cover up the selfishness does not impress the judge.  The intent of the heart may be what we ultimately get in life after death or death after death.  “Knowing the Father is eternal life,” Jesus said.  Knowing Him helps me find my identity and purpose along with the desires of my heart.  Seeking Him, seeking His rightness first, here and now, may be the very continuance of my existence and environment in my life after death.  Or then there is that other environment.  I wonder which one I really desire.  It will be evident by my life here and now.  Are my good deeds a payment for “fire” insurance or because I really desire that life more than a life lived for myself?  The struggle will continue between my flesh and spirit but the Spirit of Jesus has given me the power to overcome if I but engage with Him in what He is doing. May “heaven” merge with earth even now.


Ride That Donkey

It seems to me, if someone is going to make an impression that they were the future order, judge, and king, they might want to ride into town on something other than a donkey.  At least a Mustang (horse power) or a chariot limousine or fly in on a massive eagle.  Now that would get some attention and much more convincing as to the capabilities and probabilities that you could pull off a Coup d’état (especially the giant eagle thing).  I know, I have read too many comic books and seen to many superhero and knight-in-shining-armor movies.  But really, a donkey?  Hee Haw!

The fruit basket gets a little upset when I begin to study the relevance of that donkey.  In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses if they rode to war, but a donkey was the beast of choice if they came in peace.  Kings 1:33; Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; and 2 Samuel 16:2 are a few examples of the rich and famous riding donkeys.  And while there are various symbolic and metaphorical things that could be said about Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, there is none more profound than Him making the self-declaration that He was king.

There were none more thrilled about this than Jesus’ disciples.  Most assuredly, if Jesus was going to become king, then several things were about to happen.  One, they would soon be riding donkeys as part of His royal court.  Two, there would be regular miracle basket lunches.  No meals on wheels here.  Just show up and there is plenty for everyone.  Three, no one ever gets sick, people are living forever, and if by accident someone dies because Jesus was a little late, well, they could join the Lazarus Club.

What about all those people laying their blazers on the ground or waiving the palm branches in glorious ecstasy?  No doubt they were ready for a new king.  They had been to the all-you-can-eat fried fish dinners, been healed from sickness and disease, and had been liberated from the burdensome liturgy and caustic religiosity of the local scroll thumpers.  What’s not to like about a king like this?

But Jesus had something else on His mind.  Heavy as it was, ripping at His very mind, will and emotions, He was focused on dying.  The kingdom He had in mind was not the likeness of which anyone had ever seen before.  It was upside down in a right-side-up kind of way.  He rode in on a donkey to carry out the proclamation made at His birth and even many years before.  Peace and goodwill to people everywhere.  While it made no sense to those around Him and makes no sense for us today, His way of replacing a kingdom of tyranny is not with like kind.  Not with more evil fighting evil as is depicted in the hero flicks of today. But with His own death.  Not justice with someone else’s death but mercy with His own death.

Fine.  I get the whole gospel message thing about Jesus dying a cruel death, being resurrected overcoming death and sin, and then sending His Spirit to comfort those of us who are still mixed up in this chaotic world.  And while your thinking that is a little flippant and maybe a bit sacrilegious, I have to come in with a bit of a curve ball.  Jesus ask us to pray and participate in His kingdom on earth.  Have we not been guilty of telling Jesus what kind of kingdom we want Him to be king of on earth?  How are we any different from those who wanted the buffet, the brutal retaliation of their social and cultural enemies that is justice without mercy, and the demand of protection and provision when things get a little rough?  I dare say our entitlements have become beyond our understanding and realization.  It is quite humbling to think how many times I have repeated these paraphrased words of the Psalmist.  How long will you wait, Lord King, before you bring justice to my discomfort?  The way those people talk about me?  The inability to keep up my payment on unlimited phone service and satellite TV?  The constant breaking down of my boat or RV?  The promotion that continually passes me by (even though some do not have a job)?  Not being able to go out to eat daily where someone can cook for me and serve me my order (interesting word describing a demand)?  Such agony, Lord.  When will you come to rescue me?

Gratitude can rescue us.  The choice to be thankful for the incredible bounty provided to us whether it be family, friends, the beauty of nature, and most of all, the reason that the King died for us – eternal peace.  A King that is coming back again to welcome us to a place where order, justice, and peace are served up by Grace and Mercy.  Even in the midst of suffering, we can focus on the King that comes riding on a donkey.  Who for the cross set before Him, did not try to reach out and grasp what He was “entitled to” but gave Himself up so that we could find merciful justice for all the ways we have ignored Him and violated the price He paid for us.  A price Jesus paid to relieve us from the destroyer who had every right to take us for himself.  What will our response be this week as we contemplate the week Jesus had leading up to Resurrection Day?

Ride that donkey, Jesus!  Ride!