LIFE OR life?

LIFE or life?

Does God send people to hell because they don’t meet his requirements? Because they don’t do….? Or because they do…? (Fill in the blanks.)

This came up in a conversation the other day, (and I have permission from the one who said these things to refer to the conversation) and I have been reflecting on this for a couple of days.

These guys called Saduccees came to Jesus one time to try to trick him into saying something that they could hold against him. (They didn’t actually believe in any kind of resurrection, which is sad, you see.)

So they made up a scenario where this guy marries this girl, and dies, without having any kids. In their laws, his brother was required to marry her to continue the family line.

So, they said, this guy had six brothers, and each one married her, then died, one after the other. (Sounds a little bit suspicious…. Maybe, the original black widow.)

Anyway, they asked, whose wife would she be in the resurrection?

Jesus answered that it was kind of a silly question; that they didn’t know the scriptures, or have any concept of God’s power.
In the resurrection their would be no marriage or getting married.

But then, he said something that you have to think about a little bit.

“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God:

‘I Am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

Did you catch it?

Jesus mentions three guys who had been dead for centuries, and spoke of them to these people who were “alive?” as if they were still alive.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew the power of God, and had been given this LIFE, simply because they believed Him.

These guys, these Saduccees, had not received this LIFE, because they didn’t know His power, or understand His words.

They were dead.

Not physically.

They were walking, talking, eating, marrying, even going to church.

But, they could not see God, or His kingdom.

Or His Son.

Jesus said that one has to receive a second birth in order to see, to know.

Not get born again, but be born again.

By God.

Not by any self effort.

No one can do this for himself.

It is a gift.

The thing is, this heaven, this place of resurrection, this city of God, only has those that have this LIFE living there.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

His disciple John said,”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.”

So, if God offers this free gift to everyone in the whole world, this gift of LIFE,

Free gift to anyone who will accept it

How is that cruel?

And, about the question of being sent to hell because we don’t do the God thing right….

When you have this LIFE, you want to please the One who gave it to you.

And, even that is His gift to you.

Want your life changed to LIFE?

“For God loved the world so much, that He gave His one and only Son, that WHO EVER believes, in Him has everlasting, eternal, forever LIFE.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgment; the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3: 16-21

Jesus said that if you are stuck, burdened, and weighed down with this life, He would give you LIFE, if you would only come to Him.

It will change you.




I recently told a friend that I find myself huffing and puffing more now as I work.

“It’s probably congestive heart failure,” he replied. “That’s what my cousin had.”


A few months late, I mentioned to his wife that he had told me this.

She made a face that made me think that that was just what he did, that I shouldn’t worry, that I was fine. All this without a word.

I chose to believe what I perceived was her advice, even though she didn’t say a word.

This week, the first two days I worked (yep, you caught me. I worked during the corona virus self-isolation order.) I found myself huffing and puffing, and my muscles were tired instantly.

I wasn’t having any fun, either.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what my friend hand said months earlier.

I must have congestive heart failure.

I was so tired when I got home, I told Wendy that I probably needed a check up.

Now, this is significant. I seldom complain about anything, except maybe being really tired when I have had a really long day.

Her worry flag went up, immediately.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

She got out her google machine and started asking me questions, symptoms.

All I could think about was how much insurance I would leave her with.

I thought about the age my mom died. 72. Heart. I’m 68.

Insurance payoff is really good before 70, pretty good before 75, okay after 75.

Funny thing, I wasn’t afraid to die, as long as she was provided for. I guess this “religion thing” is working.

I asked her how old my grandfather was when he died.

“Around 80,” she said. “Why? Do you think you are about to die?!?!”

“No. Actually, I was just trying to remember how he looked when he was my age.”

I kinda dreaded the third day of work.

Wendy had taken my words seriously and she fought valiantly all day in the spiritual realms against that lying devil that keeps trying to take away the joy of this life. Pleading with God, yelling at the devil.
I was totally unaware.

It was a difficult job. I had no shortness of breath. My muscles didn’t get fatigued. When I got home, she asked how I felt.
“Really good!” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe how much better I felt today than the last two.”

“I prayed for you all day long. All day long!”

We worked together on a project fixing up a spare room for her craft room. All better, I am.

But, I do think I will set up a check up.



Hey, Clay,

Saturday March 7, 3020. Elaine called me. “Clay didn’t wake up this morning.”

The first words that came out of my mouth were, “I can’t think of anyone more ready.”

There is a question that I wanted to ask you.

Of course, my mind spent the next several days remembering things about our childhood; spending the night at your grandmother’s house in Garland, recording stuff on a tape recorder, watching Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop (remember when Regis Philbin walked off the show?), and “One Million Years, B.C.” (Raquel Welch), walking to the train station in Highland Park, croquet, 42….

The last time I remember seeing you before “the change” was probably 1970 or ‘71.

I and a couple of my friends ran into you and some of your band members (I remember Iggy Cantu) somewhere after dark. We both had pretty long hair, and I don’t remember much except you mentioned the band name was “The Feat of Clay.”

Jeff White told me last Saturday that that was only a thought you or your dad had, not a reality.

We kind of lost contact . I was going to school in Houston, then got married to Wendy, and we lived in Houston for a while( though, you probably came to the wedding. It’s all a little foggy.).

I learned at the celebration we had for your life that my brother, Jeff had a meeting with the Creator in ‘72, told you about it in ‘72 and or ‘73, you had a meeting with the Creator, and then cousin Glen wanted what he saw that you had, and he became a believer as well.

I didn’t join “this family” until 1978, and, looking back, I was totally unaware of this spiritual side of life going on with you three.

But, after the light switched on in Wendy’s and my lives, I remember you and Sally and your kids coming to our house in Garland on a Friday night for dinner, us talking about the glories of this new life, and in a few minutes, ya’ll were leaving to go home as the sun came up.

From that time, every time we got together we had that invisible connection, that shared joy.

I was able to see you a couple of times in your last year down here. You had been through quite a lot of difficult times, physically and emotionally.

Yet, you always carried this joy, this vibrancy of life, and I always walked away with a sense that the spirit of the Lord was in this place.

I have seen the refining fire of the silversmith working in your life for years.

Your life was an example for all your friends, family, and some that you probably never realized were watching.

Jeff, Kelly, and Nathan led the worship as we celebrated the life that Jesus lived through you.

They played Keaggy’s “What a Day, That Will Be” and we all thought, “That’s right!”

The music inside you carried through to your sons.

What a day!

But, the question….

You were named Alfred Clayton Armstrong III.

We always called you Clay.

Did you never lead worship and sing the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way Lord”?

I can see you singing

Have thine own way Lord,

Have thine own way.

Thou art the potter

(Then looking at the congregation, with a smile)

I am Clay.

Did you?

You turned into a beautiful vessel of Life.

I’ll see you on the other side, cousin/brother.




You have made heaven and earth.
And me.
It seems you gave us all a choice to love you or not.
The consequences of not are proving pretty scary for the world.
You tell me not to fear, because you know my natural default position is to fear.
Every time I go there, my stomach starts to hurt.
Is that a built in reminder to trust in you with all my heart and to not fall back into my own understanding?
This Corona virus thing seems a lot like the work of the one who only comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
I am joining with my true brothers and sisters (in you) to ask you to deliver us from this evil one.
As I learn to abide in the secret place of the Most High God, I begin to realize the rest I find in your shadow.
You promised those that love you long life!
There is no life longer than eternal life, right?
May you use this attack against the world to bring hope to those still living in darkness?
And, if I can, help me be the light.

Always in your hands,
Because of Jesus,
Your servant,
Your child,
Your friend,



“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James 1:17 NIV

Every once in a while, you read a scripture that you have read a thousand times, and a part of it stands out, for some reason.

You look at it, and you can’t see any reason, so you kinda figuratively walk away.

But it keeps drawing you back.

There must be something there that I’m not seeing.

What are the good and perfect gifts?

And why does the scripture tie them to the creator of lights?

What is light anyway?

The result of something dark, lightless, becoming overwhelmed with intense, terrifying, transforming heat.

When God stepped into His creation, when it was still shrouded in darkness, He let there be light.

Everything changed.

When God raises His creation to Life, He overwhelms the darkness that resides there with an intense, transforming heat.

Those good and perfect gifts.

Those trials that we are told to count as joy, that are designed to change us into what we were created to become.

The trials that burn as light.




I always considered myself a pretty good athlete.

Not great, but coordinated.

Good hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes.

Ping pong, oh yeah. Not a great serve, but pretty good defense. Could play with anyone, but usually lost to the good ones.

I played soccer in college. I was a walk-on, never having played in my life, having no skills. I made the team, became a starter, but only because I liked the running. My Greek teammate, Tasso, can tell you how bad I was. But on defense, I was irritating as all get out. I scored one goal. My teammates jokingly called it “a banana kick.”

Same in basketball, what I lacked in natural ability, I tried to make up for with pesky defensive tactics.

I didn’t win much, so I learned how to lose, and still love to play.

Baseball, good infielder, decent on base percentage, stole some bases, usually second place or lower. Once I made all stars. My family vacation was during the all star tournament, so I never played in an all star game. I never hit a home run. A few triples though. I dreamed of playing for the Yankees.

I was a good student, graduated third. Not vale- or saluta-. Third. No speech for me. I was kind of relieved.

I guess what I am trying to say, I wasn’t the best at anything.

The Smothers Brothers used to sing a song, “Mediocre Dull Fred.” (I don’t know why I thought of that.)

You know what, though?

I do a pretty great me.

Something else?

God couldn’t love me any more than He does right now!

That’s pretty good, yeah?


Changing Our Minds

“I think it’s time to call a truce and move on. We are not going to change anyone’s mind, so I need to back out of this.

Thanks for the opportunity to make the points I wanted to make. Adios, amigo.”

This is how our conversation ended; the one on whether or not there is evidence of a creator.

My first thought was, I am right, you are wrong.

My second thought was I won’t change my mind, but if you don’t, well, that does not make any sense.

Because I’m right and you are wrong.

My third thought was, wait a minute, how can I expect him to be willing to change if I’m not?

Today, though, I looked back and saw what he really said.

“We are not going to change anyone’s mind….”

Now that may be deeper than he thinks.

Maybe all we can do is change opinions.

I remember when my mind was a lot like his…I was always filling it with all the knowledge and experience my little world had to offer.

I was quite pleased with myself.

But, one day, in 1978, I changed my mind.

Well, to be honest, I didn’t change it.

I had tried many times with no success.

But, I sure could change that opinion.

Then, I came to the point where it wasn’t getting any better, and if I didn’t change my mind…it wouldn’t get any better.

I found someone who would change it for me.


And I can’t, nor would I want to ever change it again.

“But, we have the mind of Christ.”