Author: DwightClough

Perish or repent? What is repentance?

The Lord … is patient with us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 JUB

God wants us to “come to repentance.” Most people don’t understand what that means. No wonder. It’s seldom explained correctly. At its core, repentance is not a change of behavior. Yesterday I yelled at my wife. Today I stopped. I repented.

No.

Repentance is a change of perspective. It’s a new mindset. It results in a change of behavior, but behavior change without mindset change is not repentance. Repentance is a gift from God. (See 2 Timothy 2:23–26.)

Let me give you an example.

I always thought I was a patient, kind person, and I would treat my wife with kindness. But after I got married, I made a discovery: When my wife got sick, I got angry. I tried to pretend I wasn’t angry, but I was. After a while, my anger came to the surface. I started saying nasty things to her like, “Why are you making me do all your work? When are you gonna get better?”

Here she was in a very vulnerable position, and I was yelling at her. Can we agree that was not a good thing? Can we agree that it was a sin?

I was acting like a jerk. I was not being kind and loving to my wife.

I suppose I made some attempt to change my behavior. But I didn’t repent until…

I didn’t repent until I started looking at the problem I was trying to solve by getting angry at my wife. I looked at the lies I was believing that caused me to sin against my wife.

Here’s what I discovered: When I was growing up when my mom was sick, I didn’t feel safe. I picked up this message: When the woman in your life is sick you are not safe. And who wants to feel unsafe? Feeling unsafe makes me feel small, vulnerable, out of control. But feeling angry makes me feel big, powerful, in control. So I turned to anger. Anger was my solution. And that anger was also my sin.

A lie I was believing—a lie that wasn’t even clearly in focus for me—was controlling my life. That lie needed to be removed.

In John 8:32, Jesus promises that the truth will set us free. From the context, we understand that the truth will set us free from sin. So clearly I needed truth from Jesus. Anyway, I just asked Him what I needed to know. And He told me. I don’t remember exactly what He said or how He said it, but I walked away with a new understanding deep inside my soul: I wasn’t there any more, I wasn’t stuck in my childhood, I was safe, I was okay. The woman in my life could be sick, and I could still be okay.

In other words, I repented. My mindset changed. Jesus offered me His perspective.

What was the outcome? Changed behavior. When my wife got sick, I didn’t have this same over–the–top response. I was free to be more kind, more understanding, more compassionate.

This is an excerpt from my book, Am I going to heaven when I die?

Dwight

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Looking forward to

There’s a lot I look forward to in heaven. I want to get the heavenly equivalent of a pilot’s license. I want to make some movies, write some novels, climb some mountains, and walk across a continent. I want to build a new relationship with my dad, and taste my grandma’s lefse once again.

We have children in heaven—children I never got to know here on earth—and so I’m excited to meet them and hear all about their adventures. I imagine this bench high on a cliff overlooking the water where we’ll sit, and hang out, and hear those amazing stories. I don’t know, of course, if that’s where we’ll talk, but that’s what I imagine.

I want to get to know some angels and find out what it’s like to be them. I want to make friends with Boaz, the great–grandfather of King David. And there’s some mischief I want to do, if I can get away with it—like leave graffiti at the moon landing site. Most of all, I want take a long walk with Jesus, just hang out with Him, and listen to whatever He wants to say to me.

I love my life here on earth. And I am looking forward to the life to come.

How about you? What are you hoping for? What are you looking forward to? Father God is right next to you. You can tell Him if you want to.

Dwight

(Another excerpt from Am I going to heaven when I die?)

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How do we become good?

Why are families in turmoil? Why is our nation torn apart? Why do churches split? Why do people struggle with the same sin for years? The answer to these and a hundred questions like them is the same: Because people do not know how to become good.

It’s a simple question. How do I become good? Yet nearly every prescription I’ve heard over the last 50 years does NOT work. I know. I’ve tried them. They don’t work.

That’s unfortunate because there is an answer, and it’s not all that complicated. But it eluded me for many, many years.

I’m planning to answer this question, Lord willing, on Sunday morning, October 25, 2020, at the Wesleyan Bible Church, 113 Second Street, Pardeeville, Wisconsin at 10 am. Then the video will be available at 6 pm on the church’s Facebook page here

Dwight

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My brother’s great idea

I was talking with my brother Dan yesterday about why I wrote Am I going to heaven when I die? I explained to him that many people think they settled the salvation question long ago, but didn’t. They think they’re headed for heaven, but aren’t. They haven’t stopped to take into account what Jesus actually says about eternal life.

I can always count on Dan to be honest with me. And he was. “Books,” he said, “I don’t much read. But I’ll read an email.”

“So if I put the book into a series of emails,” I asked, “you would read them?”

“Maybe I would,” he said.

So I’m gonna start with that. Here goes. This first excerpt will be short:

 

Eternal life is not a trinket that can be obtained without life-change.

It is a free gift, and it will cost you everything.

 

Dwight

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Make it fair!

There can be no peace between people until there is peace within.

I know this to be true because I am a father, and I’ve raised four children. When my children were young, they squabbled, and then called me in to referee. “Make it fair,” they demanded.

I quickly learned there is no “fair.” What is fair and just for one is grossly unfair and unjust for the next. When they were demanding that I make it fair, they were really asking a different set of questions:

Do you love me?
Am I important?
Do I matter?

Why do we ask these questions? Because deep down we don’t feel loved. We don’t feel important. We don’t feel like we matter. And we need Someone to tell us that we do, we are.

Yes, there are injustices in this world, and they do need to be addressed. But until we fix what went wrong inside, no amount of justice will ever bring peace.

Dwight

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Questions no one could answer

I ask questions. That’s just who I am.

What is the purpose of the church? What does it mean to be filled by the Holy Spirit? How do I know for sure I’m following God’s will for my life? And so on.

Once upon a time, I thought Christian leaders would have the answers to my questions. So I cornered them when I could. I wrote to them. I begged them to give me the answers I was seeking.

One evening—I was in my 20s—after a concert, I was sharing a meal with a Christian musician—a celebrity in his day. He said to me, “You have a pick in my brain, and I just want to get it out.”

When I wrote to Christian leaders, most of them wrote back a polite version of this: “Go bother someone else.”

I finally learned to stop pestering them. It was a waste of time. They didn’t have the answers, and they didn’t appreciate me asking.

But I didn’t stop asking questions. When something didn’t sit right with me, I pondered it—sometimes for decades—until it finally made sense.

I learned in this process that there are some questions that only God can answer. For example: How can a loving God allow hell to exist? I can’t answer that for you. But God can. He’s answered it for me, but it took 18 months of sleepless nights and many prayers to get that answer.

Then there are some questions that demand answers, questions that force us to read, reread, and reread the Bible until it finally makes sense.

For example:

If heaven is free gift, then why does Jesus tell us that we might need to cut off our hands or gouge out our eyes to stay out of hell?

Why did Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away and miss eternal life? Why did He insist that he sell all his possessions and give all the money to the poor?

What does Jesus mean when He says if you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven?

If we’re saved by grace, why does the Bible say that the dead are judged by their works?

These are really important questions. We don’t want to come to the end of our lives and find out we missed heaven because we didn’t get to the bottom of these questions and find the right answers.

I’ve been puzzling over questions like these for a long, long time, and in recent years answers that make sense to me have come into focus.

I want to share those answers with you, and with anyone who will listen.

That’s why I wrote Am I going to heaven when I die? I want people to have answers to these questions and others like them.

You can buy it on Amazon. You can read it online for free. You can buy 100 copies and give them away. I think this is a really important book. I want you to read it.

Am I going to heaven when I die? It’s life’s most important question. And I want you to have a complete answer.

Dwight

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What will heal our land?

What will heal our land?

Anger won’t. Anger may be justified. It may be warranted. It may be necessary. But, by itself, it will heal nothing.

Protests won’t. Whether peaceful or violent, they don’t have the power to change anything.

A different president won’t. Sorry. You can change presidents a thousand times, and you’ll still have murder, racism, hatred, and police brutality. These evils cannot be elected away.

Some say love will heal our land. But that’s not a workable solution because we as a people don’t have the power to love. Yet.

Our land will not be healed until we begin to see with a different set of eyes. Specifically, we need God’s perspective.

I don’t mean someone’s opinion of God’s perspective. I don’t mean listening to some preacher.

I mean we—each of us—must take all that is churning and boiling inside and everything connected to it directly to God Himself and ask Him what He wants us to know.

Until we see ourselves, each other, and the world we have created through God’s eyes, nothing will change. Apart from that, all of our “solutions” will be tainted with false narratives and broken thinking. But transformative paradigm shifts from God Himself will heal you and me, our homes, our communities, our systems, our world.

This, by the way, is why I don’t let other people do my thinking for me. Leaders—Black or White, commentators—Democrat or Republican, may have good ideas. I will pause. I will listen. I will consider. But I will not swallow. Instead, I will take their thoughts back to the only Person in the universe who is objective, and ask Him.

Groupthink frightens me because it opens the door to every kind of evil including racism.

Murder is evil. Racism is evil. Police brutality is evil. Many other things are evil. But we will not fix these things until we fix ourselves, and we cannot do that until we step into the Light.

Dwight

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Internal junk

Ever take one of those personality tests?

I took one today, only this was a test that gives you information about who you are and what your role is in our world. Fascinating stuff. I’ll boil down 11 pages of my results to this one phrase:

“You produce ingenious solutions to complex problems.”

That got me thinking. What problems am I working on? Then I realized I’ve been obsessed with solving three complex problems for many years.

Here’s the first:

#1 Internal junk

All of us walk around with a certain amount of internal junk—feelings and inner messages that keep us from experiencing life to the fullest. This is the stuff we seldom share, the inner self we hide when we go out in public. We like to deny that this part of us even exists. But it does, and it holds us back; it dampens how we experience life.

For the last 30 to 40 years I’ve been focused on this question: How do you get rid of this internal junk? More specifically, does our Christian faith offer us any tools that allow us to get rid of this junk?

Here’s what I’ve found: Most of the tools out there don’t work. Most of the Christian tools out there don’t work. Or they work like this: We try them. They don’t make a difference. But we don’t want to tell anybody they didn’t work. So we lie. We lie and say we’re fine.

I don’t like that.

I have a strong distaste for religious pretending disguised as faith. “I’m fine in Jesus’ name.” Yeah. Sure.

Denial is not the same as faith. Faith is first of all honest. Honest with ourselves, honest with God. Read the Psalms.

So anyway, I found something 19 years ago that works for me. I’ve seen it work for others. It really does clear out internal junk. It really does leave you feeling lighter, happier, stronger, more at peace, healthier. It changes how you experience life.

I’ve been trying to cut through the clutter and convey that for much of the last 17 years. I’ve been trying to shout from the rooftops: “Hey, this isn’t another form of religious denial. This is the real thing.”

Sometimes people listen. Sometimes they don’t. But, anyway, if you want to read what I’ve written, if you want to learn how to clear out that internal junk, I’ll recommend my books, The Gift of Transformation, Spiritual Self Defense, What It Means to Follow Jesus.

Thanks!

Dwight

PS. I’ll post the other two, Lord willing, sometime soon.

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Are we really the sum?

Are you really the sum of the five people you spend the most time with? That concept is sacrosanct to many, but I’m going to label it mostly false. Here’s why:

What this usually means is this: If you wanna get rich, avoid poor people and hang out with rich people. Poor people will poison your mind. Rich people will enrich your mind.

Yeah. About that. Every human being has something to teach you if you have the humility to listen and learn from them. And it seems to me that many of my fellow Christians have found a way to overlook James 3:1-9.

Another thing that troubles me about this: It seems to assume you’re a passive puddle of jelly just waiting to be tainted by association. That’s not who you are. You are a change agent. You are designed to bring good into many lives. That’s who you are. Everyone you meet should be better for having encountered you.

Okay, now for the caveats. Yes, some relationships are toxic, and some people are just not good for you to be around. If you’re young and impressionable, then you shouldn’t be friends with people who will influence you to develop self destructive patterns of behavior. Even those of us who are older need to exercise some caution: There’s someone in my life (ironically, he’s wealthy) that I avoid; the relationship diminishes me, and I need to let him hang with someone else.

But that’s the exception. The person I hang out with the most is God. And I figure that God plus any other four people is still gonna be a very large number.

Have a super day!

Dwight

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I will not be shaken

It makes me sad, in a way, that we often need a disaster to “get right with God.” Foxhole conversions seem cheap, and I wonder if they’ll last.

But then, if I’m honest with myself, when I look back on my own life, I find that it was during the difficult moments—like when I was homeless with a wife and a little baby with birth defects, when our marriage was threatened, when I was hungry, when loved ones wrestled with addictions—that I grew in ways I did not expect.

While I wouldn’t wish any of those things on you, I look back on them and see only the kindness of God. These challenging moments in my life jarred something deep inside me—something that God was trying to get at, so He could show me who He really is.

And what emerged from these challenges is a beautiful vision of God. My cynicism was stripped away, and I realized that God Himself was the friend I had been searching for all my life.

I don’t know what the future holds for you, but I do pray that you will have life-altering encounters with God, and that you will emerge from our present crisis with your feet more solidly on the ground, and a smile inside that says, “I am in the company of God Himself, on a mission to bring good into many lives, and I will not be shaken.”

Much love from our home to yours!

Dwight

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