How Can I Believe?
By Billie Marie Zal
In March, 1986, God, by His Spirit, directed me to begin ministering to prisoners. I had always had a desire to touch the hearts of incarcerated individuals. Way back when I lived in Northlake, Illinois, I visited a young man at a juvenile facility and hoped he would give his life to the authority of God by hearing of God’s great love for each of us. Much, much later I learned that he had done well, been discharged, but once again committed murder. The words that I spoke - from God’s own heart - had fallen on deaf ears and while the man’s intentions might have been good when he was discharged, the root sin of murder was still in his heart.
It is discouraging to all of us, to know that we can enter eternity either in Heaven or in the Abyss. To those of you who “don’t believe in hell” I say only that if you search the Bible, you will find many a Word about hell, and Christ Himself talked of it. I never try to convince anyone of a Bible Truth. Only the Holy Spirit of God can do that, and not even the Holy Spirit will convince you if you refuse to listen, or to check out the Word.
I’ve heard a lot of people lately, on TV, being questioned as to whether they believe in hell or not. I am astonished (though I suppose I shouldn’t be) that very few who are interviewed know anything about the Bible, and especially about hell. Everyone seems rather to want the after life to be either obliterated, or lived out in some kind of void with no real reason to exist. No wonder the world is in the mess it is in! If there is no hope for Heaven, what is left?
I often tell my listeners that this life down here is fast and fleeting; hardly different, so the Bible says, from the flowers of the fields that are here today and gone tomorrow. But we are not really flowers - we are human beings, made in the image of God. Not just a chosen few, but ALL humanity is made in the image of God.
Was Hitler made in the image of God? Certainly. Was Charles Manson made in the image of God? Most assuredly. And this might surprise you. You ask, “How come a man
turns out like he does, if he is made in the image of God?” The answer is in the Word of God, for the Bible tells us that when God created Adam (out of whom came every individual in existence) He made him in the image of God.
What does this mean? An image, as we all know, is the reflection of something. A copy. And God made Adam like Himself. He said, “Let us make man in our image.” To whom was He speaking when He said, “Let US make man?” He was speaking to His Son the Lord Jesus Christ who was always there - in eons past, and also to the Third Person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit.
And so God made us in His image. If we believe this, it gives us a start toward Heaven. That is, if we CHOOSE to believe. Once this choice is made, then God begins to give us a “back up” for our belief. He begins to teach us that there was a Garden of Eden, it was not a fable, it was there. It existed and God even gives us the location, naming the rivers that went out from it. These rivers exist today.
Adam, made in God’s image was a “three part” being. Some kind of man existed before Adam. There is no need to hotly deny this. There were the prehistoric men, and the museums are filled with proof of their existence. They had a body and a soul, but then obviously didn’t have God’s Spirit within them. That is what God meant when He said, “Let us make man in OUR image.” I was very young - just born again - in the faith when God revealed to me that if all those prehistoric men were like Him anyhow, why should He suddenly say, “Let us make man in our image?” There had to be a new dimension added to a man, and that new dimension was that part of man in which the Holy Spirit lived.
This could have been the beginning of a glorious age of eternal joy and peace. There was nothing to hurt or kill in the Garden of Eden. Adam was given dominion over the Garden and the responsibility of naming every creature, flower, tree, etc. He must have been a magnificent human being, with vast knowledge given to him directly from God. But God, in love, knew that Adam was lonely and so He gave him Eve. He took part of Adam’s body (a rib, the Bible says) and formed Eve out of Adam. She became a part of him - not complete in herself because she was part of Adam. And the Garden was theirs, to tend and to glorify God with their labors.
Well, if you have any kind of knowledge of the Bible you know that Adam ruined the entire thing. You might say, “Why do you say that Adam ruined it? Wasn’t it Eve who ate of the fruit that satan offered?” Yes, it was Eve. But Eve was a part of Adam, and when he knew
what she had done (being tempted of the devil who inhabited the serpent) he realized that Eve “knew something that he did not.” Having tasted the fruit, Eve was aware now of her powers of seduction, and Adam joined her in her sin and from that moment on, the world was changed. Mankind had fallen. And satan had gained mastery over all of us.
But God didn’t throw Adam and Eve away. The Bible tells us that He is a God of great compassion, and instead of destroying them, He provided them with a covering of animal skins (when sin entered in they had realized they were naked) and the first blood (of the animal God slew) was offered up to make Adam righteous before God. It was a symbol, of course, of the great offering of the blood of the Lamb of God who would take our place and make us righteous in God’s sight.
Now we go back to the question, “if we are made in the image of God, how come we turn out like we do?” The answer is in the story that I just related. God made man in His image which meant that man had a free will. He could choose. And God had made it easy for Adam and Eve, in commanding them never to eat of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He put them in a Garden with everything the heart could desire and asked only one thing of them: Don’t eat of that fruit. Adam failed the test and he and Eve were cast out of the Garden and the ages that followed gave us a picture of what sin does to a people. It destroys.
It is a truth that the world judges success by numbers. The more money a man makes, the more he is judged successful. The more converts a ministry lists, the more successful the ministry supposedly is. But numbers do not matter to God.
When He destroyed mankind by the flood He left only eight souls who had been counted worthy to be saved during the judgment. That’s not very successful. And time and again, in the nation of Israel, chosen by God to be His people and His nation, there were few who truly loved and worshipped Him as they had been commanded to do. They forsook the Word of God.
And coming right on down to the birth and life and death of Christ, He had few who believed His Word and was forsaken by all of them as He hung on the tree of Calvary.
Why did this happen? Why didn’t they believe, when they had walked in His very presence as He ministered to multitudes and bore witness to the fact that He was Messiah?
It was because every individual who turned away wanted something more than Jesus
Christ had to offer. He says in His Word that He was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” He had “no place to lay His head.” He was not what they had expected of One who would be their king. The human heart wanted more, much more.
And this is the answer to the question: “How can I believe?” If you have never made that commitment of your life to the authority of the God who created you, and gave you this chance by letting His Son Jesus Christ take your place of judgment, and suffer the wrath of God for the sins of the world - if you have never just believed this Truth, and made that eternal commitment - then there is no hope for you. The Abyss waits when you die, and nothing can prevent you from going there to wait out the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, and then go to the Great White Throne Judgment for a final verdict as to your place in eternity.
This Word should give us chills up and down our spine. It is God’s final Word concerning what happens if we reject His Son and choose instead to follow the course of this world, thereby losing any chance of going to Heaven.
God has never left us without a Witness to the finality of death and our departure from this world. Why else would He have given us the Bible? Why else would the Word of God been proved beyond doubt to be the very Word of God, no matter how the skeptics have tried to destroy its infallibility? And why else would He have given us a Savior who would hear our cry, lift us up from the horrible pit and make us whole and new again?
I hope none of you ever go to hell. I pray that you won’t. I know it is real and I knew that I would go there if I died, before I was born again of God’s Spirit.
I had a body and a soul, and with my soul I was considered a “good Christian.” But I was not good. Jesus Himself says that no one is good, but God. And I was not a Christian.
I saw what I was, that night that God revealed my condition to me. I thank God I never really thought I was going to heaven; but I didn’t know HOW to believe. Or what I should do. And the night I was saved, I wanted to die because I didn’t want to go on living the way I had been living. Yet, if I died, I would go to the Abyss. So I cast myself upon the mercy of God and ran down to the Altar of that huge church in Chicago and begged God to have mercy on me.
That is the only prayer He hears if we are yet unsaved. He hears our cry and when He knows it is real, He reaches down into the cess pool of humanity and lifts us out and washes us
clean with the blood of His son, and we are born again. Like newborn babies, we now belong to Him.
As long as we believe there is one good thing in us we will never see ourselves as God sees us. We will never admit that everything we did, we did it because we chose to do it. We will never admit that we knew right from wrong, but we didn’t care - we chose to do the wrong thing anyhow. We didn’t care whether it hurt anyone or not; we took upon ourselves the right to do as we pleased, thus becoming little gods.
From the moment that I confessed what I had become, and made no excuses, my life was instantly transformed. I was all clean and new, and when I walked out of that great church building, I had no doubts at all that I was indeed a brand new person.
I have heard that some people feel they’ve had this experience, but they fall by the wayside after awhile. I made sure that this would never happen to me. I got myself a study Bible and I made my vows to God that I would immerse myself in His Word and obey Him as He instructed me to do. I realized that now I had a third dimension to my life: I had His Holy Spirit, reviving my dead spirit to guide me and show me the way. Adam had lost his spirit - it died when he refused to obey God. Now we are given back that life that Adam lost, and we can have victory over the flesh, the world, and the devil. In prison, or out of prison, the world still makes its claims upon your soul, and it is up to you to make your vows to God and get ready to meet Him because very soon - sooner than we think perhaps - we will see the end of this age. And depending upon our choice, we will be either in Heaven or the Abyss. A horrible conclusion - but true. God be with you.
- from the January, 2000 Wingspread
For all of us hell is a subject we would rather avoid. Yet its necessary to face reality in life. As I read Billie’s message I was reminded of a childhood memory.
I grew up in Sweden and when we needed to go to the big city we took the train. Usually we rode bicycles everywhere. On this day I had a dentist appointment and my dad was going to the lumber yard to order lumber for his factory. This was an exciting event for me. I felt very important because I got to go with my dad all by myself.
The lumber yard was huge with tall stacks of lumber which seemed like sky scrapers. The dentist was put way out of my memory, kind of like an event we know will happen to us some day, but something we would rather not think about.
But as the day wore on I found myself sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. I still had hopes and was almost certain my dad would save me from this awful dentist that I feared. I’ll never forget how my heart sank when the nurse came to get me. My dad just sat there reading his magazine, and I felt totally abandoned and “scared to death.”
I learned from that and many other experiences that no person can save us from the thing we fear the most. There are things no one can do for us, decisions only WE can make for ourselves.
Some years ago Billie and I were visiting a county jail in Oklahoma. At that time we were allowed to sit in the day room with all the inmates. One young man, who seemed too young to be there, was very upset about the condition he found himself in. He reached out over the table and took Billlie’s hand and said “Billie, save my soul.” Billie replied “I can’t do that, but Jesus can.” And we prayed with him.
I’ve often thought how nice it would be if someone down here could do it all for us - pray us through, do enough good things in our name, etc., etc. But its all in our lap. We have to face reality and grow up and make our own choices. And its tough. But we have help, the Bible says. The same Power that raised Christ from the tomb also dwells in us, if we commit our life to God. So then, with that power we can overcome our weaknesses and fears and know what the final destination of our life will be.
- Something Dr. Tozer said concerning how Christians are different from other people in the world:
“Brethren, we are still living in a wicked and adulterous generation and I must confess that the
Christians I meet who actually amount to something for the Saviour are very much out of key
and out of tune with their generation.”
The Tozer Pulpit, Volume Two
Shortly after we mailed last month’s newsletter to everyone we learned that Brian’s sister-in-law, Sharon, had passed away. Many of you had been praying for her and her husband, Terry. She had apparently beaten lung cancer, but a couple of months ago she suffered a really bad stroke, which led to the discovery of brain cancer. She was very sick and we are thankful that she no longer suffers. Brian and Gail couldn’t attend the funeral in Illinois. Brian came down with a really bad abscessed tooth and was under Doctor’s order not to fly. Please remember Terry in your prayers.
Also, we lost Billie’s sister, Kathleen a couple of weeks ago. She became ill with a stomach problem, followed by a heart attack and a surgery. She was in the hospital for two weeks. She is survived by her son, Danny, nephew Richard, and those of us here. Margaret and I made it up to St. Louis for the funeral and got to spend a little time with Danny and Charlotte. After the visit and returning home (St. Louis is a “rat race”) we were both even more thankful for the peace we have here.
That’s all of the bad news.
Most of you already know that Shirley’s knee surgery was successful. She recovered quickly and was driving just a few days after the surgery. She’s doing great. And Margaret is being treated for her infection and she is feeling fine.
During the Labor Day weekend Brian and Gail treated all of us to a cook out. Brian charcoaled some delicious hamburgers and we had the usual picnic food. The house was lovely. Gail has done a wonderful job decorating it. All seven of us enjoyed a nice Labor Day party.
Jay is planning to visit death row at McAlester the next time Margaret and I go. So now all three of our brothers there will be getting visits from someone here.
Our prayers for rain were answered soon after the request. And summer and the heat wave we were in was broken by the remnants of Hurricane Rita that brought us our first real rain in months. We are still behind for the year, but its not so bad now because of the cooler temperatures. We may have lost some trees to the draught, but next spring will tell. I think that we’re all looking forward to fall and nicer weather. Everyone please continue to pray for us.
Rodney & Margaret
Prayer Requests for October, 2005
For Michael Small of Menard, Illinois for his Father, and for his Son , Derek, that they will both come back to the Church.
For Jimmy Huff in Loraine, Texas, for his legs. He has diabetes.
For Ed Ewing in Hanford, California.
For Brian’s brother, Terry, who just lost his wife.
For Tommy Hayes’ Family, that they will be able to come and visit him at Abilene, Texas.
For Marcos Zavala, Amarillo, Texas, for his legs.
For Terrance & Anita Brown, and for Michelle Newton & family, in Illinois.
For Marcos Zavala of Amarillo, Texas, for his legs.
For Leon Wrights family, that they will learn to forgive. Leon is at OSP.
For Ronald Pearson at OSP, that he will pass his GED test.
For Faye Oakley, Steve's mother, who lives in New Mexico. She is going blind and has diabetes.
For our neighbor Sandra Beckcom who is undergoing cancer treatment.
For Bobby Linscome at Iowa Park, Texas, and for his family.
For Anthony Grayson at Fallsburg, New York, for a Christian wife.
For Sister Ann and all the nuns in Little Rock.
For our brothers on Death Row.
For all of us at Wingspread.
Some of the arrowheads that Walnut found on our property
Margaret & Barney working on the newsletter. Blame Barney for any mistakes
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