Ice Bucket Challenge

Over the last few weeks, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with videos of people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Ice Water ChallengeThe rules are simple: A participant who has already taken the challenge nominates someone else. Within 24 hours of being challenged, the nominated participant is to record a video of completing the following: First, they are to announce their acceptance of the challenge. Then, a bucket of ice water is to be lifted and poured over the participant’s head. Then the participant calls out a challenge to other people. The participant is expected to donate $10 to the ALS Association if they have poured the ice water over their head, or donate $100 if they have not.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a horrific progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no known cure. Through the Ice Bucket Challenge, millions of dollars have been raised for ALS research.

While I wholeheartedly hope a cure for ALS can be found soon, I have already decided that, if nominated, I will decline the challenge, for a number of reasons.

First, I have a limited budget. I only have a certain amount I can afford to give to charities. Although I agree that ALS is a horrible disease that needs to be cured, there are thousands of other causes competing for the funds in my charitable giving budget. I choose to give to other causes.

Second, there are concerns about my money going to fund research that uses stem cells from aborted babies. According to the Northeast Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Consortium website, at least one clinical trial used stem cells that were engineered from the spinal cord of a single fetus electively aborted after eight weeks of gestation. The tissue was obtained with the mother’s consent. While I absolutely hope and pray for a cure for ALS, I cannot condone nor fund research that involves the murder of an unborn child to obtain stem cells. While I understand that only a small percentage of funds go to such research, and I could probably designate that my money would go to other research, I still find giving to the ALSA to be problematic, especially since there are so many other important causes to support that have nothing to do with embryonic stem cell research.

Lastly, I question the idea of giving to a charitable cause simply because someone dared me to do it. If I give simply because someone calls me out on Facebook, and I have to post a video of myself doing something silly to broadcast my participation, then why am I donating? Is it because I truly care about ALS, or just because I want to show off? From the Sermon on the Mount:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:1-4

Jesus warns about giving to charity in order to be seen by others – He calls it hypocrisy. The reason to give is not because someone calls me out on Facebook, and I shouldn’t be showing off by posting a video of myself getting ice water dumped on my head. I should be giving because God has given me the resources to give, and the glory should go to Him, not to me.

IceWaterWhatAlthough I have not yet been challenged to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, if I am, I will politely decline. The money I decide to give to charity, I will give privately, not to show off, but to glorify God.

Here’s my challenge to my readers: Pray about what God would have you do to support charitable causes and ministries. Research organizations that follow Godly principles. Seek His will for your giving. Then, obey by giving to those organizations that He lays on your heart. But, do so without bringing attention to yourself. Don’t post a video on Facebook, and don’t tell me, or anyone else, about it. Then, thank God in private that He gave you the resources to be able to help others.

Thoughts about the Death of Robin Williams

Robin_Williams Over the last week, the evening news and social media have been filled with the sad details of the suicide of comedian Robin Williams. Williams, who had struggled with depression and substance abuse for years, hanged himself, and was found dead on August 11.

Social media has exploded with commentary on Williams’ life and death. Opinions have run the full gamut. Many of the comments blame his death on mental illness. Others call him a coward for killing himself.

What I’ve found interesting is the comments from self-proclaimed Christians.

Here is a sampling I gleaned from the Facebook page of a well-known Christian band:

Lisa B. wrote,

As a Christian myself I take great comfort knowing that Robin Williams is indeed in Heaven. He brought laughter, support and happiness to so many and now is his time to escape his hell of depression and live with The Lord. Any other Christians that would claim otherwise should be ashamed of themselves and take another good look at their lives. What makes them better than Robin Williams? That answer would be, absolutely nothing. Rest in Peace Mr. Williams and thanks for the joy you brought to my life.

Donovan E, wrote,

As a Christian, I have always been offended by this notion that someone goes to Hell for this or for that. If that is the case, we are all in trouble. It makes no sense to me for God to create us, just to destroy us in the after life. God is compassionate, and none of us are without some sort of sin, even on our death bed. Those like Robin with depression issues that they cannot overcome on this Earth, surely is at peace in the kingdom. Just my perspective.

Both Lisa and Donovan seem to be missing the entire point of the Gospel. It has nothing to do with being “better than” others, as Lisa suggests. Donovan was partially correct: none of us is without some sort of sin, and we are all in trouble. What both seem to be missing is the fact that God, being infinitely just, cannot simply overlook our sin. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God – hell. Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself, fulfilling the righteous judgment of God. Nothing we do can make us “good enough.” It is only through Jesus Christ that forgiveness can be obtained. The only thing we can do is to receive Christ as Savior. If we accept Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven. If we reject Jesus, we go to hell.

Robin Williams was well known for giving to a great number of good causes, often anonymously. He was, in human terms, a “good person.” However, in God’s terms, he was a sinner, as we all are. No amount of giving or good deeds can pay for our sin or get us into Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Unless Robin Williams repented of his sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior, he is in Hell. While I don’t claim to know what God might have done in Williams’ heart during his last days on earth, there is absolutely nothing to indicate he ever was saved. Williams sometimes openly mocked Jesus Christ and the Bible in his comedy routines. And, while I do think deathbed conversions can be genuine, it seems extremely unlikely that a person can become truly saved – and then immediately kill himself.

Bradley T. wrote,

It is such a tragedy that there are so called “Christians” that seem happy about declaring that Robin Williams went to hell. I am a follower of Christ, I know that I did not know the state of mind of Robin Williams, and knowing Jesus does not mean that you cannot still suffer from severe depression. In the end what matters is what was in his heart those last few minutes of his life. I pray for his family that God will give them peace and comfort during this time.

Melissa H. wrote,

What kind of Christian would take pleasure in someone’s eternal damnation?????? I pray that Robin found his peace deep in the arms of the Saviour…… SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE THAT PROCLAIM CHRIST AND WISH HELL ON ANYONE!!!!!!

One of the disturbing trends I’ve seen is a small minority of self-proclaimed Christians who seem to take pleasure from the fact that Robin Williams is most likely suffering in Hell. I’ve seen posts commenting that he “deserved” to be in Hell because he mocked God – implying that while Williams deserved Hell, the writer did not. It grieves me that Williams is, in all likelihood, in Hell. It grieves me that most people reject Jesus Christ and go to Hell. It grieves me that, because of my sin, I deserve Hell. I just thank God that, through His grace and mercy, He reached me with the truth of His forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and I received Jesus as Savior. It’s not because I’m better than anyone else, or that God loves me more; it’s because I responded to God’s offer of salvation, which He freely extends to all, yet most reject.

It’s a sick person who wishes for anyone to go to Hell.

robin-williams-God-Laugh

I saw a comment somewhere to the effect that Robin Williams is in Heaven, making God laugh. In all probability, Williams is not in Heaven. God is not laughing; He is weeping. Satan is the one who is laughing.

Michael M. wrote,

Don’t know if that would be technically correct or not; I have seen a couple of recent interviews where he referenced being thankful for “a loving God”. Perhaps he had found some level of connection…according to his level of understanding. I sure hope so. In any case, this sort of ‘speaking ill of the dead’…to the detriment of friends and family…is NOT a ‘Christian’ thing to do. If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut.

The answer is not being thankful for “a loving God,” nor in finding “some level of connection…according to his level of understanding.” The answer is repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Savior. The apostle Paul put it this way:

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Belief is not simply an intellectual understanding. It involves commitment, repentance, and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. James 2:19 states that “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Demons are condemned to Hell, not because they lack intellectual understanding, but because they reject Jesus Christ. The same is true of people.

speaking-truth-loveOne thing Michael M. wrote that I wholeheartedly agree with: If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut. My fervent prayer is that anyone who reads this and doesn’t already know Jesus Christ as Savior will see this as a wake-up call to seek Jesus Christ, receive Him as Savior, and be saved. While Christians are commanded to preach the Gospel, we are also commanded to do so in love. Sometimes, the truth hurts. It hurts to realize I am a sinner. It hurts to know I deserve Hell. It hurts to discover there’s nothing I can do about it. It hurts to know that, in all likelihood, Robin Williams is in Hell, as will be most of the people I have known or admired. It hurts to know that God had to send His only begotten Son to die in my place. However, I fervently believe it is the truth. And, I love people enough to tell them the truth, not to make myself feel good, but in the hope that others will come to know Jesus Christ. If I didn’t love people, I wouldn’t care if they went to Hell. The most hateful thing I can imagine is to know the truth, and keep it to myself, not caring if others go to Hell, or not. To those who think you’re better than others, or that God loves you more: SHUT UP. You’re fools. Take the log out of your own eye, and quit trying to throw sawdust in the eyes of others.

Lastly, Troy S. wrote,

How about this for a thought! What if the way he died is a fail safe that God has in place for people who just can’t find him, but he still wants him as his own, so this unjust death so it may seem ,just means he is allowed to be with God eternally, but has to go out this way! I just don’t see a loving God giving up on his children so easily.

While I disagree with the notion that suicide is an automatic ticket to Hell, I also disagree with the notion that suicide might be an automatic ticket to Heaven. Neither concept is found in the Bible. The Bible is clear. Salvation is based on whether or not one has repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. Those that receive Christ go to Heaven; those who do not go to Hell.

My hope and prayer is that all of the discussion about the death of Robin Williams will cause some to seek the truth in Jesus Christ and be saved. I pray that other Christians will use Robin Williams’ death as an opening to share the Gospel and lead others to faith in Christ. I also pray that the hate-mongers and self-righteous legalist would just shut up, repent, and seek forgiveness.