ON The Edge Of Life

                               By Phil Scovell

          We  were on  an  all church  picnic.   It  was a  Saturday  and a
     beautiful time  of year.   Yes, Omaha, Nebraska had  beautiful weather
     occasionally and this  afternoon was one.  Perhaps the only one of the
     year but I remember how comfortable that afternoon was in early fall.

          After eating, a friend of mine and I took a walk around the park.
     We were in our early teens and Ryan was one of the few church kids who
     literally took the  time to  become a  friend after I  lost my  sight.
     Later,  in  public  high  school,  we  would  tandem  ride  his  Honda
     motorcycle to school, me holding on to the riding strap between  us to
     keep from falling  off, while holding  my attach  case with the  other
     hand and  my fiberglass white  cane tucked under  my arm.   We went to
     youth group  meetings together, rode  his motorcycle home in  the dark
     when it  was 20  degrees, and often  spent Sunday  afternoons together
     after church.  We  would later share some high school classes together
     and Ryan was one of my volunteer high school readers.

          I don't recall anything of our conversation in the park  that day
     but it  most certainly was light in nature.   School would be starting
     again in a few days, I would be leaving during the week  to attend the
     Nebraska school for the blind,  otherwise officially known at the time
     as the Nebraska School for the Visually Impaired, and Ryan, of course,
     would be attending  public school in Omaha.   We still would  see each
     other  on  weekends at  church  as  we  attended Sunday  school  class
     together and sat  in the services together.  It was  my last two years
     of high  school that I returned to public  school and Ryan and I would
     become even better friends.  Brothers might be more like it.

          So,  as we  are walking and  visiting, we  parallel a  wall about
     waist high.   We stop.  Our conversation continues.   My right hand is
     resting  on top  of  the  wall.   On  a whim,  and  for absolutely  no
     particular teenage reason,  I climbed up  on top of  the low wall  and
     hung my feet over the opposite side.   Ryan stayed where he was and we
     continued talking.  Thinking this wall was just a part of the park the
     divided one area from another, I consider jumping down and walking  in
     the  collected falling  crispy crunching  leaves as  we talked.   Just
     before dropping off the wall, I said, "Hey, Ryan?  What's on the other
     side of this wall?"

          Ryan said nonchalantly, "A little creek."

          "Really?" I said with amazement.  Frankly, I wondered if he might
     be joking.

          "Yep," he replied.

          His voice  sounded sincere but just to be  sure, I said, "How far
     down is it?"

          Ryan  leaned against the  wall and looked  over.   "Oh, I'd guess
     about 30 feet maybe."

          "I laughed nervously.  "Man.  I'm sure glad I asked."

          "Why?" He replied curiously.

          "I was getting ready to jump down to walk on the other side."

          We both laughed.

          This  event often comes  to mind  and has  done so  throughout my
     entire  adult life.   Of  course,  spiritually speaking,  there are  a
     number  of moral values which can be attributed to the experience such
     as, "Be  sure to look before you  leap," but of course,  in this case,
     I'm blind,  and was  at the  time, too,  so that  doesn't seem  valid.
     Other scenarios might be, "Ask for more  information before you make a
     decision,"  "The name  of the  game is  caution," "Some  things aren't
     worth the risk,"  "Make certain you know exactly  where you are before
     going where you think you want  to be," or as Bugs Bunny was  known to
     have once said, or was it Daffy Duck?  "Watch out.  That first step is
     a  loo loo."  The thoughts  which come to my  mind, on the other hand,
     may, at first, seem misplaced, but let me tell you about them anyhow.

          Recently, after eating some pizza for lunch, I switched the radio
     next  to me on  where it  sat on my  floor to  ceiling bookshelves, to
     several Christian stations.   I quickly drifted  off to sleep.   I had
     only had  a couple  of  hours of  sleep the  night before  so my  full
     stomach put me almost instantly into a hard slumber.

          When I awakened an hour later or so, a great man of God, now gone
     home to  be with the Lord, was teaching.   I have heard his nationally
     syndicated radio  programs many times  over the years and  have always
     admire him, his ministry, and  his theological stand upon the Word  of
     God.  Since I wasn't in any hurry to move, I sat quietly and listened.
     I don't  recall anything  he said  until he  got to  preaching on  his
     personal opinion about  people who commit suicide.   I came to  life a
     little more quickly  then, and turned  up the radio.   After all,  for
     several years, in my own ministry,  I have been asked many many  times
     about suicide.  Why?  Because, everyone I pray with is either suicidal
     at the time, has attempted it, or  thought about it hundreds of times,
     as have  I throughout my life.  Furthermore, killing yourself, in this
     country, is a big no no.  In fact, it is worse than a big no no.

          If  you  tell  the  wrong  person  of  your  feelings,  not  your
     intentions, just of  your suicidal feelings,  you may end  up in  bed,
     heavily  medicated, and restrained.  Oh it doesn't happen that way any
     more?   Go down  to your local  hospital, walk in,  and tell  the lady
     behind the desk, or counter, in the Emergency Room that you  are going
     to kill yourself and see how fast they put you up at  the front of the
     line ahead of  all those other couple hundreds of people seated in the
     waiting room  with broken legs  and arms, chicken wishbones  lodged in
     their throat, knife  fight open bleeding lacerations,  gunshot wounds,
     women having  babies, people injured  in car accidents,  and sometimes
     even one or  two unconscious people patiently waiting  their turned to
     be called on a busy Emergency Room Saturday night.  I even know a  guy
     who, while in a  Bible study, innocently mentioned to  someone in this
     Christian  group  that he  wanted  to  die and  within  hours, he  was
     strapped down to a  bed for seven  days and put on  suicide watch.   I
     well remember sitting  on the other side of a desk from a psychologist
     at the hospital who was filling out the forms for  me when she stopped
     and said,  "Now, Philip.  I'm  going to ask you a  couple of questions
     that I  have to write an answer for.  I don't want you to answer right
     away but think about the question first.  Your answer will make  a big
     difference on what, by law, I have to do and that is, turn you over to
     other medical authorities or even the police.   Do you understand what
     I am saying?"

          "Yes," I said although I already knew what she was going to ask.

          "Ok, Philip.  Remember.   Be cautious with your answers.   Do you
     now, or have you ever, wanted to kill yourself?"

          "No," I lied.

          "Have you ever harmed yourself in  the process of wanting to take
     your own life?"

          I  wanted to  say,  "Isn't  that question  related  to the  first
     question  which should  have the  same answer  but instead,  I intoned
     woodenly, "no."

          "And  finally," she  said  with some  relief as  if air  had been
     release  from an  excessively  inflated balloon,  "Have  you ever  had
     homicidal thoughts or tried to harm anyone?"

          My first  inclination was to say,  "Well, I once tried  killing a
     psychologist," but I didn't think  my humorous side would, under those
     conditions, be consider  humorous.  I  wanted to point out,  too, that
     this was two questions in one and the answer to the first was strictly
     related to the second half of the question, in my humble  opinion, but
     I figured  it wasn't time  to reinvent  the psychological wheel,  so I
     said, as dully as possible, "No."

          Anyhow, all these  thoughts suddenly sprang to mind  when I heard
     this elderly, howbeit,  Godly preacher, suddenly teaching  on suicide.
     I really was interested in  what he might have to say  because what he
     said  might be  something  I  could use  to  encourage other  suicidal
     people.  Boy, was I wrong.

          This   preacher's    voice   change,    not   perceptibly,    but
     overwhelmingly.  He  literally became sarcastic.  He  actually, God as
     my witness, began to literally make fun of those, who are  so selfish,
     they would take their own life.  He flatly, and decisively, proclaimed
     that  all suicidals  that  were  successful  in  their  attempts  went
     directly to hell.  Why?  Because they selfishly wanted to escape their
     pain.  I wish you could have heard his dripping sarcasm as he preached
     on this  point.  My fist  was already doubled  up and my arm  ready to
     swing until I remembered he was just  on the radio and not standing in
     the  room.   He  was  far from  clarifying  his point,  unfortunately,
     because he continued by contradicting himself.

          First he  said, God as  my witness,  "We surely cannot  judge any
     person or anyone's motives."  May I stop momentarily to point out that
     he was  doing exactly  that, judging, as  far as  it came  to suicide?
     Secondly, he  said, "If the  person was insane and  committed suicide,
     they  wouldn't go  to hell."   This  one really  threw me  for a  loop
     because how would he know which person was insane and which  wasn't at
     the  time or was he just going to  leave that up to God like he should
     have done in the first place before passing his theological judgement?
     He offered, by the way, not one Scripture for anything he said so take
     this theology  for  what  it  is  worth  and  that's  not  very  much.
     "Thirdly, returning  to his sarcastic  way of teaching, he  said, "The
     person committing  suicide was committing  self murder and  murder was
     sin."  Of course, he failed to quote the Scriptures which even forgive
     murderers so that even they, by the grace of God can go to Heaven, but
     he didn't quote any  other Scriptures either,  as I mentioned, so  why
     bother doing that now.

          The upshot  of  the theological  fallacy  he taught,  was  pretty
     clear.   He believe that  suicidal people are selfish,  self centered,
     stupid people  who didn't give a damn  about anybody but themselves so
     they  deserved  suffering  in  hell   for  eternity,  if  they  killed
     themselves, regardless of how much emotional  pain they were suffering
     on earth.  I've heard some pretty poor preaching in my day, some of it
     I've even done myself, but this great man of God, and I still consider
     him to  be one of the all  time greats who lived in  my life time, had
     rocks in his head when  it came to this topic.   So, let's talk  about
     suicide  since there are  some pretty,  right down  theological stupid
     opinions on the  topic.  Mine certainly  can't be any worse  than what
     you have just heard.

          First,  let  me ask  you  a question  I  have  asked myself  many
     hundreds of times, even  recently, to be perfectly honest.   The short
     version is  this.  How many  times can a  Christian fail before  he is
     considered a failure?   Now,  here is  the long version  of that  same
     question.  How  many times can you  fail before God finally  throws up
     His hands and says, "I freaking give up.  You are impossible.  All you
     care about is yourself.  You never once think about me, unless you are
     hurting or have gotten yourself into trouble, and I can't remember the
     last  time you once  considered what I've  done for you  on the cross.
     And what about my bodily resurrection?  Doesn't that prove anything to
     you?  Here you are,  threatening to kill yourself and I'm the one, for
     crying out loud, who gave  you life.  All you do is  mope around, cry,
     tell me how much everybody hates you, complain about always being weak
     and that you don't  have any friends, and worst of  all, you hate your
     freaking self.  Grow up, will you?   How many times do I have to prove
     that I love you before you get it.  Go ahead, then.  Kill yourself.  I
     give up on you but don't come knocking on Heavens gate and waiting for
     a positive  answer if you pull your own  plug because I won't answer."
     Excuse me,  but does this sound like  the same Jesus you know?   If it
     does, don't feel  bad because most suicidals do think a lot like this.
     No, it isn't true  and never has been but they feel like  it is.  Why?
     Because the  dumb ass devil is lying  through his teeth to  them and a
     couple of dumb ass  preachers, too, that shall remain  nameless.  Now,
     according to this  preacher, and if I mentioned his name, everybody on
     the planet reading this article, would know who I am talking about, if
     you are crazy, the preacher's term was  insane, and you kill yourself,
     well, then, by God, that's different.  Jesus will  forgive you because
     you are nuts  and you get  to go to Heaven.   The moral logic  of this
     erroneous  theological  bilge  is that  only  crazy  people committing
     suicide get to go  to Heaven but sane people go to hell if they commit
     suicide?    Holy Toledo  is that  screwed  up theology  or what?   God
     deliver me from  stupid preachers.  Well, this old man knows the truth
     about suicide  now for sure because he  is dead.  I would  bet my last
     dollar that Jesus  straightened him out, first thing,  the second this
     preacher crossed over  into the Glory Land, too.  If Jesus didn't, and
     hasn't, I certainly will when I  get there and without being suicidal,
     which I'm not, I trust  I'll be there sooner rather than  later.  Come
     on Jesus!  Let me out of this place and deliver me from compassionless

          So, back  to my question.   How  many times do  you have  to fail
     before you are a  failure?  You have failed for  the last freaking God
     bless it time and Jesus ain't putting up with you any more?  Yes,  you
     are correct.  It  is incredibly stupid.   This ain't the Jesus we  all
     know and love so stop it right now and you have my permission to shout
     down any dumb butt preacher who makes fun of hurting people regardless
     of the pain they experience.

          What  does  this have  to  do with  me  jumping off  a  wall, not
     realizing  I would  drop 30  feet  into a  small creak,  maybe killing
     myself?  Nothing.   I just wanted to bring up  what this preacher said
     that  was  so stupid.    I  do have  a  point to  make  about  my wall
     experience which  you will  find interesting but  you'll have  to keep
     reading to discover the truth.

          May I tell you what is wrong about taking your own life, that is,
     committing suicide?   Ok, good.   I'm glad you  want to know.   It  is
     wrong, perhaps  we should  say sin,  because you  aren't God.   That's
     right.   You heard me.   You aren't God and  that's the simple answer.
     Did you know that even Satan cannot take your life?  Why  is that, you
     ask?   He ain't got the power,  or in other words,  Satan doesn't have
     the authority of life  and death.  Jesus is the only  one who has that
     power and authority.  Look  it up for yourself and read  it in Matthew
     10:28 if you doubt it.  So what does this mean?  It means, if you take
     your own life,  you have made yourself bigger than God.  You've become
     judge of the universe.  Not wise, really.  Totally unacceptable  for a
     Christian.   By the way,  I am only  talking about Christians  killing
     themselves now.  Lost  people are on their own.   "But hasn't a person
     who has killed themselves, lost  their salvation?"  Chapter and verse,
     please.  There  ain't nothing that  says any such  thing in the  Bible
     like that so throw that Bible away you are reading and buy a good one.

          Before continuing,  let me  explain why my  belief on  suicide is
     somewhat a problem.  when people  ask me, I have to carefully  word it
     in such a way that they don't say, "Hot dog.  I knew  it!  I'm running
     right out into traffic and getting run  over.  Thank you Jesus."  Hold
     up  there, partner.  That isn't the way  it works.  It puts me in mind
     of a friend who tried killing himself once.  He got his neighbor, when
     he  overdosed, to rush  him to the  Emergency Room.   Later, when they
     were sure he wasn't in any danger, he was taken to visit with a mental
     health counselor of  some kind.  The  counselor admitted he had  tried
     killing  himself once after asking my  friend if he had ever attempted
     it before now.  My friend said, yes, and in fact was going to use a 22
     rifle.   The  mental health specialist  said, "Don't bother  with a 22
     rifle.   If you want  to make it  work, use a  45 instead.   That will
     work."  That may be true, you see, but it also may not be good advice.
     You get  my  meaning here?   My  point is,  just because  I believe  a
     Christian committing  suicide doesn't  go to hell,  doesn't mean  I am
     right and it doesn't mean anybody should do it.

          God has principles in His Word he requires His people to live by.
     He has reasons for these principles, too.  I was taught, growing up in
     a Baptist church,  that certain things were just the way they were and
     you  shouldn't question it.   In fact,  to question it  demonstrated a
     lack of faith, or something, and  this made God mad, or it might.   If
     it did, you were  in trouble.  I know better now,  of course, and have
     learned that  God isn't  afraid of any  question we may  ask.   Let me
     sight an example.

          Let's talk about sex for an  example.  How's that sound?   Why is
     sex outside of marriage  sin?  Wrong  is the wrong word.   It is  sin,
     plain and  simple.  Why is the real question.  The real answer is that
     it distorts and fractures the picture of holiness that Christ has with
     His Bride; the Church.  That's us, of course.  So, premarital sex, sex
     before marriage,  or what  the Bible  normally calls  fornication, and
     extramarital sex,  what the  Bible calls adultery,  is sin  because of
     what  it   does.    This  means,  obviously,   sexuality,  and  sexual
     expressiveness, is spiritual  by its very nature.   It is, spiritually
     wrong outside of marriage, and  spiritual right and whole and complete
     within the context of marriage.  Jesus said, a married  couple becomes
     one flesh.   This  makes sex outside  of marriage,  or the act  of one
     flesh, literally  impossible.  Thus,  it is called sin.   Biologically
     speaking, it is normal  but only within the confines of  marriage.  If
     what I said is true, then if a person sins in this manner, can they be
     forgiven?  I'm sure you know the answer.

          Murder is a  crime against society.   It is the taking of  a life
     which goes against God's divine picture of relationship.  Furthermore,
     we do not have the right to judge another life as does  the Lord.  He,
     and  He alone, has the power of life and  of death.  To take a life is
     sin and God alone  set the rules for such a sin.   Can the murderer be
     forgiven?  Yes, in the same way all sin is forgiven.  Society has been
     given license by God, on the other hand, to carry out His authority in
     His name.  Thus, as harsh as it is, capital punishment is  still valid
     in  the New Testament  age.  I'm  not suggesting  for a moment  that I
     could be the doctor who administers the lethal injection,  or than man
     that  flips the  switch, pulls the  trigger, trips the  trap door when
     hanging was still applied even to horse thieves, or participate in any
     way enforcing death by the gas  chamber.  I also wouldn't like  living
     next door to an atomic power plant  even though I believe in them.   I
     live nextdoor to  a freaking gas station,  for crying out loud,  and I
     don't  like  that  either but  I  still  believe  we should  have  gas
     stations.   We  all get  one  vote, in  social matters,  or  we should
     perhaps is  a better  way of  saying it,  so sometimes,  society isn't
     going to  follows God's laws of life  and death.  Such is  the cost of
     living in a free society.  Abortion is another  such theological topic
     upon which God clearly  speaks but society  has chosen otherwise.   If
     this bothers you  even as a Christian,  try moving to one  of the Arab
     countries and see how you like living under their laws.

          Closely connected to this topic, in some twisted way of thinking,
     which has  generally always been my style,  I was once again listening
     to Christian radio.   I'm beginning to think perhaps I  should give up
     listening   to  Christian  broadcasting  all  together.    Anyhow,  my
     favorite, I repeat,  my favorite preacher, more of a  Bible teacher he
     is, said something  else equally  as stupid  as the  other well  known
     megachurch preacher I  have already mentioned.  He  basically said the
     following.  Carnality, for the Christian, is sinful, or living in  the
     flesh.  By the way, I'm talking now about the  word "carnal" found in,
     for  example, Romans 8:7, "The carnal mind  is enmity against God," is
     the word for (flesh).  Now, it is in no way referring to your physical
     body but that  is the word  which is used.   Maybe this  is where  the
     nonbiblical axiom of "Cleanliness is  next to Godliness" came from but
     the Apostle Paul is not trying to tell born again Christians  that God
     has spiritual  hostility against their  physical bodies.  By  the way,
     the word "enmity" which is used in  the text, refers to hostility.  So
     what would  you think  it  is talking  about?   That's right.   It  is
     speaking  of  spiritual  things.     If  our  minds  are  filled  with
     unholiness, lying  concepts, and fractured Scriptural  precepts, since
     this isn't the  nature of God's mind, we are going  to be in conflict,
     that  is, we will be unable to agree  with God and His Word.  This man
     said, however,  that if you  are discouraged or depressed  or unhappy,
     you are a carnal Christian and living in carnality will not put you in
     favor with  God.   I reached over  and switched the  radio off.   Why?
     Because what he had just taught was not only unbiblical but just plain
     stupid.   The Apostle  Paul was not  saying any  such thing.   This is
     faith gone amuck  or as the  old country preacher  used to say,  "That
     preaching has gone  to seed."  In  short, this preacher was  trying to
     teach  that  if  you  become sad,  broken  hearted,  upset, depressed,
     discouraged, feel  disappointed or frustrated as a  Christian, you are
     living carnally, that  is, sinfully.  You may not be in agreement with
     God at the time but you are not carnal.   That's me preaching now, not
     this knucklehead to whom I just referred.  Go back and read the  Bible
     and tell me how  many great men of God, some even called the friend of
     God, who didn't  experience discouragement, depression, and  all these
     other things the radio preacher was trying to declare carnal in nature
     and thus  displeasing to God.  If  what he said is true,  then how can
     you explain the compassion God has?  You can't nor can  that preacher.
     You see, the mistake  these two preachers are making is  simple.  They
     believe in a relationship with God is based upon you, not God, not the
     Holy Spirit, not Jesus  Christ, but that is based upon you and you are
     capable of turning off and on.   You are in control, they  believe, so
     whatever you think is what is true.  Sorry, but that is dead wrong and
     felonious theology.  It's also stupid but then  I've already said that
     a  few  times.   For  example, if  you  try and  carry  this ambiguous
     teaching  to its  logical carnal  conclusion, you  would have  to say,
     during  times of  sorrow or  sadness,  discouragement and  depression,
     Jesus  isn't  the  Lord  of your  life.    Thus,  you  aren't a  happy
     Christian.  The name of this  man's set of tapes, by the way,  is "How
     To  Be A Happy Christian."   He claims, I've heard  him myself say it,
     that he has never been sad or discouraged or depressed in the 30 years
     plus he has  been in the ministry.   Actually, since I  have heard him
     describe a very specific  period of time that he was super discouraged
     and about ready to give up, I think  what he meant was, he hasn't been
     sad or  discouraged or depressed  since he learned how  to perpetually
     live by faith.  If this is true, then God bless him but his experience
     isn't mine, or King  David's or Paul's or that of  Moses, Elijah, Job,
     Jonah, John the  baptizer, Jeremiah, and a whole bunch more men of God
     I could list.  Even Jesus would fall into this list.  Remember?  Jesus
     swept at the tomb of Lazarus.

          "Oh, ho,  that is  where I've  got you,"  they say.   "Jesus  was
     crying about the unbelief  of the people around Him and  not about His
     friend's death."

          Let's say you  are correct.  I don't  think you are but  just for
     argument's sake,  let's say  you are  right.   If Jesus  was a  Spirit
     filled man, which He was, and a Prophet,  which He was, and He was the
     Son  of God, which  He was,  and even God  Himself, which  He was, why
     would He  allow His emotions  to get the better  of Him and  weep over
     those who He knew would reject Him.  See what happens when you come up
     with your own  theology?  You see,  your emotions are not  born again.
     They are  still a part of the mind, which is still a part of the body,
     and it  is only  your spirit that  is born again.   Yes, you  can, and
     should, discipline  your mind  and body, at  least according  to James
     1:21, but Jesus is still Lord regardless of how you feel.   You do not
     have to feel  happy to be a good  Christian.  You do not  have to feel
     good to know in  your heart that Jesus is still Lord  of your life and
     you are on your way to Heaven.

          What  does my wall  experience have  to do with  any of this?   I
     asked  Jesus that  question while  writing this  article and  He said,
     "Think about it."

          I did but couldn't see it and said so.

          "What happened?" He asked me.

          I said, "Nothing."

          "Right," I heard  his voice say.  "You didn't jump.  You listened
     to your inner voice, that is, your spirit."

          What the Holy Spirit was trying to show me, at least one thing He
     was trying to show  me, was that just because the thought came to drop
     down  on to the  other side  of the wall,  instead of going  ahead and
     listening to that suggestion, I heard my own spirit communicating with
     myself.   Of course,  my born again  spirit is  where the  Holy Spirit
     lives and from where He speaks to my mind upon which my emotions react
     regardless of the  circumstances.  Let me  repeat what I just  said so
     you will stop and think  about it.  My born again spirit  is where the
     Holy Spirit lives and  from where He speaks to  my mind upon which  my
     emotions react regardless  of the circumstances.  bottom  line?  Don't
     jump without  listening and while  you are  at it,  stop listening  to
     those dumb radio preachers who are more interested in your money  than
     in you.

     Safe Place Fellowship
     Phil Scovell
     Denver, Colorado
     Mountain Time Zone

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