How Come?

Once in a while, I’m going to use this blog as a way to answer some questions I’ve received. I recently got this one—and maybe you have friends who struggle with this as well:

It doesn’t seem fair that God would send people to hell who have never heard of Him. How can this be?


First of all, does the answer to this question change whether or not Christianity is true?

It doesn’t.

If God exists and has revealed Himself to us, and if Christ is the only way to God, then the question may puzzle us, but it won’t change the truth of the Christian message, will it?

The Bible teaches us that God is holy, just, unchanging and all-loving. This means that God will always do what’s right—even though our finite minds don’t understand. We CAN trust Him to do what’s right.

I like what two passages in the book of Romans tell us:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities

his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20.)


And “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15).


These passages claim that everyone has an inherent knowledge of God, and this can be clearly known from creation and that everyone also has a God-given moral compass.

Is it true, then, that “those who have never heard,” really have no idea of God’s existence or of their moral responsibilities? Biblically speaking, it’s not true.

“Those who have never heard” have heard something and they do have access to key information about God. They know that God exists, that there’s a moral standard and that they’ve broken this standard.

Check out what 2 Peter 3:9 tells us: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

So we know that God desires everyone come to Him through Christ, but not all will.

We, however, don’t have access to a list of who will respond to God and who won’t.

So early Christianity in the Bible places a huge emphasis on missionary efforts.

Let’s go to Romans 10:13-15 for the importance of Christian evangelism when it comes to reaching those who have never heard: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

In other words, Christians are actively spreading the message of Jesus so that “those who have never heard” will get an opportunity to hear. You may have heard or read various missionary stories about those who have never heard the gospel but who have responded to God’s general revelation (through nature . . . through God’s stirrings in their hearts, etc.) and are later visited by Christian missionaries.

The Bible records just such a story about the guy named Cornelius. He knew about God, but not about Christ. Because of his sincere desire to know God, Cornelius came in direct contact with the Apostle Peter who told Cornelius about Jesus (see Acts 10 for the entire story).

Here’s something interesting to chew on: Two guys (Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson) wrote “Is Hell Real?” and they say this:

“How could it be fair and just for those who have never even had a chance to hear the gospel, which is necessary for salvation, to be condemned to hell? The question sounds powerful, but behind it lie faulty assumptions.”

What are these “faulty assumptions”?

“The first mistaken assumption is that our condemnation is based on a rejection of the gospel. Scripture teaches that our condemnation is based on the fact that we are sinners, not because at some point in time we rejected the gospel . . . Furthermore, God’s wrath is revealed against everyone who suppresses His truth revealed through creation . . . Strictly speaking, the Bible denies that there are persons who have never heard of God.”

Morgan and Peterson go on to explain another faulty assumption, this one having to do with “a confusion of justice and mercy.”

God is merciful in that He has provided a way of salvation through Christ for those who will accept Him. But God is also just in that unrepentance will not go unnoticed.


Let’s remember this: We know that God will deal fairly with those who haven’t received a direct presentation of the gospel, just as He will deal fairly with those who have. But is God’s way too narrow?

No way.

God’s way is wide enough for everyone willing to accept it and receive Christ. The most important question any of us can answer is the one Jesus asked His own disciples, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20).

Bottom line: God is just. He is fair. And we can trust Him. We don’t have to understand Him to know that we can trust Him.



(I worked at Focus on the Family for almost 20 years, and some of these thoughts have come from materials they shared with us.)


I’m speaking in Lansing, Mich., this weekend. Will you pray that God moves in a mighty way in our services?



God wants to reward you.

He says this in Revelation 2:2: “I know how many good things you are doing. I have watched your hard work. . . .” (The Living Bible)

He knows exactly how many good things you’ve done.

Think about it: Every good thing you do is seen by your heavenly Father. And He’s hugging you for it. He’s applauding you.

He’s affirming and encouraging you because of your good deeds.

It’s easy to think no one notices when we go out of our way.

We tend to think no one cares that we took food to a sick friend,

or used a fourth tank of gas to help someone run errands.

But all these things are extremely important to God.

Why are they important?

It’s certainly not good works that saves us.

We’re saved by His grace.

But works are important to God.

In fact, we’re told in James 2:14-17 that good works are an essential ingredient to our faith. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (English Standard Version).

The apostle James goes on to say, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (2:26).

Works alone won’t save us. But pretty soon after we become a Christian, God starts talking to us about getting involved in good works. He wants to use us to help those in and outside of the church.

When my dad passed away Feb. 6, I was immensely encouraged by the good works from people in the Body of Christ. Meals, flowers, phone calls, e-mails, cards and thousands of prayers were given in my behalf—and I am STILL being strengthened by those good works.

Let’s commit to involving ourselves in good works so that Christ Himself can be glorified. And know that He will reward you eternally for those works.




I’m speaking at the Dallas District Ladies retreat this Friday and Saturday—and at the Church of the Nazarene in McKinney, TX on Sunday morning. I’d love to know your prayers are behind me.

We Have a Weapon

We hate satan.

And we hate it when he messes with us.

But guess what—God has given you a weapon to rip satan’s strategies to shreds.

We’re told in Ephesians 6:17 that God has gifted us with the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.

The sword referred to in this Scripture, comes from the Greek word machaira, and it was a horrific weapon that would inflict fatal damage. It’s tip was constructed upward, and sometimes it was even twisted. So when it was thrust inside an enemy’s stomach his insides were immediately shredded when the sword was twisted.

But our Scripture in Ephesians says this sword (machaira) is also the Word of God. How do the two relate? The term word here is from the Greek word rhema. It means “a quickened word.”

And what does THAT mean?

You’ve probably experienced it but didn’t recognize it as such.

Maybe you’ve been in a tough situation and God uses His Spirit to suddenly bring a specific Scripture to your mind. That’s rhema. The Word of God is sharp. It quickly defeats satan. That’s why Christ used it as ammunition when He was tempted in the desert.

The next time you’re battling satan, make it a point to immediately draw your machaira and trust God to use His Word to defeat your enemy. This is why it’s so important to read the Bible consistently—the Holy Spirit can’t bring to your mind what you haven’t read. Will you allow this to be a loving reminder to read the Word regularly? Even reading one chapter a day will make a huge difference in your life.




I’m speaking in Independence, KS this weekend and in Pittsfield, IL next week. Please pray for me.

God Holds Us Close

Many of you know that my precious Dad (Elmer B. Shellenberger) passed away a month ago. He was almost 93.

He was my hero.

When I was a little girl, I asked him to build me something:

“Daddy, will you make me one of those things that people stand behind when they speak?”

“You mean . . . a podium?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Honey, why do you want a podium?”

“So I can speak, Daddy.”

I watched as he gathered some old wood and during the next week carefully constructed a little three-foot-podium that I could stand behind in our garage

I gathered all the kids in the neighborhood and they piled themselves between bicycles, basketballs, hula-hoops and skateboards in our garage while I stood behind my little pint-sized podium teaching them the stories of the Bible. Ha!

I have a lot of great memories of my dad (and also my mom who passed away in 2003), and I’m grateful for those.

But in the midst of wonderful stories, the path of grief remains.

Even though both parents are in heaven, I miss them on earth.

Many of you have lost someone through death, and you know first-hand how difficult the path of grief is.

I rejoice that we serve a God of extreme comfort.

He often comforts me through His Word.

He reaches right through the pages and holds me tightly in His arms.

That’s why I’ve attached this illustration today.

I want you to visually SEE what we can FEEL when we literally saturate ourselves in His Word.




I’m speaking in Fortville, IN this weekend.

I’d sure appreciate your prayers.

Outside the Box

One glance at the Grand Canyon, a laughing hyena and Niagara Falls shows that we serve a God of creativity. And because HE is creative, He loves to pour His creativity into His children.

Check out one of my favorite Scriptures from the Message:

“Live creatively, friends.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.

Don’t be impressed with yourself.

Don’t compare yourself with others.

Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Galatians 6: 1; 4-5).


What happens when we allow God to lead us outside the box?

“Promise Keepers” happens.

“Women of Faith” is launched.

“Passion” conferences” explode.

Hillsong goes global.

Revival sweeps through churches.


If we become spiritually comfortable, we grow stale. In fact, we can get so comfortable that we stop stepping out in faith to take risks that we easily took in earlier days.

God wants to use us!

But if we aren’t living in obedience to Him,

He’ll easily find someone else to do the job.

He’ll find someone who’s willing to step out in faith.

One who believes faith and risk often go hand-in-hand.

He’ll use someone who’s willing to think outside the box that we’ve become trapped in.

Yellow Cab could have created Uber.

Hilton could have created Airbnb.

ESPN could have created Bleacher Report.

Wal-Mart could have created Amazon.

So why didn’t they?

They became comfortable where they were.

And now—those who were willing to think outside of the box—are giving them a run for their money!

Let’s not make the mistake of becoming too comfortable.

“Live creatively, friends. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Galatians).




I’ll be speaking seven times in Leesburg, VA, this weekend and would appreciate your prayers.

Let’s Cry About It

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah






Both were rejected and mistreated.

Though Jeremiah’s story can be depressing,

it CAN encourage us.


He was called a liar, (Jeremiah 43:2) . . .

was left in the mud at the bottom of a well to die . . . (Jeremiah 38:6), his Bible was burned (Jeremiah 36:23) . . .

he received a death sentence (Jeremiah 26:11) . . .

and he was beaten and put in stocks (Jeremiah 20:1-2).


No wonder he was called the “weeping prophet!”

I’d blubber like a baby if I were in his shoes.

But Jeremiah wasn’t weeping for himself!

He was weeping for those who had rejected Christ.

He was broken-hearted for the lost.


When was the last time you wept for someone who doesn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?


Let’s ask God to break our hearts for the lost.

Jeremiah experienced rejection and a lot of suffering.

But he kept preaching to those who refused to listen.

We can, too!





I’m speaking in Naperville, IL this weekend.

Will you pray for me?

He Is With You

Has it been a rough week?

Do you need some encouragement?


“The One who formed you says,

‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are Mine.

When you go through deep waters,

I will be with you.

When you go through rivers of difficulty,

you will not drown.

When you walk through the fire of oppression,

you will not be burned up;

the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Do not me afraid, for I am with you’”

(Isaiah 43:1-3; 5 NLT).


My precious Dad entered heaven this week. We had his funeral
service today. He was ready for heaven! And I’m so grateful for the
wonderful spiritual heritage he left me.


I’m speaking in Salem, OR this weekend and would appreciate your prayers.

Come Back Home

I had been speaking for about a week and a half and was glad to be home. All was perfect: My two miniature Schnauzers were happy Mama was back and Amos had curled his body into a tight little ball in his doggie bed while Obie was nestled underneath a blanket on my lap as I relaxed and watched a little TV.

When I got up to get some munchies, Obie ran outside. I came back and resumed relaxing thinking he was curled next to Amos. About half an hour later, my doorbell rang. Who could be on my porch at 8 pm? I thought. It was totally dark and cold outside.

I turned on the porch light, opened the door and was greeted by my neighbor and friend Mark who was holding Obie in his arms. What?

Mark laughed and said, “Melissa and I were watching TV and looked up to see Obie staring at us from the patio.”

Obie had dug underneath the fence between our yards and decided to visit the neighbors.

I scooped the little furball into my arms and said, “I didn’t even know he was gone! Thanks so much for bringing him home.”

Allow me to state the obvious: Sometimes we tend to wander spiritually—but it’s such a slight detour that we don’t immediately realize we’re not where we should be.

I’m so thankful for a loving heavenly Father who will scoop us in His arms, invite us in from the cold and bring us right back to where we need to be.