You Didn’t Really Mean That, Did You?- Answering the Hell Question, Part 2

October 10, 2008

(This is the second in a four part series of posts dealing with the age-old question “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” This answer was originally developed as a reply to an email I received. Today’s post deals with the objection “I don’t see how a loving God could send people to hell, therefore hell must not exist.”)

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” -2 Thessalonians 1.9

Now, let us first deal with the question of “Does hell exist?” The denial of hell is currently a very popular position, particularly among the emergent camp of Christianity and from people like Brian McLaren. In fact, I would argue that the doctrine of hell is one of the top issues that Christians need to be given sound instruction on these days in light of this trend. To deny the existence of hell is simply something that we cannot do and not, at the same time, deny the authority of Scripture, for Scripture speaks so plainly on it quite often (Matthew 5.29, 30, 10.28, 23.33, 25.41, Luke 12.5, 2 Thessalonians 1.5-9, 2 Peter 2.4, Revelation 20.11-15).

Of course, the objection which arises to this type of analysis is that when Christ and others spoke of “hell” as a place they were just being symbolic and therefore those passages are useless. But to that I would say, What is hell but being “away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1.9)? For us, though we may not realize it, the greatest gift is to be fully in the presence of God and the greatest torture is to be fully away from his presence. Thus, the first, wherever it may take place, is rightly termed ‘heaven,’ and the second, again, be it a literal fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth or not, would be rightly called ‘hell.’ This also takes away the argument that this current life is what hell is, since in this life on earth we know we are neither fully in God’s presence nor fully removed from it.

Therefore, our conclusion on the first question, Does hell exist?, must be “Yes,” and so, the one remaining question must be then “Does anyone get sent to hell (for eternity)?”

Power Through His Spirit- Reflections on a Sunday with God

September 21, 2008

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” -Ephesians 3.14-17a

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” -Romans 12.1

At 7:30am I lifted up a prayer that God may remove any burden of sin I may be feeling at that time, any feelings of unworthiness which would separate me from Him, so that I may serve Him well this day. At 8:45am a wave swept over me, warming my insides and doing just as I’d asked. By 6:15pm I sat in the sanctuary, after teaching two lessons of my own, hearing one sermon and sitting through one Sunday School class, and all I could feel in worshiping at this time was the tingling hug of the Spirit around my body.

So many Sundays come and go without so much fanfare. Today was nothing special to begin with, but for whatever reason, on this day the Lord moved in my heart in ways that are hard to explain. Nothing really changed, and yet the impact of being in His presence this day was so great. The knowledge of His glory and power and mercy and grace was so satisfying that it was all that consumed my thoughts.

My day to day life is filled with distractions at all places, making the attributes of God a mere intellectual exercise to talk about. But for one day, those things which I try to pin down through reading and writing fine words became so real and so inexpressible that I understand why I so infrequently get it. Words are not nearly enough.

Standing there with that feeling makes me understand why David dances unashamedly before the Lord and declares that “I will make merry before the LORD. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this” (2 Samuel 6.16-22). It is in feeling this that I understand Jeremiah who says “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20.9). My whole body wants to dance and proclaim the greatness of God! How amazing!

I know that very shortly I shall sin, become distracted and lose focus on this indescribable moving which God has done in me. But for the moment I am grasped by the love of Christ, which fulfills my soul and surpasses my knowledge (Ephesians 3.19), and all I can be is thankful for what He has done! Hallelujah!

Rebuilding the City- The Work of the Church in the 21st Century

September 8, 2008

Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’” -Nehemiah 2.17

‘Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel- he is the God who is in Jerusalem.’” -Ezra 1.3

Over the past week I have begun reading over what is probably my second favorite book of the Bible, and definitely my favorite in the Old Testament, that being the book of Nehemiah. In reading it my attention has been turned once again to Nehemiah’s call to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and his efforts to cleanse the city of all of its’ impurities, be it from within the Israelites or from without. This, of course, is great biblical history, but I can’t help but seeing something more when I read it.

The something more I see in Nehemiah is this: Nehemiah has been called to return to God’s holy city, to rebuild its walls and to reestablish his people there. For over a hundred years the Israelites were beat down and derided in this place, but in the years of his ministry Nehemiah (along with Ezra and others) saw to it that Jerusalem would once again stand out as the city on top of the hill, shining down the glory of God to all the nations. In the same way, as we stand, the church in America has been ravaged, attacked from all angles, inside and out, and subjected to ridicule and hatred in the public square. It has fallen from the shining city on a hill which led the foundation of this country and has become a place of scorn or of “useful idiots” for advancing secular agendas. Just as Nehemiah came and rebuilt Jerusalem, so must we rebuild the church in our nation (This of course, is not specifically a flaw in America, but in all Western societies in general. Refer back to my posts on The Laodicean Project for more).

So, what I propose to do with my posts over the next couple weeks is to extract a few principles that we see revealed in God’s Word in the books of Nehemiah and his contemporaries (Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) and to discuss what I think it says to us as Christians about how we should act in moving towards rebuilding the church in our nation.

Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 15 and 16

July 19, 2008

“Send them out of my sight, and let them go!” (15.1b)

God will not always dwell with us if we continue to disobey. This is the danger both corporately and individually. This is why we shouldn’t continue in sin so grace should abound (Romans 6.1). I know that this fear long tormented my soul. We must understand this so we don’t continue to live in the arrogance of our sins, assuming God won’t afflict us.

“I am weary of relenting.” (15.6b)

Wow! I hope to never hear this!

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” (15.16)

I hope everyday to be able to receive and internalize God’s Word to have faith in what I’ve heard through it, and delight in all that’s been revealed. Let me never have a heart which rejects your word, no matter how hard, but help me always stand on the sufficiency of your voice.

“And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the LORD.” (15.20)

Fed on God’s Word I will be made to stand firm for his purpose on earth. God will protect me. Though the world may hate me God will deliver me. All I need do is stay faithful to his word. This must be the passion and desire of my heart everyday, stepping out in courage that in the end God may make me more than a conquerer (Romans 8.37).

“And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?’ 11then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me.” (16.10-12)

God’s decree and reasoning are clear. We are not stricken without course. How arrogant is it to have his warning before us and not care. There must be change in the land. People must fall to their knees before God, starting with myself, before God brings us to our knees through suffering and loss. We must be about making God’s name known and working so that his Spirit may be unleashed on the nations through us. I pray that God may use me to start reform in the church. Show me God what needs cleansed so that you can use me in such a manner. Break me so that I may be used to break others!

“Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!” (16.20)

We cannot make gods, through we try. All that ever comes out are vein worthless idols. Help me not to make idols.

” . . . and they shall know that my name is the LORD.” (16.21b)

God won’t leave any stone unturned. Everyone shall know that he is Lord. That he alone has authority. The attitude today is for none to have authority, but thankfully one day God will make it known to all that he has always ruled. How much better it will be on that day if we were to recognize his Lordship beforehand.

Impressions from the Word- Jeremiah 13 and 14

July 16, 2008

(This post is the next in a series of posts containing my first blush reactions to passages I come across in the reading of Scripture. I am currently going straight through the book of Jeremiah and will be sharing with you which verses the Spirit causes to jump out at me and the unrevised, unpolished feelings which they invoke.)

“I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen.” (13.26)

There is so much shame associated with sin. I do things and have done things willingly, sometimes eagerly, and yet afterwards was so ashamed and fearful that anyone would find out. Why do I do such things? I especially see this when I lie to perfect strangers. I am so concerned about how people perceive me that I put my image before God’s command. I set myself up as an idol, that obedience to God is secondary to serving my own interests. What great shame it would be to see all of my sins replayed in front of people! Knowing this, why would I provoke God in such a way? If the Spirit is convicting otherwise then why am I not terrified to just do my own thing? A lack of fear is such a dangerous thing to suffer from.

“How long will it be before you are made clean?” (13.27b)

There is so much frustration in feeling like I have utterly killed a sin and then stumbling over it again. I fear losing the connection I have with God. I fear wasting all of the amazing things he has revealed to me and that I see he has planned. How long will it be till I no longer fail? I know I will not attain perfection (Philippians 3.12) but there must be certain sins that I should rise above eventually, right? And yet I feel as if I fall into sins which I should have killed off years ago! I can never stop, it is never complete. Owen is right that mortification is a constant process. I must not lay off actively seeking to kill certain sins or else they will bounce back to hinder me once again.

“Why should you be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save?” (14.9a)

We get so angry when God does not protect us from hard times and sufferings. We run from him endlessly and yet when we stumble, fall, turn around, and see he’s not there, we cry foul. Why do we think we’re so good that God should always protect us? Our appeal should be for forgiveness and restoration, not that God has been faithless. Of course, God answers where he is in verse 10: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them.”

“And the LORD said to me: ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.’” (14.14)

How many prophets are out in the Church today who are prophesying lies in God’s name? This is so dangerous. Their lies pull the hearers away from the truth, their deceit inhibits repentance which will lead to restoration. We must be vigilant against such speakers. We must search the Spirit to test the validity of those who preach in our presence (1 John 4.1-3). This is such a burden on my heart. When I see these false prophets I want to scream. I get so angered at how they manipulate God’s Word and use it as a weapon of destruction, facilitating lies and guiding men safely to hell. We have to be responsible and well educated in the Word so that when these wolves arise we can beat them away before they ever take hold. Titus 1.9 is so necessary here.

“And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them- them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.” (14.16)

The hearers of lying prophets are not safe either, for they should have known to test the message they received. Thus they are guilty and will be punished alongside the deceiver. That is why we must not tolerate the crap that people want to publish and preach about these days!

What’s Coming Up and a Beautiful Song

June 15, 2008

“Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” -Psalm 51:11-15

Now that I am back from vacation I have decided to start a new series of posts coming up over this next little bit here on my blog. These posts will be a slight departure from the heavy theological ruminations which have typically graced your screen and will instead offer a deeper look at me as a person and as to how God has formed me throughout the 23 years of my life so far. I hope during this time to present to all of you a down to earth account of the sins that have entangled my life and the things which God has done through them to get me to where I am today. As well I want for this to serve as a way of breaking through the academically-inclined granite exterior I have been presenting these past several months and open up the real me to a global audience for inspection. All in all I look forward to sharing myself with all of you and pray that my testimony of salvation and continued sanctification will be an influence and dare I say inspiration to some of you who may be dealing with the same issues right now.

Also, I wanted to share with you guys an amazing song which I first heard a few weeks ago at my daughter’s ballet recital. It is by Saving Jane and is entitled “You Say.” Enjoy!

Saving Jane- “You Say”

I’m Going to Disney World!

June 8, 2008

Over this next week I am going to be on a trip with my family to Walt Disney World and Sea World. However, during that time I will be posting a set of 5 entries which will contain some verses that have recently caught my eye and my first blush observations on them.

For those faithful readers who may or may not be out there, I just wanted to let you know that when I return we will be moving on from our discussion on the Laodicean Project (though we may return to this from time to time) and will be beginning a series of posts in which I want to lay out my own personal testimony and pull out the lessons which God has taught me through the various seasons of my life. I am still undecided if this will be a chronological journey or if I will take a different approach (think “My Life and the 7 Deadly Sins”), but whatever form it takes I think that this will definitely be a challenging series for me and hopefully an encouraging series for some of you.

Have a good week and I hope you enjoy the verses I will be posting as much as I have.

The Laodicean Project- It Starts with Us

May 16, 2008

“None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” -Acts 5:13

“And they glorified God because of me.” -Galatians 1:24

One of the biggest chasms which true Christianity has to cross if it is to reach “Christian” societies is that of hypocrisy. This is a common complaint, one everyone is undoubtedly familiar with, but because of that I think we have become too casual in ignoring it. When faced with a charge of being a hypocrite, most Christians respond back with either two defenses. Either they look at the critics life and say, “Well, here’s something you do that is hypocritical…” or they say “At least I am trying to live the right way.” Neither of these is usually wrong when you say it, but to take Paul out of context, this may be permitted but that doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.

Research shows that upwards 85% of 19-44 year olds view present-day Christianity as hypocritical, so if we were to fold at every person who says they don’t want to be a Christian because Christians are hypocrites then we are not going to accomplish much. However, there is also no reason to fight fire with fire. Instead, I think we would be best served if we took to heart the verses I listed above.

In Acts 5:13 it says “None of the rest dared join them.” That is interesting. The onlooking unbelievers (in this case in Jerusalem) did not dare to join the early Christians. But why? Was it because they were crazy Bible thumping, judgmental, gay bashing religious nuts? No, because as we see “but the people held them in high esteem.” They thought well of the Christians. They saw their lives and the result of their faith in God through their actions towards man and they thought well of them. So then, if they thought that the Christians were generally good people, then why did they not join them? Because the unbelievers were dead in their sins (Ephesians 1:1-3) and refused to turn from “for doing what the Gentiles want to do (1 Peter 4:3).” As Paul says in Romans, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (1:21).” So, we see that the people did not refuse joining the Christians NOT because they were hypocritical and lived lives indistinguishable from the world, but because the unbelievers did not honor God.

Unfortunately, we can’t usually be found to level the same conviction and condemnation against unbelievers. It would not be commonly said of most people claiming to be Christians today that unbelievers hold them in high esteem. Instead, we allow our indiscretions and lack of self-control to give the condemned an excuse for their unbelief. Not that they have an excuse, but that they can’t be convicted to turn from their ways because we are unable to say as Paul that “they glorified God” because of us. More like it, we are probably guilty of being able to say “they doubted God because of us” or “they cursed God because of us.” When we live our lives in a way that adds offense to the Gospel (which is already offensive enough; 1 Corinthians 1:23) then we distract from the message of the cross and we impair their ability to see the utter depravity and inadequacy of a life lived outside of the Lordship of Christ.

If we are to reach the people of our Christian societies we must first work to sanctify ourselves, to conform our lives to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), so that our lives will serve as a witness to the transforming power of God’s mercy and love (1 Peter 1:3). If we are to help people see Christ, we must first make sure that we don’t stand in the way, and let it be our prayer that we can live and serve in such a way that people will glorify God because of us!

The Laodicean Project- The Death of Christian Britain

May 9, 2008

I was searching through some blogs today when I came upon this post at I thought I would post it because it speaks to what we’ve been discussing in The Laodicean Project as it pertains specifically to the spiritual state of Christianity in Britain.

The post, entitled “It Feels as if the Soul of Britain is Dying”, discusses how declining church attendance in Great Britain has led to such drastic lows in Sunday morning communicants that “the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation.” Drawing off of a recent article in The Times of London, Mohler uses his blog to awaken a new awareness of the problems which are being faced in a location that most people would not flinch about calling a “Christian nation.” I expect that his radio show this evening will also deal with this topic and I will be sure to add a link to that when and if it does.

I can’t lie. The spiritual anemia being faced by Christianity in Britain weighs heavy on my heart. The Lord has really burdened me for those people and planted in me a desire to see revival brought to a nation which once figured so prominently in the growth of the Church. Beyond this, I think that the issues we see coming up in England bear witness to what we can expect over the next 20-40 years in America.

The lukewarm nature of Christianity in places that used to be bastions of Christian influence is a tragedy that I think we are being too slow to awaken to. It is vitally important, for the sake of the souls of the millions of people which inhabit these countries, to open the eyes of their citizens and call them to repentance and a renewing of their minds and hearts before it is to late and Christ spits us out of his mouth and removes our candle.