Sunday, March 27, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Nešer Eagle

The Lord of the Rings series is one of my favorites, the movies, absolutely amazing, I never did read the books, but I did read the Hobbit, but anyway, after the movies came out and people began to talk about the series, many on the web would ask the question, why didn’t Frodo and Sam just use the Eagles to fly to Mordor?

If you recall, Gandalf escapes from his fight with Saruman with the help of one of the eagles. Eagles came to the rescue at the battle for Minas Tirith in the 3rd film, and eagles come and bring Frodo and Sam safely out of Mount doom at the end of the 3rd film as well.

Eagles in the Lord of the Rings to me seem to represent God’s helping hand in times of great need. There are times in our lives when our cause has become hopeless. There is nothing more we can do. Our only hope is that God would do the impossible. It’s at those times, that we have to let go of our own strength, and allow God to rescue us.

As it says in our scripture today, from Isaiah 40:28-31, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Our Hebrew word for today, is “neser” Pronounced “neh'-sher”

In ancient Hebrew this word means eagle, or vulture, or other varieties of large, powerful birds.

So, those who continuously wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will rise up on wings like eagles. It’s important to understand the Hebrew word here used for “wait” or as my translation renders it “hope.”

The Hebrew word here is qāvâ “kaw-vaw” and it pictures waiting expectantly. wait, look for, hope, expect
A. (Qal) waiting (participle)
B. (Piel) wait or look eagerly for lie in wait for wait for, linger for collect, bind together
(Niphal) to be collected

Interestingly this Hebrew word can also relate to the binding of rope. Rope making was a common profession in the ancient world of the middle-east. There were many uses for rope. And rope makers would bind tightly together strands of cloth or animal hair to make rope. Often the rope would come unbound and have to be rebound together, renewing the strength of the rope.

How interesting that our battle with waiting on the Lord is often quite similar. It’s like we slowly bind together a long length of rope. And we’re traveling along the length of the rope toward God’s arrival, his answer. But from time to time, we lose our grip and the rope looses and begins to break apart. This is comparable to those times when we despair in the waiting and struggle to trust God. But as we seek God in the waiting, he helps us to tighten up, and continue waiting, our strength is renewed and we continue our journey along the length of rope.

We’re expectantly waiting then, for that moment when God renews us, and raises us up on wings like neser, like eagles.

Eagles are interesting creatures. They are one of the most powerful and strong birds. Eagles can lift almost twice their body weight. They can live up to 70 years. A male and female eagle that have mated will stay together their entire lives, building their nest in the same place every year. Eagles soar on the winds, they are able to sense the movement of air, and winds, catching updrafts to reach great heights, and travel at very great heights as they migrate from location to location.

As we hope in the Lord and wait on the Lord, binding ourselves to God and trusting in God to help us in time of need, we find ourselves protected under His wings, protected by his feathers, as he carries us to safety. The eagle flies, a rare gift, something we cannot do. Only God can lift us up and bring us to places that we could never otherwise get to.

During the time of the prophet Isaiah, who carried this word from the Lord to Israel, the nation was in great peril. The northern kingdom, Samaria, had been destroyed and captured by the nation of Assyria. Only Judah remained. And Judah was facing harassment and intimidation from Assyria, who were mocking them from the walls of the city.

How could the Lord save Judah from Assyria? Assyria had hundreds of thousands of soldiers. They couldn’t trust in flesh. They had to trust in the Lord. And God would deliver them, on wings like eagles, they would be victorious. And indeed, the Assyrian army was destroyed in the night, and they returned to Assyria. They never again tried to attack Judah. It was miraculous.

Are you waiting on the Lord right now? You can trust Him. I’m not saying God will necessarily give you everything you want. But God will do what is right, for his kingdom and glory. He has plans for you, plans for your blessing, not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future.

Trust in God. Wait on God expectantly. And you will rise up on wings like Neser, riding up into the skies of hope and victory and deliverance. God will certainly be with you as you seek Him and follow His will for your life. Amen.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: The Power of Forgiveness, the Danger of Unforgiveness

"In "The Christian Leader," Don Ratzlaff retells a story Vernon Grounds came across in Ernest Gordon's Miracle on the River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened. A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point. The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect. . . The men began to treat each other like brothers. When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: "No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness." Sacrificial love has transforming power." -Don Ratzlaff, "The Christian Leader".

So today we come to the parable of the unforgiving servant. The central topic being, forgiveness, and the power of forgiveness.

As we examine this important concept I’d like you to keep in your mind the question, “How am I doing at this? Am I practicing this principle?” Because sometimes we start thinking about others, oh my mom needs to hear this message, oh I know a friend who needs to hear this. That’s fine, but today, focus on you and how well you forgive others. To forgive means, to not count it against someone’s record any longer.

We don’t invite further abuse, however, we live as if it never happened, their slate is clean as far as we go. It’s not written anymore. That’s radical. If you struggle with this, invite God to help you forgive, but ultimately it’s your choice. So don’t act like oh I just “can’t” yes you can. It’s a choice, what you’re really saying is I refuse to forgive. And for a Christian that is very dangerous, and you’ll see why in a minute.

This is a common with any sermon I preach, but God gives me opportunities over the week to practice what I’m going to preach about. And boy is that stressful sometimes. But hopefully I succeeded.

So lets take a look, at the genius of God in human form, sharing this parable, in Matthew 18:21-35 it says, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

He’s asking this question because Jesus is talking with his disciples and he was sharing about the process for church discipline when someone is sinning you go to them and correct them in private, if they still don’t stop sinning you go with another person, and so on and so forth. So then it says, “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

So we see this in many of the parables, this phrase that Jesus uses, “the kingdom of God is like…” God’s depiction of how to live our lives as Christians, and how to enter paradise are all described through parables, which describe the kingdom of God. It’s what you might call the rule book of the kingdom of God, how everything works in regard to morality, truth, heaven, hell, forgiveness, sins, righteous, all of it, the rule book is written in the parables.

This particular chapter of the kingdom of God guidebook is dealing with forgiveness.

We are all like the servant, who has sinned against his master, the God of the universe. We’ve all sinned in terrible ways. And what’s right for the master to do? To throw us in prison, to hell, forever, sadly. It’s a rough situation. But, instead God, through Jesus Christ, offers us forgiveness.

Just like the servant who owes 10,000 bags of gold. That is a high bill. Mine was a high bill, of sins, probably like 100,000 bags of gold worth of sins. Yours may have been lower, or higher, who knows, but we all owe that debt. And instead of throwing this servant in prison, the master instead sees his repentance his request for mercy, and instead forgives his debt and lets him go free.

That is what we find in Jesus Christ. Our debt is forgiven and we’re set free.

However, we very very much want to avoid the example of this servant. Because in the parable what do we see? He’s set free, then he runs into someone who owes him 100 silver coins. That is such an incredibly small debt, compared to 10,000 bags of gold. And we all think well he should be merciful to this person right?

But he isn’t! He grabs him by the neck and has him arrested.

Now stop right here and ask yourself, how often have I been unforgiving to people who have done wrong to me? Because as much as this unforgiving servant disgusts us. We’ve all I’m sure done the same thing. We have to be forgiving, because we’ve been forgiven so much.

I bet we could all think of a time where our hypocrisy was severe. We refused to forgive. We mistreated someone. We came down hard on someone. We held hatred in our hearts. That is not acceptable for us as Christians.

Then the master finds out about what has happened. And it’s not good.

It says, “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

So Jesus tells the parable, then in verse 35 he concludes the parable by explaining it. He says, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

If we come before God on judgment day, having been unforgiving toward our brothers and sisters, toward our friends or even our enemies, God will say to us, since you refused to forgive others, I’m not going to forgive some of your sins.

Then what happens? We would go to hell, because we have sins outstanding that are unpaid by the blood of Christ. So forgiveness is serious stuff. And Jesus importantly adds the distinction that we must forgive people “from the heart.” Meaning it can’t be a surface level forgiveness, but a full and complete forgiveness within our heart.

That is convicting and difficult it’s true. But we must do it. And if we are struggling to forgive someone, which I’m sure some of us are, for deeper hurts, for betrayals, and such, there are some tips I would give you:
  1. Pray for that person, for every blessing you want in life to be given to them instead. It’s hard to hate someone you’re praying for. Do it for 2 weeks straight every day.
  2. Pray and ask God to help you forgive. God will soften your heart.
  3. Write down your own worst sins. Then realize God forgave them. Now, consider what that person did to you, and you will realize what a small thing it is to forgive.
“A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of semi-invalidism before she married Robert Browning in 1846. There's more to the story. In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father's disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. But even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship. Almost weekly she wrote them letters. Not once did they reply. After 10 years, she received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Had her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored.” -Daily Walk, May 30, 1992.

And I mean people who did terrible things to you. I mean forgiving people who hated you. I mean forgiving people who bullied you. I mean forgiving people who hurt our feelings. I mean forgiving people who even raped, or physically attacked us. We must forgive because God has forgiven us.

In conclusion today, remember the parable of the unforgiving servant and what it teaches us about the kingdom of God rulebook: We must, must, must forgive, because we’ve been forgiven so much more. Those who are participating in the kingdom of God, found in the grace of Jesus Christ must being gentle, soft-hearted, forgiving those around us for terrible wrongs done to them. Go out and do that everyday. It isn’t easy. But God will help you. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Amen.

I want to share one more illustration with you, from Corrie Ten Boom, the woman who hid Jews from the Nazis, and was later put in a concentration camp. After the war she struggled with forgiveness and letting go of anger.

“Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn't sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. "His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor," Corrie wrote, "to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there's a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we've been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn't be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They're just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down." "And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force -- which was my willingness in the matter -- had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts." -Corrie ten Boom

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Ahaveth ‘Olam ‘Ahavethik, Love everlasting Love

ahaveth ‘olam ‘ahavethik = Love everlasting Love

How many of you have a pet, a dog, a cat, a bird, or some lovely creature God created? Many, many of us do. I always had dogs and cats growing up. We even briefly had ferrets, gerbils, and even a turtle for a while.

Animals are wonderful aren’t they? I really love animals. My life would be incomplete without the fellowship of animals. And that is how God made us, to love and care for animals.

We love our animals. They love us back. It’s a constant flow, love given, love received.

It’s similar, though deeper, with our family members, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, close friends, a deep love, in which we give love, and receive love from them. Back and forth, back and forth it goes. Give love, receive love.

What is it exactly, this thing we call love? A feeling, a commitment, a desire, a calling, a joy, a true thing, a right thing.

So it is. That brings us to our Hebrew phrase for today, from Jeremiah 31:3.

ahaveth ‘olam ‘ahavethik = Love everlasting Love

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Our context is found within the pages of again, the weeping prophet’s words from the Lord, the prophet Jeremiah, who saw the nation of Israel destroyed and dragged into the Babylonian captivity.

Jeremiah’s book contains some of the harshest judgments against the wayward nation of Israel. Yet we find nestled within the pages of Jeremiah, in chapter 31, a hopeful future, despair turned into joy.

“I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.”

2 This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword
will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.”

Then in verse 3 Jeremiah seems to be visiting a dream that he had of God’s love.

In fact if you jump down to verse 26 it says, “26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me.”

So really Jeremiah is detailing a dream from God he had while he was asleep. And in this dream he perceived the love eternal love of God. The 
ahaveth ‘olam ‘ahavethik of God. But how does one perceive eternal love in a dream or vision? How is that possible?

Jewish scholars have tried to understand how various deep truths of God can be perceived by prophets and priests in the scriptures. And the conclusion some Jewish scholars drew was that perhaps in these experiences the biblical prophets were experiencing all five senses rolled into one panoramic depiction of God’s truth.

All senses, brought together into perfect, eternal sense, limitless, infinite in all directions. Then the challenge for the prophet must be, to take that infinite view, and translate it into words us finite beings can understand.

Love can be something difficult to understand, don’t you think? We’ve each been hurt in this world in different ways, which damage our ability to give and receive love. Perhaps our parents neglected us. A lover betrayed our trust. We were bullied in school. People we thought were friends used us. Enemies defeated us. Dark times seemed to surround us. And we suffer the inability to receive love and give love effectively. These are wounds only God himself can redeem and repair. Turn to Him. God, heal my broken heart. My heart, become so rock hardened, it seems impassable. No one can enter, nothing can leave. Only God can change that hard heart into softness, freshness, with wide hallways to enter in, and to pour out.

Let me see if I can help you perceive what true love is.

Five senses… touch, see, hear, taste, smell.

Touch – A deep long hug with a dear friend or family member. Warm embrace

Sight – A beautiful sunset, a star filled sky, glorious green valley, sunny day

Hear- the whispered words of a lover, I love you.

Taste- the sweet taste of a kiss from your lover, or the sweet taste of fresh fruit, or honey.

Smell- the smell of autumn, or, the smell of a fresh flowers, the smell of Christmas tree.

The feeling of being completely loved, in all these ways, eternally, in both directions forever. God’s love, eternal love.

ahaveth ‘olam ‘ahavethik

The famous Christian poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, born in 1806, wrote, “You were made perfectly to be loved and surely I have loved you in the idea of you my whole life long.” -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You were made in the image of God, perfectly, to be loved, and to receive love from God.

And I imagine even before God crafted your soul and placed you into the body you have now, while still inside the womb of your mother, he loved you, even simply the idea of you, the dream of all you could become. And for those who ascend to paradise in heaven, God’s everlasting love will always be with us.

And even for those of us here who descend into the torments of hell, God may yet still love the idea of who we could’ve been if we’d only listened to his calling before it was too late. What sorrow it must cause God when one of us he loves chooses to reject Him and drop down into the sorrows of hell.

Ahaveth is a verb form of love, to be loved, the action of being loved. And in-between the two loves, we have o’lam, which means infinite, eternal, perpetual, without end. Then the second love is ‘ahavethik which is love in feminine noun form. God’s love for his people. Both Hebrew words for love can mean God’s love for man, and man’s love for God. So you have this two way give and take happening.

God loving us, us loving God, God loving us, us loving God, and in the center, infinity. God verb love God’s noun love, for us, us for him.

Recently God revealed something to me, that he loves me, he has never left me, and indeed he indicated that he is close to me, so close to me, closer than my carotid artery.

Now there are two carotid blood vessels, major blood vessels on the neck one on both sides. One sends blood into the brain from the body, the other sends blood back from the brain to the rest of the body. He’s that close with me, always giving me love, and receiving love from me. It’s the same with you if you truly know Jesus as your savior, he’s closer than your carotid artery, giving love to you, and receiving love back from you.

That my friends is 
ahaveth ‘olam ‘ahavethik, Love everlasting love. Perfect love, given and received forever.

As Christians it overflows from us, the waters of life bubble out of us, and toward other people, down from God, out of us toward others. This is perfect love. I think a beautiful example is that of the love for a child. Children are innocent, unknowing, a blank canvas you might say, that is why the enemy targets children with things like abortion, and transgenderism, trying to destroy children in the womb, and destroy their minds with transgender ideology.

As I was thinking about this… I kind of drifted back and wondered, at all the people who would be here in this country, if it weren’t for abortion. Over 63 million people have been cancelled from living on Earth in the United States since the day abortion was legalized. 63 million, there are 330 million people in the USA today. And I wondered at all the people who might be part of this church, or living in my neighborhood or even friends of mine, who were never born, because they were murdered before they could be. Worldwide, since 1980, 1.6 billion abortions. Truly tragic, and terrible beyond reckoning.

Our enemy, demons and Satan, try to destroy our ability to receive love and give love. They destroy these things through crime, violence, household abuse, domestic violence, abortion, pornography, sexual immorality, and adultery, to name just a few. All of this damages our ability to give and receive perfect love.

So in conclusion today brothers and sisters, if you are hurt in your heart, from past pain and abuse, and struggle to give and receive love, seek God’s help in this. Ask God to heal the broken places in your soul. Ask Him to help you receive love and give love. God will help you. If you have past sorrows, consider writing them down on paper, and sharing them out loud with someone, like your pastor, or a trusted friend, if necessary, consider seeing a Christian counselor who can help you work through past pains. But it all starts with Jesus, whose perfect love, grand love for us, brought Him to the cross, where he suffered and died not for anything he had done, but for your crimes, he was crucified, to pay off our debt of sin, and make an open way for us to heaven, where we can live in perfect love forever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Being a Salvation Army Officer

The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

Very often we can focus too much on the negatives and difficulties of ministry work. And yes, ministry work is challenging. But it's also a huge blessing.  It's really important to focus on the positives of serving God's people and the people of the world.

In the ministry world, I'm a Salvation Army corps officer. But what is a Salvation Army officer? A Salvation Army officer is much like a pastor, administrator, social services coordinator, and charity leader rolled into one. It's a very unique position in society. So without further meandering, here are the top ten reasons why I love being a corps officer in The Salvation Army!

10. Walking closely with God - One of the great blessings of being in ministry is learning to walk very closely with God. I mean really close. Super close. And it's my job to cultivate that relationship and draw near to God, as He draws near to me. It's beautiful. The joy of it is overpowering. 

9. Be a voice for Christ in the public sphere - One of the main reasons I wanted to be an SA officer was because I wanted to be able to influence the community, not just the few people who showed up on Sundays. 

8. Being in position to help people I would never otherwise meet - In the SA world, we have incredible access to community leaders, hurting people, impoverished populations and other people I would never ever meet if I was a pastor at a church. 

7. Meeting people at their lowest moments - when someone is struggling, suffering, miserable, hurting and confused, this is an often a vital moment, when someone is willing to listen to the word of God unlike they would otherwise.

6. Using Social Media to Spread the Gospel - The Salvation Army is very active on social media which is great and I'm so pleased to help get the gospel out there on the internet where so many billions of people interact everyday. It's a powerful tool to get the word out there! 

5. Providing Food by the hundreds and hundreds of Pounds - This is really amazing to me, especially with food prices going up, we give out food daily at the corps where I serve, and we move about 3500 lbs per month, sometimes more. It's great to help those who are in need, and it's a great way to have conversations about Jesus and share literature, tracts, books, and dvds with Christian themes. 

4. Drug and Alcohol Recovery - TSA gives me the opportunity to help provide drug and alcohol recovery. We host a weekly recovery group and TSA harbor lights and ARCs can help provide long term in patient care to those struggling with alcohol and drug addction. 

3. Fasting and Prayer - hosting prayer groups has been my single favorite ministry activity at the church. Praying together with other Christians for an hour or more, has been an experience that blew me away. It's so powerful when God's people pray together. When it's combined with full or Daniel fasting, it's even more powerful. God is good. 

2. Leading Small Groups - There are many administrative duties in the ministry but what's great is weekly getting to lead groups like bible study, recovery, men's ministry, and other groups. Sitting down with other Christians and digging into the word is so wonderful, I always love it, and it helps me grow as much as anyone else there! 

1. Empowering others to share the Gospel - I thought that when I became a pastor my main job would be sharing the gospel, but more and more I've realized, my job is to empower the people I serve to share the gospel.  It's been extremely powerful to watch others learn and develop a missional approach to sharing the word. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Shavah Bekal Livah Return with all your Heart

Have you heard of the "weeping prophet?" This man truly had a difficult mission. He had to speak the word of the Lord boldly to a people who would refuse to listen to him. His name was Jeremiah. He began his ministry at a young age, under a good king. But later, would serve under a corrupt king. But even during his early years, the Lord knew, and spoke through Him, that the people were not really willing to return to God. 

In Jeremiah 3:10, we see God declaring, “In spite of all this, Israel’s sister, unfaithful Judah, has not turned back to me with any sincerity; she has only pretended to do so,” says the Lord.”

The time in which Jeremiah the prophet lived was a dark time for the ancient nation of Israel. The kingdom had divided into Samaria and Judah. Samaria had been destroyed and taken captive by Assyria. And Judah was now under imminent danger from Babylon. Babylon was poised to destroy Judah once and for all. Judah was ruled by corrupt kings which refused to listen to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah often found himself arrested, beaten, argued with by false prophets, and even through into a muddy pit and left to rot.

And during this time, Jeremiah was calling the people to return to God with all their heart. And instead, the people would make an appearance of returning to God, they would pretend to return, but they were not really returning to God in their hearts, but only half-heartedly.

So we see our Hebrew word today, or more so, our Hebrew phrase, Shavah Bekal Livah “shaw-vaw’ kawl lay-bawb’ return with all your heart.

So our challenge today as Christians, followers of Jesus, is to ensure God has our whole heart. But how often do we offer our hearts to God, and yet we know within that it is not complete as it should be. The word translated by the NET as “pretended” is shaqar in Hebrew which means “to be deceptive.”

The word translated by the NET as unfaithful Judah, is in the Hebrew bagad which in it’s root carries the connotation of a wrapper, or a covering. So very often we put on a new Christian t-shirt, with a cross on it, but, our hearts remain far from God.

I want to avoid that at all costs. I want God to have my whole heart in his hands. I will turn to Him with all my heart.

Now in the time of Jeremiah, he spent his life speaking for God, to good kings like Josiah. But later in his life, to corrupt kings, like the last king, Zedekiah. Yet Zedekiah and the people of Judah seemed unwilling to return to God.

Chaim Bentorah shares in Hebrew Word Study, that shavah, rendered as “return” carries at it’s root the concept of being taken captive, or imprisoned.

So we find ourselves challenged to return to God, yes, but also to allow ourselves to be taken captive by God, or taken under God’s care. We allow ourselves unreservedly into His arms. And he then rules over our hearts. And we allow God to guide our hearts whichever direction he chooses. We keep our hearts close to God, the center of our choices, our affections, our emotions, our choices, and then our choice, our affections and our emotions will be in alignment with God’s heart.

The nation of Judah did not want to make their hearts captive under God’s authority and control. So instead, they went their own ways. And as a result, they ended up in a different sort of captivity, that which we call the Babylonian captivity. Judah was conquered, like Samaria before it, and taken captive to Babylon.

We find ourselves surrounded by a sort of end times bablyon, a sinful broken society on the verge of chaos and destruction. But we as Christians must not have Babylon in our hearts, our hearts are ruled by God and close to God’s heart. Though we be in Babylon, we are not of Babylon. We are in the world, but not of the world.

shaw-vaw' kawl lay-bawb' Return to God with all your heart. Put your heart under his sacred control. Place your heart completely in His hands, and he will transform your affections, your desires, and your emotions. Then, you will live as one run by God, guided by God, and your life will become a beautiful story.

Let us pray together now, and turn our hearts afresh and anew entirely over to God. We turn our hearts to you God. We place our hearts in your hands. We place our hearts in the center of your heart. Make us like you, entirely yours, we are captive, held by you, we return, and are thus run always, by you, in Jesus Christ name, amen.

The Journey of Progressive Sanctification: 7 Aspects of Growth toward Maturity

Join me now on the open seas, we're hovering over the waters and we're seeing a row boat, with a man rowing slowly toward a bright light. The boat is wooden, sturdy, but small. And it rows steadily. This is you, beginning your journey with Christ. Now we flash many years into the future, and we see another boat, this one is a giant battleship. It has hundreds of crew. It has anti-air guns, deck guns, turrets, depth charges, hull armor, a bridge, engineering sections, crew quarters, and many other abilities and functions.  It's a dedicated, strong, powerful tool of warfare. This warship is you, as a mature Christian, living in the world for Jesus. Which one are you? Where are you at in your journey? Perhaps you're just starting out. Maybe you're further along. Maybe you're a battleship right now. But in any case, the journey from row boat to battleship is what we call the journey of progressive sanctification.

Today we’re talking about sanctification. It’s a big theological sounding word, however, it’s meaning is fairly simple, sanctification is the process by which we are conformed to the image of Christ.

In other words, sanctification is our growth process in Christ, as we live our lives. It’s how God changes us. This is done by God in us, and we respond by cooperating in the process. God builds us, molds us, shapes us, and does beautiful things in us. And God has many tools he uses to do this. Good times, hard times, ,blessings, difficulties, and on and on.

The truth is for each of you right now God is doing many, many, many different things in your life, to make you more like Jesus.

So today we’re talking about 7 ways God builds us through the process of sanctification.

First of all, when talking about the growth process God takes us through, it’s important to understand that God’s goal is to make you more and more refined as a Christian.

We’re like metal that has impurities in. And when you heat up the metal, you can clear out the impurities, and the metal becomes more pure.

Similarly, it’s like you’re an apple tree, or a grape vine. And you bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Maybe you serve others, give people food, help people with repairs in their house, or lead a bible study, or pray for others regularly. That’s what we call “bearing good fruit.”

Now, God picks that beautiful fruit, and then he prunes us. And the goal of the pruning is that the vine or apple tree would produce even more fruit next season.

Jesus describes this in John chapter 15 in the parable of the vine. Our job in that parable is to remain in Christ, and to bear much fruit. Jesus is the vine, and the Father is the pruner.

Point number 2, God builds us and grows us through difficulties. I think you all know this one, I’ve said it about a million times. God builds us primarily I think through various difficulties.

Many of these difficulties test our faith. Many of these difficulties will build various parts of our personality. One trial or struggle may increase our patience. Another trial may expand our trust in God. Another trial may increase our compassion toward people who are suffering. Still another difficulty may grow our faith. Another helps us to better learn to endure in hard times. It’s all a powerful process by which God is making us better Christians each day.

God does that through difficulties. As it says in James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

And that’s a key to having the peace and joy of Christ at all times, we should actually count it a good thing when we go through trials.

But I want to add one more thing here, our response to a trial or difficulty, can be good or bad. In a trial, it can push us closer to God, where we seek God in the trial, and draw closer to Him. But if we aren’t trained by the trial, it can be bad as well. Maybe instead of drawing near to God in the difficulty, we start to doubt God, and curse God, and get angry with God because he’s allowing it. That’s a trap we can fall in, so watch out for that. Respond by running to God, not away from Him.

Point number 2, part b, God builds us through good times as well. A blessing, a happy day, a good time, sweet fellowship, a wonderful feast, time with family, a vacation, God often uses all these things to build us in different ways.

A beautiful moment, overlooking a glorious green valley in summer, it grows us by reminding us of God’s beauty.

Spending time with our wife, or husband, or family, teaches us how to love, and helps us to yearn for even more love in the future.

Enjoying a meal with a friend teaches us about God’s love for us, and his love for people.

Yes, difficulties build us, but blessings can also build us. A loving marriage can teach us and train us. Children can teach us and train us. A beautiful home can teach us and train us.

But once again, let’s add this caveat: It’s important how we respond to a blessing. Because once again we can respond one of two ways: We can respond by thanking God, and ascribing it as a gift from God. Or we can become arrogant and start to think, oh I did this myself. Good times, wealth and prosperity, can be dangerous to a person or a society, because we can start to take things for granted, and we can start to think it came from our brilliance instead of from God’s grace. Always thank God, and ascribe it as coming from God. Then the credit stays where it belongs, with God. Pride is a danger, don’t let it into your heart. Stay humble, give God all the glory.

Point number 3, would you like to skip some difficult trials and tribulations? That would be nice wouldn’t it? Yes it would. Then you should read God’s word. Study it diligently, underline it and highlight it in your Bible. And then take it off the page and put it into practice. Particularly, I would point you to the book of Proverbs, which is all about wisdom for right living.

See you could be foolish, and then you’ll blunder into all sorts of troubles and addictions and bad situations. Or you could become a wise person by studying Proverbs, and the entire bible, and then putting it into practice. Then instead of blundering into a bad relationship, you’ll seek God first and know it’s not from God. Instead of overeating you’ll know from God’s word to use proper moderation. Instead of getting into fights you’ll know proverbs says to keep control of your temper. And you’ll live a wise life, and avoid all sorts of difficult trials. Because you’ve been made wise by God’s word.

Point number 4, sanctification is about progressively surrendering more and more of ourselves to God over time.

Or this can be a moment when we surrender everything over to God. Often when we sing, we sing, “I surrender all, to you oh Lord.” This is great wisdom, to turn it all over to God.

A common slogan is “Turn it over to God.” This I think is also wise. Simply turn every problem, every concern, every issue in our lives over to God. What does this mean? This means to surrender our control over the issue, and to place control over the issue in God’s hands.

There is a balance here. We live the problem with God completely. I place my concern with weight loss in God’s hands. I don’t have control. God has control of it. Now, as God leads me, I dutifully respond. So it’s in God’s hands, and God indicates, join a gym, and go 3-4 times a week. Very good, then I do that.

Now some people will surrender it to God, and then refuse to do anything when God tells them. They surrender their marriage problem to God, great, but God tells them to be more forgiving. And they say no. They keep accusing their spouse. So nothing changes.

Another issue is, the person keeps control of the issue, and then tries to fix it with their own ideas. That generally doesn’t work, sometimes it might, if it’s a minor issue. But our own ideas don’t tend to work that well for most issues. So we need to make sure we’ve placed the issue in Gods hands, and then we’re responding to God’s guidance, while leaving the issue under God’s control. Hope that makes sense.

Then as we leave things in God’s hands, and grow, we find ourselves a vessel through which God can work on a daily basis. Like it says in 2nd Timothy 2:21 ESV “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”

Point number 5, let’s talk about repeating loops. A repeating loop can happen when we have been through a trial, but we refuse to learn what we’re supposed to learn from the trial. Or we may just not have noticed what God was wanting us to learn. Then, unfortunately, we can get caught in a repeating loop. A repeating loop is just like it sounds, maybe the issue we face is alcoholism, I was in this loop for years. The loop goes something like this, get drunk for many weeks, months, eventually the hang overs and blunders lead to consequences, we lose a relationship, we get arrested, we lose a job, or something, then we realize there is a problem, we see the problem, we acknowledge it, and attempt to change it. So maybe we try to go cold turkey off the drink, but it’s so tempting, we relapse back onto the drink. The loop begins again, it gets progressively worse over time, we experience consequences, we hit a rock bottom, we seek help, we acknowledge the problem, we try to quit some other way, it doesn’t work, the loop repeats.

It doesn’t have to be something as flashy as alcohol or drug addiction. It can by lying. Or manipulating others. It can be refusing to deal with a health issue. It can hoarding, not cleaning properly. It can be sexually acting out. It can be keeping God second in our lives. And the loop will keep repeating, until we allow God to bring us out of the loop.

As it says in, “"As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly”

Additionally, if you want to see repeating loops, look at the books of 1st and 2nd kings and chronicles. The loop of sin repeats over and over, sadly. Thankfully, if we cry out to Jesus, he can and will deliver us from any repeating loop we are stuck in.

Point number 6, the effects of prolonged sin. Suppose as a Christian we are practicing repeating sin of some kind. Sometimes we do struggle with sin in our lives as Christians. But we always turn to God, ask forgiveness in Christ, and keep going in the right direction.

But what happens if we start moving in the wrong direction, away from God? This does happen from time to time with Christians. And the pattern that I’ve noticed happens something like this: They are walking well with Christ. They stumble into a sin. They repent. They stumble again into that sin. This time they don’t repent, they continue in the sin. And as they continue in it, it gives birth to disillusionment and cynicism.

The Bible says it this way in Psalm 7:14 “Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.”

So as they persist in sin, they become increasingly cynical about the church. They think oh the church is so judgmental. I don’t like them they’re hypocrites. And we begin to justify and rationalize our sin. We gather around others who sin in that same way, sexually, or lying or whatever it is. And they begin to repeat to us that this sin isn’t a sin, it’s really ok, and just fine. And we began to appear at church less and less. We stop praying. We stop reading our Bible. And in the end, we fall away, we reject the faith, maybe we even share our de-conversion story on YouTube or Facebook live or whatever, and we share how we came to believe Christianity was false and wrong and bad. And it all started with a sin, that we slipped into, and instead of repenting right away, we started to lie to ourselves, or believe the lies of the enemy, that this sin was ok. And it led us to ruin, to shipwrecked faith, as Paul said in 1st Timothy 1:19 “Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”

Now can a person who followed this path turn again to Christ? That is something I’m not certain about. Because it says in Hebrews, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” -Hebrews 6:4-6

But it also says in James 5:19-20 19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

So maybe there is still hope for that person. Only God knows.

Last point, point number 7, something we theologically refer to as “entire sanctification.” What this means, is that we have come to a point of Christian maturity.

We have become genuinely who we are called to be in Christ. And it’s consistent. We walk in it everyday, as we pass through this wicked world. We serve the needy. We pray and fast. We study our Bibles diligently. We are truly led by the Holy Spirit of God. We are utterly dedicated to Christ. Christ is seen in our lives. We live yielded to God in everything. We are humble and meek. We share the gospel regularly. We give tithes and offering. We are a real Christian who really lives for Jesus.

That is a beautiful thing to behold. A truly mature, entirely sanctified Christian is a humble hero of the faith. And it’s something God has done in them. It’s not of their own making. The journey doesn’t end there though. It goes on, there are always new things to learn, new roads to travel, new experiences to learn from, but fundamentally this mature Christian is on fire for Jesus and living for Him. And it’s wonderful.

Paul wrote in 1st Thessalonians 5:23 ESV “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And the author of Hebrews wrote, Hebrews 10:14 “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”

And again in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Praise God. So the question is, where are you at in this journey? What is God doing in your life? And how can you continue to grow toward true maturity in Christ?

Sunday, March 6, 2022

7 Facts about Hell: A Guided Tour of Hell

What is hell? I prayed about this topic, just seeking God’s guidance and indeed the Lord indicated that it would be wise to study such a place, even though such a place is best left forgotten, in the end.

So buckle your seatbelts, because you may find this message today quite disturbing. However, if you will endure with me through this message, you will find a gift for you wrapped up inside of it.

Yes, a gift, just for you, a very special gift. This is a gift that I received many years ago, and have found it immensely powerful and useful in my walk with the living God. It is the fear of the Lord. Yes, the fear of the Lord. 

The book of proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). I’m going to give you a huge gift today, in Jesus name, that is the gift of trembling before a Holy God. And as much as God’s love is a prime motivator in my life, similarly the fear of God helps me to steer clear of evil and temptation and sin.

Luke 12:5 additionally says, (ESV) “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”

So let us begin our journey together down, down, down into the abyss, the abode of the damned, the place where in fact, sadly, most humans will spend their eternity.

From what I can tell, at least in our era of the world, most humans have decided they do not want God and would prefer to spend their eternal life in hell. From my calculations, I would guess only about 1% of humans born on Earth go to heaven, most head down that broad highway, which is the wide path to hell. Of course, I don't know for certain. But it seems, very few journey down the narrow path of salvation through Jesus Christ our savior.

So today we consider hell. Let’s look at a scripture about hell, from Luke 16:19-31 The Rich Man and Lazarus “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."

So we begin our journey in this example that Jesus gave, of a rich man in hell. Point number one, hell is torment. What would it be like to be there, right now? What would it be like to be in hell? Imagine it for a moment. Many are there right now from what I can tell, billions upon billions of people, receiving the judgment they deserve for their sins.

But we see the rich man is, it says “in flame.” We often hear the phrase “burn in hell” right, well that’s apparently a reality of hell. We would be, on fire, there. Have you ever put your hand on a hot stove, or accidentally burned yourself? It’s terribly painful. But that is a daily reality for those in this place. To burn.

We see the rich man has his senses about him in hell. He can see, he can hear, he can even feel his parched tongue, because he has no access to water there. So a person in hell is still themselves. They’re still who they are. But they are in sorrow, in flame, and terribly thirsty. This is their permanent state.

Second point, hell is the result of sin. We see another scripture about hell spoken by Jesus, he said, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”-Mark 9:43-48

We really see here the severity of our situation. Sin is such a danger and a temptation for us, but Jesus challenges us to set it all aside, and to go to any lengths necessary to repent. He goes as far as to say that if your hand causes you to sin, you should cut that hand off, even if it’s your good hand. That’s the lengths we should go to, to be free from sin and live pure in Jesus Christ.

We’ve all sinned in many ways, disobeying God’s commands for the world in which we live. Our flesh tempts us to sin, and we have all yielded to that temptation to sin.

Sin is the problem, and heaven is a place without sin. So hell, in contrast, is a place where sin is punished. Sin destroys everything. It’s like a cancer. It’s why the world today is so messed up and awful. Sin is the problem. Hell is the quarantine area for sin.

When we sin, we tend to brush it aside, and hide it in our past. But God sees our entire past, present and future. And it’s all documented in heaven. That’s why we need Jesus Christ, his perfect sacrifice, is what washes away our sins, so that they are no longer recorded in heaven. They are covered over, and our slate is clean. But without Jesus, on judgment day, we will be judged by the things recorded about our lives.

Point number three, hell is a place of remembering. In hell, supposing we end up there, is a place where memories are continuously brought to mind, of all the times we sinned. And I think we would see it from a perspective of justice, "look at what I did," it was wrong, and we’ll know in hell, through and through, that we deserve the punishment we’re receiving. 

We’ll remember all the sins we committed and think to ourselves, "yes, I did that, yes, my punishment is just." Very sad, but I read one man’s book, where he had a near death experience, his name was Brian Melvin, and when he was shown his sins, he really came into agreement with God, and agreed, "yes, hell would be a fair punishment for what I did." So we would see sin, finally, the way God sees it, as something truly unthinkably horrible and deserving of justice. 

The other thing I think we would remember in hell, with great regret, is every opportunity we had to receive Jesus as our savior and yet refused. There were opportunities in my past that I refused. And I’m certain I would remember those in hell, and think to myself, "Why oh why didn’t I listen? Why didn’t I just receive Jesus as my savior?" What if, would be the question, what if I had made different choices?

Point number 4, there seem to be different locations in hell, based on what sins we committed on the Earth. We hear of different Hebrew and Greek words that describe hell in different ways, Gehenna, hell, hades, Sheol, the pit, the grave, punishment, destruction, outer darkness, and so on. According to the Holman bible dictionary, four times in the bible Sheol, often translated hell, is described as the place farthest from heaven.

So I think it would a fair supposition to suggest that perhaps there are sections of hell, one area for those who were adulterers, one section for liars, another section for thieves, another section for manipulators, another section for rebels, and each section’s level of punishment would correspond with what each person did when they were on the Earth. From testimonies and near death experiences we hear about different parts of hell. Dante in his epic Inferno tells of different layers. Those are secondary sources, but we do also learn a great from our primary source the Bible. 

We hear of some accounts in the scripture that talk about being burned in fires, and others of a person having worms consuming them within their bodies in hell, and in other places in scripture we hear about outer darkness, a place where you literally can’t see anything, and this place is usually linked with descriptions of weeping, and gnashing of teeth. So someone in that place would be prone to cry, in sorrow, and to grind their teeth because they are so sorrowful to be in that particular section of hell.

Truly terrifying don’t you think? Brothers and sisters, the God we serve is a God of love. That’s why, despite the fact that the human race rebelled against Him, He still offers us hope. The human race took up arms against him and turned the planet earth into a sin-fest, never-the-less God came, as Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life, and die for us on the cross, to pay our debt of sin, and win us back to Himself. That’s his love for us, it’s incredibly massive love!

Yet, our wonderful God is also a God of justice, and for those who reject Him and live for sin and pleasure, he has reserved this place of hell for humans who refuse His love and grace and forgiveness.

Point number five, in hell you would be completely alone. While in heaven we talk about sweet fellowship with God, with other believers, with animals, and beauty, in hell, there is no fellowship whatsoever, you are alone, receiving your punishment, in the endless thoughts of the sins you committed and the opportunities to know Christ that you rejected. There are no other people, no animals, no beauty, and most of all, no God. God is not there. In hell, one is totally cut off from God. That is sorrow beyond imagining. 

From what I can tell the only fellowship in hell would be with demons, who seem to be tasked with increasing the sorrows of the damned by adding to their torments. Hell seems to be a sort of “home base” from which demons attack the Earth, and attempt to tempt and deceive humans to that place. 

Ever since these angels fell and rebelled with lucifer, their only purpose now, is to test the inhabitants of the Earth, to see what is in their hearts. There is no hope for demons, their judgment is set, so they hate us humans, who still have opportunity to turn to Jesus and find forgiveness for our sins. They want to take as many humans to hell with them, before their time runs out. 

Point number six, this is for me the most scary part of hell, Hell is permanent. This would become apparent as soon as someone enters hell and is assigned to their particular section. It would be a sort of instinctually known knowledge in hell, that this is permanent, I can never get out. I can never repent. I can’t cry out to Jesus Christ for salvation. It’s too late. God’s judgment is set, it’s done, you had your chance, you wasted it, and now it’s over.

People who thought they were atheists will believe in God at this point, though it’s too late. People who never even thought about it, people who said, "hell isn’t real," people who said God isn’t real, people who had different beliefs, people who believed in different gods, they will find out that hell is real, and heaven is real, and God is real, and Jesus is real, and it’s all real. But it will be too late, unfortunately, for them.

I can’t imagine the utterly hopelessness, of being in hell, knowing that forever, I will be in sorrow and pain, and I can never die, I’m immortal, but I’ll always be here, a permanent rebel against God. It is truly a fate so terrible, it’s beyond imagining. 

Some people struggle with mental health issues, and hope that suicide will offer a way out. "I’ll kill myself, then my suffering will end," no, suffering will begin, for a sinner after death. For a born again Christian, suffering will end after death, and we’ll receive eternal joy, and fellowship with God, and new adventures, but for those who reject God, they will always be alone, no hope, and no future.

Point number seven, what is the endgame as far as hell goes? Well, in the book of Revelation, chapter 20, we see what happens. Satan and the people he deceived march on the city of God, Jerusalem, after the millennial reign of Christ is completed.

It describes Satan’s final defeat like this: "And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Then it says, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” -Revelation 20:9-10,14-15

So hell itself is placed in this sort of “new hell” called the lake of fire. At the end of the bible we see the coming of the new heavens and new earth. Well there is also a new hell called the lake of fire. What exactly that would be like, I don’t really know, it sounds terrible beyond all belief, and it does seem to imply continued conscious torment.

So that is the end game: There is no end to it. It’s infinite. Just like heaven is infinite.

Now it’s wise to consider these things, it reminds us to fear God, and to revere God as holy. God isn’t your therapist, whose going to give you unconditional positive regard no matter how bad the choices you make are, God is the holy righteous loving creator of the universe and the human race. And he loves us deeper than we can possibly imagine, and God loves justice, he believes in right and wrong, and if we rebel against him and live in sin, he will honor our choice, and send us to hell. But he much prefers that every single human receive that free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, and come to heaven, so he can love them there forever in beautiful and wonderful ways, because he is our God and we are his people.

Dwell on these things brothers and sisters, dwell on hell. Dwell on heaven. Consider carefully the choices you make. But use this wisdom wisely, use this knowledge of hell as motivation to live for God and to fear God, which is the beginning of all wisdom. But also don’t focus too much on hell. It’s a place best left forgotten, in the long run. I made the mistake I think in the past few years of thinking a bit too much about hell, and it can become traumatic over time as we reflect on it.

But I think it’s extremely useful because it’s sobering. We can get going in life having fun doing what we want and we start to forget about God. And a good reminder about hell can be sobering and remind us, hey, I need to be living every moment of my life for God.

We may also be tempted to raise questions, if God is really good why would he send someone to hell? If God why evil? And so on and so forth. But honestly those questions are difficult to answer, because how are we going to judge God? We can’t judge God. And we don’t understand the way he does. Some people use hell as an excuse to not believe in God. But on the day of judgment, they will at last understand just how terrible sin is. And on that day my friends, when we stand before God, we will understand exactly why hell was necessary. So until then, trust God. Don’t get too crazy asking these sort of questions. God is good, and love. But God’s justice is a good thing. Otherwise, sin would never end. It would keep polluting everything, forever. Trust Him, in the end, trust Him, and I know on that day of judgment you’ll understand, and you’ll say oh, so that’s why it was set up like that. Trust Him until then.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Reflections on Christian Philosophy in Severe Daily Practice

How do I actually do what the Bible says?  Jesus said, "“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."  -Matthew 7:24

Then we see Jesus reference those who hear the truth but don't put it into practice and in this parable he refers to them this way: "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand." -Matthew 7:26

Daily living in Christ, according to the Bible, how does it work?  What does a faithful Christian life look like in the 21st century?

That's what I'm always trying to figure out. How do I really do this? I wonder, am I doing it right now? Could it be, perhaps, that I am just exactly what I'm supposed to be as a Christ-follower? Sometimes we can get an attitude like it's never enough. Maybe I'm already there. Maybe I'm miles away from what it really looks like. 

What are the cultural practices that I as an American am able to keep, and which need to be tossed out? 

Every scripture I read, I'm wondering, how do I put this into practice?

I don't want to be a fool who reads the Bible and then doesn't actually put it into practice!

Wake up, and pray. Start the day the right way. If I'm not praying at the start of my day, I'm starting off moving in the wrong direction. 

And increasingly, on my Christian walk, I'm less and less viewing it as something I gain and then have, but more so, it is something that begins again every 24 hours. My philosophy of the Christian life is practical in this sense: I have to start with seeing it as one day at a time.  Wake up, to sleep, how do I do it practically? 

Each morning my walk with Christ starts over. Today, am I going to follow Jesus? So I've gotta start my day in prayer, telling God, Lord, I turn my life over to your care today. Show me how to do your will today.  

It's about information and input. You know how they say you are what you eat? It's even more so you are what you think. Or you are what you put in front of you. If you're putting in front of you news and sports, you're gonna be news and sports. If you put in front of yourself entertainment and comedy, that'll be your mindset. If you put in front of you consistently Jesus Christ, the gospel, the word of God, that's who you are and how you'll live.  It's just that simple. 

If you put the television in front of you 24/7 that'll be what influences you.  If you put social media in front of you 24/7 you'll be focused on that.  If you put your faith front and center in your life 24/7 that's who you'll be. That's how you'll live. And it'll influence you. What's influencing you? It's a huge question.

Give careful thought to your ways, says the Lord. -Haggai 1:5 

The things you do without thinking about are those things you've got to stop and think about.  

I thoroughly believe that the Christian philosophy, that way of life that is described in detail by thousands upon thousands of scriptures throughout the Bible is a real, wise, livable standard. 

There are 31,102 verses in the 66 books of the Bible. If I live by them, all be it imperfectly, I will live the right way in this life, because Jesus Christ will be living through me toward others. 

Many, many people will do something catastrophic to their eternal souls, they will listen to sermons, read the Bible, even pray, but not put the words they hear and read into practice. And that is destruction. In fact it is our default setting, to hear things, and then to continue living the way we always have. Reading and listening is easy, doing is harder.

Be someone who puts into practice the Bible. Pray for your enemies. Forgive those who hurt you. Really seek God. Really love Jesus. Set plans to practically meet needs and share the gospel with strangers. That is your call and challenge. Put it into practice.