Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Provoking Thoughts and Questions about Hell

The book Martin Zender Goes to Hell was recently given to me, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I knew nothing of Martin Zender and his writings until just a few weeks ago when a new friend introduced him to us. Zender’s writings are quite thought provoking; although, unfortunately for some, also quite full of sarcasm. Most of the time, I really wish he didn’t write with such a sarcastic tone (though at times, it brings on a good laugh) because many of the things he writes about are important truths. But some people may take immediate offense at his writings just because of the sarcastic tone.
Three years ago, God did an incredible work with me and my faith. Through a lot of agonizing and deep searching into His character and His ways and into the Scriptures, God opened my eyes to see things very differently from how I had previously been taught and believed about an eternal hell. I have written about some of that in a previous blog post—"GOD, The Savior of All Mankind"—and have much more that I still would like to write for further explanation. Some of what Zender writes in the …Goes to Hell book speaks of some of my own thoughts as I went through the process that God took me through regarding the subject of eternal torment in hell:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Theological Debates and Quarrels

Oh, how easy it is for all of us to get sucked into theological debates and quarrels. In this world there are a million varying beliefs and ideas about God. And many individuals are convinced that what they believe is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Even among Christians who profess that the truth is revealed in the Bible and through Christ, there are still a great many varying beliefs based on how each person interprets what is written in the Bible.

Back in 2005 the Lord gave me some thoughts about these debates that take place among fellow Christians. That year I had begun a fellowship group that met once a week to discuss the seeking of God and spiritual things. One evening, a debate took place between two of the participants because of their differing beliefs on a particular matter. While at the time I did not agree with one participant’s point of view, I also refused to belittle him or his belief and wanted to give him an opportunity to be heard that we may also try to understand where he was coming from. The other participant that debated with him chose not to be as gracious. He only wanted to spout off every contradiction that he could think of against the other one’s viewpoint. The more the debating progressed, the greater the sadness that came over me. Here were two Christians, followers and believers of Christ, parts of the body of Christ, becoming divided over a viewpoint. As I sat there in that meeting, I felt like a helpless bystander observing something, and also being part of something, that was not glorifying God or bringing us any closer together. Instead, “It” was playing on us to divide and separate. (It wasn’t the belief that was the real problem. “It” was the attitude with which the belief was being discussed and the heart intent in each person to prove they were the one right and the other wrong—way wrong!) Sometimes I would try to “referee” their conversation, but I could hardly get a word in because they kept quickly shooting their words back and forth at each other.

For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 3:7-17, 4:1-3)

(The source of quarrels and conflicts most usually stem from the fact that we want something, but we are not getting it. In this particular case, we want someone to “see” things or “believe” things the way we do and they are unable and unwilling to do so.)

The next morning, heavy hearted, I sought God for an answer, a solution, and a word of wisdom about what had transpired in the group the night before. The following is what God led me to write down in my journal:

I believe I got some direction on what is to happen when someone expresses something the Spirit has revealed to them that someone else may not have understood, may disagree with, or may not be ready to receive themselves yet.

We are not coming together with each other to convince each other of anything.

When we express what the Spirit has shown us or revealed to us, we do so to expose it and share it openly with the group but not to convince (or debate with) everyone else of the truth of what has been revealed to us.

It is God’s job—the work of the Spirit to plant and solidify His truths to each one of us; not our work upon others. [Let us not play God in each other’s lives.]

We must own up to our own faith through the power of the Spirit.

Like the New Testament model of those who preached the gospel and let the Spirit speak to hearts. Those that were ready heard the truth and accepted it. Those that were not ready did not hear and accept. And those that were speaking by power of the Spirit did not heatedly debate with those who did not accept—or were not ready at the time. They just let it be.

It is IMPERATIVE that when God has revealed something—as we are led to share it in the power of the Spirit [not by our own initiative]—that we lay the revelation out on the “table” or before the witnesses and leave it there for the Spirit to take care of it…for the Spirit to speak and draw those He knows are ready. He may reveal something at a different level or speed than someone else received it.

We cannot play the Holy Spirit. We are not Him…and if we do try to be, we will hurt or push away our fellow man in the process.

It’s sort of like a parent to child relationship functions…there are truths and revelations of God that must be found and discovered for ourselves—no human can force us to accept and believe them—we plant a seed of our own personal revelation and let God tend to it. The seed comes from a maturing plant that has grown and blossomed. [There are wise things about life I already know from experience that I have tried to impart upon my teen children; but they choose to ignore them right now. They don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear right now. So I just let it be. All my “hot air” will only hurt our relationship and separate us. God WILL deal with them at the perfect time, and God IS in ultimate charge of them and their lives anyway.]

We could spend endless years debating all the different doctrines within the Christian faith—but that is not how we experience the fullness of God. “Debate with one another” is not in Scriptures!

Sometimes we wish others could be at our same place of growth so we could have more likeness to share; however, that is not usually the way it is to be. We can encourage each other as we observe each other’s growth—but God does the growing and it’s a job best left to HIM.

And for those who may feel “threatened” or “alerted” in their mind or Spirit when a revelation they are not comfortable is brought forth and shared, we do well to ask ourselves:

“Why does this bother me?”

“Why do I believe differently?”

“Am I willing to take the time to dig into God’s word as a WHOLE; not just pulling particular Scriptures out of context, and see where this person’s revelation is coming from?”

“Could God be trying to reveal a greater Truth of Himself to me?”

“Am I willing to take this matter to God and search God’s heart and seek His face, wisdom, and enlightment? Especially before I suggest to my brother or sister that this revelation must not be from the Holy Spirit and that they are being deceived?”

When we earnestly and wholeheartedly seek God for wisdom and counsel in any matter, He will not disappoint us. He will lead us and teach us. What parent doesn’t joyfully instruct a child who is seeking wise counsel and direction?

As a parent to three unique children, I know that each one of my children were all ready for different things at different times. They were not all walking at exactly the same age. I did not teach all of them certain things about life at exactly the same age. Each one has grown up and matured at a different rate according to who they uniquely are and what unique experiences each has had. God works with all of us in the same way.

None of us chose who we were born to be, when or where we were born, or how we were taught to believe about anything. None of us even chose when we came to believe in God and in Christ. We might think that we did choose, but it was HIM who gave us the sight to see Him and the desire to accept Him. That was all God’s doing. More than once, I have wondered about my own self. Why did God choose for me to be born where I was and for me to live where I have and where I do and to have a fervent passion for Him? Why am I not one living in some jungle somewhere oblivious to Him? Or living in an oppressive country in great poverty without any of the freedoms and the abundance I so easily take for granted now? Why am I not living in a makeshift hut in Africa barely surviving due to sickness or lack of food? Why am I not a Chinese Christian believer persecuted for my faith, possibly abused and tortured and sitting in some prison that I have no hope of ever leaving while in this earthly body? I had no say in any of that. Who I am, where I am, and how I believe was all HIS choice for me.

The apostle Paul persecuted “The Way”—the believers of the resurrected Christ. He wanted to annihilate them. Paul did not have ANY choice whatsoever where He was born, that He was born into Judaism and the Law, and what he was taught to believe and fight for. Paul did not have ANY choice when or how Christ revealed Himself to him or when Christ opened his eyes to the truth.

But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood… (Galatians 1:15-16)

When Paul stands in the center of the Areopagus in Athens and speaks to the Athenians he makes bold statements about the truths of God. He begins by being quite respectful and gracious with these idol lovers and worshipers. They have hundreds of idols they worship, all made by their own human hands. But he doesn’t scoff at them; He simply states the truth as God had granted him the sight to see the truth earlier in his own life.

So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD'. Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. (Acts 17:22-29)

[There is an excellent and exciting historical explanation about the “Unknown God” altar in Athens and how it came to be there. It clearly shows how God’s hand was over those people way before Paul’s arrival to preach the truth. But that story is maybe for another post at another time. I read it in the book Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson.]

It is a great frustration to me and a great sadness when Christian brothers and sisters tear each other down all in the name of proving they are the ones right on any particular belief about God and the spiritual realm. While I don’t believe it is any surprise to God to see us behave that way, I think it certainly must sadden Him. I am not surprised when my children bicker and fight over silly and not so silly things, but it always brings a great sorrow to my heart.

I have observed that often times man tries to fashion God to be into our own image. There are times that we make God out to be like one of us humans instead of allowing Him to be THE ALL-MIGHTY GOD of ALL things that He really is. I am guilty of having done it myself. But the truth is that “Elohim said: Let Us make humanity in Our image and according to Our likeness…So Elohim created humanity in His image; in the image of Elohim He created it: male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26, 27)

God is not made in humanity’s image. Humanity is made in GOD’s image. We do not have a weak and limited God. We have an ALL-POWERFUL and BOUNDLESS God!! His hands are not tied and His plan is still being fulfilled according to His purpose. As much as we may try to bind and shape him with our human minds, He will not be.

I do not know everything there is to know about God. I only claim to know as much as He has chosen to reveal to me at this moment in time. Will I graciously and patiently remember the same about others with whom I come into contact with?

Back to that meeting of 2005 and the one man that I did not agree with…

Well, God had a plan and a sense of humor to show me. You see, before that man came to that meeting or ever called me on the phone prior to attending even his first meeting, God had planted a seed in my mind and heart about what that man was going to share. After that meeting took place, God took me on a journey—a long, wrestling journey—where He turned a belief that I had been taught to believe, and had firmly believed, and turned it upside down. Over the last 5 years I have walked an immense wilderness with God and He has done an incredible work. The first couple of years of that time, God was doing the work with regards to my heart, my motives, and my attitude about certain things. After breaking me down in those areas that were stumbling blocks and after humbling me, then ensued the last three years. The last three years He has had me take a hard and scrutinizing look at my faith and why I believed what I did and why I thought of Him the way that I did. It has been quite refreshing to be experiencing a revival of sorts in how I know Him and see Him. He has become SO MUCH bigger and SO MUCH more powerful than I ever understood Him to be before.

I recently bought a decorative plaque for my house that says:

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

The life I’ve had I could not have ever imagined. But it IS the life that God has given me. I am truly grateful it has been the life HE chose for me and gave me instead of any life that I could have planned (and botched up) myself.

The faith I have is the faith that I have been given—for Christ is the Author and Perfecter of my faith—He begins my faith and perfects it unto completion. For the faith I have been given, I am extremely grateful. Why God chose for Christ to call to me and give me “eyes” and “ears” sooner rather than later, I have no idea. But oh, glory! am I thankful that He did!! Does this mean I have any right to be ungraceful or impatient with those who have not yet been given ears to hear or eyes to see Him? Does this mean I have any right to be ungraceful or impatient with any of my fellow brothers or sisters in Christ who do not have my same point of view in any spiritual matter? May it never be so (it would only be self-righteousness); and oh God, please forgive me when I have been in the past and whenever I may be in the future.

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed and do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (1 Peter 3:13-20)

If the Lord leads us to share anything of what He has revealed may we do it gracefully, lovingly, and patiently. May it never be with a self-serving motive that we must convince or a self-righteous attitude that we are the only ones right. The Lord merely asks us to be vessels for Him; He has not asked us to take over His role in another person’s life.

Only by His grace…

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

He Came and Filled My Heart

Today, as I heard this song again, a flood of memories came back to my mind when I sang (cried out in anguish!) this song to the Lord. A few years ago I went through one of the most difficult emotional and spiritual seasons of my life. There was so much sorrow within my heart and so many fears and insecurities that God still needed to conquer. I was desperate to be free from the self-condemnation of my failures and the great fears of Rejection and Man. I cried out this song to my Lord begging Him to do a mighty and miraculous work within me! I wanted to be empty of my own self and completely filled with Him instead. I was sick and tired of the fears that haunted me, paralyzed me, and influenced me to think and do things that I no longer wanted to think and do. I had no strength of my own because I was so weakened by the difficult circumstances that had broken my heart into a million pieces. I cried this song in His ears over and over and over again; until I couldn’t sing anymore and would become hoarse.

Today, I can rejoice after letting those memories flood through my mind for He has been doing that mighty and miraculous work in me that I begged for. He planned it all along, and I am more than grateful. In the last year I have been freed from the Fear of Man and the Fear of Rejection. He has given me a freedom that I have never had or known before. It was a tough process, but with Him we are always victorious! Glory, glory, glory unto Him!!!! By no means, is all the work to be done with me completed, but He has already done a great work indeed. I stand in awe, as always!

I Don't Want to Go

This is one of my all time favorite songs to sing to my Lord, Jesus Christ. He absolutely changed my world when He came to me and drew me near to His heart. He planted an incredible passion within me for seeking and loving God. I long to follow His lead in every aspect of my life. I don’t want to step in any direction or go any way that may be stepping away from Him because my life without Him is a dead life. I have to be in constant connection with Him; anything that causes me to stray from that is not worth it. His love and His touch fill me up like nothing else can.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Give Us a King

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him (Samuel), "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us ".

And Samuel prayed to the LORD.

The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. "Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day--in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also. "Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them."

So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king.

He said, "This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. "He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. "He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. "He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. "He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. "He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. "He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. "Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day."

Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, "No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles."

Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the LORD'S hearing.

The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to their voice and appoint them a king."

(1 Samuel 8:4-22)

So as the United States of America goes forth with their choice of "king" for the next four years, the words spoken in Ecclesiastes also come to my mind along with the words of 1 Samuel 8,

All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

(Ecclesiastes 1:8-10)

A change was asked for, a change is certainly on the way…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Man Cannot Get Anything Unless...

This last week, my eyes fell on these verses and I felt compelled to write them down in my journal:
Now a slave of the Lord must not be fighting, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach, bearing with evil, with meekness training those who are antagonizing, seeing whether God may be giving them repentance to come into a realization of the truth, and they will be sobering up out of the trap of the Adversary, having been caught alive by him for that one’s will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

What suddenly jumped out at me from those verses was the phrase “seeing whether God may be giving them repentance to come into a realization of the truth”. God is The One to grant the repentance that will then lead into a realization of the truth—it is not of our own selves, not of our own will, and not of our own doing; it comes from God alone.
I was then immediately reminded of some very important words John spoke when he was baptizing and being questioned by his disciples regarding Jews and cleansing:
A man can not get anything if it should not be given him out of heaven.” (John 3:27)

God's Will WILL Be Done

Regardless of who wins this Presidential election, I know it will be God’s will being done. *He* is THE ONE in control and He will do HIS will.

“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise... (Daniel 2:20-23 NASB)

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35 NASB)

My prayers during these times go something like this:

My God, you know my heart already and who I prefer to win this election. But, may it certainly not be about my will being done, but YOUR perfect will being done. You know what is best for us in order to brings us to the place You need to get us to that Your work in us may be done. Whatever happens, I acknowledge that You are in control of all. You are THE ALL-powerful, ALL-knowing God. No matter who You have chosen to win this election, I am certain that You will show Yourself to be the Great and Mighty God that You are! Amen.

“Blessed be the name of Him Who is the Alue, from the eon and unto the eon, for the wisdom and mastery, they are His. He is altering the eras and the stated times, causing kings to pass away and causing kings to rise, granting wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those knowing understanding. He is revealing the deep and the concealed things; knowing what is in the darkness since with Him a stream of light solves them. To Thee, Alue of my forefathers, am I acclaiming and lauding…” (Daniel 2:20-23 CLNT)

“Then I blessed the Supreme, and I lauded and honored Him Who is living for the eon, seeing that His jurisdiction is an eonian jurisdication, and His kingdom is with generation after generation. All abiding on the earth are reckoned as naught: according to His will is He doing in the army of the heavens and with those abiding on the earth. And no one will actually clap with his hands and say to Him, ‘What have doest Thou?’” (Daniel 4:34-35 CLNT)

Trusting implicitly in Him…