thoughts on hell

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

Revelation 20:14

Hell is the place or state we choose apart from God’s grace in Christ. It is beyond my comprehension, and I really don’t want to dwell on it. But it is sobering. We get what we chose in this life in the end maybe so to speak, in spades. We either choose the light God gives us, or recede back more and more into the darkness, our own as well as that of this world.

I don’t see it as a physical lake of fire, but as something that is tormenting us more and more, as we live life apart from God.

Whether or not hell is forever (I think from the Bible it is, but you can make a case that it might be temporary either in annihilation at a certain point, or actual purification, though I think myself the latter is more far fetched), and I hope not myself, people receive what they deserve.

I like C.S. Lewis’s view of it as something we choose for ourselves in this life carried on into the next life. Humans were made for relationship with God and with each other. But sin separates us from God and from others. So in the eternal state we keep moving further and further on the track we chose in this life.

It is hell to live apart from God on our own. If we make our own light or depend on another light other than that of the gospel, then we’re indeed in for great deception. Jesus said that if the light in us is darkness, then that darkness is great.

Hell is living apart from God and God’s good will. Even as Christians we can live in a kind of hell when we seek to live life on our own, or unwittingly give into either self-deception or satanic deception. That’s a far cry from living in God’s grace in Christ in which we trust and obey and depend on God to see us through.

It’s a big subject, just a few scattered thoughts here. God grant us to rest in Christ. God took hell for us in himself at the cross, so that we never have to experience a shred of it here (though we still do at least from time to time), and none in the life to come. In and through Jesus.

when up in the air

When trying to make a decision, oftentimes one is at a loss in knowing what to do. I like to study it out, the pros and cons of any choice and go from there. Online one normally runs across the naysayers on so many things. They may have a point, but it may also be blown out of all proportion.

One needs to pray, look to the Lord, and also seek counsel from others. I think we do well to have a trusted friend with whom we can share. We need to look to the Lord for discernment and peace in it all. I don’t think reason is thrown out the window. But that reason needs to be tested by others, especially by trusted friends who also are followers of Jesus.

One other point: there oftentimes is not a wrong or right choice. On some given matter, it may seem crucial to us. There may be a good, better and best option, even if every option has its problems, rather to be expected in this life. We need to deliberate in the right way, taking some time to sort information out. Thinking it through with others, and above all, praying for God’s wisdom, help and peace in it all.

In the end we make the best decision we can and entrust ourselves completely to God, by faith. And we go on. Together with others in Jesus for the world.

second guessing myself

My wife, and most recently one of our pastors pointed out my need not to second guess myself. This was in the context of a difficult decision I had to make under considerable pressure, which on hindsight I saw problems with (as well as at the time). As well as seeing the good in the decision I made. As our pastor pointed out to me, it does no good to think, “If only.” I made the best decision I could at the time, and I must go on from this point (not completely her words, but the gist of them).

Yesterday there was another matter which now on hindsight I could second guess myself on. But I had prayed, and though it was difficult to do, I think it was a decision the Lord somehow was in. Or in his grace he will work in.

There are so many tough calls in life. What to do, what not to do. Including words which are among our most important acts in life.

The older I get the more important I see the support of the community in Jesus to help us go on from where we are, and grow to be a blessing. That includes sharing the difficulties we face with the decisions we have to make.

There are times though in which we need to take back what we’ve done, what we’ve said. We need to be sensitive as to where we may have offended someone because of words ill chosen, or an attitude neither honoring to the Lord, nor to them as a fellow human. Grace certainly needs to characterize our lives. As we have freely received from God’s hand through Jesus, we’re to freely give.

We do the best we can with much prayer, wanting to grow in all of that, and go on. Asking God to give us insight to do well and to make good decisions. And to learn not to second guess ourselves, but go on, trusting that God is with us in and through Jesus. And that he’ll work everything out to his glory and our good. We are in this together in Jesus and for the world.

choices

Sometimes in my life I’ve tended to downplay the importance of choices, instead wanting to emphasize a long term, way of life, in the words of Eugene Peterson: “a long obedience in the same direction.” And of course that is good, and important, and vital in our walk in God. Indeed over time, as N.T. Wright points out, what is good and right, the revealed will of God in Jesus, needs to become second nature to us. So that we are now wired and set in that direction in the way we live. More and more.

But even in that more settled, established life–and of course that is all relative, we are still being changed, and in process–but even in a relatively mature Christian existence, choices matter at key points. What are we going to do when tempted to do something that is not God’s will? Or more subtly, what are we going to do when we’re up against it, when all hell seems to have broken loose against us, when we’re troubled over (possibly) bad news, or something of the like?

This is when choices matter. Like when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane. Automatic, that Jesus would go the whole way for us and for our salvation, indeed for the salvation of the world? Check. But wait a minute. Didn’t Jesus pray that if possible the cup would be taken away from him? But then comes Jesus’ clear decision: “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will, Father, be done.” Jesus decisively makes a clear choice. And proceeds. In dependence on the Father, and by the Spirit, and I would think praying the psalms.

I have faced this lately. I can give in and give up too easily. No. We stop in our tracks, and bring the matter to God. And wait on him. Stopping means we don’t proceed in reference to the matter. And for me this means a kind of slowing down, and becoming quiet. Waiting for God to speak and work. And with the choice to live in God’s will in Jesus, as God makes that known, and opens it up to us.

That has been important to me on a number of fronts lately. Mostly seemingly small things, though not altogether. I want to live as one among others in the way of Jesus. Of course by grace. Choices matter. Maybe even more often what we decide not to do, or say–than what we decide to do, or say. All in the way of Jesus must be done in love. And in accord with the truth as it’s revealed in Jesus and through scripture.

Wait is an important watch word for us. Slow down. Stop. Be still as possible in God’s Presence. Proceed when one senses God’s revelation and release. Even through words that come to us, or a sense of what needs to be done, or not done. All in the way of Jesus for us before and for the world.