Month: June 2016

Hell: A Place of Loneliness

This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of suffering.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

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Last week we discussed the suffering of longing and emptiness that all people can relate to. If asked what remains as another fear common to all, most would likely answer, “loneliness.” We humans were created for fellowship. Even before we were brought into this world, God designed us for fellowship with him.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Genesis 1:26-31

Then, being brought into this world by our parents and family, we were born and raised to be “with” people, loved, cared for and nurtured by them.

As we get older and our lives separate from family and home, we find ourselves apart from people more than we find togetherness with them. While independence does have its place in human development and is an integral part of finding unity with the Father who created us, fellowship with people is where we are given the fullest sensation of what we were designed to experience. Thus, being constantly alone is a fate that most are terrified and tormented by.

The Rich Man, aside from his eternal dissatisfaction and longing for relief from his suffering, is completely alone in hell.  He is left alone to ponder both his condition and the absence of a solution to his suffering. He is alone, with no one to listen to his problems, no one to offer any empathy or compassion.

When confronted with Church or Christianity, many people view both as a burden. For many people (especially in the modern Western world), individuality and the freedom it seems to give them is enough to give them the brash and prideful overconfidence to look God in the face and say to him, “I don’t need you! Leave me alone!” But we learn from the Rich Man that hell is a place where we are finally given our way. Hell is a place where God hears our request for isolation and gives us what our hearts desire. In effect, we request to be alone and God ultimately respects our desires and leaves us alone. Therefore, where many people view hell as a sort of large jar with people scrambling like insects to escape, only to find the judgmental, jealous and cruel God firmly tightening the lid, according to Jesus, hell is quite different. Hell is a place that the people residing there have in their heart of hearts requested, and who have received what they demanded.

We are often our worst company, our worst comforter and our worst coach. On the other hand, Jesus Christ came into this world as “Emmanuel.” Jesus is, “God with Us,” and hell could not be more radically different. Hell is “Man with Himself.”

Tuesday Devotional: Lamentations 5

bible Read Lamentations 5

Things are not the way they are supposed to be.  This we can all agree is indisputable.  The questions we ask are “Why?” and “What can we do to change our situation?”  Our instinct is to look at external factors influencing our status and to seek a remedy to those factors.  We see injustice and decide that the best course of action is to address the social and legal issues underlying the injustices.  We see poverty and decide that a new social initiative requiring more legislation or community activism will most effectively change the situation and fix the problem.

The problem is that poverty has never been solved.  Injustice has never been solved.  We do in fact have an obligation to do what we can to improve our communities and the lives of those around us. However, regardless of the amount of time, energy and resources we throw at a problem, the problem will persist, most likely grow and exist for others to wrestle with after we have passed on.

So, is there any hope?  Is there any point in addressing these issues if the outcome will never change and our efforts will have little to no impact on the problems?  If we rely on our own efforts and believe that our new idea or program will conquer the insurmountable summit of suffering in this world, then no.  The solution to these problems is counterintuitive.  Where we think that the first step is to attack the problem head-on, the opposite is actually true.  In order to address problems in the world and discover a solution we must look internally rather than externally.  The problem is in each of us.  The problem is not others.  The problem is inside of us. Only by addressing the problem within each of us will we find the origin of our current world issues.  We will also discover that by finding the origin of our problem we also find the origin of the solution.  God created the world we live in upon the spirit of shalom.  The world was created for balance, harmony, unity, self-sustainence and comprehensive blessing.

When we compare our imperfections with the harmony of the created order, we will be pointed in the right direction of fixing what is broken and healing what is sick.  In Jesus Christ exists the fulfillment and revitalization of the created order.  In Jesus Christ there is hope that change WILL happen and that it CAN start today.  In Jesus Christ there is no longer fear, there is no longer hunger, there is no longer injustice.  No fear, because Jesus conquered the threat of fear by overcoming the thing we fear the most, death.  No hunger, because the words of God illuminated by the Holy Spirit sustain us daily, even when our physical bodies endure weakness and pain.  No injustice, because the injustice we perceive is actually just punishment for our undeniable sin, and true injustice is revealed in the perfect God accused, mocked and murdered upon a cross as a condemned criminal in the face of cheers and jeers from a guilty crowd.  We want change.  So does God.  The question is, are we willing to inherit and adopt God’s heart for change? or do we look upon Jesus and say, “I’ve found a better way”?

 

Hell: A Place of Suffering

This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of suffering.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

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Describing hell as “a place of suffering” is obviously nothing new. Most people with no experience with Christianity would agree. Throughout the years, hell has been depicted in art and the media as a fiery place of torment and torture. When most people hear the word, “hell,” immediately they think of demons, devils, screaming, fire, blood, all under the terrifying and brutal umbrella of “suffering.” An oft-used tactic from the pulpit has been to illuminate these images in the hopes of scaring the congregation into an increase in attendance or in giving. Not all churches deploy this strategy, of course: many pastors illuminate these images out of sincerity to the truth that hell is a terrible place that we should be terrified of. However, whether used from a self-centered or Christ-centered pulpit, hell equals suffering.

Reading the passage in Luke’s gospel, some might be surprised to learn that the Rich Man is actually speaking from inside of hell. Aside from the mention of the burning that apparently consumes the Rich Man, the stereotypical images of hell are mysteriously absent. Where are the demons? Where are the torture tools? Where is the terrifying Satanic imagery?

What we do find is in many ways more terrifying and far more relatable. In the place of the physical suffering we often equate with hell due to the plethora of images depicting torture, we find that his suffering has much more to do with satisfaction. He has a thirst that cannot be quenched. He feels a burning sensation from within that he cannot escape. This is the suffering of hell that Jesus illustrates in this story. And it is this idea of suffering that should connect with all of us.

While most of us can live out our lives avoiding physical torture, what none of us can avoid is the internal desire for satisfaction that we can never satisfy. We all want things we cannot have, and we all have felt that aching pain of lusting after something that is forever beyond our reach. From infancy there is nothing more torturous or cruel than the idea that there is something that we are being prevented from having. What we learn from the Rich Man is that hell is where that complete dissatisfaction goes on eternally. Hell is a place where we can never be satisfied and will remain forever unfulfilled. Jesus teaches that unity with him and the Father is where we, as the children of God, find complete fullness, where our cup is allowed to overflow. Therefore, hell is a place where God is absent, the occupants remaining out of reach of that fellowship with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, forever suffering an eternal emptiness. Hell is Godless and thus, utterly hopeless.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Jeremiah 4

bible18 “Your own conduct and actions
    have brought this on you.
This is your punishment.
    How bitter it is!
    How it pierces to the heart!”

19 Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
    I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
    My heart pounds within me,
    I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
    I have heard the battle cry.
20 Disaster follows disaster;
    the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
    my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle standard
    and hear the sound of the trumpet?

Jeremiah 4.18-21

There is unnatural stress and anxiety in this world.  It seems that fears breed fears, that once we overcome one, another soon takes its place.  We are surrounded on a daily basis by the things we have and don’t have.  We struggle to maintain and protect what we have, and we fight for a place to earn and gain possession of things we long for.

While we realize that we should probably relax more, let things go faster, not strive to have all that we want and just be happy, who can really accomplish this genuinely?  Perhaps for a limited period of time we can, but eventually we hear the sound of running out, having less or needing more.  This is inevitable in our world and our hearts.  We strive for what we cannot actually obtain on our own.  We strive to satisfy our restless souls with everlasting peace; we strive to satisfy our unhappy hearts with eternal happiness that continues to elude us.

Although it is easier to point the finger and blame something other than ourselves for our restlessness, the truth is that we continues to choose our will over God’s that would lead us into the place where we desire rest and peace over anything else.  God desires that we find true peace and happiness, but He also proclaims to us that only in a life united with Him and faith in His son Jesus can we find both.  Until we yield to God’s will and authority in our lives we will forever sense the encroaching presence of pressure and strife as we seek to satisfy our souls in this world by ourselves.  No person in human history has found the holy joy and peace that God offers apart from Him.  Apart from God there is a private place in the heart of each person that longs for rest from the battle, to find what ultimately does not exist in this world.  We are designed to know peace and happiness intimately.  God desires that we rediscover our design and know peace and happiness.  Will you continue to strive and fight?  Will you stay on high alert awaiting the next wave that may or may not overtake you?  Or, will you concede defeat in the fight for control and know victory in this world by accepting the control of the living God by faith in Jesus Christ?

Reflection Series: Hell

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Heaven and Hell. Some people assume Christianity is a religion which, if followed carefully and precisely, guarantees entrance into a personal heaven of safety, peace, love and joy. Some assume that Christianity poses impossible commands and rules that ultimately doom us to the looming hand of a judging God, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to throw us into a fiery eternity in hell to punish us for not being perfectly like him. While these assumptions are incorrect and based on sources outside of the Word of God, this two-pronged understanding of Christianity’s take on the afterlife is prevalent in today’s world.

As is the case with many topics, we have very little actual description of hell as it is mentioned in the Bible. However, one can argue that not knowing the entire scope of hell actually is a sign of God’s grace, in saving us the complete and detailed nature of hell. What we do know is that hell is a place God desperately wants us to avoid and we in turn should have a strong desire to avoid it.   In the Bible, God paints a picture of hell with few colors, but the colors he does use are enough for what we need to know about this place called “hell.” The Bible teaches us that hell is:

  • A Place of Suffering
  • A Place of Loneliness
  • A Place of Delusion

By examining these three aspects of hell we can hopefully come to a better understanding of why God gave his Son for us in order to spare us of this terrible place.

While there are many references to “hell” or “gehenna” in the Bible, our examination will focus primarily on the passage of scripture found in the Luke 16:19-31. Jesus’ description of the Rich Man and Lazarus provides us with more than enough to come to a complete understanding of hell.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

 Luke 16:19-31

Join us for the remainder of the reflection series next Thursday.

Mobile Word Podcast: Episode 6

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What does it mean to be a Christian?  What does the world around us think it means for someone to be a Christian?  What does it mean to be a witness of Jesus Christ?  On this episode of the Mobile Word Podcast we address the question, “What does it mean or look like to be a witness of Jesus Christ?  How we define being a witness and how we live as witnesses of Jesus Christ has a profound impact on the world around us.

Check out the latest episode at our Mobile Word Podcast page or on Itunes.

Remember to send in any comments, questions or scriptures for use on the Podcast at: mobilewordministry@gmail.com

Tuesday Devotional: Isaiah 16

bible3Hide the fugitives,
    do not betray the refugees.
Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you;
    be their shelter from the destroyer.”

So I weep, as Jazer weeps,
    for the vines of Sibmah.
Heshbon and Elealeh,
    I drench you with tears!
The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit
    and over your harvests have been stilled.
Isaiah 16:3-4, 9

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 
James 1:17

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

God’s character does not evolve and change like ours.  God’s character does not learn and grow like ours.  The character of God was not underdeveloped in the Old Testament and fully developed in the New Testament.  God has never changed and never will.  This pertains to His grace and mercy as it does to every aspect of His character.  God has always sought to preserve life and to bless the children He created.  God has never sought the destruction and suffering of any people.  When we observe the punishment and discipline of people or nations in the Bible the question is not, “Why is God so angry?”  The more pertinent question is, “Why did the people ignore God’s commands and do that which they knew they should not?”

The Bible is filled with God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness even predating the human life of Jesus Christ.  Grace and mercy are God as much His power and sovereignty are.  Sadly, as God’s mercy predated the life of Jesus, so did the sinfulness of man.  If a child is told not to steal and then goes ahead and steals, would our first question be, “Why is the child receiving discipline?” or, “Why did the child commit the crime?”  For most of us it would be the latter.  We complain that God seems quick to judge, but we say this as we show ourselves to be even quicker to judge than He is.

In the same way that Jesus’ commands seek to free us from our slavery to sin, God has always sought to free us from the sin of Adam.  God is aware that a life dictated and controlled by sin not only separates us from Him but will harm, enslave, and ultimately kill us.  Why would we choose death over life?  When the alternative has been explained, the warning given and the way out of death into life provided, why do we choose death over life?  Before we criticize God for disciplining we should better criticize our stubbornness to the point of death.

If God declares His desire to save you, why not be saved?  If God declares that your life of suffering and pain grieves Him, why not believe that His desire is for your life rather than your ultimate demise?  We must come to faith in Jesus Christ to have life, but we must never deceive ourselves into believing that with Jesus Christ came the first sign of God’s desire for grace, mercy and life.  God has always loved and has always recognized our need for Him in order to live.  Allow yourself to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and allow Jesus to reunite you with the Father who has always sought your eternal salvation.

 

Podcast Episode 5: Worship

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On the latest episode of the Mobile Word Podcast we discuss the idea of worship using Psalm 8.  What is worship?  How does God approach worship?  How do we misuse and misunderstand worship?  In Pslam 8 we find three fundamental motivations that direct us in the practice of Godly worship: Acceptance, Value and Purpose.  Listen to Episode 5 by clicking on the Mobile Word Podcast page or by finding the episode on ITunes. Enjoy!

New Mobile Word Podcast Episode!

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When things go wrong we have a tendency to blame God. However, how much of our disappointment is a result of us expecting things from God that He either never said or never promised? Check out this new episode four of the Mobile Word Podcast on the Mobile Word Podcast page or on itunes where we discuss Matthew 11:13-14 and how our expectations become a stumbling to our faith in Jesus and walk as Christians.  Enjoy!

Tuesday Devotional: Song of Songs 3

Read Song of Songs 3 bible

A personal encounter with Jesus Christ creates unspeakable joy in His presence and unparalleled agony in His absence.  To miss something or to long for something, one must first love and desire it.  We never despair the loss of something that we take no interest in.  However, when our lives are completely invested in something or someone it is unthinkable to imagine living without what we’ve begun to see as a part of us.

Since Jesus Christ came for us and promised to never leave us or forsake us, how or why do we experience His absence?  The truth is, we create His absence.  By turning away from Him and indulging in our sinful natures we create a chasm between us and Jesus Christ.  This chasm is not insurmountable as long as we repent and turn back to our true love, our Savior, allowing His unrelenting love to bridge the gap we’ve created.  The wave of darkness that we feel when experiencing suffering, loneliness or pain is not the absence of God but the very real presence of the trials of a broken world.  However, amidst the suffering we are offered the presence of our true love and Savior, that is, if we will have him.  For a person that has experienced the presence of Jesus Christ, to retain and sustain the presence of Jesus in their life is worth trading this entire world for.  For the person that has never truly experienced the presence of Jesus Christ, gaining the whole world is the equivalent of 30 pieces of silver and the denial of Jesus Christ is a reasonable bargain to make.  The measure of hate we feel toward sin is equal to the measure of love we feel toward Jesus.  The more we love Him, the more we feel in agony when we feel a separation between us and Him.  Therefore, in order to avoid this agonizing space between us and Jesus, we actively fight sin so as to protect the relationship most dear to us.  If we feel no despair in the fact that our sin separates us from him, and if we never find ourselves missing the presence of Jesus in our lives we must ask ourselves the same question that Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”