Why I’m Thinking About Hell

I woke in the middle of the night last night with one thing on my mind… hell.

There’s probably a mixture of reasons why my mind would be consumed with thoughts of hell, but the first is because of the recent death of actor Heath Ledger. My wife was the first one to tell me (via email) that Mr. Ledger was found dead in his apartment and her first words were something along the lines of “…and now he’s in eternity.” Bethany was definitely speaking the truth to me, because yes, he’s entered eternity — somewhere. That somewhere could very well be hell. Though I don’t know the condition of his soul before he passed into eternity, it doesn’t appear that his life reflected one of Christ-like love and affection. And I know that the Bible teaches me that there are only two places to spend eternity: heaven or hell.

The other reason I’m thinking about hell is because of the message my pastor spoke this Sunday morning. He taught on Judas, the Traitor. Basically, he explained how Judas betrayed God in the flesh for 30 pieces of silver, or what today would be twenty bucks. Twenty bucks is all it took for a guy to hand over Jesus to be crucified. Twenty bucks was all it took for Judas to sell his soul to Satan. Unfortunately for Judas, that money didn’t satisfy him and he ended up taking his own life. Now I could sit here all afternoon and talk about these horrible situations and deaths, but let’s get to the point — I’m still thinking about hell.

Hell is a real place, there’s no doubt about it. The Bible says it — I believe it. Luke 16 has a clear message about the reality of hell. It talks about a man who just wanted one drip of water on his tongue to quench the agony of the flame that was consuming him, that is, the flame of hell. I’m convinced that no matter how bad I can contrive hell in my mind that it’s probably a millions times worse. Scratch that — a gazillion times worse.

But last night as I lay in my bed, I couldn’t just think about hell and leave it at that. To dwell on hell is a frightening thing, so I began to pray. I began to pray for the peace of the Holy Spirit to calm me down. I started thinking through who God was and why I know I will be with him in eternity, that is of course because of the work of Jesus Christ. I began to remind myself of what the Bible says and how I know that I am saved beyond a shadow of a doubt. It was then and only then that I found rest. I guess I’m wondering how people sleep at night? How can they sleep while they don’t know where they’ll be in eternity. How can they hear about the tragedies of death on this earth and not think about their own lives? I’m a Christian who knows he’ll be in heaven, but I still think such things!

My wife’s email to me yesterday about Heath Ledger had an interesting ending. She wrote concerning the news, “…It just makes me think we aren’t guaranteed another day of life. Every day is a gift from God. So needless to say, I love you!” She’s 100% right on. No, I’m not guaranteed tomorrow. Yes, every day is from God and sustained by God. All I can do is put my trust in Him and continue to serve Him diligently. Eternity is on the line.

Good To Great

Out in the Cold
If you have never read the book Good To Great, go get yourself a copy. This is actually one of the books I finished reading last year, and that’s mainly due to the fact that it’s a great read.

I brought my copy of Good To Great to work today. No, I’m not trying to show off to the higher ups, I actually needed to prepare for a meeting that I’m leading. The subject of the meeting is greatness and why people desire it. Don’t ask me why I’m leading a meeting about this, it’s kind of complicated. But the first thing I thought of concerning that concept of greatness was this book. As I said, you need to get yourself a copy, but the main thrust of the book is why their are some companies that become great and then there are companies that are just good. The writer Jim Collins and his team of researchers use very specific guidelines (almost mathematical at times) to separate the good companies from the great ones. Even for someone who isn’t thinking about business or really cares, the book doesn’t go above your head. It actually spends a lot of time focusing on the people and not just their companies. That’s why the book stands out to me so much. Chapters 2 and 3 are called “Level 5 Leadership” and “First Who…Then What”. They basically outline the kind of people that companies need to be pursuing and putting into leadership, while giving examples of great companies and the people who work or worked there.

I’m realizing more and more that greatness isn’t so much about what I can do, but who I am. This is especially true for Christians, but our character defines who we are, whether good or great. In Good To Great, they explain how the majority of the president’s of the “great” companies never took credit for what they accomplished. In fact, the interviews with the men who led those companies revealed that more often than not they took no credit at all. They were consistently humble people, even after they were long gone from their companies. This is how the Bible describes the Christian’s character as well. I am to be a humble man before a holy God. Greatness for me isn’t defined so much by what I do for God, but who I am before Him.

These are just things I am learning and trying to understand. I don’t have the market on greatness, especially when it comes to being humble, but each and every day is an opportunity for me to exercise it’s characteristics. I’ve probably heard dozens of sermons in my lifetime that have had a sentence that started with, “Do you want to be great for the kingdom of God? Then _______ (fill in the blank).” Unfortunately I can’t remember what the blanks were, that’s probably why I’m having to learn it all over again.

Resolutions

Resolutions
It’s not uncommon for many people around the world to make resolutions around the new year. We accept the new year as almost a new beginning or a renewal of anything we might want to change in the year to come. It’s a new start that comes about every 365 days. If the previous 365 days didn’t go so hot for you, you could make a resolution and try better in the new year. I’m normally not one to jump on the new years resolution band wagon, but this year I do have a few that I have been thinking about.

First, I want to exercise more. Just saying that sounds a bit clichè as far as resolutions go, I know. I’ve heard that more treadmills are sold around December and January than any other time of the year. But the reality is, I need more exercise. I’ve got a little extra hanging over the belt these days that I never had before and it’s starting to bother me. This never used to be an issue because I pretty much played soccer my entire life, but obviously things have changed. Now I sit in front of a computer screen all day and consume free food provided by company. About once a week someone brings bagels or desserts in as well which are very difficult to decline. Sometimes I think it’s just the fear of man that I don’t want to make someone feel bad that I don’t want their bagels (which I do), but I just don’t want run that off later. Needless to say, exercise is on the ballot for 2008.

Secondly, I want more balance. No, I don’t need to learn to walk — I mean balance in my life. My job is great, and I never need to bring work home or think about work while I am at home. The problem is I work at home. I have a side business doing freelance design and photography and sometimes my time is consumed in that as opposed to other things. I need balance in my work, spiritual life, and my relationship with Bethany. Those things definitely overlap at times and they should (e.g. spiritual life and relationship with Bethany), but I want to make sure that I am not so consumed with the pursuit of the mighty dollar that other areas of my life are being quenched of my time and attention. Therefore, I am resolved to obtain more balance as it pertains to my work and relationships with God and Bethany.

Finally, I want to finish things. That might sound strange, but it’s something I am realizing that I have a hard time with. I want to finish some school. There are a few outstanding classes that got away from me that I am registered for and in the process of completing. I want to finish some projects. This goes along with being balanced, but I need to finish a few design projects that I have started and need to complete. I want to finish some blogs. Every now and then I start a blog that I like and then I either run out of time or just don’t complete my thoughts and it’s just left out there in the cold. I want to finish my thoughts and be clear in my thinking. It’s good for me, and I think it will be beneficial to those who read my blog. And lastly, I want to finish some books. Over the course of a year I find that I pick up a book for a week or two, read a good amount of it and then never finish. One book I want to finish is “On Writing Well.” This will probably help my blogging for one thing. Another is “Desiring God” by J.I. Packer. I have started that book more than once and have found myself in the same place with the end nowhere in sight.

I don’t know what the new year holds for my life. But I do know what I am called to be and to do as a Believer in Jesus Christ. My hope is that these simple resolutions will be steps in my life to glorify an amazing God and also make me a better husband and friend. If you feel you could help me, send me a comment or an email and I’ll be sure and take it to heart. Now if I could just find that darn book…

When Things Don’t Look Right

It
Every now and then I take a photo and it doesn't look like what I saw in my viewfinder. I mean I point, focus, and then click the shutter and I don't get the result I wanted. Most of the time it's because I didn't focus correctly, or didn't adjust my aperture or shutter speed properly, but either way it's not what I had originally desired. That's exactly what happened in the photo above. Though there is a bit of aesthetic value in the image, it just doesn't really hold up against great photography.

At times the church has this problem. They point, focus, and click, but what they thought was going to be a great picture of the church turned out to be something quite different. Or at least that's what I think happens. I wasn't even really planning on talking about this tonight until I came across a church youth website. Honestly, I was looking at some web design company and noticed they had a youth ministry in their portfolio. My first thought was, "how the heck did a youth ministry afford a professional website?" so I had to check it out. These were the first words I read:

"Oneighty is open Thursdays 6:15pm to 9:15pm for High Schoolers, grades 9-12. Featuring billiards, basketball, Xbox and PS2, foosball, food, experiencing God, and discovering who you were created to be."

Maybe you read that and thought, "sweet, sounds cool." If you did, that's probably what the leaders were going for on this one. But that's not what I thought. My mind triggers on how things are worded and where things are placed. Words mean something to me. Sentence structure also means something. We don't just use our language to communicate information, we can, and do use it to communicate a message. The message I got from those two sentences was this:

“Come on in! We’ve got everything you can do at home and more!…. and if we get around to it, we just might try to explain what ‘experiencing God’ means.”

Call me harsh, but let’s be honest — putting “Xbox” and “experiencing God” in the same sentence doesn’t really make much sense. If given the option, I’m sure just about every average high school student (male or female) is going to choose “food” or “billiards” over “experiencing God.”

The church doesn’t need to be another place to plug in, play pool, or eat junk food, it needs to be the church. It needs to be the church as defined in Scripture. We don’t need youth who are committed to Halo, we need youth who are committed to Christ. It just gets under my skin. I don’t understand where we thought this was a good idea. I only include myself because I am a part of the global Church. These people may be genuine followers of Christ, but I think they need to rethink their platform for ministry.

The reality is, I love the church. But I don’t understand why we need to dress her (the church) up like the local burger joint to talk about Christ. I’m not trying to judge the hearts or intentions of the people of the unnamed church I am talking about, but I think it’s simply dangerous. May I quote from Derek Webb’s song “Nobody Loves Me”:

the truth is never sexy
so it’s not an easy sell
you can dress her like the culture
but she’ll shock ‘em just as well

because she don’t need an apology for being who she is
and she don’t need your help making enemies
so i don’t care if…

nobody loves me, nobody loves me
nobody loves me but you

For Your Discernment

By a Thread

I’m always a little skeptical when someone says “studies show…” and then follow that by supporting whatever they are saying, whether it be good or bad. But a new study by the Barna Group is revealing some other skeptics. Whether or not you are a fan of that organization, or even know who they are, I believe they really do try to have their ear to the ground when it comes to the Christian community. I really don’t have feelings either way towards Barna, but a recent publication called “A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity” has my attention, and it might even draw yours.

I am bringing this study to the surface for your discernment. Read it, think about it, and then seek to understand what the Bible has to say about such things. Maybe I’ll write a follow up on it later if we start some discussion.

Page 12 of 12