Hope In Dark Times – Guest Intermezzo Blog by PK Adams

Hope in Dark Times – by Blue Skies and Green Pastures

It’s feels much easier to be cynical these days than to share the ‘good news’ of Jesus. But isn’t that why the good news is so good? As evil grows more powerful, and the narrative of death and fear is used constantly to push people towards the state to ‘save them’ with technology, the unsaved world becomes less willing to hear about an unseen savior that tells them that suffering is inevitable and that they should be looking forward to a ‘kingdom’ that seems too far away. But this is the truth and the truth is better than false hope.

Our lives on this planet are very short compared to the eternity we will experience after death. The suffering we may be experiencing now on earth, while it can be terrible and seem like it will last forever, is mercifully limited. And if we know Jesus, we can have supernatural peace even in the midst of suffering. Not ‘happy feelings’, but the assurance that God will work all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28. Our ultimate hope is not in the state or technology, but in the knowledge that God through his holiness and justice will make things right for his children.

Some of us are actually suffering in our own lives due to pain, illness, loneliness, death of loved ones, lost jobs, precarious living arrangements, or the loss of hope that things will get better. It is the last one that we must try to change. We must remember the promises of God, continue to trust Him, keep looking for ways to serve him and others. Others of us are struggling because of the growing evil in the world and the fear that has taken over our hearts and minds. We fear for our children and grandchildren and our own lives. We are called to continue doing good, loving others, sharing Jesus, giving to the church, studying the Word, and not let the world steal our hope and joy.

Many generations of believers have gone before us. Compared to them, most of us (at least in the West) are living in a rich, free, and comfortable world. We can be thankful for the inventions that God allowed men and women to make that have made life so much easier. I am glad we no longer have to hunt and gather food daily to survive or fight off invaders in our village or die from childbirth or a simple illness or accident. Yet, greed, idolatry, rebellion, and pride are still a constant threat that manifests as statism, wars, violence, crime, immorality, and ideological narratives that attempt to control the public. There is nothing new under the sun, as it says in the Ecclesiastes. Until we live in the kingdom, we will deal with the fallout of sin.

While we wait for Jesus to return, let us not grow weary, lose hope, or let our hearts grow cold. This is the true test of faith, can you keep hope alive? Paul tells us in Philippians 4: Let the peace that passes understanding rule in your hearts and keep you focused on Jesus who is near to you and even inside you. We can do all things, even suffer, when we abide in Him. Our job as believers is to show this hope and faith to the world and each other.

Hell Is Authentic

The result of living without Jesus is .  Not just a fantasy, not just a short-term separation from what is good.  It is a final loss, a final “mercy” of God to those who refuse any blessing.  He will not let an evil person go on hurting others into eternity, or even themselves; so He places them in outer darkness (Matthew 8:11-12), alone and apart from any source of light or life, because that is what they have chosen.  “All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice, there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find; to those who knock it is opened.” (C.S.Lewis, The Great Divorce)

If they would choose to know The God Who Is Here, anyone can enter into His Life, Light, Joy, Peace and every other blessing that comes from living in consistency with “the universe.”  There is only one way to know The God Who Is Here, and that is by getting to know Jesus, the Messiah, aka Christ.  “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)  There simply is no other way.  Father loves each one of us so much that if there was another way, He would inform us and provide us with the alternatives.  But THIS is the nature of the universe.  It is what He created and knowing Him is the only way. (Acts 4:10-12)

Like the Children of the Day sang, “Don’t try to drive the darkness out; You just turn on the light.”  Hell is the absence of light.  It is the absence of love.  It is the absence of community.  It is the absence of peace.  It is the absence of selfless joy.  It is the absence of life. 

Note, by that I do not mean the end of existence.  It that were the case, “hell” would not be all that bad.  If when we died we simply vanished into nothingness, there would be no reason for warning and inviting people to Life.  However, God created each of us, created YOU, to enjoy Him forever.  There is no Infinity Stone that can simply snap away our existence.  The gift of existence is without do-overs. (Romans 11:29)  We were created for eternity and “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

One of Job’s visitors described hell as the destiny of all those who do not know God, a dreadful place he calls the king of terrors.”  Hell will be a place of eternal death, because its inhabitants will be separated eternally from the Source of Life.  There, like the demons who believe and shudder (James 2:19), its occupants will hate God and the exposing light of his glory.  “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)

Before Him “Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water” (Ezekiel 21:7).  Just as the kings of the earth will call to the mountains and rocks, “Hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne” (Revelation 6:16), in hell God will give them what they want, a place of complete eclipse, darker than anything we can imagine. (Matthew 22:13; 25:29-30

As we have noted before (see ), anyone who longs for joy can find it.  Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:29, “If you will seek Yahweh your God, you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” But this is not like trying to find Easter eggs, either in the yard under bushes, or a hidden message in a movie.  You do not have to scour the internet or decode mysterious anagrams or learn a particular language.  God is not hiding, making you wade through mazes or difficult terminology to find Him.  He makes Himself clear to anyone willing to see Him (Romans 1:19-22)  Further, He has revealed Himself throughout history via prophets, priests, church leaders and lastly through Jesus.

It would be nice if we could say those who go to hell will only stay there for a little while and then be granted entry into Heaven, kind of like an earthly prison sentence.  But remember those who go there go by their own choice because they do now want to live in God’s Kingdom; they refuse to live with someone else that is there; they object to His rulership.

So what awaits one who refuses to believe what God has revealed about Himself? 
“This is what Yahweh, the LORD, says:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
Therefore hear, O nations, and know what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
    the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
    and as for my law, they have rejected it.…
Therefore this is what Yahweh says:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people a stumbling block against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.’”
(Jeremiah 6:16-21)

You have this opportunity while you live. (Hebrews 9:27-28)  There is no guidance on making this decision after you die, and why would anyone refuse the Lord of Life now while they can learn to know Him before that time?  The choice is yours to make.  we will look a little more at the choice.

A Gift You Keep by Giving It Away

Christmas Gifts.jpgChristmas time and everyone is thinking about, blogging about, shopping about and hoping about gifts.  Here is a gift for you.  The only catch is that you can only keep it by giving it away.  Confused?

Remember that guy in second grade who always picked on you?  How about the fourth-grade girl who copied your test and blamed you when the teacher got suspicious, and you were punished?  Then there was the college girl who pointed at you with her friends who were laughing hilariously at you, and you were left wondering what was so funny.  What about the guy who cut you off in busy traffic so that you had to wait for another light?  Go back to each one in your mind and in your heart of hearts and forgive them, — one — by — one.  Not all that hard to do for these.

But what about the guy who raped you when you were 16?  He died in an auto wreck a few years later; how do you forgive him!?  Or the guy who lied at work and cost you your job and left your family reeling from financial difficulties with which you are still struggling?  The continuous offense of a family member who just will not quit doing that even though it is so offensive to everyone in the family?  The cruel words, “I do not love you anymore,” that left a woman bereft of the love she thought would last forever.  An ex-spouse whose lies and distortions hurt more than if she had an affair.

Forgive them, too.  As hard as this can be, you simply must forgive them.  Jesus almost made it sound like a caveat that God’s forgiveness of you was dependent on your forgiveness of those who offended you.  For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)  Okay, not almost!  He said it specifically so that it sounds like that!  What Jesus is describing here is not a one-time action; it is an attitude of the heart.

Attitude:manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind” according to Dictionary.com.  It is like muscle tone for the brain.  Muscle tone means greater strength, increased mobility and flexibility, and less exhaustion from the same amount of work.  Body BuildingAttitude is this for the brain; it is the automatic positioning of unconscious choices that makes your thoughts work in a certain way.  And development of this can make training for Mr. World seem like a walk in the park, especially where forgiveness is concerned.

We take offense so easily and feel like we cannot love the sinner while hating the sin.  Yet we do it almost every day.  Well, maybe you don’t, but I do.  I do something that I know is offensive to my Lord and Master, and then I just say how sorry I am for messing up again and go on my way like everything is now okay since I sincerely repented.  And it is.

The only trouble is applying this same principle to others when they mess up.  So you see, I really do know how to hate the sin yet love the sinner, as long as the sinner is me.  And in fact, the more I love myself, the more I hate the sin I commit.  What I need more of is recognition that everyone else is living regrettable lives sometimes committing sin they detest.  Does anyone really want to be angry all the time?  Is anyone wishing to be lonelier because of their bitterness?  Who among us enjoys being miserable?

Joy is not an absence of pain, problems or predicaments.  It is a sense of God being in control even in the middle of the trial of tears and tribulation, a confidence that He will balance justice and mercy perfectly one day.  And it is only discoverable as we develop an attitude of forgiveness.

This is what sustained Betsy and Corrie ten Boom through the horrors of a Nazi POW camp.  It is what made Louie Zamperini forgive The Bird who had tortured him in a Japanese prison.  It is what gave Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah confidence to defy the king of Babylon (See Daniel 3).  It is why Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

A word of caution is appropriate here.  I am not suggesting you go tell the offender he/she is forgiven.  That could open a “whole ‘nuther can o’ worms!”  Do this only if the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear that you must.  The issue is not to get kudos from the offender for your being so forgiving.  The only issue is for you (me!) to develop the mental tone, the attitude, the heart-felt forgiveness that you need in order to understand and accept God’s forgiveness of you.

So receive a Christmas gift that you can only keep by giving it away.  Forgive someone who does not deserve it, but needs it.

When You Pray by c.a.post © May 1, 1996
Don’t be fooled to thinking He counts the number of your words
As if pagan repetition can get your prayers heard.
Forgive as you’re forgiven. That’s where prayer has to start,
For He who is unseen looks on the secrets of your heart.

So when you pray, go into the secret place.

Close the door, and begin to seek His face.
Wait for Him. Though unseen He’ll meet you there,
And He’ll reward you openly in answer to your prayer.

Those who love the praise of men offer prayers just for show.
When they fast they make their faces sad so everyone will know.
Their reward is to be seen of me, whatever else they may believe.
I tell you now this simple truth: That’s all that they’ll receive.

Now there’s a room within your heart that only two can share.
It’s a secret place He’s made for you to meet with Him in prayer.
And though your conversation may be heard by many more
The Lord comes to the secret place to know who the prayer is for.

Our Father up in Heaven, holy is Your name;
Your kingdom come, Your will be done in Heaven and earth the same.
Provide for us our daily bread. Grant us grace as we forgive.
Lead us not into temptation, freed from Satan’s power to live.