Evil Is Evident; Hell Is Authentic; Prepare or Perish.

This title is not stated as a threat or with any glee.  It is written with trembling knees, a heart full of prayer and sincere desire that anyone reading it may find Life and NOT perish.  The title is simply the statement of three facts which I will address in three blogs.  Though Jesus spoke much more about the Kingdom of Heaven, we would be remiss if we skipped these subjects that He and the Bible address.

Fairy Tales
2021-03-27 WickedSome would like us to believe in fairy tales; happily ever after endings without consequences for wrong behavior.  Or at least, let’s provide some context which makes wrong choices understandable and tolerable since the villain had it so rough.  So Wicked becomes a Disney retelling of Sleeping Beauty that makes Maleficent an unfortunate victim of her circumstances.  Romulans actually are nice guys, just with slightly different means of expressing the same values as Federation members.  Natasha Romanoff (or Black Widow) had a rough childhood; fortunately, she falls in love with a good guy and joins the Avengers.  Severus Snape, the epitome of evil with black cape, boots and a penchant for scaring Potter’s goodniks, turns out to be working for Dumbledore all along.  Another black-robed villain, Darth Vader is given reasons for his turn to the dark side.  And the Terminator turns out to be a misunderstood robot who just needed reprogramming.  Don’t we all?

So in this alternate universe Hitler would be mistreated by his dad and abused by a Jewish teacher.  Stalin was a nice kid who just got involved with the wrong crowd, and Pol Pot was very poor and had to steal food to survive as a child.

Unfortunately, alternate “universes” do not exist (with no apologies to Stephen Hawking).  By definition, universe means ”the totality of known or supposed objects throughout space; the cosmos.”  There cannot be another “universe” that contains that totality; that is an absurdity for which there is not a grain of evidence except in the minds of Star Trek viewers like Hawking.

Not Innocent, Only Incompetent
2021-03-27 Not Innocent Just IncompetentWe are the product of choices we make throughout life, beginning with infancy when we want the blocks the other baby has.  Shortly after most children master “Mama,” most also learn “Mine!”  Children are not innocent; they are simply incompetent.  Given the power, the mass of them would eliminate any opposition with a flick of Potter’s wand and simply kill anyone that prevents them from getting their way.

You and I were like that!  We had to be taught that there were better things than getting our own way all the time.  Most of those lessons were learnt through experience, the best teacher, but hardly the kindest.

In The Great Divorce, C.S.Lewis illustrates these choices among those who refuse Heaven because of what they want.  From the dishonest intellectual to a greedy materialist; from a religious hypocrite to a self-deprecating egomaniac; from a mother who preferred to drag her child into hell rather than forfeit control to a tragedian who loved his own misery rather than accept joy that was offered.  “Better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.” (Milton)

There are those who will choose their own way rather than God’s way even at the pain of death.  And from their choices will come every kind of evil from murdering unborn children to killing the elderly who no longer “contribute to society” to justifying what once were considered perverse lifestyles.  Like Lewis’ Ghosts they will couch their evil in beautiful sounding words like Social Security, Affordable Care, For The People, Toleration or Government Protection, but what they really want is selfish aggrandizement, physical comfort, control of others and power for themselves.

Can’t We All Just Be Nice?
2021-03-27 House on FireEvil is real and it does not go away just because we try to be “nice” to each other.  Real love is much harsher than the pablum pop psychology puts out today.  If a neighbor’s house is on fire, would we be “nice” and say, “Let’s not upset him; wait till it’s convenient to tell him?”  NO, the “loving thing” to do would be to bang on his door, disturb his “peace,” and warn him to get to safety!  So it is that if we fail to warn people of the reality of evil and its consequences, we are simply “nice neighbors” who do not care if our acquaintances die.

Trying to be nice to some people is like appeasement of Hitler just prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  There was a madness sweeping Europe and the Führer was simply its pawn.  This does not excuse him of the war’s atrocities, but remember he was as deceived as those he was deceiving (See 2 Timothy 3:12-13), an evil-doer going from bad to worse.

Paul had this to say to his protégé pastoring in Ephesus:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

And again some time later:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

Children of the Day
2021-03-27 Children Of The DayWe are called to be light in a darkening world, salt to a rotting, tasteless culture (Matthew 5:13-16).  The times will become darker yet, as political leaders lie more, as religious conviction becomes labeled “Hate Speech,” as bureaucratic alignments for economic and national interests bring together enemies of Israel, as whole societies call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:8-30)

However, though evil is real and becomes more evident, we are called “to walk in the Light, even as He is in the light.” (1 John 1:5-9)  We must stand distinctly apart from liars and deceivers who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)  And we pray for the deceived that they may see the Truth (Ephesians 4:18-19)

The Children of the Day recorded this song back in 1979 based on 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9.
When your heart is dark and empty and new shadows start to fall;
When cluttered fears and sin are the writing on your wall;
Your confusion and your doubts are always lurking left and right,
Don’t try to drive the darkness out; you just turn on the light.

We’re the children of the light, and we’re the children of the day.
We need not always stumble in an ever darkening way.
Though the darkness will close in around with shadows everywhere,
Still Jesus Christ is in our life, the Light of the world is there.

Next week, , I will discuss what Jesus and the Apostles taught about hell.  It’s not pretty.

The Game of Life

The Game Of Life
How long does the game of Life last?  Siri says it lasts for one and a half hours for three players, or two hours for four players.  But that is just the Milton-Bradley board game.  Lots of fun but little consequence.  When the game is over, you just go to bed and play again the next day or whenever you want.

Marriage of Heaven and HellNot so the real game of life.  According to Scripture one has roughly 70 to 80 years to get it right, give or take, depending on your genes and your health practices (Psalm 90:10).  In The Great Divorce, one of C.S.Lewis’ most famous short novels, we get a picture of some folks who are given a “second chance” so to speak to change their fate.  This book is his answer to Blake’s famous Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  In it Blake argues that God is both good and evil and contains these “contraries” and that “God” only exists as an invention of man.  There is no real “evil,” but only undeveloped reason and everyone has good and bad in them, thus Heaven and Hell are “married” in our minds and behavior.  If we simply adjust or refine our behavior we can turn evil into good without rejecting any part of that evil that we wish to keep.

the-great-divorceAs Lewis says, “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish, but their rescue is being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right, but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point; never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it . . . If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest souvenir of Hell” (or Earth).

In effect, if Satan, or Lucifer, that first “bearer of light,” could repent of his error, God’s love is so amazingly gracious and forgiving that even he would find mercy at God’s hands.  The problem is that Lucifer has so hardened his view of God that he will not accept, cannot accept, that God is the Creator and supreme over the created.  The same could become true of us as we grow older in this world.  Every day we are either growing closer to God or slipping further away.  Even Tom Hanks said, “We are still in the position of waking up and having a choice. Do I make the world better today somehow, or do I not bother?”  Not exactly a paragon of theological understanding, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

For us to grow closer to God, sometimes we must backtrack over the past and allow God or others to correct us and head us onto a way that will draw us closer to Him.  The pain of finding out that we have been going the wrong way does not get less the longer we stay on a path away from the Source of Light and Life.   The farther we stray, the darker the way becomes; the less healthy we become; the more difficult changing directions becomes.  Sometimes the choices we make cannot be undone, but these choices just make the path back to God harder and more painful.  Trust me, I know.

We do not have an eternity to make the decisions that will determine eternity.  We have “70 years, or 80, if our strength endures.”  (Psalm 90:9-10) That is time enough for us to form our habits of thought, to make our decisions of life, to shape our spirits to be either ready for The God Who Is There to make us into what He created us to be, or to calcify our hearts so that we cannot hear His calling any more than Lucifer’s deaf ears; to make our spirits so small and shadowy that the slightest beam of light will pierce us through and leave us in the Shadows forever. People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27

Turns out it is not a game at all.  It is real life and the stakes are very high.  Borrowing from another game, we have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card from Jesus (), but it will only be good as long as we are alive here on Earth.  And the choices we make take us ever down another path, each step leading to another.

“Nearly they stood who fall;
Themselves as they look back
See always in the track
The one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve
Of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve
Might have been saved.

“Nearly they fell who stand,
And with cold after fear
Look back to see how near
They grazed the sirens’ land.
Wondering what subtle fate,
By threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great
Should thus entwine.

“Therefore oh, man, have fear
Lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue
The road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth border
Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
Denies return.”
the Guide in Pilgrim’s Regress
C.S.Lewis

Get Out Of Jail Free Card!

Consider this:  A guy cheats on a couple of exams in school, flirts with a woman who is married, and lies on his taxes one year so he could have some extra cash for his wife and kids for Christmas.  Now, is it fair, is it just, to send this guy into an eternity of torment and misery . . . billions of years just for starters, for these little faus pas?

Universalism says that God will never send anyone to an eternity in hell.  Sounds like pretty good news, you say?  Puts a whole new spin on the good news of the Gospel.  Maybe a few years for either rehab or punishment, but eternity?  Naahhh.

Universalism thinks that after a while in a torture chamber, even the most hardened vicious criminal would look at Heaven and think, “Why am I suffering here if a loving God is willing to let me join Him and the redeemed over there in their free-wheeling banquets and parties?”  Pastors Philip Gulley and James Mulholland write that you can call over to this loving God and get His grace applied, even post-mortem, and that is Why God Will Save Every Person, the partial title of their book on this theme (not worth buying).  Given God’s limitless love and grace, you can pretty much do whatever you want in life, and at some point, He will figure you’ve paid your “debt to society” and give you a Get Out of Jail Free card.

The issue though is plainer than Gulley and Mulholland pretend it to be.  Theirs is an itemization of sins and their reasonable refusal to accept that a loving God would punish someone eternally for temporal malfeasance.  “Let the punishment fit the crime,” one might say.  Sounds fair to our western civilized minds, maybe even just, but we will not go into that detail of the differences between fairness and justice.

There are no errors in Gulley’s and Mulholland’s logic.  Begin with their premises and it is impossible to come rationally to a different conclusion than they have.  So let’s look at their premises, because if a logical progression is predicated on faulty assumptions, you will wind up at a wrong, however logical, conclusion.

The first premise is that the church, as a whole, has been judgmental and presented an angry God who will not tolerate sinful actions.  The second is that our experience with God will provide a clearer picture of what God is like than a dusty old book that is unreliable at best, and somewhat fantasy at worst.  The third is that if people see how wonderful Jesus is they will want Him and His grace.  The fourth is that anyone will choose what is best for themselves if someone shows them why it is best, and God is so persistent that He will never give up on you, ever.

The first premise actually holds water.  The church has been Angry Godjudgmental and made God look like an angry grandfather in the sky just looking for anyone having too much fun so He could zap them with lightning bolts and yell, “Stop that!”  Not just the “church,” that ethereal “they” on whom it is so easy to blame everything, but I have been judgmental and frightened people away from the grace that could save them.  The sin of the Pharisees was that they thought they could see clearly, and so their sin remained (John 9:41), even as they loaded people with burdens they would offer no help to bear (Luke 11:46).

This is not news. Jesus reserved His harshest comments, not for the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) nor for the cripple from the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-14), but for religiously serious.  It seems our human nature culls us into a lethargy, that once we have figured something out, anyone who has not advanced to “our level” is either stupid or evil.  And we judge without reference to the unseen issues of the heart: where one has come from, what has happened that has shaped him/her, what the hidden motivations and desires are.  We evaluate based on outward appearances while the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7b).

The other premises, though, show major fault lines that easily crack if examined at all.  The Bible is an infallible rule of faith and practice, presenting The God Who Is There as the I AM, a perfect balance of grace and truth, mercy and justice.  One’s experiences with God must be evaluated on the basis of what the Bible says, not what I wish it said, not from my very limited and shortsighted view.  There are “spiritual experiences” that one can have that have nothing to do with God, but “feel” right.  “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)  In our society, how we “feel” has taken preeminence over what the Bible teaches.

The third and fourth premises, that everyone will choose Jesus if they really see Him and that with God’s persistence, eventually everyone will see Him and how good He is.  I have addressed the heresy of the third premise before (July 19, 2015), so suffice it to say that the Pharisees and religiously serious got a front row seat to see and know Jesus . . . and they chose to crucify Him.  That choice was still forgivable while they were alive.  My sins were my choice to crucify Jesus; I put the nails in His hands just as forcibly as the Roman centurions on Golgotha, but I have been forgiven.

In The Great Divorce C.S.Lewis presents a more accurate description of why some people will wind up in a place that is separated from the life and joy and peace and everything good that God designed for all people.  I offer nor find any comfort in this warning, but the fact is that “Milton was right. The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, ‘Better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven.’  There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery.  There is always something they prefer to joy – that is, to reality . . . There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whoGeorge MacDonald.jpgm God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StW6ZKHRCFo

Now there’s a Get Out Of Jail Free card, but there are constraints on when and how to use it.  Next week, , I will examine some of those.