Posts Tagged ‘hell’

Maybe you’ve wondered about the very pointed question in this meme. Certainly atheists and others have long argued that a loving creator would never devise anything as horrifying as hell.

So stick with me while we examine the facts around hell and a loving God.

1. Hell was absolutely NOT created for human beings. Says who? Says Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is God’s perfect Son.

In one of the primary source documents about His physical life on earth, Jesus referred to hell as “the fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.” That’s right. NOT for people.

2. God’s love is absolutely unconditional. How do I know that? Because there are people in Heaven right now who have lived lives much more wretched and evil than you and me. I wrote a blog about one of those people: https://wp.me/p2wzRb-ko.

Maybe that fact disgusts you. I understand. But every person on this planet, including you and me, has committed moral crimes – either through the bad things we’ve done or through the good things we’ve failed to do. Every. Single. Person. So who are we to tell God where people should go after their lives end?

3. Hell continues to exist because many, many people – past, present and future – want it to exist. No, I’m not losing my sanity. Hear me out.

Getting into Heaven is simple. Just be absolutely perfect. It’s the price of admission because Jesus said, “you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

How can anyone achieve this impossible standard? On our own, we can’t. But it’s a different story when we decide, with sober thoughtfulness, to follow Jesus. He sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for the moral crimes of every person who declares Him Lord and Saviour. For those followers, God doesn’t see our crimes; all He sees is His Son’s perfection.

So what happens to people who reject Jesus? They’re sending God a clear, unmistakable message: “I don’t want to go to Heaven when this life finishes. I want to go to hell.” And so the God of unconditional love grants them their wish, even though He desperately doesn’t want to.

I know God wants everyone – including YOU – in Heaven because one of the people Jesus personally trained to follow after him wrote “The Lord does not want any person to be punished forever. He wants all people to be sorry for their sins and turn from them.”

So consider Jesus to be a gift. All you need to do is accept it, then He’ll come into you life and start to make you more like the person He knows you can be. And when this life ends, you’ll meet Him face-to-face in Heaven. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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When I first encountered this atheist graphic, I experienced a moment of heart sickness because there are Christians out there who actually think like this.

I see this kind of horrific mindset every time someone who claims to follow Jesus of Nazareth (whom many people believe is the divine Son of God) almost gleefully tells gay people or atheist people that they’re going to burn in hell.

it’s almost as if they think God WANTS some people to burn. Not only is that a sickening thought, it’s also wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here’s the truth, according to the original-source biographies of Jesus and writings by His earliest followers:

  • God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost, but have eternal life.
  • God is being patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change their ways and stop sinning.
  • God wants everyone to be saved and to fully understand the truth.

Does any of this sound like God is holding a lighter, just itching to turn you into a screaming torch?

These ancient quotes point to an important bottom line: every person on this planet has done wrong and failed to do right. No exceptions. And this is serious business because according to Jesus, God is perfect and that’s His standard for judging all of humanity.

When this life is finished, one of his earliest followers wrote that every one of us will appear before God and have to somehow explain away all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

I guarantee you it’s not going to go well. But God offers a solution: Jesus. When Jesus was found guilty of ridiculous, trumped-up charges and crucified on a Roman cross, that death paid the penalty you and I would have to pay for our moral crimes. He took our punishment on His shoulders.

I call that an extraordinary, life-changing gift. And that gift is available to EVERYONE. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done (or not done). As author Philip Yancey put it so well in What’s So Amazing About Grace, “God gave up His own Son rather than give up on humanity”.

How can you get in on this gift? Just accept it. That’s all.

When you believe that Jesus took the penalty for your moral crimes and decide you want to follow Him, He’ll come into your heart and start a life-long process of making you the person God created you to be. And when this life ends and you stand before God, the only thing God will see is His Son’s perfection.

Are you interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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ChristeningI find it hard to believe that anyone still thinks like this. But sadly, there continues to be parents who believe that dipping their baby in water at a church will keep the little beaner out of hell.

That’s why, when I saw this graphic in an atheist community, I saved it for Frank’s Cottage. This is a good opportunity to tell you the truth about christenings, baptisms and many other traditions associated with following Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God).

Let me make it absolutely clear: christenings and baptisms don’t save you from ANYTHING. They save you from ZERO. Nothing.

In fact, they are as essential to following Jesus as a screen door is to a submarine.

So what’s the point?

If christenings are done with the right motivation and understanding, then they serve to make a public statement on behalf of parents: they tell a church congregation that the parents are committed to raising their child with a full understanding of who Jesus is and what He continues to accomplish in this world.

In other words, it’s a commitment that will hold the parents accountable for how their raise their child. From this perspective, a christening is absolutely a good thing.

Baptisms? This is also public statement, making it clear to everyone who witnesses the ritual of immersing your entire body in water that you have washed away the “old” you to make way for the “new” you.

This new you believes that Jesus is the perfect Son of God and that He died to make up for all the wrong things you’ve done and all the right things you’ve failed to do.

This might seem just symbolic, but consider this: Jesus Himself insisted on getting baptized. At first, the man who baptized Jesus said he wasn’t worthy. Here is Jesus’s response, recorded in one of the original-source documents about His physical life on Earth: But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.”

And so it was done. But please note, this still doesn’t mean getting baptized is the key to Heaven. Baptism happens as a result of a change of heart and mind. It’s evidence of what has already happened. And that certainly applies to the baptism of Jesus.

In fact, while Jesus was on a Roman cross, dying for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do, one of His original-source biographies records a robber being crucified on a cross next to Him.

As they died together, the robber said “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” [Jesus] said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”

Notice what didn’t happen? There was no baptism and no christening. The man on the cross recognized his failures, recognized who Jesus is and what Jesus’s death could do for him and did the only thing he could do: speak his hopes to Jesus. The result? Jesus gave that robber a place in Heaven.

So, set aside any strange traditions you might have heard about. Concentrate on the good news for YOU. Jesus is God’s gift to YOU. Will you accept that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Bizarro GodThe first thing I did when I saw this cartoon in the newspaper was whip out my iPhone and make a photo. I knew it would be the inspiration to reveal the truth about God. And it is.

No doubt about it, our culture portrays God as “damning” souls to Hell. It’s the easiest and fastest way to figure out “religion” (especially Christianity) and requires the least amount of thought.
But is it the truth?

Consider these facts about the God that Jesus of Nazareth believed in and followed:

1. God is perfect. Many, many people will disagree with this, but that doesn’t change the truth. And that perfection is exemplified through Jesus, who many people believe is God’s Son.

One ancient document states it this simply & clearly: “God’s way is perfect”. In one of the original source documents of Jesus’ physical life on earth, He tells his followers, “What I am saying is that you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Jesus’ exemplifies that perfection. Here are quotes, from two of His earliest followers, that serve as illustrations: “He [Jesus] never sinned, and he never told a lie” and “There is no sin in Christ”.

2. God’s standard for all humanity is perfection. One of the men that Jesus personally trained to follower after Him that backs up that statement: “Be holy in everything you do, just as God is holy. He is the one who chose you. In the Scriptures God says, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’”.

3. We cannot achieve God’s standard and get into Heaven on our own. I don’t think a single quote from Jesus is needed to prove that point.

4. In the end, we don’t have to be perfect. When we become followers of Jesus — His teachings, His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do) and glorious resurrection, God no longer sees our sins. He sees only His Son’s perfection.

This is a gift, offered to every person on this planet. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done (or not done). Their gender and age don’t matter. Their skin colour doesn’t matter. Their status in society doesn’t matter.

The gift is offered to EVERYONE, with no strings attached. And in my mind, this shows how much God loves me, YOU and every other human being.

So, who does the damning? Maybe it’s everybody who rejects that gift. They declare there is no God, there is no Jesus and there is no gift. By doing this, they can continue living the way they please with no thought to any consequences.

The result is pretty obvious. When this life is done, you come before God — with every single wrong thing you’ve done and every single right thing you’ve failed to do — utterly exposed. And as a result, you fall far, far short of God’s qualification for spending eternity in His presence.

Is this you? Are you choosing to damn yourself by declaring there’s no God and no gift? Maybe that’s how all your friends and loved ones think. But look beyond them; is this really what you want to do?

Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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WindowForTruth 3.15Sometimes I’m bursting with appreciation for the graphics that atheist people post on the internet. They often present Heaven-sent opportunities to tell people what God and Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is His Son) are all about.

This is one of those glorious opportunities. Here we go:

1. God sends NO ONE to Hell. People send themselves to Hell through the wrong things they’ve done and through the right things they’ve failed to do.

That includes kicking God out of our lives and turning our backs on His gift of Jesus.

2. Even if you ignore my first point, who says God sends everyone to Hell for having an abortion? This graphic conveniently ignores the fact of forgiveness.

Why do I call it a fact? Because Jesus is quite clear about it. One of His earliest followers wrote “if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.”

Please note: this isn’t a scam we can pull on a dimwitted creator. This is serious business and I explain it in detail here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-8n.

3. “Kills His only Son”. First of all, it was Roman authorities who did the killing. They were urged on by manipulative religious authorities who felt threatened by Jesus, His popularity and His disregard for their petty religious rules and regulations.

Secondly, God allowed Jesus to die because a significant part of Jesus’s mission — many people would declare it was the most important part — was to be a sacrifice that would make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do. Well, it would do that for everyone who accepts the gift of Jesus.

For the people who accept that gift, who declare Jesus to be their Lord, their Saviour and their best friend, God no longer sees our “sins”. He sees only the perfection of His Son.

Why was a death necessary? Because this “sinning” business is deadly stuff, far more lethal than most of us truly understand. And nothing we can do or say or think or pray can make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do. All our efforts will always fall short. Always.

So God did the heavy lifting for us by offering the gift of His Son and His sacrifice. So carefully consider everything our culture tells you about life, about right and wrong, about how we should live and about what happens after this life ends. Does it make complete sense in light of a God that loves YOU, offers the gift of Jesus to YOU and wants YOU to spend eternity in Heaven with him?

Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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If anyone knows how to stimulate conversation, it’s militant atheist and U.S. talk show host Bill Maher. That said, I’m not sure Bill ever thought this quote would be used to explain a truth about following Jesus of Nazareth.

Bill asks a great question here. It’s a question I asked before and after I decided to follow Jesus (who many people believe is God’s Son) more than 10 years ago.

After making that decision, I held up Bill’s question to the hard light of examination. And I pondered the nature of all us human beings. Then the answer came to me.

  • What message am I sending when I selfishly refuse to talk to my wife if I don’t get my own way?
  • What message am I sending when I use all my tax return for vacations or electronic toys instead of putting some aside for charity?
  • What message am I sending when I’m driving to work and I give someone the one-finger salute because I don’t care for his or her driving?
  • What message am I sending when I pay a contractor under the table and avoid the taxes I should be paying?

It’s the same message every time. And it’s this simple: “God, don’t even lay one finger on the devil”.

When I do wrong and/or fail to do right, I’m telling my creator that I’m siding with His opponent. In fact, let me go so far as to write that I’m informing God that I like the devil more than I like Him.

If you’re a little disturbed, good. I’m certainly disturbed when I find my actions broadcasting that message. And yet, I seem to do it almost as often as breathing. In fact, when I live my life without acknowledging God and His gift to everyone who will accept it, I’m goose-stepping to the beat of His opponent.

Now take my “sins” and multiply them by, oh, a trillion. Now you can see why God doesn’t just defeat the devil. Because the actions of all humanity tell Him, with numbing frequency and nauseating volume, that we don’t want Him to. And so He doesn’t.

There is a way out of this deeply vicious cycle. A way to ensure that my actions don’t help fill up the bottomless sea of ugly messages to God. And that way is to accept His gift.

Tell God you’re sorry for the bad things you’ve done and the good things you’ve failed to do. Tell him you accept Jesus as your saviour and acknowledge His death wipes your past, present and future slate clean. And invite Jesus into your life.

If you’re serious about this, then watch things start to happen. Amazing, life-changing things.  You’ll never be the same. And you won’t be siding with God’s opponent anymore.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, type your comment below and let’s have a conversation.

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The Challenge Of HellSo what’s the deal with Hell?

That’s a question I’m sure you’ve asked yourself at least once. I used to ask it frequently before I became a follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) more than a decade ago.

Do I understand everything about it? Not in the least. I doubt anyone does. But I have come to know that the truth about Hell is not at all like the graphic you see here (kindly provided by an internet atheism community.)

First of all, Hell was not created for human beings. Erwin McManus, a pastor, notes God created Hell for Satan (what’s the deal with him? That’s a topic for another essay).

So why does God “send” people there? Well, God doesn’t send anyone there. We send ourselves there.

Ponder these ideas, as presented by Mark Mittelberg (and based on excerpts from ancient documents and original-source biographies of Jesus) in his book The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask:

  • God is perfect and, as a just judge, He has to condemn sin, not overlook it.
  • God doesn’t owe anyone a second chance and yet He gives us repeated opportunities to turn our lives around and look to Jesus for guidance.
  • God has given us this planet, with all its beauty and diversity, and we have abused it as if we are accountable to no one.
  • We treat our fellow humans with disregard, even though God loves them as much as us.
  • We fool ourselves about where we are on the moral spectrum, thinking we’re just fine and ignoring the bad things we’ve done and the good things we’ve failed to do.

Now, consider this: Jesus is God’s gift to everyone who will accept him. Jesus died to make up for ALL the wrong things His followers do and the right things we fail to do.

Jesus came back to life to show us God’s power and, in the succinct words of the wiki.answers.com website, to show us “He is not an ordinary human, but divine. He triumphed over the grave for all who would accept Him as saviour”. It’s also a testimony of what will happen to everyone who follows Jesus – not death, but eternal life with Him.

As with any gift, the gift of Jesus must be accepted. If it’s not, then God looks at us and sees the ways we’ve misused the talents and abilities He’s put in us. The ways we’ve lived as if He doesn’t exist. The ways we ignore the needs around us. The ways we live for more money, more power, more toys – all things that are, in the end, meaningless. And that’s what we’ll be judged on.

So, as Erwin McManus explains it, God “will not stop us from going to Hell if we insist on it. It is a choice to live a life that’s wasted because you’re not living the life God created you for. Hell is a place where you say ‘no – I don’t want Your love’.”

Does this make sense? Yes or no, write your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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HeavenAndHell2Now this is a curiosity.

I wrote a Frank’s Cottage essay about a survey indicating the promise of Heaven is far more motivating than the fear of Hell in encouraging church attendance and prayer.

Kinda makes sense, right? The tasty carrot is better than the nasty stick, goes the thinking.

Then I heard from an old friend, Tim Callaway, who’s doing university research and stumbled upon statistics that indicate a very different story.

These stats are by no means a definitive indicator, but they are consistent. In the 1930s and ’40s, surveys of 100 to 200 students somewhere in North America (sorry, this ancient stuff has no further details) consistently indicated fear of Hell was far more motivating to become a follower of Jesus of Nazareth than the love of God. In many of those years, the numbers were so lopsided that the love motivation was less than 10 per cent.

Huh? The huge difference between then and now is so puzzling that I bounced this disparity off a pastor buddy, Ross Carkner, to get his feedback.

“I wonder if the change has more to do with the nature of society at large,” Ross emailed me. “I think in the 1930s and ’40s, there was a different mindset.  The world had just come through one war and was posturing or in the middle of another.  The planet was covered in gloom.”

Between the wars and the ruined dreams of the 1930s Great Depression, Ross wondered, “If there was a sense that all you could do was make the most of what you had. This was the builder generation. Work hard and you might get by. This is very different than the baby boomers … the builders were set on making the most of what they had, the boomers were about getting more.”

This makes sense to me. As Ross put it, “I think against that kind of a backdrop, perhaps the builders were open to hearing that ‘things could get worse’ [i.e. the nasty stick of Hell], while the boomers wanted to hear about how ‘things could get better’ [the tasty carrot of Heaven]”.

If this assessment is accurate, then it comes with a subtle suggestion: many people’s ideas about God depend on the world around them. That’s not surprising, but then I remember something an ancient follower of Jesus wrote: “Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.”

I also think of a story about Jesus defending a woman who was brought up on charges of adultery. He told her accusers, who wanted to stone her to death (fooling around on your spouse was serious business in the ancient world), that anyone who’d never done anything wrong could go ahead and throw a stone.

Eventually, all of the woman’s accusers walked away. That left Jesus to do nothing more than tell the woman to go home and don’t commit adultery again.

For me, this event is a powerful example of who God is. And when I realize that he doesn’t change, I see that the ultimate picture of God is incredibly positive. And that’s a picture I want to keep, no matter what happens to me or to the world.

So if you believe in God, what’s your ultimate picture of him? And does it motivate you to do something about your spiritual life?

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HeavenAndHellReady to take the world’s briefest psychology test? Okay, here goes: which would persuade you to become a person of faith – the promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell?

According to the results of a 32-country study by researchers at universities in Spain and Israel, it’s no contest.

“When heaven and hell are considered valid final destinations, researchers find the notion of eternal bliss is three times more powerful than that of eternal damnation in shaping church attendance and frequency of prayer.” This is from a story in the Windsor Star, a Canadian newspaper.

Is this surprising? When I read the article, I was taken back to the beginnings of my own faith journey. I’ve always believed in a creator, but I decided to follow Jesus in 1990, mostly because I started listening to spiritual rock and pop music and, through that, discovered a positive, loving, closer-than-close God.

Since then, the trip has had rocky moments, primarily because I had faith issues which I didn’t think I could bring to anyone without them wondering about my “salvation”.

In other words, I thought someone was going to tell me if I kept asking hard questions, I could end up in Hell. So I went from embracing the ‘carrot’ (the attraction of a loving God) to running from the ‘stick’ (the threat of God’s damnation).

The story didn’t end there, of course. (If it did, I wouldn’t be writing this essay.) After a long time and many discussions with intelligent, compassionate, non-judgmental followers of Jesus of Nazareth – there are more of them around than you might think – I came back to Jesus.

If I had returned to the faith because those discussions centered around the ‘stick’ – avoiding Hell – I would likely be the poster boy for judgmental, unpleasant religion. I’d be following Jesus only to appease an angry God who doesn’t love me – or anyone else, for that matter – and doesn’t have my best interests at heart.

But he does. One of Jesus’ earliest followers wrote God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death [to pay for all the bad things we did and still do] while we were of no use whatever to him.”

It’s this love, plus the promise of a life-long, day-by-day relationship with Jesus, and a future in Heaven, that brought me to this place of faith.

I’m not about to deny the truth and suggest there isn’t a Hell and that it doesn’t influence people’s faith journeys. But more importantly, there is a God who wants every single person on this planet – including YOU – with Him in Heaven.

Does that suggest it might be time to rethink your priorities?

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How did I not see this amazing, hilarious, and thoughtful Seinfeld episode when it was first aired?

For a few seasons, Seinfeld – that brilliant, inventive TV sitcom – was a cultural blockbuster, creating catch phrases and situations that millions across North America embraced and used as their own ‘insider’ language.

The episode that fascinates me concentrates, in part, on the relationship between principal character Elaine Benes and her boyfriend, David Puddy.

Benes (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds out Puddy (Patrick Warburton) is “religious”. This sets up all sorts of conversations between the two, plus other principal characters Jerry and George Constanza.

Here’s a sample of dialogue:

Elaine: I borrowed Puddy’s car and all the presets on his radio were Christian rock stations.

George: I like Christian rock. It’s very positive. It’s not like those real musicians who think they’re so cool and hip.

Elaine: So, you think that Puddy actually believes in something?

Jerry: It’s a used car; he probably never changed the presets.

Elaine: Yes, he is lazy.

Jerry: Plus, he probably doesn’t even know how to program the buttons.

Elaine: Yes, he is dumb.

Jerry: So you prefer dumb and lazy to religious?

Elaine: Dumb and lazy, I understand.

First off, ye gotta love George’s casual dissing of Christian musicians and his breathtaking ignorance. Did you know, for example, that singer/songwriter/guitarist Bruce Cockburn is a Christian? I’ve never heard a single critic knock him for his artistic ability.

Second, the notion of Elaine preferring a dumb and lazy boyfriend to one who is “religious” is not only funny, it’s a remarkably accurate assessment of our culture. From what I can tell, most people would rather spend hours debating the behaviour of the latest Hollywood bad boy/girl than even think about spirituality and life’s big questions.

There’s no doubt that celebrity antics hold the same sort of fascination we feel when we drive past a car wreck. But in the end, does it make any difference in our lives?

Some more priceless Seinfeld dialogue:

Elaine: So, you’re pretty religious?

Puddy: That’s right.

Elaine: So is it a problem that I’m not really religious?

Puddy: Not for me.

Elaine: Why not?

Puddy: I’m not the one going to hell.

Yikes! If any serious follower of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is God’s Son) has used words like this with you, I apologize here and now. It’s no exaggeration to write that anyone who takes his or her faith seriously is never blasé about the fate of friends, family, and loved ones. I’ve eaten veggie burgers that tasted more real than the faith Puddy displays.

Real Jesus followers sacrifice themselves in the same way they believe Jesus took on our failures and misdeeds when Roman authorities hung him on a cross. An ancient document about Jesus says “First we were loved, now we love. God loved us first.”

If you encounter a person who seems somehow different because he/she knows this amazing truth, then you’ve met the real thing and I hope you walk away thinking about your life and your fate.

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