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Posts Tagged ‘hell’

Where I grew up as a kid back East, everyone lived in neighborhoods.  The people who lived on your street were part of the neighborhood, almost like an extended family.  In a strange way, we were all connected by our neighborhood – it defined us, shaped us, and supported us in ways that exceeded even our families.

I see Life in a similar way.  We all live in a City of Life, and we have chosen to reside in certain social neighborhoods within that City.  These neighborhoods are defined by their jobs and careers, their moral or immoral values, or by their hobbies and pastimes.  Whatever it is in Life that drives our hearts is what determines our social neighborhood.  It is not the physical streets of brick and pavement, but the avenues of the heart where we really reside, and our neighborhoods are populated by those whose life’s pursuits are the same as ours.

Just as in the physical world, there are a lot of reasons why we choose our spiritual neighborhoods.  Some of us just settle for wherever we live, while most of us move around the City of Life until we find the group that we feel most comfortable in.  And, of course, there are always the homeless that wander around with no home at all.

Throughout the City are many different precincts that overlap and share streets with other groups, some crisscrossing each other, some running parallel, and others merging for a short distance before diverging from one another.  We see each other in the marketplace, waving hello to friends from the Political neighborhood, the Military compound, the Business precinct, and others, but at the end of the day, we always come home to the street that we live on.

The Spiritual neighborhood that I moved to many years ago is unique in that all the streets here point to the ocean. While other neighborhoods are focused on the present, the Spiritual neighborhood looks to an eternal land that lies over the Sea of Death. There are a few distinct major areas in this neighborhood each with their own main thoroughfares heading to the coast – Christian Blvd, Islam Blvd, Hindu Ave. and a few other less broad streets – but since the seacoast is very irregular, they all point in different directions.

If one was to look at the ocean to which these streets lead, you would see many bridges leading out to sea.  Almost all of them extend over the horizon, but there is only one that that makes it all the way across to the land on other side of the ocean.  From where you stand on the seashore, you can’t see the other side of this great ocean, so it is hard to see which one of these bridges is the true Bridge.  Some people believe that all the bridges will join together somewhere out there over the ocean, so it really doesn’t matter which one you travel on, but most folks believe that there is only one that makes it all the way across.  All the others fall short.  Of course, everyone believes that their bridges is the only one that makes it all the way to the eternal life that awaits them on the other side.

Each of these neighborhoods have a myriad of side streets, all claiming to be the best street to lead directly to the true Bridge.  Some people have spent a lot of time figuring out why their street is the correct one and offer reams of analytical scholasticisms to prove their point.  Others just assume that theirs is the best and could care less why.

That would be fine if it wasn’t for all the friction that this causes.  I have watched a lot of neighborhood rumbles take place, not only between the main Spiritual sections of town, but also between the smaller neighborhoods within each section.  Turf wars can be bloody, or they can be calm dissertations of futility, but they all serve one purpose to identify which street you belong to.

Why are they so contentious?  Well, one could say that it is because they don’t want the others to ignorantly fall off into the ocean by taking a long walk off a short pier.  But then why do they get so angry and adamant?  Maybe they are really just trying to prove to themselves that their neighborhood is the right neighborhood, and their street really is the best street – or at least it seems that way, especially to folks from other parts of the City who, from a distance, watch these skirmishes (or crusades, depending upon which side you are on).

I saw myself standing under a streetlamp looking at my roadmap.  There are several Maps, one for each neighborhood with several different versions, each claiming to be better than the others.  The funny thing is that, even with the same version of the same map, people from different streets see different directions.  I’m not sure if that is a matter of perspective or choice, but it sure can seem confusing if you don’t know where you are going. 

I’m not sure why they like those other streets.  Some of them are very dark like Wicca St., some have artificial fluorescent lighting like Mormon Ave., and others are broad and easy streets that were built a long time ago like Presbyterian Blvd.  I suppose that they like the look and feel of their own street because it appeals to the desires of their hearts.  Some like dark streets so they can hide in the nooks and crannies there, others like to have their own lighting systems that they have made up themselves, while others could care less how bright it is as long as they don’t have to change the light bulbs.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I chose to live on my particular street in the Christian neighborhood because the streetlights are brighter here, and I can see better on this street than some of the dark alleyways chosen by some of my neighbors.  Mine isn’t a broad avenue like some of the others – it is strait and narrow – but it is brightly lit.

There is no doubt in my mind that this street leads directly to that Bridge over the Sea of Death and will ultimately take me to my eternal home.  The map I am holding points me in a simple and clear direction, so I don’t have to guess as long as I keep that map before me.  I can feel the ocean breeze coming down the street and can hear the sounds of the seagulls, and down at the end of the street, I can see a faint glow that filters through the haze on the horizon.  As I walk the length of this street, I can smell the scent of Beulah Land that lies over the ocean. 

This is the way, not because I think so, or because my parents settled on this street, or because of my friends and neighbors live here, but because I can hear the sound that calls me over the sea to a land that is fairer than day.

… And that’s what leads me on.

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“Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” Acts 19:13

It always sounds so easy. Just say the words, clap your hands twice, click your heels, and kazaam!

I am so tired of hearing that all we have to do is speak positive words and it will bring life or blessings or healing or whatever we are trying so desperately to believe. But that isn’t faith talking; that’s presumption. Motivational speakers like Zig Ziglar may sound inspiring and fill you with neat sayings that make you feel good, but that doesn’t make them prophets of God. The power of positive thinking does not equate to the power of the blood of Jesus.

Those sons of Sceva in the above chapter of Acts saw all the miracles that Paul did and naturally figured that if they did the same things and said the words that they would get the same results. Except they were missing the one thing that made all the difference – the power that only comes through a crucified walk before God in deep, broken subjection to the Spirit of God. Everyone wants to be a prophet, but no one wants to pay the price.

Instead we grasp for shortcuts in our lives. We hypothesize. Just say the words, and it will come to pass. “This will be your year of blessings and prosperity …” Oh, wait a minute. Didn’t we hear that last year? And the year before?

Or how about this? “Call those things which be not as though they were …” And so we run around speaking things into the air to make them happen. But that’s not faith either; that is sorcery. You go to Hogsworth to learn that.

Faith has to be built (Jude 1:20); it is not wished into being. And there is a price for it, just as there is a price for everything in God. Anything other than that is just wishful thinking and will not produce lasting and full results. Every great man or woman of God had their 40 years in the backside of a desert before they were ever brought forth by God to exercise His power.

Ah, but that’s not what we want to hear, is it? We want everything to be quick ‘n’ easy in our microwave society. Snap your fingers and be healed!

And the demon taunted back to the sons of Sceva, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?”

He knew who Paul was. I’m sure Paul was famous in hell. Why? Because Paul, unlike Sceva’s lightweight sons, had paid the price in blood, tears, and prayer. He had stormed the gates of hell armed with a faith that had been built one block at a time, and he had declared victory in the blood of Jesus Christ over everything Satan had thrown at him. Oh yes, that demon knew who Paul was … and he feared.

But empty words of presumption based on a theological faith without any suffering, blood, or effort will not turn back the tides of darkness. Faith is built one precept at a time, and power in God is brought forth out of the crucified depths of prayer. There is a price for power in God, and it is not cheap or easy.

That is why we see so many false prophets running around the church today, like Pied Pipers declaring all the things that our itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). Our church world has become little more than a revolving social circuit of entertaining speakers speaking great swelling words of encouragement to a church that instead is in desperate need of repentance. Instead of bringing us into the fear of the Lord, they are leading us in the power of positive thinking. In doing so, are leading us away from the altar of repentance which is the one place we need to be in order to see revival.

“For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” 1 Corinthians 4:20

 

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Everybody I know is going to Heaven. (Let me think for a minute … yep, everybody). From the Alpha+ personalities that charge ahead in their own self-righteousness to the casual believers who relax in their own languid reassurance that all is cool with the “Man Upstairs”. The only folks I know who say they’re not going to Heaven are the ones who don’t believe in Heaven anyway! Well, I guess that just makes everything convenient then. We can all relax and be raptured.
But somewhere there is a line.
If everybody is right, then nobody is wrong; and if everybody else is wrong, what makes you think you are right? Peter said that he knew and was sure that Jesus was the Christ. That’s all fine, but it’s not God who I am wondering about — I trust God. It’s me I don’t trust.
A guy named Howard Pitman had an experience years ago when he died in an ambulance and went up before God. God showed him the Day of Judgment where he saw billions of people going up before God to be judged. Multitudes were shot down into Hell like showers of sparks. Some souls went up to Heaven, but nowhere near as many as those who went to Hell. But every once in a while there would be one who would come up before God and there would be a pause … and then they would be shot down into Hell. He said that when he asked what that was, God replied that those were the self-righteous who thought they were supposed to go to Heaven and stood there justifying themselves to God.
It’s been years since I listened to that vision, but that one scene has never left me. It lines up with the admonition Jesus gave us of the broad and narrow paths. While we may all have our own perspective of what is required to get to Heaven, only one perspective matters – and that would His.
Let us be careful that we don’t walk so squeaky clean that we become Pharisees or so detached from righteousness that we think that going out and looking at the trees is a religious experience with God. Some will echo the old assertion of “I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t go with them that do”, all the while sitting completely stagnant in their lack of mercy for others. Others will float around in their spiritual effervescence, dispensing feel-good prophesies laced with love and sugar plums so that everyone will know they are loved but be clueless as to the holiness that God demands.
There is a walk in the Spirit that found in neither of these extremes nor anywhere between them. It is a completely different path, a different perspective, and an entirely different goal. It is a place of surrender before God where you no longer matter. It is being as porous as an open window so that the Spirit of God can pass through you to shower the true mercy of God on others. You will never gain that place in God through your own efforts or spirituality – only through surrender.

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